1985 Nationality Law revisions

Ambilineality, acknowledgement, and choice

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 April 2006
Last updated 18 October 2012


1985 Nationality Law Promulgation | Revision history | Purpose | By birth | By legitimation and recognition | Naturalization | Loss | Choice | Reacquisition | Notifications by proxy | Ministerial ordinances | Supplementary provisions
"Minji geppo" extra1984 special issue on revisions to Nationality Law and Family Register Law
See Sugiyama v. State for related cases.
See 2009 Nationality Law revisions for the current law.


1985 Nationality Law

What I am calling the "1985 Nationality Law" was not a new law but a revision of the 1950 Nationality Law as amended through 1952. The amendments enforced from 1985 were so significant, however, that some people have called it a "new" law, while calling the 1950 law the "old" law and the 1899 law the "old old" law.

The most important change was the replacement of the two principles of matrilineality for offspring of unmarried Japanese women, and patrilineality for all offspring of Japanese men and of married Japanese women, with the single principle of ambilineality for all offspring of Japanese nationals.

Since ambilineality would increase the number of people who acquired Japanese nationality at birth in addition to one or more other nationalities, the revised law also provided for a "declaration of choice" (選択の宣言 sentaku no sengen) procedure in order to discourage multiple nationality among adult Japanese. The implications of this procedure have created a lot of confusion and controversy.

See Dual nationality in Japan: Not forbidden, unpreventable, and tacitly permitted for a closer look at the declaration of choice.

Background

In the wake of the social and political reforms that spread around the globe after World War II, the logic of patrilineal nationality rapidly unraveled. By the 1970s, several international accords, already on stage or in the wings, had endorsed the principle of sexual equality in all matters of law. In Japan, too, genderized nationality quickly found itself on the run.

Japan's patrilineal law came under pressure from several quarters. Domestically, there were social protests and law suits alleging that the patrilineal rule discriminated against Japanese women, particularly those married to non-Japanese. Globally, women's organizations lobbied for the creation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was adopted by the United Nations in December 1979, opened for signing in March 1980, and signed by Japan in July the same year.

In three nationality confirmation cases involving children of Japanese women married to foreign men, the Tokyo District Court and High Court failed to find the patrilineal restriction of the 1950 law unconstitutional. The courts ruled that the Diet was acting within its authority in adopting patrilineality as a means of preventing dual nationality. It was not the role of the courts to tell the Diet how to define nationality. The Diet was free to adopt any principle it saw fit -- patrilineal, matrilineal, bilineal, ambilineal, even place-of-birth. As circumstances changed, there might be reason to revise the law, but that was the Diet's business.

Japan planned to ratify CEDAW within five years, so it had until 1985 to revise the 1950 law. The main role of the court cases was to draw public attention to the gender discrimination in the law, and to dramatize the impact of such discrimination on the legal integrity and rights of mixed-nationality families and their members. In the meantime, the Diet debated how to revise the law, and the committee charged with drafting the revisions favored an ambilineal father or mother rule.

Ambilineality had already become the emerging standard in Europe. In 1974, the German Federal Constitutional Court nullified Germany's Nationality Act after ruling that it was unconstitutional. The 1913 Nationality Act granted German nationality to the legitimate child of a German man married to an alien woman, but not to the child of a German woman married to an alien man. It was amended in 1963 to give German nationality to such a child only if it would be stateless as a result of being unable to acquire its alien father's nationality. Japan's law lacked such a provision.

The main debate in the Japanese Diet centered on the question of dual nationality. As the court decisions had pointed out, this was a legitimate concern, given the predominance of patrilineal laws among some of Japan's closest neighbors, particularly ROC and ROK, many of whose nationals were residing in Japan and marrying Japanese. All but a handful of states in the world were concerned about dual nationality. The United States, too, was still actively trying to minimize dual nationality. It was in this milieu of widely shared concern that the Diet looked dimly on the prospects of an explosion of dual nationality.

In 1984, right on schedule, the Diet passed an ambilineal law that went into effect from January 1985. Like Germany's revised law, a transitional measure exceptionalized alien children born to Japanese mothers before the law into effect, giving those who were minors as of the day before the law came into effect -- namely, those born between 1 January 1965 and 31 December 1984 -- three years within which they would be able to acquire Japanese nationality by filing a Nationality Acquisition Notification with the Minister of Justice, with a few supporting documents and a photograph of themselves with their parents. It also made provisions for Japanese with other nationalities to declare a choice of nationality within two years after becoming twenty years of age, or within two years after acquiring another nationality after becoming twenty.

Revisions effective from 1985 included a new article, Article 3, which provided for acquisition of nationality through legitimation by children who had also been acknowledged by their Japanese father or mother after birth and before turning 20 years of age. The legitimation condition was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008. As revised effective from 2009, Article 3 now stipulates only the acknowledgement condition.

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1950 Nationality Law with 1985, 1994, and 2005 revisions
Ambilineality, legitimation and recognition, and choice

Japanese text

The Japanese text is from various web and printed sources.

English translations

The received English translation is from various web and printed sources.

Structural translations

Only the Japanese text has legal standing. The received translations, while useful as general guides, are likely to misrepresent Japanese legal usage and at times are either misleading or incorrect. Accordingly, I have structurally retranslated some of the articles for the purpose of commentary.

My translations of selected parts are shown in blue. These translations appear either adjacent to or below the Japanese text and 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.

Revisions

Revisions are shown by overstriking the old text and highlighting the new text and showing the date of the revision in [square brackets] following the new text.

