Japan Times FYI Column: “Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship”, quotes inter alia Debito


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  About a month ago Japan Times reporter Masami Ito contacted me for information about GOJ naturalization procedures (I’m honored; there are many other people out there who have done the same, and my information, more than a decade old, is by now probably a bit out of date).  It appeared December 27, 2011 as the year’s last FYI Column.  Excerpt follows.  I enclose the original questions I was asked as well as my answers since they may be instructive.  Arudou Debito


The Japan Times, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011



Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship

Staff writer

Nationality has long been a controversial issue in Japan. For most, it is something they are born with; for others, it is something they had to fight for. For some, nationality may be a source of pride, while for others, it may be the cause of discrimination.

News photo
Going for the glory: Comedian Neko Hiroshi, who obtained Cambodian nationality in a bid to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, takes part in the Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia on Nov. 16. AP / KYODO PHOTO 

Meanwhile, citizenship may be something that they have to sacrifice in order to pursue their goals or dreams — like comedian and runner Neko Hiroshi, who made headlines last month after announcing he had obtained Cambodian nationality in the hope of competing in the 2012 London Olympics.

What are the conditions for obtaining Japanese nationality?

According to the Nationality Law, a foreigner seeking Japanese nationality must have permission from the justice minister. He or she can become a naturalized citizen after clearing several conditions, including being at least 20 years old, residency in Japan for at least five consecutive years, a history of “upright conduct,” and no plans to join groups interested in overthrowing the Constitution or the government.

To file for naturalization, you must submit many documents to the local legal affairs bureau detailing your relatives, your livelihood, job or business, your motive for wanting to become a Japanese citizen, your tax payments, and an oath.

The Justice Ministry says the whole process takes about six months to a year, but some naturalized Japanese have noted it took about a 18 months to get the final seal of approval.

Activist Debito Arudo, who was granted citizenship in 2000, said the process took a couple of years.

“It was rather difficult, with a huge paper chase documenting my complicated family in America, and some unnecessarily intrusive questions about my private life,” he recalled.

Are most requests approved?


Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20111227i1.html


Questions asked (in boldface), then my answers:

> 1. When and why did you decide to obtain Japanese
> nationality? Did you have second thoughts about losing
> your original U.S. nationality?

I decided to apply for Japanese nationality back in 1998, after I bought a house and took out a 30-year mortgage.  I realized I lived in Japan like every other citizen, with a family paying taxes and gainfully employed.  So I decided to actually be a citizen, with the right to vote as well.  It was granted in 2000.  And given what I felt about the President Bush II Administration, no.

> 2. Was it easy to get Japanese nationality?

No, it was rather difficult, with a huge paper chase documenting my complicated family in America, and some unnecessarily intrusive questions about my private life.  More at debito.org/residentspage.html#naturalization.

> 3. In what ways did it change your life in Japan? (the
> good side and/or the bad)

It made me feel Japanese and gave me more respect from my neighbors, more rights and better treatment by the authorities.  However, those have been steadily eroded over the past decade as the media has turned more overtly racist and scaremongering (Masami, see my FCCJ No.1 Shimbun article on this at http://no1.fccj.ne.jp/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=481:nothing-has-changed&catid=71:sept-11&Itemid=101, or for your readers shorter link at debito.org/?p=9372), and the government has enacted policies criminalizing foreigners in Japan; as a Caucasian I have been naturally snagged by the dragnets of racial profiling, and this defies my newfound expectations as a citizen.

> 4. From your view, do you recommend foreigners in Japan to seek nationality
> or just keep their permanent status? (I guess this depends on what
> sort of life you are trying to build in Japan…)

Yes it does.  If you want to vote, run for office, effect change in Japan, and “feel like a Japanese”, then naturalize. If you want to lead a quiet life and a hermetic existence here, PR is perfect.  Although I’m hearing that the rigmarole for PR is now becoming comparable with citizenship (Masami, see debito.org/?p=9731 and debito.org/?p=9623).


