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Foreign-born politicians put new face on Japanese officialdom

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By Jesse Veverka

After spending an hour zipping through the outskirts of north Tokyo on the sleek Tsukuba Express, I find myself on the receiving end of a sales pitch from a local city councilor on the virtues of living in “Tsukuba Science City.” We walk through a shopping mall as he enthusiastically explains how the municipality was laid out to enhance technical research and scientific innovation. He waves a quick hello to a constituent on the escalator.

Perhaps it’s not so odd for a local politician to promote his turf, but what is unusual is that the guy I am talking to looks like he might be Bill Clinton’s younger brother. It’s clear he is a dedicated public official; it’s also clear he isn’t originally from Japan.

I have just met Jon Heese, a Saskatchewan native, Japanese citizen and Tsukuba city councilor. Heese is a member of a small but burgeoning group of foreign-born politicians whose experiences are a testament to Japan’s internationalization — and the success that comes with integration into a difficult-to-penetrate local culture.

Like many foreigners, Heese, 46, got his start in Japan as an English instructor. “I came in ’91 in the good old days, when teaching salaries were 400,000 yen a month with an apartment included,” he says, with a distinct note of nostalgia in his voice. He also tried his hand at acting, playing American presidents in independent Japanese flicks like "Nihon Igai Zenbu Chinbotsu" and "Girara no Gyakushu."

But Heese wanted to connect with Japan more deeply. “All day long I was speaking English. My Japanese just wasn’t improving,” he recalls. “I wanted to put myself in a position where I had to speak Japanese, so I opened up a bar — it was pretty easy to get going, I was really surprised how cheap it was. The liquor companies basically gave me everything I needed on spec, so all I needed was the location. Getting the actual liquor license was unbelievably easy.”

Heese’s business initially met with overwhelming success, but as Japan’s inflated bubble economy went flat, his customer base began to dry up. Then, in 2002, the Japanese government enacted new drunk driving laws — a death sentence for his pub.

“At least 30% of my business came from 10 kilometers away. The cops sat outside my bar five nights a week, catching everybody — even if they had only drunk half a glass of beer, they were busted. I had never seen anything like it anywhere, how hardcore these cops were. We lost 70% of our business overnight.”

The venture soon collapsed under the weight of debt. Shell-shocked at how quickly decisions by national bureaucrats could affect his livelihood, Heese felt the need to act.

“I am not advocating drunk driving in any way,” he says. “However, in Canada, when they did the same thing — setting up checkpoints and busting people — and the bars started to lose business, what did the bars do? They organized and went to the town or city council to say, ‘Hey, we need help.’ The city council would start doing public service announcements to advocate having a designated driver, so people could still go out.”

Heese visited other bar owners and found out they were hurting, too. “I explained that we should organize—I even wanted to go demonstrate in front of the police station. People don’t realize what an asset a good nightlife is for a city. It means that young people want to live there, and if you have young people, you have a future. If you only have old people, your city dies.”

Despite getting sympathy from fellow pub owners, Heese realized that not many of them were willing to speak up.

“It’s like the one nail that sticks out — no one wanted to stand up and get knocked down. So I said, ‘I’m out of here,’ and closed up and sold the bar — with a lot of debt that I am still paying off.”

Yet this sour experience provided the impetus for Heese’s new and novel vocation. “When you get lemons, you make lemonade, and that was kind of my push. We had an election in 2004 and I thought, ‘I’ll give it a shot!’”

Need Japanese citizenship first

In order to become an elected official, foreign-born residents first have to apply for Japanese citizenship, a process that Heese recounts as tedious but not particularly difficult. In fact, just two years prior to Heese’s election to city council, Marutei Tsurunen, a former Finn, became the first foreign-born politician to serve in Japan’s national government.

A Lutheran missionary-turned-politician, Tsurunen made a name as the first naturalized citizen to serve on a town council, in Yugawara, Kanagawa, in 1992. Like many groundbreakers, however, success did not always come easy. In his bid for national office, Tsurunen, 69, suffered four defeats before making it into the House of Councilors — and then only when the elected Diet member decided to relinquish his seat and it automatically went to Tsurunen, his runner-up.

“Luckily, he quit after just five and a half months, so I got five and a half years for my first term” explains Tsurunen as I sip tea with him in his office in Nagatacho. Things went smoother in the next election, in 2007, when he was directly elected with 240,000 votes — more than enough to seal his legitimacy as Japan’s first blue-eyed Diet member.

