Registration laws from 1886 to 1945

Incorporation of the "family" and national expansion

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 April 2008
Last updated 18 March 2014


Family Register Law as law of land Territoriality of registers | 1872 Family Register Law
1886-1915 revisions 1886 revision | 1898 revision | 1914 revision (effective 1915) | 1915 Temporary Residence Law
1915-1945 revisions and territorial applications Naichi and gaichi registers | 1918 Common Law | 1924 application of Naichi laws to Karafuto | 1945 suspension of territorial register interactions


Family Register Law as law of land

Japan in 1868, having established a monarchy, in the name of which it would build a unified state, set out to nationalize the inhabitants of its sovereign territory by implementing a common domicile or household registration system throughout the country. Japan promulgated its first Family Register Law (Kosekihō) in 1871. The first registers were completed when the law came into force the following year -- hence, in accordance with practice on this website of referring to a law by the year of its enforcement, I am dubbing the household registration measure promulgated in 1871 as the "1872 Family Register Law".

Household registration before 1872

Controlling a population through family registration already had a long history in Japan. Until the Meiji period, population registers had been used to keep track of lineage and relationships within a clan or family. Local population registers had become a tool for land and tax administration since no later than the 6th century.

See Reports from early records for accounts of how, for example, migrants into sovereign lands were enrolled in local population registers in the process of settling them in return for their allegience.

During the 17th century, a parish registration system was imposed on Buddhist temples, some of which had already been recording births, marriages, deaths, and other matters about local families. The parish registers were contrived to support temples, but also to ensure that families were not Christians or members of a proscribed Buddhist sect. Temples lost their legal status as registrars with the enforcement of the new law in 1872.

See Household registers before Meiji: Marking the boundaries of the sovereign's nation for particulars on pre-1872 population registration practices in Japan.

Fundamental law of land

The importance of the 1872 Family Register Law is reflected in the fact that it came a decades before the makeshift 1882 Penal Code, nearly two decades before the 1890 Constitution, and practically three decades before the 1898 Civil Code and the 1899 Nationality Law. Both the Civil Code and Nationality Law presume the existence of family registers, which both record and facilitate their effects.

After World War II, under the direction and authority of the Allied Powers, the Japanese Government replaced the 1890 Constitution with the current 1947 Constitution (promulgated in 1946) -- before revising the Civil Code, which codifies family law, and the Family Register Law, which facilitates administration of the family law provisions of the Civil Code, to reflect emphasis which the new constitution placed on the dignity of the individual and sexual equality. In principle, the Nationality Law should also have been revised at that time, but political difficulties in sorting out nationality status issues during the Occupation delayed its revision until 1950.

In any event, the Family Register Law is at the mercy of the Civil Code for rules regarding individual status as a matter of family law, and is at the mercy of the Nationality Law for rules regarding the acquisition or loss of Japanese nationality at birth later in life. At the same time, the Nationality Law functions only under the assumption that family registers affiliated with Japan's sovereign territories constitute registers of persons who possess Japan's nationality are are therefore either nationals of Japan (日本国民 Nihon kokumin) or Japanese (日本人 Nihonjin), depending on the law.

The Civil Code and Nationality Law are therefore umbilically linked with family registers.

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Territoriality of registers

In Japan, a single family register, recording the civil status of one individual, is essentially a part of Japan's sovereign demographic territory. The territoriality of such registers is clear in the manner in which they identify an individual in terms of his or her primary affiliation with a municipality in a territory that is part of Japan's sovereign dominion. Severance of the territory from Japan implies loss of affiliation with Japan, hence loss of nationality. This was the case with people in Taiwan and Chōsen family registers as a result of the separation of Taiwan and Chōsen from Japan under the 1945 terms of surrender, which were finalized in by articles in the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty.

People in Okinawa registers didn't lose their Japanese status during the decades that Okinawa was under US administration, but rather their Japanese status was suspended until Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972. From 1945 to 1972, Japan retained residual sovereignty over Okinawa, and the Japanese status of Okinawans was merely suspended until Okinawa rejoined Japan's sovereign dominion.

While acquisition of Japanese nationality at time of birth is primarily through jus sanguinis (right-of-blood), the the blood ties are parental, not racial or ethnic, and the nationality thus obtained is essentially grounded in the fact that the parent (or parents) with Japanese nationality are territorially affiliated with Japan.

The jus sanguinis criterion for "birth right" nationality acquisition by a child born to parents (or a parent) who are (is) Japanese by virtue of their (his or her) civil status in Japan, is backed up by a secondary jus soli (right-of-soil, place-of-birth) criterion for a child born in Japan to parents both of whom are unknown or stateless. While the primacy of the right-of-blood provision means that children born to known non-stateless alien parents will not become Japanese at time of birth, it is nonetheless a criterion that links the child's territorial status to the territorial status of its parents.

The essential territoriality of nationality in international law -- as an indicator of an individual's legal affiliation with a state's sovereign territory -- is reflected in the fact that, in the "honseki" (本籍) box on administrative forms in Japan, where Japanese nationals write their honseki address (本籍地), aliens will write their nationality. Stateless aliens -- precisely because they have no territorial (state) affiliation -- write that they are "mukokuseki" (無国籍 mukokuseki), which means "no nationality".

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1872 Family Register Law

Family Register Law (戸籍法 Kosekihō)
Promulgated Meiji 4-4-4 (22 May 1871)
Great Council of State Proclamation No. 170
Enforced from Meiji 5-2-1 (9 March 1872)

The 1872 Family Registers Law established the authority for local authorities to enroll their local populations in household registers that, in principle, would be of the same design throughout the country. While they were local registers, established by municipal authorities within their local jurisdictions, they would collectively constitute national population registers.