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

国籍法

国籍法をここに公布する

   御名御璽
     昭和二十五年五月四目
       内閣総理大臣 吉田茂

法律第百四十七号
(官報号外四一)

Nationality Law

[We] hereby promulgate the Nationality Law.

   Imperial seal [Hirohito]
     Showa 25-5-4 [4 May 1950]
       Prime Minister of the Cabinet Yoshida Shigeru

Law No. 147
(Kanpo Gogai 41)
施行 昭和二十五年七月一日 Enforced from 1 July 1950

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Enforcement and revision history through 2009

国籍法

昭和二十五年五月四日
  法律第百四十七号

改正

昭和二十七年七月三十一日
  法律第二百六十八号

昭和五十九年五月二十五日
  法律第四十五号

平成五年十一月十二日
  法律第八十九号

平成十六年十二月一日
  法律第百四十七号

平成二十年十二月十二日
  法律第八十八号

Nationality Law

Law No. 147 of 1950 (4 May)
Enforced from 1 July 1950

As amended by

Law No. 268 of 1952 (31 July)
Went into effect from 1 August 1952

Law No. 45 of 1984 (25 May)
Went into effect from 1 January 1985

Law No. 89 of 1993 (12 November)
Went into effect from 1 October 1994

Law No. 147 of 2004 (1 December)
Went into effect from 1 April 2005

Law No. 88 of 2008 (12 December)
Went into effect from 1 January 2009

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Purpose of this law
この法律の目的 Purpose of this law
第一条
日本国民たる要件は、この法律の定めるところによる。
Article 1
The conditions necessary for being a Japanese national shall be determined by the provisions of this Law.

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Acquisition of [Japanese] nationality by birth
出生による国籍の取得 Acquisition of nationality by birth
第二条
子は、次の場合には、日本国民とする。

  一  出生の時に父又は母が日本国民であるとき。
  二  出生前に死亡した父が死亡の時に日本国民であつたとき
  三  日本で生まれた場合において、父母がともに知れないとき、又は国籍を有しないとき。
Article 2
A child shall, in any of the following cases, be a Japanese national:

  (1) When, at the time of its birth, the father or the mother is a Japanese national;
  (2) When the father who died prior to the birth of the child was a Japanese national at the time of his death;
  (3) When both parents are unknown or have no nationality in a case where the child is born in Japan.

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Acquisition by legitimation and recognition
準正による国籍の取得 Acquisition of nationality by legitimation
第三条
父母の婚姻及びその認知により嫡出子たる身分を取得した子で二十歳未満のもの(日本国民であつた者を除く。)は、認知をした父又は母が子の出生の時に日本国民であつた場合において、その父又は母が現に日本国民であるとき、又はその死亡の時に日本国民であつたときは、法務大臣に届け出ることによつて、日本の国籍を取得することができる。

2  前項の規定による届出をした者は、その届出の時に日本の国籍を取得する。
Article 3
A child (excluding a child who was once a Japanese national) under twenty years of age who has acquired the status of a legitimate child by reason of the marriage of its father and mother and their recognition, may acquire Japanese nationality by making notification to the Minister of Justice, if the father or mother who has effected the recognition was, at the time of the child's birth, a Japanese national and such father or mother is presently a Japanese national or was, at the time of his or her death, a Japanese national.

2. A child who makes notification in accordance with the preceding paragraph shall acquire Japanese nationality at the time of the notification.

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Naturalization
帰化 Naturalization
第四条
日本国民でない者(以下「外国人」という。)は、帰化によつて、日本の国籍を取得することができる。

2  帰化をするには、法務大臣の許可を得なければならない。
Article 4
A person who is not a Japanese national (hereinafter referred to as "an alien") may acquire Japanese nationality by naturalization.

2. The permission of the Minister of Justice shall be obtained for naturalization.
第五条
法務大臣は、次の条件を備える外国人でなければ、その帰化を許可することができない。

  一  引き続き五年以上日本に住所を有すること。
  二  二十歳以上で本国法によつて能力行為能力 [2005] を有すること。
  三  素行が善良であること。
  四  自己又は生計を一にする配偶者その他の親族の資産又は技能によつて生計を営むことができること。
  五  国籍を有せず、又は日本の国籍の取得によつてその国籍を失うべきこと。
  六  日本国憲法施行の日以後において、日本国憲法又はその下に成立した政府を暴力で破壊することを企て、若しくは主張し、又はこれを企て、若しくは主張する政党その他の団体を結成し、若しくはこれに加入したことがないこと。

2  法務大臣は、外国人がその意思にかかわらずその国籍を失うことができない場合において、日本国民との親族関係又は境遇につき特別の事情があると認めるときは、その者が前項第五号に掲げる条件を備えないときでも、帰化を許可することができる。
Article 5
The Minister of Justice shall not permit the naturalization of an alien unless he or she fulfills all of the following conditions:

  (1) that he or she has domiciled in Japan for five years or more consecutively;
  (2) that he or she is twenty years of age or more and of full capacity [unchanged] according to the law of his or her home country;
  (3) that he or she is of upright conduct;
  (4) that he or she is able to secure a livelihood by one's own property or ability, or those of one's spouse or other relatives with whom one lives on common living expenses;
  (5) that he or she has no nationality, or the acquisition of Japanese nationality will result in the loss of foreign nationality;
  (6) that he or she has never plotted or advocated, or formed or belonged to a political party or other organization which has plotted or advocated the overthrow of the Constitution of Japan or the Government existing thereunder, since the enforcement of the Constitution of Japan.