At around the same time, another foreign-born political contender was making his debut. Brooklynite Anthony Bianchi had decided to make a go at life in Japan when a TV show he was working on in New York got cancelled. After starting off in the JET program, he got a job with the board of education in Inuyama City, outside of Nagoya, to develop a specialized English program using proprietary materials.

“I felt a responsibility to find good teachers, so the students could get a good education,” Bianchi, 51, says. “And I also felt a responsibility to those teachers to make sure they were treated well in the schools.”

It took years to get the program up and running and, like Heese, Bianchi became frustrated dealing with the Japanese bureaucracy. “I felt like I was just complaining about stuff, and I got tired of complaining and decided I should do something more positive for the community,” he says. “That’s when I started thinking about getting citizenship and running for office.”

Bianchi admits that he knew “zero about running a campaign” when he started out, but thanks to a platform based on greater transparency in government and empowering schools — not bureaucrats — to make decisions about education, his message resonated with voters. In 2003, he was elected as a city councilor in Inuyama with 3,300 votes — a record number.

Treated with fairness and respect

Despite Japan’s reputation as hostile to newcomers, all three foreign-born politicians say they’ve been treated with respect and fairness — to a point. “It’s hard to get here, but once you get in, there is a lot of acceptance,” Bianchi says.

“I am on a Japanese [right wingers’] ‘watch list’ and there are these guys in black vans,” Heese says. “But the Japanese are pretty open, and they have a long tradition of sending out people to bring back new ideas.”

“They can welcome me as a politician, but not as a leader,” says Tsurunen, who suggests that this may be the reason he has not been tapped for a ministerial post.

Indeed, most policy decisions in Japan are not made by politicians, but by the country’s murky and obstinate bureaucracy, as Heese learned shortly after getting elected. “I wanted to make one small change to the timing of a traffic light in the city, but I found out it’s not the council that decided such things, it’s the police, and they just said no,” he recalls.

“'Kanryoshugi' — Japanese officialdom — is running everything, but it is really the politicians’ fault,” Bianchi adds. “We let them take that power, and we need to take it back. No one voted for those guys. We have elections, and the people who are elected should be making the policies.”

On a municipal level, true administrative power lies not with the city councilors, but with the mayor — an office for which Bianchi ran unsuccessfully in 2008. Tsurunen says he would have been surprised if Bianchi had won. “Foreigners are welcome, but Japanese want to rule this country.”

Yet despite the concentration of power in the bureaucracy, elected officials are able to bring about gradual change through concerted effort. Tsurunen talks excitedly about a push by his Democratic Party of Japan to enact a dual-citizenship bill — as it stands now, Japan is the only G8 country that does not allow it.

Pledged to pursue policies important to constituents

Like other politicians, these foreign-born officials have pledged to pursue policies that are of importance to their constituents. Bianchi has dedicated himself to reducing wasteful public spending, while Tsurunen and Heese support efforts to aid Japan’s farmers and increase domestic food production.

“In Tsukuba, we have 200,000 people and only 700 farmers, and only 200 of those farm full-time,” says Heese. “Farmers feed us all. We can pretend that there is enough food in China and the U.S. even if some big disaster happens, but that ain’t the truth. It really is important to support local farmers.”

Tsurunen, meanwhile, champions the idea of reducing imports of animal feed and using under-utilized farmland to increase domestic production.

Bianchi admits that farming is not his strong suit — “I am from Brooklyn, and there is not much agriculture, except grass growing through the cracks in the concrete,” he says, but he’s focused on his own projects, particularly a push to make local government operate in a leaner fashion. “I analyze the budget a lot and look for places where they are wasting money,” he says. “There is a lot of stupid spending.”

Heese points out that a politician’s job is not all about trying to amend policies or pass legislation. He strives to be an inspirational representative of Japan’s increasingly complex global community. “My dream is to see 30 to 40 of us foreign-born politicians out there,” he says. “I guarantee it will benefit Japan, because it will change people’s image of the country.”

He tells of a recent visit by American officials from Tsukuba’s sister city of Irvine, California. “They walked into the room and started shaking hands with all the Japanese, and when it came to me and I was introduced as a city councilor, all of a sudden it was like, ‘Wow!’ Their whole image of Tsukuba changed.”