While registrants were individuals, individuals were grouped according to the "household" or "ko" (戸) with which they were affiliated by virtue of their residence, usually as members of a biological family, but also adoptees, or employees or others considered affiliated with the household.. An individual's original household register is called a "principle register" or "honseki" (本籍), the address of which is taken to be the "locality of the domicile" (住所地 jŭshochi) associated with the register.

Local leaders were responsible for dividing their localities into areas and to register vital events -- births and deaths, marriages and divorces, and adoption alliances and other such "status actions" -- that defined or affected an individuals family affiliation, and to register new arrivals and note those who left. All registers naturally included blood kin and in-laws, but might also include persons who had been adopted into the family, or were being fostered or otherwise sheltered and cared for by the family as "attached persons".

Provisions were eventually made to accommodate changes in a person's actual residence, if different from that of the address on his or her honseki. This led to measures, very much in effect today, according to which an individual has -- in addition to a personal koseki (i.e., honseki) that may or may not be affiliated with the koseki of immediate family members -- the status of being a resident of the municipality in which the person actually lives, at an address that may differ from that of his or her family (i.e., permanent) register.

Family registers in principle record statuses such as sex, age (in the form of a date of birth), and biological, adoptive, marital, or in-law relationships, usually with someone in the register, but possibly with someone in another register. However, until peerage was abolished by the 1947 Constitution, registers also recorded titles of peerage. Such titles accorded their holder special legal privileges, and were inheritable and thus defined a caste.

Until postwar reforms, older registers also recorded the defunct title of shizoku, created in the early Meiji years for former samurai. By the end of the Meiji period, though, the title was abolished and was no longer inheritable. Though the title no longer accorded its holders special privileges, those who had held it continued to value its appearance on their family registers. Postwar reforms, however, included the expunging of all mentions of abolished statuses.

Even the status of "commoner" (平民 heimin), defined at the outset of the Meiji period, was discontinued later in the period, since anyone who didn't have a title of peerage was by default a commoner. Members of the imperial family have always been registered in an independent geneaology.

Although outcaste statuses were abolished in 1871, some early Meiji registers continued to identify former outcastes in ways that linked them with an abolished status. In time -- because of lingering discrimination on the part of a few people who might go to the trouble to trace an individual's familial ties with yesteryear's outcastes -- archived copies of such registers were legally sealed, and even social history researchers are denied access.

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1886-1915 revisions

The Family Register Law was revised twice during the Meiji period, first in 1886 (Home Affairs Order Order No. 22) four years before the Constitution, and again in 1898 (Justice Ministry Order No. 5). And in 1914 (Justice Ministry Order No. 7), three years into the Taishō period, it was heavily overhauled to accommodate the "ie" or "corporate family" system of family law codified in revisions to the Civil Code that came into effect in 1915.


1886 revision

Family register handling and procedures, promulgated 16 October 1886 (Interior Ministry Ordinance No. 22).

Family register recording format, promulgated 16 October 1886 (Interior Ministry Ordinance No. 20)

Changed form of domicile address from building number (屋敷番 yashikiban) system to locality number (地番 chiban) system. Provisions were also introduced for striking or removing registers (除籍 joseki).

Provided for recording direct and collateral branches of families in same register with single head of household.

Older registers recreated to reflect newer format -- the first to be uniformly used nationally.

Some information that had been on the 1872 registers, though no longer required on the new registers, was transferred in summary fashion to the new registers. These summaries were abandoned from the 1898 registers.

A box was created for the previous head of household.

Recording of occupation (職業 shokugyō) was abolished, but such information was restored on status registers (身分登記簿 mibun tōkibo).

Birth dates were recorded in year-month-day format.

Recording of temple affiliation or clan-god was abolished (this practice actually ended the previous year).

Notations beside names and such for the purpose of clarification (ト書き togaki) -- "so-and-so's third daughter" and the like.

Attached registers, and previously recorded information like "mekake" (妾), remained until the register formats that came into use from 1898.


1898 revision

Promulgated 16 June 1898 (Law No. 12) and enforced from 16 July same year (Justice Ministry Ordinance No. 5 of 13 July 1898), the same day the 1898 Civil Code came into effective.

The content of family registers somewhat changed because of family law provisions in the Civil Code. The unit of registration became the "house" (家 ie, corporate family). A "status registry" (身分登記簿 mibun tōkibo) system was established, according to which one had to file notices reporting changes in status -- meaning birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption alliances, among other events effecting register statuses.

A column was created to record the reason and date someone became head of household.

Registers entirely remade in order to accommodate new system.

Registers showed locality of principal register (本籍地 honsekichi), class [caste] designation (族称 zokushō), occupation (職業 shokugyō), movements of people into and out of the register, and status (身分 mibun) particulars.

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1914 revision (effective 1915)

Law revising family registration law (戸籍法改正法律), promulgated 30 March 1914 (Law No. 26)

Family registration law enforcement detailed regulations (戸籍法施行細則), promulgated 3 October 1914 (Ministry of Justice Instruction No. 7), enforced from 1 January 1915

Column for date and reason someone became the head of household was abolished. This matter is entered in the matters of the head of household.

Status registry system is abolished. Content of entries more detailed. 1898 registers were not required to be remade. 1886 registers that had not yet been remade were remade according to 1915 system.

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1915 Temporary Residence Law

The Temporary Residence Law (寄留法 Kiryūhō), Law No. 27 of 1914, was enforced from 1 January 1915, together with the 1914 revisions to the Civil Code and Family Register Law. The law was enacted for purpose clearly differentiating a person's honseki (koseki) and residential addresses while maintaining a record of the relationship between the two. This was done out of need for municipalities to register people whose honseki (koseki) were in other municipalities, for purpose of overseeing rights and duties that derive from their place of residence as opposed to honseki (koseki) locality. This included, for example, taxes as a duty and voting and running for elected posts as rights. It also included public school attendance for children, and labor and military conscription for older persons.