2. When an alien is, regardless of his or her intention, unable to deprive himself or herself of his or her current nationality, the Minister of Justice may permit the naturalization of the alien, notwithstanding that the alien does not fulfill the conditions set forth in item (5) of the preceding paragraph, if the Minister of Justice finds exceptional circumstances in his or her family relationship with a Japanese national, or other circumstances.
第六条
次の各号の一に該当する外国人で現に日本に住所を有するものについては、法務大臣は、その者が前条第一項第一号に掲げる条件を備えないときでも、帰化を許可することができる。

  一  日本国民であつた者の子(養子を除く。)で引き続き三年以上日本に住所又は居所を有するもの
  二  日本で生まれた者で引き続き三年以上日本に住所若しくは居所を有し、又はその父若しくは母(養父母を除く。)が日本で生まれたもの
  三  引き続き十年以上日本に居所を有する者
Article 6
The Minister of Justice may permit the naturalization of an alien notwithstanding that the alien does not fulfill the condition set forth in item (1) of paragraph 1 of the last preceding Article, provided that the said alien falls under any one of the following items, and is presently domiciled in Japan:

  (1) One who has had a domicile or residence in Japan for three consecutive years or more and who is the child of a person who was a Japanese national (excluding a child by adoption);
  (2) One who was born in Japan and who has had a domicile or residence in Japan for three consecutive years or more, or whose father or mother (excluding father and mother by adoption) was born in Japan;
  (3) One who has had a residence in Japan for ten consecutive years or more.
第七条
日本国民の配偶者たる外国人で引き続き三年以上日本に住所又は居所を有し、かつ、現に日本に住所を有するものについては、法務大臣は、その者が第五条第一項第一号及び第二号の条件を備えないときでも、帰化を許可することができる。日本国民の配偶者たる外国人で婚姻の日から三年を経過し、かつ、引き続き一年以上日本に住所を有するものについても、同様とする。
Article 7
The Minister of Justice may permit the naturalization of an alien who is the spouse of a Japanese national notwithstanding that the said alien does not fulfill the conditions set forth in items (1) and (2) of paragraph 1 of Article 5, if the said alien has had a domicile or residence in Japan for three consecutive years or more and is presently domiciled in Japan. The same rule shall apply in the case where an alien who is the spouse of a Japanese national has been married with the Japanese national for three years or more and has had a domicile in Japan for one consecutive year or more.
第八条
次の各号の一に該当する外国人については、法務大臣は、その者が第五条第一項第一号、第二号及び第四号の条件を備えないときでも、帰化を許可することができる。

  一  日本国民の子(養子を除く。)で日本に住所を有するもの
  二  日本国民の養子で引き続き一年以上日本に住所を有し、かつ、縁組の時本国法により未成年であつたもの
  三  日本の国籍を失つた者(日本に帰化した後日本の国籍を失つた者を除く。)で日本に住所を有するもの
  四  日本で生まれ、かつ、出生の時から国籍を有しない者でその時から引き続き三年以上日本に住所を有するもの
Article 8
The Minister of Justice may permit the naturalization of an alien notwithstanding that the alien does not fulfill the conditions set forth in items (1), (2) and (4) of paragraph 1 of Article 5, provided that the alien falls under any one of the following items:

  (1) One who is a child (excluding a child by adoption) of a Japanese national and has a domicile in Japan;
  (2) One who is a child by adoption of a Japanese national and has had a domicile in Japan for one consecutive year or more and was a minor according to the law of its native country at the time of the adoption;
  (3) One who has lost Japanese nationality (excluding one who has lost Japanese nationality after naturalization in Japan) and has a domicile in Japan;
  (4) One who was born in Japan and has had no nationality since the time of birth, and has had a domicile in Japan for three consecutive years or more since then.
第九条
日本に特別の功労のある外国人については、法務大臣は、第五条第一項の規定にかかわらず、国会の承認を得て、その帰化を許可することができる。
Article 9
With respect to an alien who has rendered especially meritorious service to Japan, the Minister of Justice may, notwithstanding the provision of Article 5, paragraph 1, permit the naturalization of the alien with the approval of the Diet.
第十条
法務大臣は、帰化を許可したときは、官報にその旨を告示しなければならない。

2  帰化は、前項の告示の日から効力を生ずる。
Article 10
The Minister of Justice shall, when permitting naturalization, make an announcement to that effect by public notice in the Official Gazette.

2. The naturalization shall come into effect as from the date of the public notice under the preceding paragraph.

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Loss of nationality
国籍の喪失 Loss of nationality
第十一条
日本国民は、自己の志望によつて外国の国籍を取得したときは、日本の国籍を失う。

2  外国の国籍を有する日本国民は、その外国の法令によりその国の国籍を選択したときは、日本の国籍を失う。
Article 11
A Japanese national shall lose Japanese nationality when he or she acquires a foreign nationality by his or her own choice.

2. A Japanese national having a foreign nationality shall lose Japanese nationality if he or she chooses the foreign nationality in accordance with the laws of the foreign country concerned.

Structural translation

Article 11
Nationals of Japan, when they have acquired the nationality of a foreign state in accordance with their own desire, shall lose the nationality of Japan.

2. Nationals of Japan who possess the nationality of a foreign state, when in accordance with the laws of that foreign state they have chosen the nationality of that state, shall lose the nationality of Japan.

desire

志望 (shibō) refers to a desire in the sense of a "wish" or "aspiration" or "volition" -- not a "choice", the word used to translate 選択 (sentaku) in later articles. An action based on "desire" is totally different than one based on "choice" -- as one may "desire" to have a second or third nationality without intending to "choose" nationalities.

