Giving all permanent residents the right to vote = terrible idea

The DPJ has agreed to submit a bill that would grant foreign permanent residents of Japan (let’s call them PRs) the right to vote and run in local elections. Getting voting rights without having to give up Korean citizenship has long been a goal of zainichi Korean activist groups. But this proposal would apply both to “special” permanent residents that include the population of “zainichi” Koreans and Chinese from Taiwan who remained in the country after WW2, and to any foreigner granted permanent residency.

The bill has stirred up a firestorm of criticism, most loudly from the right wing. However, in support of the bill are some powerful forces, first and foremost DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, whose job it is to ensure a lasting majority for his party. According to at least one critic, the decision to offer suffrage to all PRs may be  an attempt to secure a more permanent voting base because the zainichi population has been falling precipitously as the original group dies off and their decendants naturalize.

Personally, although I could potentially benefit from this bill if I one day am granted permanent residency, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Except for unique circumstances, only the citizens of a country should be allowed to vote.

Right-wing anger

The right wing and their allies in the opposition LDP have mobilized against this bill. Right-leaning Sankei Shimbun has run features pointing out the “big problems” with the bill. Financial services minister and conservative People’s New Party President Shizuka Kamei is against the proposal, noting he would refuse to sign a cabinet decision on the matter. In a statement, he worried that some areas with large foreign populations would see an upheaval of political power. He also suggested the compromise measure of loosening the requirements to naturalize, without being specific.

Protests have been common, and generally have taken a highly xenophobic tone. The crux of the argument is that there is no good reason to give PRs the vote and that almost no nations unilaterally grant foreign citizens the right to vote (some EU countries allow it for other EU citizens, along with some other exceptions made for special groups (PDF)). Some of the criticism veers into the paranoid, however. In addition to the long, long list of furious red herring arguments documented by Debito, here is a video of one activist calmly explaining that this is an attempt by China to take over Japan by populating the country with foreign voters.

Almost non-existent support

It’s obvious enough that these protesters are making ridiculous arguments and have cranked the outrage way out of proportion. But what is the case for giving PRs the vote?

In addition to expected support from zainichi Korean groups, we have some uncharacteristically half-baked support from Debito, the well-known human rights agitator: “Debito.org is in support, given how difficult it can be to get PR in Japan, not to mention how arbitrary the naturalization procedures are.” But just because it’s tough to get the status, that doesn’t mean one should get the right to vote and be elected. I am not accusing foreigners in Japan of being spies or degenerates, but a basic tenet of a country and the Japanese constitution is that it is to be governed by its citizens. That requirement helps assure those who will be involved in politics are committed citizens of the country. Permanent residents are already protected under the law and do not need to renew their visa to stay in the country. I think if they want more than that they should be ready to give up their original passport and become citizens.

In an article in Japan Focus, professor Chris Burgess praises the zainichi suffrage movement as “multiculturalism in practice” but makes no mention of the expanded proposal.

I can understand giving the special permanent residents the vote because they are for all practical purposes citizens of the country. The current DPJ proposal would essentially exclude those who did not explicitly take South Korean citizenship (朝鮮籍維持者), if I understand correctly. But I would not even have a problem with these people getting the vote as it was an tragedy of history that put them in the country in the first place. If Japan would permit dual citizenship that would be one thing, but absent that letting them vote one way to let them participate in society.

But really, what constituency of non-zainichi PRs is actually asking for the right to vote? The only one who really stands to gain is the DPJ itself which would earn itself an expanded and loyal voter base. That’s an irresponsible way to decide election policy in this country, and as much as it pains me to side with rabid right-wingers who may wish me ill will, they are right on this issue. There are more important issues in my opinion (allowing dual citizenship, establishing an immigration policy) that should be given more priority.

(Thanks to Mulboyne for the video link)

171 thoughts on “Giving all permanent residents the right to vote = terrible idea”

  1. Most people I know who support PR voting rights emphasize that their claim is only for local elections. Their argument is that local elections affect community issues (eg. should there be a new zebra-crossing in front of the local high school? etc.) and so PRs should be able to vote. Meanwhile, national elections affect the direction of the nation and hence only citizens should be able to vote.
    You don’t buy into this distinction? I wasn’t sure at first, but am starting to think it makes sense.

  2. Quick point of fact first: All EU countries give local voting rights to all citizens of other EU countries. It’s a condition of EU membership.

    I’m not convinced by the idea that it’s the DPJ trying to build voter support, because according to the Ministry of Justice there are a grand total of 912,361 permanent foreign residents of Japan; that’s about 0.7% of the population. I suspect that they really aren’t concentrated in LDP strongholds like Shimane and Tottori.

    When I wrote about this on my Japanese blog, as well as going through the rather outre right-wing arguments (30 million Chinese in Okinawa!), I tried to present positive arguments. My stance on the SPRs is about the same as yours; they are essentially citizens, and so should be given the vote.

    As for the rest, they are people who have made a positive decision to stay in Japan long term, after comparing it with at least one other country. They’re making a certain level of commitment to Japan. Permitting them a certain level of political participation in return is reasonable, and, what’s more, they are likely to be committed to the prosperity of Japan. After all, that’s where they’ve chosen to live.

    But, in the end, I don’t think this is a human rights issue, and I think there are reasonable arguments for and against. I agree with you that dual citizenship and a better immigration policy would be more useful for foreigners in or thinking of coming to Japan, as well as being beneficial to Japan, and Japanese citizens resident overseas, but if this is what’s on offer, then something that gives foreign residents real political leverage might well help with the more important issues.

  3. Been in Japan for a decade, yet I don’t have PR. Don’t feel the need for it either. As for voting rights, what would I do with them? I don’t know the candidates, and even if I did, I don’t think I could agree with their platforms–the culture is a little different for that. But that’s all right. My wife votes in the interest of the family. I trust in her, and I reciprocate in kind by voting in US elections.

    Instead of the right to vote, in my opinion, it would behoove the Japanese to really take a good look at what it means to be a “natural” citizen of Japan in the 21st century and broaden the outline. It’s a lot less “homogeneous” than some Japanese would like to believe.

  4. Preach it, Adamu. While I think there is room for a philosophical, political and legal debate to consider granting suffrage for PR/foreigners in any election, not just local elections, the reason for this has never been made clear, and the long term implications worry me as well.

    I see it like this — Japan is slowly getting used to the idea that foreigners can acquire Japanese citizenship, and should continue to do so. Yet if you give PR voting rights, a major motivation for naturalization is eliminated. I mean, there are hundreds of “Special” PR/特別永住者 who could basically naturalize under the current law by submitting an application, and frankly, if you have a steady job, can read Japanese like an 8 year old, and aren’t a criminal, it’s pretty easy to get citizenship if you live here long enough.

    So keep the motivation to naturalize and encourage more so-called “NJ” Japanese citizens. I’d much prefer that Japan abolish the prohibition on multiple citizenship.

    Edan: the issue is somewhat constitutional. Article 15.1 says it is the “firm right of the citizens” to elect and terminate public officials. Article 15.3 guarantees the election of public officials by ordinary elections by adults. When a municipality (in, I think, Shiga prefecture) granted local voting rights to foreigners sometime in the 1990s, the Supreme Court ruled that these provisions of the constitution did not prohibit (nor guarantee) the granting of voting rights to foreigners in local elections. The LDP-led government responded by reforming the national election law to require voters in all elections be citizens.

  5. Sure there is some level of commitment, but to me it shouldn’t be that tough to take that final step to naturalize if political participation is that important. In the EU it makes sense because they grant those rights mutually, but why automatically give voting rights to the citizen of any country that happens to show up here? One major worry I have is the backlash will make it tougher to do the more necessary reforms.

    1 million votes spread throughout the country is nothing to scoff at. For example, my local elections this July were decided by a few hundred votes toward the bottom of the list. This stuff matters!

    (Scroll down to 11:33)
    https://www.mutantfrog.com/2009/07/12/liveblogging-tokyo-prefectural-election-results/

  6. Basically exactly what you said, it is at best a way to ignore the actual problems that have plagued communities like 在日韓国人/朝鮮人. I was glad you brought up the issue of dual citizenship at the end, because I kept repeating it in my head as I was reading through this heh.

    The question is if papering over the problem is a step forward or backward, because I am sure some permanent residents really would like to vote (and the apathy of others is no reason to deny them). It depends on if this is a step to remedy the fundamental problem in the long term or simply increase DPJ voters. The actual Zainichi (not just of Korean descent) population is under 2% (I am not sure of that >2% how many are of age to vote). I would not say this block is a voting base for a major party. It would depend on if the races in areas with a historically high percentage of zainichi are close between LDP and DPJ candidates. That would take some more research.

    While I agree there are other issues that are more relevant and should be given priority, it must be asked if it is politically feasible, is the current legislation inherently a kind of compromise taking into account current constraints?

    Unfortunately any attempt to decrease the image of Japan’s xenophobia to its neighbors through this legislation is quickly beaten back by the crazy Jingoists.

  7. Curzon pretty much posted exactly what I was going to. I am opposed to this proposal because I think it weakens the case for a reform of citizenship and immigration rules, particularly the prohibition against dual citizenship for adults. And I have a suspicion that this is exactly what many of its supporters have in mind.

    Take a look at Ozawa’s opinion paper on this issue.

    http://www.ozawa-ichiro.jp/policy/05.htm

    He freely admits that the current naturalization system takes too long and unfairly penalizes applicants with extremely minor criminal records (he uses the example of a speeding ticket or parking violation), but then makes the utterly bizarre leap that this means that to make things fair for such applicants, the solution is to grant local voting rights. Well, no – the solution is to change the way the naturalization process works! He is actually admitting the system is broken, and instead of proposing a real fix suggests some kind of Rube Goldberg-esque fix to a surrounding law.

    Incidentally, Ozawa’s entire article is full of all kinds of other crazy. Like, for example, how he ONLY references the situation of Koreans, when they are now only about half of the foreign population. And even weirder, he pretty much states that Japan owes Korean residents local voting rights because they fought for Japan in WW2 – as if the wartime service of the generation that is dying off has any direct legal or moral relevance to the fate of the younger generations that were born in Japan after the war.

    Brent: Your personal lack of interest in local politics isn’t exactly a good argument against giving voting rights. I promise that there is a significant portion who DO want these rights, mainly those foreign nationals who were born and raised in Japan. Just because I don’t think that this particular policy is the best way to address their issues does not mean that I don’t believe they have legitimate concerns. And I’m not sure what you mean by “natural” citizen. The legal definition of Japanese citizenship is quite clear, and not specifically based on ethnicity / race, even if the overwhelming majority of citizens are considered ethnic Japanese.

  8. ”Unfortunately any attempt to decrease the image of Japan’s xenophobia to its neighbors through this legislation is quickly beaten back by the crazy Jingoists.”

    Really? How’s that?

  9. Fantastic bit of trivia – Zainichi in Japan are not yet able to vote in South Korean elections but they can “vote” in North Korean “elections”.

  10. Ace: Jingoism has the tendency to ignore positive aspects and highlight negative ones. So if I am a highly nationalistic Chinese person (by no means saying all are) and I hear about on the one hand this legislation and on the other right-wingers spouting xenophobic conspiracy theories about it – which will I choose to be represent my myopic vision of Japanese society?

    Roy: Fun Ozawa stuff, I remember one of his advisers giving his inside perspective of Ozawa, probably trying to ease peoples’ tensions of the ‘Shadow Shogun’, and for me only succeeded to show maybe there is something honestly off with this guy. Thank you for giving me some reinforcement haha.

  11. M-Bone – if they are aligned with North Korea, yes. Being a Zainichi South Korean or North Korean is treated differently (unless this has changed since I only really followed these issues up to the early to mid-90s in history). So I doubt a Zainichi South Korean can vote in a North Korean election, if they can that would surprise me immensely.

  12. ”which will I choose to be represent my myopic vision of Japanese society?”

    If you are “highly nationalistic Chinese person”or “modestly nationalistic Chinese person” getting the legislation on one hand,yet still finger points and accuse Japanese society for xenophobia,there could be someone starting to think crazy jingoist may not be all that bad,or at least pointing out the unconvinient truth that Japan is trapped in prisoner’s dilemma.

