Now it can be told...


By Arudou Debito
January 10, 2003

Longtime readers of my essays (archived at http://www.debito.org) will remember the trip I took late in March 2002 to see American relatives at Misawa Air Base, Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, northern Honshu. I found several cheap drinking establishments which had signs up saying "Japanese only" (copied even down to the font from signs at an exclusionary Otaru bathhouse). (photos and report at http://www.debito.org/misawaexclusions.html)

Not only did these businesses refuse me entry despite my showing my Japanese passport, the refusers happened to be foreigners themselves--the hostesses (Russians, Thais, Filipinas, and Chinese). Their express reason? The nearby air base (these bars are within a stone's throw of the front gate) contains undesirable members of the American military who misunderstand Japanese drinking rules and cause trouble. This may be so, but even if one gives the bars the benefit of the doubt, their unwillingness to use their mulitilingual staff (a luxury even the Otaru bathhouses did not have) to explain or signpost house rules showed a palpable uncooperativeness. Moreover, refusing me entry, despite my being neither a member of the American military nor a foreigner, showed an unwillingness to abide by Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution.

I took this up with the pertinent authorities: The Ministry of Justice's Bureau of Human Rights (Jinken Yougobu), Aomori City, and the American Consulate Sapporo (which covers all American affairs in Japan north of Sendai).

You can see the November 12, 2002 response I got from the Aomori BHR in Japanese (http://www.debito.org/misawahaiseki.html#aomori) (i.e. they notified the bars of their violation of the Japanese Constitution, but not all of them took down their signs. Alas, the BHR says it can do no more.)

It was the response I got from the American Consulate Sapporo that occasioned me giving up my US passport.



I called the US Consulate Sapporo on April 5, 2002, and asked to make an appointment with the current Consul General, a Mr Alec Wilczynski. I also emailed in advance a report on the situation in Misawa so they could be fully briefed by the time we met.

On April 10, Sapporo Consul Drew Schufletowski called me to explain that a meeting with the Consul General was unnecessary, as the US Consulate had a policy of not intervening in individual cases such as these. Especially when I am protected by Japanese laws: "You are a Japanese citizen. Take this up with the domestic authorities."

I said that I had done so. But the US Government also has some responsibility because members of the American base were allegedly causing trouble in the local business environment.

Mr Schufletowski asked what I thought the USG should be doing.

I said, "How about sending a letter from the US State Department to both the Mayor of Misawa and the Misawa Air Base Command, expressing an awareness of the issue, and hopes that steps will be taken to resolve the problem so that the exclusionary signs can come down. Those signs are causing social damage by emboldening discriminators to overtly and publicly exclude. They cannot stay up."

Mr Shufetowski indicated that neither he nor the consul general saw how the State Department played a part in this case, as they "did not consider this to be a bilateral issue".

I said, "Uh, wait. These are complaints from Japanese people specifically about American behavior. Matters between two countries is by definition 'bilateral'. There are also issues of human rights involved here."

Mr Schufletowski indicated that he did not see this as an issue of human rights.

"Oh, come on," I said, "This exclusionary behavior violates both the US and the Japanese Constitutions. How can it not be?"

Mr Schufletowski then shifted gears. "Our records indicate that you have both American and Japanese passports. As far as I know, the Japanese Government does not permit dual nationality. So what do you intend to do with your American passport?"

I told him that that was under consideration. I received my Japanese citizenship in October 2000, and had a two-year window in which to give up my American. I had not done so up to then because I wanted to see how accepting Japanese would be of my newfound status, and then decide. (The result: overwhelmingly accepting, save an exclusionary onsen and a few bar hostesses.)

Truth be told, having two passports in Japan is not necessarily a problem. If one lived a quiet life, one could conceivably keep renewing a non-Japanese passport ad infinitum. The USG permits dual citizenship (see http://www.debito.org/residentspage.html#naturalization) and doesn't go out of its way to tell other governments about the nationalities of their citizens.

