• Abiko, Chiba


Joel Assogba’s June 28 letter, “Concept of Japanese citizenship,” makes many allegations that simply are not true. Japan, like the United States, has a law of nationality — not a law of citizenship. All countries have multiple rules for acquiring nationality at the time of birth. There is no “internationally accepted qualification” for nationality.

Japan, like the vast majority of nations, uses “right of blood” as its primary criterion and “right of soil” as a secondary criterion. Its “right of blood” principle is based on parental ties, not race or ethnicity. Nikkeijin in the Americas have not had it easy. In the U.S., immigrants from Asia were not allowed to naturalize because of their putative race. During the Pacific War, not only most Japanese but also many citizens of the U.S. and Canada of Japanese descent were interned in “relocation centers,” and Peru shipped its unwanted “enemy aliens” to the U.S. Not until after the war was the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act deracialized and were several state anti-miscegenation laws nullified.

Japan’s laws, including its Nationality Law, have never codified race or ethnicity. Even when it was an imperial state, Japan opposed racialization and racism. From their introduction in 1899, Japan’s naturalization requirements have been on a par with those of most other countries. Even the most extensive bureaucratic procedures, which are simplified for many aliens, have not been difficult, as more people are discovering.

Of course, provisions for Japan-born offspring of settled aliens to choose to be Japanese at an age when they are able to make such a choice would be nice. An increasing number of right-of-blood states are offering such options. It would also be nice if Japan’s Nationality Law, which has never prohibited dual nationality, would also not endeavor to prevent it.

william wetherall

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