• Chikugo, Fukuoka


My first reaction was to ask the justice minister, “Why does Noriko need a special permit to stay in her country of birth?” Sure, one could argue that she is of Filipino ancestry, but for that matter, all the children born to Japanese parents in Brazil, America, Canada, Peru, Australia or France are of Japanese ancestry. Yet, nikkeijin have been accepted as full members of other societies. The largest of these foreign communities are in Brazil, the United States and the Philippines. Descendants of emigrants from the Meiji Era still have recognizable communities in those countries. Some have even become lawmakers in their country of birth or adoption.

By contrast the government in Japan persistently maintains a racist and xenophobic system under which people who fulfill every internationally accepted qualification for citizenship are denied it. There is a real lack of political push in this fight. The majority of Japanese people firmly believe that the key to Japanese identity is in the blood. A few open-minded lawmakers are willing to grant citizenship to anyone born in Japan and to allow dual citizenship for those with foreign-born parents, but the idea is always opposed by most conservative politicians. They argue that Japan, unlike America or Canada, is not a country of immigrants. The Liberal Democratic Party goes even further to the right: It says Japan is an ethnic Japanese nation. That, however, is no longer the reality.

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