The 1915 Temporary Residence Law was replaced by the Resident Registration Law (住民登録法 Jūmin tōroku hō), Law No. 218 of 1951, effective from 28 April 1952. The Resident Registration Law Enforcement Law (住民登録法施行法 Jūmin tōroku hō shikō hō), Law No. 106 of 1952, was promulgated and also came into effect on 28 April 1952 -- the day the Allied Occupation of Japan ended and Japan regained its sovereignty.

The 1952 Resident Registration Law was both abrogated by Supplementary Article 2 of the current Basic Resident Register Law (住民基本台帳法 Jūmin kihon daichō hō) [Resident basic ledger law], Law 81 of 1967, which also replaced it effective from 10 November 1967. A revised version of the newer law is the foundation for today's Basic Resident Network (住民基本台帳ネットワーク Jūmin kihon dai nettowaaku) [Resident basic ledger network] or "Juki Net" (住基ネット Jūmin ki netto) system. Under this system, each municipal registrant is assigned a personal registration number to facilitate the computerization of numerous municipal resident services -- from public school enrollment, national health insurance, national pension, local taxes, and voting in municipal, prefectural, and national elections -- and to simplify the process of moving from one municipality to another, which requires that a registrant be struck from the resident roll of one municipality when entered on that of another.

Basic Resident Register Network    In Japan, a nationwide database of resident registers. The Basic Resident Register Law of 1967 (住民基本台帳法 jjūmin kihon daichō hō) [Resident Basic Ledger Law] facilitates the needs of municipalities and prefectures to know who is living in their jurisdictions. The state also compiles national statistics on residence and migration based on basic resident registers. The Basic Resident Register Network System (住民基本台帳ネットワークシステム jūmin kihon daichō nettowaaku shisutemu) [Resident Basic Ledger Network System] began operating in 2002. The Jūkinetto (住基ネット) is essentially a national database of basic residence registers.

Basic Resident Register Card   In Japan, an ID card issued to Japanese to facilitate their exercise of the rights and duties that derive from their legal status in a municipality. Japanese can obtain a Basic Resident Register Card (住民基本台帳カード jūmin kihon daichō kaado) [Resident Basic Ledger Card] from the village, town, or city in which they are registered as residents.

There are currently two types of Jūkikaado (住基カード). The simpler card shows only the name of the registrant and the municipality of affiliation. The more elaborate card shows the registrant's name, address, birth date, gender, and a photograph. Card memories include the eleven-digit number of the registrant's resident card for use as a database key. The registrant uses a four-digit PIN number to verify identity at points of service. Authentication and transport keys are encrypted to prevent counterfeiting and use if stolen.

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1915-1945 revisions and territorial extensions

From 1915 through the end World War II in 1945, the Family Register Law continued to be revised in relatively minor ways to keep pace with changing needs of the increasingly mobile imperial nation. The major revisions that came into effect in 1915, and the provisions of the Temporary Residence Law that came into effect at the same time, worked fairly well together as legal tools to empower and guide national and local bureaucracies in carrying out various duties related to following areas (among others):

  1. Determining the extent of Japan's legally affiliated national population, and its composition in terms of sex, age, marital and other family statuses -- but not religion, ethnicity, or race, which were not deemed to be matters of Japanese law.
  2. Administering matters of personal family law including birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance of persons who are Japanese by virtue of their existence in Japan's national registers, or qualified to become Japanese through birth or later in life and be enrolled in a family register.
    1. The Nationality Law governs the acquisition of Japanese nationality by those who are not nationals but qualified to be nationals at time of birth or later in life, and the loss of Japanese nationality by those who are already nationals. Moreover, it governs only nationality, a purely civil status, not elements of citizenship, which vary according to nationality, sex, age, penal record, and compentency.
  3. Levying and collecting taxes
  4. Providing health and welfare services
  5. Providing public school education (rolls of children qualified for enrollment)
  6. Conducting elections (rolls of adults qualified for suffrage)
  7. Carrying out military conscription (rolls qualified candidates)
  8. Carrying out labor conscription (rolls of qualified candidates)
  9. Policing (locating people for law-enforcement purposes)

The prewar registers were under the administration of the Interior Ministry, which also oversaw policing. The registers were therefore subject to abuse by law enforcement officers who wished to conduct surveillance on individuals for ideological reasons not specifically authorized by law -- which is not to say that authorized reasons were justified under even contemporary standards of human rights.

Postwar registers

The postwar register system is administered by local municipal offices for the Ministry of Justice, the competent ministry responsible for overseeing both the Family Register Law and the Basic Resident Registers Law. These postwar counterparts of the prewar family and residence registration laws continue to aid the bureaucracy in all of the above (pre-postwar) areas of population management except military and labor conscription, and policing.

The present register system could, of course, be legally placed at the disposal of the national government for conducting national conscription of any kind. Today, however, authorities other than local municipal civil servants directly responsible for family register administration cannot examine specific registers for law-enforcement purposes without a court-issued warrant. While most local registers are now computerized to facilitate providing services more efficiently and conveniently for both officials and residents, a number of measures and countermeasures protect the privacy of both individuals and families.

Territorial registers

The Empire of Japan at one point consisted of 6 distinct legal jurisdictions under different territorial governments, most importantly the 4 territories that defined the dominion of its sovereign empire -- the prefectures of Japan called the Interior, plus Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen. Because the people affiliated with Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen became Japanese when these territories became part of Japan's sovereign dominion, their population registers became objects of "Interiorization" -- i.e., attempts to make them compatible with, if not the same as, prefectural registers.

Kwantung Province in Manchuria (leased from China), and the South Sea Islands (former German territories administered under a League of Nations mandate), were part of Japan's larger legal empire but not part of the sovereign empire, hence their affiliated populations were not Japanese -- a status enabled by territorial integration into Japan's sovereign dominion. While Japan was not motivated to Interiorize the manner in which it managed their populations, it did need to make rules for determining which territory's laws applied in private matters between individuals from Kwantung Province or the South Sea Islands and individuals from another legal jurisdiction within the smaller sovereign or larger legal empire -- thus the 1918 Common Law.

