Nationality Elements of citizenship Status and citizenship

Japan and the United States

1. Affiliation and status of nationals and aliens

By William Wetherall

First posted 7 December 2006
Last updated 23 July 2014


Keywords and concepts Japan | United States | Affiliation | Nationality | Nationals and aliens | Citizenry, citizens, citizenship
Japan Affiliation and status Nationals | Aliens | Residents | Nested rights and duties | Individual variation
Territorial registration and citizenship   Effects of national and local affiliation on rights and duties (Table)
Status and suffrage Meiji suffrage Some males Taisho suffrage All males in Interior : Including non-Interior subjects : Pak Ch'un'gum (Boku Shunkin) Showa suffrage Chosen and Taiwan residents : Then women too : But only residents in prefectural registers Heisei suffrage Overseas voters | Alien suffrage
Basic laws of citizenship 1945 suffrage revisions | 1947 Constitution | 1947 Local Autonomy Law | 1950 Public Offices Election Law
Residents as citizens Rights, duties, and residency (Table) | Legitimacy of status | Drawing lines
United States Citizens, nationals, aliens Citizens : State citizens : Statutory citizens | Nationals | Aliens


Keywords and concepts

States and their local polities have various standards for determining the elements (rights and duties) of citizenship for nationals and aliens who are reached by their laws. No country can be said to be a standard. If some are more typical than others, Japan would be a better candidate for commonality than the United States, which is somewhat of an anomaly.


NIRA publications on "citizenship"

In 2001, the National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA) published several books that examined "citizenship" from one vantage point or another, in Japan and globally. Here I will briefly introduce how two of these publications attempted to define the term.

NIRA is known in Japanese as 総合研究開発機構 (Sōgō kenkyū kaihatsu kikō) -- literally "General research development organization"). Established by law in 1974 as a government approved organization under the jurisdiction of the then Prime Minister's Office (now the Cabinet Office), on 29 November 29, its establishing law having been abrogated on 10 August 2007, its institutional status changed from semi-governmental organization to incorporated foundation (財団法人 zaidan hōjin). While nominally independent, as a think tank it continues to be essentially concerned with Japan's national interests.

"Citizenship" as social rights

Of the two volumes reviewed here, the following work most broadly examines "citizenship" as a concept and issue in Japan.

NIRAシティズンシップ研究会 (編著)
NIRA shitizunshippu kenkyōkai (hencho)
<NIRA Citizenship Study Group (ed. & auth.)>
多文化社会の選択:「シティズンシップ」の視点から
Tabunka shakai no sentaku: "Shitizunshippu" no shiten kara
[Choices of a multicultural society: From the viewpoint of "citizenship"]
<Japan as a Multicultural Society: From the Perspective of Citizenship>
NIRA チャレンジ・ブックス
[NIRA challenge books]
東京:日本経済評論社、2001年10月
Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Hyoronsha, October 2001
xxi, 305 pages, hardcover

As the title implies, the book adopts a fashionable "multicultural" approach to considerations of "citizenship".

"Citizenship" (シティズンシップ shitizunshippu), it says, has the following meanings.

  1. Qualification of membership in state -- "Nationality" (国籍 kokuseki)
  2. A set of rights and duties

    Citizenship as nationality is called "formal citizenship" (形式的シティズンシップ keishiki-teki shitizunshippu). Citizenship as a set of rights and duties -- which is dubbed "citizen rights" (市民権 shiminken) -- is called "substantive citizenship" (実質的シティズンシップ jisshitsu-teki shitizunshippu).

    The various rights that include "citizen rights" include, according to the book, three kinds of rights -- (1) "civil rights" (公民的権利 kōmin-teki kenri [sometimes translated 市民的権利 shimin-teki kenri]), (2) "political rights" (政治的権利 seiji-teki kenri), and (3) "social rights" (社会的権利 shakai-teki kenri).
  3. Citizen rights of alien nationality residents -- "new citizen rights" (新しい市民権 atarashii shiminken) -- "denizenship" (永住市民権 eijū shiminken)
  4. Citizen rights shared beyond state frameworks -- European citizen rights
  5. "Rights of groups" (集団の権利 shūdan no kenri) -- "multicultural citizen rights [citizenship]" (多文化的市民権 tabunka-teki shiminken), "differentiated citizen rights [citizenship] (差異化された市民権 saikak sareta shiminken)
  6. Consciousness of affiliation toward political body (政治体への帰属意識 seijitai e no kizoku ishiki)・Citizenship as identity (アイデンティティとしてのシティズンシップ aidentiti to shite no shitizunshippu)

The book focuses almost entirely on status and rights of aliens. The tone is set in Chapter 1, which defines three "gates" of citizenship and four legal statuses (page 4). The book attributes this model to "Hammar: 17" -- a 1999 Japanese translation of Tomas Hammar, Democracy and the Nation State: Aliens, Denizens, and Citizens in a World of International Migration (Research in Ethnic Relations Series), Aldershot (UK): Avebury, 1990).

The "gates" -- meaning the legal gates that aliens must pass in order to be in Japan or become Japanese -- are (1) "legal short-term stay", (2) "obtainment of right of above [residency right]" (定住権 teiūken), and (3) "obtainment of nationality" (国籍 kokuseki). These gates lead to three nested statuses and a status outside the nest -- namely (X) "improper [illegal] stayers" excluded from the nest, (T) "proper [legal] stayers" in the nest but at its lim, (U) "denizens (デニズン denizun) in the center of the nest, and (V) "nationals (citizens) [国民 kokumin (シティズン shitizun)]" at the core.

Deciding who qualfies to pass through each gate is a matter of law and policy, of course. Passing through Gate 1 is a matter of border control, visa, and status of residence policy. Passing through Gate 2 is a matter of visa and status of residence policy, including long-term and permanent residency statuses. Passing through Gate 3 is a matter of provisions for naturalization in the Nationality Law and related enforcement regulations and administrative procedures.

Notice that "nationals" (国民 kokumin) have been defined as "citizens" (シティズン shitizun). This equation is made in later phrasing as well. Presumably this is done to establish that aliens are not yet "citizens" -- and the problem, then, is to what extent they, too, can be "citizens". However, this facile equation of "citizen" with "national" boxes the discussion of "citizenship" into a corner in which "nationals" are taken as the standard of "citizen" -- rather than establishing a transnational standard.

Japanese law does not, in fact, define "citizen" -- much less equate "citizen" with "national". Japanese law defines only "affiliation" -- a leagally much more flexible concept that enables the distinction between "national" citizen and "alien" citizen". The authors of the NIRA book appear not to understand this.

In their discussion of "citizenship" in the sense of "citizen rights" (市民権 shiminken) -- in which "citizen" (市民 shimin) is not necessarily "nationality" (国籍 kokuseki) -- the authors turn to choices like "diversification of citizens" (シティズンの多様化 shitizun no tayōka) versus the "homogenization of citizens" (シティズンの均質化 shitizun no kinshitsuka) within the framework of "nationals" and "nationality".

A related choice is whether to adopt a "naturalization model" (帰化モデル kika moderu) would or a "denizen model" (デニズンのモデル denizun no moderu) of citizenship. The "naturalization model" would ease the criteria for passing through Gate 3 in order to encourage more naturalization. This would diversify the "nation" of "citizens" defined by "nationality" -- in terms of the putative "ethnicity" of "nationals". The "denizen model" would extend some rights of suffrage to certain classes of aliens, who would thus participate in the affairs of the "state" without become "nationals" -- thus preserving the putative "homogeneity" of the "nation".

Chapter 1 concludes with a section called "Debate centuring on "citizenship" (シティズンシップ) in Japan". It observes that while Japan has been expanding access through Gate 2 and Gate 3, it continues to be seen as an "exception" among "advanced countries" with regard to the restrictions it imposes on Gate 1 (pages 20-21).

Regarding Gate 1, the authors broach the problem of how to treat improper (illegal) comers and stayers, whether to properize (legalize) them and otherwise treat them on a par with alien residents with respect to at least some right. "Empowerment of aliens" through various alien support organizations has, it notes, already begun. (Page 21)

Regarding Gate 2, the authors touch upon the "citizenization of aliens" (外国人の市民化 gaikokujin no shiminka). By this they mean the movements in a number of local autonomous bodies to extend some rights of suffrage and rights to be employeed in some government posts to some resident aliens. (Page 21)

Regarding Gate 3, the authors observe that conservatives (保守系 hoshu-kei) are calling for the simplifcation of naturalization conditions rather than giving rights of suffrage to aliens. Practically no new movements are seen, they say, regarding the question of diversification or homogenization of the content of "nationals (citizens)" [国民 (シティズン) kokumin (shitizun)]. (Page 21)

The so-called "New Ainu law" (アイヌ新法 Ainu shinō) [1997] is cited as an example of heading toward diversification. But in categorizing "Nikkeijin" (「日系人」) apart from aliens in general (外国人一般 gaikokujin ippan) in its 1990 revisions to the Exit-enter-country [Immigration] control and refugee recognition law, Japan confirmed that it is an "ethnic nation" (エスニック・ネーション esunikku neeshon), and otherwise engaged in the rhetoric of homoginization (均質化というレトリック). (Pages 21-22)

The book, based on research done over a 12-month period from May 2000, is typical of such projects in that it cites numerous sources in other languages in its effort to compare and contrast the situations in Japan with those in other countries, especially Germany, France, Canada, Australia, and the United States. While it offers lots of information and raises numerous questions, it remains fairly conventional in its characterizations.

The main flaw of the book may be that the authors explored conditions in other countries more thoroughly than they did in Japan -- hence their odd remarks about "Ainu" and "Nikkeijin".

Ainu not exceptionalized

Japan's legal recognition of "Ainu" began the moment it began to establish nationwide household registers at the start of the Meiji period. The government internationally acknowledged "Ainu" as a "racioethnic minority" (少数民族 shōsū minzoku) in 1987 -- a decade before the "old" Aborigine protection law of 1899 was replaced by the "new"law in 1997.

In any event, even the new law does not exceptionalize individual Japanese who consider themselves of "Ainu" descent. Generally, anthropologists in Japan, and government museums, have always recognized "Ainu" as a heterogeneous component of Japan's post-Meiji nation.

Nikkeijin not exceptionalized

The enabling of alien children and grandchildren of Japanese nationals who settled overseas to come to Japan and work did not exceptionalize "nikkeijin". The same long-term unrestricted-activity status of residence covers a number of alien categories.

The authors are right to point out that Japan's Nationality Law is primarily a "right of blood" law. However, the "blood" is a matter of family lineage -- not racioethnic descent. Hence qualification as an alien child or grandchild of a Japanese national who has settled overseas is a matter of family ties, not race or ethnicity. Many countries relax admission conditions for alien relatives of overseas nationals.

More importantly, when the long-term unrestricted-activity sttus was created in 1990, a number of restricted-activity visa statuses became easier to obtain in the government's move to facilitate aliens who wanted to come to Japan to study or work. The gate to general permanent residence was also opened wider.

Citing Japan's accommodation of Nikkeijin as an example of Gate 3 homogenization of nationals reflects a serious lapse of logic on the part of the NIRA authors. Granted, they were attempting to characterize "Japan" as a country concerned with "ethnic" homogeneity. Still, they chose the wrong way to do this.

Nikkeijin are aliens. Their coming to Japan represents only an example of Gate 2 widening. Despite the "racial" rhetoric of some lawmakers at the time the long-term residence status was defined, it was clear that an influx of Brazilian, Peruvian, and other alien workers with family ties to Japan would diversify Japan's population -- not of nationals, but of aliens.

The companies that would employ them, and the communities in which they would live, anticipated language and culture problems. During the decades leading up to 1990, numerous books and TV dramas had portrayed North, Central, and South American "Nikkeijin" as the aliens they were -- Canadians, Americans, Mexicans, Brazilins, Peruvians to the core by the third generation.

Moreover, the Nikkeijin who would come to Japan would include all manner of offspring of mixed marriages. And they would be allowed to bring their spouses and children -- which guaranteed even more diversity. If there was any doubt about this in 1990, by the turn of the 20th century, when the NIRA authors conducted their research, it was clear "Nikkeijin" would not "blend in" with the mainstream -- in the manner that Japan-born aliens -- who vastly outnumber Nikkeijin -- are naturally assimilated.

"Citizenship" as social rights

The other NIRA publication I wish to more briefly introduce was published a month earlier than the "citizenship" volume. Though attributed mainly to a single "compiler and author", its eight chapters are written by as many different authors. Sonoda authored only the preface and the final chapter.

園田英弘 (編著)
Sonoda Hidehiro (compiler and author)
NIRA「日本人のアイデンティティ」研究会
NIRA "Nihonjin no aidentiti" kenkyūkai
[NIRA "Japanese identity" research group]
流動化する日本の「文化」:グローバル時代の自己認識
Ryūdōka suru Nihon no "bunka": Guroobaru jidai no jiko ninshiki
[The "culture" of Japan that is fluidizing [mobilizing]: Self-recognition [awareness, identification] in the global age]
<Exploring Japanese Identity: Cultural Issues in the Global Era>
NIRA チャレンジ・ブックス
[NIRA challenge books]
東京:日本経済評論社、2001年9月
Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Hyoronsha, September 2001
251 pages, hardcover

A translation of the chapter titles will give some idea of the scope of this book.

Preface   Self-recognition in the global age: A new angle of view toward "National identity"

Part I   "Things Japanese" and the nation[al] state" (「日本的なもの」と国民国家 "Nihon-teki-na mono" to kokumin kokka)

  1. Izumo and recent-period [early-modern] Japan (近代日本 kinday Nihon): The road to one more [another] identity
  2. The history of world cultural heritage and protection of Japanese cultural materials
  3. The spirtual "leaving of Asia" (精神の「脱亜」Seishin no "datsu-A") -- Formation of range of national identity (ナショナル・アイデンティティ nashonaru aidentiti) in recent-period Japan

Part II   "Culture" of [in] global society

  1. Regional culture of [in] the global age
  2. Cultural compounding and identity -- Japanese "culture" of [in] the global age
  3. Studying abroad and understnading of different cultures -- Centering on understanding the "culture" ["cultures" ?] of [in ?] Japan

Part III   "Japanese" of [in] the new age (新しい時代 atarashii jidai)

  1. Identity of Japanese and "nationality" (国籍 kokuseki) -- Groping for a new "national" (国民) concept [new concept of "national" (新たな「国民」概念 arata-na "kokumin" gainen)
  2. "Japanese" as "culture" [cultures? a culture?] -- One suggestion toward identity [identities? the identity?] of Japanese

This book, too, is full of detail -- much of it not particularly exciting or really relevant to real live and real people. A translator would be challenged to decide whether in one chapter 日本文化 should be "Japanese culture" and in another "Japanese cultures" -- but "cultures" would not be conventional even in most English writing on Japan.

Iizasa Sayoko's notion of "Japan archipelago affiliate"

Much of the content reads as though the writer was attempting to bring older "Nihonron" and "Nihonjinron" views up to present-day standards of scholarly "sophistication". A number statements represent common, often-repeated misconceptions -- such as the following remark by Iizasa Sayoko (飯笹佐代子) in her nonetheless interesting and valuable overview of -- Identity of Japanese and "nationality" -- Groping for a new concept of "national" (日本人のアイデンティティと「国籍」:新たな「国民」概念の模索) (Part III, Chapter 1, page 225, my structural translation).

現時点での日本の「国籍法」における血統主義の重視や一国籍志向、厳格な帰化制度からは、依然として単一民族志向で、均質な文化に基づく排他的な日本人=国民像が浮かび上がってくる。

From the importance of jus sanguinis (right of blood) and the singular nationality orientation, strict [severe] naturalization system of the "Nationality Law" of Japan at present -- the exclusive image of Japanese=national -- as ever based on a mono-ethnoracial-orientation, homogeneous culture -- comes floating up [surfaces].

On what does Iizasa base this?

Yes, since its start in 1899, the Nationality Law has been primarily a right-of-blood law. But then most nationality laws in the world have been, and are today, right-of-blood laws -- and a number of the relatively few right-of-soil states are placing residency conditions on birthright nationality.

During the decades that Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen were parts of Japan, people affiliated with exterior territorially were legally different from each other and from Interior subjects -- for good legal reasons. Yet they were one and all "Japanese" by virtue of their nationality -- and were therefore "nationals" as well as "subjects" of the Empire of Japan.

Though Japan's Nationality Law today is essentially the same as the 1899 Nationality Law with respect to the "importance" it places on jus sanguinis -- it is also, like the 1899 law, based on territorial affiliation of population registers with Japan as a sovereign state. How, then, can the Nationality Law itself be "exclusivist"?

Japan's Nationality Law has always had fairly standard provisions for naturalization, and from 1873 to 1950 Japanese laws allowed aliens to become "Japanese" through marriage and adoption. At the time Iizasa was writing her article for the NIRA book, over 15,000 aliens were naturalizing in a typical year. So how "strict" could the naturalization system be?

True, for a period of time after 1952, the Ministry of Justice imposed extralegal constraints on naturalization. But restrictive and legally questionable "administrative guidance" cannot be blamed on the Nationality Law.

Iizasa's allegation that the Nationality Law is in any way responsible for the alleged "equation" of "Japanese" with "nationals" ignores certain other legal facts.

Doesn't the "equation" of "Japanese" (日本人) in the 1899 Nationality Law with "subject" (臣民 shinmin) in the 1890 Constitution -- and therefore with "national" (国民 kokumin), which was also used to refer to people who possessed Japan's nationality, regardless of race or ethnicity -- mean precisely that the Nationality Law has not been exclusive?

Doesn't the shift from "Japanese" to "national" in the 1950 Nationality Law -- to correspond with the use of "national" in the 1947 Constitution -- represent merely an abstraction of "Japanese" as sovereign affiliates of the state, rather than as subjects of sovereign emperor?

The 1947 Constitution leaves the determination of qualifications to be a "national of Japan" -- just as the 1890 Constitution left the determination of qualifications to be a "subject" -- to statutes. Both the 1899 and 1950 nationality laws based qualifications primarily on lineal descent from a "Japanese" (1899 law) or "national" (1950 law) -- meaning someone who possesses a principle domicile (本籍 honseki) in Japan -- defined as all territories within Japan's sovereign dominion -- regardless of the race or ethnicity of the people who are principally domiciled in these territories.

So where is the legal "exclusion"? What else could "nationals of Japan" (日本国民 Nihon kokumin) mean -- except "Japanese"? Aren't nationals of France "French"? Nationals of Canada "Canadians"? Nationals of the Republic of Korea "ROKoreans"? Regardless of their personal racioethnic identity? And regardless of what ethnonationalists and other racialists may think?

Iizasa is unhappy with the various ways that "Japanese" and "kokumin" are racialized, even in some government reports. She cites as an example of a report from a "Nationals commitee on education reforms" (教育改革国民会議 Kyōiku kaikaku kokumin kaigi) that was headed "To Japanese" (日本人へ) and spoke of "Japanese" in terms of "you who have common ancestors" meaning those who were born in Japan their ancestral land, and in whose blood Japan's traditions flowed (page 227).

All well and good. Racialism -- and its encouragement of racism -- is rampant. This, though, has nothing to do with the Nationality Law per se, or with its administration.

The real problem with Iizasa's thesis is the manner in which she uses the alleged "equation" of "Japanese" (日本人) with "nationals" (国民) as a springboard for inventing a new -- and totally unnecessary term. Rather than confront "blood and soil" ethnonationalism within the framework of Japan's perfectly civil Constitution and Nationality Law -- she wants to complicate the vocabulary of legal status.

Iizasa proposes that Japan head toward a "comprehensive [inclusive] concept of 'national'" (包括的な「国民」概念 hōkatsu-teki-na "kokumin" gainen) -- and suggests that this "provisionally" be called Japan islanders [Japan archipelago affiliates] (日本列島民 Nihon rettō min) (pages 227-229). She believes that "with this idea of 'Japan islanders' it would become easier to surmount the wall of 'nationality' that rises in the discussion of Alien suffrage" (page 229).

"Japan residents"

I don't think so. Introducing a new in no way surmounts "nationality" barriers. Nationals will still be nationals, and non-nationals will still be aliens.

Besides, there is already a perfectly good word -- Japan residents (日本住民 Nihon jūmin). As a legal term, Residents (住民 jūmin) embraces everyone who is registered as living in Japan -- without regard to their nationality. As such, they are all "affiliates" (民 min) -- equally in status -- of the municipality in which they are registered, and of the prefecture that embraces the municipality.

Their equality in status is not matched by an equality in elements of citizenship -- for obvious reasons. Nationals and alieans are treated differently. But then not all nationals are treated the same, and not all aliens are treated the same. Elements of citizenship are not simply about "nationality".

In any event, providing some or all alien residents most or all of the rights of suffrage that most nationals now exercise is merely a matter of changing related laws -- not status.

More importantly, side-stepping racialist associations of "national" with "Japanese" actually encourages such racialism. Conditions for all people in Japan -- nationals of all races and ethnicities, and all aliens regardless of their nationality, race, or ethnicity -- would more quickly and positively improve by stressing that -- legally -- "nationals of Japan" are Japanese regardless of their racioethnic ancestry -- as are aliens equally non-Japanese regardless of their ancestry.

Conditions would more quickly improve were people in Iizasa's position to unequivocally stress that Japan, as a state, has no choice except to embrace a comprehensive understanding of the equation of "nationals" with "Japanese" -- while embracing aliens into national society even to the extent of making them "nationals" in all but name.

Iizasa -- a career NIRA researcher who has a doctorate in sociology and has done research in Canada and Australia -- clearly sympathizes with the idea of giving some aliens some of the rights now limited to nationals. This goal would be more quickly attained were whe to endorse the idea of "alien suffrage" within the legal framework of "nationality" as an essentially non-racial, non-ethnic status.

And advocating that "Japanese=nationals" is a purely civil status -- which legally permits "Japanese=nationals" to identify however they please racioethnically, religiously, culturally, linguistically, or otherwise -- would certainly be welcome by the several million and growing "Japanese=nationals" who do not fit the "Yamato minzoku" steretype -- and yet have no trouble declaring, in public, that they are "Nihonjin" and even taking a measure of pride in Japan's national flag.

Companion volume

The following, third, volume appeared at about the same time, apparently as part of a "triology" on globalization issues. However, I do not have it, and have not seen it.

勝俣誠

Katsumata Makoto グローバル化と人間の安全保障:行動する市民社会
Guroobaru-ka to ningen no anzen hoshō: Kōdō suru shimin shakai
[Globalization and safety assurance (guarantees of security) of (for) humans: Civil society in action]
<Globalization and Human Security: Civil Society in Action>
NIRA チャレンジ・ブックス
[NIRA challenge books]
東京:日本経済評論社、2001年8月
Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Hyoronsha, August 2001
401 (421?) pages, hardcover

Publicity for this gook gives me the impression that it concerns mainly other, especially undeveloped countries, and focuses on political and social "security" in the sense of freedom from fear and want.

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Japan

Japan as used in this table refers to the sovereign state of Japan consisting, today, of 47 prefectures and their incorporated municipalities. Disputed territories, meaning several islands claimed by both Japan and neighboring states, are not included, though the point is moot, since the people who inhabit or occupy some of these islands are not in fact subject to Japanese laws.

I will not, here, venture into the complications of overseas missions, flagships, and other "virtual" extensions of Japan's sovereign territory. Nor will I address issues concerning the rights and duties of Japanese or Japan-affiliated aliens outside Japan's geographic borders.

Within Japan, however, it is important to keep in mind Japan's essential regionality, which reflects the history of how the country became a state in the second half of the 19th century. While not as independent as the states which form the United States of America, Japan's prefectures are nonetheless semi-autonomous polities, as are the municipalities within each prefecture.

All people who reside in Japan, and some people who reside outside Japan, are subject to a hierarchical nesting of national and local laws. Because of differences in municipal and prefectural legal orders, this may result in different qualities of citizenship for residents of similar status in different municipalities.

In this sense, Japan is like most other countries in the world, including the United States, where similar status in different legal jurisdictions may result in different treatment.

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United States

In this table, United States will variously refer to (1) just the union of (now 50) states, (2) the constitutional federal republic comprised of the (now 50) states and the District of Columbia (Washington, DC), or (3) the state which, as a member of the United Nations, includes not only the federal republic but its territories and possessions -- among other possible meanings, all of which will be clear in context.

Again, I will not delve into the complexities of the virtual territories which exist outside a state's actual geographical territories -- which in the case of the United States includes, most significantly, overseas military bases. Nor will I address other situations in which US federal codes may reach beyond America's geographic borders.

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Affiliation

I use affiliation to mean a legal bond with a polity or legal order. The bond may be passively or actively acquired. Most affiliations are confirmed by some sort of legal procedure, such as registration.

Polity affiliation

Polity affiliations include legal (1) national bonds with a state such as Japan or the United States, (2) subnational bonds within legal jurisdictions within states, such as prefectures in Japan and states in the United States, and (3) bonds with districts, municipalities, and other smaller subnational jursdictions. National bonds, though usually overarching in international law, are not necessarily the most binding in domestic law.

Actively and passively acquired affiliation

Nationality through birth is inevitably passively acquired. Nationality obtained later in life, espectially as a result of a volutional act like petitioning a state for permission to naturalize, would be actively acquired.

Residential affiliation

Residential affiliation is my term for any legal status that is based on residence in a state (Japan or the United States), or in subnational polities nested within the state, such as a municipality (city, town, village), possibly within a county or district, within a state, province, or prefecture of the state.

Residential affiliation is usually established through some form of registration, or by some act (such as establishment of a local address, ownership of property, payment of taxes) which satisfies local definitions of residency.

An individual may have more than one residency status. In both Japan and the United States, for example, aliens have a visa or other status which defines their bond with the state and permits them to reside within the state -- plus residential statuses with the local polities in which they reside.

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Nationality

The highest level of state (national) affiliation is called "nationality" (国籍 kokuseki). A person who possesses a state's nationality is recognized as being part of the state's sovereign demographic territory or nation. In all states, a person's nationality status will effect how the person is treated under the state's laws.

