Every Child

Has Two Parents


Japanese Citizenship Issues


Citizenship is at the heart of many of the issues addressed on this web site.  It is a two way street, because, for example, the country of one parent may recognize dual citizenship and the country of another may note.  For information on how children acquire citizenship and on recognition of dual citizenship for countries besides Japan, see the country specific law pages

Until 1985, Japan ignored any other nationality that a Japanese citizen happened to be born with.  Fujimori was a bi-national before the new law and wasn't required to officially choose the Japanese nationality and renounce his other one. Japan "assumes" that he, and all those who were bi/pluri-nationals before 85, did choose to be Japanese. It won't work for those who became bi/pluri nationals after 1985. You can find some information on how Japan treats citizenship in the Nationality Law (cached copy) and the Family Registration Law.

If your child was or will be born out of wedlock, and one parent is Japanese, the rules on citizenship can be complicated and biased against the child of a non-Japanese mother.  Read the appropriate essays carefully.


  1. An Overview of Japanese Citizenship and the Nationality Law

  2. Japan's perspective on dual nationality and the requirement to choose one - The simplest overview of the subject.

  3. How and why you might want to request that a Japanese parent's citizenship be revoked

  4. Birth Within Wedlock Inside Japan

  5. Birth Within Wedlock Outside of Japan

  6. Birth Out of Wedlock in Japan

  7. Birth Out of Wedlock Outside of Japan


Here is some text from a May 2003 Japan Federation of Bar Associations report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (cached copy).  This explains how things are really working as of that date.

1.                       Article 8 of the Convention assures the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, etc. and prohibits the unlawful deprivation of this. However, the nationality retention and nationality selecting systems are established under Japan’s Nationality Law.  Under these systems, nationality acquired based on descent will be lost if required notification is not submitted, and in cases where foreign nationality is acquired or chosen, Japanese nationality will be automatically lost.  These series of provisions violate Article 8 of the Convention.

 2. Retention of nationality

2.                       In Japan, a person with dual nationality born abroad loses his/her Japanese nationality unless the person submits a notification of nationality retention within a three-month period after birth (Article 12 of the Nationality Law, Article 14 of the Family Registration Law). In that case, a person, who has lost Japanese nationality because nationality retention is not submitted will not be able to re-acquire Japanese nationality unless he/she is domiciled in Japan before coming of age, and a notification of nationality acquisition is submitted to the Minister of Justice (Article 17, Paragraph 1).

This nationality retention system has three problems, as follows:

3.                      Firstly, the period for submitting notification of nationality retention is stipulated as three months from birth.  This short period of time can lead to the child losing his/her Japanese nationality because his/her parents fail to submit the notification in time, rather than because the child does not submit it.  It means, similar to cases of illegitimate children born out of wedlock that the nationality retention system tramples on the child’s individual dignity on the grounds that the child’s nationality depends only on the knowledge and intention of his/her parents.  Also, having lost his/her nationality, a source of the child’s fundamental human rights, on the grounds that birth notification was not submitted within a period of a mere three months, lacks balance.  Therefore, the nationality retention system should be abolished or if it is to be retained, the period for notification should be extended until the child comes of age, or some fixed term after the child comes of age.

4.                      Secondly, having being domiciled in Japan is a requirement for re-acquiring Japanese nationality. However, there are many cases where a Japanese man marries a woman based in Southeast Asia, then leaves his wife and child returning to Japan alone after their child is born.  In this case, since the abandoned wife does not know about the nationality retention system, the child loses Japanese nationality, and, in order to enter Japan, the child will need a visa to enter and stay as a foreigner.  In order to obtain such a visa, it is necessary for the child to find his/her father in order to have him as a guarantor.  It is quite easy to imagine how difficult it is for the child to discover its father.  If the child finds his/her father at all, it is hard to imagine that the Japanese father who has abandoned the wife and child will be willing to become the child’s guarantor.  This means that it is virtually impossible for the child to be domiciled in Japan. Naturally, in cases of unlawful entry, the child cannot be recognized as having a domicile, as specified in Article 17 of the Nationality Law.