The reaction has been much the same when delegations arrive from Tsukuba’s sister cities in Korea and China. “It really does change people’s perspective of what’s possible in Japan.”

Jon Heese: aishiterutsukuba.jp

Marutei Tsurunen: http://homepage2.nifty.com/yugatsuru/

Anthony Bianchi: www.bianchi-inuyama.com

Turning Japanese

So you’re thinking of becoming a naturalized Japanese citizen? Here’s what to do.

  1. Be serious. Changing your citizenship is, obviously, a big decision. Japan doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, meaning by law you’ll have to renounce the nationality of your homeland. You will have to give up your old passport, and you may no longer be able to live freely, work, or in some cases, own property in your former country.

  2. Get a job. As wonderful as it is to freelance, Japanese bureaucracy puts a heavy emphasis on traditional full-time employment, and you’ll need to show on your application how you make a living.

  3. Establish residency. You must have been a resident of Japan for at least five years, as reckoned from the date of landing on your gaijin card. And don’t forget to get a re-entry permit if you leave; otherwise the counter will be reset.

  4. Get married. The easiest way to expedite the process is to marry a Japanese national. You will have a much harder time becoming a Japanese citizen if you don’t.

  5. Learn the language. You should anyway, but because you will be dealing with your immigration officer in Japanese and writing an essay about why you want to naturalize, you’ll need to have your speaking and (at least some) reading and writing in order.

  6. Pay your taxes. You’ll need to prove that you have made your contribution to society.

  7. Behave. Don’t get into any legal entanglements.

  8. Get your papers in order. Among other documents, you’ll need copies of your tax and financial records, birth certificate, parents’ birth certificates, parents’ marriage license and your marriage license.

  9. Pick a name. If you’ve always wanted a cool kanji name, this is your chance. In the old days, you had to pick from a limited group of standardized names, but now you can choose your own characters. You can even write your name with katakana if you prefer.

  10. Prepare yourself for the long haul. Applying for citizenship is a trying process, designed to weed out applicants through attrition. You will need to meet multiple times with the immigration officer, so be ready to accommodate any extra requests.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


65 Comments
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Where's Renho? According to Hiranuma, she wasn't Japanese originally either.

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Renho had both Japanese and Taiwanese parents, and made the decision before the age of 22 to take Japanese citizenship, in accordance with the law. Even DPJ's Ozawa is alleged to have a Korean mother, and employs a Korean secretary.

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Get your papers in order. Among other documents, you’ll need copies of your tax and financial records, birth certificate, parents’ birth certificates, parents’ marriage license and your marriage license.

So I need to get my parents marriage license to be a citizen of Japan? What if your parents have had a common law marriage for over 40 years?

Get married. The easiest way to expedite the process is to marry a Japanese national. You will have a much harder time becoming a Japanese citizen if you don’t.

I'm not feeling that rule. Lucky for me, I didn't come from a third world country where the idea of getting married seems like the only way for a better life.

Other than this, I meet all the other requirements. It is probably better just to apply for permanent residency.

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Jon Heese looks more like Bill Clinton than Bill Clinton.

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Good article. I applaud these men. Need more female politicians too.

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Why do you have to change your name?????? Is that to make it easier for the Japanese people to believe you are a japanese citizen....pretty stupid. Perhaps thats one law you can go about changing when you climb up the ranks!!!!

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I thought so!

I couldn't help but notice the timing of this article in JT especially after the article and online debate concerning the remarks made by the governor of Saitama!

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Why do you have to change your name?????? Is that to make it easier for the Japanese people to believe you are a japanese citizen....pretty stupid.

It says you can just write the name you already have in katakana. No different from people who originally wrote their name in kanji or Cyrillic or whatever, writing it in ABC when they get a British, American, Canadian or Australian passport. It does make it easier for fellow citizens, who may not be able to decipher a foreign alphabet, to read the name - which I don't think is stupid at all. Why expect Japan to do what other countries don't do?

On a further note, that Bill Clinton lookalike is one handsome dude.

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Why do you have to change your name?

Why do people keep bringing up this myth?? The article even states You can even write your name with katakana if you prefer. Sure you can't use the English alphabet anymore for official purposes domestically. But that is only common sense as Japanese is not written with that alphabet. You CAN change your name. But you are not required to do so.