In all general contexts, I use nationality to specify a civil (i.e., non-racial, non-ethnic) bond with a state such as Japan or the United States. Only when describing usage in, say, the English versions of the laws of the People's Republic of China, will I use "nationality" in a racioethnic sense.

The United States -- but not Japan -- defines some of its citzens as members of racioethnic "nations" (federally recognized Native American tribes). And the United States -- but, again, not Japan -- racializes its people through the use of federally defined race boxes (racioethnic classifications used on census and other government forms). However, the United State -- unlike China -- does not subdivide its overarching civic nationality into racioethnic categories.

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Nationals and aliens

I use the term national to refer to a person who possesses a state's nationality.

I use the term alien in relation to a state to mean a non-national of the state -- in other words, a person who do not possess the state's nationality, including a stateless person.

Only when speaking of the domestic laws of certain states will I sometimes use "national" differently or not at all. US laws, for example, generally differentiate "US citizens" and "US nationals", and PRC laws speak only of "citizens" and not "nationals" of PRC. Note, however, that even in US legal usage, "national" can embrace both "US citizens" and "US nationals" as persons who possess US nationality. And while PRC prefers not to regard regard its people as "public (civil) affiliates" (citizens) rather than "national affiliates" (nationals), from the viewpoint of international law people who possess PRC's nationality are its "nationals".

Nor do I use "national" in the sense of "national origin" -- an expression still widely used in the United States to mean "race" or "ethnicity". I recognize, of course, that "nation" and "national" continue to be used with their older "racioethnic" nuances -- despite the fact that the United Nations does not (in fact cannot) recognize any of its member states as racioethnic "nations".

The Chinese, Sino-Korean, Sino-Japanese, and Sino-Vietnamese term most commonly used to mean "nation" (or "nationality") or "national" in their racioethnic sense is 民族 (C mízú, SK minjok, SJ minzoku, SV dân tộc). The same compound is also used to mean "people" (or "peoples") and "people's" (or "peoples'") when these words are used to refer to a group or population as a racioethnic entity.

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Citizenry, citizens, and citizenship

Every state has to relate with other states, and otherwise accommodate the relationships that enable human interaction, whether political, economic, or personal. Therefore, everey state has laws that govern movements of its own nationals and aliens across its borders, laws that permit some aliens to reside within its borders, and laws that allow some aliens to become nationals.

The extent to which aliens, as aliens, are able to participate in a state's national and local societies depends on state and local laws. However, all states and their local societies to some extent have to accommodate resident aliens as members of the state and local societies in which they live and engage in the activities permitted by their legal statuses.

What, then, do we call a society, state or local, which includes both nationals and aliens? What do we call the members of such inclusive societies? And what do we call the rights and duties that come with status as a member of such a society?

Citizenry

I call the collective population of individuals who reside in any society, without regard to nationality or other status differences, a citizenry. A citizenry of a society might include some people who do not literally reside in the society, but the citizenry is minimally composed of its residents.

A citizenry is therefore a population of people who are affiliated with a polity through residence. The residents are reached by various laws that define their rights and duties in terms of their various attributes, which may include nationality.

The polity could be a state (state), a substate (subnational) or local entity like a municipality, or a suprastate (supranational) entity such as the European Union. The polity could even be an organization like a corporation. They polity could ben be the entire world.

Citizens

The members of a citizenry are its citizens. People affiliated with a polity other than by residence are not necessarily its citizens. Minimally, however, all resident affiliates -- persons who reside in a state, local, or other society -- are members of its citizenry hence "citizens".

Citizenship

By citizenship I mean the condition of being reached by laws that define one's rights and duties as a member of a society -- minimally, not necessarily limited to, the society in which one resides. Whereas "citizenry" and "citizen" are lables for physical demographic entities -- one a group, the other an individual member of the group -- "citizenship" is an abstract reference to the parameters of freedoms and obligations that come with especially residential affiliation.

Elements of citizenship

Elements of citizenship is my fancy expression for the concrete "rights and duties" that come with a legal status that qualifies one to be a resident of a state or local society. I speak of "elements" merely to stress that "citizenship" is a complex set legally provided freedoms and legally imposed obligations, which will vary according an individual citizen's personal legal status -- whether national or alien, minor or adult, male or female, whatever.

National and alien citizens

Not all citizens -- members of a citizenry -- are legally equal, as state and local laws to some extent inevitably differentiate people by nationality, residential status, gender, age, and other personal attributes, and define different elements of citizenship according to such attributes.

Since all states draw a nationality line nationals and aliens, in state and local societies that define some elements of citizenship according to nationality, it is useful to speak of "national citizens" and "alien citizens". This is no different than speaking of, say, "minor citizens" and "adult citizens" or "male citizens" and "female citizens".

American usage

Laws in the United States divide people who possess the nationality of the United States into "citizens" and "nationals". The vast majority of Americans are "citizens" who have learned in their history and civics classes to refer to their possession of "citizenship" rather than nationality.

Most Americans are not aware of the "citizen/national" distinction in their own domestic laws. Moreover, in their belief that "citizens" and "citizenship" are universal expressions, Americans reflexively use these terms when talking about other countries. Such habits of thought and reference seriously inhibit a comparative discussion of elements of citizenship in countries which use different metaphors to define their state and local citizenries and citizens.

Japanese usage

Japan's laws are a case in point. Japan's national and local laws define neither "citizen" nor "citizenship" but only "national" and "nationality". When it comes to elements of citizenship, they define rights and duties in terms of affiliation and legal status, including nationality and residency status.

In Japan, there is no need to speak of "citizens" or "citizenship" in the American sense, because everyone who is a legal resident of Japan, whether or not the person is a national of Japan, is legally a member or "citizen" of Japan's state and local societies or "citizenries". The question is not about being a not being a "citizenry" or "citizen" -- but is rather about the class of collective "citizenry's" community citizenship, or the class of an individual "citizen's" personal citizenship.

While there are no legal terms in Japanese that correspond to "citizen" and "citizenship" in US law, the term "shimin" (市民) is increasing used to refer to a member of any community as a "citizenry" -- regardless of formal affiliations like nationality or residency, or rights-of-suffrage. For more about this use of the term, see shimin under Words having currency after World War II section of "Legal terminology" under the "Glossaries" feature of this website.

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Affiliation and status in Japan

The equation of "citizenship" with "nationality" in American idiom, and other effects of America's obsession with the words "citizen" and "citizenship", have led many people writing in English to (1) conflate "Japanese nationality" (which exists) with "Japanese citizenship" (which does not exist) -- and (2) to regard "citizenship" in reference to any country as something singular, absolute, and inviolable.

Reports by some Americans on so-called "citizenship" in Japan are likely to have a "more like us" missionary zeal in their advocacy that, for example, Japan switch from a "right-of-blood" to a "place-of-birth" principle in its Nationality Law, make it easier for aliens settled in Japan to naturalize, adopt an immigration policy that accommodates new aliens, whatever.

Writers in Japan who have been strongly influenced by talk of "citizens" and "citizenship" in the United States are also apt to conflate "nationality" and "citizenship" and otherwise not attempt to understand how nationality laws, and laws that define elements of citizenship, have actually operated, historically and today, in either country.

Japan's critics, at home and abroad, typically allege or imply that Japan is still a "closed" country, unreconstructedly racist and xenophobic in its laws and policies regarding national and ethnic minorities -- compared with countries like the United States, which if not always a role model is seen to be more open, inviting, and accommodating of strangers and others who stand out in the mainstream.

Nationality and citizenship

Nationality and citizenship are in fact entirely different. In all countries, nationality is a legal status denoting an individuals primary affiliation with a state. Under Japanese law, and under international law, people who possess Japan's nationality are nationals of Japan. Under US law, people who possess US nationality are either US citizens or US nationals, whereas under international law (and even according to the broadest sense of "national" in US law) both are just nationals.

Nationality, then, is a legal status or attribute one either has or does not have -- like a specified age or gender, height or weight, level of education, mental state or legal capacity, or criminal record. Citizenship, on the other hand, is not a status, but a set of rights and duties that derive from and vary with several legal statuses and legally defined attributes, including nationality.

Legal accommodation

The larger question, of course, is to what extent a country's laws and policies enable an alien, meaning someone who does not possess the country's nationality, to live in a manner much like its own nationals, defined as those who have its nationality.

This article will examine the differentiation of national and alien statuses and the laws that define rights and duties in terms of such legal statuses. See the articles in the related features for a closer look at the specific elements of citizenship available to aliens in Japan, and a comparison of Japan and the United States with respect to citizenship.

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Nationals as state affiliates

By "nationals" I mean persons who possess a state's nationality and as such are members of its larger non-racial, non-ethnic "demographic territory" or "nation". This is the sense in which "nation" has continued to be used in the name of the "United Nations" as an organization of "states".

As used here, "nationals" embraces domestic laws of states variously refer to as "nationals" and/or "citizens". Some countries (Japan, ROC, ROK) refer to their state affiliates as "nationals" (国民 kokumin). Other countries (PRC, DPRK) refer to their state affiliates as "citizens" (公民 kōmin). The United States differentiates its state affiliates as either "citizens" or "nationals". Internationally, state affiliates are generally referred to as "nationals" although sometimes expressions like "nationals or citizens" are found.

Nationals of Japan

Japan's laws codify "national" and "nationality". A "Japanese national" or "state affiliate of Japan / affiliate of the state of Japan" (日本国民 Nihon kokumin) as a result of possessing the "nationality" or "state affiliation-by-registration" (国籍 kokuseki) of Japan. The conditions for being such are stipulated in the Nationality Law (国籍法 Kokusekihō).

Neither Japan's Nationality Law, nor America's Immigration and Nationality Act, are laws of citizenship. Japan's Nationality Law defines only "nationals" of Japan and does not touch upon the rights and duties of nationals or non-nationals. America's Immigration and Nationality Act differentiates between "citizen" and "national" of the United States but does not itself define the rights and duties associated with the various kinds of citizens and nationals that commonly possess US nationality.

Family registers as national registers

Japanese nationality is based on family law related to "family registration" or "family affiliation-by-registration" (戸籍 koseki). Qualifications for nationality are equated with qualifications for membership in a household register affiliated with a municipality that is part of Japan's sovereign dominion. Acquisition and loss of Japan's nationality are therefore matters of acquiring or losing status in a Japanese family register.

Japanese nationality is primarily acquired through birth according to the principle of jus sanguinis (right of blood). However, because family registers are essentially territorial entities, acquisition through descent (parental ties, not race or ethnicity) is possible only when a parent or the parents are affiliated with Japan through territorial registration. Some children, however, are able to acquire Japanese nationality through the principle of jus soli (right of soil).

Right-of-blood acquisition anywhere

Under Japanese law today, wherever one is born in the world, if one's father or mother is Japanese, and proper notifications of acknowledgement and/or birth are filed in a timely manner to a competent Japanese office in Japan or overseas, one will qualify for acquisition of Japanese nationality through birth. Japanese nationality is never automatically acquired -- except in the sense of "by automatic operation of the law" if and when a legally authorized person complies with laws concerning notifications of acknowledgement and/or birth for purposes of family registration. Late notifications can result, and have resulted, in failure to acquire Japanese nationality.

One acquires Japanese nationality, wherever born, because the father or mother is a national of Japan -- meaning that the father or mother is a member of family register under the jurisdiction of a municipality that is part of Japan's sovereign dominion. In this sense, Japan's "demographic territory" is an extension of its "geographic territory". The right-of-blood principle is therefore tied to registration in the state's sovereign territorial, not to race or ethnicity.

Place-of-birth acquisition in Japan

Japan's Nationality Law secondarily operates according to the principle of jus soli (right of soil). A child born in Japan, to parents neither of whom are known, or both of whom are stateless, will acquire Japanese nationality through birth -- again, so long as proper notifications are made -- in such cases, however, after authorization by a family court to establish a register.

Municipal registrars have the authority to register a qualified child in an existing family register, or to create a new register for the child on the basis of an existing register, but cannot create a new register out of whole cloth or thin air, so to speak. In place-of-birth cases, the family court does not permit or grant nationality, but merely confirms that the circumstances of birth comply with the law, which will then automatically apply.

The family court's confirmation is merely a formality when both parents are stateless and their legal status has already been established by their alien registration. In cases of a foundling, however, confirmation that neither parent is known will be based on a more thorough investigation. The abandoned infant's apparent racial traits, while having no bearing on the decision, might influence the direction of the investigation, as would a description of hold-up suspect as "looking" or "speaking" like a "foreigner".

Place-of-birth nationality in US

A person born within the United States -- meaning the state called the United States, which includes the Union of States, the District of Columbia, and some commonwealth and other territories -- will generally qualify for acquisition of US nationality by right-of-soil. Whether the person is then regarded as a "citizen" or just a "national" of the United States -- and what kind of citizen or national -- will depend on where the person is born or later resides in the United States.

In some US territories, the determination of whether a person born in the territory is a citizen or a national has been based on a right-of-blood principle. In other words, right-of-blood would determine the quality of a person's nationality after right-of-soil has determined that the person had nationality.

Residency requirements in right-of-blood acquisition

Outside US territory, meaning in a foreign country, such as Japan, American nationality laws have generally recognized acquisition of US nationality through right-of-blood. However, the right-of-blood principle has been constrained by both gender and residency conditions. Today, at least one parent has to have been an American who satisfied a US residency requirement. A child born in Japan to either of my children, both of whom are US citizens, will not qualify because neither has satisfied the current residency requirement.

Japan's Nationality Law has not, as yet, imposed a residency requirement on the acquisition of Japanese through birth. When it comes time to revise the law to deal more objectively with multiple nationality, there may be provision that condition acquisition when born overseas on whether a Japanese parent has lived for a specified period of time in Japan.

Japan as a mononational state

Japan, like most states, is a mononational state. Japan defines only one quality of nationality. The value of Japanese nationality as a legal status is the same for all who possess it. All nationals are simply Japanese. All Japanese are simply nationals.

This does not mean that all Japanese are equal under the law, for age, gender, domicile, and a number of other legally defined attributes are causes for legal distinctions among individuals that may result in their different treatment. It means only that Japanese nationality is not itself subclassified for those who presently possess it.

For people who possess Japanese nationality, there is no difference in the quality of nationality according to how it was acquired, through birth by right-of-blood, through birth by right-of-soil, or later in life through notification (such as by parental acknowledgement) or by naturalization.

Aliens who were once Japanese, and wish to reacquire Japanese nationality, will find that it is easier to acquire again when previously it was acquired through birth. But this distinction is made among only aliens, not Japanese.

See jus sanguinis and jus soli for further details.

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Aliens as non-state affiliates

By "aliens" I mean persons who are non-nationals because they do not possess a state's nationality.

Japanese law specifically defines an "alien" (外国人 gaikokujin) as a person who do not possess Japan's nationality. An alien is therefore a "non-national" (非国民 hikokumin = kokumin ni arazu) in the literal and original sense of this word -- although today the term is more generally used to disparage a national who is seen to be somehow unpatriotic.

The term "alien" thus embraces both "foreign national" (someone who possesses a foreign nationality but not Japanese nationality) and "stateless person" (someone who does not possess any nationality). As a legal term, then, the meaning of 外国人 (gaikokujin) -- literally "person of another country" -- has been extended to include 無国籍者 (mukokusekisha) -- literally "person without a nationality".

Aliens, depending on the nature of their connection with Japan, are "affiliated" with Japan to the extent that various Japanese laws may extend to them. Aliens who legally reside in Japan are obvious examples of "alien affiliates".

However, a person who resides in Japan as an "illegal alien" -- and someone who has been deported from Japan and now resides in another country as a "deportee" -- are also reached and affected by Japanese laws that define the degree of their personal "affiliation" with Japan, and the rights and duties that come with this affiliation.

Statuses of residence

Alien affiliation, while essentially based on lack of Japanese nationality, is further determined by an alien's status as an alien. Most aliens who live in Japan acquire a status of residence which determines restrictions on their period of stay and activities. All visa statuses -- some extendable or changeable, others not -- limit both periods of stay and activities. Non-visa statuses, which do not restrict activities, range from long-term to permanent.

Permanent residents (永住者 Eijūsha) come in two kinds. The first kind are usually called just "Permanent residents" (永住者 Eijūsha) but are sometimes referred to a "General permanent residents" (一般永住者 Ippan eijūsha). The second kind are called "Special permanent residents" (特別永住者 Tokubetsu eijūsha).

General permanent residents (GPRs) acquire permission to premanently reside in Japan by filing an "Application for permission to permanenty reside [in Japan]" (永住許可申請書 Eij? kyoka shiseisho) at a regional Immigration Bureau office. Permission is discretionary. Though such permission is popularly called "right to permantly reside" (永住権 eijūken), no such right is defined by law.

Special permanent residents (SPRs) have acquired their status in two ways, depending on how they are classified in the law that provisions SPR status. Most people who became SPRs at the time the law came into force from 1 November 1991 did so as "Statutory special permanent residents" (法定特別永住者 Hōtei tokubetsu eij?sha), meaning that they were upgraded to SPR status from other legacy treaty-related statuses through automatic application of the law at the time of its enforcement. In other words, they did not have to apply for the status, but received it as a matter of course.

Other SPRs have acquired the status by timely filing of an "Application for permission to specially reside permanently [in Japan]" (特別永住許可申請書 Tokubetsu eij? kyoka shiseisho) at their local municipal hall. The local municipal hall is responsible for vetting the particulars of the application before submitting it to the Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice is legally bound to approve the application so long as the particulars satisfy the conditions established by the SPR law.

SPR status, like GPR status, is not by law a "right" to permanently reside in Japan. However, SPR status is virtually a right, since even when "permitted" it is done so under statutes that virtually guarantee its acquisition in perpetuum by qualifying descendants of SPRs.

SPRs -- for a variety of reasons related to the legacy of Japan's sovereignty over Taiwan and Korea as Chōsen, at which time Taiwanese and Chosenese were Japanese -- have come to be treated as quasi Japanese nationals. As such they are exempted from certain regulations that apply to other aliens, including GPRs, such as scanning of fingerprints and faces at ports of entry.

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Residents as local polity affiliates

Affiliation with Japan, as nationals, is established by registration in a family register affiliated with Japan's sovereign territory. Family registration constitutes national registeration.

Japanese are Japanese because they are affiliated with Japan through a family register. Aliens are such because they lack such affiliation with Japan.

However, status based on nationality and status based on residence are entirely different. Nationals and aliens alike establish their legal status as a resident and affiliate of a municipal and a prefectural polity through municipal registration.

Nationals other than those who have declared an overseas address as their legal residence, and aliens in Japan who are obliged to register as a condition of their status of residence, establish their residential status in Japan by registering in the municipality where they reside. The registration procedures are presently different, but their effects are the same. Nationals and aliens who are registered in the same municipality have equal status as residents and affiliates of the municipality and its prefecture.

Resident and alien registration

Japanese register in a municipality through what is called "Resident registration" (住民 Jūmin tōroku), which results in them being recorded on the municipality's "Residents roll" (住民票 Jūminhyō). Aliens -- who also become a "resident" (住民 jū) of a municipality and a prefecture through municipal registration -- establish their affiliation through "Alien registration" (外国人登録 gaikokujin tōroku) in the municipality where they reside.

The division of municipal registers is mostly an artifact of how the two registration systems came to evolve. Both serve the purpose of establishing which nationals and which aliens are legal affiliates of the municipality -- and by extension the prefecture which has jurisdiction over the municipality -- in order to administer their rights and duties as municipal and prefectural affiliates. Both are therefore overseen by the same "municipal affiliate section" of a municipal hall.

Municipal and prefectural affiliation

Japan's laws codify affiliation with municipal and prefectural polities within its sovereign national dominion. Municipal (区市町村 ku-shi-chōson) or "ward, city, town, village" affiliation is primary. Prefectural (都道府県 to-dō-fu-ken) affiliation derives from municipal affiliation.

To the extent that Japanese nationality rests on a foundation of municipal family registers, nationality itself derives from local registration. In other words, should Japan ever ceded a prefecture, or even just a municipality, to another state, in principle all Japanese whose nationality is tied to family registers in the ceded polities could lose their Japanese nationality -- barring agreements and measures to the contrary.

Equality of local affiliation

All persons, Japanese and aliens alike, are equally affiliated with the municipality in which they are legally registered as residents. In turn they also become residents and therefore affiliates of the prefecture which has jurisdiction over the municipality. As such, their statuses as residents and affiliates of the municipality and the prefecture are equal.

As local affiliates, Japanese and alien residents of X city in Y prefecture are are equal in status. Their different nationality will affect their treatment in matters determined by nationality, but their affiliation status is equal.

Like nationality, local residential affiliation is an attribute one has or does not have. Such affiliation is governed by the Local Autonomy Law.

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Nested rights and duties

Japanese and alien residents of Japan are legally tied to through nested affiliations. Their national affiliations exist within prefectural affiliations which exist within municipal affiliations.

Registration wise, municipal affiliations are primary. Legally, however, a municipality, though to some extent an autonomous bodies within a prefecture, is nonetheless bound by certain prefectural laws -- while prefectures, to some extent autonomous within the state, are bound by certain state laws, as are the municipalities.

All laws governing family registration, resident registration, and alien registration are national laws. Administration of such laws is merely delegated to the local polities.

The Nationality Law, also a national law, is required by the Constitution, which stipulates that the conditions for being a national of Japan will be determined by statutes. However, the vetting of most notifications which result in an infant, child, or adult being enrolled in a family register, as a status act which results in acquisition of Japanese nationality, is delegated to municipal registrars.

A number of other national laws, including international conventions that Japan has ratified, also extend to all residents (and even some non-residents) of Japan. Numerous local laws and ordinances reach only municipal or prefectural residents.

The aggregate of all such laws and ordinances determines the list of elements (rights and duties) of citizenship for each individual to whom such laws and ordinaces apply. And the rights and duties are territorially nested -- sometimes down to the by-laws of the neighborhood association to which a municipal resident usually belongs.

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Individual variation

Since an individual's affiliations are territorially nested -- municipal, prefectural, national, supranational -- and as local laws and ordinances somewhat vary -- and because personal attributes such as nationality (and an alien's status of residence) also vary -- there are many possible sets of elements of citizenship.

Of course, individuals who share common nests and traits -- residents of Abiko who have the same registration status, whether as Japanese or as aliens with the same status of residence -- and who are of the same sex, age group, mental capacity, et cetera -- will share the same or very similar elements of citizenship. In other words, "citizenship" is not something that is equally shared among the "citizenry" -- the affiliates of a given national or local polity -- at large.

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Territorial registration and citizenship in Japan

The following table shows how various kinds of registration in Japan establish a person's national and local affiliations which, as legal statuses, affect the person's rights and duties -- or elements of citizenship -- under Japan's national and local laws.

Much of the information already introduced in the above "Affiliation and status" section is re-stated here, though a bit differently, and in a way that attempts to show the importance of faimily and domicile registration in Japan and the essential territoriality of such registration statuses.

See Residents as citizens of Japan (below) for a fuller comparision of nationals and aliens with respect to legal residency as a requisite for the determination of applicable their rights and duties under Japanese law.

The same sort of table -- though it would be considerably more complex -- could be created for the United States, where most elements of citizenship for citizens, nationals, and aliens alike are also generally based on legal residency.

See Elements of citizenship in Japan and the United States (Table) for a fuller look at the different kinds of "citizens" and "nationals" defined by US law.

Territorial registration and citizenship
The legal foundations of national and local affiliation in Japan

Honseki and jusho

Japan's laws define national affiliation with Japan as a state (Japanese) and local affiliation with a municipality and prefecture (Japanese and aliens). Both affiliations are essentially territorial.

A person's legal status in Japan is based on two addresses. One address determines whether the person is affiliated with Japan as a national. The other determines whether the person, regardless of nationality, is affiliated with a municipality and in turn a prefecture in Japan.

A honseki (本籍) or "principal register [affiliation]" is the address, municipality, prefecture, or country of a person's primary legal affiliation. Having a honseki in Japan is tantamount to possession of Japanese nationality and hence to being Japanese.

A jūsho (住所) or "place of habitation" is where one lives for the purpose of pursuing a livelihood. Having a legal "domicile" in a ward, city, town, or village of Japan makes one an affiliate of the municipality and of the prefecture which has jurisdiction over the municipality.

State (national) affiliation based on territorial honseki status

Nationals (Japanese)

Aliens (non-Japanese)

Honseki of Japanese

The honseki of Japanese nationals is the address on their "koseki" (戸籍) or "family [household] register". The register, which is overseen by the municipality which has jurisdiction over the place of the address, establishes a territorial affiliation between the "family" and the municipality.

The address also establishes a territorial affiliation between the family (household) and the prefecture having jurisdiction over the municipality. And since Japan has jurisdiction over the prefecture, the register also establishes the family's territorial affiliation with Japan as a state.

For this reason, having a honseki (koseki) in Japan is taken as tantamount to possession of Japanese nationality (日本国籍 Nihon kokuseki), which is in turn is tantamount to being a Japanese national (日本国民 Nihon kokumin). When asked to write their "honsekichi" (本籍地) or "place of principal register [affiliation]", Japanese will write their koseki address. At times this may be abbreviated to just the name of the municipality or even the prefecture.

Japanese with other nationalities

Japanese law regards Japanese who also possess the nationality of one or more other states as Japanese. However, they are required to declare their intention to be Japanese and abandon the other nationalities.

"Abandonment" of a foreign nationality is not the same as "renunciation" under the laws of the foreign country which governs the nationality, however, and so "abandonment" does not necessarily result in loss of the foreign nationality. Hence some Japanese remain, legally, multiple nationals.

Legally, the Minister of Justice is empowered to view certain acts, on the part of a Japanese national as a national of another state, as legal grounds to initiate denaturalization procedures. Metalegally, possession of another nationality may disqualify a Japanese national from certain government posts in Japan.

Renunciation of Japanese nationality

Japanese with the nationality of another state that is recognized by Japan are able to renounce their Japanese nationality. Hence Japanese who are also nationals of, say, the United States, or of the Republic of Korea (ROK) or the People's Republic of China (PRC), may renounce their Japanese nationality and become aliens.

