MANILA (Kyodo) The long wait is over for Primorosa Hamada, a 63-year-old Japanese-Filipino teacher from the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga.
For 63 years, the Philippine government classified her as a “stateless national.”
But last month, the Tokyo family court granted her Japanese citizenship, along with seven other sons and daughters of Japanese men who lived, worked or fought in the Philippines before and during World War II, according to a Japanese nonprofit organization.
“I cried when I learned that my ‘koseki’ (family registration) has been approved. Now, I can proudly say that I’m a Japanese citizen, not a stateless person,” Hamada said. “I am overjoyed.”
Her father, Saburo Hamada of Yokohama, came to the Philippines before or during the war to work in a seafood processing company. He married a Filipino woman, Ignacia, in 1944. When the woman was three months pregnant with Primorosa, Saburo Hamada boarded a ship that was taking Japanese soldiers to Borneo. That was the last time his family saw him.
Hiroyuki Kawai, chairman of the Philippines Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center Inc., said two men and six women ranging in age from 63 to 82 have finally realized their dream of becoming Japanese citizens.
“Two were granted Japanese citizenship last year while the rest were granted last month. This is indeed very happy news,” Kawai said.
Altogether, Kawai said, 15 of 101 Japanese-Filipino children have been granted Japanese citizenship since 2004, when the legal support organization started filing the petitions.
“There are still 72 cases pending in the Tokyo court,” he said. At least 14 petitions have been withdrawn due to deaths or lack of documentation.
“I can’t thank you enough,” Pacita Tatsuno Kato, 82, told Kawai and the support center staff when they distributed the koseki to the descendants.
Kato is the daughter of Waichi Kato, a native of Mie Prefecture, who went to the Philippines before the war.
Her father died in the Philippines in 1935.
Manuel Okasaki, 69, is the son of Norisuki Okasaki, who went to the Philippines in the 1930s.
His father reportedly disappeared in the 1940s after joining the Japanese military.
“I’ve been waiting for this day. I’ve never seen my father. When I heard that my koseki has been approved I was very happy. It’s like seeing my father,” Okasaki said.
For brother and sister Justino Hisutoshi Uehara, 66, and Isabelita Uehara, 65, gaining Japanese citizenship is an opportunity for them and their respective children to live and work in Japan.
The Ueharas want to visit Okinawa where their father, Kamekichi, came from.
“We were discriminated against when we were younger because our father is Japanese. We couldn’t go to school. But we never changed our family name. We knew one day we will be proud to carry our father’s family name,” the Ueharas said.
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