Elements of the Family Register Law, an Interior law, were incorporated into the territorial household registration ordinances of Taiwan and Chōsen. The 1918 Common Law, which provided for private (including family) matters between registrants in different imperial jurisdictions, stipulated that Karafuto, though not then part of the prefectural Interior, would be treated as though part of the Interior for the purpose of the law. The Family Register Law was not formally extended to Karafuto, however, until 1924.

See 1918 Common Law and 1924 application of Naichi laws to Karafuto below for details.

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Naichi and gaichi registers

Korean household registers

Japan nationalized all territories that became part of its sovereign dominion through household registration. By "all" I mean literally all -- the prefectures, then territories like Ezo (Hokkaido) and Ryukyu (Okinawa) which became prefectures, islands groups like Chishima and Ogasawara, which became affiliated with prefectures, treaty-ceded territories like Taiwan and Karafuto, and finally the treaty-annexed territory of Chosen.

Not only were the populations of non-prefectural territories nationalized through household registration, but as the territories became legally assimilated through decrees based on prefectural laws, the more their populations were subjected to prefectural-style family law -- including the Family Register Law and related articles of the Civil Code.

1909 Population Register Law

Japan was involved in the improvement of household registration in Korea before it annexed the country into its sovereign empire. It was mainly through Japanese urging and guidance that the Empire of Korea adopted the "Population Register Law" (民籍法 민적법 Minjŏkpŏp J. Minsekihō) in 1909 (see ROK's 1948 and 1998 nationality laws for further details on registration issues.

In 1909, a year before formal annexation, and based on fresh Japanese studies of Korean family customs and registration practices, the Resident-General of Korea directed the barely sovereign Korean government to enact the Population Register Law. This law, one of the last laws of the short-lived Korean Empire, was based on Korean customary law, and was intended to make family registration more efficient and controllable.

Resident-General of Korea   The Population Register Law was promulgated by the Emperor of the Empire of Korea (大韓帝國 대한제국 Tae-Han cheguk J. Dai-Kan teikoku), which was founded in 1894. In 1905, when Korea become a protectorate of Japan, Japan established the Residency-General of Korea or "Office of the Resident-General of Korea" ((韓国統監府 Kankoku tōkan fu) in Seoul. This became the Government-General of Chosen or "Office of the Governor-General of Chosen" (朝鮮総督府) in 1910, when Japan annexed the Empire of Korea and changed its name to Chosen.

Post-annex registration decrees

In 1912, after Korea had become Chosen, a part of Japan's sovereign empire, the governor-general proclaimed the Chosen Civil Matters Ordinance (朝鮮民事令 Chōsen minji rei, Meiji 45 Ordinance No. 7). This ordinance mainly was mostly effort to codify customary Korean civil laws.

The interior revised its Family Register Law in 1914, and the Population Register Law was partly revised in 1915 to incorporate some features of the new interior law. The Civil Matters Ordinance was heavily revised in 1922. The revisions, which came into effect the following year, included a section on family registration, and this occasioned a Family Register Decree (朝鮮戸籍令 Chōsen koseki rei) which made Chosen registers more like those in the interior.

Naichijin and other status distinctions

The new civil and family registration decrees differentiated "interior persons" (内地人 Naichijin) as those with Japanese nationality whose principal register (本籍 honseki) was in the interior (内地 naichi) -- in a prefecture. The revisions enabled changes in the registers of the four subnations because of marriage, adoption, or recognition.

Some sources (which I have not yet confirmed) state that the new registration rules also provided for recording two former outcaste statuses -- paekchŏng (白丁 백정 J. hakucho), who engaged in leatherwork or other occupation regarded as unclean -- and tohan (屠漢 도한 J. tokan), literally "men who slaughtered" or butchers. Both statuses had been abolished in 1894 toward the end of the Yi Dynasty. I would guess that the object of resurrecting them in registers was to help police suppress proletarian movements in Chosen like those of the Suiheisha (Levelers Association) and other "buraku liberation" organizations in Japan.

Accommodating inter-subnational marriages

The register regulations were revised to accommodate a 1921 policy that had made it possible for Chosen subjects to marry interior and other Japanese subjects. Status actions involving the registers of two subnations would be treated the same as status actions between two interior registers -- except that movements between the registers of two subnations would effect a change in subnationality -- just as international marriages and adoptions at the time usually involved a change in nationality.

In other words, a Chosen woman (a Japanese woman of Chosen subnationality) who married an interior man (a Japanese man of interior subnationality) -- or a Chosen subject adopted into the household of an interior subject -- would become an interior subject. Similarly, an interior woman who married a Chosen subject, or an interior subject adopted into a Chosen household, would become a Chosen subject.

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1918 Common Law

The 1918 Common Law was one of the most essential laws of the Empire of Japan. It was contrived to deal with conflicts in private matters arising between laws and ordinances in the different legal jurisdiction of the empire. It conformed with the principles of international private law, deal with conflicts of laws between states as well as between different legal jurisdictions within states. All states with multiple legal jurisdictions have domestic in addition to international "laws of laws".

See 1918 Common Law on the Status and applicable law: Governing the civil affairs of territorialized persons page of "The Empires of Japan" feature of this website for particulars.

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1924 application of Naichi laws to Karafuto

The Interiorization of Karafuto was significantly facilitated in 1924 by a number of measures, including Imperial Ordinance No. 88, and Cabinet Office Ordinance Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8. The full texts of these and other measures concerning Karafuto are appended in Tashiro 1974, which see for particulars and review.