5.                          Thirdly, in order to re-acquire Japanese nationality, it is necessary to submit a notification to the Ministry of Justice.  However, if Japanese nationality is acquired based on this notification, it is highly likely that the child will lose any foreign nationality they might have.  More specifically, in many other countries, as with Article 11, Paragraph 1 of Japan’s Nationality Law, it is stipulated that, in cases where foreign nationality has been obtained based on one’s own wishes, such individuals will lose their previous nationality of the relevant country.  A typical case of re-acquisition of nationality is naturalization, and the notification for re-acquisition of nationality under Article 17 of the Nationality Law corresponds to this.

6.                          Therefore, it is preferable that the nationality retention system be abolished, or amendments made to the Nationality Law and Family Registration Law to extend a notification period so that the child who has acquired Japanese nationality on the grounds of birth will not lose it against his/her will.

3. Choosing nationality

7.                          In either one of the cases where nationality is retained or a child is born in Japan, a child with dual nationalities must choose either one of the nationalities before he/she reaches 22 years of age (Article 14, Paragraph 1 of the Nationality Law).  According to the provision within the Family Registration Law, choosing Japanese nationality can be made by submitting a notice to select Japanese nationality and renouncing the foreign nationality (Article 14, Paragraph 2 of the Nationality Law), but a person who has not submitted this notification until reaching 22 years of age will be sent a notice by the Minister of Justice (Article 15, Paragraph 1, of the Nationality Law).  If the person does not submit the selection notification within one month from when the notice was sent, then they will automatically lose their Japanese nationality (Article 15, Paragraph 3 of the Nationality Law).

8.                          According to one journalist’s report, one of the persons in charge at the Ministry of Justice stated that he had never sent out this notice of nationality selection since the nationality selection system was set up in 1985 (Shigeo Yanagihara, “Acceptance of ‘Dual nationality’ will change the country”, Gendai, July 2001).  Moreover, since notification of nationality selection is only to be submitted to local municipalities within Japan, the person concerned will not lose his/her foreign nationality unless a similar provision to the one provided in Article 11, Paragraph 2 of Japan’s Nationality Law is stipulated in the other native country (to be mentioned in 4 below).

9.                          Despite this, it is generally misunderstood more often than not that the people concerned must renounce either their Japanese or foreign nationality before reaching 22 years of age.  Even though a child born from an international marriage may in fact retain the nationalities of both the father’s and mother’s native countries, the child will lose either one of the nationalities because the Japanese government has established such an ambiguous provision.  The Japanese government may, at any time, give notice for nationality selection.  Consequently, children with dual nationality are always exposed to the risk of losing their nationality. This type of nationality selection system is unjustified, intentional deprivation of nationality.

 4. Acquisition or selection of foreign nationality

10.                       Moreover, according to Japan’s Nationality Law, if a foreign nationality is acquired through an individual’s wishes, or if it is obtained based on the law of the relevant country, Japanese nationality will automatically be lost (Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the Nationality Law). People who have thus acquired or chosen a foreign nationality are considered to intend renouncing their Japanese nationality (Refer to Tadamasa Kuroki & Kiyoshi Hosokawa, “Foreign Affairs Laws, Nationality Law”, Ministry of Justice, Gyosei, 1988).  In reality, there is a great danger that Japanese nationality will be lost against the child’s will. Two examples are cited below.

11.                       Firstly, there are many South Korean residents in Japan, but children born between Japanese husbands and Korean wives did not acquire Korean nationality until 1997. Then, at the end of 1997, the Nationality Law in South Korea was revised, and as a result, it was stipulated that if either one of their parents were Korean, children born on or after the day the revised law was enforced (June 14, 1998), automatically acquired Korean nationality.  In addition, according to the transitional provisions, if their mother is Korean, and notification was submitted to the Minister of Justice within three years from the day of the law’s enforcement, children born before 10 years of this law’s enforcement also acquired Korean nationality. Since this notification means the acquisition of foreign nationality based on the individual’s wishes, the person who had acquired Korean nationality automatically lost their Japanese nationality. But there were some cases involving Korean mothers resident in Japan, who not knowing this, submitted the notification for acquisition of Korean nationality for the sake of the child.