However, as you know, I don't live a quiet life. Mr Schufletowski asked me a second time, "What do you intend to do with your American passport?"

None of your goddamn business! is what I felt like blurting out, but I settled for, "As I said, it's under consideration."

"I don't think the Japanese government would like it if they knew you are keeping your US passport."

This is where the writing visibly met the wall. I felt that if I were to push this issue any further, the US Consulate Sapporo might blab. And since I took a written oath at the Ministry of Justice that I would give up my birth nationality when taking Japanese, stiff penalties--such as a heavy fine or incarceration (not to mention being stripped of my Japanese citizenship and getting kicked out of the country, losing my job and house in the process)--were not inconceivable. (NB: I don't know for sure what the penalties are--it's not something you ask as you are being sworn in.)

I decided the USG was not going to hold sway over me like this. I went down to the Consulate a few days later to surrender my US passport.



The US does not like people giving up their US citizenship--for personal finance or taxation purposes. Since America is one of only two countries in the world (the other one being Eritrea) which taxes their citizens abroad, if you earn above a certain level of income abroad (last I knew over US$74,000 a year), you get taxed both by America and your country of residence. This is to ensure Americans with expat packages or huge assets overseas do not avoid paying for the privilege of American citizenship. The problem is that the US also, say, levies inheritance taxes on lands owned abroad (ex: a naturalized Swedish-American being willed a Stockholm mansion). Rich people do try to get out of this arrangement by giving up their US citizenship, but they are known as the "yacht people" and must pay an "exit tax" (a tax on their projected earnings over the next ten or so years--see "Learning, and Earning, Their Stripes", Washington Post, November 17, 1996, Page C3, archived for a fee at http://www.washingtonpost.com). Those who de-Americanize get their names listed in the Congressional Register. Those who abscond from the IRS are never let back into the US again.

I might add there is quite a strong undercurrent of treason when talking about this with Americans. Some gaped incredulously: "Why would you ever give up your US passport--when so many millions around the world want one?" (Especially since, some added, the country of my adoption apparently neither has the will nor the gunboats to protect a person like me at home or abroad.) Others simply flat out said I would be "betraying America".

Those cautions in mind, I went down to the Sapporo Consulate on April 15, 2002 and got started on the paperwork.

The clerk behind the desk gave the gape. "This is the first time I've ever seen a real American giving up his passport." When I asked what was meant by that, he noted that quite a few Japanese born stateside surrender their US passports here for financial, legal, or patriotic reasons. To him, my case was that unusual.

I was given Form FS-581 to fill out, and it goes like this:


When I finished the document, Mr Schufletowski appeared, read it over and frowned. "Mr Aldwinckle, I'm sorry, but I cannot accept this."

"Mr Schufletowski, I'm sorry, but it's not a matter for you to 'accept'. It is my decision, not yours, to make."

"But by not signing this 'Voluntary Relinquishment' section you are indicating that you are doing this under coercion. As the duty officer in charge, that is not something I can accept."

"You will have to, because coerced is how I feel. You went out of your way to ask what I was going to do with my US passport. That is none of your business. You are trying to interfere with my right to affect change in the society in which I live."

"Look, believe it or not, I have better things to do with my day than leak your passport status to the Japanese Government. You'll have to give me a better reason why you want to give up your US citizenship than this."

