“Are you a Japanese citizen?”

I get asked this a lot from both foreigners and Japanese. No, I’m still American. But theoretically, I could become a Japanese citizen:

By law, aliens with 5 years of continuous residence are eligible for naturalization and citizenship rights, including the right to vote; however, in practice, most eligible aliens choose not to apply for citizenship, partly due to fears that their cultural identity would be lost. Obstacles to naturalization included broad discretion available to adjudicating officers and great emphasis on Japanese-language ability. Naturalization procedures also required an extensive background check, including inquiries into the applicant’s economic status and assimilation into society. Koreans were given the option of adopting a Japanese surname. The Government defended its naturalization procedures as necessary to ensure the smooth assimilation of foreigners into society. Alien permanent residents may live abroad for up to 4 or 5 years without losing their right to permanent residence in the country.

Even if I were to renounce my American citizenship for Japanese citizenship, I’d still be a foreigner. It’s not like America where anyone can not only become an American but also be accepted as one. In Japan, if you’re not Japanese, you’re not Japanese.

Being married makes me a husband. Having two sons makes me a father. Living in Japan makes me a foreigner. So it doesn’t bother me being treated as such. On the contrary, as a privileged white guy, it’s good to be able to see the world from the perspective of a minority. I gave up bitching about it years ago.

Rich Pav

Richard has been living in Japan since 1990 with his wife and two teenage sons, Tony and Andy.

3 thoughts to ““Are you a Japanese citizen?””

  1. I just call myself Ando Ryusuke when needed…. little easier than trying to spell Frampton to the dimwits that answer the phones at call centers etc.

  2. i really want to go over to Japan and live ther, but I don’t know where to start. What should I do? I don’t have any japanese friends. WHat should I do and how do I get there? Can you help?

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