9 comments on “Japan Times FYI Column: “Many angles to acquiring Japanese citizenship”, quotes inter alia Debito

  • Good on you Debito for getting this info out to some people who probably had no idea how hard it is to acquire citizenship here. People who attempt to do it are here for the long haul and committed to the joint in my mind. As for your lead-in piece – no offence to Neko Hiroshi – but surely Cambodia is a nation with some competent athletes? Why on earth would they allow a foreign comedian to gain citizenship and compete under their flag? Is Neko planning on really staying there long-term? Kind of embarrassing for a proud nation when there are school kids in Cambodia who would laugh at his athletic ability – and tower over his 145cm height! His sporting prowess is not exactly worthy of fast-tracking citizenship, surely? Or perhaps he really does see himself as Cambodian now, and if so good luck to him.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    I was wondering if and when Neko’s situation would come to light. I assume he will publicly renounce his Japanese citizenship (But can’t see it affecting him seriously – Team Japan will claim him as one of their own, especially if he wins something)
    Has anyone else noticed that a significant number (not a large number, but a significant number) or lower- to mid-tier entertainers choose to give birth in the US? I can only imagine that the motivation is a second citizenship they can not readily give up, but can reactivate when they are ready to “break into the US market”.
    Both cases seem to send the message that Japanese citizenship is sacred (assuming one is born with it) but citizenship of other nations is a joke.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    My hunch is that the GOJ will likely go easy on Japanese individuals who have a dual citizenship, and secretly live in Japan for over a year without notifying the Ministry of Justice. Wonder if their treatment toward naturalized citizens would be the same. Regarding Team-J’s about-face on monitoring NJ who filed for PR/citizenship applications, they will go to any length to give people a hard time,as always.

  • Nice article, but perhaps it’s a shame it didn’t explore the dual nationality issue a little more. There must be many many thousands of adult dual nationals, acquaintances indicate that children with two nationalities are not routinely (or at least not always persistently) chased up on reaching the appropriate age, and as for anyone who takes another nationality, how on earth would the Japanese authorities even find out under normal circumstances, Nobel awards and South American dictatorships apart?

    Incidentally, apart from the dual nationality issue, it seems to me that the barrier to permanent residence is in some respects higher than for citizenship (eg 10 years residence).

  • Non-permitting to have a dual citizenship looks as a rather stupid policy. As mentioned above, people can hide their citizenships for a long period of time and even for a whole life. I do not know which checking procedures they apply in Japan to uncover a full list of your citizenship. In some other countries, you can state your nationality and citizenship in your application for a new citizenship form, and (if necessary) provide some evidence that you officially renounced your former citizenship. Meanwhile, you keep your other citizenships not mentioned in the application. If a dual citizenships being not a criminal case, there are a lot of possibilities for manipulations.
    as far as I know American citizens that are really searching for other citizenship are required to exit from the US citizenship. But if they are granted by other citizenship without any efforts from their side, they may keep their US citizenship.

  • DokdoIsKorean says:

    I’m curious about Neko Hiroshi’s Cambodian citizenship… how did he go about getting it? Does he even speak Khmer? Has he renounced Japanese citizenship? Does he plan on renouncing Cambodian citizenship after the Olympics are over? Did he have to invest in Cambodia in some way to get citizenship, as I assume he does not live in Cambodia. Does he have a Cambodian wife? I would be very interested in knowing if his route to Cambodian citizenship (and maintenance of his residency and career in Japan as a Cambodian citizen) has been made possible only by his celebrity (and ethnic Japanese) status, as seems the case.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    Well, now that Neko is out of the race, he wants his Japanese citizenship back.
    Looks like the rules make it easy for him.

    2011.11.10 05:02操作メニューをスキップして本文へ

    — Thanks for this. It’s a good test case. Love also how the article puts “gaikokujin” in “so-called quotes”, as if he’s a so-called foreigner. Lookit, if he gave up his Japanese citizenship, the fool is a foreigner, even in Japan. And this is no laughing matter.

  • Apparently Neko Hiroshi is residing and working in Japan with a 日本人の配偶者等 visa which he qualifies for due to having Japanese parents and also a Japanese wife. He plans to renew this after the 1/3 years.

    I suppose that he will need to wait at least 5 years before he can naturalize.








    — No he won’t. He has Japanese blood. Under the Nationality Law he can get it in a couple of years.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>