Japanese who possess an unrecognized nationality, such as of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), will not be able to renounce their Japanese nationality -- at least not so long as they are legally residents of Japan, for to do so would leave them stateless -- to say nothing of the problems they might have in acquiring a status of residence. They might be able to do so in a third country, such as the PRC, which recognizes both Japanese and DPRK nationality, and where both Japan and DPRK have embassies.

Abandonment of Japanese nationality

Japanese who, under the laws of another country, abandon their Japanese nationality, stand to lose Japanese nationality and become aliens in the eyes of Japanese law. Since ROK has a similar provision in its laws, Japanese who also have ROK nationality, and who abandon their ROK nationality under Japanese law, stands to lose their ROK nationality.

The United States, however, does not recognize abandonment as sufficient cause for loss of US nationality. Hence Japanese nationals and ROK nationals who also have US nationality will not lose their US nationality simply by abandoning it under Japanese or ROK laws.

Honseki of aliens

Japanese law defines an alien as a person who does not possess Japanese nationality. An alien is therefore a person who does not have a honseki (koseki) in Japan.

Not having a honseki (koseki) in Japan implies that one has a honseki in another country. Hence an alien's honseki is taken to be the alien's country of nationality. However, some aliens have no nationality.

On Japanese forms with a honseki box, an alien who is a national of another state or an affiliate of a non-state entity will write the name of the entity in the box. An alien who has no nationality or other entity status will write "stateless" or 無国籍 (mukokuseki), literally "without nationality".

Stateless aliens

A stateless alien has no entity affiliation, not even with a legacy entity like Chōsen. Some stateless aliens may possess a passport of another state, but if the passport is invalid, or if the state otherwise refuses to recognize the alien as one of its nationals, Japan will regard the alien as stateless.

If Japan recognizes that a stateless alien is domiciled in Japan and issues a status of residence and travel documents to that effect, then other states and state-like entities will usually also treat the alien as domiciled in Japan.

Multinational aliens

Most states recognize only one nationality at a time, and so aliens in Japan with multiple nationalities will generally be treated as having only one of the nationalities.

The passport an alien uses to enter Japan will generally determine the alien's nationality treatment in Japan. If an alien is found to be in possession of more than one passport, the most recently issued passport will usually be taken as the basis for treatment.

Japanese with a legacy honseki

Chishima (Kurils) became part of Japan in 1875 and eventually part of Hokkaido. Karafuto became part of Japan in 1905, was largely administrated under Interior (prefectural) laws, and was formally incorporated into the Interior entity of the Empire of Japan as a prefecture in 1943.

Inhabitants of Chishima and Karafuto who were enrolled in local Japanese family registers became Japanese. People with Karafuto and Chishima honseki did not lose their Japanese nationality from 1952 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect.

Chishima and Karafuto as legacy honseki

Chishima and Karafuto registrants who had been evacuated from these territories before their invasion and occupation by the Soviet Union in 1945, or who were later "repatriated" to "Japan" as defined by GHQ/SCAP, were recognized as "Japanese" as defined by GHQ/SCAP and under Japanese law.

I have not heard any reports of a person in Japan today who possesses a legacy Chishima or Karafuto status, as registrants of these areas would have been reaffiliated with a municipality elsewhere in present-day Japan. New registers would have been established for those whose registers had been lost, but apparently most registers were removed from the two territories before or during their evacuations.

Aliens with a legacy honseki

Taiwanese and Chosenese -- meaning people with honseki in Taiwan and Chōsen as parts of the sovereign dominion of the Empire of Japan -- lost their Japanese nationality when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect in 1952. Those who, when the war ended, had been in the parts of Japan that were occupied by the Allied Powers, and who remained, and their descendants, became aliens.

Unless such people migrated to the nationality of a state recognized by Japan, they remained affiliates of "Taiwan" and "Chōsen" as legacy entities. A number of aliens in Japan continue to be "Chosenese" as a legacy status.

Taiwan as a legacy honseki

Taiwan was formally part of Japan from 1895 to 1952. During this period, Taiwanese -- people with honseki in Taiwan -- were Japanese. On the day Taiwanese lost their Japanese nationality in 1952, Japan and the Republic of China (ROC) -- its government by then in Taiwan -- signed a peace treaty in which Japan recognized ROC as the government with effective jurisdiction over Taiwan registers.

Most people in Japan with Taiwan honseki had already migrated to ROC nationality through procedures initiated by ROC. Apparently a few held out for the day they would be able to migrate to the nationality of the People's Republic of China (PRC), which came into existence in 1949. That day came in 1972 when Japan switched its recognition of "China" from ROC to PRC.

At the time of this writing, I am not aware of any alien in Japan who is "Taiwanese" as a legacy status -- i.e., an alien whose honseki is in "Taiwan" as a legacy entity -- as opposed either to Taiwan as a province of PRC (from the point of view of PRC and states that recognize PRC's claim to Taiwan), or to Taiwan as a province of ROC (which has jurisdiction of some islands which are part of another Chinese province).

Chosen as a legacy honseki

Chōsen was a Japanese entity from 1910-1952. During this period, Chosenese -- people with honseki in Chōsen -- were Japanese. Chosenese in Japan today are either former Japanese nationals or descendants of former Japanese nationals.

Japan abandoned its claims and rights in Chōsen in 1952 and formally recognized the Republic of Korea (ROK) as the successor state of Chōsen in 1965. Japan has yet to normalize its relationship with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)

Under Japanese law, Chosenese cease being Chosenese only when they migrate to the nationality of a recognized state, which in most cases has been ROK. Those who claim to be DPRK affiliates, even if they have managed to obtain DPRK documents, continue to be treated as Chosenese, since Japan is not diplomatically postured to recognize DPRK affiliation.

Chosenese are identified simply as affiliates of "Chōsen" on documents issued by the Japanese government. Because they lack a nationality, they are de facto stateless. But because they possess an entity affiliation with the defunct territory of Chōsen, they are not de jure stateless. For most statistical purposes, they are lumped together with ROK nationals.

Japan's nationality laws

Japan can govern only the acquisition or loss of its own nationality. It can have no say in the the acquisition or loss of another state's nationality. However, it can condition possession of its own nationality on whether a person also possesses another state's nationality.

By the time Japan's first Nationality Law (国籍法 Kokusekihō) came into effect in 1899, Japan had taken its sovereign demographic territory or "nation" to be the aggregate of all people with a "koseki" (戸籍) or "family (household) register [affiliation]" in a local polity within Japan's sovereign geographic territory. Today this means a municipality in a prefecture. The address on the koseki defines one's "honseki" (本籍) or "principle register [affiliation]".

The Nationality Law, which is based on family law, determines the conditions for being a national of Japan through birth or later in life, and the conditions for losing Japanese nationality. Since proof of possession of Japanese nationality is having a honseki (koseki) in Japan, the nationality law sets down the rules for entering and leaving such a register.

Through birth at time of birth

The Nationality Law adopts primarily right-of-blood (family lineage) and secondarily right-of-soil (place of birth) principles for acquisition of nationality and hence membership in a family regisister through birth at time of birth (by timely notification).

Later in life

Criteria for acquisition of nationality later in life include parental acknowledgement after birth (by timely notification) and naturalization (by discretionary permission followed by timely notification).

Territorial cessions

While there are thus biological, territorial, and discretionary conditions for becoming Japanese, possession of nationality -- being Japanese as a legal affiliation -- derives from the affiliation of one's honseki (koseki) with Japan's sovereign geographical territory. If Japan cedes part of its sovereign territory to another state, then the registers affiliated with the territory lose their affiliation with Japan, and members of the registers stand to lose their status as Japanese.

Territorial cessions are generally faciliated by treaties. And such treaties generally make transitional measures for people in an affected territory to make decisions about their nationality status.

However, some treaties have caused territorial losses without providing transitional measures. This was the case when Japan abandoned all claims to Taiwan and Chōsen in the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

Nationality laws of other states

Japan does not, and cannot, legislate the conditions under which a person acquires, possesses, or loses another state's nationality. This applies to aliens as well as to Japanese. In other words, Japan has no say in how another state defines its nationality.

Recognition of other nationalities

Japan does, however, have the right to recognize, or not recognize, another state's nationality. Recognition of another entity as a state, though, generally obliges Japan to recognize its nationality.

If Japan recognizes a foreign entity as a state, and if an alien has authentic documents which certify that the alien is a national of the state or a stateless resident of the state, then Japan will treat the alien accordingly. From Japan's point of view, an alien is primarily affiliated with the state whose laws govern the alien's nationality or stateless status.

Whether the nationality of a state exists in the eyes of another state depends on whether the other state recognizes it as a state. The Republic of China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea both consider themselves to be states, but their nationality exists only the eyes of states that recognize their claim to statehood.

Republic of China

ROC, though one of the founding members of the United Nations, is no longer a member, and is now recognized -- as a state -- by very few member states. Japan, and other states which used to recognize ROC as a state, continue to recognize it as an entity, though consider it an entity related to the People's Republic of China.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

DPRK was admitted to the United Nations on the same day and hour in 1991 as the Republic of Korea, which for many years the United Nations has considered the only legitimate government on the Korean peninsula. Moreover, many countries recognize both DPRK and ROK as states, though both states in effect claim essentially the same geographic and demographic territories.

Some states, however, including Japan and the United States, do not yet fully recognize DPRK as a state, in the sense that they have not yet entered into agreements with DPRK to exchange diplomatic missions and otherwise "normalize" their relations with DPRK as a state. This effects the treatment of people with DPRK passports.

Four kinds of entities

An alien's honseki is taken to be the entity with which Japan regards the alien to be legally affiliated, whether Japan (1) recognizes the entity of affiliation as a state (Republic of Korea, People's Republic of China) [state entity], or (2) understands the entity to be a state but has yet to formally recognize the entity as such (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) [quasi-state entity], or (3) does not recognize the entity as a state (Republic of China) [non-state entity], or (4) views the entity as a territory which no longer exists except as an artifact of law (Chōsen) [legacy entity].

Passports are formally recognized as evidence of nationality only in the case of (1). In the cases of (2) and (3), passports are viewed as forms of identification but not as evidence of nationality (as when ROC or DPRK nationals are permitted to enter Japan). In the case of (4), there is no entity, hence no passport, hence no formal or tacit nationality.

Migration of nationality

Japan will recognize any legitimate migration from one nationality status to another within Japan. Japan does not itself agency a migration to another state's nationality, or between the nationality of one state and other, but will recognize a migration if it recognizes the state.

Taiwanese migrated to ROC nationality through registration facilitated by ROC missions or agents. Because Japan (then) recognzied ROC, it recognized that a "Taiwanese" (as a legacy status of a person with a honseki in "Taiwan") had become an ROC national.

Chosenese at one time became ROK nationals through Mindan, which acted as an agency of the ROK government. Japan formally recognized such nationality migrations when it normalized its relationship with ROK. Because Japan has not yet normalized its relationship with DPRK, it does not recognize migrations from Chosenese status to DPRK status.

American-Israeli dual national in Japan

Say, hypothetically, that an American resident of Japan were to negotiate an Israeli passport out of the Israeli embassy in Tokyo. Presumably he would have to report this acquisition of another nationality to the Ministry of Justice, via the municipal hall where he has registered as an alien.

His status of residence and re-entry permit, however, are stamped in his US passport. As an American/Israeli dual nationality he might have the option of changing his official alien status to that of Israeli, since the Israeli passport would be the most recently issued. But then he would have to have to have his residency and re-entry permits transferred to his Israeli passport, which he would then use to exit and re-enter Japan.

Should such a dual national renounce his US nationality at the US embassy in Tokyo, there would be no question that his alien status would change from American to Israeli, for Japan recognizes Israel.

Again, hypothetically, say that Japan, for whatever reason, did not recognize Israeli. Japan would have to ignore the person's Israeli passport. And since he no longer has a US passport, in Japan's eyes he would be stateless.

The US embassy, knowing that Japan did not recognize Israel, would probably have refused to denaturalize an American in Japan who also possessed Israeli nationality. Even though the United States might itself recognize Israel and its nationality, the US embassy in Japan would be motivated not to put Japan in the position of having to deal with an alien whose nationality might disqualify him for residence in Japan.

All very hypothetical -- but these are the issues that matter when it comes to the push and shove of nationality laws and policies.

Municipal and prefectural affiliation based on residential registration

Japanese (Resident Registration)

Aliens (Alien Registration)

Japanese domiciled in Japan

Possession of a honseki in Japan generally gives a person the right to be in Japan on the strength of being Japanese. However, rights and duties of local affiliation do not apply to Japanese who are not registered as a resident of a municipality. In other words, being Japanese is not a sufficient condition for a Japanese individual to be regarded as a resident of Japan.

Japanese domiciled overseas

Japanese can, however, declare that they are domiciled overseas in lieu of having a legal residence in Japan. Those who file such notifications of overseas residence are considered not to have a local affiliation in Japan, and hence they will not have access to programs, including National Health Insurance, that are administered by municipalities. Nor will they be subject to local taxes or obliged to pay National Pension premiums. And of course they will not be eligible to vote in local elections.

Japanese residents of other countries may, at any time, re-establish local affiliation in Japan by registering as a resident of a municipality. They may immediately resume participation in National Health Insurance and will again be eligible to vote in local elections.

The honseki of Japanese who reside overseas continues to at the address on their family register. Even if they are nationals of the country in which they reside, they will continue to have access to services at Japanese consulates related to status as nationals of Japan, including passport renewal, and of course matters of private law such as marriage, divorce, birth, death, adoption, acknowledgement, whatever -- all of which will involve their family register in Japan.

There is no limitation on the time that a Japanese national can reside outside Japan as a resident of another country. Whether the person is also a national of the country has no bearing on their status as a Japanese national -- so long as they have declared their intention of being Japanese -- and so long as the Minister of Justice does not find cause to denationalize them.

Aliens domiciled in Japan

Aliens are in principle not allowed to reside in Japan without permission in the form of a status of residence. A status of residence comes in the form of a visa -- of which there are numerous kinds, all of which restrict activities and limit period of stay -- or of a long-term to permanent non-visa status that does not restrict activities.

Aliens outside Japan generally need to apply for a status of residence before coming to Japan. People who become aliens while in Japan, as a result of losing Japanese nationality or through birth in Japan, acquire status by application within Japan.

With some exceptions, an alien who remains in Japan for more than 90 days is required to register, within 90 days, as an alien in the municipality which has jurisdiction over the address where the alien takes up residence. Such registration establishes the alien as an affiliate of the municipality and, in turn, of the prefecture which has jurisdiction over the municipality.

Effects of status of residence

How an alien is treated as an affiliate of a municipality will vary somewhat with local laws. The main constraint on the alien's activities, however, will be the alien's status of residence. Status of residence will also determine how frequently an alien has to make appearances at a municipal hall to keep local authorities informed of renewals or changes of status, and how frequently the alien has to renew the registration itself.

Even aliens who are essentially entitled by treaties and other special measures to be in Japan do not have permit-free statuses of residence. However, most aliens in Japan who lost their nationality in 1952, and their descendants born and raised in Japan, qualify as Special Permanent Residents, under laws that accord them this status on the basis of the effects of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. These aliens are increasingly being treated more on a par with Japanese.

Renewal of registration

All resident aliens are required to periodically renew their local registration. The period varies with status of residence. Permanent residents are required to renew every seven years.

Permission to re-enter Japan

All aliens in Japan with a status of residence that would allow them to re-enter Japan may do so -- if, before leaving Japan, they have been issued a re-entry permit. The longest re-entry permit is for three years. With few exceptions, three years is the longest any alien can remain outside Japan in a single stretch.

In practice, even permanent residents will have to step foot in Japan more frequently than once every three years. Moreover, while absent from Japan, resident aliens will continue to be responsible for fulfilling duties of local residency, such as payment of taxes and premiums as required.

Biometric scanning upon re-entry

Most classifications of aliens, when entering Japan, whether for the first time or with a re-entry permit, are required to allow the tips of their two index fingers and their face to be scanned. Special Permanent Residents, however, enter through gates for Japanese nationals, where they are not subjected to scanning.

Maintaining validity of status

Resident aliens are by definition domiciled in Japan. Unlike Japanese, they are not allowed to register a domicile address outside Japan, in lieu of being domiciled in Japan, and retain a permitted right to be in Japan or to return to Japan.

Domiciled aliens must endeavor to maintain the validity of both their status of residence and their municipal registration. Any act on the part of a domiciled alien -- inside or outside Japan -- which is contrary to the alien's status of residence or which violates alien registration rules -- regardless of the alien's status of residence, whether a visa, or a long-term or permanent status -- will jeopordize the alien's status of residence and the alien's qualified "right" to remain in Japan if in Japan, or to return if outside.

Status as local affiliates

Both Japanese and aliens become affiliated with local polities in Japan by registration as residents in a municipality. Prefectural affiliation derives from municipal affiliation.

Municipal registration establishes where a person attends public schools, votes, pays local income and property taxes, applies for health insurance and other locally mediated benefits, among numerous other matters related to the rights and duties that come with municipal (and in turn prefectural) affiliation. Matters involving rights and duties at a national level also typically require that a person, regardless of nationality, be duly registered as a resident of a municiaplity.

Equality of status

Japanese law does not differentiate between nationals and aliens in terms of their status as municipal and prefectural affiliates. Japanese and alien affiliates of Kawagoe city, and therefore also of Saitama prefecture, for example, are equal with regard to their civil status as "residents" of these polities under Japan's Local Autonomy Law.

Variable rights and duties

Equality of status is not, however, cause for equality of treatment. Nationality, like age and certain other legally defined personal attributes, will be a factor in determining, for example, who is qualified to vote in national or local elections, or hold national or local offices, or hold certain national or local civil service posts.

Residents living overseas

A resident of Japan is regarded as being legally domiciled in Japan. Resident Japaneses and aliens alike may live overseas, but living overseas is not the same as being domiciled outside Japan.

Rights and duties of local affiliation continue to apply to resident Japanese and aliens who live outside Japan for whatever period of time. Resident Japanese and aliens are expected to pay local taxes as required and National Health Insurance premiums if enrolled. Japanese adults are expected to pay National Pension premiums, as are enrolled aliens.

Rights and duties of local affiliation will continue to apply to resident Japanese until which time they declare that they are domiciled overseas.

Resident aliens will lose their residency status as soon as their status expires, or as soon as they fail to return to Japan within the time limit of a re-entry permit, or as soon as they fail to renew their alien registration as required by law -- or as soon as they declare their intention to abandon their residency in Japan. In the meantime, they are subject to Japanese laws that apply to them as local affiliates.

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Status and suffrage

Japan has been moving toward suffrage for all its legal adult residents since the Meiji period. Eligibility spread in the usual way, from tax-paying males in 1890 (Meiji) to all males in 1925 (Taisho), then also to women in 1946 (Showa). Nationals residing overseas were accommodated in 2000 and 2007 (Heisei).

Residence

Minimum length of continuous residence in the locality where one is registered, originally one year, became six months after World War II, but is now three months.

Age

Also after the war, the age of eligibility to vote dropped to 20 from 25, and the age to hold office as a Diet member dropped to 25 from 30. The Diet has been debating whether to drop the age to vote to 18, an age which already defines a number of eligibilities, including driving. The age at which girls can marry without parental consent, now 16, will probably be set to 18, the age at which boys can marry on their own authority.

Territoriality

Nationality and residence have been the only overarching qualifications for suffrage since the start of representative elections in 1890. Though the Empire of Japan came to include Taiwan, Karafuto, and Korea as Chōsen, in addition to the Interior prefectures, all imperial subjects of these four territories -- as Japanese nationals -- were equal under the House of Representatives Members Election Law -- until after World War II.

Until the end of World War II, Japanese who were territorially Taiwanese and Chosenese were able to vote and hold offices in the Interior if they had settled there. After the war, however, those who remained in "Japan" as defined by GHQ/SCAP lost their eligibility for suffrage, thanks mainly to GHQ/SCAP orders to treat them as "non-Japanese" for Occupation purposes. The exclusion of Exteriorites from postwar political participation was effected by restricting suffrage to residents who were subject to the Family Register Law -- an Interior law that did not extend to Taiwan or Chōsen registers.

See "Exterior subjects" below for further details.

Nationality

The main suffrage issue today is whether aliens should be able to vote or hold office -- and if so which aliens in which elections, and which offices. One facet of the alien suffrage issue is the legacy status of former Taiwanese and Chosenese, who lost their Japanese nationality in 1952 as an effect of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and their descendents.

See "Alien suffrage" below for further details.

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Meiji suffrage some males

Meiji suffrage is characterized by the sharing of imperial sovereignty with the nobility -- the peerage -- before it began to be shared with commoners.

1890 House of Peers order

Members of the House of Peers (貴族院 Kizokuin) were determined under the "House of Peers order" (貴族院令 Kizokuin rei). The order, promulgated on 11 February 1889 as Imperial Ordinance No. 11, was effective from from 27 February 1890.

The order provided for several classes of House of Peers membership. Male Imperial Family members, and male heads of households with the rank of prince or marquis, were automatically members by virtue of their caste or status. Male heads of households with the rank of count, viscount, or baron became members if elected by their rank peers.

The order was later amended to permit the imperial appointment of people of exceptional accomplishment, people of high social standing in Tokyo, Hokkaido, Karafuto, and the prefectures, and people of renown residing in Chōsen and Taiwan.

The decree was abolished as of 3 May 1947, when the new Constitution and related Diet and election laws came into effect. On this date, the Imperial Diet was replaced by the present Diet, consisting of the House of Councilors and House of Representatives, all of whose members were elected by popular vote.

1890 House of Representives election law

Japan's first popular election law was the House of Representatives Members Election Law (衆議院議員選挙法 Shūin giin senkyo hō). Promulgated as Law No. 37 on 11 February 1889, it went into effect from the following year. Its provisions governed elegibility to vote in the 1st House of Representatives election of 1 July 1890.

The 1890 version of the law limited elegibility to (1) male national subjects aged 25 or older, who had (2) registered and resided in their locality for one or more years, and (3) paid at least 15 yen direct tax for at least one year, and paid income tax for at least three years.

Article 6 stipulated three conditions for qualification to be an elector (voter).

  1. A person who is a male Japan subject (日本臣民 Nihon shinmin) and is 25 years of age or over
  2. A person who, one fully one year or over prior to the date of compilation of the voter name roll, established one's honseki in the prefecture, and has resided there and continues to reside there
  3. A person who, for fully one year or over prior to the date of compilation of the voter name roll, has paid 15 yen or over in direct national taxes in the prefecture, and continuouly pays [such taxes]; provided that, regarding income tax, for fully three years or over prior to the date of compilation of the voter name roll, [the person] has paid and continuously pays this

Article 8 held that, to qualify as someone who could be elected, one had to be 30 years of age or older, have paid at least 15 yen in direct taxes for a year or more, and paid income tax for three or more years.

About 450,000 men (1.1 percent of Japan's population) were elegible to vote in the 1st House of Representatives election -- and some 93.7 percent voted.

Hokkaido, Okinawa, Ogasawara

Article 111, the last article of the 1890 law, stipulated "In Hokkaido, Okinawa prefecture, or the Ogasawara islands, [the government] shall not enforce this law until it comes time in the future to similarly carryout the general regional system [in these territories]" (北海道沖縄県及小笠原島ニ於テハ将来一般ノ地方制度ヲ準行スルノ時ニ至ルマテ此ノ法律ヲ施行セス).

1900 House of Representatives election law

An entirely rewritten law was promulgated on 29 March 1900. The revisions applied to the 7th House of Representatives election of 10 August 1902.

The phrasing significantly changed. Now one would "possess the right to vote" (選挙権を有する senkyo-ken o yū suru) if meeting the listed qualifications.

"Imperial subject" rather than "Japan subject"

The condition of being a male subject aged 25 or over remained the same. However, where the 1890 law had qualified the subject as a "Japan subject" (日本臣民 Nihon shinmin), the 1900 law qualified the subject as an "Imperial subject" (帝国臣民 Teikoku shinmin).

The residency and tax conditions also changed.

A voter now had to have resided "within the election district" for one year or more. Regardless of the location of one's honseki, one could now vote in the area where one resided.

The tax bar also came down. A voter now one had to have paid only 10 yen or more of land tax for at least a year, or for at least two years have paid 10 yen or more of direct tax, or 10 yen or more in some combination of land tax and direct tax, throughout the period.

Article 10 similar provided that a male subject at least 30 years of age shall "possess the right to be elected". However, there were no tax constraints.

Article 11, however, provided that an otherwise eligible man would not possess such a right if he was (1) an incapacitated person (禁治産者 kin-chisan-sha) -- literally "a person forbidden to manage [one's own] property [affairs]" -- or a quasi incapacitated person (準禁治産者 jun-kin-chisan-sha), or (2) had not paid compensation he was obligated to pay as settlement of a debt, or was otherwise in arrears or bankrupt, or (3) was a "deprived-public-rights person" (剥奪公権者 hakudatsu kōken sha) or a "suspended-public-rights person" (停止公権者 teishi kōken sha), or (4) had received a sentence to a punishment of confinement or greater from the time he received the a court had fixed the sentence.

Note the use of 公権 (kōken) -- meaning "public rights" or "civil rights" as opposed to "private rights" (私権 shiken). In the context of this law, "public rights" are those related to suffrage. "Deprivation of public [civil] rights" implied a permanent disfranchisement, whereas "suspension of public [civil] rights" implied a temporary disfranchisement.

This term comes closest to be a metaphor for politically [suffrage] defined "citizenship" in Japanese law. It did not, however, survive in postwar election laws.

About 980,000 men (2.2 percent of Japan's population) were eligible to vote in the 10 August 1902 election.

Okinawa and Hokkaido

Article 100, the last of the general provisions of the 1900 law, stipulated that "Regarding matters in which is is difficult to apply the provisions of this law in Hokkaido and [or] [in] Okinawa prefecture, it shall be possible to establish separate provisions by imperial ordinance (北海道及沖縄県ニ於テ本法ノ規定ヲ適用シ難キ事項ニ付テハ勅令ヲ以テ別段ノ規定ヲ設クルコトヲ得).