    This move could postpone reasonable Japanese immigration policy for a decade.

  13. So let’s see. A person who is outside of his or her nation of citizenship for years, has not picked up a newspaper about that nation in a corresponding amount of time, and is neither otherwise immersed in the political discourse of the nation nor has a stake in the outcome of an election there, should be allowed to vote in that election anyway because of the colour of their passport? Meanwhile, somebody who brings up their kids and pays taxes in the country has no say?

    There are many reasons for not wanting to apply for citizenship. In general, you may find national oaths to heads of state, or promises to take up arms for the nation insidious. In Japan’s case you may not want to give up the passport of your original citizenship. There are many reasons for naturalisation as well, that do NOT include voting rights. You may wish to run for national office (which covers the bit about citizens governing the nation), for example.

    But elections should be a test of how people living in a particular community want to be governed. The test of suffrage should thus be whether or not potential voters are committed to the community, not whether they are committed to the state. Long-term peaceful residence is testimony to the former. Citizenship is, realistically, testimony to neither. It is mere bureaucratic convenience.

    Some enlightened nations grant voting rights with permanent residency–or even residency within a nation for a certain period of time. Others withdraw voting rights–even from citizens–who have lived abroad for a certain period of time. I think that’s far more sensible than leaving it up to mere passport-holders.

  14. “I would not say this block is a voting base for a major party. It would depend on if the races in areas with a historically high percentage of zainichi are close between LDP and DPJ candidates. That would take some more research.”

    That would be an excellent research topic for someone. I don’t have any real numbers, but I think it’s safe to assume that far more Zainichi would vote for the DPJ than the LDP, and a fair number might still vote for socialist parties. To randomly pick one area where I know a fair number of Zainichi live: Minami-ku in Kyoto.

    http://www.city.kyoto.jp/senkyo/20_simogyo/sokuhou/kaskkri01sim.html

    The winner of a recent city council by-election, with 6,953 votes, was Shitamura Akira, who despite running as an independent is actually an LDP member of the city council. However, 2nd place was the Japan Communist Party with 5,481 and third place was DPJ with 4,988. There are 40,751 registered foreigners in Kyoto City, and that is in total, easily including a couple of thousand students, but with the remainder probably being majority Korean. While I can’t immediately find stats for Minami-ku I doubt enough would be living there to swing the vote, with that kind of margin between 1st and 2nd place, especially if one assumes that Zainichi voters would turn out at the same abysmally low rates as voters did in this election (I think it was below 30% but I’ve lost the window now... Found the population stats – http://www.city.kyoto.lg.jp/minami/page/0000033612.html – looks like turnout was around 25-30% depending on exactly how much of the population is voting age.), but I imagine that a tightly unified and reliable Zainichi voting block would still easily be enough to swing an election that was slightly closer – especially if either the JCP or DPJ did either slightly better or worse.

  15. I keep blowing hot and cold on whether I personally support voting rights for PRs (I’m one too, and it’s not difficult if you’re married and employed, I don’t think), but I’m definitely not getting good vibes from this proposal. Ozawa seems to have promised the South Korean Prime Minister the right to vote (in exchange for the 50-60 Japanese who can vote in SK local elections!) and there’s other undertones of kowtowing to the Chinese too.

    From what I understand, flattening Yasukuni, or at least building an official non-denominational shrine would satisfy Koreans and Chinese more.

  16. M-Bone:

    Actually South Korea reformed their overseas voting system last year, and it looks to me like Zainichi either can vote in Korean elections, or will be allowed to soon.

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2009/01/116_38672.html

    MatthewD: Legally speaking there are no DPRK citizens resident in Japan. While the majority of so-called “Chosen” citizens are unofficially affiliated with the DPRK through Chongryon, there is also a vocal minority that prefers to retain “Chosen” identity as the legacy of pan-Korean citizenship. Chongryon does send delegates to the DPRK congress though. I forget the details, but I think they have something like 2 special seats, although even if the election in Japan is conducted in an entirely democratic way I somehow don’t think they get much done legislatively…

  17. “Ozawa seems to have promised the South Korean Prime Minister the right to vote (in exchange for the 50-60 Japanese who can vote in SK local elections!)”

    That actually makes me feel slightly more positive about the proposal. Even if the numbers of Japanese permanent residents in South Korea is so small as to be practically symbolic, having the arrangement be a reciprocal one does make it better in principal. I don’t actually expect an East Asia version of the EU, but closer political ties between Japan and South Korea certainly aren’t a bad thing.

  18. “or will be allowed to soon.”

    I think it is 2012 so the trivia stands for now.

    @MatthewD – Yeah, they would have to switch registration, but NK will be glad to have them. Also, they actually have to GO to NK to vote, but they will probably be allowed to come back to Japan if they agree to smuggle 12 methamphetamine loaded condoms in their stomach.

  19. I don’t want to “hijack” this, so if Adamu is ok with this back and forth so am I, if not it can be taken elsewhere.

    I did not mean to underplay the fact that Chinese nationalism is a problem, because it is. It purposefully complicates issues. But, pointing a finger and calling someone irrational, when they rightfully are, does not always get you anywhere. Possibly the worst thing you can do is give those people is give them fodder to turn more moderate people.

    I am assuming you mean Japan is in a prisoner’s dilemma in the sense – that Japan and China are rational defectors in a sense. In other words, they choose to rat each other out instead of cooperate so one is not left high and dry as classical prisoner’s dilemma espouses. I think there are Japanese and Chinese aware of the dilemma they face as far as playing to nationalist sentiment (even the Chinese government was surprised to the amount of protests that occurred with the textbook issue, which gained momentum over internet communitties). The only way you can be in a prisoner’s dilemma is being unable to speak to the other party which simply is not the case for Japan and China. Moreover, empirically Japan does not always default to nationalism. Outside of vocal minorities, many Japanese that I have met, while not perfect like anyone, recognize the dangers of nationalism that catalyzed their imperial experiment that led to disaster.

    Does this remove some pressure to reform immigration policy? Yes, probably. But it begs the question how much serious pressure is there in the first place from traditional sources.

    Thanks for the clarification Roy, affiliation is the better term. I seem to remember that affiliation had to be stated by residents though and could be changed. In other words, there was a way for them to face extra measures compared to someone affiliated with South Korea/Mindan.

  20. “That actually makes me feel slightly more positive about the proposal. Even if the numbers of Japanese permanent residents in South Korea is so small as to be practically symbolic, having the arrangement be a reciprocal one does make it better in principal. ”

    Which is exactly what SK government thought,or so wrote the Korean press.The primary motivation for that measure is to put pressure to Japanese government to put reciprocal measures,which saids everything.

    Matthew D.

    I actually see more problem on the side of South Koreans for the moment but put asides that…
    This measure would only drift Japanese society in Balkanization.

    “I am assuming you mean Japan is in a prisoner’s dilemma in the sense – that Japan and China are rational defectors in a sense.”

    Here in Japan,when liberal takes five steps,reactionally backs one.and the foreigners condemns we are going backwards.The liberals never says “Japanese are not entirely xenophobes”,instead they “recognize the dangers of nationalism that catalyzed their imperial experiment that led to disaster” and foreigners confirms their image of Japan was accurate.This is what I mean “prisoner’s dilemma”.

    “But it begs the question how much serious pressure is there in the first place from traditional sources.”

    Well,I and many Japanese think immigration policy isn’t a welfare but a way for Japan to prosper.Naturally I trust when LDP and Keidanren wrote up the report on Japan’s need for immigration policy few years ago.

  21. “I don’t want to “hijack” this, so if Adamu is ok with this back and forth so am I, if not it can be taken elsewhere.”

    Don’t worry too much about that. We like long, meandering discussions here, as long as the discussion is interesting and civil, and not someone actually TRYING to avoid the original topic.

  22. guys the actual effects of this law on japan politics ain’t that big.

    The point is, why is the DPJ pushing it so hard? What is Ozawa thinking? Pandering? What for?

  23. I think Balkanization may be an exaggeration. I think this may need clearer definition for me to understand how you see “Balkanization” precipitating from this legislation.

    Why not take four steps forward and stay there for the time being? That is exactly what I mean, if someone does something perceived as negative, people with an interest in pointing that out are going to latch onto that and exploit it. Are they possibly unreasonable for doing so? Yes, sometimes that anger and condemnation is unreasonable. But, that points to the problem and you can start to make new avenues to approach the issue. That is how policy should evolve. Missteps are often an opportunity to rebound – the problem is when you do not learn from past mistakes and then take steps backward.

    Can you elaborate how recognizing that nationalism can be a problem and the above equates to a prisoner’s dilemma? The whole rationale of the prisoner’s dilemma is to show the need for a mechanism to avoid a tragedy of the commons scenario, and I believe over time Japanese foreign policy in a public image/diplomacy perspective is moving in that direction. The best Japan can do in this sense is to try not to take steps backward as much as possible and minimize feeding doubts. To say Japan is powerless to escape criticism is a self-defeating logic. But, I could be misreading your juxtaposition of the two quotes provided.

    I couldn’t agree more that immigration policy reform is a way for Japan to prosper – I would like if this legislation is a step in that direction, but of the possible motivations I am doubtful that that is it.

  24. “Why not take four steps forward and stay there for the time being? That is exactly what I mean, if someone does something perceived as negative, people with an interest in pointing that out are going to latch onto that and exploit it.”

    Hey no argument about that from me.But this was the phrase that I’ve reacted in the first place.”Unfortunately any attempt to decrease the image of Japan’s xenophobia to its neighbors through this legislation is quickly beaten back by the crazy Jingoists.”

    “I think this may need clearer definition for me to understand how you see “Balkanization” precipitating from this legislation.”

    There will be no merit and incentive for Chinese and Koreans to be Japanese citizen.

  25. I will concede Ace that my statement is probably too absolutist, just my personal fear of the power of biased media.

    Ok, yeah I was wondering if the Balkanization would be between Japanese citizens and Zainichi Koreans and Chinese. Since that is the case it goes back a fundamental problem with the legislation: it papers over the issue of dual nationality.

    I think it is fair to say a good deal of permanent residents did not naturalize in the first place because they believed whatever benefits they could get by doing so were outweighed by having to shed one part of their identity that holds value to them. It basically codifies identity in, what I believe is an archaic way. It is compounded by the discourse of homogeneity in Japan.
    In this way, the incentive was misguided in the first place because of its inherently exclusive nature. In other words, I fail to see how the status quo is not divisive. (I took issue with the possibility of it precipitating outside of the status quo basically, because as spandrell says, it seems more out of the blue than a paradigm shift).

  26. There are some localities in the US where foreign nationals (I assume green card holders) are allowed to vote, but due to the way our federal system works I’m not sure that the federal government could even pass a law blanket allowing or banning the practice, short of a constitutional amendment.

  27. In most democracies, what are the meaningful distinctions between citizens and permanent residents other than the rights to vote and run for office? I’m just curious.

    I agree with Adamu’s post and consider it to be a bad sign that decisions about citizenship are taken so cavalierly.

    However, the points raised above about the distinction about voting in national versus local elections, and also the distinction between doing this by reciprocal agreement with Korea as opposed to gaining a short term partisan advantage, are good ones.

    To respond to Tornadoes28 point, in the US the 15th Amendment guarantees citizenship to anyone born there, except for American Indians (I used to think this was non-controversial, until I discovered right-wing American websites and found people quite upset by birth citizenship). I’m pretty sure this is not the case in Japan, you can be born and raised in the country, and not be a citizen. But I also agree that the problem in this case is the definition of citizenship and won’t be solved by giving non-citizens facsimilies of citizens’ rights.

  28. “There are some localities in the US where foreign nationals (I assume green card holders) are allowed to vote”

    Woah, really? I’ve never heard of that…

  29. My home country Sweden has, since 1975, awarded local and regional voting rights to foreign citizens with over 3 years of continuous (legal and registered) residence in the country.
    EU citizens get local and regional voting rights after 30 days of residence.

