I glanced at Debito’s blog earlier, in which he linked to a piece he wrote a few years back which includes the following line:
For the purposes of this essay, by “foreigners” I do not mean “Zainichis” (ethnic Korean, Chinese, Indian, etc.), born in Japan, often with Japanese as their native tongue, who would be citizens already in other developed countries.
I’m not sure why so many believe this myth. A small minority of countries (about 35 out of about 200) actually follow the doctrine of jus soli, or citizenship due to place of birth, and of those, the only ones generally considered to be “developed countries” are: (caveat: according to Wikipedia’s list)
Britain (with some restrictions)
France (only upon reaching adulthood)
Australia (upon reaching the age of 10)
Ireland (with restrictions)
New Zealand (with restrictions)
And that’s it. Note that jus soli is common only in countries following the Anglo system of law, specifically former colonies of the UK (India used to have jus soli but abolished it, Pakistan still does.) Of the 26 current member states of the EU, the only ones that have jus soli citizenship are the UK, Ireland, and France. The rest of them follow the tradition of jus sanguinis or citizenship by blood, which comes out of the Germanic legal tradition that Japan based their entire modern legal code on. If one considers “developed countries” to be Australia, Canada, Europe (26 countries), Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and USA, then we have 34 countries (apologies if I’ve left any off the list, but I’m going for a rough count here), of which only 7 have the jus soli legal policy that Debito described as standard in “other developed countries.”
By pointing this out I am in no way endorsing the legal quasi-limbo in which many people, such as the Zainichi but also including various stateless populations living in far worse conditions around the world, have been left due to the vagaries of jus sanguinus, but I would like to try and correct the odd misperception among Westerners in Japan (who are almost all from either Anglo law countries or France) that Japanese nationality law is in some way an aberration, when it is in fact the international norm.