The extension of the Nationality Law and other laws pursuant to Imperial Ordinance No. 88 was sealed on 16 April, promulgated on 18 April, and enforced from 1 August 1924.

Cabinet ordinances 5 and 6 were dated 28 July 1924 and came into effect from 1 August 1924, together with Imperial Ordinance No. 88.

Cabinet ordinances 7 and 8 were dated 28 November 1924 and came into effect from 1 December 1924, together revisions to the Nationality Law that were made after the above three measures were promulgated and enforced.

Ordinance 7, which took into account the Nationality Law revisions enforced from 1 December 1924, revised an Interior Ministry ordinance concerning the enforcement of 1924 revisions to the Nationality Law, and abrogated Cabinet Ordinance No. 5, which it in effect replaced on account of the 1924 revisions to the Nationality Law.

Ordinance 8 deleted [unnumbered] item 2 in Ordinance 6 because the 1 December 1924 revisions in the Nationality Law rendered it no longer relevant.

Three authorities

The above measures involved three levels of legislative authority.

  1. Imperial ordinances issued in the name of the Emperor, who formally sanctioned and promulgated measures which had "passed the approval of the Imperial Diet"
  2. Interior Ministry ordinances issued under the authority of the Minister of Justice, and
  3. Imperial Cabinet ordinances issued under the authority of the Prime Minister

The involvement of the Imperial Diet reflected the fact that the Imperial Diet was responsible for passing and approving laws, which were then sanctioned and promulgated by the Emperor. The Imperial Diet had the authority to determine the reach of national laws within the Empire.

The involvement of the Imperial Cabinet, presided over by the Prime Minister, reflected the fact that, from 1910 to 1912 and from 1917 to 1929, Karafuto governors reported directly to the Prime Minister, not the Minister of Interior. Most of the few ordinances issued by the Cabinet Office in 1924 involved Karafuto, hence the numerical continuity from the two 28 July ordinances (5 and 6) to the two 28 November ordinances (7 and 8).

The involvement of the Interior Ministry reflected it was the competent ministry regarding both the Family Register Law and the Nationality Law. Ordinarily, registration and nationality matters requiring the approval of the competent authority would be directed to the Minister of Interior. However, in the case of Karafuto, then under a governor accountable to the Prime Minister, applications for permission to, say, renounce Japan's nationality, or acquire it's nationality other than at time of birth, would be directed to the Prime Minister. Hence the Cabinet Office ordinances, including one made exceptions to an Interior Ministry ordinance concerning the Nationality Law.

The Cabinet Office ordinances were issued to qualify the operation of provisions in the Nationality Law for (1) adopting an alien child or alien husband, which would thereby become Japanese (2) renouncing Japan's nationality, and (3) naturalizing in Japan or recovering Japan's nationality. Qualifications were required because Karafuto was then neither a part of the prefectural Interior, nor accountable to the Interior Ministry -- hence applications for such permissions would be processed slightly differently than applications from Japanese with honseki in (i.e., affiliated with) a prefecture.


Imperial Ordinance No. 88 of 1924

Applied Nationality Law and 4 other laws to Karafuto

The Family Register Law was one of five laws applied to Karafuto by Imperial Ordinance (勅令 chokurei) No. 88 of 1924 (Tashiro 1974: 851).

Imperial Ordinance No. 88 of 1924 (大正十三年勅令第八十八号)
Matter of enforcing [putting into operation] the Nationality Law and four other matters [laws] in Karafuto
国籍法外四件ヲ樺太ニ施行スルノ件
Kokusekihō hoka yonken o Karafuto ni shikō suru no ken

Sealed by Emperor Yoshihito on 16 April 1924, a year and a half before he died, this ordinance sanctioned the promulgation of the Nationality Law and 4 other laws. The ordinance, as published in the 18 April 1924 issue of Kanpō, stated that the laws were to be enforced in Karafuto from 1 August 1924.

The ordinance listed 3 major laws by their name and 2 minor laws by their year of promulgation and number, as follows (Tashiro 1974: 851, see Note 1 below).

  1. 国籍法 Kokusekihō "Nationality Law"
        Law No. 65 of 1899 as revised through 1916 (see below)
        Replaced by Law No. 147 of 1950 effective later that year
  2. 戸籍法 Kosekiō "Household (Family) Register (Registration) Law"
        1872 law as revised at the time
        Replaced by Law No. 224 of 1947 effective from 1948
  3. 寄留法 Kiryūhō "Temporary Residence [Registration] Law"
        Law No. 27 of 1914
        Revised by Law No. 224 of 1947, Family Register Law
        Abrogated and replaced by Law No. 106 of 1952,
        Resident Registration Law Enforcement Law (see Note 2)
  4. 明治三十一年法律第二十一号 Law No. 21 of 1898
        Civil Code Enforcement Law
        Revised version of same law still in effect
  5. 明治三十二年法律第九十四号 Law No. 94 of 1899
        Commercial Code
        Revised version of same law still in effect

Note 1   The version of the 1924 law reproduced in Tashiro 1974 (page 851) states that the law would be enforced in Karafuto from 1 August 1923 (大正十二年八月一日), the year before the ordinance was promulgated. The texts of related ordinances make it clear that this is a typographical error.

Note 2   The Temporary Residence Law, Law No. 27 of 1914, and the 1914 revisions to the Civil Code and Family Register Law, were enforced from 1 January 1915. See 1915 Temporary Residence Law below for particulars.


Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 5 of 1924

Application procedures for renunciation of Japan's nationality
Replaced and abrogated by Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 7 of 1924 (see below)

Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 5 of 1924 (大正十三年閣令第五号)
樺太ニ本籍ヲ有スル者ノ国籍ヲ離脱ニ関スル
Karafuto ni honseki o yū suru mono no kokuseki o ridatsu ni kan suru
Concerning renunciation of nationality of those who possess a principle register in Karafuto

Dated 28 July 1924, this ordinance itemized procedural rules which were to be followed by Karafutoans -- people whose status as a subject/national derived from the possession of a honseki in Karafuto -- who wished to be permitted by Japan to renounce their Japanese status under the 2nd provision of Article 20 of the Nationality Law. An application such permission was to be made to submitted to the Prime Minister of the Cabinet by a Japanese ambassador, envoy, or consul in the [foreign] state where the applicant was born and domiciled. See text of ordinance in Tashiro 1974 (851-852).

Article 20-2 of the 1899 Nationality Law was introduced by Law 27 of 1916, promulgated on 16 March 1916 and effective from 1 August 1916. The law revised the 1899 Nationality Law to permit Japanese had had gained the nationality of another country, on account of having been born in the country, to renounce Japan's nationality if they possessed a domicile in the country.

The 1899 Nationality Law originally had no provisions for renunciation. The 1916 revision was made to accommodate demands by the United States that Japan do something to allay America's concerns about the increase in dual nationality among American-born children of Japanese immigrants. See 1916 revision of 1899 Nationality Law for particulars.

Note that, in provisions for renunciation of Japan's nationality, in the case of Japanese who possessed also the nationality of another state, the applicant was required to have a domicile address in the other state. The provision for renunciation was introduced in order to permit dual-national Japanese born and domiciled in right-of-blood states such as the United States, which was concerned about dual nationality among US citizens of Japanese and other Oriental descents. Since the intent of the law was to facilitate the singularization of nationality in favor of the right-of-soil state's nationality, renunciation of Japan's nationality while domiciled in Japan made no sense.

Article 23 of the 1947 Constitution gives nationals of Japan the right to renounce their nationality, but in practice they cannot renounce it unless they also possess the nationality of a state recognized by Japan. Today, a Japanese dual national whose other nationality was of a recognized state could, in principle, renounce Japanese nationality while residing in Japan. However, the renouncer would then become an alien, and as an alien would have to acquire a status of residence or leave Japan.

Most Japanese dual nationals live in Japan as Japanese, and use their Japanese passport when departing from and returning to Japan. However, a few Japanese dual nationals have chosen to enter Japan on their foreign passport, and reside in Japan as aliens. Neither act is illegal. Dual nationals are treated according to the passport they use when crossing a national border. Japanese dual nationals residing in Japan as aliens would have no difficulty renouncing their Japanese nationality, in Japan, so long as their alien status of residence is valid. If they were to overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their status of residence as an alien, they would become an illegal alien and, if caught, have a lot of explaining to do.


Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 6 of 1924

Stipulated the minister responsible for considering applications for permission to adopt an alien child or take an alien husband into a Karafuto family register, or to naturalize or recover nationality
2nd item deleted by Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 8 of 1924 (see below)

Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 6 of 1924 (大正十三年閣令第六号)
Matters of application procedures for those who possess a honseki and [domicile] address in Karafuto and who would make an alien an adopted child or incoming husband, and those who would seek to naturalize [in Japan] or recover [Japan's] nationality
樺太ニ本籍ヲ有シ又ハ住所ヲ有スル者ニシテ外国人ヲ養子又ハ入夫ト為サムトスル者及帰化ヲ為シ又ハ国籍ヲ回復セムトスル者出願方ノ件
Karafuto ni honseki o yū shi mata wa jūsho o yū suru mono ni shite gaikokujin o yōshi mata wa nyūfu to nasamu to suru mono oyobi kika o nashi mata wa kokuseki o kaifuku semu to suru mono shutsugan hō no ken

Dated 28 July 1924, this ordinance had two unnumbered items, as follows (my translation of text of ordinance in Tashiro 1974; 852).

[1] When a person who possesses a honseki in Karafuto seeks to make an alien an adopted child or incoming husband pursuant to the provisions of Law No. 21 of 1898, the person] shall submit an application to the Prime Minister of the Cabinet (内閣総理大臣 Naikaku Sōri Daijin) through the Karafuto Government (樺太庁 Karafuto Chō).

[2] When a person who possesses an address in Karafuto seeks to naturalize [in Japan] or recover the nationality [of Japan] pursuant to provisions in the Nationality Law, [the person] shall also do likewise (亦同ジ mata onaji) [ = shall submit an application to the Prime Minister of the Cabinet through the Karafuto Government].

Law No. 21 of 1898

Law No. 21 of 1898 was both a re-codification and a revision of Great Council of State Proclamation No. 103 of 1873, which facilitated adoption alliances and marriages of Japanese with aliens, and included provisions for acquisition or loss of the status of being Japanese through the alliance or marriage. See 1898 revision of adopted son-in-law and incoming husband provisions for particulars on the 1898 revision of the 1873 proclamatiion.

"honseki" and "address"

The distinction between a honseki (本籍 honseki) and an address (住所 jūsho) meaning a "domicile" or "domicile address" was as important then as it is today. Since possession of a honseki in Japan is tantamount to possession of Japan's nationality, only those legally qualified to be regarded as Japanese can possess a honseki in Japan -- which at the time included the Interior prefectures, Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen.

When national family registers (koseki) were first established in 1872, registrants were domiciled at the address on their koseki, which became their honseki address. Japanese were de facto defined as those who possessed a honseki (koseki) in Japan, hence the 1899 Nationality Law presumed without stipulating so in an "initial determination" clause that people in family registers affiliated with Japan's sovereign dominion were Japanese. The law at was promulgated as one which applied to the prefectural Interior, but when applied to other territories, such as Taiwan (later in 1899) and Karafuto (in 1924), the same assumption was made that people in Taiwan and Karafuto family registers were Japanese -- and had been Japanese before the law was applied to the territories -- otherwise the law could not have been applied to them.