    However, foreign citizens’ actual participation in elections have fallen steadily from a high of 60% of the eligible voters in 1976, to 35% in 2002 (Swedish citizens: 90% vs 78%). However, during the same period the number of foreign citizens residing in Sweden has grown by something like a 1000% (actually more I think, but I can’t check it now) . Therefore my, unfounded, guess is that while the newcomers of the Seventies were very politicized and invested in the managing of their local area, recent arrivals are failing to be drawn into to the process of representative democracy.

    I’m sorry I don’t have time to make a point about Japan out of this, just thought I should provide the info for reference.

  30. in the US the 15th Amendment guarantees citizenship to anyone born there

    That’s the 14th Amendment. The 15th Amendment bans racial discrimination with regard to the right to vote. Besides Native Americans (who eventually got citizenship through a separate law), the citizenship clause also doesn’t apply to foreign diplomats or hostile occupying forces, since neither are “subject to the jurisdiction of” the United States.

    Back to the subject of this post: I don’t understand why permanent residency is placed on such a pedestal. Legal foreign residents without PR have all the civic obligations of permanent residents, so why shouldn’t they get a vote too?

  31. It’s a long lengthy process to acquire permanent residency. One must be residing legally continually for a minimum of five years before even allowed to apply. After application it is another 6 mos. to 2 years of criminal background checks in not only Japan but via ones host countries consulate. Giving us law abiding tax paying permanent residents the right to vote is a small think to expect.

    The argument that if you don’t like being able not to vote than become a citizen sounds great. But it really is much more difficult to become a Japanese citizen than one would think. Yes there are quantifiable numbers of how many people actually become citizens in comparison to the amounts of applications. But this is assuming that all applications are being accurately counted. The applications that are being counted are only the applications that were actually accepted. One small little erroneous error and the whole thing has to be filled out again. There’s no such thing as simply crossing something out and initialing the mistake. It is extremely difficult in my opinion for permanent residents to become Japanese citizens even when they meet all of the necessary criteria and requirements. I’m not saying it is impossible but it’s just not that easy.

  32. Mere minutes after I posted this I came across Ozawa’s own argument for the proposal on his website. It’s undated but apparently written while he was in the Liberal Party before it merged with DPJ in 2003:

    http://www.ozawa-ichiro.jp/policy/05.htm

    Key points:

    – The Koreans were once Japanese citizens before the war. They competed in the Olympics and fought and died for the Japanese empire. We should not forget this.

    – He believes naturalization would be the best path for zainichi Koreans to gain voting rights, but this process is difficult and can be delayed for years for crimes as minor as a traffic offense.

    – Most PRs are living in Japan for the long term and want to live in this country “as Japanese people” for the rest of their lives. However, they face discrimination and the legacy of colonization.

    – The EU and scandinavian countries offer fairly liberal voting rights to citizens of each other’s countries. In the spirit of economic integration in Asia it is important to try and move beyond international divisions between Japanese and Koreans.

    – Yes, the US allows only citizens to vote. However, the UK (which has a similar legacy of colonialism) grants local voting rights to citizens of former colonies who have PR in the UK. This, and the EU policy, show that it’s a weak argument to say that opening up voting rights will threaten Japanese sovereignty.

    – The proposal poses no legal or constitutional problems.

    – Zainichi who have not taken South Korean citizenship would not be included due to their close relationship with North Korea (presumably because it’s an enemy country).

    Note that he only mentions Koreans in this essay but not foreigners of any other country. That is obviously his main focus. One reason the proposal extends to all foreigners and not just “special” PRs may be because many zainichi never received the special status and are treated simply as regular PRs.

  33. Curzon: I wasn’t really aware of the issue until very recently myself, but as usual Wikipedia has a handy reference.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_foreigners_to_vote_in_the_United_States#Current_Status

    “In most democracies, what are the meaningful distinctions between citizens and permanent residents other than the rights to vote and run for office? I’m just curious.”
    There are a few other considerations worth mentioning, such as the fact that a foreigner can legally still be deported or turned away at immigration even after obtaining permanent residency (Japan makes an unusual exception here for special permanent residents), while a citizen never can. Also, unlike permanent residency, citizenship is automatically inherited, which is a very important consideration for people that consider themselves permanent immigrants to a country and plan to have children there.

    “But it really is much more difficult to become a Japanese citizen than one would think.”
    People say that, but based on the little I’ve read it doesn’t sound much harder than most countries, and still easier than some. Until someone can produce evidence, even anecdotal evidence, of people who meet all the absolute requirements for application being rejected there’s just no reason to believe this claim. Of course most people naturalizing in Japan are foreign nationals that are born here, who have a much easier time naturalizing than immigrants do, which may slant the numbers dramatically and hide the small number of immigrants taking naturalization.

  34. Oh, and Bryce’s link to that Wikipedia list reminds me – let’s not forget the lawsuit filed by the Zainichi Korean woman who was rejected from promotion in her civil service job due to being a foreign national. That’s a significant different in treatment between citizens and permanent residents, even if it’s highly unlikely to be a career path for an immigrant, rather than a foreign national born in Japan.

  35. Little did I ever think Takoma Park would come up on this blog, given that I used to live on the DC side of Takoma…but I will disagree with Bryce. There is no reason to go there, the “good ol’ days” of Takoma from what I can tell ended long ago.

  36. Curzon: “Woah, really? I’ve never heard of that…”

    It’s not so common now, but up until WWI immigrants could vote in local or even state-level elections in 22 states. Anti-immigrant sentiment began rising following the war, and the voting rules were amended.

  37. There was an interesting editorial in the Yomiuri a couple of days ago (print edition, I just tried but failed to find it in the online edition) by a Korean (SPR or naturalized Japanese was not specified) who was against the proposal to extend the vote to PRs on the grounds that it would effectively create “eternal” SPRs by removing one of the key incentives to naturalize, rather than encouraging them to become citizens, and that it would be easier for the PRs’ home countries to manipulate them and have political pull in Japan.

    Now, the second claim often gets poo-bahed whenever it is brought up, however it is very much worth remembering that North Korea has long done exactly that. North Korean SPRs were manipulated by the DPRK into spying, providing shelter and aid to spies sent from the peninsula, sending hard currency back etc. South Korea used to do much the same, using South Korean SPRs as spies both against Japan and against the North Koreans. And on occasion, although granted we are going back a couple of decades, both sides were involved in violence or attempted violence. Sure, not all SPRs were fifth-columnists. And sure again, things have been largely quiet for several years now as the remaining Korean SPRs shrink in number, more and more change alliance to South Korea, North Korea slowly shrivels into comparative irrelevance and South Korea becomes far friendlier.

    But there is a new group in town, Chinese PRs, and they are growing in number rapidly. Again, they are not all rabid PRC nationalists marching to a beat laid down by a drummer in Beijing, but some are. And China has used its nationals overseas before to stir pots and make noise – there is no reason to believe they would not continue to do so. Why should they stop? If a nation perceives something to be in its national interests, why wouldn’t it use any tool at its disposal to try to create the desired result?

    Ah, but there aren’t that many PRs. The percentage of the vote they would command is tiny. However as Adamu already pointed out, it doesn’t take thousands of votes to change the course of an election: it takes one. And as any observer of politics should recognize, it really isn’t absolute numbers that count in a representative democracy, it is noise (unfortunately). If every Swift Boater in the US had just kept their mouth shut and quietly voted against Kerry in 2004, would anyone have paid attention? No, but once they made noise everyone was talking about them. I’m not saying they and they alone caused Kerry to lose, there were a lot of other issues at play, but they did have some sway that far outweighed their membership numbers.

    If an SPR or PR wants the right to vote in Japan, they should naturalize. Sure, it is a pain, but it is not impossible, far from it. I will concede Gaijin’s point above: almost all applicants for citizenship get it. However, first you have to get your application through. The process is not one where you just walk into the Justice Ministry, fill out a few forms and submit them. The forms have to go through your local JM branch office, and out of “concern for the applicant” (if one is rejected once they are effectively rejected forever, or so they say) they won’t let “imperfect” applications through, or they will pressure the applicant to rescind their application. Add to this that it is up to the local office what “imperfect” means – what one says is fine another will say is not, and while they all say “it is up to the Justice Minister” all s/he basically does is sign off (after duly putting things into a months-long queue) on paperwork submitted by the local offices, on the grounds of “well if it got this far it must be OK, the peons wouldn’t waste our time”. Which leads me to suspect that the handful of “denied” applications are ones sent at the behest of the applicant even after being told they are “imperfect” (the offices won’t refuse if the applicant is adamant it seems), with a post-it note on top saying “yeah, this is dicked-up, but the applicant insisted so… circular-file this”.

    @Roy – my understanding, based on talking to SPRs and Japanese over the years, is that the reason there are no “DPRK-national SPRs” is that Japan does not recognize the DPRK officially. So the SPRs have two choices when they register as such: “nationality; South Korean” or “nationality: None, Chosen”. Apparently way back when the same situation affected Chinese SPRs who hailed originally from the mainland – they had no registered nationality as Japan did not recognize the PRC, only the ROC.

    @Curzon – “But I would not even have a problem with these people getting the vote as it was an tragedy of history that put them in the country in the first place.” I trust that you regard all colonization/annexation as a tragedy of history, then, not just this particular instance? Remember also that there were a lot of Koreans living in Japan before 1910, and in the pre-war years especially quite a few voluntarily came over in search of a better life. Many were later forcibly brought to Japan, but those people were all given priority repatriation by Japan and the GHQ immediately after the war. Those that stayed were overwhelmingly those with roots in their communities. They have been free to go back to their “home nation” at any time. They, or their ancestors, largely chose to live in Japan, as we have, and they choose to stay, as we do. The only “special” treatment they are owed IMHO is for Japan to give them “express lane naturalization” on the basis of the fact that the mere granting of SPR status is recognition that these people are either former Japanese citizens unilaterally stripped of their citizenship in 1945 or the descendants of such a former Japanese citizen. This PR, at least, would have no issues giving an SPR head-of-the-line privilege if they wanted it.

    But they have to want it. If not, let them get back behind me.

  38. Apologies, correction to above – for some reason I thought this was originally posted by Curzon, don’t know why….

  39. ”There was an interesting editorial in the Yomiuri a couple of days ago (print edition, I just tried but failed to find it in the online edition) by a Korean (SPR or naturalized Japanese was not specified) who was against the proposal to extend the vote to PRs on the grounds that it would effectively create “eternal” SPRs by removing one of the key incentives to naturalize”

    That was probably Tei-Taikin,Professor of Tokyo Metropolitan University.

    ”let’s not forget the lawsuit filed by the Zainichi Korean woman who was rejected from promotion in her civil service job due to being a foreign national. ”

    And this woman is his sister.Tei had written a piece on Newsweek Japan titled “Sis,just get the citizenship妹よ、日本国籍を取れ”in Feb,16 2005

  40. LB: I wrote this one, not Curzon 😀 I don’t think he would be quite as pained to agree with right-wingers.

    It sounds like we disagree on a semantic distinction. Perhaps it is too inexact to call the legacy of four decades of history a tragedy. But whatever their family histories, those in the country now are entitled to dual citizenship, in my view. It’s just apparently a nonstarter with the government. So rather than allow this impasse between the zainichi community and the government to continue forever, I am in favor of giving the special PRs local voting rights, and maybe then take up the issue later.

  41. So far we have mentioned the following benefits:

    * Voting
    * Running for public office
    * Cannot be deported or denied entry to the country

    Contrary to Roy’s statement above, citizenship is not always automatically inherited–it depends on the circumstances and the countries involved. For instance, I’m an Irish citizen who was born outside Ireland. Although my citizenship was inherited automatically (as my father was born in Ireland), if I have children in Japan, they will not be Irish citizens unless I (or they) file some paperwork with the Irish government. If that paperwork is never filed, my grandchildren born outside Ireland lose the right to citizenship. I’m also a US citizen and my kids will automatically be US citizens, but unless they spend some time physically living in the US (or hook up with a citizen who did), their kids lose the right to US citizenship.

    That said, most countries I know of are reasonable enough to allow children to benefit from their parents’ residency status.

