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Citizenship | Japan |

Japan Japan tentatively opens its doors to international care workers Japan (2012)


Gabriele Vogt

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Open access to citizenship is regarded as offering the best opportunity to protect the rights of immigrants. This is particularly true of a country like Japan, where it is a matter of legal dispute whether the human rights named in the constitution apply to Japanese citizens only or to immigrants as well. Moreover, there is no article in the constitution that explicitly addresses the rights and duties of the immigrant population.

Japan’s Nationality Law is based on the jus sanguinis principle, according to which a child’s citizenship is normally determined by that of the parents’ (Art. 2). Articles 4 to 10 contain information on the process of naturalization. It states that any non-Japanese person may apply for Japanese citizenship; a decision on the application rests with the Minister of Justice (Art. 4). The basic requirements for successful applicants are as follows: The main focus of their lives for the previous five years must have been in Japan; the residence category "student" is explicitly excluded here. Applicants must be at least 20 years old and must not have a criminal record; in particular they must not have engaged in anti-constitutional activities. Furthermore they must be able to support themselves financially and must be prepared to give up their previous citizenship in favor of Japanese citizenship. Details of special cases are set out in the articles that follow.

In 2010 there were 13,072 applications for naturalization, of which 234 were refused. The majority of the successful applications (approx. 6,600) came from the Korean immigrant population. The second largest group was represented by the Chinese immigrant population with approx. 5,000 applications. Naturalization is by no means a mass phenomenon in Japan and nor is it a topic of public discourse. This, of course, is not true of prominent individuals like Masayoshi Son, a native Korean and CEO of the Softbank Corporation, Marutei Tsurunen, Member of the Upper House and a native of Finland, or the television star Bobby Ologun, who was born in Nigeria. In the year 2012 the case of the Japanese television star Hiroshi Neko made headlines when he took Cambodian citizenship in order to fulfill his dream of taking part in the Olympics marathon. His times were not fast enough to qualify him for the Japanese Olympic team.

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Prof. Dr. Gabriele Vogt is professor for Japanese Studies at the Asia-Africa-Institute of the University of Hamburg. Her research focuses on socio-scientific research on Japan and covers not only international migration to Japan but also Japan’s demographic chance and topics of political participation.
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