第十二条
出生により外国の国籍を取得した日本国民で国外で生まれたものは、戸籍法(昭和二十二年法律第二百二十四号)の定めるところにより日本の国籍を留保する意思を表示しなければ、その出生の時にさかのぼつて日本の国籍を失う。
Article 12
A Japanese national who was born in a foreign country and has acquired a foreign nationality by birth shall lose Japanese nationality retroactively as from the time of birth, unless the Japanese national clearly indicates his or her volition to reserve Japanese nationality according to the provisions of the Family Registration Law (Law No. 224 of 1947).

Article 12
A person who is a national of Japan [Japanese national] who through birth acquired the nationality of a foreign state and who was born in [a] foreign state, should [the person] not indicate [express, show] intent to reserve the nationality of Japan in accordance with what is determined in [the determinations of] the Family Register Law (Law No. 224 of 1947), shall lose the nationality of Japan retroactive to the time of that [his or her] birth.

Reservation of [Japanese] nationality

This article is a significant rewording of Article 9 in the original 1950 Nationality Law. The phrasing of the received translation is misleading, for the Japanese text does not say "a Japanese national who was born in a foreign country".

The article means that a person who is a national of Japan according to Japanese law (which requires registration as a member of a family register) who happens to have acquired the nationality of a foreign state through birth in accordance with its laws -- and who was born in a foreign country -- in some manner has to "reserve" Japanese nationality. Such reservation is ordinarily made at the time such a person's Japanese parent or parents register the person's birth as required by Japanese law, generally in the country where the person was born.

However, this article does not specify how the Japanese national came to be Japanese -- whether by birth or by some other criterion, including (from 1985 to 2008) legitimation or even naturalization. And unlike Article 9 in the original 1950 law, which equated the person's foreign nationality with the foreign country where the person was born, Article 12 is phrased such that the foreign country where the person was born could be other than the foreign country whose nationality the person acquired through birth -- which, in fact, is conceivable.

The provision for "reservation" (留保 ryūho) was introduced into the 1899 Nationality Law in 1924. It remained in the 1950 law but was broadened in 1985 rewording.

intention

意思 (ishi) means intent or intention.

第十三条
外国の国籍を有する日本国民は、法務大臣に届け出ることによつて、日本の国籍を離脱ことができる。

2  前項の規定による届出をした者は、その届出の時に日本の国籍を失う。
Article 13
A Japanese national having a foreign nationality may renounce Japanese nationality by making notification to the Minister of Justice.

2. The person who made notification in accordance with the preceding paragraph shall lose Japanese nationality at the time of the notification.

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Choice of nationality
国籍の選択 Choice of nationalities

The English translation of 国籍の選択 (Kokuseki no sentaku) should be either choice or selection of "nationality" -- since Paragraph 1 makes it clear that a Japanese national who has acquired another nationality is expected to choose between the two.

第十四条
外国の国籍を有する日本国民は、外国及び日本の国籍を有することとなつた時が二十歳に達する以前であるときは二十二歳に達するまでに、その時が二十歳に達した後であるときはその時から二年以内に、いずれかの国籍を選択しなければならない。

2  日本の国籍の選択は、外国の国籍を離脱することによるほかは、戸籍法の定めるところにより、日本の国籍を選択し、かつ、外国の国籍を放棄する旨の宣言(以下「選択の宣言」という。)をすることによつてする。
Article 14
A Japanese national having a foreign nationality shall choose either of the nationalities before he or she reaches twenty two years of age if he or she has acquired both nationalities on and before the day when he or she reaches twenty years of age or, within two years after the day when he or she acquired the second nationality if he or she acquired such nationality after the day when he or she reached twenty years of age.

2. Choice of Japanese nationality shall be made either by depriving himself or herself of the foreign nationality or by the declaration provided for in the Family Registration Law in which he or she swears that he or she chooses to be a Japanese national and that he or she renounces the foreign nationality (hereinafter referred to as "declaration of choice").

Structural translation

Article 14
[Paragraph 1 omitted]

2. As for the choice of the nationality of Japan, other than by renouncing the nationality of the foreign state, [a Japanese national who also possess another state's nationality] shall, in accordance with what is determined in [the determinations of] the Family Register Law, make a declaration of purport [to the effect] that one chooses the nationality of Japan, and abandons the nationality of the foreign state (hereafter called "declaration of choice").

renounce, abandon

The received English version renders ほかは as "either" rather than "other than". The effect may be the same but the phrasing is different.

More importantly, the received translation fails to make the important distinction between 離脱 (ridatsu) meaning renunciation and 放棄 (hōki) meaning abandonment. The two terms are very different, and Japanese law is both careful and consistent in differentiating them.

Japanese law can govern only the renunciation of Japanese nationality and the abandonment of a foreign nationality to Japan. In other words, a Japanese national who also possesses a foreign nationality can renounce Japanese nationality only to Japan, and can renounce the foreign nationality only to the state whose laws govern its acquisition and loss. The use here of "abandonment" reflects the term as used, appropriately, in the Family Register Law.

A national of a state cannot generally "deprive oneself" of the state's nationality -- and the Japanese text of Article 14 does not, in fact, speak of "self-deprivation" of nationality. The laws of most states allow a national to petition for loss of nationality by making a declaration of renunciation, but whether the state recognizes loss of nationality will depend on its laws.

Abandonment of a foreign state's nationality to Japan is not tantamount to renunciation of the nationality, unless the laws of the foreign state stipulate otherwise. Some do, some don't.