As the nation became increasingly mobile, more Japanese moved to a locality in Japan other than the one having jurisdiction over their honseki address, establishing their domicile there while their honseki remained where their koseki was originally created. Japanese who migrated to another state became domiciled in the foreign country, but they remained Japanese on account of still having a honseki (koseki) in Japan.

Aliens by definition have no honseki in Japan. Their "honseki" is taken to be their country of nationality, if they have one -- or none if stateless. But aliens (including stateless persons) making a living in Japan are regarded as being domiciled in the locality where they reside in Japan. Hence aliens residing in Karafuto were legally viewed as having a "domicile address" in the territory -- the first requisite for naturalization or for recovery of nationality.


Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 7 of 1924

Stipulated the minister responsible for considering applications for permission to adopt an alien child or take an alien husband into a family register, or to naturalize or recover nationality
This ordinance both replaced and abrogated Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 5 of 1924 (see above)

Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 7 of 1924 (大正十三年閣令第六号)
Concerning retention and renunciation of nationality of those who possess a principle register in Karafuto, and naturalization [in Japan] and recovery of [Japan's] nationality of those who possess a domicile in Karafuto
樺太ニ本籍ヲ有スル者ノ国籍留保及離脱並樺太ニ住所ヲ有スル者ノ帰化及国籍の回復ニ関スル
Karafuto ni honseki o yū suru mono no kokuseki ryūho oyobi ridatsu narabi Karafuto ni jūsho o yū suru mono no kika oyobi kokuseki no kaifuku ni kan suru)

Dated 28 November 1924, four months after ordinances 5 and 6, this ordinance revised Interior Ministry Ordinance No. 26 of 1924 concerning the enforcement of the Nationality Law. Supplementary provisions abrogated Cabinet Order No. 5 of 1924 (above), and revised Imperial Ordinance No. 262 of 1924.

Interior Ministry Ordinance No. 26 of 1924, promulgated on 17 November 1924 and effective from 1 December 1924, concerned enforcement regulations for administering the 1924 revisions to the Nationality Law made by Law No. 19 of 1924, which was promulgated on 22 July 1924 and came into effect from 1 December 1924.

Imperial Ordinance No. 262 of 1924, promulgated on 15 November 1924 and effective from 1 December 1924, specified that the retention provision of Article 20-2(1) in the 1924 revisions to the Nationality Law, effective from 1 December 1924, would applied to Japanese residing in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Peru. Mexico was added to the list by Imperial Ordinance No. 16 of 1926.

See the text of Cabinet Ordinance No. 7 in Tashiro 1974 (852). See 1899 Nationality Law for particulars on Interior Ministry Ordinance No. 26 of 1924 and Imperial Ordinance No. 262 of 1924.


Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 8 of 1924

Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 8 of 1924 (大正十三年閣令第八号)

Dated 28 November 1924, as was ordinance 7, four months after ordinances 5 and 6, this ordinance revised Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 6 of 1924 by deleting its 2nd item, which concerned naturalization and recovery of nationality (see above). See Tashiro 1974 (852-853) for the text of the ordinance.


Why was only Item 2 deleted?

I have yet to learn why Cabinet Office Ordinance 8 of 1924, effective from 1 December 1924, deleted the 2nd item of ordinance 5, effective from 1 August 1924.

The only people who would have been eligible for naturalization would have been aliens, such as nationals of the Soviet Union or the Republic of China, a stray Western European or North American. Taiwanese or Chosenese domiciled in Karafuto rather than in Taiwan or Chōsen, their honseki affiliations, could not have naturalized because they were already Japanese, as were people in Karafuto registers. The retention of the 1st item meant that Karafutoans, as Japanese, could still apply for permission to adopt an alien child, or to adopt an alien husband as a so-called "incoming husband" (入夫 nyūfu).

Karafuto's populations in 1924, 1930, and 1940

Karafuto was heavily populated by Japanese who had migrated to the territory from the prefectural Interior. Prefectural migrants generally left their honseki in the prefectural localities from which they came. Karafuto, while still an exterior territory, was treated as part of the Interior under the 1918 Common Law, a domestic rules of law, and officially became part of the Interior -- as Japan's 48th prefecture -- from 1943.

Populations of Karafuto in 1924, 1930, 1940 (1)
Register counts as of end of each calendar year
Year Populations Percents of total
Status 1924 1930 1940 1924 1930 1940
Interiorites 内地人 (2, 3) 150,650 282,639 398,114 98.68 99.92 99.82
Local people 現地人 (4, 5) 1,657 1,933 406 1.09 0.68 0.10
Aliens 外国人 (6) 361 358 318 0.24 0.13 0.08
Total 総計 152,668 284,930 398,838 100.00 100.00 100.00
Census 国勢調査 (7) 203,754 295,196 414,891 (8) 103.6 104.0
  1. Population figures and statuses are from an Internet representation of data from 総務庁「日本長期統計総覧」(Sōmuchō, "Nihon chōki tōkei sōran") [General Affairs Agency (Officially "Management and Coordination Agency"), "Compendium of long-term (longitudinal) statistics of Japan". Design and titling, translations of statuses, calculations of percents, and all notes except 2 and 4 are mine.
  2. Interiorite (内地人 Naichijin) figures include Chosenese from 1921, and Ainu from 1939 through 1941.
  3. Among the 282,639 Interiorites residing in Karafuto in 1930, some 67,181 (23.8 percent) had Karafuto honseki. By 1940, the Interiorite population had increased by slightly over 41 percent to 398,114, of which 155,244 (39.0 percent) had Karafuto honseki.
  4. Localite (現地人 Genchijin) figures include Ainu from 1921-1938.
  5. The 1930 headcount of people in Karafuto's localite registers included 332 Orokko (オロッコ Orok, Uilta), 113 Nikubun (ニクブン Nivkh, Gilyak), 23 Kilin (キリーン Evenki, Tungus), 10 Sandaa (サンダー Santan, Ulch, Olcha, Naani), and 2 Yakuuto (ヤクート Yakut, Sakha), according to Nakano Magoichi (中野孫一), an official in the Civil Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice (法務省民事局), writing in the March 1966 issue (Vol. 21, No. 33) of the bureau's monthly bulletin, Minji geppō (民事月報、21巻33号、昭和41年3月). The figures total 480 people -- about 25 percent of the 1,933 localites (現地人 genchijin) counted that year. The vast majority of the other 1,453 were probably Ainu (see note 4). By 1940, the total localite head count was 406, which reflects the fact that Ainu registers had been integrated with Interior (内地 Naichi) registers, and hence Ainu were included in the Interiorite (内地人 Naichijin) count from 1939 (see note 2).
  6. Aliens included those who were not a nationals of Japan. Most were probably USSR national, the rest would have been mainly Chinese, Western Europeans, and North Americans.
  7. Beginning in 1920, national censuses have been taken every 5 years in years divisible by 5,, except in 1945. The censuses are enumerated as of 1 October in the census year.
  8. The census count shown in the 1924 column is for 1925. Note that the census counts exceed the register counts by a few percent.