Article 101, the first of the supplementary provisions, provided that "As for this law, it shall be enforced from the next general election; provided that, in Hokkaido (except Sapporo district, Otaru district, and Hakodate district) and [in] Okinawa prefecture, [the government] shall separately determine by Imperial Ordinance" (本法ハ次ノ総選挙ヨリ之ヲ施行ス但シ北海道(札幌区、小樽区、函館区ヲ除ク)沖縄県ニ付テハ勅令ヲ以テ別ニ施行ノ期日ヲ定ム).

A 4 April 1902 revision of the 1900 law explicity did not apply the law to Okinawa (縄県には未施行). The law was not applied to Okinawa until Imperial Ordinance 58 of 29 March 1912 (Meiji 45-3-29).

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Taisho suffrage

"Taisho suffrage" is chararcterized by relaxations in requirements for popular male suffrage and finally the introduction of universal male suffrage in most parts of the Interior. All subject nationals who resided in Interior election districts and met residental requirements could vote and run for office.

All males in Interior

In 1919 the direct tax minimum was reduced to 3 yen or more. Then in 1925 the tax condition was entirely abolished, which in effect gave the right to vote to all male subjects aged 25 years or older.

1925 House of Representatives election law

The House of Representatives Members Election Law was amended in 1925 to permit all age-qualified male subjects to vote in ordinary elections. The final version of the bill, passed after several years of wrangling in the Diet, did away with the condition in early drafts that would have limited suffrage to males who paid taxes.

The House of Peers deleted "because of poverty" (貧困ノタメ) from the government's original bill and expanded the scope of disqualification. In a joint session of the two houses on 13 February, however, a compromise was stuck and the phrase "on account of poverty" (貧困ニ因リ) was restored to the draft.

The effect of adding "on account of poverty" after adding "receives support" was to enable family members to receive support from each other for reasons other than poverty hence still be qualified (see details below).

The amended bill passed the House of Representatives on 2 March and House of Peers on 26 March. The heavily revised law was promulgate as Law No. 47 on 5 May 1925. According to the first of its supplementary provisions, it would come force from the next general election.

The first general "male common election" (男子普通選挙) or "universal male election" was the 16th House of Representatives election of 20 February 1928. The number of eligible votes increased fourfold from 3.30 million (less than 6 percent of the population) to 12.41 million (over 20 percent).

Qualifications and disqualifications

Article 5 of the 1925 law stipulated the basic conditions of eligibility for possession of right to elect and right to be elected.

Article 6 listed criteria for disqualification.

Residency requirement

Article 12 of the draft of the law as submitted to the Diet shows that the minimum continuous residency required was to be reduced to six months. By the time the law was pomulgated, though, the requirement had reverted to one year.

Ogasawara and Chishima

Article 150, the last provision in the main body of the law, stipulated that the law would not, for the time being, be enforced in Ogasawara (Tokyo) or Chishima (Hokkaido).

Text of Articles 5, 6, 12, and 150

The text in the following table is my transcription of a scan of the copy of the law promulgated that was on 5 May 1925 (Taisho 14-5-5) by Hirohito (裕仁) acting as Regent for his father Yoshihito (嘉仁). The scan was retrieved from the website of 国立公文書館 (National Archives of Japan). It is attribted, however, to アジア歴史資料センター (Japan Center for Asian Historcal Records), which is a branch of the archives.

The transcription shows the text as received except I have used present-day kanji. Corrections are also shown as received. The structural translation is mine.

The received text shows the original bill as printed with agreed-to revisions made by hand. Deleted text is neatly lined out. Added text, if any, is shown to the right of the deleted text. I have shown such revisions in Articles 3 and 12 by overstriking deleted text and embolding added text.

1925 House of Representatives Members Election Law

第二章
選挙権及被選挙権

Chapter 2
Right to elect and right to be elected

第五条

帝国臣民タル男子ニシテ年齢25年以上ノ者ハ選挙権ヲ有

帝国臣民タル男子ニシテ年齢30年以上ノ者ハ被選挙権ヲ有ス

Article 5

A person who is a male who is an imperial subject and who is 25 years of age or over shall possess the right to elect.

A person who is a male who is an imperial subject and who is 30 years of age or over shall possess the right to be elected.

第六条

左ニ揚ケル者ハ選挙権及被選挙権ヲ有セス

一 禁治産者及準禁治産者

二 破産者ニシテ復権ヲ得サル者

貧困ニ因リ生活ノ爲公私ノ救助ヲ受ケ又ハ扶助ヲ受クル者 貧困ノ為公私ノ救恤ヲ受ケル者>

四 一定ノ住居ヲ有せサル者

五 六年の懲役又ハ禁錮以上の刑ニ処セラレタル者

六 刑務第二編第一章、第三章、第九章、第十六章及至第二十一章、第二十五章又ハ第三十六章及至第三十九章ニ揚ケル罪ヲ犯シ六年未満ノ懲役ノ刑ニ処セラレ其ノ執行ヲ終リ又ハ執行ヲ受ケルコトナキニ至リタル後其ノ刑期ノ二倍ニ相当スル期間ヲ経過スルニ至ル迄ノ者但シ其ノ期間五年ヨリ短キトキハ五年トス

七 六年未満ノ禁錮ノ刑ニ処セラレ又ハ前号ニ揚ケル罪以外ノ罪ヲ犯シ六年未満ノ懲役ノ刑ニ処セラレ其ノ執行ヲ終リ又ハ執行ヲ受ケルコトナキニ至リタル迄ノ者

Article 6

A person cited to the left (below) shall not possess the right to elect or the right to be elected.

(1) An incompetent person or a quasi-incompetent person;

(2) A person who is an insolvent [bankrupt] person and has not gained a restoration of rights;

(3) A person who on account of poverty in order to live receives public or private aid or receives support;
A person who because of poverty receives a condolence;

(4) A person who does not possess a fixed residence;

(5) A person who has been disposed with a punishment of a sentence or confinement of six years or greater;

(6) A person who has committed an offense cited in the Penal Code, Part 2 [Offenses], Chapter 1 [Offenses against Imperial Family], Chapter 3 [External threats], Chapter 9 [Arson], Chapter 16 to Chapter 21 [Counterfeiting, forgey, perjury, false accusation], Chapter 25 [Official corruption], and Chapter 36 to Chapter 39 [Theft and robbery, fraud and extortion, embezzlement, stolen property], and has been disposed with a punishment of a sentence less than six years, until its execution is finished, or after coming to the execution not being received it comes to a period of time corresponding to twice the period of the punishment having passed; provided that when the period is shorter than five years [the period] shall be five years;

(7) A person who has been disposed with a punishment of confinement for less than six years or has committed an offense cited in the preceding item and has been disposed with a punishment of less than six years, until its execution is finished, or it comes to the execution not being received.

Offenses against Imperial Family

The Penal Code was first amended after World War II by Law No. 124 of 1947, promugated on 26 October 1947 and enforced from 15 November 1947. Among the several revisions, in Part 2 (Offenses), all of Chapter 3 (Concerning offenses against the Imperial Family), consisting of Articles 73-76, was deleted.

In other words, lèse majesté, or offenses against majesty, became impossible. The police could no longer arrest you for telling Emperor jokes in public -- even if you might still have to worry about right-wing assassins.

第三章
選挙人名簿

Chapter 3
Elector name rolls

第十二条

町村長ハ毎年九月十五日ノ現在ニ依り其ノ日迄引続キ六月 一年 以上其ノ町村内ニ住居ヲ有スル者ノ選挙資格ヲ調査シ選挙陣名簿ニ本ヲ調製シ十月十五日迄ニ之ヲ郡長ニ送付スヘシ

[ 以降省略 ]

Article 12

Town and village chiefs shall every year investigate persons who as of 15 September have until that day possessed a residence in the town or village continuously for six months one year or more, compile two elector name rolls, and by 15 October send [them] to the county chief.

[ Rest omitted ]

第十三章
補則

Chapter 13
Additional provisions

第百五十条

本法ハ東京府小笠原島並北海道庁根室支庁管内占守郡、新知郡、得撫郡及色丹郡ニハ当分の内之ヲ施行セス

Article 150

As for this law [the government] shall for the present not enforce it in the Ogasawara islands of Tokyo prefecture or in Shumushu county, Shimushiru county, Uruppu county, or Shikotan county within the jurisdiction of the Nemuro branch agency of Hokkaido Agency.

Chishima (Kurils)

Shumushu county included the islands of Northern Chishima closest to Kamchatka. Shimushiru [Simushir] and Uruppu counties embraced the islands of central Chishima. Shikotan county included only the island of Shikotan.

All the Chishima islands, and Karafuto (Sakhalin) were invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and continue to be possessed by Russia as the Kurils. Japan, however, still claims the southernmost islands, which it calls its "Northern Territories" (北方領土).

Hokkaido

Hokkaido, though a territory since 1869, became a prefecture in 1886 with the merger of Hakodate, Sapporo, and Nemuro prefectures under the Hokkaido Agency (北海道庁). Under the Local Autonomy Law, enforced from 3 May 1947, the agency became simply Hokkaido, and for a couple of years Hokkaido was treated more like other prefectures.

In 1949, however, Hokkaido was partly teathered to the Hokkaidō Development Bureau, which in 1950 became the Hokkaidō Development Agency (北海道開発庁). This agency was dissolved into the Hokkaidō Regional Development Bureau (北海道開発局) of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (国土交通省), which in 2008 was renamed the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. While a self-governing prefecture, Hokkaido thus remains under closer national government control than most prefectures.

Nemuro and Chishima provinces

From 1869, several provinces, including Nemuro province (根室国 Nemuro kuni) and Chishima province (千島国 Chishima kuni), were created within the territory of Hokkaido. All had earlier origins as territories under the suzerainty of the Matsumae domain.

Nemuro province had several counties, including Hanisaki, which embraced several villages, including the offshore island villages of Shikotan and Habomai.

Chishima province formally included the islands of Etorofu and Kunashiro. Etorofu was divided into three counties and Kunishiro was divided into two counties.

In 1875, Japan and Russia agreed that the island of Uruppu and other Kurile Islands to the north, which in 1855 Japan had recognized as belong to Russia, would be part of Japan, while Sakhalin (Karafuto), which in 1855 both countries had agreed to share, would belong to Russia. The islands were added to Chishima province and divided into the three counties of Shumushu, Shimushiru, and Uruppu.

In 1882, both Chishima and Nemuro provinces were incorporated into the newly formed Nemuro prefecture.

In 1885, Shikotan was separated from Hanasaki county, and in 1886, with the formation of Hokkaido Agency, it was transferred to and became a county of Chishima province. Habomai remained affiliated with entitites that today are part of Nemuro city.

Nemuro

Hokkaido continues to be subdivided into a number of "branch [sub] agencies" or "branch [sub] governments" which are now sometimes referred to as "subprefectures" (支庁 shichō). One such branch entity is Nemuro.

In addition to being the name of a province, Nemuro has referred to various entities. As a municipality it became Nemuro Umegae town in 1875, Nemuro town in 1900, and Nemuro city in 1957. The larger surrounding area became Nemuro prefecture in 1882. The prefecture became the Nemuro branch agency of Hokkaido Agency in 1886, and in 1897 the branch agency was reduced to its present much smaller size.

Nemuro continues to exist as a subprefectural entity with its seat in Nemuro city, and its jurisdiction continues to embrace -- from Japan's point of view -- the disputed islands of what Japan now calls its Northern Territories.

Northern Territories

Japan, when signing the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, agreed that it "renounces all right, title and claim to the Kurile Islands, and to that portion of Sakhalin and the islands adjacent to it over which Japan acquired sovereignty as a consequence of the Treaty of Portsmouth of 5 September 1905" (千島列島並びに日本国が千九百五年九月五日のポーツマス条約の結果として主権を獲得した樺太の一部及びこれに近接する諸島に対するすべての権利、権原及び請求権を放棄する).

Japan later claimed that by "the Kurile Islands" (千島列島 Chishima rettō) it intended to give up only the islands of Shumushu, Shimushiru, and Uruppu counties -- that these terms did not include the islands south of Uruppu, which were known as "Southern Chishima" (南千島 Minami Chishima).

On various maps and in other contexts, the collective names for the islands between the main island of Hokkaido and Kamchatka -- Chishima, Kurils, Kuriles -- have not always meant the same thing.

Southern Chishima, for example, has sometimes included only Etorofu and Kunashiri, while Shikotan and the Habomai have been viewed as parts of Hokkaido. This is the basis for the so-called "two-island solution" to the territorial dispute between Japan and Russia, according to which Russia would return at least the two smaller entities.

There is also some foundation to Japan's claim that it has generally understood the terms "Kurils" and "Kuriles" as embracing only the islands north of Etorofu. And there is no doubt that, under all treaties between Russia and Japan since 1855, the islands south of Uruppu -- Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan, and the Habomai group -- have been part of Japan.

Depopulation of northern islands

Pre-postwar election laws make it clear that Japan, for various reasons, did not establish election districts in four of the Chishima districts. The reasons it did (or could) not so becomes clearer when one looks at their populations.

Practically all native inhabitants of the islands that Russia ceded to Japan in 1875 migrated to either Kamchatka or to islands south of Uruppu if not to the Hokkaido mainland.

Populations of southern islands

The population of Chishima province in 1872, before the 1875 treaty, was only 437. The population of Shikotan, as of 15 August 1945, is supposed to have been 1,038.

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in publicity related to the Northern Territories, claim that at the time the USSR invaded and occupied the Chishima islands, some 17,291 in 3,124 households were living on the islands in the territory.

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Including Chosen and Taiwan subjects

Empires which incorporate new territories inevitably face the problem of how to legally accommodate the movements of people between territorial jurisdictions. Japan, when incorporating Taiwan, Karafuto, and Korea as Chōsen into its sovereign dominion, recognized that local inhabitants in registers under Japan's jurisdiction were Japanese.

Interiorites (including Karafutoans since 1943), Taiwanese, and Chosenese -- as Japanese -- were equal under the law as imperial subjects. Since the House of Representatives Members Election Law stipuled that male imperial subjects aged 25 or older would in principle have the right to elect, and those 30 or older would have the right to be elected, that included all Japanese -- regardless of their territoriality -- until after World War II.

Until the end of World War II, Japanese who were territorially Taiwanese and Chosenese were able to vote and run for office in an Interior election district if they had settled there for a year or more, were not wards or convicted felons or welfare recipients, and were literate enough to write names on ballots. Whereas no Japanese, not matter their territoriality, could vote in Taiwan or Chōsen, since there were no election districts in these territories. And of course no Japanese -- whether their honseki was in in Tokyo, Taipei, or Keijo -- could vote if they lived outside Japan, in Shanghai or San Francisco, say.

After the war, however, Taiwanese and Chosenese who remained in "Japan" as defined by GHQ/SCAP lost their eligibility for suffrage, thanks mainly to GHQ/SCAP orders to treat them as "non-Japanese" for Occupation purposes. No postwar laws explicitly exclude "Exteriorites" generally or "Taiwanese" or "Chosenese" specifically. How, then, did legislators legally exclude them?

Different legal jurisdictions

Though Taiwanese, Karafutoans, and Chosenese became Japanese when Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen became part of Japan, they continued to be primarily affiliated with Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen, whose jurisdictions remained external to the legal order of the Interior or prefectural entity. Moreover, each of the Exterior legal systems was different.

Mobility within the sovereign empire required provisions not only for imperial subjects who moved around within a territory, but more importantly for those who migrated to and settled in another territory. To what extent would imperial subjects be governed by laws applicable to the territory in which they resided, as opposed to laws that applied to the territory which had jurisdiction over their family register?

To whom, for example, should a conscription law apply? Only to Interior affiliates? Or also to Interior residents affiliated with an Exterior territory?

Domestic Interior laws concerning rights and duties typically began by stating that they would apply to all imperial subjects. If, in fact, the law were meant to apply only to imperial subjects affiliated with the Interior, then a clause would be added to qualify the application.

Since Interior affiliates were essentially defined by Interior family registers, and since the Family Register Law applied only to the Interior, the population to imperial subjects to which a domestic law would apply was typically qualified with phrases like "those subject to application of the Family Register Law" (戸籍法ノ適用ヲ受クル者 Kosekihō no tekiyō o ukuru mono), or "those not subject to application of the Family Register Law" (戸籍法ノ適用ヲ受ケザル者 Kosekihō no tekiyō o ukezaru mono). Phrases like these, which became boilerplate in prewar and wartime domestic laws, survive in a few postwar laws.

1927 Military Service Law

The 1927 Military Service Law, for example, obligated all male imperial subjects. However, its application was limited to Interior subjects, i.e., "those who were subject to application of the Family Register Law".

Late in 1942, Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen were placed under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry, and in 1943 Karafuto was incorporated in the Interior.

Early in 1943, the registration limitation clause in the Military Service Law was amended to read "those subject to the Family Register Law or to provisions concerning family registers in the Chōsen Civil Matters Decree" (戸籍法又ハ朝鮮民事令中戸籍ニ関スル規定ヲ受クル者). Later in 1943, even this broader limitation was deleted, which meant the law now extended to all male imperial subjects regardless of their territorial register status.

Election laws

The House of Representatives Members Election Law, however, stated first "Japan subject" and then "imperial subject" -- meaning Japanese national or Japanese -- with no territorial restrictions. Until the 1925 revisions, which first governed an election in 1928, the main barrier was ability to meet the tax requirement. The vast majority of Interiorites were unable to qualify for this reason.

The number of qualifiers generally increased fourfold after the revised law came into effect. However, Chosenese were still less likely to qualify, as migrants from Chōsen were less likely to stay in one place much less settle there, and were more likely to be receiving some form of welfare, which would also disqualify them. They may also have been more likely to be illiterate, and therefore not been able to write names on ballots -- although in some election districts Chosenese were allowed to write names in hangul rather than in a kana script or in kanji.

However, no imperial subjects were disqualified because of their territoriality.

Postwar laws

Territoriality became a barrier only after World War II.

From the moment Japan signed the Instruments of Surrender on 2 September 1945, if not when Hirohito accepted the terms of the Potsdam Proclamation on 15 August, Japan lost its legal authority over Taiwan and Chōsen. It also lost its authority over Karafuto (a prefecture) and the Chishima islands (part of Hokkaido), over all of Okinawa and parts of Kagoshima and Tokyo prefectures.

On 4 October 1945, the Office of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, two days after it had moved into the Dai-Ichi Seimei Building, issued a memorandum to the Japanese government, concerning the Removal of Restrictions on Political, Civil, and Religious Liberties. The memorandum did not specifically address rights of suffrage.

The following day, the cabinet of Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko (1887-1990), who had become the prime minister on 17 August, resigned, on the grounds that it was unable to carry out SCAP's instructions. On 9 October, Shideharu Kijuro (1872-1951) became the prime minister and established a new cabinet. Then on 11 October, General Douglas MacArthur, in a meeting with Shideharu, verbally conveyed his so-called five-reforms, beginning with equality between the sexes, including rights of suffrage for women.

Apparently the cabinet had already decided, the day before Shideharu's meeting with MacArthur, to revise the election law to allow women to vote, reflecting efforts on the part of Ichikawa Fusae (1893-1981) and other postwar leaders of the push for women's suffrage which had begun during the Meiji period. Some accounts, though, state that the cabinet did not resolve to extend the vote to both men and women, 20 years and older, until 13 October.

The problem now arose as to what to do about Taiwanese and Chosenese in the prefectures. As imperial subjects, those who were qualified by age and residence, and were not disqualified for any number of listed reasons, were eligible to vote.

While some law makers and bureaucrats expressed concern about the effects of resident Taiwanese and Chosenese voting as a bloc, there was also discussion of the need to remove them from the franchise because they would soon be losing their nationality status and for that reason should not have a say in the future of Japan.

Since GHQ/SCAP had already begun treating Taiwanese and Chosenese, as well as Ryukyuans (mainly Okinawans), as "aliens", why should they be able to vote? There were two problems here. One is that all of these subjects were nationals of Japan. The other is that Okinawa, though now outside Japan's jurisdiction, was still legally part of the prefectural Interior as a matter of residual sovereignty.

The solution was to add supplementary provisions to the revision, one stating that, for the time being, the law would not apply to persons not subject to the Family Register Law, another stating that the law would not be enforced in Okinawa. This would exclude Taiwanese and Chosenese residing in Occupied Japan from eligibility -- while Okinawans domiciled in Occupied Japan would be eligible.

Those subject to Family Register Law

The "family register provision" (戸籍条項 koseki jōkō), as Mizuno Naoki calls the voter eligibility stipulation, was intended as a temporary measure to deal with several legal and political realities. First and foremost were the constraints GHQ/SCAP had put on the definitions of "Japan" and "Japanese".

Mizuno states that the draft decided upon by the Cabinet on 23 October 1945 included the provision that "Chosenese and Taiwanese of Interior residence also shall be persons who possess the right to elect and the right to be elected" (内地在住ノ朝鮮人及台湾人モ選挙権及被選挙権ヲ有スルモノナルコト). He also says the version passed by the Diet on 17 December 1945 stated, in a supplementary provision, that "The right to elect and the right to be elected, of those not subject to application of the Family Register Law, shall for the present be suspended" (戸籍法ノ適用ヲ受ケザル者ノ選挙権及被選挙権ハ当分ノ内之ヲ停止ス). (Mizuno 1996)

On 3 November 1945 -- while the Diet was still considering how to revise the election law, the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued SCAP a directive which defined "Japan" as including only its four main islands and some smaller islands, and ordered SCAP to (1) "take appropriate steps in Japan to effect the complete governmental and administrative separation from Japan of" Taiwan, Karafuto, and Korea, among several other territories, and (2) "treat Formosan-Chinese and Koreans as liberated peoples" with the stipulation that "They are not included in the term 'Japanese' as used in this directive but they have been Japanese subjects and may be treated by you, in case of necessity, as enemy nationals."

I do not know when this information became known to the Japanese government. Most likely they found out very quickly, or were able to conclude from how SCAP was already treating "Japan" and inhabitants who were affiliated with Taiwan and Chōsen.

The legal sense of exclusion

The law Mizuno refers to was Law No. 42 of 17 December 1945. The law provided for any election to be held on or after 20 December 1945 and through and including 19 December 1946.

Though subjecthood had effectively ended when Japan surrendered on 2 September 1945, the Election Law was tied to the 1890 Constitution. Like the Constitution, it used the term "subject" (臣民 shinmin).

The Election Law was revised in December 1945 mainly to accommodate universal suffrage, reduce the ages of eligibility to vote or run for office, and clarify the mechanics of setting up and holding elections within election districts. The revisions were made within the framework of the standing law. More fundational revisions of the law would have to await constitutional and other reforms.

Inevitabely, therefore, revisions were made without changing the term "subject". However, the revised law could not possibly have had effect beyond the territories that remained under the government's control and jurisdiction as allowed by SCAP under the terms of surrender. This meant that, in principle, "subjects" whose status as "subjects" was tied to territories outside what had become Occupied Japan would not be allowed to participate in the elections.

Since Occupied Japan was the Interior (prefectural) jurisdiction of the Empire of Japan minus a couple of prefectures and small islands that were parts of other prefectures, the supplementary provisions provided that rights of suffrage would for the time being be suspended for those to whom the Interior Family Register Law did not apply. Moreover, pending determinations of future Imperial Ordinances, elections would not be held in Okinawa and other parts of the Interior that were then outside the government's limited control and jurisdiction.

The Family Register Law was not extended beyond the prefectures. Parts of the law were applied to Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen through measures made specifically for these subnational polities, each of which was under its own legal system. No registers in these territories could be treated on a par with prefectural (Interior) registers until the territory was brought into the prefectural system. Only Karafuto made this migration into the Interior (prefectural) entity, in several steps after its transfer to Japan in 1905, and fully in 1943.

The exclusion of Taiwanese and Chosenese made perfect legal sense. The empire had been reduced to "Japan" -- an entity that was less than the prefectural Interior. And immediately after the formal surrender, the government of "Japan" began to take measures to accommodate the legal fact that it had abandoned its sovereignty over Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen.

The Republic of China would occupy Taiwan and ultimately be declared its successor state. Karafuto was already under Soviet control and undoubtedly it and the Kurils (or what Japan considered the Kurils) would be ceded to the USSR.

Then there was Chōsen.

Chōsen was not going to be occupied by a government that would be qualified to be its successor state. By the end of September 1945, it was occupied north and south by the USSR and the United States.

ROK and DPRK would not exist until 1948 -- and by 1950 the two entities, each claiming the same territory and people, would be locked in mortal combat. The war would end in a truce at the same 38th parallel in 1953 -- a year after the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect, without any resolution to the status of Chōsen.

Japan would not normalize its relationship with ROK until 1965. It is now 2009, and Japan and DPRK have not even begun to seriously talk about normalization of their relationship.

But none of this "future history" mattered only months after World War II. All that mattered in the winter of 1945 was that Taiwan and Chōsen were no longer within Japan's jurisdictional reach. Both GHQ/SCAP and the Japanese government anticipated that most affiliates of Taiwan and Chōsen in Occupied Japan would leave within the next several months, and those who remained would be subject to nationality settlements in future treaties with ROC and whatever state was formed on the Korean peninsula.

In the meantime, GHQ/SCAP was not insisting that the people the Allied Powers had "liberated" from Japanese rule be treated the same as "Japanese" in the forthcoming elections. They may still be nationals, but if GHQ/SCAP was treating then as "alien" nationals -- much as the United States had begun treating Filipinos as "alien" US nationals from 1935 -- then there was no reason to allow Taiwanese and Chosenese to vote.

For a more complete review of the issue of Family Register Law application, and the view of Mizuno and Kashiwazaki, see my review of Kashiwazaki 2000 in the "Nationality" section of the "Bibliographies and reviews" feature of this website.

Election areas

In fact, no imperial election laws limited suffrage by territorial affiliation. No distinctions were made between, say, "Interiorites" or "Chosenese" or "Taiwanese" or whatever.

The 1890 law stipulates "Japan subject" (日本臣民) because that was the term in the 1890 Constitution. The sovereign "empire" (帝国) at the time consisted only of "Japan" (日本).

