Why don't my parents count as members of the family?

Dear Ministry of Justice,

“A beautiful country, the land of the rising sun, home of the most helpful people in this world . . .”

If anyone ever asks me about Japan, that’s what I tell them. I consider Japan to be the ideal country to live in — a perfect world, even with the language barriers.

The next question from my friends or colleagues is inevitably: “Then why did you leave?”

I often ask myself this question, and every time I can come up with only one answer: “In Japan, parents are not considered part of the family.” Because of this, when I lived in Japan my parents couldn’t stay with me for longer than three months.

Obviously I chose my family over the country that I — and my family, including my parents — loved.

Even now, I cannot understand why the idea of elderly parents being part of the family is so unimaginable in Japan. Whenever my parents came to visit, my colleagues were always surprised that they stayed with me in my house for three months.

The expressions on their faces made me think that it was no wonder the Japanese Immigration Bureau does not count parents as dependents, and hence never grants them dependent visas or tourist visas of longer than three months.

I have been to the immigration office in Shinagawa many times, and they are some of the most polite officials I have ever met. However, after they have listened to you carefully they will tell you in simple terms that they cannot extend your parents’ tourist visa. They are “not part of your family,” so they can’t get dependent visas either.

Coming from the Indian subcontinent, I had always counted even my uncles and my cousins as being to some extent dependent upon me as part of an extended family. But I think at the very least, parents are thought of as part of the family unit all over Asia. I thought the same would apply for Japan, which has historically been a closely knit society, but I guess things have changed.

I don’t see how it would negatively impact on the government, and in particular the Immigration Bureau, if they decided to allow parents of “aliens” to stay longer, for six months or a year. They could apply safeguards to prevent abuse, such as that they not be able to work during their stay, or have to go back home once a year, for example.

For many of my friends this has become an important issue. Some opted to stay in Japan for a better future and others, like me, put priority on the family and left despite their professional and personal preference.

The Immigration Bureau should think about this issue and help improve the lives of “alien” professionals working in and for Japan.


Submissions to Hotline to Nagatacho should address issues that affect your life in Japan or be in response to government policies. Please imagine you are actually writing to a government official — be it a local school board head or the prime minister himself — to bring attention to an important matter. Send submissions of between 500 and 700 words to community@japantimes.co.jp

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