Without much hesitation, I said, "Look, ever since the Rehnquist Court handed George W. Bush the presidential election in a Supreme Court d'etat instead of allowing the Florida election to be rerun unambiguously, I have felt that the United States has been appallingly misguided in both its foreign and domestic policies. Not only is the Bush Administration denying foreigners the writ of habeas corpus while encouraging an overall erosion of civil liberties for everyone domestically, it is also justifying overweaning patriotism and the stifling of dissent in the name of maintaining a united front towards 'terrorism'. It is exacerbating tensions with the outside world as the sole remaining hegemon, embodied in its oversimplistic 'Axis of Evil' approach, and demonstrating that only a blinkered Pax Americana will do for world affairs. Retreats from both the ABM Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol, carrying out terrorist inquisitions and capital-offense tribunals at Guantanamo, and demanding immunity for the US military from the nascent World Court, et al have only shown that hypocrisy and the military-industrial complex is what makes the world go round. Only more overtly, powerfully, and cynically than I've seen since Vietnam. America is no longer a country I can point to as a paragon of democracy and human rights which others, such as Japan, can learn from. I feel far from being an American anymore. Your treatment of me in yesterday's phone call only confirms that the Americans are only concerned with human rights when their military interests are not affected. Howzat? Need I go on?" (see my February 2002 epiphany on this at http://www.debito.org/japantodaycolumns16-18.html#17)

"Okay," said Mr S. "But must sign this voluntary relinquishment bit or else I cannot accept these papers. If you wish to put an addendum on the back qualifying your signature with a protest, do so. Or else you're just going to have to remain an American."

I wrote:

Mr Schufletowski took my papers and US passport, and said the US State Department would judge whether or not my reasons were strong enough. Notification would come to me directly by mail in a few months.

On August 6, 2002, my cancelled passport arrived.

I also received a Form FS-348, a "Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States", signed and notarized by Consul Schufletowski. The US State Department had granted permission to expatriate under Section 349 (a) (1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, and with no exit tax.

That was it. Bridge burnt.



"Now, you understand that if you ever go back to the US, you will have to apply for a tourist visa and go through all the steps like any other alien, right?" the gaping consulate clerk cautioned me.

Yes, I thought, and watching the way America treats foreigners nowadays, I am in no hurry. I can see quite a few eyebrows raised when a White boy displays a Japanese passport at American Immigration. I'm sure naturally-suspicious Customs officers will have queries about forgeries, if not my patriotism.

That's it then. I'm here for good, for better or for worse. As one gets older, Thomas Wolfe's famous book title rings ever truer. You really can't go home again. So what do you do? You make your home where you want it to be.

Arudou Debito
January 10, 2003


Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 10:03:47 +0900
From: Arudou Debito <debito@debito.org>
Subject: From US Consulate, re Losing US Passport

Hello All. What follows is a response from Mr Alec Wilczynski, Consul General, American Consulate General Sapporo, to my recent report on giving up my American citizenship. This came via the Hokkaido International Business Association (HIBA) mailing list, through member Sally Kobayashi. I quote it in full (save Ms Kobayashi's email address, which I removed) with the beginning- and end- gibberish intact to certify its authenticity.

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Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2003 16:53:49 +0800
Subject: An answer to ESSAY: How to Lose US Citizenship
From: Sally Kobayashi <XXXX@XXXXXXX>
To: <hiba-members@hiba-hokkaido.org>
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As a HIBA member, I felt it important that other members get a more complete
picture of Arudou Debito's recent posting to the list entitled, "How to Lose
Your American Passport" than what he presents in his article. Therefore, I
am posting Consul General Alec Wilczynski's explanation. - Sally Kobayashi

------begin text-----

As Consul General of the American Consulate General Sapporo, I think it is
appropriate for me to respond to Arudou Debito's post to the HIBA list
entitled, "How to Lose Your American Passport." While the title suggests an
endearing story about leaving one's passport on a train, in fact it refers
to Mr. Arudou's decision to renounce his American citizenship. It is not
clear in the article whether Mr. Arudou was claiming that the Consulate made
it hard for him to give up his citizenship or that we forced him to do so.

Mr. Arudou's writing, which touches unrelated topics such as his distress
over the Florida elections, those freeloading "yacht people," and Eritrean
tax policy, is too cluttered for pointed rebuttal. So let me simply point
out a few of the more absurd statements in his document and suggest that
readers take a moment to reflect on how seriously they will take Mr.
Arudou's views.

For example, does Mr. Arudou really believe that the U.S. Constitution
governs the entrance policy of a private club in a foreign country?