    Some other benefits of nationality over permanent residency:

    * Rights conferred by treaty to nationals of a particular country (visa waiver programs, commerce treaties, regional arrangements like the EU and APEC, etc.)
    * Access to certain sensitive government-related jobs (varies by country; for Japan, think police, fire department, SDF, etc)
    * Consular protection overseas – some countries are better in this department than others
    * Effective counterattack when right-wing bloggers tell you to “go home”

  42. From what I have seen of government job listings (specifically FSA), you need to be a citizen even to work on a contract basis.

  43. BTW, I’ve heard that dual citizenship between Japan and Korea was discussed in the 50s, but was essentially vetoed by the US. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find the source right now (a paper from a conference last year).

    Joe: That’s true, but I’m talking about RESIDENT citizens – the one category for which I think we can agree it IS always inherited.

    LB: That is basically correct, except that I don’t think there ever were any mainlander Chinese with SPR, only those originating from Taiwan while it was a Japanese colony. Japan did begin to incorporate some areas of China into the Empire in the late 30s, but I’m still not quite clear on how their legal status as subjects was at that point. Regardless, very nearly 100% of all people with SPR are Korean, as the Taiwanese community in Japan was smaller, and most of the ones who stayed in Japan naturalized at some point.

  44. Foreigners can’t become police in Japan? That’s interesting, as immigrant cops are pretty common in the US, but then those are local police departments, to which power is devolved under the federal system, whereas all police in Japan are directly or indirectly managed by the national government.

    Some other minor benefits that may be reserved for citizens in different countries: tax advantages, academic scholarships, etc. For one real example, a foreign kid growing up in the US from the age of 2 weeks might have a green card and be culturally American, but then when they want to apply to study abroad would not be eligible to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship.

  45. @Roy – I knew of one (mainlander SPR), the father of a college classmate. A Chinese who joined the Kanto Army in Manchuria, apparently getting citizenship and an officer’s commission somewhere along the way. He wisely decided to relocate to Japan immediately after the war, as he didn’t reckon on taking his chances with his former neighbors if he stayed behind. Lost his citizenship immediately after the war, but naturalized later. But you are right – non-Taiwanese/non-Korean SPRs were/are a very rare bird indeed, and Taiwanese are really rare nowadays – Oh Sadaharu being the only one that comes to mind, I have heard he never naturalized. I have heard there is a very small number of SPRs that are not former citizens/descendants of former citizens, though. Several times I have come across references to SPR being given to refugees or other people with “special circumstances”, but I don’t know if those were correct or how many such SPRs there are (if any).

  46. @ Aceface – that’s the guy! I remember his older article now, and thinking he was dead-on in what he was saying then, as he was dead-on in his more recent article.

  47. From what I have seen of government job listings (specifically FSA), you need to be a citizen even to work on a contract basis.

    Depends on the agency and your role. JETs are mostly government employees (whether as ALTs or CIRs) but obviously don’t have to be citizens. National universities and national hospitals have foreign employees. I have a lawyer friend who works at METI doing “international relations” work and he is not a citizen. But roles that actually impact regulatory functions, even in a collateral way, are likely to require citizenship.

    I’m talking about RESIDENT citizens – the one category for which I think we can agree it IS always inherited.

    Right — my counterpoint is that resident aliens can usually transmit residency rights to their kids, too, so it isn’t really a major advantage unless you are planning to leave the country.

    One more advantage of citizenship — avoiding foreign ownership regulations. This is why Rupert Murdoch became a card-carrying American: otherwise he couldn’t achieve domination of the US mass communications market. (Big mistake giving him a passport…)

  48. Sakanaka Hidenori,former immigration official has now his own thinktank on immigration and is pretty critical about PR Korean group of Mindan and Chongryon being cruel to immigrant from North Korea(Nov.7).One issue that requires far more urgency.
    http://blog.livedoor.jp/jipi/?p=3

  49. “National universities and national hospitals have foreign employees.”
    Universities at least have been semi-privatized, so they are now government owned institutions, but not actually government institutions, so they no longer have to follow any of the rules that apply specifically to government employment. This is why they were able to change their contracts from indefinite re-hiring to temp style, causing the situation that led to the protests at Kyodai that we’ve talked about here. It’s probably the same for hospitals and other institutions.

    But I think in Japan the citizenship rules only apply to formal civil servant jobs above a certain rank, so foreigners can easily get low-level positions, just not advance into management. In the US I’m not aware of a citizenship requirement for any job that isn’t fancy enough to require security clearance, but I could be wrong. I’m sure many other countries have more restrictive rules than either Japan or the US though.

  50. It seems to me to be a no-brainer that SPRs be given the right to vote. They were born in this country, not giving them suffrage is blatant discrimination, as is not letting them rise to management level in any capacity where they could be considered to be public servants.

    I think it also makes sense to give permanents residents who were not born in Japan and whose families have no involvement in the history that has resulted in the problem of SPRs the right to vote in local elections; at any rate, the two seperate groups should be treated two seperate groups, and not lumped together.

    Of course, an easy fix would be to change the law so that anyone born in Japan is automatically a Japanese citizen. That would also alleviate the problem of stateless children in Japan. I think a lot of younger Japanese would find that perfectly acceptable. But, such a change is far in the future, if it ever happens at all, because most older Japanese are very xenophobic–especially a lot of the oyaji in government.

  51. ”I think a lot of younger Japanese would find that perfectly acceptable. But, such a change is far in the future, if it ever happens at all, because most older Japanese are very xenophobic—especially a lot of the oyaji in government.”

    I disagree.”a lot of the oyaji”may look very xenophobic to some,but they are probably a lot more liberal and sympatheric to zainichi than younger Japanese because they’ve come of age in the late 60’s.

  52. Aceface, to be fair Eric said “oyaji in government.” It’s at least conceivable that they could be more conservative/xenophobic than the oyaji population at large. Of course he also said “most older Japanese are very xenophobic.”

  53. I still have to disagree.
    First off,The most avid immigration supporter of this country is former head of immigration bureau.
    Secondly,why does foreign residents demand one sided and sincere affection from locals so much? I hate to point this out,but there are cases we can’t expect that from them,you know.

  54. Man, how many times have I warned that the DPJ crew are NOT ready for prime time. Check this out from the Mainichi:

    同法案は民主党結党時の「基本政策」に盛り込まれており、小沢一郎幹事長らが前向きなためだ。鳩山由紀夫首相も「これはまさに愛のテーマだ。友愛と言っている原点がそこにある」と、独特の論法で法案成立に意欲を示す。だが外国人への参政権付与は憲法違反の疑いが強いことに加え、与党内にも反対論は根強い。

    Can you hear the bishop from the Prince Bride yet? “WUV… TWOOO WUV~!”

  55. “Secondly,why does foreign residents demand one sided and sincere affection from locals so much?”

    Only some of us – please don’t fall into the same trap as Eric apparently has. But I hear what you are saying, and it is something that never ceases to perplex me. I was brought up to believe that trust, respect and acceptance were things one earned, not things one was handed on a platter. I would like to think I am not unique in thinking that way, but at times I wonder how many other people out there got the memo.

    I don’t want to get all psychoanalytical (because then I’d sound like Orchid64), but I have noticed that all too often those with the biggest problems with Japan are those who came over straight out of college. They spent the first 18 years of their life home with mommy and daddy, and the next four in college similarly sheltered. They suffer from a combination of youthful “I know it all” and an almost complete lack of real world experience. Without the benefit of that particular brand of culture shock known as “growing up and becoming an adult” and with little knowledge of how things work even in their own country, they come halfway around the world to someplace where they don’t speak the language or understand the culture, run headlong into the fact that most people don’t particularly give a shit about you and your needs and “Oh my god these people are RACIST!!!” It is hard for some to be a middle-class WASP in a land of “minorities”.

    Anyway, back to the topic to hand. I noted earlier that some folks were bringing voting rights in the EU into the discussion, and had some thoughts about that. While I don’t mean to say that “This isn’t the EU, so what Europe does is irrelevant”, it should not be forgotten that Europe has been shaped by certain historical and political factors that make the EU possible today. The Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, Catholicism (and later Protestantism), the Hapsburgs, land swaps, royal intermarriages, entire countries disappearing for a couple of centuries only to reappear later and a ton of other things have created “Europe” – an identity that can be shared while at the same time being German or French or Italian or whatever. The modern EU is just a continuation and outgrowth of all that history.

    But there is no equivalent here. There is no native word, in any Asian language, for “Asia”. Asians today may recognize a concept of “Asia” as distinct from “Europe” or “Africa”, but I don’t think you will ever find any overarching concept of “We are all Asians, after all” as you might in continental Europe. I seriously doubt we will ever see in our lifetimes, or our children in theirs or likely even our grandchildren in theirs, an “Asian Union”.

    Or look at it this way: how many here could imagine the US, Canada and Mexico all getting together and deciding that any citizen of any one of those three countries, if resident in any of the others, would be free to vote in local elections? I don’t see that happening, but I think the odds would be far higher than anything like that happening around here.

  56. “And China has used its nationals overseas before to stir pots and make noise – there is no reason to believe they would not continue to do so….

    “Ah, but there aren’t that many PRs. The percentage of the vote they would command is tiny. However as Adamu already pointed out, it doesn’t take thousands of votes to change the course of an election: it takes one.”

    Is this a serious argument? It takes one vote to change an election, but to what? Most likely a different mainstream party, not the 日本熱っぽい華人人民共和党。

  57. これはまさに愛のテーマだ。友愛と言っている原点がそこにある

    While this may not bode well for Japan increasing its international profile, I don’t see how speaking in a language that will appeal to 54 year old housewives and salarymen who cried while reading Kyojin no Hoshi when they were 8 years old is a bad thing for the party.

    Likewise with this one –

    “The Koreans were once Japanese citizens before the war. They competed in the Olympics and fought and died for the Japanese empire. We should not forget this.”

    Using a conservative frame for a progressive project – stressing affinity and cooperation with Korea, support for Zainichi on various levels – is pretty smart, given how the last few LDP PMs did nothing but alienate (Aso managed to get reviled by the far left and far right and lose mainstream support, quite a feat). This is how one goes about building a consensus that will allow the Japanese leadership to present a united front internationally when discussing difficult issues. Compare to the LDP style “We’re sorry for the war, except that guy. Oh yeah, those guys over there are really, really sorry, but not him or the guy behind him.”

  58. I don’t think neither Chinese nor Zainichi Korean’s votes will contribute in meaningful political decision making.(Especially they can’t run for the public office)
    However

    1)Certain group can finance local politician and parties which will be crucial to win in the election.I mean here is the pachinko industry.

    2)SPR would continue to be the most vocal and representative foreigners.They set the agenda and dictate entire foreigners related issues in Japanese society.Other groups,such like political exiles,foreign workers and immigrants would be marginalized.

    3)The demands and activities of SPR may not ignite Japanese nationalism,but certainly will ignite those of Korean and Chinese if they were not fullfilled or being represented incorrectly in various forms.Certain activists may act like drama Queen to catch attention of media and internet crowd to and flame the anger of their countrymen to gain more bargaining power against GoJ making management of regional diplomacy more difficult than it already is.One aspect neither Scandinavians/EU members/Australians and NZ don’t have to mind that much.

  59. @Bryce – yes, serious argument. Let’s consider a hypothetical example of just what could happen if PRs were given the vote:

    There’s another horrific “incident” in Okinawa that outrages the locals, makes all the national news shows go ga-ga, causes the Diet to erupt in temporary feigned anger and has the US scrambling to figure out to best calm things down.

    The timing is a double-whammy for all concerned as there also happens to be a scheduled election for governor of Okinawa coming up. A popular figure appears on the scene to run in the race on a platform of forcing US troops out of Okinawa. Conventional wisdom has him as a “close second” in the final results, as it is predicted that, while outraged, a majority of Okinawans will vote with their wallets again when they really think about the economic damage a US pullout would mean.

    But then a bunch of Chinese PRs “move” to Okinawa and register as voters in time to participate in the election (hey, Komeito and the LDP have been doing this for years and years to swing the vote in close districts).

    The “anti-bases” candidate wins by a slim margin – a margin that closely matches the sudden influx of “new” Okinawan voters. With this victory, and confronted with a very vocal mob of angry voters calling and faxing their offices everyday, the members of the Okinawan legislature read the writing on the wall and decide to back the new governor lest they get voted out next time.

