Elements of citizenship
By William Wetherall

Social and political belonging in Japan

"Elements of citizenship" are the rights and duties that come with nested legal statuses in a state and its constituent polities. Japan, as a state, consists of numerous municipalities which are parts of many prefectures. Japanese and aliens who reside in Japan are affiliated in different ways with both the state and with a municipality and its prefecture.

In Japan, as in other states, affiliation with the state as a national is defined by possession of its nationality. People are Japanese if they possess Japan's nationality. Aliens, meaning people who do not possess Japan's nationality, become affiliated with Japan through a variety statuses of residence.

Local affiliation in most states is based on residence. In Japan, Japanese and aliens alike become affiliates of the municipality in which they are registered as residents. Prefectural affiliation derives from municipal registration.

An individual's nested state and local affiliations and other legal statuses, along with gender and age, among several other personal attributes, determine the rights and duties that set the parameters of the individual's participation in the state and local societies. In Japan, as in other states, "citizenship" is a complex set of elements that vary according to an individual's nationality, registration status, and other conditions as established by law.

Japanese laws do not define citizenship or citizens but only state and local affiliation and affiliates. Various laws, beginning with the Constitution, but also laws like the Local Autonomy Law and the Public Officials Election Law, describe various rights and duties, and stipulate qualifications in terms that may include state and local affiliation -- for example, nationals of Japan or all persons, or residents who are nationals of Japan or all residents, and the like.