On taxes, yes, it is true that foreign earned income over $80,000 (not
$74,000 as stated in the piece) is "subject" to U.S. tax. However, Mr.
Arudo neglects to mention that there is a dollar for dollar "foreign tax
credit" for any Japanese taxes paid available as an offset against U.S. tax
liability. It's all a tad complicated, but the bottom line is that an
American citizen living in Japan and making even $250,000 per year will pay
little or nothing to the IRS, provided Japanese taxes have been paid.

Since the Treasury gains very little from even well paid citizens living
abroad, and the number of overseas taxpayers is trivial when compared to the
millions of taxpayers in America, how believable is his claim that "The U.S.
does not like people giving up their U.S. citizenship -- for taxation
purposes." When Mr. Arudou came in to renounce his citizenship, no one asked
about his filing status.

As for his dealings with the U.S. Consulate, Mr. Arudou's account is
extremely exaggerated. Can we anyone honestly believe that Mr. Arudou
speaks in full-paragraph declamations about "terrorist inquisitions" and the
Kyoto Protocol, while we can only gape wordlessly at the man's courage and
erudition? Readers should know that despite Mr. Arudou's extensive use of
quotes, the conversation was not recorded. In fact, Drew Schufletowski
refusing to engage in a pointless debate about anything and everything,
instead handled the transaction in a professional and routine way.

And indeed, in the end that's all Mr. Arudou's renunciation of citizenship
was: a routine bureaucratic exercise. Whatever publicity Mr. Arudou aimed to
get out of his antics or whatever effect he hopes it may have to revive
interest in his flagging "human rights" campaign, for us losing David
Ardwinkle was not terribly noteworthy.

I understand HIBA to be a business organization serving the International
business community in Hokkaido. I know how difficult it is to edit posted
material, and recognize that your members are a diverse group with diverse
opinions However, wouldn't it be of good public relations value to HIBA if
individual members considered the value of their opinions to international
business relations before they posted them?


Alec Wilczynski

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A surprising response from a diplomat.

Arudou Debito


(used with permission)
To: <communityinjapan@yahoogroups.com>
Cc: <hiba-members@hiba-hokkaido.org>,"'Sally Kobayashi'" <XXXX@XXXXX>
From: "Dave G" <ml@autotelic.com>
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 13:40:28 +0900
Subject: RE: [communityinjapan] On Losing US Passport

Community Members, Sally Kobayashi,

Having read Mr Wilczynski's rebuttal, I have to admit that one part
of Debito's account that I found a little incredulous was the image of
the consulate staff sitting and listening to a whole soliloquy against
US foreign and domestic policy.

However, the part I can believe of Debito's account is that Mr
Wilczynski changed the topic to the matter of Debito's passport status
in the middle of Debito's request for the USG to issue a statement. It
does not seem that the two matters are at all related, and to draw a
connection between them does have the air of making a threat. Especially
if, as Debito's account says, Mr Wilczynski would not let the
conversation about Debito's suggestions for a statement from the USG
progress until Debito made clear his passport status. It also seems
somewhat irrelevant as Debito was, from my understanding, acting within
accordance of the law of the US and told Mr Wilczynski so. The
conversation took place in April of 2002 and Debito had until October of
2002 to decide what to do with his passport, and until then it's not Mr
Wilczynski's business to force a decision from Debito. That should have
closed the issue of the passport status and the two should have gone
back to the matter of issuing a statement.

Further, from Mr Wilczynski rebuttal, it seems he is unclear on the
difference between taking a stance and taking responsibility. He is
resolute, and correct, that the USG is not responsible for a local
onsen. The USG, as a bureaucracy, may only be tangentially connected to
the US Military and may not have any responsibility there, either.
However, I don't believe Debito or anyone was asking for the USG, and/or
the consulate, to take responsibility for anything. I believe the
request was only for the USG to issue a statement, to the Misawa local
government and the Misawa Air Base, to express "hopes that steps will be
taken to resolve the problem". How much more mild can a request be? If
Mr Wilczynski can not even bring himself to express hopes to anyone for
a diplomatic and mutually equitable solution to their problems, then I
wonder what, if any, capabilities he does have as a diplomat?