As an act under Japanese law, a Japanese who abandons a foreign state's nationality to Japan agrees to cease being a national of that state in the eyes of Japanese law. In principle, however, Japanese law does not extend to other states. Hence a Japanese national who continues to possess the nationality of another state will be treated as a national of that state within its legal jurisdiction -- except where laws of laws, which determine which state's laws apply in cases of multiple nationality, determine otherwise.

See Dual nationality in Japan for further discussion of this and related issues.

第十五条
法務大臣は、外国の国籍を有する日本国民で前条第一項に定める期限内に日本の国籍の選択をしないものに対して、書面により、国籍の選択をすべきことを催告することができる。

2  前項に規定する催告は、これを受けるべき者の所在を知ることができないときその他書面によつてすることができないやむを得ない事情があるときは、催告すべき事項を官報に掲載してすることができる。この場合における催告は、官報に掲載された日の翌日に到達したものとみなす。

3  前二項の規定による催告を受けた者は、催告を受けた日から一月以内に日本の国籍の選択をしなければ、その期間が経過した時に日本の国籍を失う。ただし、その者が天災その他その責めに帰することができない事由によつてその期間内に日本の国籍の選択をすることができない場合において、その選択をすることができるに至つた時から二週間以内にこれをしたときは、この限りでない。
Article 15
The Minister of Justice may, by written notice, require a Japanese national having a foreign nationality who fails to choose Japanese nationality within the period prescribed in paragraph 1 of the last preceding Article to choose one of the nationalities he or she possesses.

2. The notice provided for in the preceding paragraph may be made by means of announcement thereof in the Official Gazette, in the case where the person who is to receive the notice is missing or in any other circumstances where it is impossible to send the notice to the person concerned. In this case, the notice shall be deemed to reach the person concerned on the day following the day when the announcement is made in the Official Gazette.

3. The person to whom the notice has been sent in accordance with the preceding two paragraphs shall lose Japanese nationality at the expiration of one month after the day he or she receives the notice, unless he or she chooses Japanese nationality within such period. This shall not, however, apply in the case where the person concerned is unable to choose Japanese nationality within such period due to a natural calamity or any other cause not imputable to him or her and he or she has made such choice within two weeks after he or she has become able to do so.
第十六条
選択の宣言 をした日本国民は、外国の国籍の離脱に努めなければならない。

2  法務大臣は、選択の宣言 をした日本国民で外国の国籍を失つていないものが自己の志望によりその外国の公務員の職(その国の国籍を有しない者であつても就任することができる職を除く。)に就任した場合において、その就任が日本の国籍を選択した趣旨に著しく反すると認めるときは、その者に対し日本の国籍の喪失の宣告をする ことができる。

3  前項の宣告 に係る聴聞の期日における審理は、公開により行わなければならない。

4  第二項の宣告は、官報に告示してしなければならない。

5  第二項の宣告を受けた者は、前項の告示の日に日本の国籍を失う。
Article 16
A Japanese national who has made the declaration of choice shall endeavour to deprive himself or herself of the foreign nationality.

2. In the case where a Japanese national who has made the declaration of choice but still possesses a foreign nationality has voluntarily taken public office in the foreign country (excluding an office which a person not having the nationality of such country is able to take), the Minister of Justice may declare that he or she shall lose Japanese nationality if the Minister finds that taking such public office would substantially contradict his or her choice of Japanese nationality.

3. The hearing concerning the declaration under the last preceding paragraph shall be conducted publicly.

4. The declaration provided for in paragraph 2 of this Article shall be made by public notice in the Official Gazette.

5. The person against whom the declaration has been made under paragraph 2 of this Article shall lose Japanese nationality on the day of the public notice under the last preceding paragraph.

Structural translation

Article 16
A national of Japan who has made a declaration of choice must endeavor in the renunciation of the nationalities of foreign states.

2. The Minister of Justice, in the event that a national of Japan [Japanese national] who has made a declaration of choice [of Japanese nationality] has not lost the nationality of a foreign state and in accordance with his or her own desire assumes the post of a public servant of that state [Except a post that could be assumed even by a person who does not possess the nationality of that state.), can make to the person a pronouncement [adjudication] of loss of the nationality of Japan.

3. Proceedings [examinations, inquiries] on the dates of hearings related to the pronouncement of the preceding paragraph, must be conducted [in a manner] open to the public.

4. The pronouncement of Paragraph 2 must be announced [given official public notice] in the Official Gazette.

5. The person who has received the pronouncement, shall lose the nationality of Japan on the day of the announcement of the preceding paragraph.

declaration, pronouncement, announcement

The received translation fails to adequately differentiate the various kinds of actions referred to in the Japanese text.

宣言 (sengen) is a declaration or a statement made by a person as a vow or agreement.

宣告 (senkoku) is a pronouncement or an adjudication made by a competent official or judge concerning the disposition of a person who is held to have violated a law or regulation. Article 16 gives the Minister of Justice the discretionary power to denationalize a Japanese national who is held to have violated the stipulation in the article.

告示 (kokuji) is an announcement that serves as a legal notice when made publicly, as in the 官報 (Kanpō), called the Official Gazette in English. The Official Gazette, comparable to the Congressional Record, publishes Diet proceedings, facilitates the promulgation of national laws, and is a vehicle for all manner of ministerial and other government notices.

Announcements in Official Gazette

The Official Gazette also serves as the principal government medium for announcing a variety of government decisions and pronouncements that become legal upon their publication, including permissions to naturalize (Article 10) and losses of nationality (Articles 15 and 16). Adjudicative pronouncements have effect either immediately (Article 16) or after a specified period of time in the event the conditions stipulated in the pronouncement are not met (Article 15).