By 1900, however, Taiwan had joined the sovereign empire and Taiwanese had become nationals and subjects. Hence the change in voter qualifications from "Japan subject" to "Empire subject". The new law did not categorically exclude Taiwanese.

The 1900 House of Representatives members election law and subsequent revisions specified only "male imperial subject 25 years of age or over" as the basic qualification for voting and holding office -- with reference to the election district in which one resided. All an imperial subject needed to qualify for suffrage in an election district was continuous residency in the area for one or more years.

Voting was based on residence in an established election district. Any imperial subject residing in an election district could vote in the area. Chosenese and Taiwanese who had migrated to and settled in an Interior municipality could vote and hold office if the municipality was in an election district. Interior subjects who migrated to and settled in Karafuto, or Chōsen or Taiwan, could not vote -- because there were no election districts in these territories.

Not all parts of the Interior had election districts. Subject nations who resided in Chishima (Kurils), which was under Hokkaido, or in Ogasawara (Bonin islands), which was under Tokyo, could not vote or run for office because these areas did not have election districts. In other words, they were not directly represented in the House of Representatives.

In short, voting for House of Representatives members was limited to designated election districts within the empire. Until 1945, there were no House of Representives election districts in Karafuto, which had become a prefecture in 1943, or in Taiwan or Chōsen. Hence it was not possible for anyone residing in these territories to vote for or run for local or national public offices.

Chosen and Taiwan election districts and suffrage

Suffrage was extend to Karafuto, and to Chōsen and Taiwan, on 1 April 1945. See Showa suffrage below for details.

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Diet member Pak Ch'un'gum (Boku Shunkin)

A number of Chosenese ran for, and were elected to, the assembly of the municipality in which they resided, if not for other offices related to their election district. While some were elected in areas where many Chosenese had settled, others depended more on their ability to gather support from the local Interiorite population.

Pak Ch'un'gŭm (朴春琴 박춘금 Boku Shunkin 1891-1973) was twice elected to the House of Representatives from the 4th district of Tokyo prefecture (東京府第四区), which included both Honjo ward (本所区) and Fukagawa ward (深川区) of Tokyo city (東京市). The district was allocated four representatives.

Pak was first elected to the House of Representatives in its 18th election (20 February 1932). He lost in the 19th election (20 February 1936), won again in the 20th (30 April 1937), and lost in the 21st (30 April 1942). The latter election, only months after Pearl Harbor, proved very difficult for anyone who was not fully supportive of the Tojo government.

Pak grew up in Korea during the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese (1904-1905), both of which essentially began in Korea. He was therefore exposed to the political and social turbulence which characterized Korea's position on the Northeast Asian chessboard, where the major players were China and Russia, against Japan when not against each other.

Japan was deeply involved in Korean affairs in the late 19th and early 20th century, when the country was at the mercy of Chinese and Russian more than Japanese ambition. As early as 1876 Japan "opened" Korea to foreign commerce with the first of several "unequal" treaties that Korea subsequently signed with other foreign states. In 1894 when Japan compelled Korea to begin to reorganize its government along Japanese lines. In 1897 Japan engineered the founding of the Empire of Korea and the "restoration" of the Korean royal family. And in 1905 Korea became a protectorate of Japan.

For reasons we will probably never known, Pak, had studied not only Chinese classics but also Japanese before coming to Japan around 1906 or 1907. When Korea was joined to Japan as Chōsen in 1910, like other people who were Chosenese by territoriality, he became Japanese by nationality.

Pak worked in construction for a number of years and became a labor recruiter, then got involved in the ginseng trade, among other enterprises and activities that led to his amassment of wealth and influence (Oguma 1998). His influence came mainly from his aggressive promotion of good relations between Chosenese and Interiorites in the areas where he lived and worked. He attracted lots of attention, including that of former Governor-Generals of Chosen who would soon be a minister, and a man who had returned from Korea to become the superintendent of police in Tokyo (Bayliss 2008: 59).

Pak appears to have been very popular in his Tokyo constituency. As a member of the House of Representatives, he promoted the interests of Chosenese as imperial subjects, using himself as a model of political participation in the Interior. He also promoted the 1938 laws which enabled Chosenese and Taiwanese to enlist in the Imperial Army. In 1943 they also became eligible to enlist in the Imperial Navy.

Pak pushed for enlistment as a intermediate step to conscription, which he saw as a duty of subjecthood that complemented the right of suffrage. So long as Chosenese (and Taiwanese) subjects were exempted from the Military Service Law, they could not claim to be on a par with Interiorites.

The same argument has been in many countries to include women in military service, and to drop the age of eligibility to vote to the age at which it is possible to serve in the military.

Immediately before the end of the war, Pak formed a political party in Keijo (Seoul), but his attempt to lead a Chōsen independence movement on the peninsula failed. His distractors viewed him as a pro-Japan collaborator and therefore "traitor to his race" (民族反逆者).

After the war, Pak resettled in Occupied Japan. Still Japanese by nationality, he became an "alien" under GHQ/SCAP policy, and his rights of suffrage were suspended by revisions to the election law. Like other Chosenese, and Taiwanese, he lost his Japanese nationality in 1952.

Whatever Pak felt about these changes in his status, he never lost sight of his interests in country of his birth and his adopted country. He promoted relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan when ROK was founded in 1948. He was active in Mindan, an organization of ROK nationals in Japan which continues to facilitate their relationship with ROK.

Pak witnessed the normalization of relations between Japan and ROK and in 1965. At the time of his death in 1973, he was active in the "fartherland reunification" movement.

See review of Bayliss 2008 for further information about Pak Ch'un'gum and other sources in English, and Japanese sources including Oguma 1998.

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Showa suffrage

The foundations of Showa suffrage were the standards of universal male suffrage established for the Interior at the end of the Taisho period (see above). These standards, implemented in the earliest Showa elections, became the foundation for two major developments later in the Showa period -- (1) the extension of universal male suffrage to Chōsen and Taiwan during the last year of the Pacific War, and (2) after the war, for all nationals including women, but only those who resided in Occupied Japan who were subject to the prefectural Family Register Law -- which excluded Chosenese and Taiwanese.

1 April 1945 imperial edit on residents of Chōsen and Taiwan

The 1 April 1945 extra edition (号外 gōgai) of the Official Gazette (官報 Kanpō) published the following imperial edict, which ordered that imperial subjects residing in Chōsen and Taiwan be allowed to particpate in the administration of the country as members of the National Diet. The regular 1 April 1945 edition of the Official Gazette promulgated a law which revised the House of Representatives Members Election Law (see below), and an imperial order whih revised the House of Peers Order (see below).

The edict reads as follows (Kanpō, 1 April 1945, gōgai, my transcription and structural translation).

1 April 1945 Imperial edict on Chōsen and Taiwan suffrage
Emperor order that imperial subjects residing in Chōsen and Taiwan
be allowed to participate in the government as members of Imperial Diet

Japanese text

The Japanese text is a slightly reformated version of a transcription of the text as published in the extra edition of the 1 April 1945 edition of the Official Gazette. A copy of the this issue is available from National Diet Library Digital Collections (国立国会図書館デジタルコレクション).

English translation

The structural English translation is mine.

Markup and commentary

All markup and commentary are mine.

Received Japanese text

Structural English translation

詔書

朕惟フニ朝鮮及臺灣ハ我カ統治ノ下既ニ年アリヘ化日ニ洽ク習俗同化ノ實ヲ擧ケ今次征戰ノ遂行ニ寄與スル所亦尠シトセス朕深ク之ヲ欣フ

朕ハ茲ニ特ニ命シテ朝鮮及臺灣住民ノ爲ニ帝國議會ノ議員タルノ途ヲ拓キ廣ク衆庶ヲシテ國政ニ參與セシム爾臣民其レ克ク朕カ意ヲ體シ諧和一致全力ヲ擧ケテ皇猷ヲ翼贊スヘシ

裕仁 [御名御璽]

昭和二十年四月一日

Imperial rescript

I, in surmising, as for Chōsen and Taiwan -- under our rule already [many] years have been [passed]; enlightenment is spreading [to them] daily: [they] are raising [producing] the fruits of assimilating customs and manners; where [what] [they] are now contributing to the conduct of the war is not little. I deeply rejoice in these.

I, hereby specially ordering, for the sake of Chōsen and Taiwan residents, open the way of [their] being assembly [Diet] members of the imperial assembly [Imperial Diet], and have the common people contribute to national adiministration [government]. Ye subjects are to well incarnate these my wishes, [and] in harmony and in unity, raising [giving] all [your] strenth, assist the imperial scheme.

Hirohito [Imperial seal]

Shōwa 20-4-1 [1 April 1945]

Chosen and Taiwan residents

This refers to anyone subject national of Japan who is a legal resident of Chōsen or Taiwan. A person with a principle domicle (本籍 honseki) in Keijō residing in Taipai would be a resident of Taiwan. A person with a perinciple domicile in Kagoshima residing in Fusan would be a resident of Chōsen.

ye subjects

This refers to all Japanese -- i.e., all subject nationals of the Empire of Japan, regardless of whether their principle domiciles are in the prefectural Interior (including, then, Karafuto), or in Chōsen or Taiwan. All are expected to support the extension of suffrage beyond the prefectural Interior.

In other words -- as in the general articles of the House of Representatives law -- no distinction is made among subjects as to their territorial affiliation. Sex, residence, tax status, and other such objective criteria are all that mattered in the Interior (which now included Karafuto), and were all that would matter in Chōsen and Taiwan.


1 April 1945 House of Representatives Members Election Law revisions

On 1 April 1945, concomitant with the above imperial edict, the House of Representatives Members Election Law was revised by Law No. 34, which established voter elegibility for imperial subjects residing in Chōsen and Taiwan. The revision law (改正法律 kaisei hōritsu) was promulgated in the regular edition Kanpō, 1 April 1945, pages 1-3.

In the general provisions of existing law, originally written for the Interior, "Penal Code" (刑法 Keihō) in Article 6 was amended to read "Penal Code (instances in accordance with [violation of] the Chōsen Penal Matters Order and Taiwan Penal Matters Order)" (刑法 (朝鮮刑事例及臺灣刑事例ニ於テ依ル場合ヲ含ム) Keihō (Chōsen Keijirei oyobi Taiwan Keijirei ni oite ru baai o fukumu)). An item related to Karafuto was added to Article 18, as Karafuto had joined the Interior in 1943. "Tōkyō-fu" (東京府) was changed to " Tōkyō-to" (東京都) in a number of articles to reflect its name change in 1943.

Chapter 14

The most substantial revision, though, took the form of Articles 151-159 of Chapter 14, an entirely new chapter and new articles titled "Special measures in Chōsen and Taiwan" (朝鮮及び台湾に於ける特例 Chōsen oyobi Taiwan ni okeru tokurei).

Article 151 established that, in Chōsen and in Taiwan, all males who were imperial subjects, if 25 years old or older, and if they had paid at least 15 yen in direct taxes for at least one year before the compilation of voter rolls, and otherwise qualified for inclusion on voter roles as stipulated in specific articles in the general provisions of the law, were to have rights of suffrage (選挙権ヲ有ス senkyoken o yū su).

The other articles, also making reference to specific articles in the general provisions, detail the manner in which elections were to take place in Chōsen and Taiwan. Since the administrative districts of these two territories are as different from each other as both were from the Interior, the details read like a geographical guide to the administrative organization of each territory, from the largest to the smallest entities.

Article 159 alludes to the Chōsen and Taiwan penal matter orders, certain violations of which would suspend a subjects suffrage rights, as they did for similar violations of the Interior Penal Code.

Election district charts

An chart of election districts in the general part of the law is amended to show all the administrative district changes made in 1943 throughtout the Interior.

A chart showing allocations of number of representatives by district inserts a list of new districts and representatives. The list begins with Karafuto with 3 representatives. Then come 13 circuits "dō" (道) or "circuits" of Chōsen totalling 23 representatives. Finally come the 5 "shū" (州) and and 3 "chō" (廳、庁) or "prefectures" of Taiwan, including Penghu, totalling 5 reprentatives, as the 3 "chō" were grouped with 2 of the "shū".

Supplementary provisions

The supplementary provisions stipulated that the provisions in the revision law would be enforced from dates to be determined imperial ordinances, as would be other particulars concerning the law.

The first supplementary provision referred specifically to amendments concerning Karafuto, Chōsen, and Taiwan -- underscoring that Karafuto, which had been prefecturalized in 1943, was also a new addition to the territorial sweep of the House of Representatives law.

Another step toward integration

The establishment of representative election districts in Chōsen and Taiwan were also major steps in the integration of these territories into the larger legal order of the sovereign empire. The authority over both territories was in the process of shifting from the hands of their governor-generals, who had more autonomy than prefectural governors, to the Ministry of the Interior -- in principle since 1943, though the governor-general of Chōsen continued to draw his authority from the emperor, through the prime minister, than from the Diet, cabinet, or ministries.

However, on 2 September 1945, before the next round of general elections could be held, Japan signed the Instruments of Surrender, which ended its control and jurisdiction over all three territories. So all the meticulous planning for, and legal provisioning of, their democratization was for naught.

1 April 1945 House of Peers Order revisions

The same 1 April 1945 issue of the general edition of the Official Gazette promulgated an imperial order (勅令 chokurei) -- Imperial Order 193 of 1945 -- revising the House of Peers Order (貴族院令 Kizokuin rei). "Hokkaidō" (北海道) was revised to read "Hokkaidō, Tōkyōto, Karafuto" (北海道、東京都、樺太) in Article 1, and the following item was newly added as Item 7 to Article 1, which stipulated who qualified for imperial appointment to the House of Peers (Kanpō, 1 April 1945, regular edition, pages 3-4, transcription and structural translation mine).

朝鮮又ハ臺灣ニ在住スル者ニシテ名望アル者ヨリ特ニ勅任セラレタル者

Chōsen mata wa Taiwan ni zaijū sur momo ni shite meibō aru mono yori toku ni chokunin seraretaru mono

Regarding persons who reside in Chōsen and Taiwan, persons who have been specially imperially appointed from persons of repute

Article 6 increased the allocation for imperial appointees residing in "Hokkaidō" from within 66 to within 67 for "Hokkaidō, Tōkyōto, Karafuto" (Article 6).

Paragraph 1 of Article 7 provided that males of repute fully 30 years old or older "who reside in Chōsen or Taiwan" (朝鮮又ハ臺灣ニ在住スル) were to be members with 7-year terms. Paragraph 2 stipulated that the number of such members be within 10 names (people).

The supplementary provisions enforced the revision order from its day of promulgation, meaning 1 April 1945.

Imperial Order 194

Imperial Order 193, revised the House of Peers Order to allow up to 10 imperial appointees from Chōsen and Taiwan, was immediately followed by Imperial Order 194, which abolished the "Chōsen and Taiwan residents government (administration) treatment study committee organ" (朝鮮及臺灣在住民政治處遇調査會官制 Chōsen oyobi Taiwan zaijōmin seiji shogō shōsakai kansei) (Kanpō, 1 April 1945, regular edition, page 4).

The committee had been established as a government organ for the purpose of developing policy concerning the handling of matters related to improving the treatment of residents of Chōsen and Taiwan, especially with regard to their representation in Japan's Imperial Diet. The Imperial Cabinet decided to form the committee on 4 November 1949, and the imperial order which established the committee was promulgated on 23 December 1949.

Apparently it took only three months to flesh out a basic plan for extending suffrage to the non-Interior territories. Presumably the compentent ministries had already given considerable thought to the matter.

It couldn't have been an especially difficult task. The administrative divisions of Chōsen and Taiwan were well established. The household register and resident registration laws in the two territories were working. All that had to be done -- politically -- was decide whether it was time to allow the residents of the territories to elect their own representatives to the Diet. And if it was time, then how many representatives -- for a start.

Legally, it was a no-brainer, a piece of take. Legal bureaucrats reflexively knew how to revise laws once the parameters of revision were defined. The House of Representatives Members Election Law and the House of Peers Order were no different than any other law or order. It was all in a day's work. No one would have worked up a sweat or lost any sleep.


10 imperial appointees to House of Peers

Implementation of revisions to the House of Representatives Members Election Law would take time and the elections were a year off. Imperial appointments could me made immediately, and were.

On 3 April 1945, the emperor appointed 7 Chosenese and 3 Taiwanese to House of Peers seats. Significantly, 2 of the 7 Chosenese members, and 2 of the 3 Taiwanese members, continued to use their Cōsenese and Taiwanese family names. The others had adopted Interior-style family names, though some adopted names retained the Sinific graph of the original name.

Pak Jung Yang

Among the 7 Chosenese appointed to the House of Peers on 3 April 1945 was Pak Jung Yang (朴重陽 SJ Boku Jūyō 1874-1959). Pak's name at the time was Hōchū Shigeyō (朴忠重陽), a Yamatoized version of his Chosenese name.

Note that the graph for "Pak" (朴) is embedded in the graphs for "Hōchū" (朴忠). The readings "Hōchū" and "Shigyō" constitute a Japanese "kun" reading (hō, shige) plus a Sino-Japanese "on" reading (chū, yō). I would argue that, on its graphic surface, 朴忠 means "loyalty to Pak ancestors", while on its linguistic surface it signifies a mixture of "Japanese" and "Chinese" ("Korean"). Pak is also reported to have gone by the name Yamamoto Shin (山本信).

Pak's esteem in the eyes of Japan's imperial government did not bode him well in eyes of his Korean compatriots. From 1949 until his death, ROK tried to convict him on charges of betraying the Korean race, and attempted to commit him to a mental hospital. Half a century after his death, under a revitalized racial traitor law, ROK confiscated assests which had been inheritated by his descendants.

Lin Hsien-t'ang

Lin Hsien-t'ang (林献堂 PY Lin Xiantang, SJ Rin Kendō 1881-1956) was one of the 3 Taiwanese appointed to the House of Peers on 3 April 1945. After the Republic of China accepted Japan's surrender of Taiwan in October 1945, it quickly nationalized the territory as an ROC province, and Lin was elected to Taiwan's first provincial assembly.

The nationalization of Taiwan met with considerable resistance, and the political environment worsened in the late 1940s as Chiang Kai-shek began to move the nationalist ROC government to Taiwan in anticipation of losing the civil war on the mainland. In 1949, for health (and apparently also political) reasons, Lin he moved to Occupied Japan. Chiang Kai-shek urged him to return to Taiwan, but he remained in Japan, where he died of pneumonia.

Aftermath

One of 10 appointees, the 8 who seem to havve still been alive on 4 July 1946 resigned on that day. Why that day I am not yet sure, but the day is unique to them as a group.

At least 3 of the appointees -- Yang and Lin, but also Yun Chi Ho (尹致昊 J. In Chikō alias 伊東致昊 It&##333; Chik&##333; 1865-1945) -- possibly all -- were in Chōsen or Taiwan before or soon after the end of war, and so couldn't have phyiscally participated. Perhaps someone also noticed that legally they no longer qualified, because Japan no longer had control or jurisdiction over Chōsen or Taiwan.

A December 1945 revision of the House of Representatives Members Election Law had already limited suffrage to "subjects" reached by the prefectural Family Register Law, which meant that people with registers in Chōsen and Taiwan could no longer vote or run for office in general elections. This did not mean that Chosenese and Taiwanese already in the Japanese government could not not continue in their posts so long as they were in Japan. As of the end of December 1948, there were about 1,700 Chosenese in national and local government posts.

House of Peers

Most seats in the House of Peers (貴族院 Kizokuin) ["noble-clan-chamber"] were held by people who, as members of the "kazoku" (華族 kazoku) aristocracy, had inherited a title of nobility -- prince (公爵), marquis (侯爵), count (伯爵), viscount (子爵), or baron (男爵). Those of the 2 higest ranks of the nobility (貴族 kizoku) were unconditionally and automatically members of the House of Peers, while those of the lower 3 ranks elected representatives by other members of the same rank. A number of other members were imperially appointed in recognition of their contributions to the imperial state.

House of Peers ections had been held every 7 years since the 1st on 10 July 1890. The 8th election was held on 10 July 1939, and the 9th was scheduled for 10 July 1946. However, it was not held because the new Constitution, which was being deliberated in the Imperial Diet, not only made no provisions for continuing the House of Peers but outlawed all titles of nobility. The peerage, then, was marked for extinction. The terms of incumbant House of Peers representatives was extended for a year -- which enabled them to approve the promulgation on 3 November 1946 of the very Constitution that, when it came into force on 3 May 1947, proncouned them extinct.

There were 251 (145 hereditary and 106 other) members of the House of Peers at the 1st session of the Imperial Diet in 1890-1891. Since then, the number increased, to a peak of 409 in 73rd session in 1938-1939, and it stood at 373 at the 92nd and last session in 1946-1947.

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives had 300 members in 1890 as a result of the 1st general election that year. By the 16th election in 1928 the number of representatives had increased to 466, and this would remain constant until it again began to increase from the 27th election in 1955.

In December 1945, immediately after the war, the House of Representatives Members Election Law was revised to lower the ages at which one could vote or run for office, and to extend suffrage to women. However, it was also revised to limited suffrage to persons with family registers in Occupied Japan. This meant that Okinawans, Taiwanese, and Chosenese in Occupied Japan -- who otherwise would have been able to vote -- were unable to vote. Okinawa had been captured and occupied by the United States, Formosa (Taiwan) had been surrendered to and was being occupied by the Republic of China. Korea (Chōsen) had been surrendered to and was being occupied by the Soviet Union and the United States.

People in Okinawa, Taiwan, and Chōsen registers were unable to vote because they were legally affiliated with territories no longer under Japan's control and jurisdiction -- meaning that they were not part of Occupied Japan, which was under the control and jurisdiction of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP). They may have been residing in Occupied Japan, but they "belonged" to territories which had been separated from "Japan" and were under the control and jurisdiction of an Allied Power. SCAP viewed such people as "non-Japanese" for purposes of repatriation -- and, at the time, it was expected that most such people would be returning to the locaties of their family registers outside Occupied Japan.

Representative ratios
RESUME

How would implementation of the

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Then women too . . .

Revisions to the House of Representatives Members Election Law were passed by the Imperial Diet on 15 December 1945 and promulgated by Hirohito on 17 December 1945 as Law No. 42 of 1945. The most important revisions provided that subjects (regardless of sex) aged 20 or over had the right to vote, while those who were 25 years old or older had the right to run for office.

. . . but only subjects in prefectural registers

The 1945 revision applied only to subjects reached by the Family Register Law, an Interior law, hence the new suffrage rules did not apply to subjects in Taiwan or Chōsen registers, who had been declared "liberated" people. Moreover, the rules were not enforcible in Okinawa prefecture or other Interior territories not under the control and jurisdiction of the government of Occupied Japan.

See "1945 suffrage revisions" below for transcriptions and translations of the most important provisions.

The 22nd House of Representatives election -- the first entirely universal election (完全普通選挙) -- was held under the revised law on 10 April 1946. 16.3 million men and 20.6 million women qualified. The voting rates were respectively 78.52 and 66.97 percent.

The House of Representatives Members Election Law was abolished in 1950 by Law No. 101 of 15 April 1950 (Law concerning the enforcement of the Public Offices Election Law and the arrangement et cetera of related laws and ordinances accompanying it) [公職選挙法の施行及びこれに伴う関係法令の整理等に関する法律案].

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Heisei suffrage

The main change in suffrage laws during the Heisei period has been to enable Japanese residing outside Japan to vote. The issue of at least local suffrage for aliens residing in Japan has been more controversial, but some local governments have made moves in this direction.

Overseas voters

Japanese residing outside Japan were the next major cohort to be embraced by election laws. The Diet accommodated overseas nationals on voter rolls in two steps -- the second when the Supreme Court ruled that the election law had unconstitutionally restricted the right to vote to Japanese residing in Japan.

The inclusion of overseas nationals on voter rolls had been a contentious issue for many years by the end of the 20th century. Lack of technology and other resources no longer seemed a good reason not to reach Japanese residing outside the country with ballots.

Overseas voters have been accommodated in two steps. Since 2000, they have been able to vote for political parties in large regional and national proportional district elections. Since 2007, they have been able to vote for individual candidates running for seats in municipal and prefectural constituencies.

Election system

Japan's election system has evolved over the decades into a dual process of voting for both individuals in constituences and parties in proportional districts.

Most members of the House of Representatives or larger "lower" house are directly elected from single-seat constituencies. Others are elected by proportional representation in block districts. Electors vote once for a single candidate in their local constituency. The single-seat candidate with the most votes wins in the constituency. But electors also vote once for a single party in a small block district which includes several prefectures (小選挙区比例代表制). Or rather they vote for the party's list of candidates in the district. The seats in the district are distributed to the parties, proportional to their share of the votes, and the parties assign their seats to candidates -- which could include candidates who lost in a single-seat constituency.

Most of the House of Councilors, the smaller "upper" house, are elected in multi-seat constituences (prefectures). Others are elected by proportional representation (nation level) [拘束名簿式比例代表制]. Their terms are for six years, and half come up for election every three years.

1950 Public Offices Election Law

The Public Offices Election Law as enacted in 1950 made no provisions for Japanese residing overseas to vote. Since eligibility was based on registration as a municiple resident, Japanese with domiciles overseas did not qualify.

There had been movements in the Diet to include overseas voters. A 1984 bill died in 1986.

In 1996, dozens of Japanese residing in several countries filed a joint lawsuit in the Tokyo District Court against the government, alleging that, in not permitting them to vote in the 1996 Lower House election, the 1950 election law had violated their Constitutional right to vote.

2000 proportional elections

In 1998, while the case was still in the District Court, the Diet revised the law (Law No. 47) to enable eligible electors residing outside Japan to vote -- but only in proportional districts (比例区). The Diet felt it would be too difficult and expensive to prepare and distribute information in a timely manner so that people overseas could vote in the elections of House of Representatives members, who ran in single-district (local) constituencies (小選挙区).

The Public Offices Election Law was revised facilitate voting by overseas nationals in proportional elections by Law No. 47 of 6 May 1998. Articles in the law regarding overseas voter name rolls were enforced from 1 May 1999, and articles relating to overseas balloting were enforced from 1 May 2000. The first election to embrace overseas voters was the 42nd House of Representatives election of 25 June 2000.

