Japan’s First Judicial Decision Regarding Dual Citizenship

Dual Citizenship ban ruled constitutional
The Tokyo District Court and Tokyo High Court. Sourced from https://www.asahi.com/.

On Thursday, January 21, a Japanese court concluded that the nationality law, which bans dual citizenship, is constitutional and to remain upheld. This is the first lawsuit in Japan’s history to directly deal with holding multiple nationalities.

The case was filed in the Tokyo District Court by eight men and women who were affected by having their Japanese citizenship revoked. Despite being born in Japan, six of the members had lost their Japanese nationality due to obtaining Swiss and Liechtenstein citizenship. The plaintiffs claimed that losing their nationality for accepting another country’s citizenship violates the Japanese constitution. They were seeking that they be recognized as Japanese citizens and each receive 550,000 yen, or around $5,319, for the mental distress of losing their nationality. The remaining two members were considering accepting European nationality as well but wanted to be reassured that they would not lose their Japanese citizenship before doing so.

The plantiff’s defense argued that the nationality law, which states that citizens lose their nationality when they willingly become citizens of another country, is a post-war era law put into place to avoid conflicting military obligations between different countries and is no longer applicable to modern society. The national side persisted that dual citizenship would lead to problems with immigration and that each nation is free to set its own requirements for nationality. Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the nationality law and refused to reinstate their citizenship. That being said, there is estimated to be a large number of Japanese citizens who hold multiple passports and dual citizenship without reporting it to the government. Despite the nationality law requiring an official notification if one is to accept another nationality, there is no penalty for failing to report this information. It is suspected that around 500,000 Japanese civilians hold dual citizenship between Japan another country.

Online Opinions on the Ruling

Online reactions to the ruling were mixed. Many replies indicated that those who wish to hold dual citizenships should at least require permission from both counties. However, others felt empathetic to those with multi-ethnic backgrounds who hold ties to multiple countries.

One professor addressed those who disagreed with having multiple nationalities with the following statement,

“Those who cannot forgive a married couple’s surname are those who do not know the great inconvenience experienced at their work. Those who cannot forgive same-sex marriage are those who do not know the current situation of homosexuals. Those who cannot tolerate dual citizenship do not know the great inconvenience of those who have multiple homelands and who are active in multiple countries. Those who lack the imagination to realize that some people need this as an options””

In response to the ruling, another popular Twitter comment below expressed a complete disregard for the matter by stating, “I’m sorry for saying something so obvious, but it is a mistake to bother the courts with this kind of thing in the first place.”

According to a United Nations survey in 2011, around 70% of the world’s countries have recognized dual citizenship in some form. However, laws continue to remain firm in Asian countries like China and Japan.