See Other terms in the "Legal terminology" section of the "Glossaries and almanacs" feature of this website for a closer look at terminology related to notifications, declarations, pronouncements, announcements, and other such legal actions.

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Reacquisition of nationality
国籍の再取得 Reacquisition of nationality
第十七条
第十二条の規定により日本の国籍を失つた者で二十歳未満のものは、日本に住所を有するときは、法務大臣に届け出ることによつて、日本の国籍を取得することができる。

2  第十五条第二項の規定による催告を受けて同条第三項の規定により日本の国籍を失つた者は、第五条第一項第五号に掲げる条件を備えるときは、日本の国籍を失つたことを知つた時から一年以内に法務大臣に届け出ることによつて、日本の国籍を取得することができる。ただし、天災その他その者の責めに帰することができない事由によつてその期間内に届け出ることができないときは、その期間は、これをすることができるに至つた時から一月とする。

3  前二項の規定による届出をした者は、その届出の時に日本の国籍を取得する。
Article 17
A person under twenty years of age who has lost Japanese nationality in accordance with Article 12 may reacquire Japanese nationality by making notification to the Minister of Justice if he or she has a domicile in Japan.

2. A person who has received a notice under paragraph 2 of Article 15 and has lost Japanese nationality under paragraph 3 of the said Article may reacquire Japanese nationality by making notification to the Minister of Justice within one year after he or she has become aware of the fact that he or she has lost Japanese nationality, if he or she fulfills the condition set forth in item (5) of paragraph 1 of Article 5. However, in the case where he or she is unable to make notification within the period due to natural calamity or any other cause not imputable to him or her, such period shall be one month after he or she becomes able to do so.

3. The person who has made notification in accordance with the preceding two paragraphs shall acquire Japanese nationality at the time of the notification.

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Notifications et cetera by legal representative [proxy]
法定代理人がする届出等 Notification, etc., by legal representative
第十八条
第三条第一項若しくは前条第一項の規定による国籍取得の届出帰化の許可の申請選択の宣言又は国籍離脱の届出は、国籍の取得、選択又は離脱をしようとする者が十五歳未満であるときは、法定代理人が代わつてする。
Article 18
In the case where the person who intends to acquire, choose or renounce nationality is under fifteen years of age, notification of the acquisition of nationality under Article 3, paragraph 1 or Article 17, paragraph 1, the application for naturalization permission, the declaration of choice or the notification of renunciation of nationality shall be made by the person's legal representative on his or her behalf.

Structural translation

Article 18
As for notifications of [Japanese] nationality acquisition in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 1 of Article 3 or Paragraph 1 of the preceding article, applications for permission to naturalize, declarations of choice [of Japanese nationality], and notifications of [Japanese] nationality renunciation, when the person who would attempt to acquire, choose, or renounce [Japanese] nationality is not yet 15 years of age, a legal representative will do [so] instead [in proxy].

notification, application, declaration

The distinction between these three terms is important.

届出 (todokede) is a notification submitted by a person or an organization to a municipal hall or other government office, or competent minister or other official, and which, if vetted and found to meet conditions stipulated in related laws, ordinances, or regulations, will result in official action taken on the strength of their authority alone.

申請 (shinsei) is an application for permission that is granted by a competent official on the strength of the official's discretionary powers. An application is therefore a petition for approval. A petition's compliance with provisions in relevant laws and regulations is not in and of itself sufficient for favorable action without approval. A petition that appears to meet prerequisites might be rejected, and one that fails to meet prerequisites might be approved, depending on the parameters of the competent official's discretionary powers.

宣言 (sengen) is a declaration or a statement made by a person as a vow or agreement.

See Other terms in the "Legal terminology" section of the "Glossaries and almanacs" feature of this website for a closer look at terminology related to notifications, applications, declarations, and other such legal actions.

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Ministerial ordinances
省令への委任 Ministerial ordinance
第十九条
この法律に定めるもののほか、国籍の取得及び離脱に関する手続その他この法律の施行に関し必要な事項は、法務省令で定める。
Article 19
Except as provided for in this Law, the procedures concerning the acquisition or renunciation of nationality as well as other rules necessary to enforce this Law shall be prescribed in the Ordinance of the Ministry of Justice.

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1950 supplementary provisions
附則 Supplementary provisions
Japanese
国籍法
EHS translation
Nationality Law
1  この法律は、昭和二十五年七月一日から施行する。

2  国籍法(明治三十二年法律第六十六号)は、廃止する。

5  この法律の施行前日本に帰化した者の子で従前の国籍法第十五条第一項の規定によつて日本の国籍を取得したものは、第六条第四号の規定の適用については、日本に帰化した者とみなす。この法律の施行前日本国民の養子又は入夫となつた者も、また、同様である。
1. This Law shall come into force as from July 1, 1950.