Court decisions

In 1999 the Tokyo District rejected the original demands. On 8 November 2000 the Tokyo High Court [Heisei 11(Gyo-Ko)253] rejected their appeal, agreeing with the government that the state had the right to restrict the voting of overseas nationals in order to keep elections equitable and efficient.

In 2001, several litigants then appealed their cases to the Supreme Court [Heisei 13(Gyo-Tsu)82&83 and Heisei 13(Gyo-Hi)76&77]. The cases were collectively titled "Case seeking confirmation of unconstitutionality of deprevation of right to elect of Japanese residing outside [Japan] et cetera" (在外日本人選挙権剥奪違法確認等請求事件)

On 14 September 2005, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court decisions on the grounds that it was unconstitutional not to permit overseas nationals to vote in constituency elections, and ordered that they be able to do so from the next Upper House election in the summer of 2007. It may well have been physically difficult in the past to facilitate voting from overseas in constituency elections, but that should be no problem in this day and age of global computer networking and mail distribution.

The Grand Bench of the Supreme Court ruled 12-to-2 that overseas nationals had the constitutional right to vote for [local] small constituency (小選挙区)candidates in general House of Representatives elections and for [prefectural] constituency (選挙区) candidates in regular House of Counsilors elections. The original 53 plaintiffs had dropped to only 13, but the court awarded each the 5,000 yen per-litigant solatium they had demanded in their original lawsuits.

2007 constituency elections

The Public Offices Election Law was duly revised by Law No. 62 of 14 June 2006, which was enforced in two stages on 1 Novebmer 2006 and 1 June 2007. Qualified overseas nationals were able to vote in consituency elections for the first time in the 21st House of Councilors election on 29 July 2007.

Qualifications and procedures

Qualifications for voting overseas are as follows.

An overseas voter must:

  1. Have acquired Japanese nationality, and be 20 years of age or older, as of the date of the election;
  2. Have resided in the country or territory outside Japan where one is is residing at the time of the election, continously for three or more months.
  3. Have been registered on an overseas voter roll before the election;

An overseas voter's enrollment on a municipal overseas voter roll must have been confirmed by the municipal election committee before the election. In principle this will be the election committee in the municipality where the overseas voter was last registered as a resident before migrating overseas.

However, the overseas voter election roll and the election committee will be those of the municipality of the person's honseki at the time of application (1) When the person, because of birth overseas, has never been registered as a resident, or (2) When the person was registered as a resident but the registration had been struck (as it would be after a specified period of time during which the person's residence could not be confirmed, among other reasons).

An overseas voter, or a member of the voter's family, must make an application for registration at an embassy or consulate in the locality where the person is residing. Applications cannot be made by mail, though if the person lives a long way from a mission, they can be made through a mission service center.

When an application has been vetted and approved, the applicant will receive an "Overseas voter certificate" (在外選挙人証). This may take two or more months. Hence overseas nationals who wish to vote need to register early.

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Alien suffrage

A handful of municiple governments have extended partial, mostliy symbolic voting rights to permanent resident aliens. While such gestures do not comply with provisions in national laws, the Minister of Justice has not taken action to prevent local governments from experimenting with the idea of alien suffrage.

Meanwhile, several political parties have proposed measures that would extend the right to vote to all permanent residents, which as of this writing are rapidly approaching one million. About half of these are Special Permanent Residents, a legacy status that is rapidly decreasing.

Special Permanent Residents refers to people who became aliens in 1952 when, as affiliates of Taiwan and Chōsen residing in Japan, they lost their Japanese nationality, and their descendants. The SPR status, historically tied to the San Francisco Peace Treaty, is granted in perpetuum to qualified descendants, but the qualifying cohort is quickly shrinking, and it is only a matter of time before it vanishes.

Some politicians would limit alien suffrage only to SPRs, who have gradually been treated more like "quasi-Japanese" than "aliens" in other areas of law. Others would agree to alien suffrage for all permanent residents who are nationals of countries with which Japan has diplomatic ties -- which would exclude any permanent resident who happened to be a national of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Alien suffrage based on nationality recognition would also exclude Chosenese, who are virtually stateless, though some claim to be DPRK nationals. It would also also exclude Republic of China nationals, unless they were treated as de facto nationals of the People's Republic of China.

However, most likely the Diet will pass a bill that extends alien suffrage to all permanent residents. Whether an enfranchised alien will be eligible for election as a local assembly member, however, remains to be seen.

The line will probably be drawn between right to vote and right to hold office -- meaning that aliens would have to become Japanese if they wished to run for office.

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Basic citizenship laws in Japan

Japanese laws do not define "citizens" or "citizenship" as such. The Nationality Law is concerned only with nationality. See above overview of nationality as an affiliation, and all the artaicles in the Nationality section of this website for further information about nationality law and discussion of nationality law issues.

Rights and duties (elements of citizenship) of persons reached by Japan's laws are stipulated in numerous national and local statutes, in addition to bilateral and multilateral treaties and international that Japan has ratified. While most rights and duties apply to people with a legal status in Japan (whether as Japanese or aliens), some may also apply to people who have violated their status (whether Japanese or aliens), and to people who have no status.

Here, though, I will highlight only the elements that are stipulated in the 1947 Constitution, the 1947 Local Autonomy Law, and the 1950 Public Offices Election Law.

The 1947 Constitution is the legal foundation for the basic rights and duties of nationals but also of aliens who are legally within the reach of the Constitution. The Constitution explicitly gives nationals some rights -- such as state (national) suffrage -- which it does not give aliens.

The 1947 Local Autonomy Law stipulates the basic rights and duties of local residents. Some rights and duties apply to all residents whether Japanese or aliens. Some rights -- such as local (municipal and prefectural) suffrage -- are limited to resident nationals (Japanese).

The 1950 Public Offices Election Law reiterates that the primary condition for possessing the right of suffrage in national elections is to be a national of Japan. The law also sets age, residency, and registration conditions on elegibility, and stipulates causes for loss of rights of suffrage. Most provisions of this extremely complex law, however, is dedicated to the regulation of every aspect of several kinds of elections, from determining who gets on a ballot, how polls are run, and how outcomes are decided, to dealing with infractions of the election laws.

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1945 law revising 1925 election law

20 December 1945

Law No. 42 of 17 December 1945

衆議院議員選挙法中改正法律
Shūgiin giin senkyo hō chū kaisei hōritsu
[Law revising House of Representatives Members Election Law]
Promulgated on 17 December 1945
Enforcible between 20 December 1945 and 19 December 1946

The Government of Imperial Japan revised its 1925 House of Representatives Election Law on 17 December 1945. The revision was promulgated by Emperor Hirohito and signed by the Prime Minister of Cabinet and twelve other ministers of state.

The election law was revised mainly to (1) accommodate universal suffrage, (2) reduce the ages of eligibility to vote and run for office, and (3) clarify the mechanics of holding House of Representives elections as early as possible in Occupied Japan.

One supplementary provision stipuled that the revisions would be effective for elections conducted between 20 December 1945 and 19 December 1946. Another limited eligibility to subjects reached by the Family Register Law, pending future determinations, thus restricting eligibility to Interior subjects. Yet another, also pending future determinations, specified parts of the Interior where elections would not be held.

Subjecthood

Though subjecthood had effectively ended when Japan surrendered on 2 September 1945, the 1925 Election Law was predicated on the 1890 Constitution, which provided for the rights and duties of subjects. The continued use of "subject" (臣民 shinmin) in the 1945 revision of the 1925 law was inevitable, given the expediency of the revision two months before GHQ/SCAP ordered the Japanese government to make a new constitution.

Hierarchic logic of territorial limitations

The provisions which limited register status applicability and specified places where elections would not be held were stipulated in the expected legan order -- an order reflecting what I would call "hierarchic logic" or "nested logic" beginning with the higher level of restriction.

The first restriction limited applicability to people in Interior registers. The second limited elections to localities where they could both physically and legally be held.

The applicability restriction was a jurisdictional call. The locality restriction was a control call. The government determined that it had jurisdiction only over Interior registers, and that it could hold elections only in parts of the Interior it controlled.

Restriction to Interior status

By provisionally limiting rights of suffrage to persons reached by the Family Register Law, an Interior law, the government was acknowledging that it did not have the authority to include "liberated people" in any law that continued to refer to "subjects". Not only were Taiwan and Chōsen beyond the reach of any Japanese law, but its registrants -- Taiwanese and Chosenese, including those in Occupied Japan -- had been declared "liberated people".

While some qualified Taiwanese and Chosenese in Occupied Japan might have liked to have continued to be able to vote and run for office -- and while I would personally argue that they deserved to be allowed rights of suffrage -- they were mostly celebrating their liberation from subjecthood. And under the political circumstances created by the Allied initiative to liberate them from Japanese rule, it made perfect sense to draw the jurisdictional line between Interior and Exterior registers.

Restriction to controlled Interior polities

Having drawn a jurisdiction line, the government had to draw a control line. Elections could only be held in Interior localities that it was able to actually control. This meant that, in principle, elections could be held only within "Japan" as redefined for Occupation purposes -- i.e., "Occupied Japan" -- namely, the Interior or prefectural territory, minus parts of the Interior that had been otherwise occupied or declared off limits to Japanese vessels.

Interior polities then beyond Japan's jurisdiction and control included (1) Okinawa prefecture, over which Japan was able to presume it would retain sovereignty, (2) the southern Kurile islands that, again, Japan had reason to believe would not be permanently separated from its sovereign dominion, (3) other islands presumably still part of Japan that that Occupation Authorities had declared off limits to Japanese vessels, and (4) other territories in which special conditions made it impossible to hold elections.

Family Register Law

The Family Register Law, which originated in 1871, was not directly applied beyond the prefectures. Parts of the law were applied to Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen through measures made specifically for these subnational polities, each of which was under its own legal system.

No registers in these territories could be treated on a par with prefectural (Interior) registers until the territory was brought into the prefectural system. Only Karafuto made this migration into the Interior (prefectural) entity, in several steps after its transfer to Japan in 1905, and fully in 1943.

Exclusion of Taiwanese and Chosenese

The exclusion of Taiwanese and Chosenese, effected by the limitation of applicability to people in Interior registers, made perfect legal sense. The empire had been reduced to "Japan" -- an entity that consisted of most but not all of the Interior or prefectural polity. And immediately after the formal surrender, the government of Occupied Japan began to take measures, under SCAP's direction, to accommodate the legal fact that it had abandoned its sovereignty over Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen.

The Soviet Union and the United States had occupied Korea (Chōsen) a week or so after the general surrender on 2 September 1945, and the Republic of China had occupied Taiwan on 25 October 1945. Karafuto (a prefecture), and the Kuriles (part of Hokkaido prefecture), had been invaded by the Soviet Union and were fully under its control and jurisdiction -- including the Southern Kuriles, which Japan presumed the USSR would eventually return to Japan's control and jurisdiction.

All that mattered in the winter of 1945 was that Taiwan and Chōsen, and its affiliates, had already been liberated. Both GHQ/SCAP and the Japanese government were anticipating, then, that most Taiwanese and Chosenese in Occupied Japan would leave within the next several months and that those who remained would be subject to nationality settlements in future treaties with ROC and whatever state was formed on the Korean peninsula. In the meantime, why should should they be allowed to particpate in Japan's first postwar elections?

GHQ/SCAP could have directly ordered the Japanese government to include "subjects" not in Interior registers in the new franchise rules. Let the record show that it didn't.

Taiwanese and Chosenese may still have been Japanese nationals. But if GHQ/SCAP was going to insist they be treated as quasi aliens -- much as the United States had begun treating Filipinos as "alien" US nationals from 1935 -- then there was no reason to continue to allow Taiwanese and Chosenese residents in the prefectures to vote and run for office in the House of Representatives.

1945 revisions to 1925 election law
Universal suffrage, lower ages of eligibility, and limits on application

Japanese text

The Japanese texts of the selected provsions are my transcriptions from images of the original law publicly viewable on the website of the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (アジア歴史資料センター), which is part of the National Archives of Japan (国立公文書館).

English translation

The structural translations, showing their construction marks, are mine.

Received Japanese text

Structural English translation

法律第四十二號
昭和二十年十二月十七日
衆議院議員選挙法中改正法律

Law No. 42
17 December 1945
Law revising House of Representatives Members Election Law

Promulgated by Hirohito and signed by the prime minister and twelve other ministers of state

衆議院議員選挙法中ヲ左ノ通改正ス

[ 省略 ]

第五條   帝國臣民ニシテ年齢二十年以上ノ者ハ選挙権ヲ有ス
          帝國臣民ニシテ年齢年齢満二十五年以上ノ者ハ被選挙権ヲ有ス

[ 省略 ]

This [law] shall revise [the provisions of] the House of Representatives Members Election Law as [stipulated] to the left [below].

[ Omitted ]

Article 5   [Shall be revised to read] Those who are Imperial Subjects 20 years or or above in age shall have the right to elect.
          Those were are Imperial Subjects 25 years or above in age shall have the right to be elected.

[ Omitted ]

附則

Supplementary provisions

[ 省略 ]

戸籍法ノ適用ヲ受ケザル者ノ選挙権被選挙権ハ当分ノ内之ヲ停止ス

[ 省略 ]

沖縄縣、北海道廳根室支廳館管内 [省略] 竝に海上交通社絶其ノ他特別事情アル地域ニシテ勅令ヲ以テ指定スルモノに於テハ勅令ヲ以テ定ムル迄ハ選擧ハ之ヲ行ハズ

[ 省略 ]

[ Omitted ]

As for the right to elect and the right to be elected of those whom do not receive [are not subject to] the application of the Family Register Law, [this revision] shall for the present suspend [these rights].

[ Omitted ]

With regard to matters determined by imperial ordinances in Okinawa prefecture, in [southern Kurile island polities (list omitted)] within the jurisdiction of the Nemuro Branch Office of the Hokkaido [Government], and in territories [with which] marine traffic has been cut off or there are other special circumstances -- until [the government] determines with an imperial ordinance [to the contrary] -- as for elections [in such places] [the government] will not hold them.

[ Omitted ]

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1947 Constitution of Japan

3 May 1947

Sanctioned and promulgated on 3 November 1946 (imperial edict)

Came into force from 3 May 1947

日本国憲法
Nihon-koku kenpō
Constitution of the country [state] of Japan

Hirohito both sanctioned and promulgated the new constitution, as passed by the Imperial Diet on 12 October 1946 and approved by the Privy Council on 19 October, in accordance with Article 73 of the old constitution, on 3 November 1946. The Imperial Japanese government had six months within to finalize and promulgate revised or entirely new versions of a number of crucial laws that would also go into effect from 3 May 1947 -- from which date Japan would be reborn a new state with a government based on popular sovereignty.

Under the 1890 Imperial Constitution, the "emperor" (tennō) was the sovereign and the people his loyal affiliates (臣民 shinmin) or "subjects". This constitution defined the rights and duties for subjects of Japan (日本臣民 Nihon shinmin), who were at the same time nationals but did not possess sovereignty. The constitution also stipulated that members of the House of Representatives would be publicly elected in accordance with an election law.

The 1947 Constitution gave sovereignty to nationals of Japan (日本国民 Nihon kokumin). Chapter 3 outlines basic rights and duties, some explicitly for nationals (国民 kokumin), others explictly or implicity for everyone reached by the Constitution.

National suffrage

Article 15 gives to nationals (国民 kokumin, "the people") the right of all adults to elect and dismiss public officials (公務員 kōmuin). While it does not stipulate that non-nationals cannot vote (Article 15), its wording and intent are taken to mean that non-nationals do not have the right to vote.

The Constitution does not, however, prevent other laws from stipulating conditions under which aliens might be permitted to vote.

Local suffrage

Chapter 8 consists of four articles concerning autonomous bodies. The articles outline general principles but leave the particulars to stipulations made in other laws. Paragraph 2 of Article 93 lists categories of local officials (吏員 riin) that are to be directly elected by residents (住民 jōmin) of the local polities.

Other laws, not the Constitution, restrict rights of local suffrage to nationals. The Supreme Court has held that, accordingly, the Constitution would not need to be amended to permit aliens to vote, hold office, or otherwise particpate in local governments.

1947 Constitution
Choosing and dismissing public officials inherent right of nationals
Local officials shall be elected by residents
Japanese
Structural translation Received translation

第十五条

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。

2 すべて公務員は、全体の奉仕者であつて、一部の奉仕者ではない。

3 公務員の選挙については、成年者による普通選挙を保障する。

4 すべて選挙における投票の秘密は、これを侵してはならない。選挙人は、その選択に関し公的にも私的にも責任を問はれない。

Article 15

Choosing public officials [workers, employees], and dismissing them, shall be an inherent right of nationals.

2. All public officials, shall be servants [people who serve] the entire the body [nation, polity], and shall not be servants of a part [of the body, nation, polity].

3. Regarding the election of public officials, [this Constitution] shall guarantee ordinary elections by persons who have come of age [reached majority] [are 20 years of age and older].

4. The secrecy of votes in all elections, shall not be violated. As for electors, concerning their choice there shall be no questioning [anyone's] responsibility [calling anyone to account] publicly or privately.

Article 15

The people have the inalienable right to choose their public officials and to dismiss them.

2. All public officials are servants of the whole community and not of any group thereof.

3. Universal adult suffrage is guaranteed with regard to the election of public officials.

4. In all elections, secrecy of the ballot shall not be violated. A voter shall not be answerable, publicly or privately, for the choice he has made.

第九十三条

地方公共団体には、法律の定めるところにより、その議事機関として議会を設置する。

2 地方公共団体の長、その議会の議員及び法律の定めるその他の吏員は、その地方公共団体の住民が、直接これを選挙する。

Article 93

In local public bodies, in accordance with what laws determine [determinations of law], [the body] shall establish an assembly as its deliberative organ.

2. As for the head of a local public body, members of its assembly, and other [public] servants as laws shall establish, the residents of the local public body shall directly elect them.

Article 93

The local public entities shall establish assemblies as their deliberative organs, in accordance with law.

2. The chief executive officers of all local public entities, the members of their assemblies, and such other local officials as may be determined by law shall be elected by direct popular vote within their several communities.

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1947 Local Autonomy Law

3 May 1947

Law No. 67 of 17 April 1947

地方自治法
Chihō jichi hō
[Local autonomy law]
Promulgated on 17 April 1947
Enforced from 3 May 1947

The Local Autonomy Law is one of the most important laws in Japan. It is also one of the longest, most revised, and most convoluted laws, now weighing in excess of 321 articles -- not accounting for deleted or inserted articles, and not including supplementary provisions and tables.

The Local Autonomy Law reveals the relationship between local polities and the state as well as each other. Sanctioned and promulgated on 17 April 1947 by Emperor Hirohito, after being passed by the Imperial Diet, it came into force on 3 May 1947 with the 1947 Constitution that took "Imperial" out of the Diet and invested sovereignty in the people.

Not all of the articles are shown, but those that are shown are complete.

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1947 Local Autonomy Law
Residents who are Japanese nationals twenty years of age or older . . .

Japanese text

The following Japanese text is a reformatted version of the text retrieved from the Laws and regulations data provision system (法令データ提供システム Hōrei deeta teikyō shisutemu), a law database on the e-Government server of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

English translations

Several mostly out-of-date or partial translations of this law exist.

1948 yearbook translation

A fine-print full translation of the original version of the law spans nearly forty pages in the Appendix to The Japan Year Book 1946-48 (Tokyo: The Foreign Affairs Association of Japan, 1949, pages 44-81). The first partial amendment (Law No. 167, promulgated 12 December 1947, enforced from 1 January 1948) was itself longer than most major Japanese laws (ibid., pages 81-94).

1999 JCLA translation

A more recent translation has been published as Revised Local Autonomy Law (Tokyo: Japan Center for Local Autonomy, March 1999). The text of this translation has been posted on website of The Nippon Foundation Library (日本財団 図書館 Nippon Zaidan Toshokan).

Structural translation

The structural translation is mine. As always when showing such translations, my purpose is to cut closer to the phrasal and metaphorical bone of the original text than do most received translations, partly in order to illuminate problems with the received translations.

See the articles under "Translation standards" in the Legal terminology section of the "Glossaries and almanacs" feature of this website for a close look at the problems that plague translations, especially those appearing on MOJ's "Japanese Law Translation" website.

Commentary

In the Japanese text and all translations, I have highlighted words and phrases selected for commentary as follows.

Green = appropriate
Purple = problematic
Red = incorrect

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Promulgation

地方自治法

朕は、帝國議会の協賛を経た地方自治法を裁可し、ここにこれを公布せしめる。

   御名御璽
     昭和二十二年四月十六日
     内閣総理大臣 吉田茂
     内務大臣 植原悦二郎

Local Autonomy Law

I [the emperor], sanction the Local Autonomy Law which has passed the approval of the Imperial Diet, and herein promulgate it.

   Imperial seal [Hirohito]
     Showa 22-4-16 [16 April 1947]
       Prime Minister of the Cabinet Yoshida Shigeru
       Minister of Home Affairs Uehara Etsujirō
昭和二十二年四月十七日
法律第六十七号
施行 二十二年五月三日
Law No. 67 of 17 April 1947

Enforced from 3 May 1947

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地方自治法

Local Autonomy Law

昭和二十二年四月十七日法律第六十七号

最終改正:平成二一年六月二四日法律第五七号

Law No. 67 of 17 April 1947

Last revised: Law No. 57 of 24 June 2009

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第二編   普通地方公共団体 (第5条〜第263条の3)
Part 2   Ordinary local public bodies (Article 5 - Article 263-3)
第二章   住民 (第10条〜第13条の2)
Chapter 2   Residents (Article 10 - Article 13-2)
Japanese
地方自治法
Structural translation
Local autonomy law
1999 JCLA translation
Revised Local Autonomy Law
第二章   住民 Chapter 2   Residents Chapter II   Inhabitants

第十条

市町村の区域内に住所を有する者は、当該市町村及びこれを包括する都道府県の住民とする。

2 住民は、法律の定めるところにより、その属する普通地方公共団体の役務の提供をひとしく受ける権利を有し、その負担を分任する義務を負う。

Article 10

A person who possesses a domicile within the area of a municipality [shi-chō-son city-town-village], shall be regarded as a resident of the said municipality and of the prefecture [to-dō-fu-ken] which includes it.

2. A resident, in accordance with what laws determine [determinations of law], shall possess the right to equally receive the benefits of the services of the ordinary local public bodies affiliated with them [municipality and prefecture], and shall bear the duty of sharing the burden [costs] thereof [of these services].

Article 10 (Inhabitant)

Any person who has his/her residence within the area of a city, town or village is its inhabitant. He/She is also an inhabitant of To, Do, Fu or Ken which comprises such city, town or village.

2. Every inhabitant shall, in accordance with this Law, have the right to use in common the property and establishments of the ordinary local public body to which he/she belongs and the duty to share the costs thereof.

1948 yearbook translation

The Local Autonomy Law
Chapter II   Inhabitants

Article 10

A person who has his residence within the area of a city, town or village shall be an inhabitant of metropolis, district or urban or rural prefecture which includes the concerned city, town or village, as well as of the concerned city, town or village.

An inhabitant shall, in pursuance of the present Law, have the right to use in common with others the property and establishments of the ordinary local public body to which he belongs and the duty to share the burden thereof.

"domicile" and "resident"

A 住所 (jūsho) is defined in Japanese law as one's domicile, meaning the address at which one lives for the purpose of one's livelihood. Having a domicile address in Japan obliges a person, regardless of nationality, to establish their legal status as a 住民 (jūmin) or resident of the municipality with jurisdiction over the address by registration. Municipal registration also establishes the person's status as a resident of the prefecture having jurisdiction over the municipality -- again, without regard to nationality.

A 居所 (kyosho) or residence may sometimes qualify as a domicile. Legally, though, it is only the address at which may be staying for whatever purpose, not necessarily related to making a living.

"municipality"

The 1948 and 1999 translations fully render 市町村 (shi-vhōson) as "city, town, and village". I have called these local entities "municipalities".

The Local Autonomy Law covers so-called 特別区 (tokubetsu-ku) or "special wards [districts, areas]" in Part III: Special local public bodies (第三編:特別地方公共団体), which spans Articles 264-319.

Special wards constitute cities within the larger metropolitan cities like Metropolitan Tokyo, meaning the 23-ward area of Tokyo prefecture. Since such wards are essentially municipalities, the term 区市町村 (ku-shi-vhōson) is sometimes used to refer to all four entities collectively, and in general contexts my use of "municipality" embraces all such entities.

"prefecture"

The 1948 and 1999 translations represent interesting contrasts in approach. The former renders 都道府県 (to-dō-fu-ken) as "metropolis, district or urban or rural prefecture". The later makes no attempt to render the four kinds of entities in English. While historically they are different, and even today are not exactly the same, all are nonetheless simply prefectures in relation to the municipalities

第十一条

日本国民たる普通地方公共団体の住民は、この法律の定めるところにより、その属する普通地方公共団体の選挙に参与する権利を有する。

Article 11

A resident of an ordinary local public body who is a Japan national [national of Japan, Japanese national], in accordance with what this law determines [determinations of this law], shall possess the right to participate in the elections of the ordinary local public bodies to which [the person] belongs.

Article 11 (Right of Voting)

Every inhabitant who is a Japanese national shall, in accordance with this Law, have the right to vote at the elections of the ordinary local public body to which he/she belongs.

1948 yearbook translation

The Local Autonomy Law
Chapter II   Inhabitants

Article 11

Any inhabitant of an ordinary local public body who is a citizen of Japan shall, in pursuance of the present Law, have the right to participate in the election of the ordinary local public body to which he belongs.

"Japan national"

The 1948 yearbook translation renders "kokumin" (国民) as "citizen". However, most contemporary (Occupation period) translations of other Japanese laws (including other translations in the yearbook) properly translate "kokumin" as "national". The 1999 translation, while flawed in other ways, recognizes that the law does not refer to a national as a "citizen" -- which is not defined in Japanese law.