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Kanryoshugi’ — Japanese officialdom — is running everything

So what do the city councilors actually do then?

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Great article. Trying to become a citizen while keeping your own name may be posssible but will not smooth the process. Japanese authorities like to see you change your name as part of a committment to becoming Japanese. My Chinese friend who recently got citizenship had this recommended to her

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Stand corrected...sorry

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Japanese authorities like to see you change your name as part of a committment to becoming Japanese. My Chinese friend who recently got citizenship had this recommended to her

Sounds more like some Japanese people who happen to be in a position of 'authority' like to see you change your name. I suppose it does keep the lists looking neat if they're all kanji. But I don't think it has any more weight than the people who tell me I shouldn't train my Shiba in English because 'he's a Japanese dog, he should respond to Japanese commands'.

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@thepro Great question. From what I see they go to a lot of parties andoverseas trips and occassionally get the chance to decide on building consents etc and are able to make money from bribes when they do this.I am sure we would do just as well without almost all of them.

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How on earth can one think that you should get married as a mean to get something else than a husband or wife???

I mean I understand that getting married to a Japanese citizen would certainly make the process to Japanese citizenship much easier, but how could this influence such a decision...

I really hope this was just poorly put, otherwise it is just a matter of time before there is a law to cancel the citizenship change upon divorce...

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About the name issue. There have been and still are many controversial issues regarding it, especially regarding the zainichi (korean minority in Japan) communities. Many of the koreans have been reluctant throughout the decades to change into a japanized name in fear of losing a part of their korean identity. Of course this problem goes way back to the colonization days from before and after second world war. But today tensions are fewer, and the name law is not so strict anymore. But some citizens rights groups in Japan will still argue that there is a form of discrimination inherent in this issue.

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the guy I am talking to looks like he might be Bill Clinton’s younger brother. It’s clear he is a dedicated public official; it’s also clear he isn’t originally from Japan.

I see. Caucasians can't be originally born and raised in Japan. Just as I am sure non-caucasians can't be, say, American.

insert eyeroll

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Marius2...I'll second that eyeroll

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from complaining about bureaucrats to being a bureaucrat himself is a big step.

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Sorry, Japan has not "internationalized" much since it started talking about it in the 1980`s. And it still is "talking" about it. Visit Hong Kong and you will see a truly international city.

God bless me I love Tokyo, but it is not internationalized really.

If the guy wants to go native, fine by me.

But I would think twice about that.

Deep thoughts by Jack Handy.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

If a kid is of dual nationality, Japan can NOT force that individual to surrender a nationality in order to keep their Japanese one

My son recently renewed his Japanese passport. On the application form they ask if you hold the passport of any other country. I imagine if you answer 'yes' they say fine, no Japanese passport for you.

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****Visit Hong Kong and you will see a truly international city.

You might want to read the recent Time magazine that clarifies that HK is not.

Good for these guys but I wonder if they are being honest with how they were treated by the locals. I mean, they wouldn't get voted in if they commented on the racism and discrimination they faced, right?

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My son recently renewed his Japanese passport. On the application form they ask if you hold the passport of any other country. I imagine if you answer 'yes' they say fine, no Japanese passport for you.

Many naturalized J-citizens just don't say they hold their org country's passport. Urban legend?

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Getting the actual liquor license was unbelievably easy

No you do not. You just need a piece of paper that says you sat for the health requirements and know how to deal with sanitary conditions.

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Learn the language. You should anyway

I'd love to! But easier said than done. Especially when the wife has no patience and she would rather talk to the immigration officials herslef to save time!

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ashika1009; I'm in 100% agreement with you on Japan not being "internationalized"!

These types of article pop up on a regular basis, especially at times when Japan is being criticized or doing something controversial regarding foreign residence!

This in just another of these "pat ourselves on the back" and "feel good Japan!" stories that doesn't translate into any real concrete changes!

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Very interesting. I had no idea there was such a critter as a "foreign-born politician" anywhere in Japan. How very narrow minded of me, especially since I come from the land of the Gubinator (CA). And to all the nay-sayers: Be patient - Japan is taking baby steps, yes, but taking even baby steps steps toward becoming more internationalized is encouraging.

