The Tokyo District Court ruled Thursday that the country’s nationality law, which forbids citizens from holding multiple nationalities, is constitutional, in a judicial decision believed to be the first concerning the regulation.
In a lawsuit filed with the 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 must give up their nationality upon obtaining a foreign nationality violates the Constitution.
But the government argued the plaintiffs’ claim took no note of national interest, and that permitting multiple citizenship would allow people to have voting rights or diplomatic protection in other countries.
Dual citizenship “could cause conflict in the rights and obligations between countries, as well as between the individual and the state,” said Presiding Judge Hideaki Mori.
According to the suit, the eight plaintiffs — six who have acquired either Swiss or Liechtenstein nationality and two others who plan to obtain Swiss or French nationality to facilitate their work and lives — had hoped to maintain their Japanese citizenship.
Article 11 of the nationality law states that Japanese citizens who acquire non-Japanese nationality of their own volition automatically lose their Japanese nationality, effectively preventing Japanese citizens from holding multiple nationalities.
The plaintiffs claimed that the regulation was originally designed to avoid overlapping military service obligations imposed by multiple nations and other purposes.
“The court did not seriously consider the feelings of Japanese living abroad,” Swiss resident Hitoshi Nogawa, 77, who led the plaintiffs, said following the ruling.
As many countries in the world, including the United States, now allow multiple citizenship, “The clause forcefully depriving people of (Japanese) nationality violates the Constitution, which guarantees the right to pursue happiness and equality under the law,” they also said.
The issue of dual nationality in Japan drew global attention when tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, who had both Japanese and U.S. citizenship, selected Japanese nationality just before turning 22 in 2019. She was born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father.
The law requires those who hold dual nationalities while below 20 years of age to choose one before turning 22, and those who obtain them at age 20 or older to select one within two years.
The nationality law also requires Japanese citizens who obtain foreign citizenship to notify the government of their abandonment of Japanese nationality.
But as the law includes no penalties, many Japanese nationals are believed to hold multiple passports.
About 518,000 Japanese nationals 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.
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