Art + Culture

多重国籍 Multiple Citizenship


We’re writing 2021, dual or multiple citizenship is still not allowed in Japan. A huge, psychological and economical problem for us, who want to create cultural bridges between various countries. And Covid-19 made the situation worse. Permanent Residents, having a family, work, a house in Japan, paying taxes and health insurance etc. in Japan, had been badly, inhumanly treated last year by the Japanese Government. Permanent Residents had been discriminated, seen as citizens of second class, like tourists. In this context, you have to understand that Japan does not allow dual citizenship, ergo, if you want to keep your original passport, the ONLY way to live in Japan is to become Permanent Resident. Got it?
I strongly endorse the efforts made by former Japanese citizens, who filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court. Eight men and women in their 30s to 80s, who were born in Japan but now live in Europe, claimed the law’s stipulation that Japanese citizens give up their nationality upon gaining a foreign nationality violates the Constitution. But the government has argued the plaintiffs’ claim takes no note of national interests, as permitting multiple citizenship would enable people to have voting rights or diplomatic protection in several countries. According to the suit, the eight plaintiffs — six who have acquired Swiss and Liechtenstein nationalities and two others who plan to obtain Swiss and French nationality to facilitate their work and lives — hope to maintain their Japanese citizenship.
Article 11 of the nationality law states that Japanese citizens who acquire non-Japanese nationality on their own instigation automatically lose their Japanese one, effectively banning multiple nationalities. The plaintiffs claimed that the regulation was originally designed to avoid overlapping military service obligations imposed by multiple nations and other purposes. As many countries in the world now allow multiple citizenship, “The clause forcefully depriving people of (Japanese) nationality violates the Constitution, which guarantees the right to pursue happiness and the equality under the law,” they also said. The nationality law also requires Japanese citizens who obtain foreign citizenship to notify the government of their abandonment of Japanese nationality. But as it includes no penalties, many Japanese are believed to have maintained multiple passports after obtaining non-Japanese citizenship. About 518,000 Japanese are estimated to have permanent residency status in other countries as of October 2019, but the government has been unable to confirm how many of them hold multiple citizenship.
Semi-academic Wikipedia alone shows all the complexity. I’m too old to remember, signing a petition in front of my Berlin University for Japanese mothers who wanted to let their child decide which citizenship to take when adult. Until the 80’s only the father’s nationality was relevant. Many years of lobbying, finally Japanese law had been changed. The same has to be done regarding dual citizenship in Japan. Of course, thinking and valuing artistic practice in local boundaries is so much outdated. I’m the one who acts very sensitive (multilayers’ concept) in this context. Over 70% of member states of the United Nations permit their people to have more than one citizenship. In a world where it’s become quite common to see individuals from diverse backgrounds and for people to compete on the global stage, some experts are demanding that Japan do the same. The Japanese Nationality Act stipulates that a child born to a Japanese parent is legally Japanese. Meanwhile, some nations have a system where a child born in such countries to a Japanese parent becomes a dual citizen of that place and Japan. The Japanese law requires anyone who was born with or obtained multiple nationality before the age of 20 to pick one of them before their 22nd birthday. Those who acquire citizenship of another country after turning 20 must decide which one to keep within a two-year period. But because individuals who choose to keep their Japanese nationality are only “obliged to make an effort” to give up other citizenships, there are people in Japan who continue to hold two or more passports. From another press source, according to a 2018 estimate by the Justice Ministry, about 925,000 Japanese have multiple citizenship. (See the divergent number above with 518.000). Furthermore, foreigners wanting to acquire Japanese nationality are required to submit a certificate showing they have forfeited their original citizenship. But those from countries without renunciation procedures can also become dual citizens. On the other hand, Japanese people who choose a foreign nationality “of their own will” automatically have their Japanese citizenship revoked.
Japan, please wake up! Are you probably afraid of your neighbouring Asian countries? If yes, speak it out loudly. Let’s find a solution in a constructive way! Together!
It’s time to change the law, like other developed countries in the world which did it already. We live in 2021. Globalisation, mobility, diversity, children in a multi-cultural environment, friendship between you and me should not be hindered by an outdated law.
Tokyo 2021/1/21
Mario A