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Sorry, Japan has not "internationalized" much since it started talking about it in the 1980`s. And it still is "talking" about it

What's the big deal with being "internationalized"? What exactly would the benefits be for Japan that the country doesn't already have? BTW, regards this article, would you trust anyone who does the "I'm a deep thinker" pose (you know, the finger along the cheek routine) for photographs?

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I've never been able to comprehend the real reasons Japanese voters support the legislators they do. It's certainly not because of their shining integrity and spotless records. It's more likely to be their ability to tap into an inordinate share of money from the national treasury to build unnecessary infrastructural projects in their constituents' districts.

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They don't take your passport, in fact they can't take your passport. For example a US passport is property of the US government. Even if you took Japanese citizenship and even said you renounced US citizenship, you can still have US nationality if you didn't really intend to do it, and not go through all the proper paperwork.

Minors can have dual nationality officially until they become 22 years old. But as mentioned the truth is many people just hold onto their other passports. Use japanese one to enter and leave, and use the other passport to enter your home country and leave.

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A Saskatchewanian!! WOOHOO! I can vouch for the fact that there isn't a whole lot in Saskatchewan but farms and wheat so good on him for coming to Japan and making a life for himself here. Maybe he'll introduce the Japanese to the CFL!!

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morriconelover

But today tensions are fewer, and the name law is not so strict anymore. But some citizens rights groups in Japan will still argue that there is a form of discrimination inherent in this issue.

And where is the discrimination? That they can't use hangul? I saw an British documentary about Japan, where they aimed to disclose discrimination in Japanese society. They interviewed a zainichi, who used the unexisting name change requirement as her primary reason for not taking Japanese citizenship. The lie went unchecked.

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can't even get a light changed... if you don't have any respect, you don't have any power, and are simply a puppet. Once a human tape recorder, always a human tape recorder. The only political change that comes in Japan is at the site of an atomic bomb.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Great, I truly admire all foreigners who achieved something in their new residence country. Congrats

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Indeed, most policy decisions in Japan are not made by politicians, but by the country’s murky and obstinate bureaucracy, as Heese learned shortly after getting elected. “I wanted to make one small change to the timing of a traffic light in the city, but I found out it’s not the council that decided such things, it’s the police, and they just said no,” he recalls.

Despite this, I'm sure that these guys will achieve more than the likes of Debito et al. This type of engagement is surely to be applauded. I only hope that they are not tokens of "internationalism".

Be serious. Changing your citizenship is, obviously, a big decision. Japan doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, meaning by law you’ll have to renounce the nationality of your homeland. You will have to give up your old passport, and you may no longer be able to live freely, work, or in some cases, own property in your former country.

This would be an inconceivable step for me.

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Japan doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, meaning by law you’ll have to renounce the nationality of your homeland. You will have to give up your old passport

Not a chance in hell I would ever surrender my Aussie and British passports just to get a Japanese one! Massive loss for zero benefit. (unless I was paid, say, a million dollars). I don't know any expat who would be willing too, either.

Nice story though, and all power to Mr. Heese for being a pioneer and shaking up the system in a small way. We all agree change in Japan is snail paced, but must start somewhere.

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Badge is 100% correct.

They don't take your passport, in fact they can't take your passport. For example a US passport is property of the US government. Even if you took Japanese citizenship and even said you renounced US citizenship, you can still have US nationality if you didn't really intend to do it, and not go through all the proper paperwork.

Minors can have dual nationality officially until they become 22 years old. But as mentioned the truth is many people just hold onto their other passports. Use japanese one to enter and leave, and use the other passport to enter your home country and leave.

My kids have Duel, and will keep them. I got eijyu and that is enough for me.

Moderator: Back on topic please.

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...and try telling the IRS you gave up your citizenship. They would laugh you right off to jail the minute you stepped on American soil again.

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Marius2: I see. Caucasians can't be originally born and raised in Japan. Just as I am sure non-caucasians can't be, say, American.

Hard to say what the writer meant, but as someone who has met Jon, after two minutes of talking to him or sooner, you would quickly conclude he was not born and raised in Japan. His Japanese is very good. But he is genuinely open and friendly and also tactile. His eyes sparkle and give way to the fact that the man has some spirit left. He even has a sense of humor. If you thought he was born and raised here, you would have had to have been living your life under a rock.

