Fun Facts #12: Statistics on Naturalized Citizens in Japan; holding steady despite immigration


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Again, something interesting that cropped up while researching my thesis:  The stats on people who have naturalized (or applied and been rejected for Japanese citizenship for the past ten years.  Courtesy of the MOJ.


COMMENTS:  Once upon a time (as in 2000), the MOJ would not give me these numbers, citing “privacy”, and it wasn’t until relatively recently before these stats, the ultimate in immigration, were so freely public.

Over the past ten years (1998-2007), 153,103 people became Japanese citizens.  That’s a sizeable amount, for if you assume reasonable influx for the previous five decades (1948-1997), we’re looking at at least half a million people here as cloaked NJ-blood citizens.  That’s a lot of people no matter how you slice it.  (Of course, these older stats are still not available online for confirmation.)

As you can see, numbers have held steady, at an average of about 15,000 plus applicants per year.  And about the same number were accepted.  In fact the rejection rate is so low (153,103/154,844 people = 98.9% acceptance rate), you are only a little more likely to be convicted of a crime during criminal trial in Japan (99.9%) than be rejected for citizenship once you file all the paperwork.  That should encourage those who are considering it.

Of course, one would hope that a high acceptance rate would be the case.  There is a weeding-out procedure at the very beginning, as when you go to the MOJ Kokuseki-ka, they’ll sit you down for a one-on-one interview for an hour or so and ascertain whether or not you qualify.  And turn you away if you don’t.  Sensible, since there is a lot of paperwork (naturally), and you don’t want to be rejected after getting everything together (it took me a year; documents aren’t always comparable or easy to get from overseas, especially if your family is not all that cooperative).  

Note how the numbers of people either applying or succeeding over the years are not really rising (in fact, they’ve often roller-coastered significantly every year).  Considering the rapid rise of the NJ resident population over the same period, this is a little surprising.  

Also note the high numbers of Korean and Chinese applicants (around 90% or more).  I was one of the few, the proud, the 725 non-K or C who got in in 2000.  Less than five percent.  However, the numbers of non-K or C accepted over the past ten years have tripled.  I wonder if I was part of blazing some sort of trail.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

More on my naturalization here.


7 comments on “Fun Facts #12: Statistics on Naturalized Citizens in Japan; holding steady despite immigration

  • Interesting those stats, i intend to apply in 3 years, i have already 7 years and half living in Japan. Hope I ll be part of the stats of your post-graduate research ; ) Anyway immigration lawyers are truly expensive, i already visit one and i was surprised how much they charge, but i believe is better to go and apply with an immigration lawyer, japanese bureaucrats always pay more attention if a lawyer is present.

    ps. Good luck on your Ph.D. I am also finishing my Ph.D. (political science).

    — Thanks! And with yours and with your naturalization!

  • as much as i think its a good thing to take j citizenship ,i dont see the point doing it now,when they are possible law changes to allow dual citizenship in the pipeline

  • Thanks for the interesting statistics, Debito. I had no idea that the acceptance rate was so incredibly high. Backtracking on that URL shows a lot of other statistics which I’ll have to take a closer look at later.

    I fully agree with Adamw. That’s what I’m waiting for. I’ve been wanting to do it for about 15 years now, but I can not even consider it if I need to give my current citizenship. I think the number of people naturalizing would really soar if this restriction was raised. I know a number of close friends who feel the same.

  • Kakui Kujira says:

    Err, I think those proposed changes to allow dual citizenship are coming as fast as continental plates are moving. I wouldn’t be holding my breath…

    — I’m afraid I agree. For example, the protests over the juuminhyou system (NJ aren’t allowed to be registered as residents) have been going on for more than three decades. As I will put up tomorrow on this blog, there is finally a proposal to change that. Yet even then, it’s not scheduled to be implemented until 2012. Life’s too short to wait for the GOJ to come around.

  • I wonder how many Brasilians and Peruvians from Japanese descent are included in その他, especially since Brasilians happen to be the third largest NJ minority group in Japan, and from what I’ve heard, they receive PR relatively easy.I wonder also how many people received Japanese nationality based only on their contributions to the Japanese society(like writing books or articles, actively presenting the Japanese culture abroad and their culture in Japan, teaching in Japanese universities for years ). Because I find it little bit unfair that, let’s say a Chinese girl from some village marries an elderly guy through arranged marriage and after 5 years gets citizenship just like that, while schollars, elite specialists, artists have to work very, very hard ,and even the it is not sure that they will qualify(as the case with that NJ geisha)

    — You’re confusing and conflating naturalization with PR. Don’t. Two different bureaucracies, two different processes, two very different results.

    Anyway, very few people, short of Alberto Fujimori and some Olympic-bound athletes, get their citizenship “just like that”. As long as political exigency doesn’t seep in, applying for citizenship is a pretty arduous process for most people.

  • [Slightly off-topic. Initially sent to Debito as e-mail; reposting here as directed. Slightly modified.]

    For too many reasons to list, I have long wanted to naturalize, but never really considered it likely as I am not willing to give up my current citizenship. I hear that many never do renounce, but I want to be legit and not invite future trouble. A few months back there was news that the GOP was considering recognizing duel citizenship. This has made me reconsider naturalization as a viable option. However, I do not hold my breath that it will happen anytime soon.

    Recently, I was browsing the citizenship laws and noticed the fine print:


    五 国籍を有せず、又は日本の国籍の取得によつてその国籍を失うべきこと。
    2 法務大臣は、外国人がその意思にかかわらずその国籍を失うことができない場合において、日本国民との親族関係又は境遇につき特別の事情があると認めるときは、その者が前項第五号に掲げる条件を備えないときでも、帰化を許可することができる。

    In the event that an alien can not loose their citizenship (no specific reasons given) and special circumstances are recognized, clause 5 may be exempt and naturalization is still possible. Surely this is for (Middle East?) nations that refuse renouncing one’s citizenship. However, I really wonder about this clause. I re-read your essay on how you gave up your US passport here: . Halfway through you were told “Mr Aldwinckle, I’m sorry, but I cannot accept this.” Of course in the end they did accept it, but at this point if you had left, I wonder if your requirements had been fulfilled according to Japanese law. Or if you were to write “I do not wish to give up my US citizenship, but as I naturalized Japan requires it” I wonder if it would be rejected. Further, I wonder how the application process would proceed if at the time of application one explains that while they are legally able to renounce, one is not able to for specific psychological reasons.

    You also wrote: “I received my Japanese citizenship in October 2000, and had a two-year window in which to give up my American.” Is this two-year window based on the following law?

    第十四条 外国の国籍を有する日本国民は、外国及び日本の国籍を有することとなつた時が二十歳に達する以前であるときは二十二歳に達するまでに、その時が二十歳に達した後であるときはその時から二年以内に、いずれかの国籍を選択しなければならない。

    If after two years one has still not decided and Japan decides to revoke your Japanese citizenship, I wonder how possible it would be to acquire (or reaquire) PR. Risking ones whole continued existence in a country that they have called home is not something that I would want to face.

    I’ve waited years already, so I can surely wait longer. However, just wanted to hear any thoughts on the above subjects.


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