The 1930 census showed 332 Orokko (オロッコ), 113 Nikubun (ニクブン), 23 Kiirin (キーリン), 10 Sandaa (サンダー), and 2 Yakuuto (ヤクート) -- as reported in Minji Geppō (民事月報), Volume 21, No. 33, by Nakano Magoichi (中野孫一), Hōmushō Minji Kyoku (法務省民事局), March 1966 (昭和41年3月).

The Nationality Law and Family Register Law, though extended to Karafuto in 1924, did not apply to the registers of native people (土人 dojin). "Karafuto Native People Household and Population [Census] Regulations" (樺太土人戸口届出規則 Karafuto Dojin kokō todokede kisoku), Karafuto Government ordinance No. 35 of 1921 (大正10年勅令第35号, stipulated that the Family Register Law did not apply to native peoples. The native population of Karafuto which had remained in 1875 when Karafuto became part of Russia, including Ainu who had chosen not to resettle in Japan, had become Russians, and they and their descendants were treated as Russians when Japan regained control of Karafuto in 1905. Later they would be regarded as nationals of the Soviet Union. But in time, the Civil Code was applied to people among Karafuto's natives who were Ainu, and because the Family Register Law mediates relevant articles of the Civil Code, it too was applied to Ainu in Karafuto, on the grounds that, among Karafuto's native population, Karafuto Ainu were part of the larger Ainu population in Hokkaido and the Chishimas (Kuriles). Consequently, in 1932, the Family Register Law was applied to Karafuto Ainu as well by Imperial Ordinance No. 37 (昭和7年勅令第37号), and their Interior honseki were established (定籍 jōseki) by Justice Ministry Ordinance No. 47 (昭和7年司法省令47号), both of 1932.

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15 October 1945 suspension of interactions

On 15 October 1945, a few weeks after Japanese authorities in Chosen surrendered the territory to American forces in the south and Soviet forces in the north, and about one week before Taiwan would be surrendered to ROC forces, the Ministry of Justice (司法省 Shihōshō) ordered the suspension of "Interactions [exchanges] of family registers of Interior / Exterior" -- according to Civil Affairs A No. 452, Civil Affairs Bureau, Director-General Reply (民事甲第452号民事局長回答 the following civil affairs reply.

This would appear to have ended the operation of laws which Japan had established to facilitate the uniform administration of civil affairs in the Interior, Taiwan, and Chosen -- to accommodate migration between territories, and marriages and adoptions between all Japanese subjects regardless of their territorial affiliation. However, the order suspended only register exchanges that were beyond Japan's jurisdiction -- meaning outside "Japan" as defined by GHQ/SCAP. Within "Japan" business continued as usual. Status acts involving interactions of Interior/Exterior registers would continue to be effected within "Japan" -- since local offices had copies of the family registers of locally registered Chosenese and Taiwanese, and Japan's laws continued to Japan's Civil Code and Family Register Law continued to their officials continued to be authorized to -- and who were , or either and

This suspension of inter-territorial register actions especially inconvenienced individuals affiliated with different territories who wanted to marry or effect an alliance of adoption -- either of which, under Japanese law, would require that someone migrate from one register to another.

However, municipal halls in prefectural localities had copies of the registers of resident Chosenese and Taiwanese. And it appears that status actions such as marriage, between Interior and Exterior subjects, continued to be duly recorded in accordance with the Civil Code and the Family Register Law.

The San Francisco Peace Treaty entered into force from 22:30 hours Japan Standard Time on 28 April 1952. Chosenese and Taiwanese lost their Japanese nationality, pursuant to the enforcement of the treaty, according to Civil Affairs A No. 438 of 19 April 1952, a notification issued by the Director-General, Civil Affairs Bureau of the Attorney General's Office.

Article 1(4) of the notification states that, after treaty effectuation, register migrations concomitant with status acts like an alliance or dissolution, or a marriage or divorce, will not be recognized.

Such migrations would effect the territorial status of those who migrated between territorial registers -- and would be tantamount to a change of nationality after the treaty came into effect. And from the moment the treaty came into effect, local officials had lost the authority to treat Chosenese and Taiwanese as Japanese -- hence could no longer move anyone from a local register to a Taiwan or Chosen register, or vice versa, as though all such registers were affiliated with Japan.

As stated in Article 1(5) of the Civil Affairs Bureau notification, Chosenese and Taiwanese, having become aliens, would have to naturalize according to Japan's Nationality Law if they wished to be Japanese. There was no need to state that Japanese who wished to become an ROK or ROC national were free to naturalize in those countries, under their laws -- and then renounce their Japanese nationality under Japan's laws.

Chosenese and Taiwanese could not have naturalized before 28 April 1952 because they were Japanese.

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