Making up Citizenship: People with Dual-Nationality in Japan

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:41
Oral Presentation
Sara PARK, Kobe Universtiy, Japan, Kobe University, Japan
This paper tries to clarify what constitutes citizenship in Japan through case studies of people with dual nationalities. Japan claims itself as ethnically homogeneous. Although it is not formally stated, many people believes the country prohibits its citizens to hold dual nationality. From the summer of 2016, a famous female politician was accused by having two nationalities, and debates on the dual-nationality heated a lot, ending up the resignation of the female politician and wide spreading disdain to the people with dual nationality.

However, although the number is still small comparing to other OECD nations, 1 child in 30 now has his/her ethnic roots in countries other than Japan and international marriage is getting more and more popular over the 30 years, and some of them have and keep nationalities of other countries. How do they obtain other nationality and keep it? What kind of troubles do they face? How do these people handle the problem? Through documentary research of illustrative rules on the Japanese Nationality Act and interviews to people who have multiple nationalities, this paper casts light on the importance of street-level bureaucracy and social interaction when people obtain and hold dual nationalities and solving problems. It is face-to-face interaction and negotiation with functionary at the inquiry counter that decides the possibility of dual nationality, and understanding of the Japanese Nationality Act and its use prepares the common ground for the negotiation. The norms and assumptions shared by Japanese functionaries and people (or often parents) of dual nationalities often goes against especially on the meaning of being a “Japanese”, which often puts mental burden to the people with dual nationality, but at the same time, can be highly interesting topic for sociologists.