    With the backing of the legislature and a newly reinvigorated anti-US support base, the new governor starts doing everything in his (admittedly limited, this is Japan after all) power to follow through on his campaign promises to force the bases out or at the very least make the troops extremely unwelcome if they set foot off base. Mandatory early closing times for businesses near the base, civilian patrols that harangue any foreigner they see out in town, turning a blind eye towards people flying kites or launching bottle rockets in military flight corridors. Demonstrations that make the events of the 60s look like a family picnic become the norm – gates are stormed, the US troops react as one would expect a military under siege to act, casualties result.

    The US changes from apologetic to angry, Tokyo is stuck between an angry partner in their only security alliance and an angry population, hilarity and hijinks ensue as the US “re-evaluates” the situation on the ground and pulls back to Guam. The US-Japan alliance is seriously damaged, possibly irreparably, Okinawa’s economy suffers long-term damage, and all over a “single issue” candidate swept into power on a narrow margin thanks to timing and a bloc of voters who see their own country’s interests coinciding with a local group that would otherwise fall just short of a majority in the vote.

  60. Responding to Adamu’s response to me, which is way up-page now…

    No-one is suggesting giving local voting rights to any foreigner who turns up in Japan, only to permanent residents. On paper, permanent residency is actually harder than naturalisation, as the formal requirements are stricter. (I don’t know about in practice; like Roy, I’m not aware of any real evidence on the subject.) I’m also not sure about a backlash; I think the right-wing reaction to proposals for dual citizenship would be the same no matter when it happened, but if PRs had local votes, there would be solid reasons for local politicians not to antagonise them.

    As for the numbers, if the PRs are concentrated in areas that are closely fought between the DPJ and the LDP, then they might make a difference. Given Ozawa’s focus on elections, that might actually be the case. It’s not enough, however, to give the DPJ a new voter base. 0.7% just doesn’t qualify for that.

    Incidentally, I agree that if Japan allowed dual citizenship, taking citizenship would be the obvious answer. If it did, I’d have applied to naturalise, not for permanent residency. (Well, assuming the nice bureaucrats passed my form on.) As long as they don’t, the issue is a bit harder.

  61. LB: After the narrow victory, the losing side reminds people that resident foreigners, unlike Japanese citizens, must actually live where they are registered. All of those Chinese PRs get investigated, and a bunch of votes are disallowed.

    Yes, that rule is not very strictly enforced at the moment, but if it mattered you can bet that people would investigate it.

    How about this scenario?

    There’s a nasty murder connected with a pachinko parlour that happens to be zainichi owned. The timing is bad, as there’s an election coming up in Osaka. One candidate is anti-Korean, saying that they’re a threat to the national spirit of Japan. A bunch of right-wing Japanese “move” to Osaka in time for the election, and the racist wins, by a margin about the size of the PR population of Osaka.

    He sets about doing his limited best to drive the foreigners out of Osaka. Tensions rise, there’s a riot, and some tourists are killed. While most were Korean, some were actually Korean-American.

    And all because PRs weren’t given the vote.

  62. “On paper, permanent residency is actually harder than naturalisation, as the formal requirements are stricter.”

    While every individual case is different, having completed the former process and now working my way through the latter, PR was a cakewalk. Call Immigration on the phone, find out what papers are needed, get those in one afternoon, go to the office in person to fill out a form and submit the paperwork the next day. I had 10 years in Japan, on my second three-year spousal visa, full-time company employee. The guy at the desk looked things over and said “You’ve got it, go home and wait for the post card”. Six months later it was done.

    Naturalization is a seemingly never-ending obstacle course of “get this paper, so we can look at it and decide what the next piece of paper we need is” “We need proof you are a US citizen. Passport will not suffice, get proof of nationality from your embassy. They don’t issue that? Hmmm… then get proof from the embassy that they won’t issue that.” And on, and on, and on… Of course, it doesn’t help that I live in the sticks and am dealing with a bunch of idiots who have never naturalized a non-SPR before and can’t wrap their shimotsukare-addled minds around the fact that not all foreigners’ home countries work the same way.

  63. @David – we could trade competing scenarios all day. Bottom line: what needs to be changed is the law concerning naturalization, to make it less of a rigamarole and encourage people who are going to live in Japan permanently to naturalize. Not the election law, as that “quick and easy fix” runs counter to the goal of getting people integrated completely into the society. Anyone who has made Japan their home permanently should naturalize, at least if they want to be treated like everyone else. I will never understand those who make Japan, or any country, their permanent home and refuse to become citizens. Just as I will never understand those who say “I’ll naturalize, if you let me keep my old passport.” Why? What good does it do you? If you have Japanese citizenship, and you are living permanently in Japan, you are a Japanese citizen and a Japanese citizen only. Any other citizenship is meaningless. It is not like there is a long list of countries that deny entry to Japanese, after all, so a second passport is just one more keep-this-updated-as-well-PITA.

  64. Want to hear a PR nightmare (not Japan)? I know someone who had to get police certificates from Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Syria, having stayed in each one for more than 6 months for research. Took 8 years.

  65. @M-Bone – wow, I’d hate to be that person. Still, looking at that list of countries, if anyone showed up in my country with a resume that looked like that, I would want them checked out very carefully. Very carefully indeed.

  66. @LB: Interesting comment on the processes, thanks. I got a second request for documents during my PR application, and still haven’t heard (although I’m only at five months since submission, so I’m not worried). I also applied a bit earlier than you, right at the minimum length.

    Of course we can trade scenarios all day; that was basically my point. They don’t prove anything, or really have any argumentative force.

    On dual citizenship, I don’t agree with you. I think it’s possible to live in one country but retain elements of your identity in another country, particularly if you spent, say, the first thirty years of your life in that other country. As for what practical good it would do me: the legal right to live and work anywhere in Europe, and the ability to get out of Japan without having to claim refugee status if it goes fascist and starts persecuting “foreigners” again. (That’s symmetrical; the right to stay in Japan if the UK goes stupid is also a practical benefit.)

    Besides which, I think it is wrong to require exclusive citizenship.

  67. LB – dude is a nerdy white, married Christian with a young kid, PhD from an Ivy league US school, one of those trips was on a Fulbright, and a book on some very un-fundamentalist Islamic things going on in those countries to show for all that research. Wasn’t very good at bribing people to get police certificates though.

  68. “A popular figure appears on the scene to run in the race on a platform of forcing US troops out of Okinawa.”

    The current governor of Okinawa already wants the bases off the island. And last I heard the mayor of Ginowan was running around promoting conspiracy theories about the marines to anyone in the DPJ who will listen. Do you think they are listening much? If they are, it ain’t because of some influx of Chinese voters. If they aren’t (and that’s where I’d put my money), then it wouldn’t really matter if it were about the Chinese.

    Or are you talking about Ota? Nice guy apparently, but unfortunately central government didn’t listen to him either.

    “But then a bunch of Chinese PRs “move” to Okinawa and register as voters in time to participate in the election (hey, Komeito and the LDP have been doing this for years and years to swing the vote in close districts).”

    Of course they do. Except, if Komeito’s crazy antics were a real phenomenon, they would have caused a national scandal rather than simply speculation on the part of a few bloggers. At the very least, some political scientists would also have figured it out and published papers on it. It is not like the data that would let you test this theory is top secret. I’m pretty familiar with the literature in the area of elections in Japan, and I have never seen any such evidence. If you’ve got some, please share it.

    For now though, I would sucggest you look at the results for the 2000, 2003 and 2005 general elections. Komeito voters generally tend to win three or four single member district (SMD) seats in Osaka, one seat each in Tokyo and Kanagawa, and, in the data set we’re looking at, one seat in Aichi, once. In other words, they win in urban areas, particularly where there are a lot of people of Korean extraction–so in other words, where there are more people supporting SG. And they win in the same seats consistently. They are not turning up in Aomori and in Ehime, or indeed in Okinawa in anything like a sporadic fashion to take advantage of changing political forces. Funny that.

    In the 2009 election, moreover, Komeito did not win a single SMD. So this moving around to gain seats is starting to look less and less like an effective strategy. Somebody should tell them to stop.

    Even if your theory were true, and SG were controlling a hive mind, what organisation would suddenly encourage all these Chinese to move to Okinawa? And one would assume they would have to register with the authorities there. Wouldn’t people be a little suspicious if there were a sudden Chinese PR exodus to Okinawa? And if the technique is so effective, why haven’t the communists figured it out yet?

    So again. Seriously?

  69. @M-Bone – and the paranoid in me says that would be a perfect profile to use if you were a boss in Al Qaeda or a similar group looking for an operative to smuggle into the west. Remember Mohammed Atta and friends were known for boozing it up in titty bars, hiring hookers and generally acting very “un-Islamic”… until September 11th, 2001, that is.

    The more rational part of me says what the guy was put through was strictly overkill and a sign of bureaucracy run amok. But if they don’t check, and someone does get through, everyone will scream “Why didn’t you check this guy out?!?” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t…

    @David – we’ll have to agree to disagree. But IMHO people (not just you, I have heard this argument many times before) who want to keep a second passport as a “get out of jail” card probably shouldn’t take citizenship in the first place. I have little time and less sympathy for “citizens of convenience”. It is the same to me as getting married but keeping an old girlfriend around just because you “spent a lot of time together” and “you never know, this marriage thing might not work out”. Commit. Or don’t. One or the other, but not “both”.

  70. They didn’t check him out at all for ideological stuff to the best of my knowledge. They just wanted to make sure that he didn’t have a police record in those countries – you know, excessive numbers of unpaid parking tickets or something.

  71. “While most were Korean, some were actually Korean-American.”

    I don’t get it.So are you saying lives Korean-American worth more than Zainichi Koreans?

    Anyway,there has been no riot by Koreans since 50’s.And there has been no pogrom against Korean occured during Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

  72. “he ability to get out of Japan without having to claim refugee status if it goes fascist and starts persecuting “foreigners” again.”

    I’m pretty sure that in most cases it isn’t very hard to reclaim your original citizenship after having given it up to naturalize elsewhere, and I believe that most countries even have special visa categories for ex-citizens and their immediate family.

  73. “I’m pretty sure that in most cases it isn’t very hard to reclaim your original citizenship after having given it up to naturalize elsewhere,”
    I understand England to be very relaxed like that – I believe if you are British and naturalize in Japan you are supposed to first renounce British nationality and then take Japanese, but right after getting Japanese citizenship you can reclaim British nationality as there is some clause in the law allowing British subjects to “temporarily” renounce for the sake of accepting another nationality.

    But for the US – fuggedaboutit. Renunciation is permanent. The Embassy and State Department warn people about that very explicitly. Once you take yourself out of their “group”, they won’t just let you back in. I suppose if you were able to get back into the US on a Green Card, you could eventually naturalize as a US citizen, but you’d be in line with everyone else. And I believe you also lose any payments you may have made into Social Security while you were a US citizen and have to start all over.

  74. LB stop thinking that what you’ve done is god’s message and the only moral decision. People do have feelings about the countries where they’ve been born and raised in.
    Ex-girlfriends are nice too.

    I don’t particularly agree on voting rights, but for christ’s sake PR’s here are an extremely small part of the population, and won’t be growing very fast.

  75. It is the same to me as getting married but keeping an old girlfriend around just because you “spent a lot of time together” and “you never know, this marriage thing might not work out”.

    To me, it’s more like buying a house in a new city where you want to live, but keeping your old house in case you ever decide to visit or move back (or in case your family wants to move in).

  76. Is this not just merely a political gambit used by Hatoyama
    to rile a few people and please a few foreigners ?

    And what’s all this nonsense about if suffrage was
    granted to NJ permament residents or special zainichi residents,
    they would all suddenly move to Osaka or Okinawa
    to sway the vote en masse ? Biggest load of crap ever.
    As if a load of people have the wherewithal to move somewhere
    and settle just before an election.

    Why anyone in their right mind would want to become Japanese
    is beyond me. Look at Debito – he obviously hates the country
    and its people with a passion (take it from me I’ve met him plenty)
    and is using his naturalized Japanese status as a stick to beat people
    with (unsucessfully).