12.                        Secondly, while many Brazilian people live in Japan, children born in Japan between a Japanese and a Brazilian do not automatically acquire Brazilian nationality. Such children must reside in Brazil and take procedure for acquiring Brazilian nationality through the courts.  It is interpreted that, as this type of selection procedure falls under Article 11, Paragraph 2 of the Nationality Law of Japan in terms of the selection of foreign nationality, the child will automatically lose their Japanese nationality (Kuroki, Hosokawa, ibid.  However, according to Article 12, Paragraph 1-c of the Brazilian Constitution, this selection procedure is a requirement for native Brazilians (brasileiros natos), and the aim is quite different from the nationality selection system under Article 14 of Japan’s Nationality Law.  Therefore, when the child adopts a particular procedure for choosing their nationality, it is not necessarily clear whether it corresponds to the choosing the Brazilian nationality as specified in Article 11, Paragraph 2, and the child loses Japanese nationality.  In spite of this, there are children who cannot choose the Brazilian nationality for fear of automatically losing their Japanese nationality.

13.                       As stated above, Article 11 of the Nationality Law should be abolished, or if it is to be retained, amendments should be made to it so that a child’s Japanese nationality will not be lost in cases where the Japanese government confirms the child’s or his/her guardians’ intentions after a child acquires or chooses a foreign nationality and if he/she has no intention to renounce Japanese nationality.


  1. Court recognizes 9 children born to unmarried Filipinas as Japanese; (EJ) March 30, 2006; Tokyo District Court tries again to grant citizenship to children born out of wedlock.

    1. Foreign mothers fight for children's futures; Japan Times; July 19, 2005.  Article about the nine Filipino women fighting in court to have their children with Japanese fathers recognized as Japanese citizens. Discusses the discrimination, bullying and other problems of not being legally recognized as Japanese and being of mixed race in Japan. (cached copy)

    2. 'Japanese' kids speak out over identity battle; Daily Yomiuri; October 2, 2005; Discusses a lawsuit demanding that the government recognize children whose Japanese father recognized paternity after birth rather than before birth, as is currently necessary to receive Japanese citizenship.  Discusses other problems these children have, such as inability to speak anything but Japanese preventing them from living elsewhere and bullying at school.  (cached copy)

    3. Kids born, fathered here by Japanese sue state for recognition as citizens; Japan Times; April 13, 2005.   Described a lawsuit was filed against the government on behalf of nine children born in Japan to Japanese fathers and Filipino mothers who are seeking to be recognized as Japanese.  (cached copy)

    4. 日本男性と比女性の子ら9人、国籍確認求め集団提訴; Asahi Shinbun; April 13, 2005.

  2. Court overturns ruling that recognized boy's Japanese nationality; March 1, 2006

    1. Court Says Unconstitutional For Boy To Be Refused Japan Nationality; Kyodo News; April 13, 2005.  Tokyo District Court ruled it is unconstitutional for the government to refuse Japanese nationality to a child born out of wedlock and later recognized by his Japanese father. (cached copy)

    2. 母が比人の非嫡出7歳児に日本国籍認める…東京地裁; Yomiuri Shinbun; April 13, 2005. (cached copy)

    3. 国籍法の規定は違憲 母比国人の男児に日本籍; Kyodo News; April 13, 2005. (cached copy)

    4. 国籍法規定は違憲 比女性と日本男性の子の国籍認める; Asahi Shinbun; April 13, 2005. (cached copy)

  3. Resources

  4. For country specific information on how children acquire citizenship and on whether they recognizes dual citizenship, see the country specific law pages.  If your country is not listed, please research it and send us the information for others to use.

The information on this website concerns a matter of public interest, and is provided for educational and informational purposes only in order to raise public awareness of issues concerning left-behind parents. Unless otherwise indicated, the writers and translators of this website are not lawyers nor professional translators, so be sure to confirm anything important with your own lawyer.

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