That said everyone in Tsukuba should be happy to have him. Now if he can just shake the crust off of some of the other politicians, some nice things might actually happen. It sure would be nice to see the night life come back.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

FINALLY!!! an informative, interesting and applicable piece of media! I say this for the first time in 6 years ... thank you JT for this article

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billyshears:

What's the big deal with being "internationalized"?

I don't know. You tell me. Or better still, can the Japanese tell me, since they're the ones who are always trying to give off this image of being from an international place. All words, but no action. We want skilled people to come to our country (pay into our pension fund and then p*ss off afterwards). We want nurses from around the world (and we then want them to leave). We want Brazilians (and we all know what happened to them). We want tourists from the west (as long as they give us their fingerprints). Blah blah blah.

Badge213:

I've asked this before a long time ago but never got an answer. Adults (like Americans), how can they keep both their original and Japanese passports? No matter which country they visit, Japanese passport holders will get a stamp in their passport. When they come back to Japan, what happens if the immigration officer asks you where the stamp is? They can't take away your American passport, but they can take away you Japanese citizenship.

BurakuminDes:

Me too. As much as I like this place and my Japanese partner, I would NEVER trade in my passport for a Japanese one. You'll always be treated as an outsider. Plus, as a foreigner I have the luxury of leaving Japan permanently anytime when the going gets tough. Most Japanese can't do that. They're stuck with this country.

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Life is soooo difficult for African, Muslim foreigners who want to settle in Japan for good even they get married to Japanese citizen and they get kids who hold, obviously, a japanese nationality.... This is my own experience and I had to leave Japan after 13 yrs in Japan even I attended a top university and a top rsearch centre in Japan, with a PhD from London, and got married with a japanese woman and got a kid.. After 300 applications for job, not a single interview..... nightmare!

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Way to go Jon Heese! Being a canuck, I'm proud of you! About this posted comment: "from complaining about bureaucrats to being a bureaucrat himself is a big step." If you haven't yet understood the difference between the Bureaucrats & Elected Officials, it's time you hit the road. This is one of the first things you should learn about Japan. I don't know how people living in Japan can even make such uninformed comments. You have obviously learned nothing in your stay here.

Anyway, it's a great article about a cool dude. Way to go, Jon!

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This in just another of these "pat ourselves on the back" and "feel good Japan!" stories that doesn't translate into any real concrete changes!

Say what you want about the article but having foreign-born, now Japanese, politicians in any kind of elected seat, no matter how low the level is, is a definite sign that times are changing. As with most changes, things usually start out slowly but eventually gain momentum and with time, changes will happen faster and faster. These guys have the foot firmly in the door; the old farts who like to hide behind the protection of their red tape and enjoy cushy kickbacks and bribes will be on their way out. Japan is not big on loud, sudden changes. The change will come bit by bit from men like those above and other Japanese policitians, who will bring about change from the inside, pushing the old ways overboard.

As for the citizenship issue...hopefully the Democratic Party pushes hard to have the dual citizenship bill enacted.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

No idea why anyone would want to invest this much of their life in this place. There are so many other places in the world that these efforts would be appreciated more.

After 5 years here, I know for a fact that these people are never going to change.

All good for the guys doing it, but it is a lost cause.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

**#

nemoflow at 01:32 PM JST - 23rd January

No idea why anyone would want to invest this much of their life in this place. There are so many other places in the world that these efforts would be appreciated more.

After 5 years here, I know for a fact that these people are never going to change.

All good for the guys doing it, but it is a lost cause.**

I second that.

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No idea why anyone would want to invest this much of their life in this place. There are so many other places in the world that these efforts would be appreciated more.

Yes, there it is in a nutshell, couldn't agree more. Why the hell bother with japan?? This little insular country is just going down fast.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I would NEVER trade in my passport for a Japanese one. You'll always be treated as an outsider.

So true. Any country I go to, I would never trade my American passport for that country's citizenship.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As far as you don't look asian, it would make no sense to change the origin passport to a japanese one. I want to live in Japan in (let's say) a decade to enjoy my (very early ;) pension, but anyway I won't change my swiss passport to a japanese. If there is a possibility to have both, I would feel happy. It's possible in my homecountry to have two nationality, but not in Japan. It's a pity...

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Countries and territories that allow dual citizenship

Albania, Finland, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Transnistria, Turkey, United Kingdom, Vatican City State Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Cape Verde, Chad, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Jamaica, American Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Western Samoa

Unless you live in these countries, pity on you.