    Regarding suffrage – surely the vote should be granted to citizens of a nation,
    not all the people in grey areas like people with PR etc. As borders break down
    and more and more people live in the foreign spouses countries, there is the danger
    of a precedent developing where the electorate of a nation is increasingly composed of foreign spouses of nationals, which would piss anyone off, right wing nutters or not. I agree with LB in this respect – choose who you are going to be and then live with it. None of this “I’m an American citizen but I have PR in Japan and therefore should be allowed to vote” etc.

  77. The marriage metaphor is silly, because there is no exclusive partnership. If citizenship is marriage, then states are guilty of bigamy.

    Citizenship is a piece of paper which gives someone a few more rights in a particular jurisdication and may entail some more obligations. No more, no less. If you want to attach some other significance to it, knock yourself out, but don’t assume I will look at you any differently.

    And that’s precisely why citizenship is a stupid way to gauge “commitment” and thereby using it as a basis for determining who gets to vote.

  78. we aren’t talking about citizenship though are we ?
    We’re talking about permanent residency and voting.
    Citizens already get the vote . . .

  79. “I don’t particularly agree on voting rights, but for christ’s sake PR’s here are an extremely small part of the population, and won’t be growing very fast”

    Which is the part of the problem.People accepts SPR’s voting rights as long as they are “extremely small part of the population”.But then who knows?Besides they can always drug in the government of the most populous nation on the planet.

  80. Citizenship is a piece of paper which gives someone a few more rights in a particular jurisdication and may entail some more obligations.
    And one of those rights is the right to vote. That seems to be fairly standard everywhere, the notable exception that people are able to pull out being the EU, but even then the deal is mostly only open to other EU citizens. It is little different in basic principal from allowing people from one US or Australian state or one Canadian province from voting in another.

    People who are non-citizens by choice have no business demanding a say in how things are run. All that is doing is saying “I want to be accepted as part of the community, but only on my terms and in a way that is to my advantage, without any of the obligations that the rest of you have.” Talk about childish and self-centered….

    Finally, “Marriage” may not be the best analogy for describing the decision to naturalize in a country, but it is at least a damn sight better one than “buying a house”.

  81. All that is doing is saying “I want to be accepted as part of the community, but only on my terms and in a way that is to my advantage, without any of the obligations that the rest of you have.” Talk about childish and self-centered…

    So what are these obligations that Japanese nationals have but foreign residents of Japan do not have? I don’t know of any off the top of my head, unless you count stuff like koseki filings where foreigners have an analogous “foreigner obligation.”

    “Marriage” may not be the best analogy for describing the decision to naturalize in a country, but it is at least a damn sight better one than “buying a house”.

    I stand corrected then! [/sarcasm]

  82. LB your last comment is a step away from the “commitment” argument you make above. That earlier argument concerns me because it is very easy to flip it around and argue that someone who hasn’t naturalized is “uncommitted”. That would certainly be an unfair charge to level at someone like Sadaharu Oh but also to the many non-Japanese who make their life in Japan, represent Japan in international sport, run Japanese companies, or work in education, media and the arts.

  83. So what are these obligations that Japanese nationals have but foreign residents of Japan do not have? I don’t know of any off the top of my head

    Jury (ok, not really “jury”, but…) duty springs to mind instantly, and I’m not even a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

    Some might argue “voting” is both a right and an obligation, even if not legally codified as such (at least in Japan, it is elsewhere, not a bad idea that…), as might be serving in some form of civil service.

  84. if there were two distinct parties worth voting for perhaps it might actually be of some relevance . . . . .

    like the U.S. is a poligarchy with a facade of democracy.

    yes I know 政権交代 is meaningful . but lets not get carried away here

  85. @Mulboyne – I don’t see how it is a step away from commitment, what part are you refering to exactly? The part about the EU? There is still commitment, but as I said previously Europe has developed in such a way that one can be “German”, for example, and still be “European”. Germany is but one part of Europe, and while it is a sovereign nation in a lot of ways it is also a state within a united Europe, very broadly analagous to US states within the context of the US or Canadian provinces within the context of Canada.

    As for a non-naturalized resident of Japan being commited or uncommited, that would depend on the individual. I would put myself in the “commited” camp, just lacking citizenship for now. Oh Sadaharu I would personally put in the uncommited camp, as he (apparently) refuses to naturalize. That’s where I put the line – if someone, especially someone born and raised in a country and determined to live there permanently, makes a conscious and willful choice to be a foreigner, then their commitment to their real home country is suspect at best.

  86. what about conscription ?

    If 徴兵制 returns due to some regional spat 15 years down the line
    should PRs be elligible for the army ?

    you’ve got the vote, and we’ve got the right to make you fight

  87. All right, you win. [/sarcasm again]

    My point is that the obligations are basically the same for Japanese nationals and foreign residents. We all have to pay taxes, keep ourselves registered and follow the letter of the law. Jury duty is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence here, if that, and neither voting nor civil service is an obligation for Japanese nationals in 2010. Nationals have many more *rights* than foreign residents, though, and both voting and participation in civil service are among them. (Neither is an obligation in this country, by the way.)

    Now, exactly what do marriage and nationality have in common? I am still scratching my head at that comparison. I can list things they *don’t* have in common…

    1) You can (generally) only have one spouse
    2) Your nation cannot (generally) demand a divorce
    3) You do not (generally) choose your nation from a crowd of suitors; you inherit it by birthright, and even if you change it you are largely doing so for reasons unrelated to the qualities of the nation as an entity (e.g. a job, a school, a spouse)
    4) Even if your nation dies, you (generally) remain a national of whatever nation succeeds it…

  88. @Joe – you can (generally) only have one nationality as well. Dual/multiple nationality is recognized by only a minority of nations, even if we limit the discussion to “first world” or “developed” nations. I’ve checked the laws before to repudiate an argument put forward that Japan was an “outlier among developed nations” in not allowing dual nationality. I am drawing a blank right now on what group was considered the “benchmark”, I want to say G20 but that isn’t it… it was a group of Western European states, US, Canada, Japan and Korea but didn’t include Saudi or Argentina which it would have had to if it was G20…

    Anyway,the point is that single nationality as law is the norm.

    I would question your #3 as well. Most people I know who have naturalized in a new country have perhaps not “chosen from a crowd of suitors” (and not many married folks I know had that luxury either…), but were seeking a better life and that country over there was offering it so that’s where they went, or else they ended up somewhere perhaps not originally looking for “commitment” but over time feelings changed and they decided to make it permanent. Sounds quite similar to the way a lot of people end up married, doesn’t it?

    But setting that aside, the similarity was expressed well on another blog by a former Englishman who naturalized and drew the parallel with the decision to marry. You could shack up with someone else forever, or you could take that next step and make a formal commitment. In that sense, naturalizing is very much like marriage in that you are making a formal, binding and theoretically permanent commitment to another. Psychologically and emotionally naturalizing has a lot in common with marriage. Which was my point. Surely even a lawyer can recognize that.

  89. LB, when I wrote above, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt because you had gone back emphasize the argument about citizenship and voting rights. That’s a point which other appear to agree on. Now that you have made clear your view on naturalization as a measure of “commitment”, I can only say I couldn’t disagree more.

    I know several people who gave up their US nationality to take that of another country merely to escape the reaches of the IRS. It’s a loophole the IRS has now closed – I believe you now only become free from their grasp something like 10 years after renouncing. These people did so without any sense of the commitment you describe and some eventually took back their US passports when they subsequently moved to America.

    If I get married to a Japanese national, my wife will at some point be entitled to a British passport. I will recommend she applies for one as an administrative convenience, not as a test of commitment. Britain does not require you to renounce any other nationality so the application alone won’t tell you anything about someone’s commitment to the country.

    In short, naturalization may be one measure of an individual’s commitment to a country but it is no guarantee of commitment and certainly not the only measure. Sadaharu Oh has done more for Japan as a special permanent resident – and been honoured by the government for his contributions – than anyone who took a passport simply to avoid tax in the country of his birth.

  90. Anyway,the point is that single nationality as law is the norm.

    There is no norm when it comes to this issue. Many countries say you can have as many passports as you want. Many other countries say you can’t — but even among them, there are many levels of discouragement. Germany, for instance, bans dual citizenship unless you get a special permit to naturalize abroad, which is (from what I understand) really easy to get. The Saudis (again from what I understand) don’t ban dual citizenship–only the exercise of foreign citizenship by a Saudi national while in Saudi Arabia, which is basically the same rule that applies in the United States (except I don’t think Americans consider it to be a crime). And even Japan, harsh as it is in this regard, often turns a blind eye to foreign citizenship by not demanding proof of loss of the foreign citizenship.

    “One allegiance only” is simply not a norm. It may be how you feel, but it is not the general expectation.

    As for the comparison to marriage, it’s pointless in the context of what we are discussing. The fact that naturalization and marriage are both forms of formal commitment to something does not mean that bigamy rules ought to apply to nationality law. Your argument is akin to saying “apples and oranges are both fruit, so oranges must be red.”

    I’m not saying that a country has to allow dual nationality — one can argue that it makes sense to curtail the practice — but I think it is wrong to outright dismiss the idea of naturalizing and keeping one’s original national identity (or identities) on flimsy logical grounds. There are many good reasons to keep your old citizenship when you naturalize. Children are high among them — I am grateful that I inherited my father’s citizenship after he naturalized, as it gives me the ability to go back to where he came from whenever and for however long I can afford it, and I want my children to inherit this right even if I choose not to personally exercise it any more.

    The LB argument reminds me of the asinine theology that bans people from leaving Islam.

  91. Mulboyne, there are a number of people who naturalize for nefarious purposes. Just as there are a number of people who do pretty much anything for nefarious purposes. But I truly believe most people do it because they feel something – empathy, a sense of commitment, love, patriotism, whatever, for their new country. Or at least, everyone I know who has done it either here, in the US or elsewhere (save one individual I know very casually who basically did it apparently to make a political statement/try to reinvent himself) has done it for one of those reasons. My experiences and those of people I know reinforce my belief that on some level naturalizing is a decent measure of one’s commitment to their new home country. Not a perfect measure, perhaps, but in general a pretty good one. It is not a process one just waltzes into lightly – unless perhaps one is a member of the “yacht people” and hey – screw them.

    On the flip side, someone who could naturalize, and let’s be honest here if Oh Sadaharu decided to become Japanese he’d probably have his passport inside of a week just because of who he is, but someone who could and absolutely refuses to sets off alarm bells. I don’t care how much good he has done. He is ethnically half-Japanese, culturally 100% Japanese, and yet refuses to take the passport of his home country. To me, that puts him right down there with the people you talk about who change passports to dodge taxes.

    Lower, actually, as I can actually see those people’s point if 100% of their earnings are made outside the US and they are not resident in the US. IIRC only the US and some third-world country like Somalia actually tax the earnings of their nationals overseas.

    By the way, the bit about the IRS having a hold on you is apparently only if you are found to have renounced citizenship expressly for the purpose of getting out of a US tax burden. That was part of the “yacht people” law – if one is found to have renounced for that reason, and having a tax burden to start with would be considered proof of one’s reason, then one is supposed to pay 100% of their tax liability for the next 5 years (no 80,000 USD deduction and no foreign tax credit) and is supposed to be permanently banned from ever re-entering the US. But practically speaking the second part is unenforceable.

  92. “One allegiance only” is simply not a norm. It may be how you feel, but it is not the general expectation.

    Where I come from, it is the general expectation. And it is the norm. It may not be how you feel, but I could personally care less about that. Especially after that last wiseass crack. Good closing argument there, “counselor”.

  93. “If 徴兵制 returns due to some regional spat 15 years down the line”

    Permanent residents in the US have to register with the draft board, and if they fail to do so they may have their citizenship application denied down the road. However, unlike a citizen, if they were ever actually drafted they could very easily just leave the country forever instead of serving.

  94. “I want to say G20 but that isn’t it… it was a group of Western European states, US, Canada, Japan and Korea but didn’t include Saudi or Argentina which it would have had to if it was G20…”
    Korea’s rules on multiple citizenship are the same as Japan, except I think the cutoff there is 22 years old instead of 20 for some reason. Israel is one more notable country that strongly encouraged multiple citizenship.

