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Movement to Change Japanese Nationality Law

Recently, I have had more opportunities to think about dual nationality. Our office has handled applications for naturalization on behalf of former Japanese nationals and procedures related to the residence status of foreign spouses and children of Japanese nationals who have unavoidably had to give up Japanese citizenship.

Our office expects an increase in demand for such consultations now that Covid restrictions on entry to Japan have been eased. I have also heard that since the pandemic, the screening procedures for issuing Japanese passports to Japanese living overseas who hold additional passports from other countries have become increasingly strict.

Movement to change Japanese Nationality LawPhoto by Jeremy Dorrough on Unsplash

I am reminded of the case of Ms. Yuri Kondo, a 75-year-old Japanese-born woman holding American citizenship, who in 2022 filed a lawsuit against the government at the Fukuoka District Court. The lawsuit claimed that Japan’s current law—which deprives its nationals of their Japanese nationality upon acquiring another nationality—violates the Constitution. Namely, the lawsuit argued that the deprivation of nationality violates Article 22 of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of all persons to move to a foreign country and to divest themselves of their nationality; Article 13, which guarantees the right to self-determination and the pursuit of happiness; and Article 14, which guarantees equality under the law. Ms. Kondo brought the lawsuit not only on her own behalf but for all those who have been deprived of Japanese nationality against their will or consent.

Article 11 of Japan’s Nationality Law (国籍法) stipulates that Japanese nationals automatically lose their nationality upon gaining a foreign nationality. Specifically, Article 11 states that, “(1) A Japanese national shall lose Japanese nationality if he/she acquires the nationality of a foreign country at his/her own desire; (2) A Japanese citizen having the nationality of a foreign country loses Japanese nationality if he/she selects the nationality of that country under the laws and regulations of that foreign country.”

However, Article 22 of the Constitution of Japan states that: “(1) Everyone shall have freedom of residence, relocation, and choice of occupation, so long as it is not contrary to the public welfare. (2) No person shall be denied the freedom to emigrate to a foreign country or to renounce their nationality.”

From an honest, humanistic, and commonsense perspective, the automatic deprivation of Japanese citizenship under Article 11 of the Nationality Law would certainly seem to be in violation of Article 22 of the Constitution.

A number of similar lawsuits to Ms. Kondo’s have been filed contesting Article 11 on constitutional grounds, which would indicate that the current law is causing unnecessary suffering for many. Even though other provisions of the Nationality Law have been amended over the years, Article 11 has remained unchanged since the original provisions were established in 1899. To date, legal challenges to Article 11 have been unsuccessful.

As a Japanese citizen, I cannot help but earnestly hope for the revision of Article 11 of the Nationality Law. I feel that many Japanese—who would otherwise be globally recognized as dual citizens—are being unfairly disadvantaged by Japan’s current system and denied the dignity of being allowed to remain officially Japanese.

Personally, I would like to see the Japanese truly allowed the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution that plaintiffs such as Ms. Kondo have argued for; that is, to be able to exercise their rights of residence, relocation, and emigration without being stripped of their Japanese nationality upon acquisition of an additional nationality.

In my next article, I would like to write about the “expected” procedures under the current law. Some of you may be surprised to see how many steps and procedures former Japanese nationals must go through.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure that the information on this article is accurate at the time of posting, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ. If you do require advice or wish to find out more about the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Text by: Masayo Boston (Certified Administrative Procedure Legal Specialist), April 2023
Legal Associates Office Boston (Fukuoka City)
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Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: Apr 18, 2023 / Last Updated: Apr 18, 2023

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