第十二条

日本国民たる普通地方公共団体の住民は、この法律の定めるところにより、その属する普通地方公共団体の条例(地方税の賦課徴収並びに分担金、使用料及び手数料の徴収に関するものを除く。)の制定又は改廃を請求する権利を有する

2  日本国民たる普通地方公共団体の住民は、この法律の定めるところにより、その属する普通地方公共団体の事務の監査を請求する権利を有する。

Article 12

A resident of an ordinary local public body who is a Japan national, in accordance with what this law determines [determinations of this law], shall possess the right to demand the enactment or the revision or abolition of ordinances (Except those which concern assessment and collection of local taxes, and collection of partial monies [assessed contributions], usage fees, and service fees charges.) of the ordinary public body to which [the person] belongs.

2. A resident of an ordinary public body who is a Japan national, in accordance with what this law determines [determinations of this law], shall possess the right to demand an inspection of the administration [operations] of the ordinary local public bodies to which [the person] belongs.

Article 12
(Right of Initiative, etc.)

Every inhabitant who is a Japanese national shall, in accordance with this Law, have the right to demand enactment, amendment or abolition of bylaws (not relating to the levy or collection of local tax or the collection of assessments, charges or fees) of the ordinary local public body to which he/she belongs.

2. Every inhabitant who is a Japanese national shall, in accordance with this Law, have the right to demand audit of the affairs of the ordinary local public body to which he/she belongs.

1948 yearbook translation

The Local Autonomy Law
Chapter II   Inhabitants

Article 12

Any inhabitant of an ordinary local public body who is a citizen of Japan shall, in pursuance of the present Law, have the right to demand the enactment or amendment or abolition of by-laws of the ordinary local public body to which he belongs.

Any inhabitant of an ordinary local public body who is a citzen of Japan shall, in pursuance of the present Law, have the right to demand the inspection of the affairs of the ordinary local public body to which he belongs.

Similar provisions for special wards

Part 4 of the Local Autonomy Law (Articles 264-319) concern "Special" as opposed to "Ordinary" local public bodies. Section 1 (Articles 264-280), concerning "Special cities", has been deleted.

According to the 1948 yearbook translation of the original law, the now deleted Article 267 provided that "A person who has his residence within the ares [sic = area] of a special city shall be an inhabitant of the concerned special city" (page 75).

"Special cities" (特別市) were originally defined as special entities which were essentially similar to cities (市) but were legally outside the prefectures and hence were overseen directly by the national government. A 1956 revision to the Local Autonomy Law abolished "special cities" as separate (non-prefectural) entities.

Part 4 of the law now begins from Section 2 (Articles 280-283), which pertains to "Special wards" defined as the wards the Metropolis (都 To), meaning Tokyo prefecture.

In the original law, Article 283 read simply "With respect to a special ward, except for those provided in cabinet orders the provisions relating to cities of Volume II shall apply" (1948 year book, page 77).

Article 283 now has three paragraphs. The first paragration states that "Except for the making of special determinations in this law or by government [cabinet] order, as for the provisions concerning cities in Part 2 and Part 4, [this law] shall apply these [provisions] to special wards" (structural translation).

In other words, affiliates of a ward (区民 kumin) -- whether a ward in a city or a special ward in the Metropolis (Tokyo) -- are defined as its registered residents (住民 jūmin) regardless of nationality, and their rights to elect and be elected are limited to nationals (国民 kokumin).

第十三条

日本国民たる普通地方公共団体の住民は、この法律の定めるところにより、その属する普通地方公共団体の議会の解散を請求する権利を有する。

2 日本国民たる普通地方公共団体の住民は、この法律の定めるところにより、その属する普通地方公共団体の議会の議員、長、副知事若しくは副市町村長、選挙管理委員若しくは監査委員又は公安委員会の委員の解職を請求する権利を有する。

3 日本国民たる普通地方公共団体の住民は、法律の定めるところにより、その属する普通地方公共団体の教育委員会の委員の解職を請求する権利を有する。

Article 11

A resident of an ordinary local public body who is a Japan national, in accordance with what this law determines [determinations of this law], shall possess the right to demand the dissolvement of the assembly of the ordinary local public bodies to which [the person] belongs.

2. A resident of an ordinary local public body who is a Japan national, in accordance with what this law determines [determinations of this law], shall possess the right to demand the removal from office a member of the assembly, the head, the deputy governor or deputy mayor [head of city, town, village], member of the election management committee [election board, commission], or audit commissioner, or member of the Public Security Commission of the ordinary local public bodies to which [the person] belongs.

3. A resident of an ordinary local public body who is a Japan national, in accordance with what this law determines [determinations of this law], shall possess the right to demand the removal from office of a member of the Education Board [Commission] of the ordinary local public bodies to which [the person] belongs.

Article 13
(Right to Recall, etc.)

Every inhabitant who is a Japanese national shall, in accordance with this Law, have the right to demand dissolution of the assembly of the ordinary local public body to which he/she belongs.

2. Every inhabitant who is a Japanese national shall, in accordance with this Law, have the right to demand removal from office of any member of the assembly, the chief executive, any assistant thereto, the chief accountant or treasurer, any member of the election administration commission or any audit commissioner or any member of the public safety commission of the ordinary local public body to which he/she belongs.

3. Every inhabitant who is a Japanese national shall, in accordance with law, have the right to demand removal from office of any member of the education commission of the ordinary local public body to which he/she belongs.

1948 yearbook translation

The Local Autonomy Law
Chapter II   Inhabitants

Article 13

Any inhabitant of an ordinary local public body who is a citizen of Japan shall, in pursuance of the present Law, have the right to demand the dissolution of the assembly of the ordinary local public body to which he belongs.

Any inhabitant of an ordinary local public body who is a citizen of Japan shall, in pursuance of the present Law, have the right to demand the removal from office of the assemblymen of the ordinary local public body to which he belongs and its chief, vice-governor, deputy-mayor, chief disburser or treasurer, members of electoral administration committee or inspection commissioners.

第十三条の二

市町村は、別に法律の定めるところにより、その住民につき、住民たる地位に関する正確な記録を常に整備しておかなければならない。

Article 13-2

A municipality [city, town, village], in accordance with what separately laws determine [determinations of separate laws], regarding its residents, must at all times maintain accurate records concerning the status of being a resident.

Article 13-2 (Records)

Each city, town or village shall keep accurate records of the current status of its inhabitants, as provided for by law.

1948 yearbook translation

This article was added by Law No. 53 of 2006.

[ Articles 14-16 omitted ]

第四章   選挙 (第17条〜第73条)
Chapter 4   Elections (Article 17 - Article 73)
Japanese
地方自治法
Structural translation
Local Autonomy Law
1999 JCLA translation
Revised Local Autonomy Law
第二章   住民 Chapter 4   Elections Chapter IV   Elections

第十七条

普通地方公共団体の議会の議員及び長は、別に法律の定めるところにより、選挙人が投票によりこれを選挙する。

Article 17

As for the members and the head of the assembly of an ordinary local public body, in accordance with what separately laws determine [determinations of separate laws], the electors shall elect these [officials] by ballot.

Article 17
(Elections of Assemblypersons and Chief Executive)

The member of the assembly and the chief executive of an ordinary local public body shall be elected by ballot by the electors in the manner provided by law.

1948 yearbook translation

The Local Autonomy Law
Chapter IV   Elections

Article 17

The assemblymen and the chief of an ordinary local public body shall, from among such persons as are qualified for being elected to that office, be elected by means of the vote by electors.

第十八条

日本国民たる年齢満二十年以上の者で引き続き三箇月以上市町村の区域内に住所を有するものは、別に法律の定めるところにより、その属する普通地方公共団体の議会の議員及び長の選挙権を有する。

Article 18

A person who is Japan national and is of 20 years of age or over and who continuously for three months or above possesses a domicile within the area of a municipality [city, town, village], in accordance with what separatly laws determine [determinations of other laws], shall possess the right to elect the members of the assembly and the head of the ordinary local public body to which [the person] belongs.

Article 18 (Right to Elect)

Every Japanese national over twenty years of age, who shall have had his/her residence for the past three months or more within the area of a city, town or village, shall, as provided for by law, have the right to elect members of the assembly and the chief executive of the ordinary local public body to which he/she belongs.

1948 yearbook translation

The Local Autonomy Law
Chapter IV   Elections

Article 18

Any person who, being a citizen of Japan of twenty years of age or over, has had his residence within the area of a city, town or village for six consecutive months at a given date, shall have the right to vote at the election of the assemblymen or the chief of the ordinary local public body to which he belongs.

Minimum period of continuous residence

The condition of six months was reduced to three months.

Voting permitted in only one municipality

The following underscored paragraphs were deleted by the same revision. The principle that a qualified person can vote in only one municipal entity, namely the one in which one has registered as a resident, remains unchanged.

Upon application of a person who is in a special relationship to a city, town or village, the concerned city, town or village may, through the resolution of its assembly, grant such person the right to vote at the election of the assemblymen or the chief of such city, town or village, regardless of the residential qualification as presecribed in the preceding paragraph.

Any person who has been granted a right to vote in accordance with the provisions of the preceding paragraph shall have the right to vote at the elections of the assemblymen or the chief of the metropolis, district or urban or rural prefecture which include such city, town or village.

Any person who has, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 2, been granted the right to vote in a city, town or village other than the city, town or village in which he has his residence shall, notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 1, not have the right to vote at the elections of the assemblymen or the chief of an ordinary local public body in the city, town or village in which he has his residence.

The period of six months contemplated in paragraph 1 shall not be interrupted by the creation, dissolution, union or division of a city, town or village, or by an alteration of a boundary thereof.

第十九条

普通地方公共団体の議会の議員の選挙権を有する者で年齢満二十五年以上のものは、別に法律の定めるところにより、普通地方公共団体の議会の議員の被選挙権を有する。

2 日本国民で年齢満三十年以上のものは、別に法律の定めるところにより、都道府県知事の被選挙権を有する。

3 日本国民で年齢満二十五年以上のものは、別に法律の定めるところにより、市町村長の被選挙権を有する。

Article 19

Article 19 (Eligibility)

Any person over twenty-five years of age who has the right to elect members of the assembly of the ordinary local public body shall be eligible to such membership, as provided by law.

2. Any Japanese national over thirty years of age shall be eligible to the office of governor of To, Do, Fu or Ken, as provided by law.

3. Any Japanese national over twenty-five years of age shall be eligible to the office of mayor of a city, town or village, as provided by law.

1948 yearbook translation

The Local Autonomy Law
Chapter IV   Elections

Article 19

Any person who, being twenty-five years of age and upward who possesses the right to vote at the election of the assemblymen of an ordinary local public body shall be qualified for being elected to the office of assemblymen of the ordinary local public body to which he belongs.

Any citizen of Japan who is twenty-five years of age or over shall be eligible for being elected to the office of mayor of a city, town or village.

The ages contemplated in the preceding three paragraphs shall be coimputed as of the date of election.

第二十条

[ 第20条乃至第73条   削除]

Article 20

[ Article 20 to Article 73   Deleted ]

1948 yearbook translation

The Local Autonomy Law
Chapter IV   Elections

Article 20

A person who has been adjudged incompetent or quasi-incompetent or who has been sentenced to imprisonment with or without hard labor and has neither undergone the execution of such punishment nor has ceased to undergo the same shall have neither the right to vote at the elections nor be eligible to be elected thereat.

Conditions that cause loss of rights of suffrage

The underscored (deleted) Article 20 was effectively superseded in 1950 by Article 11 of the Public Offices Election Law since in 1950, which stipulated in greater detail the conditions under which a person would not possess rights of suffrage -- in addition to the conditions of nationality, age, and establishment of residential status.

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別表第一

第一号法定受託事務
(第二条関係)

Appended Table 1

No. 1 statutory entrusted functions
(related to Article 2)

Self-governing functions

The object of the Local Autonomy Law is to clarify the powers and obligations of the various local bodies (entities, polities) defined by the law -- principally the municipalities (cities, towns, and villages) that constitute the prefectures.

So-called "self-governing functions" or "autonomous affairs" (自治事務 jichi jimu) are mostly matters that local bodies carry out under their own (municipal and prefectural) ordinances, exercising the powers of governance given them by the Constitution and Local Autonomy Law.

So-called "statutory entrusted functions" or "affairs delgated by [national] statutes" (法定受託事務 hōtei jutaku jimu) are mostly matters that local bodies are obliged to carry out under national laws other than the Local Autonomy Law.

The "Family Registration Law" and the "Alien Registration Law" are administered by local authorities.

備考

この表の下欄の用語の意義及び字句の意味は、上欄に掲げる法律における用語の意義及び字句の意味によるものとする。

Note

The significance of the terms and the meaning of the phrases in the section below [consisting] of this table shall be according to the significance of the terms and the meaning of the phrases in the law given in the section above.

法律   Law [statute] 事務   Affairs [matters, functions]

戸籍法(昭和二十二年法律第二百二十四号)

Family Registration Law (Law No. 224 of 1947)

第一条第一項の事務

Affairs of Article 1 Paragraph 1.

外国人登録法(昭和二十七年法律第百二十五号)

Alien Registration Law (Law No. 125 of 1952)

この法律の規定により市町村が処理することとされている事務

Affairs deemable for cities, towns, and villages to process in accordance with the provisions of this law.

日本国との平和条約に基づき日本の国籍を離脱した者等の出入国管理に関する特例法(平成三年法律第七十一号)

Special law concerning, inter alia, the exit-entry-country [immigration] control of persons who based on the Treaty of Peace with Japan separated from the nationality of Japan (Law No. 71 of 1991)

一 第四条第三項及び第六項並びに第六条第一項の規定により市町村が処理することとされている事務

二 附則第五条第一項及び第二項の規定により市町村が処理することとされている事務

Affairs deemable for cities, towns, and villages to process in accordance with the provisions of Article 4 Paragraph 3 and Paragraph 6, and Article 6 Paragraph 1

Affairs deemable for cities, towns, and villages to process in accordance with the provisions of Article 5 Paragraph 1 and Paragraph 2 of the Supplementary provisions

General and special permanent residence

Law No. 71 of 1991 defines "Special Permanent Resident" (特別永住者 tokubetsu eijūsha) as an exception to the "[General] Permanent Resident" ([一般] 永住者 [ippan] eijūsha) defined by the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law. Those who would qualify as SPRs apply at municipal halls. Those who would qualify as GPRs apply through Immigration Bureau offices.

General permanent residence

An aliens seeking permission to acquire status as a "[General] Permanent Resident" applies directly to a Regional Immigration Bureau or a District Office or Branch Office of a regional bureau, pursuant to the "Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act" of 1952 and 1982. The applicant receives notification of the decision from the immigration office. If permission is granted, an immigration officer places a "Permission for Permanent Residence" (永住許可 Eijū kyoka) stamp in the applicant's passport -- or, in lieu of a passport, on a "Certificate of proof of status of residence" (在留資格証明書 zairyu shikaku shōmeishō), which the Ministry of Justice oddly calls just a "Certificate of Eligibility" in English.

Special permanent residence

An alien seeking status as a "Special Permanent Resident", however, files an application at a municipal office, which forwards the application to the Minister of Justice. When approving the application, the Minister of Justice issues a "Certificate of permission for special permanent residence" (特別永住許可書 tokubetsu eijū kyoka sho) to the applicant through the municipal office.

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附則 Supplementary provisions
Japanese
地方自治法
Structural translation
The Local Autonomy Law

第一条

この法律は、日本国憲法施行の日から、これを施行する。

Article 1

This law shall come into force from the day of enforcement of the Constitution of Japan.

1948 yearbook translation

Article 1

This Law shall come into force as from the day of the enforcement of the Constitution of Japan, provided, however, that the day of enforcement of those provisions regarding the Police Division, Police Station and Police Officials shall be prescribed in law.

第十三条

他の法令中地方長官、東京都長官、北海道庁長官又は都道府県若しくは東京都の区の官吏に関する規定は、政令で特別の規定を設ける場合を除く [外、各々] ほか、それぞれ都道府県知事、都知事、道知事又は都道府県若しくは特別区の相当する都道府県知事若しくは特別区の区長の補助機関である [吏員] 職員に関する規定とみなす。

Article 13

As for provisions in other statutes concerning local chiefs [directors], the Tokyo Metropolis [prefectural] chief, the Hokkaido Headquarters [prefectural] chief, and officials [public civil servants] of the prefectures [to-dō-fu-ken] and the wards of Metropolitan Tokyo -- excepting cases of making special provisions by government [cabinet] order -- shall be viewed as provisions which concern respectively the governors of the prefectures [to-dō-fu-ken], the Metropolis [To] [Tokyo] governor, the District [Dō] [Hokkaido] governor, and employees who are auxiliary [subsidiary] organs of the governors of the prefectures which correspond to [which have jurisdiction over] the special wards or the ward heads of the special wards.

1948 yearbook translation

Article 13

Provisions concerning the Local Governor, Governor of Tokyo Metropolis, Governor of the District of Hokkaido or officials of a metropolis distric, urban or rural prefecture or of a ward of Tokoyo Metropolis shall, excepting in these cases where special provisions are made by cabinet orders, be deemed to be those provisions which relate respectively to the Governor of a Metropolis, District, Urban or Rural Prefecture or mayor of a special city, governor or the Metropolis governor of the District or corresponding officials of a metropolis, district, urban or rural prefecture or a special ward.

第二十条

戸籍法の適用を受けない者の選挙権及び被選挙権は、当分の間、これを停止する。

二 前項の者は、選挙人名簿にこれを登録することができない。

Article 20

As for the right to elect and the right to be elected of persons not subject to the application of the Family Register Law, for the present, [this article] suspend these [rights].

2. As for persons in the preceding paragraph, it shall not be possible to register these [persons] on an elector name roll [voter registry].

1948 yearbook translation

Article 20

The right to vote or the eligibility for election of any person to whom the Law of Family Registration is not applicable shall be suspended for the time being.

Any person mentioned in the preceding paragraph shall not be registered in the electoral list.

Applicability of Family Register Law

Since Japanese nationality is tantamount to being a member of a family register belonging to Japan, and since provisions in the main body of the Local Autonomy Law had already restricted rights of suffrage to Japanese nationals, what was the purpose of this supplementary provision?

At the time, Taiwanese and Chosenese were still legally Japanese nationals -- particularly those residing in the prefectures. However, their family registers were governed under Taiwan and Chōsen laws, whereas the Family Register Law referred to in Article 20 applied only to Interior (内地 naichi) registers -- namely, registers under the jurisdiction of prefectural municipalities.

GHQ/SCAP's definition of "Japanese"

The restriction was placed in Article 20 as an interim measure to accommodate GHQ/SCAP's definition of Taiwanese and Chosenese as "non-Japanese" for purposes of border control and alien registration. Their status as Japanese was partly put on hold until treaties could determine their future nationality.

As defined by GHQ/SCAP, "Japan" did not at the time include Okinawa prefecture and a number of parts of other prefectures. However, these prefectural territories were reached by the Interior Family Register Law. Hence, say, a person with an Okinawa register, who was registered as a resident of municipality with Occupied Japan, would be eligible to vote.

Taiwanese and Chosenese who were domiciled in the Interior had always had rights of suffrage in the Interior -- until the first postwar election in the spring of 1946. The election law, when amended in December 1945 to include women and drop the age of elegibility to 20, provisionally excluded municipal residents to whom the Interior Family Register Law did not apply.

Prior to this, the election law had not made such restrictions. Taiwanese and Chosenese, as imperial subjects, were legally eligible to vote and hold office in the Interior so long as they were residing in an Interior municipality within a defined election district. Hence they would have been eligible for suffrage -- if no provision had been made for limiting eligiblity to residents who were reached by the Family Register Law.

The two paragraphs of Article 20 in Supplementary Provisions of the Local Autonomy Law of 1947 informed Articles 2 and 3 of the Supplementary Provisions of the 1950 Public Offices Election Law (see below). Both articles lost their meaning, at least with respect to Taiwan and Chōsen affiliates, with the effectuation of the San Francisco Peace Treaty on 28 April 1952, when all Taiwanese and Chosenese lost their Japanese nationality pursuant to Civil Affairs A No. 438 notification.

Taiwanese had been subject to a series of population registration decrees and ordinances since 1896, a year after Taiwan became part of Japan. The law in effect at the time Japan surrendered was "Matters concerning family [household] registers of islanders [Taiwanese]" [本島人ノ戸籍ニ関スル件] (Taiwan Government-General Ordinance No. 8 of 20 January 1933).

Chosenese had been subject to a series of population registration measures since 1911, though Japan was instrumental in the development of Korean registration laws before the annexation of Korea as Chōsen in 1910. The Interior register system was introduced from "Chōsen family [household] register ordinance" (朝鮮戸籍令), Chōsen Government-General Ordinance No. 154 of 18 December 1922.

Continued applicability to Imperial Family?

It might seem that, since 1952, the Family Register Law application clauses in the election laws have had no meaning. But that is not the case.

While true that being Japanese is essentially a matter of status as a member of a family register, it does not follow that state affiliation with Japan is limited to family register members. Just as customary law dictated the "initial determination" of who was a Japanese national for the purpose of applying the 1899 Nationality Law, customary law would hold that all Imperial Family members have been Japanese nationals -- even though they have no "family registers" as such.

Imperial Family members are governed by the "Imperial geneology ordinance" (皇統譜令 Kō tōfu rei), Government [Cabinet] Order No. 1 of 3 May 1947, last revised by by Government [Cabinet] Order No. 305 of 31 July 1947. These special registers, and hence their members, are not subject to the Family Register Law.

Nor are Imperial Family members generally subject to family law provisions in the Civil Code. The marriages of males in the Imperial Family, and familiy status distinctions, are exceptionally governed by the Imperial Household Law of 1947 (皇室典範 Kōshitsu tenpan). The constraints on freedom to marry, and the gender and age distinctions, would be unconstitutional if they were part of Civil Code.

The Imperial Family is a distinct caste-like legal entity within the larger population of Japanese. As such it is subject to specific laws that exempt its members from certain provisions in general laws, including the Constitution. Commoners who enter the Imperial Family, and members who leave the family, migrate into and out of the caste.

Unlike Japanese nationals who are reached by the Family Register Law, Imperial Family members have neither the right to vote nor the right to hold public office -- arguably because their registers are beyond the reach of the Family Register Law.

It is possible to contend that, since Imperial Family members have no family registers as such, and lack even a family name, perhaps they are not truly "nationals" of Japan. Again, common law would hold that the intent of the Nationality Law, and the intent of related provisions in the Civil Code and Family Register Law, is to embrace people in the Imperial Geneology, at least respect to their nationality.

It is not clear that the intent of the Family Register Law application clauses was to exclude Imperial Family members from rights of suffrage. This exclusion, too, may be a matter of customary law.

The exclusion may even be even be viewed as a legacy of statute law. For the effect of pre-1945 House of Representatives and House of Peers laws was to exclude Imperial Family Members and the highest two ranks of the nobility from holding elective offices.

In fact, Article 16 of the 1890 House of Representatives law expressely stated that "The present head of a noble clan [family] shall not able to be an electing person or an elected person" (華族ノ当主ハ衆議院議員ノ選挙人及被選人タルコトヲ得ス), while Article 12 of the 1900 revised law similar stated that " held that "The head of household of a noble clan [family] shall not possess either right to elect or the right to be elected" (華族ノ戸主ハ選挙権及被選挙権ヲ有セス).

And the 1925 revision included "Heads of households of noble clans [families]" on its list of "persons who shall not have the right to elect or be elected" (被選挙権選挙権共ニモタナイ者) -- along with incompetents, indigents, people serving penal sentences of confinement or greater, and military personnel, among others.

Members of the Imperial Family were not excluded in such exclusions from suffrage -- presumably because they were considered above such acts as electing or being elected. The exclusion of heads of noble families in the House of Representatives law was based on the recognition that they were eligible for membership in the House of Peers.

Titles of nobility and all privilages related to such titles were abolished after the war. The Imperial Family itself was hacked down its core members.

The Imperial Family lost all rights to policial participation de facto from the start of the Allied Occupation of Japan, and de jure with the enforcement of the 1947 Constitution. Presumabely the tradition of their non-participation in elections -- even those related to the House of Peers, which Imperial Family members males of age belonged to as a matter of birth -- carried over into the new order without codification in statutues.

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1950 Public Offices Election Law

3 May 1950

Law No. 100 of 15 April 1950

公職選挙法
Kōshoku senkyo hō
[Public offices election law]
Promulgated on 15 April 1950
Enforced from 1 May 1950

This is one of the longest, most revised, and most convoluted laws in Japan. It has been revised numerous times, mostly to deal with changes in election mechanics and campaign rules, partly to improve efficiency and equality, and partly to minimize bias and discourage fraud.

Overseas voters

Among the more important revisions are those made to accommodate overseas voters -- which had been a very contentious issue in Japan many years. The first accommodation attempt limited overseas voters to elections of proportional districts. That is, they could vote only for members of the House of Representives running in the district which included their honseki (principle register) address in Japan.

The Public Offices Election Law as enacted in 1950 made no provisions for Japanese residing overseas to vote. Since eligibility was based on registration as a municiple resident, Japanese with domiciles overseas did not qualify.

On 14 September 2005, however, the Grand Bench of the Supreme Court ruled 12-to-2 that it was unconstitutional not to permit overseas electors to vote for individual candidates running in single-district constituences, and ordered that they be able to do so from the next Upper House election in the summer of 2007. The Diet proceeded to revise the relevant law effective from 2006.

In 1996, dozens of Japanese residing in several countries filed a joint lawsuit in the Tokyo District Court against the government, alleging that, in not permitting them to vote in the 1996 Lower House election, the 1950 election law had violated their Constitutional right to vote.

In 1998, while the case was still in the District Court, the Diet revised the law (Law No. 47) to enable eligible electors residing outside Japan to vote -- but only in elections of House of Councilors members, who ran in proportional districts (比例区). The Diet felt it would be too difficult and expensive to prepare and distribute information in a timely manner so that people overseas could vote in the elections of House of Representatives members, who ran in single-district (local) constituencies (小選挙区).

In 1999 the Tokyo District rejected the original demands. On 8 November 2000 the Tokyo High Court [Heisei 11(Gyo-Ko)253] rejected their appeal, agreeing with the government that the state had the right to restrict the voting of overseas nationals in order to keep elections equitable and efficient.