  95. unlike a citizen, if they were ever actually drafted they could very easily just leave the country forever instead of serving

    That strategy worked for William Gibson, didn’t it?

  96. Lots of Americans dodged the Vietnam draft by going to Canada, but Gibson has come back to the US plenty of times since then, and according to Wikipedia is a dual citizen. However, at some point after the Vietnam War Canada passed a law (or just regulation?) saying that they will no longer harbor future US draft dodgers, should the circumstance arise.

  97. LB is sooo proud of his japanese citizenship he eats natto every morning, soba every noon and goes to 立ち食い every evening while listening to enka on his walkman.

    now THAT’s commitment. Not like you scoundrels who want to visit family abroad without applying for a visa.

  98. “And one of those rights is the right to vote.”

    @LB: Normally, but not always. Chile, Portugal, Sweden, Uruguay, Australia (for British citizens) and New Zealand allow non-citizen voting in national elections, and more nations allow it for at least local elections. Nor is it a constant right. Citizens of New Zealand lose the right to vote if they are out of the country for three years. Citizens in Japan, until recently, had no right to vote overseas, period. Also, there are lots of exceptions that have throughout history restricted voting to natural-born citizens or have stipulated that a time period of citizenship has elapsed before citizens are granted that right.

    There is no straight line between voting and citizenship, so any argument about granting the vote to PRs needs to be specifically tailored to what suits Japan, and not invoke alarmist and stupid scenarios (*Tama-chan will be allowed to vote! This will skew elections on Okinawa because marine mammals are against the Henoko relocation!*) or hoary old crap about marriages and 別荘.

    @Joe: By the way, the 別荘 metaphor is a pretty thin one too, particularly from the point of view of the state and its relationship to others.

  99. Just asking from curiosity,but how many of YOU out there actually have right to vote in this country,or just minding someoneelse’s business.
    Reading the heated comment section already makes me strengthen my thought that all this is a bad idea.

    “now THAT’s commitment.”

    Spandrell, it’s about time you pack your bag and move off to China and help the local lynching Uyghurs.Probably help you a lot to melt into the society there,me think.

  100. I’m not qualified to join the discussion here, but I will just say that this post is an “Editor’s Update” on the Asia page of Economist.com today – the highest profile Mutantfrog link I’ve come across in the wild yet.

  101. Awesome. This way, my views get filtered through the Economist, which then trickles down to opinion leaders in Japan! PR voting rights are all but doomed…

  102. “Just asking from curiosity,but how many of YOU out there actually have right to vote in this country,or just minding someoneelse’s business.”

    Well, I guess everyone who has commented on this thread is a potential Japanese resident or citizen (by virtue of being, y’know, human), so I would hope they might at least be allowed an opinion.

  103. “lso, there are lots of exceptions that have throughout history restricted voting to natural-born citizens or have stipulated that a time period of citizenship has elapsed before citizens are granted that right.”

    Not to mention the fact that universal suffrage didn’t exist anywhere before the 20th century. For example, for most of the history of the US women couldn’t vote, for much of that time only property owners could vote, despite all being citizens.

  104. Oh, found it.

    “A foreigner living in Japan thinks that the DPJ’s proposal to allow foreign residents to vote is a bad idea. It looks to him like a dive for the “zainichi” Korean vote.”

  105. BTW, that does remind me. Everyone has been talking about capturing the vote of the Permanent Residents specifically, but doesn’t it also seem likely that the party that gives voting rights to foreigners will also increase their support among the population of naturalized immigrants and their descendants? It’s still a pretty small group, but there are a few hundred thousand naturalized Koreans and their children/grandchildren – but it’s hard to say how many since the Japanese census doesn’t ask about race (because obviously Japan is homogeneous?) and I’m not aware of any less official surveys.

  106. This way, my views get filtered through the Economist, which then trickles down to opinion leaders in Japan!

    Unfortunately, they all read the paper version, with the lone exception of Aso who gets it on “floppies.”

  107. ”Well, I guess everyone who has commented on this thread is a potential Japanese resident or citizen (by virtue of being, y’know, human), so I would hope they might at least be allowed an opinion.”

    Too true.

  108. Aso’s top 10 list of all time favourite mangas.
    1位 『ゴルゴ13』
    2位 『勇午』
    3位 『風の大地』
    4位 『インパクト』
    5位 『なんと孫六』
    6位 『ジパング』
    7位 『日本国大統領 桜坂満太郎』
    8位 『サラリーマン金太郎』
    9位 『黄昏流星群』
    10位 『蒼天航路』

  109. That is one sketchy list – not one title on there that concluded before 2005. Most of them still running. Haven’t read インパクト….

  110. the 別荘 metaphor is a pretty thin one too, particularly from the point of view of the state and its relationship to others

    That’s true, but from the point of view of the individual I think it is not too far off. I automatically invalidate any “state point of view” on the grounds that most states are run by either tyrannical dictators or packs of thieving bankers/lawyers/bureaucrats and are therefore not entitled to an opinion in rational human discourse.

  111. Even from the POV of an individual it is pretty tenuous. I mean, do you “own” American and Ireland?

  112. “or packs of thieving bankers/lawyers/bureaucrats ”

    erm sorry but don’t you fall into this category yourself ?

  113. I mean, do you “own” America and Ireland?

    As a national, in a sense, you do. “Ownership” is itself a very tricky concept which manifests itself in different ways, but nationals of a state do own the state, inasmuch as they have legally defined rights to occupy and control it. The rights of nationals against a state are in many ways stronger than the rights of, say, shareholders against a public company, who are often said to “own” the company.

    erm sorry but don’t you fall into this category yourself ?

    I *wish* I were running a state.

  114. ”But hey wait, i’m not even disagreeing with you here.”

    OK,stay here as long as you like then.

  115. I changed my mind in the last eight hours.Giving SPR right to vote is lesser evil.
    I support voting right for foreigners.

  116. “they have legally defined rights to occupy and control it. ”

    Yes, but not to the exclusion of all others from the whole territory.

  117. “I changed my mind in the last eight hours.Giving SPR right to vote is lesser evil.
    I support voting right for foreigners.”

    There you are. Us not minding our own business has changed the opinion of the only person on this blog we know for sure can vote in Japanese elections. And yeah, Ace, lesser than what?

  118. 1)Learned the “blog mayor” of Akune,Kagoshima just made racist commentary on his blog accusing Koeans that they are actually Japanese right wingers.I was worried about some populist politician flaming racial hatred if we bend to pressure from Seoul in giving the voting rights to SPR,but since we already have that type in office,there’s no need to hesitate.

    2) There were about 360000 of Brazilians living in Japan and only about 60000 of them had left Japan in spite more than half of them lost their job.Many of them can’t speak Japanese.I’ve been phoning Brazilians in Aichi and it seems those who left after Lehman crisis are now coming back finding out the minimum wages in Japan is six times larger than their home country.Plus their kids couldn’t re-adopt Brazil,so they chose to come back.Problem is most of them will probably be dependent on welfare of somekind and need help from legislature.However,many are reluctant since lots of small towns and cities have financial problem.Giving foeigners certain political power may help them overcome the disadvantage.

    3)Reading book on repatration of zainichi Koean to NK by 北朝鮮帰国事業 – 「壮大な拉致」か「追放」か (中公新書)and learned the author and others like Sakanaka Hidenori are now asking for national debate on preparing for the coming re-exodus back to Japan.Since both Mindan and Chongryon care very little about the coming influx of Korean exiles,J-politicians need to think on that,just like they did to the family of abductees.Make them do so,Koreans need to have power in the form of voting right.

    Anyway reason1) was the last straw on the back of camel for me.

  119. BTW, Aceface your story about the Brazilians who are clearly trying to become real immigrants to Japan rather than just migrant workers made me think of one more thing. If permanent residents are going to become even closer to citizens by giving them voting rights, maybe it’s time to extend mandatory education to foreign resident children as well? If we can now assume that these kids are going to grow up in Japan and stay here the rest of their lives, shouldn’t the government be taking more of an interest in making sure they are educated in Japanese?

  120. Zainichi Koreans will probably get in the way since they want money to run their school and not having their kids going to Japanese public school,or so thinks some people who are doing volunteering in Toyota.Voting rights to Koreans probably will strengthen this trend.Meaning any attempt of Japanese government making immigrants assimilate to the Japanese society needs to be consulted with Korean nationals in Japan,One of the original reasons why I didn’t support the voting right to SPR’s.

    Things will be very complicated.

  121. That’s a good point.
    The Hatoyama sentence 日本列島は日本人の所有物じゃない is really misguided. Of course it is. It has to be.
    I’m sure no Korean politician is saying that the Korean peninsula is not the property of the Korean people.

  122. Well, they can say that foreign children have to go to school, but it can be either a normally accredited school OR an international school – including Korean ethnic schools. But it is true that the Zainichi Koreans have been so good at lobbying for their own benefit that it isn’t always in the best interests of other non-citizen communities, like the Brazilians.

  123. Speaking for zainichi,there were no big foreign community aside from them except Chinese until the 90’s.And neither of them really need to have Japanese language education hence they were the decendent of the colonial subject.What they needed was ethnic education to keep cultural and political identity,which ofcourse should be maintained.
    But what we have here now are more than 10000 drop out kids who speak neither Portuguese nor Japanese fluently.We may need to establish the immigration agency.

  124. Immigration agency? You mean emigration agency: The whole “here’s money for your one-way ticket home” program, right?

  125. It seems naturalization is no guarantee of commitment as far as the LDP’s Takeo Hiranuma is concerned:

    Mainichi:

    平沼赳夫元経済産業相(岡山3区)は17日、岡山市内で開いた政治資金パーティーのあいさつで政府の事業仕分けを批判し、仕分け人を務めた民主党の蓮舫参院議員について「元々日本人じゃない」と発言した。平沼氏は、次世代スーパーコンピューター開発費の仕分けで蓮舫議員が「世界一になる理由があるのか。2位では駄目なのか」と質問したことは「政治家として不謹慎だ」とし、「言いたくないが、言った本人は元々日本人じゃない」と発言。「キャンペーンガールだった女性が帰化して日本の国会議員になって、事業仕分けでそんなことを言っている。そんな政治でいいのか」と続けた。

    平沼氏は取材に、「彼女は日本国籍を取っており人種差別ではない」と説明した。蓮舫議員のウェブサイトによると、蓮舫議員は67年、台湾人の父と日本人の母の間に生まれ、85年に日本国籍を取得した。

    Kyodo English:

    Former trade minister Takeo Hiranuma on Sunday criticized remarks made by House of Councillors member Renho in November in trying to slash budget allocations for the supercomputer development by pointing to the fact that the politician, who goes by a single name, is a naturalized Japanese. “I don’t want to say this, but she is not originally Japanese,” said the former Liberal Democratic Party member during a speech before his supporters in Okayama City. “She was naturalized, became a Diet member, and said something like that,” the independent House of Representatives member continued.

    Hiranuma was referring to the high-profile remarks made by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan member, who asked during a debate with bureaucrats, “Why must (Japan) aim to (develop) the world’s No. 1 (supercomputer)? What’s wrong with being the world’s No. 2?” The remarks have been broadcast repeatedly on TV as a symbolic image of the DPJ-led government’s efforts to cut wasteful spending. The remarks were “not appropriate for a politician,” Hiranuma said, adding that Japan, as a country aiming to be a science technology power, “must have the budget for (developing) the world’s No. 1 (supercomputer).” He later told reporters he did not intend to say anything discriminatory and what he meant was that politicians should not engage in “sensational politics that ring the bell with TV broadcasters.” According to Renho’s website, she was born in 1967 as the child of a Taiwanese father and a Japanese mother, and switched her citizenship from Taiwanese to Japanese in 1985.

  126. Peter: Aceface’s point is that very few people actually took them up on that program. Many or most of the Brazilians who went home actually spent their OWN money so that they would be allowed to come back whenever they want, and many of them are already back. That shows they consider themselves immigrants, and the fact that the population of real, long-term immigrants is growing means that Japan needs to establish an agency to manage immigration policy and immigrants in a rational way.

