As fellow Japan watchers, haven’t you ever wondered what kind of people decide to naturalize as Japanese citizens? Well, according to the Ministry of Justice, it’s vastly Chinese and Koreans followed by “Other.”
But let’s say you wanted a little more detail. In fact, let’s say you were so curious about what kind of people are deciding to become Japanese that you wanted to visit each of them personally and congratulate them? Sounds impossible, right?
Wrong! As I was digging through some government regulations today, I noticed that the government of Japan publishes the full names, addresses, and birthdates of every single naturalized citizen on the Internet via the online version of its Government Gazette (“kanpo” in Japanese), the official public registry for new laws, regulations etc. You can even see who celebrated a very lucky St. Patrick’s Day with their official acceptance into Japanese society. Or you can check out the online archives going back 1 year at the Prime Minister’s Office website. And I am sure if you took a trip down to the Diet Library the nice librarians would be happy to allow you to peruse the Kanpo archives.
With the Japanese people in an uproar over leaks of personal information, often to unscrupulous scam artists, it should come as nothing less than a slap in the face that the government is publishing their fellow citizens’ home addresses. I’m just a curious nerd, but what’s to stop some right wing group from harassing new citizens for tainting Japan’s supposedly sacred and pure bloodline? (Of course, they’d have to go looking for it at a relatively obscure and boring government website, but gosh darnit, it’s just like that Clint Eastwood movie where all the celebrities get put on a hit list!)
Official privacy violations by the Japanese government are nothing new. Every year the government releases a list of the people who pay the most taxes, although this is likely to be discontinued for – you guessed it – privacy concerns. Ending up on a widely accessible “Japan’s richest people list” makes one a target for for anyone wanting a handout, be they charities or salesman.
Ironically, publication of one’s name in the Kanpo is the very action that causes naturalized citizenship to take effect (as this guide points out). That makes a foreigner’s very first experience as a citizen of Japan an official privacy violation! (For perspective, citizenship in the United States (opens PDF) takes effect immediately after one takes an oath of allegiance). Sure, maybe printing addresses and birthdates make it easier to distinguish one Mohammed Abullah from another. But there’s just got to be a better way!
Well, my beans are now officially steamed. Have a nice weekend!
(Picture above still random. No word as to whether anyone pictured has naturalized as a Japanese citizen)