2. The Nationality Law (Law No. 66 of 1899) shall be abolished.

5. A child whose parent was naturalized in Japan prior to the enforcement of this Law and who has acquired Japanese nationality under the provision of Article 15 paragraph 1 of the old Nationality Law, shall be regarded as having naturalized in Japan with respect to the application of the provisions of Article 6 item (4). The same shall apply to one who, prior to the enforcement of this Law, was adopted by a Japanese national or became the incoming husband (nyufu) of a Japanese national.
1952 supplementary provisions
附則
(昭和二七年七月三一日法律第二六八号)
Supplementary provisions
(Law No. 268, 31 July 1952)
Japanese
国籍法
EHS translation
Nationality Law
1  この法律は、昭和二十七年八月一日から施行する。 1. This Law shall come into force as from August 1, 1952.
1985 supplementary provisions
附則
(昭和五九年五月二五日法律第四五号)
Supplementary provisions
(Law No. 45, 25 May 1984)
Japanese
国籍法
Structural translation
Nationality Law
(施行期日)

第一条  この法律は、昭和六十年一月一日から施行する。
(Enforcement date)

Article 1  This law shall come into force from 1 January 1985.
(帰化及び国籍離脱に関する経過措置)

第二条  この法律の施行前に帰化の許可の申請又は国籍離脱の届出をした者の帰化又は国籍の離脱については、なお従前の例による。
(Transitional measure concerning naturalization and [Japanese] nationality renunciation

Article 2  Regarding naturalization or [Japanese] nationality renunciation of persons who, before the enforcement of this law, made an application for permission to naturalize or a notification of [Japanese] nationality renunciation, [they] shall be [treated] in accordance with prior examples.
(国籍の選択に関する経過措置)

第三条  この法律の施行の際現に外国の国籍を有する日本国民は、第一条の規定による改正後の国籍法(以下「新国籍法」という。)第十四条第一項の規定の適用については、この法律の施行の時に外国及び日本の国籍を有することとなつたものとみなす。この場合において、その者は、同項に定める期限内に国籍の選択をしないときは、その期限が到来した時に同条第二項に規定する選択の宣言をしたものとみなす。
(Transitional measure concerning choice of [Japanese] nationality

Article 3   Japanese nationals who at the time of the enforcement of this law, regarding the application of the provision of Article 14 Paragraph 1 of the Nationality Law after amendment according to the provision [stipulation] of Article 1 [in these supplementary provisions], shall be viewed as persons who at the time of the enforcement of this law have come to possess the nationalities of a foreign country and Japan. In this event, these persons, when they do not make a choice of [Japanese] nationality within the time limit determined in the same paragraph [1 of Article 14], shall be viewed as persons who when this time limit has arrived have declared the choice [of Japanese nationality] determined in Paragraph 2 of the same article [14].
(国籍の再取得に関する経過措置)

第四条  新国籍法第十七条第一項の規定は、第一条の規定による改正前の国籍法第九条の規定により日本の国籍を失つた者で二十歳未満のものについても適用する。
(Transitional measure concerning reacquisition of [Japanese] nationality)

Article 4  The provisions of Article 17 Paragraph 1 of the new Nationality Law, shall apply also to persons who according to the provisions of Article 9 of the Nationality Law prior to amendment by the provisions of Article 1 [of the new law] have lost the nationality of Japan and are not yet 20 years of age.
(国籍の取得の特例)

第五条  昭和四十年一月一日からこの法律の施行の日(以下「施行日」という。)の前日までに生まれた者(日本国民であつた者を除く。)でその出生の時に母が日本国民であつたものは、母が現に日本国民であるとき、又はその死亡の時に日本国民であつたときは、施行日から三年以内に、法務省令で定めるところにより法務大臣に届け出ることによつて、日本の国籍を取得することができる。

2  前項に規定する届出は、国籍を取得しようとする者が十五歳未満であるときは、法定代理人が代わつてする。

3  第一項に規定する届出をしようとする者が天災その他その責めに帰することができない事由によつて同項に定める期間内に届け出ることができないときは、その届出の期間は、これをすることができるに至つた時から三月とする。

4  第一項の規定による届出をした者は、その届出の時に日本の国籍を取得する。

第六条  父又は母が前条第一項の規定により日本の国籍を取得したときは、子(日本国民であつた者を除く。)は、同項に定める期間内に、法務省令で定めるところにより法務大臣に届け出ることによつて、日本の国籍を取得することができる。ただし、その父又は母が養親であるとき、又は出生の後に認知した者であるときは、この限りでない。

2  前条第二項から第四項までの規定は、前項の場合について準用する。
(Special cases [exceptional provisions] for acquisition of [Japanese] nationality)

Article 5   As for those who were born between 1 January 1965 and the day before the day of enforcement of this law (Hereafter called "enforcement day.) (Except someone who had been a Japanese national.) and at the time of their birth their mother was a Japan national, when the mother is presently a Japanese, or when [she] was a Japanese national at the time of [her] death, within three years from the enforcement day, shall be able to acquire the nationality of Japan, by making notification to the Minister of Justice in accordance with what is determined by Ministry of Justice ordinances.

2. The notification provided [stipulated] in the preceding paragraph [Paragraph 1], when the person who would acquire [Japanese] nationality is not yet 15 years of age, shall be made by a legal representative in [the person's] stead.

3. When a person who would make the notification provided [stipulated] in the Paragraph 1 is unable to make the declaration within the period determined in the same paragraph for reason of a natural calamity or other [reason] for which [the obligor, i.e., person making the declaration] cannot be held accountable [which cannot be attributed to the obligor's responsibility], the period of the notification, shall be three months from the time [the obligor] has come to be able to make it.

4. A person who has made a notification in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 1, shall acquire the Nationality of Japan at the time of the notification.


Article 6  When the father or the mother has acquired the Nationality of Japan in accordance with the provision [stipulation] of Paragraph 1 of the preceding article [Article 5], a child (Except one who had been a Japanese national.), within the period determined in the same paragraph, by making notification to the Minister of Justice in accordance with what is determined by Ministry of Justice ordinances, shall be able to acquire the nationality of Japan. However, when the father or the mother is the adoptive parent, or when [the father or mother is someone who has acknowledged [the child] after [the child's] birth, this [provision] will not apply. [ == Provided, however, that this [provision] will not apply when . . . .]

