HONOLULU – Depressed by what they see as Japan’s opaque economic and political future, Hideaki Tokito and his wife Yuko are pinning their dreams on their son’s dual citizenship.
“I take pride in Japanese culture,” Tokito, 34, says, but he is critical of his country. “Present Japan is on the brink of collapse. The future of the country’s economy and politics is indiscernible.”
He complains that government services are not commensurate with the level of taxes paid, that there is a wait just to get one’s child admitted to a nursery, that children must attend cram schools to get a well-rounded education, and that it’s considered natural that people are forced to make these double payments for education.
His 33-year-old wife agrees. Every time she goes abroad on vacation, she thinks there is something wrong with Japan.
She finds living in Japan uncomfortable because many people feel they must behave like everyone else. She is also critical of the way the country allows the sex industry to run unchecked, with minors taking advantage of it to earn spending money.
Recently, the couple took their 16-month-old son, Terumasa, back to Queens Hospital in Honolulu for a checkup by Dr. Charlene Ushijima, a 34-year-old obstetrician and gynecologist.
“Oh, you’ve grown,” Ushijima says as Terumasa gazes at her. “I’m your doctor. Don’t you remember me?”
Terumasa holds Japanese and U.S. passports, having been born in Queens Hospital. His parents run an Internet business specializing in overseas food , using their Tokyo home as their office. However, they plan to relocate to Honolulu in the near future.
When Yuko Tokito became pregnant, a friend told her that her baby would be able to get U.S. citizenship if she gave birth in the United States. Because she and her husband frequently visited Hawaii on business and had many friends here, she decided to give birth in Honolulu. She also mistrusts Japanese medicine.
The couple came to Honolulu in the last month of her pregnancy and relaxed on the beach, with Yuko receiving regular checkups.
“I was able to relax in giving birth to my baby because I was in a ward that looked like a hotel room, and underwent a painless delivery (under an anesthetic),” she says.
Hideaki Tokito meanwhile prepared the necessary papers for the baby to obtain U.S. citizenship, learning the documents he would submit to the hospital at the time of the child’s discharge would represent the birth registration.
A week after the baby was born, the father went to the state public health office and received the child’s birth certificate. He also went to the Japanese Consulate and submitted a Japanese translation of the certificate.
He signed the baby’s registration paper, which included a clause reserving the child’s right to claim Japanese nationality.
Tokito raised his right hand and placed his left on his chest and took an oath to get his baby’s U.S. passport.
The couple returned to Japan with Terumasa a month and a half after his birth, about the time the boy’s eardrums became strong enough to handle the flight.
They then set up a Web site to provide information to people interested in giving birth in the U.S.
They are most frequently asked about the cost of delivery. Since they had no insurance for childbirth abroad, the Tokitos spent the equivalent of 1.5 million yen for the delivery and hospitalization, which for the mother and child lasted four days.
Another 1 million yen went to renting a place and living in Honolulu for three months.
One inquiring couple was under the misunderstanding that parents also could become U.S. citizens if their baby is born in America. Another couple quit their jobs and moved to the United States when the Tokitos advised them that they should be prepared to stay in America three months to prepare for childbirth.
To have a baby born in the U.S. is worth giving up a job, Tokito says, and the number of people in his generation with this inclination is growing.
“This is the era in which people go around the globe freely in search of a better environment,” Tokito says. “We simply prepared (the baby for) U.S. citizenship as an option. No matter where we live, we will teach him Japanese culture.”
Alvin T. Onaka, who signed Terumasa’s birth certificate, said Japanese are not alone in using the U.S. nationality system.
Onaka, 55, a fourth-generation Japanese-American, considers himself more an American than a Japanese-American, due to his upbringing. But his 24-year-old son Takashi, who was born in Japan while Onaka was studying in the country and currently works at the Aomori Prefectural Government under a Foreign Ministry exchange program, wonders why he doesn’t have dual citizenship.
Under Japan’s lineage-based Nationality Law, one parent must be Japanese for offspring to obtain citizenship.
“The times have changed,” Onaka says. “People in my son’s generation think it’s neat to have dual citizenship because they can fall back on it.”
Onaka believes people of dual citizenship develop an awareness of both countries, and if that makes for internationally minded people who appreciate the differences between the two nations, then dual citizenship is best.
Under Japanese law, Terumasa must decide if he wants to be a Japanese citizen by the time he turns 22.