My .02$
Dave G (Community Member, friend of Debito)

To: communityinjapan@yahoogroups.com
From: Arudou Debito <debito@debito.org>
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 13:49:14 +0900
Subject: RE: [communityinjapan] On Losing US Passport

Hi DMG: A couple of corrections:

At 1:40 PM +0900 03.1.28, Dave G wrote:
> Community Members, Sally Kobayashi,
> Having read Mr Wilczynski's rebuttal, I have to admit that one part
> of Debito's account that I found a little incredulous was the image of
> the consulate staff sitting and listening to a whole soliloquy against
> US foreign and domestic policy.

Maybe I wasn't as erudite or full in my verbal explanation that day, but Mr
Shufetowski (not Mr Wilczynski) did demand a clearer explanation of my
motive for denaturalization. He would not accept my application as such
without one. So I did orally say something along those lines.

Olaf Karthaus was there as an eyewitness. He is welcome to attest to The Community
one way or the other. He has told me over the phone that he considered the
report accurate.

> However, the part I can believe of Debito's account is that Mr
> Wilczynski changed the topic to the matter of Debito's passport status

For the record, I never talked to Mr Wilcyznski. He refused to meet me.
All communication on these matters was between Mr Shufetowski and myself.

> If
> Mr Wilczynski can not even bring himself to express hopes to anyone for
> a diplomatic and mutually equitable solution to their problems, then I
> wonder what, if any, capabilities he does have as a diplomat?

I would also question Mr W's ability to represent himself in public. I
don't know how Mr W is able to say:

> "...the conversation was not recorded. In fact, Drew Schufletowski
> refusing to engage in a pointless debate about anything and everything,
> instead handled the transaction in a professional and routine way."

when Mr W was never there in the first place. As he admits, he has no
record of the event, recorded or even witnessed.

So instead of addressing the issue at hand (helping out in a situation which
involves allegations of the American military making trouble in a
transplanted neighborhood) in any way, Mr W shows an odd need to misconstrue
and misquote my report, moreover diminish the incident to a level of a
publicity stunt: in his words, "to revive interest in [Arudou's] flagging
'human rights' campaign".

With such a petty and mean-spirited tone, I'm surprised Mr W responded at
all, let alone so unlike a trained diplomat. When it comes to talented State
Department officials, I guess Sapporo really is an outpost in terms of

Arudou Debito

To: <communityinjapan@yahoogroups.com>
From: "Dave G" <ml@autotelic.com>
Delivered-To: mailing list communityinjapan@yahoogroups.com
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 14:32:48 +0900
Subject: RE: [communityinjapan] On Losing US Passport

I stand corrected. You met with Mr Shufetowski and not Mr Wilczynski.
And so I will defer to your account of having explained at length your
reasons for revoking your passport, as Mr Wilczynski is, by his own
admission, speaking either from hearsay or speculation. Apologies for
having missed that significant detail.
So in my previous posting, my comments about Mr Wilczynski connecting
the passport issue and the onsen issue should be directed to Mr.
Shufetowski. However, Mr Shufetowski is Mr Wilczynski's responsibility.
His staff, at least, Mr Wilczynski can't deny responsibility for. And so
the debate nonetheless leads back to him. Especially as he has seen fit
to write a rebuttal.
I would have hoped that, as a professional diplomat, Mr Wilczynski
could have better spent the time and consideration that he put in his
rebuttal letter. A better choice would have been writing a simple letter
calling for the involved parties, particularly the US Military service
men, to better conduct themselves. With that letter he could have washed
himself of Debito and the onsen issue quickly without taking on the
responsibility he seems to dread so much.

Dave G

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