2. Provisions from Paragraph 2 through Paragraph 4 of the preceding article [Article 5], shall apply in the event of the preceding paragraph.
1994 supplementary provisions
附則 (抄)
(平成五年一一月一二日法律第八九号)
Supplementary provisions (Extract)
(Law No. 85, 12 November 1993)
Japanese
国籍法
Structural translation
Nationality Law
(施行期日)

第一条  この法律は、行政手続法(平成五年法律第八十八号)の施行の日から施行する。
(Enforcement date)

Article 1  This law shall come into force from the day of enforcement of the Administrative Procedures Law (Law No. 88 of 1993).
(諮問等がされた不利益処分に関する経過措置)

第二条  この法律の施行前に法令に基づき審議会その他の合議制の機関に対し行政手続法第十三条に規定する聴聞又は弁明の機会の付与の手続その他の意見陳述のための手続に相当する手続を執るべきことの諮問その他の求めがされた場合においては、当該諮問その他の求めに係る不利益処分の手続に関しては、この法律による改正後の関係法律の規定にかかわらず、なお従前の例による。
(罰則に関する経過措置)

第十三条  この法律の施行前にした行為に対する罰則の適用については、なお従前の例による。
(聴聞に関する規定の整理に伴う経過措置)

第十四条  この法律の施行前に法律の規定により行われた聴聞、聴問若しくは聴聞会(不利益処分に係るものを除く。)又はこれらのための手続は、この法律による改正後の関係法律の相当規定により行われたものとみなす。
(政令への委任)

第十五条  附則第二条から前条までに定めるもののほか、この法律の施行に関して必要な経過措置は、政令で定める。
2005 supplementary provisions
附則 (抄)
(平成一六年一二月一日法律第一四七号)
Supplementary provisions (Extract)
(Law No. 147, 1 December 2004)
Japanese
国籍法
Structural translation
Nationality Law
(施行期日)

第一条  この法律は、公布の日から起算して六月を超えない範囲内において政令で定める日から施行する。
(Enforcement date)

Article 1  This law shall come into force from the day to be determined by government order within [a period] not to exceed six months calculated from the date of promulgation.
[legal] capacity [to act]

Law No. 147 of 2004 was entitled Law to amend part of the Civil Code. This law came into force from 1 April 2005. Most of the amendments concerned vernacularization of usage in the Civil Code, and standardization of related usage in other laws.

One such change was imposed on Article 5 of the Nationality Law, in which 能力 (nōryoku) meaning legal "capacity" or "competency" was replaced by 行為能力 (kōi nōryoku) meaning "capacity [competency] to act) legally, especially in (but not limited to) one's own behalf. However, the common English translation remained unchanged.

The phrase 能力を有する (nōryoku o yū suru) is a carryover from the 1899 law. Contemporary English translations rendered this either "has legal capacity" or "possesses legal capacity", whereas from 1950 it became "of full capacity" in the common English translation.

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Minji geppo
Ministry of Justice, Civil Affairs Bureau
Minji geppo, 1984 (Showa 59) Extra
Special issue on revisions to
Nationality Law and Family Register Law

"Minji geppo" extra

Toward the end of 1984, on the eve of the enforcement from January 1985 of revisions to the Nationality Law and Family Register Law promulgated in May 1984, the Civil Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice published a special edition of its monthly report, as a reference guide for local registrars and others who needed to understand and apply the revisions in the course of their work. The edition is most completely described on its spine RESUME as follows, from top to bottom, with romanized and translated versions.

民事月報
国籍法・戸籍法 改正特集
Vol. 39 号外 [1984 (昭和59年)]
法務省民事局

Minji geppō [Civil affairs monthly bulletin]
Kokusekihō・Kosekihō kaisei tokushū
[Nationality Law・Family Register Law revisions special collection]
Volume 39 Gōgai [1984 (Shōwa 59 nen)]
Volume 39 Extra issue [1984 (1984)]
Hōmushō Minjikyoku
Ministry of Justice Civil Affairs Bureau

The A5 volume, bound in a heavy blue cloth-textured paper, has 5 unnumbered pages of front matter (preface and contents) and 545 numbered pages divided into three parts (my translations).

  1. Part 1 (1-299)
    Explanation of statutes and other [legal instruments] revising parts of the Nationality Law and the Family Register Law
  2. Part 2 (301-418)
    Diet discussions
  3. Part 3 (419-545)
    Resources (Related ordinances, directives, etc

The two-page preface by bureau director Biwata Taisuke [Yasusuke] (枇杷田助奏) is dated only "with enforcement right before the eyes".

The preface states that revisions of parts of the Nationality Law and the Family Register Law enacted by the 101st National Diet were promulgated on 25 May "this year", and are about to be enforced from 1 January "next year". Moreover, on 1 November "this year" a Justice Ministry Order revising part of the Family Register Law were established and promulgated by the Ministry of Justice, and would be simultaneously enforced with the revised laws. (Page 1 of preface)

Revisions of the Family Register Law, in addition to providing accommodating revisions in the Nationality Law, also made new provisions for compiling the register of a Japanese national who marries an alien, and special regulations for who have married or divorced an alien to change their family name (氏変更 shi no henkō), in response to the "era of internationalization" (国際化時代 kokusaika jidai). (Page 1 of preface)

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