  127. “The whole “here’s money for your one-way ticket home” program, right?”

    Actually you can come back after brief period of time.(3yrs)

    ”It seems naturalization is no guarantee of commitment as far as the LDP’s Takeo Hiranuma is concerned”
    1)Hiranuma no longer belongs to LDP
    2)LDP already had diet member who was”campaign girl”of a sort with quasi-chinese identiy Li Xianglan/Yamaguchi Yoshiko.

  128. An Asahi Shimbum nationwide telephone poll has found 60% in favour of suffrage for permanent residents with 29% opposed. They called 3,628 numbers and logged 2,182 responses. The Asahi says the approval rate was 70% for those in their 30s & 40s while it was 54% for those in their 60s and 34% for those in their 70s.

    As an aside, I wonder a little about telephone polls these days which rely on landlines. There’s no way of knowing how it might affect this particular result but the methodology would seem to exclude households which rely on mobile phones rather than landlines. I know several city dwellers living on their own who only have a mobile. It might also exclude dormitory dwellers but I suppose such polls always did.

  129. Saitama gov. says he’s feels uneasy about third or fourth generation residents who haven’t naturalized:

    上田清司埼玉県知事は19日の定例記者会見で、政府が通常国会への提出を検討している永住外国人に地方参政権を付与する法案について、「一貫して反対の立場だ。慎重に対応すべきだ」と述べた上で、「そもそも在日の3世、4世になっても日本国籍を取得しないことの方が違和感がある」と語った。

  130. “Actually you can come back after brief period of time.(3yrs)”

    Um, it’s still a one-way ticket.

    I wonder why the period was chosen to be three years…hmmm. Maybe three years was thought to give them enough time to create and institute a qualification exam for the next wave of immigrants.

    By the way, what are we talking about?

  131. Mulboyne, the impact of cell phone on telephone polls has been a serious issue for a few years now, and I recall reading a lot of discussion about it during the most recent US presidential race, when you saw new polls of at least a few states pretty much every day. While I’m sure they aren’t entirely accurate, in America at least the statistical models of the better polls do at least TRY to compensate for the undercount of young people due to cellphone, rather than just putting the raw data into a graph, but I have no idea if major pollsters in Japan are using similar techniques or not. I think it’s very likely that the problem is far, far exacerbated in Japan, since home internet service here is completely unbundled from having a landline telephone, whereas DSL in the US still requires a POTS line, and cable or fiber net access is usually bundled with a TV and phone plan, which means that the number of land line owners isn’t shrinking quite as quickly as here.

  132. Interesting that you mentioned that, Roy — I noticed on last night’s Hodo Station that the phone number they put up for donations to Haiti was restricted to NTT landlines only. It seemed quite peculiar in a country where mobile phone use is so widespread, especially compared to the US or Europe, where they have special SMS numbers set up to automatically donate $10 to the Red Cross.

  133. PJ News is conducting an internet poll which they say shows 96.8% opposed to local suffrage for permanent residents.

    http://www.pjnews.net/news/467/20100128_3

    45% thought such legislation was unconstitutional while 32.6% said they believed permanent residents could not be trusted with the vote. 9.8% said they didn’t think an adequate case had yet been made for such a proposal. 1.4% said that the vote should be granted because permanent residents pay taxes. 0.6% agreed with Hatoyama’s comment that “Japan is not just for the Japanese”.

    The poll is still up there and is probably skewed by the fact that most people who take part are doing so to express active opposition.

  134. My general stand is that, at least for any remotely political issues, an online poll isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

  135. Adamu: “In addition to expected support from zainichi Korean groups, we have some uncharacteristically half-baked support from Debito, the well-known human rights agitator: “Debito.org is in support, given how difficult it can be to get PR in Japan, not to mention how arbitrary the naturalization procedures are.”

    Thanks for your attention to this issue, Adamu and everyone. You can find my more sharpened argument regarding my support for PR local suffrage, etc, via my JT column today.

    Non-Japanese suffrage and the racist element
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100202ad.html

    FYI. Debito

  136. Thanks Debito. I’m gradually coming around on this issue. At first I was opposed to the idea of local suffrage for foreign nationals because I thought it might impede progress on more substantial, but also more controversial, issues like allowing dual citizenship for adults but since no policy makers are even talking seriously about that, I have to reluctantly conclude that it’s better to support this current proposal and hope that after its been in place for a few years without the sky falling in and Japan sinking into the ocean, the political environment might allow for further steps to be taken.

  137. While we might be able to learn a little about how foreigners are seen in Japan from the debate surrounding this proposal, it certainly wouldn’t be reasonable to conclude that everyone opposed to local suffrage for permanent residents is also against fair treatment for foreign residents. It could be a little problematic if people see this issue as some kind of bellwether for the broader question of immigration.

    I’m not opposed to the idea – I’m also not affected by it – but it wouldn’t be top of my list of priorities either.

    A Japanese poster on FG pointed out that Professor Kazuhiro Nagao of Chuo University has now changed his mind about the constitutionality of the legislation:

    http://sankei.jp.msn.com/politics/policy/100128/plc1001282154020-n1.htm

  138. Man,this guy is fucked up.

    “韓国は在外選挙権法案を成立させ、在日韓国人の本国での選挙権を保証した。また、日本に住民登録したままで韓国に居住申告すれば、韓国での投票権が持てる国内居住申告制度も設けた。現実の経験的要素が法解釈に影響を与える『立法事実の原則』からすると、在日韓国人をめぐる状況を根拠とすることは不合理になり、これを続行することは誤りだと判断した”
    This sentence is total meaningless.Zainichi Korean’s are foreigners.And we are allowing foreigners to vote,nothing but.Just because they have right to vote in Japanese local election that doesn’t mean they must abandon there right to vote in the country that issue their passports.

    “法律の文献だけで問題を考えたのは失敗だった。政治思想史からすれば、近代国家、民主主義における国民とは国家を守っていく精神、愛国心を持つものだ。選挙で問題になるのは国家に対する忠誠としての愛国心だが、外国人にはこれがない。日本国憲法15条1項は参政権を国民固有の権利としており、この点でも違憲だ”
    This is ridicurous.A lot of Japanese voters don’t even dream of “patriotism” in local election.What does this professor think about voting rate declines year by year?
    Secondly 15th amendment of Japanese constitution has been there for years,why would he want to bring this up after all these years of pretending as if it doesn’t exist?

    “許容説の一番最先端を行っているドイツでさえ、許容説はあくまでも市町村と郡に限られる。国と州の選挙の参政権はドイツ国民でなければ与えられない。”

    Hatoyama is only proposing local election and not national level.

    “鳩山首相は地域主権論で国と地方を並列に置き、防衛と外交以外は地域に任せようとしている。最先端を行くドイツでさえ許していないことをやろうとするのは、非常に危険だ”
    Duh,Germany is federal republic.It certainly is waay more 地方主権 than Hatoyama ever wishes.Japanese prefectures don’t have such political independence from central govenrment and never will.

    ”日本国憲法15条1項は参政権を国民固有の権利としており、この点でも違憲だ”
    Actually,第十五条第一項sez”公務員を選定し、及びこれを罷免することは、国民固有の権利である”this is either a mistake of Sankei or this professor.Either way lessen the credibility of this interview.

    “中国人の方が問題だ。現在、中国は軍拡に走る世界で唯一の国。中国人が24日に市長選があった沖縄県名護市にわずか千人引っ越せば、(米軍普天間飛行場移設問題を焦点とした)選挙のキャスチングボートを握っていた。当落の票差はわずか1600票ほど。それだけで、日米安全保障条約を破棄にまで持っていく可能性もある。日本の安全保障をも脅かす状況になる”
    This is extreme example has no chance to materialize in reality.Even if it ever happened,it would only alarm the nation,which will contribute to change the mind of the skeptics in Okinawa to support for US bases since Okinawans feel the Chinese threat the most because of the Senkaku dispute.
    Besides,US-Japan security won’t paralyze in one election,let alone being abolished.

    Glad I changed my mind complete the opposite from this dude.

  139. Why should everyone who opposes the proposal be labeled “a Hiranuma”? All that does is set up a “you’re either with me or with the racists” choice that I find false.

    And I still didn’t see a solid reason for giving all the PRs voting rights instead of one of the many alternatives. The column he refers to argues that the PR process is arbitrary because “too much emphasis seems to be put on continuous residence and spouse” along with some “triangulation” of cases that he thinks point in the direction of tightening standards. And the recommendation in that article is yet another stark choice – make the PR process easier or else Japan is doomed. I actually think the PR process is not that difficult and anything but arbitrary – isn’t an emphasis on years in the country and marital status the exact opposite of arbitrary gauges of “contribution” to Japanese culture? And what’s to account for the still-steady increases in the number of PRs?

    But if you want PR requirements eased, wouldn’t tacking on additional privileges hurt your goal? If the immigration authorities were already acting arbitrarily to keep down the number of PRs, what’s to stop them now? Is it worth it to risk tightened standards in exchange for the marginal effect these new voters will have on elections?

    Basically, the hurdles to getting PR in the first place shouldn’t be the most important reason to judge whether PR is “enough” to receive voting rights. In this regard I think Debito’s argument resembles Ozawa’s – except for the part where the proponent sees immediate political gain, the proposal hasn’t been thought all the way through. To me, it isn’t about protecting Japanese bloodlines, it is about being sensible and not alienating people at a time when some important decisions need to be made about the role of foreigners in Japan over the next few decades.

    While I still think suffrage for all PRs is a bad idea, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if it happens. But calling anyone who opposes it a racist isn’t just wrong, it’s offensive and unlikely to convince people on the fence.

  140. I still believe the ideal solution would be to address citizenship laws themselves. I strongly believe that dual citizenship for adults should be legalized, but I understand that this is controversial and unlikely. On the other hand, it would be probably be fairly non-controversial and very beneficial to clarify the process for both PR and naturalization as much as possible, and institutionalize both to remove all of the arbitrariness that so many people are complaining about.

  141. Having gone through the naturalization process, I would not call it arbitrary. The requirements were laid out for me very clearly in a handbook and explained in detail by the clerk in charge of my case. With the help of a 司法書士, I gathered and prepared all the necessary documents based on those instructions. I was called in once more for an interview, and after a couple of months or so, citizenship was granted. Have you heard of actual complaints of arbitrariness, Roy?

  142. Well, earlier I said that it seemed OK to me based on what I’d read about the process, but there were several indignant responses claiming that a: the final decision can be arbitrary depending on the particular case worker and b: once you’ve been rejected once, for whatever reason, there is no appeal and little chance of future success with an improved application. I don’t actually have any idea how true these claims are, but I would like to hear some more concrete anecdotes if they exist.

  143. “While I still think suffrage for all PRs is a bad idea, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if it happens. But calling anyone who opposes it a racist isn’t just wrong, it’s offensive and unlikely to convince people on the fence.”

    I agree on most of your points and basically that’s what I’ve been thinking until VERY recently.
    But read what Prof.Nagao writes.His claim is a bogus from A to Z and all of the claim he made but one has nothing to do with constitution and the only exception is a false.

    I’m with Debito on this one,although he is making a mistake that giving PR right to vote is only limited to the local election and won’t help kicking Hiranuma out of office.

  144. I had the same reaction when I first read Debito’s column on the subject, and I do think that he phrased it very poorly, but I think that he just meant “xenophobes like Hiranuma.” But he really should have made it clearer that this is a discussion of locality elections and not Diet seats, and will therefore have little to no impact on national policy. However, it could potentially have a rather large impact on elections in specific cities, or prefectural council district seats.

  145. I have to say Sonobe is finished as a jurist.

    The budokan event is organized by Japanese Federation of Textile, Chemical, Food, Commercial, Service and General Workers’ Unions, also known as Zensen.Zensen has been the base for now desolved Democratic Socialist Party and has conservative tendency of changing constitution and re-militalization and such.So I don’t surprise the move.I also don’t believe Zensen has much power to the members of unions.Can’t believe shop clerk at Yamada Denki et al would vote at the request of the HQ.

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