In 2001, several litigants then appealed their cases to the Supreme Court [Heisei 13(Gyo-Tsu)82&83 and Heisei 13(Gyo-Hi)76&77], which on 14 September 2005 overturned all the lower court decisions on the grounds that the Constitution does not restrict the right to vote to nationals residing in Japan. The cases were collectively titled "Case seeking confirmation of unconstitutionality of deprevation of right to elect of Japanese residing outside [Japan] et cetera" (在外日本人選挙権剥奪違法確認等請求事件)

There had been movements in the Diet to include overseas voters. A 1984 bill died in 1986. By 2005, the original 53 plaintiffs had dropped to only 13, but each received the 5,000 yen per-litigant solatium they had demanded in the original lawsuit. It may well have been physically difficult in the past to accommodate overseas voters, but that should be no problem in this day and age of global computer networking and mail distribution.

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1950 Public Offices Election Law
Any Japanese national twenty years of age or older . . .

Japanese text

The following Japanese text is a reformatted version of the text retrieved from the Laws and regulations data provision system (法令データ提供システム Hōrei deeta teikyō shisutemu), a law database on the e-Government server of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

English translations

The current law has not been translated. However, a complete translation of the original law exists.

1952 yearbook translation

A fine-print full translation of the original version of the law spans nearly seventy pages in the Appendix to The Japan Year Book 1949-52 (Tokyo: The Foreign Affairs Association of Japan, 1952, pages 105-173).

Structural translation

The structural translation is mine. As always when showing such translations, my purpose is to cut closer to the phrasal and metaphorical bone of the original text than do most received translations, partly in order to illuminate problems with the received translations.

See the articles under "Translation standards" in the Legal terminology section of the "Glossaries and almanacs" feature of this website for a close look at the problems that plague translations, especially those appearing on MOJ's "Japanese Law Translation" website.

Commentary

In the Japanese text and all translations, I have highlighted words and phrases selected for commentary as follows.

Green = appropriate
Purple = problematic
Red = incorrect

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公職選挙法

Public officials election law

昭和二十五年四月十五日法律第百号

最終改正:平成一九年六月一五日法律第八六号

Law No. 100 of 15 April 1950

Last revised: Law No. 86 of 15 June 2007

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第二章   選挙権及び被選挙権 (第9条〜第11条の2)
Chapter 2   Right to elect and right to be elected (Article 9 - Article 11-2)
Japanese
公職選挙法
2009 structural translation
Public offices election law
Received translation
Public Offices Election Law

第九条(選挙権)

日本国民で年齢満二十年以上の者は、衆議院議員及び参議院議員の選挙権を有する。

日本国民たる年齢満二十年以上の者で引き続き三箇月以上市町村の区域内に住所を有する者は、その属する地方公共団体の議会の議員及び長の選挙権を有する。

[ 以降省略 ]

Article 9 (Right to elect)

A person who is a Japan national and is of 20 years of age or above, shall possess the right to elect House of Representatives members and House of Councilors members.

2. A person who is a Japan national and is of 20 years of age or above and who continuously for three months or above possesses a domicile within the area of a municipality [shi-chō-son city-town-village], shall possess the right to elect the members and the head of the assembly of the local public body affiliated with it [city, town, village].

[ Rest omitted ]

Article 9

1952 yearbook translation

Article 9 (Voting Right)

Any Japanese national who is twenty (20) years of age or over shall have the right to vote in the election of the members of the House of Representatives and of the House of Councillors.

2. Any Japanese national who is twenty years of age or over, and has had his residence within the area of a city, town or village for three consecutive months at a given time, shall have the right to vote in the election of assemblymen, chiefs, or members of boards of education of the local public body.

[ Rest omitted ]

第十条(被選挙権)

日本国民は、左の各号の区分に従い、それぞれ当該議員又は長の被選挙権を有する。

1.衆議院議員については年齢満25年以上の者
2.参議院議員については、年齢満30年以上の者
3.都道府県の議会の議員については、その選挙権を有する者で年齢満25年以上のもの
4.都道府県知事については年齢満30年以上の者
5.市町村の議会の議員についてはその選挙権を有する者で年齢満25年以上のもの
6.市町村長については年齢満25年以上の者

2 前項各号の年齢は、選挙の期日により算定する。

Article 10 (Right to be elected)

Japan nationals, in accordance with the classifiction of items to the left [below], shall possess the right to be elected a member of head of the various [divisions].

(1) Regarding a House of Representative member, persons 25 years old or above
(2) Regarding a House of Councilors member, persons 30 years old or above
(3) Regarding a member of an assembly of a prefecture [to-dō-fu-ken], persons who possess the right to elect in it [the prefecture] and are 25 years old or above
(4) Regarding the governor of a prefecture [to-dō-fu-ken], persons who are 30 years old or above
(5) Regarding a member of an assembly of a municipality [shi-chō-son], persons who possess the right to elect in it [the municipality] and are 25 years old or above
(6) Regarding the mayor of the municipality [shi-chō-son], persons who are 25 years old or above

2. As for the age in each item in the preceding paragraph, it shall be calculated according to the date of the election.

Article 10

1952 yearbook translation

Article 10 (Eligibility)

Any Japanese national shall be eligible for a member or headman of any of the following as set forth in each of the following items:

(1) For a member of the House of Representatives, a person who is over twenty-five (25) years of age;
(2) For a member of the House of Councillors, a person who is over thirty (30) years of age;
(3) For a member of the assembly of the To, Do, Fu or prefecture, a person who is over twenty-five (25) years of age;
(4) For the governor of the To, Do, Fu and prefectures, a person who is over thirty (30) years of age;
(5) For a member of the assembly of the city, town or village, a person who is over twenty-five (25) years of age, having voting right thereto;
(6) For the chief of the city, town or village, a person who is over twenty-five (25) years of age;
(7) For a member of a board of education, a person who is over twenty-five (25) years of age.

2. The age as mentioned in each of the items of the preceding paragraph shall be calculated according to the date of the election.

第十一条
(選挙権及び被選挙権を有しない者)

次に掲げる者は、選挙権及び被選挙権を有しない。

一 成年被後見人
二 禁錮以上の刑に処せられその執行を終わるまでの者
三 禁錮以上の刑に処せられその執行を受けることがなくなるまでの者(刑の執行猶予中の者を除く。)
四 公職にある間に犯した刑法 (明治四十年法律第四十五号)第百九十七条 から第百九十七条の四 までの罪又は公職にある者等のあっせん行為による利得等の処罰に関する法律 (平成十二年法律第百三十号)第一条 の罪により刑に処せられ、その執行を終わり若しくはその執行の免除を受けた者でその執行を終わり若しくはその執行の免除を受けた日から五年を経過しないもの又はその刑の執行猶予中の者
五 法律で定めるところにより行われる選挙、投票及び国民審査に関する犯罪により禁錮以上の刑に処せられその刑の執行猶予中の者

2 この法律の定める選挙に関する犯罪に因り選挙権及び被選挙権を有しない者については、第二百五十二条の定めるところによる。

3 市町村長は、その市町村に本籍を有する者で他の市町村に住所を有するもの又は他の市町村において第三十条の六の規定による在外選挙人名簿の登録がされているものについて、第一項又は第二百五十二条の規定により選挙権及び被選挙権を有しなくなるべき事由が生じたこと又はその事由がなくなつたことを知つたときは、遅滞なくその旨を当該他の市町村の選挙管理委員会に通知しなければならない。

Article 11
(Persons who do not possess right to elect and right to be elected)

The next listed persons, do not possess the right to elect or the right to be elected.

(1) Persons of age [who are] being looked after [under guardianship] [Wards (who are) of age]
(2) Persons who have been disposed with a punishment of confinement or above until the end of its execution
(3) Persons who have been disposed with a punishment of confinement or above until [they] are not subject to its execution (Except persons during a stay of execution of the punishment.)
(4) 公職にある間に犯した刑法 (明治四十年法律第四十五号)第百九十七条 から第百九十七条の四 までの罪又は公職にある者等のあっせん行為による利得等の処罰に関する法律 (平成十二年法律第百三十号)第一条 の罪により刑に処せられ、その執行を終わり若しくはその執行の免除を受けた者でその執行を終わり若しくはその執行の免除を受けた日から五年を経過しないもの又はその刑の執行猶予中の者
(5) 法律で定めるところにより行われる選挙、投票及び国民審査に関する犯罪により禁錮以上の刑に処せられその刑の執行猶予中の者

2. この法律の定める選挙に関する犯罪に因り選挙権及び被選挙権を有しない者については、第二百五十二条の定めるところによる。

3. 市町村長は、その市町村に本籍を有する者で他の市町村に住所を有するもの又は他の市町村において第三十条の六の規定による在外選挙人名簿の登録がされているものについて、第一項又は第二百五十二条の規定により選挙権及び被選挙権を有しなくなるべき事由が生じたこと又はその事由がなくなつたことを知つたときは、遅滞なくその旨を当該他の市町村の選挙管理委員会に通知しなければならない。

Article 11

1952 yearbook translation

Article 11
(Those who have neither the Right to vote nor Eligibility for Election)

The persons mentioned in each of the following items shall have neither the right to vote nor eligibility for election:

(1) A person adjudged incompetent;
(2) A person who has been condemned to confinement or any heavier punishment and whose term of punishment has not been completed;
(3) A person who has been condemned to confinement or any heavier punishment and whose term of punishment is yet to be executed (except a person granted a stay of execution of sentence on a crime other than those concerning election, voting and popular examination to be held in accordance with the provisions of laws).

2. Those who have neither the right to vote nor eligibiilty for election due to the crimes concerning the election prescribed in this Law shall be provided for by Article 252 (Suspension of Right to Vote and Eligibility for Election, of persons punished for Election Crimes).

第十一条の二
(被選挙権を有しない者)

公職にある間に犯した前条第一項第四号に規定する罪により刑に処せられ、その執行を終わり又はその執行の免除を受けた者でその執行を終わり又はその執行の免除を受けた日から五年を経過したものは、当該五年を経過した日から五年間、被選挙権を有しない。

Article 11-2
(Persons who do not possess right to be elected)

公職にある間に犯した前条第一項第四号に規定する罪により刑に処せられ、その執行を終わり又はその執行の免除を受けた者でその執行を終わり又はその執行の免除を受けた日から五年を経過したものは、当該五年を経過した日から五年間、被選挙権を有しない。

Article 11-2

1952 yearbook translation

Article 11-2

[ Article added by Law 122 of 1999. ]

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附則 Supplementary provisions

第一条

この法律は、昭和二十五年五月一日から施行する。

Article 1

This law shall come into force from 1 May 1950.

1948 yearbook translation

Article 1

This Law shall come into force as from May 1, 1950.

第二条

戸籍法(昭和二十二年法律第二百二十四号)の適用を受けない者の選挙権及び被選挙権は、当分の間、停止する。

Article 2

As for the right to elect and the right to be elected of persons not subject to application of the Family Register Law (Law No. 224 of 1947), [this provision] shall, for the present, suspend [these rights].

1952 yearbook translation

Article 2

The voting right and eligibility of the person to whom the Census Registration Law (Law No. 224 of 1947) is not applicable shall be suspended for a while.

Applicability of Family Register Law

This article reflects the first paragraph of Article 20 of the Local Autonomy Law of 1947. See commentary there for further details.

第三条

前項の者は、選挙人名簿又は在外選挙人名簿に登録することができない。

Article 3

As for persons in the preceding paragraph, it shall not be possible to register these [persons] on an elector name roll [voter registry] or a residing-outside [Japan] elector name roll [overseas voter roll].

1952 yearbook translation

Article 3

The persons mentioned in the preceding paragraph shall not register in the electors' list.

Applicability of Family Register Law

The underscored phrasing in the current version of the article was added in 1999. This article reflects the second paragraph of Article 20 of the Local Autonomy Law of 1947. See commentary there for further details.

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Residents as citizens of Japan

Forthcoming.

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Rights, duties, and residency (Table)

Forthcoming.

Legal residents People legally residing in Japan
Legal non-residents People legally in Japan as non-residents
Illegal residents People whose legal residency in Japan has lapsed
Illegal non-residents People illegally in Japan as non-residents
Non-persons People in Japan who are invisible to authorities

Rights, duties, and residency in Japan
How legal status affects opportunity to participate in Japanese life

Legal residents
People legally residing in Japan

Rights and duties provided in Japan's Constitution and other laws are conditioned by many personal attributes, including nationality, gender, age, mental capacity, family relationship, and other aspects of their legal status. Before considering how nationality and related statuses effect the legal quality of an individual's life in Japan, it is important to understand that all residents of Japan are equal before the law with respect to its applicability.

Generally this means that, before an individuals rights and duties can be assessed, the individual has to establish a legal identity and status. The individual has to exist in the eyes of Japanese law -- and that existence will ultimately involve determinations of nationality -- alien if not Japanese, stateless if an alien without another nationality.

Existing in Japan is a matter of being legally domiciled in a municipality of Japan. In principle, all people who are legally domiciled in a municipality of Japan are residents of the municipality and its embracing prefecture, in addition to being either a national of Japan or an alien.

Being legally domiciled in Japan is a matter of residential registration. Nationals and aliens alike legally exist in Japan only if they are legally registered as a resident of a municipality.

Nationals who are not domiciled in Japan exist as Japanese, because they have "honseki" (principal registers) in Japan. However, they do not exist as residents of Japan unless they maintain a legal domicile in a Japanese municipality.

Some rights, such as suffrage, are constitutionally guaranteed nationals. However, no right is denied because of nationality. In other words, no law states that aliens cannot be allowed to vote or hold public office in Japan.

Nationality is presently a condition for national and local (municipal and prefectural) suffrage. Some localities, however, are extending some rights of political participation to some aliens.

All nationals and aliens are individuals with respect to other attributes of their legal status, such as gender and age. Nationality itself is an individual attribute in the sense that the country of nationality may effect how the alien is treated in Japan. Moreover, aliens are individuals with respect to their status of residence, which effects their treatment under all manner of laws.

There are, in other words, numerous facets of legal status in Japan, and therewhetherJust as all nationals are individuals with respect to other attributes of status, such as gender and age, aliens are individuals in terms of their

Japanese

Aliens

Since possession of Japanese nationality is based on having a "honseki" or "principal register" in Japan, a person with a "honseki" in Japan has a right of abode in Japan. People obtain Japanese passports, whether in Japan or overseas, on the strength of evidence that they possess a "honseki" in Japan. Anyone outside Japan, whether returning to Japan or coming to Japan for the first time, is in principle allowed to enter Japan on the strength of possessing a Japanese passport or its equivalent.

Many rights and duties provided for Japanese nationals apply only to those who are legally residing in Japan. Japanese who reside overseas have the right to vote in most elections, but their rights to hold elective offices are limited. Tax laws and welfare laws also work differently for Japanese who legally reside overseas.

Japanese, whether residing in Japan or overseas, are subject to laws concerning registration of their residential status. Overseas Japanese, returning to Japan or coming for the first time, re-establish or establish their residency in Japan only by registration as residents of the municipality where they decide to reside.

Japanese may travel or live overseas for any period of time and maintain their residency in Japan, only if -- while overseas -- they continue to comply with laws concerning the maintenance of a residency in Japan.

Since overseas Japanese may freely enter and travel in Japan, it is possible to stay forever without registering as a resident of Japan. However, while in Japan, they will not be able to excerise any right or fulfill any obligation that requires residential status in Japan.

Aliens, in lieu of having a "honseki" based right of abode in Japan, legally reside in Japan on the basis of a valid status of residence. An alien's status determines period of stay and extent of activities. All visas limit period and activites. Non-vised statuses, which do not limit activities, come in two kinds: long-term statuses, which must be renewed, and permanent statuses.

Special permanent residents have treaty-accorded rights of abode so long as they remain qualified. SPRs are people who, as Taiwanese and Chosenese, were residing in Japan's prefectures when Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on 2 September 1945, and have continuously resided in Japan since then, and descendants were born in Japan since then, who have continuously resided in Japan. SPRs represent about fifty different nationalities, through most are nationals of the Republic of Korea or the Republic of China.

General permanent residents also have virtual rights of abode, as do some long-term residents such as recognized refugees, and some stateless aliens whose statelessness originated in Japan.

However, all aliens, including SPRs, are required to register as aliens and otherwise abide by alien registration laws that apply to their particular status of residence. And all aliens who travel abroad require re-entry permits to return to Japan -- though SPRs, diplomats, and certain other classes of aliens are treated like Japanese when re-entering Japan in that they are not required to submit to biometric screening (scans of tips of index fingers and face) at ports of entry. In other ways, too, SPRs are treated more like Japanese than any other class of alien.

Legal non-residents
People legally residing in Japan

Overseas Japanese have the right to enter Japan for travel, business, and any other legal purpose, for an indefinite period of time.

Japanese

Aliens

Overseas Japanese have the right to enter Japan for travel, business, and any other legal purpose, and may stay for any length of time. However, participation in residential life -- including enrollment in National Health Insurance, public school attendance, and many other activities -- will require residential registration in a municipality. They may also encumber problems entering into contractual agreements that formally require a domicile in Japan.

Aliens may legally enter Japan, and travel or engage in other visa-permitted activities in the country for up to 90 days without registering as residents. Such aliens are obliged to carry their passports or equivalent documents for identification purposes. Their lack of residential status will prevent them from establishing local back accounts, and will otherwise limit their ability to engage in residential life, including the ability to contract, say, a local cell-phone service in their own name.

Illegal residents

People whose legal residency in Japan has lapsed

Japanese

Aliens

Illegal non-residents
People illegally in Japan as non-residents

Japanese

Aliens

Non-persons
People in Japan who are invisible to authorities

People who are not known to authorities do not exist as far as the law is concerned. Most such cases involve infants who remain unregistered two weeks after their birth in Japan, as this is the period within which notifications of birth are supposed to be made at local government halls. Some such cases involve people who have disappeared for various reasons and been declared dead.

Unregistered children

The child born in Japan is supposed to be registered within two weeks of birth. However, some children remain unregistered for weeks, months, even years after this period. While of course they exist to those who raise them and others who know of their existence, and though they may have a name and identity in the eyes of such people, because they have not been registered, they have no legal identity.

Since such children do not exist in the eyes of the law, they are neither Japanese nor aliens. Whether such a child, when its existence is reported or discovered, is able to acquire a nationality, Japanese or foreign, will depend on the statuses of its parents and applicable laws.

Children who are permitted by a family court to acquire Japanese nationality will registered as Japanese. Others will be treated as aliens. Alien children who are unable to acquire the nationality of another country will be registered as stateless.

Japanese

Aliens

A child born in Japan does not exist, in the eyes of the law, until its birth, and the circumstances of its birth, are reported to a municipal office for the purpose of acquiring a legal status. No child automatically becomes Japanese. Registration is essential.

Whether registered within two weeks or later, the circumstances of a child's birth will determine whether the child is able to acquire Japanese nationality. In cases of late registration, municipal authorities may be able to permit registration if the reasons for lateness are clearly justifiable. Otherwise a family court will determine the child's elegibility for registration in a Japanese household register.actions the municipal authorities reasons for lateness. , in some cases, be able to Such determinations will A familiy court will

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Legitimacy of status

Forthcoming.

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Drawing lines

Forthcoming.

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Citizens, nationals, and aliens in the United States

Nationality laws in the United States define US citizens and US nationals on the one hand, and aliens on the other. They also define different kinds of citizens, nationals, and aliens.

There are many ways to parse the complex historical grammar of legal status in the United States. The following attempt, while admittedly an over-simplification of the entire body of law past and present, will suffice for the purposes of the general comparisons I will be making in the table on elements of citizenship (below).

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1. US citizens

Aka "citizen nationals" or just "nationals"

The "United States" consists of numerous legal entities which define different legal jurisdictions. The three most important umbrella entities are the collective states of the union, the federal District of Columbia, and US territories where birth has been recognized as a cause for acquiring the status of "US citizen".

However, not all "US citizens" are equal, for the rights and duties that come with this status vary according to the citizen's residency status. US-citizen residents of the District of Columbia were not entitled to vote in presidential elections until 1961. They still they have no congressional representation, other than a non-voting delegate to the House of Representative, yet they are subject to federal taxes.

US-citizen residents of Puerto Rico and other non-incorporated territories are not enfranchised to elect any federal officials. Like the District of Columbia, they elect a non-voting representative of their own territory, but they are not subject to federal taxes,

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1a. US state citizens

State citizens are citizens of the United States defined as the union of (now 50) states. They include people who are citizen nationals (my term) by either birth in one of the states, or through naturalization.

Such citizens may also be called Constitutional citizens, since the Constitution, not federal or state statutes, provides for both their legal status as state and federal citizens and their basic rights of state and federal citizenship. In practice, their rights are stipulated in, and protected by, the constitution of the state in which they are considered to be domiciled as residents, and by the Constitution of the United States.

IRS definition of "US citizen"

The Internal Revenue Service defines a "U.S. Citizen" as follows.

U.S. Citizen

  1. An individual born in the United States.
  2. An individual whose parent is a U.S. citizen. *
  3. A former alien who has been naturalized as a U.S. citizen
  4. An individual born in Puerto Rico.
  5. An individual born in Guam.
  6. An individual born in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

* The Child Citizenship Act, which applies to both adopted and biological children of U.S. citizens, amends Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to provide for the automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship when certain conditions have been met. Specifically, these conditions are:

  1. One parent is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization;
  2. The child is under the age of 18;
  3. The child is residing in the United States as a lawful permanent resident alien and is in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent; and
  4. If the child is adopted, the adoption must be final.

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1b. US statutory citizens

Statutory citizens are citizens of the United States who born and/or now resident in the District of Columbia (Washington, DC), or in unincorporated but organized US territories or possessions like Guam (a territory), the Northern Mariana Islands (a commonwealth), Puerto Rico (a commonwealth), and the United States Virgin Islands (a territory).

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2. US nationals

Aka "non-citizen nationals" or just "nationals"

Non-citizen nationals are mostly people who were born in unincorporated unorganized US territories to parents neither of whom was a US citizen who qualified as a source of right-of-blood US citizenship at the time of their birth. Today this means mostly people born in American Samoa or Swains Island (under the jurisdiction of American Samoa). As non-citizen nationals, American Samoans elect one non-voting delegate to the US House of Representatives.

IRS definition of "US national"

However, in some cases, "US national" may also include "US citizens". The Internal Revenue Service, for example, defines "U.S. National" in the broadest possible manner to embrace all people who possess US nationality, including "US citizens".

U.S. National

An individual who owes his sole allegiance to the United States, including all U.S. citizens, and including some individuals who are not U.S. citizens. These individuals would include citizens of certain U.S. possessions such as American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands.

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3. US aliens

The term "alien" is generally used in English-language immigration and nationality laws to designate a person who does not possess a state's nationality. This is true also in US immigration and nationality laws.

US Immigration and Nationality Act defines "alien" as "any person not a citizen or national of the United States" (Sec. 101. [8 U.S.C. 1101] (a) (3)).

IRS definition of "Alien"

The Internal Revenue Service similarly defines an "Alien" as "An individual who is not a U.S. citizen or U.S. national."

IRS breaks down "Alien" into "Immigrant", "Nonimmigrant", and "Illegal Alien". See "Immigration" in the "Japan and United States: Elements of citizenship" table below for details.

Aliens and non-citizen nationals

Aka "non-citizens"

The expression "aliens and non-citizen nationals" appears in a number of federal measures concerning expedited or eased naturalization during or shortly after military service, or posthumous citizenship after death during military service.

This may invite some people to think that "non-citizen nationals" are another category of "alien" but that is not the case. Unlike aliens, non-citizen nationals of the United States possess US nationality and are therefore US nationals. What they have in common with aliens is that they are not US citizens -- i.e., they lack so-called "citizenship" in the United States.

The vast reservoirs of unreliable information on the Internet include the following line from the "United States nationality law" entry in the English edition of Wikipedia (retrieved 6 July 2009, underscoring mine).

Like other aliens, U.S. nationals who are not citizens are not prevented from voting in state and federal elections by the federal government, but are not allowed in any U.S. state to vote in federal elections.

There are two problems here. One is that "U.S nationals who are not citizens" are not "aliens". The other is that, federal laws do not keep states from permitting not-citizen nationals or aliens to vote in federal elections, federal laws -- which determine who votes (and everything else) in the District of Columubia -- limit voting in all Washington, DC elections to resident citizens.

The (PRC) Chinese link from the US nationality link is headed 美国公民 (meaning "US citizen") and begins with people who possess US nationality (美国国籍) are divided into 美国国民 (United States nationals) and 美国公民 (United States citizens). It is important to note that, under PRC law, people who possess PRC nationality are "citizens" (公民) and not "nationals" (国民), as PRC considers "national" a holdover from the pre-revolutionary concept of state affiliates being somehow tied to the state -- whereas its concept of the state is something tied to the "people" (人民).

No "non-citizen nationals" in Japan

Aliens who come to Japan, and who remain in the country with a status of residence, are required to register as aliens within 90 days. Persons who become aliens through birth in Japan (infants who do not qualify for acquisition of Japanese nationality), and Japanese who renounce their nationality and become aliens while in Japan, are required to register as aliens within 60 days.

The English website of Hokuto city in Yamanashi prefecture, in reference to alien registration, oddly translates 出生、日本国籍離脱等の日から60日以内 as "Within 60 days from the day of birth or being non-citizen nationals of Japan". The Japanese expression means precisely "Within 60 days from the day of birth, [or the day of] renunciation of Japanese nationality, et cetera".

There is no such thing as "non-citizen national" of Japan. It is legally impossible to be a "citzen" of Japan since the word has no currency in Japanese law. One is either a "national" (国民 kokumin) or not.

Some creative clerk or translator, with "race" or "ethnicity" on their brain, assumed a Japanese who renounces Japan's nationality (国籍 kokuseki) somehow remains a member of the "Japanese race / Japanese racioethnic nation" (日本民族 Nihon minzoku). Like "citizen" and "citizenship", the racioethnic sense of "nation" has no foundation or standing in Japanese law.

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