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Frankly speaking, dual citizenship doesn't appeal to me. For one thing, I'd hate to pay double the taxes, since the exemptions for double taxation do not apply everywhere, and is limited in terms of amount exempt. Then, there is the hassle of jury duty, which as a non-citizen of Japan, is something I'm glad I'm exempt from. Other pitfalls include being subject to possible travel restrictions, embargoes and sets of laws issued by multiple governments governing one's behavior domestically and while traveling abroad.

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Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

There is no such a country or maybe only USA recognize it.

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What's the big deal with being "internationalized"? Pukeye2 replied:

I don't know. You tell me. Or better still, can the Japanese tell me, since they're the ones who are always trying to give off this image of being from an international place. All words, but no action. We want skilled people to come to our country (pay into our pension fund and then p*ss off afterwards). We want nurses from around the world (and we then want them to leave). We want Brazilians (and we all know what happened to them). We want tourists from the west (as long as they give us their fingerprints). Blah blah blah.

The question was rhetorical, meaning there are no obvious advantages for Japan. Nothing of what you say holds true. They are most certainly not trying to give off "this image of coming from an international place" and they don't want any skilled people (the very few that are here) to leave. I think your assumptions are the product of your delusional dislike of the country.

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Way to go Jon Heese! Being a canuck, I'm proud of you!

Hey, me too. I am proud of people born within 2,000 km or so of me and who went to similar schools and like ice hockey and also moved to Japan.

His website's name is hilarious: aishiterutsukuba

I want my kids to be able to get dual citizenship as I anticipate some advantage when choosing a university and I would encourage them to work a little before going to school so I think they'll be starting university around 20 or 21. This is when, under the current system, they would have to choose one country or another and I don't like that. Also, when they graduate, I would hope there would be no barriers when they choose which country they want to work in.

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Wow, a politician who really knows what he's talking about with first hand experience.

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I want my kids to be able to get dual citizenship as I anticipate some advantage when choosing a university

As long as you are ready for them for a life filled with paying more taxes, certain travel restrictions based on multiple governments governing one's behavior, and having responsibilities such as jury duty required of you.

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anderstungtwist: Hey, me too. I am proud of people born within 2,000 km or so of me and who went to similar schools and like ice hockey and also moved to Japan.

I almost typed a similar comment. But then I realized that Canadians, like many countries, have a culture and spirit shared by most of their countrymen. I would say those things have a lot to do with Jon being who he is and getting where he has gotten. Therefore, any Canadian has business being proud. Just don't overdo it, eh?

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bcbrownboy, anderstungtwist, dontknockit; I do not see where there is anything as a Canadian to be proud of!

This man felt that Canada was not good enough for him and chose to reject it in favor of Japanese nationality. He is no longer Canadian and can only return as a visitor. If anything I see this as a failing on the part of Canada and we should be asking ourselves why this man felt that this was his best option?

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This man felt that Canada was not good enough for him and chose to reject it in favor of Japanese nationality.

Good point. Wonder why Canadians pay such high taxes? It's because it goes to welfare for the vast number of unemployed Canadians. Obviously Mr. Heese understood that and decided to rid himself of that awful situation. I'm shocked when I hear my Canadian friends who go back to Canada (who all have a university degree), being forced to take minimum wage jobs like waitressing in diners. But then they tell me it's a lot more respectful than leeching off welfare.

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flavorflav; My point had nothing to do with anything to do with Canada's taxes or its failings as per say but more as to why as a Canadian I should feel proud of what this man has done or is doing seeing he is no longer a Canadian and has rejected all what it stands for!

Your attack on Canada was unwelcome and unwarranted and FYI as for friends returning and taking minimum wage jobs and things are so awful then it would be worse if they were from the USA because as of December 2009 Canada had an unemployment rate of 8.5% and the USA 10%.

Moderator: Back on topic please. Canada is not relevant to this discussion.

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Jon Heese moved to a new place, had great experiences and wanted to make a difference about something he felt strongly about. Way to go! He didn't give up on his country of birth, he is making a difference in a new home. Great job!

And I am sure it will only be a matter of time before Japan opens up to dual citizenship. Tsurunen, someone who is fighting to make a difference, and people like him will work hard to make it a reality.

Nemoflow, KyokoSmile and WMD...it is true Japan is slow to change, but change does indeed happen. It just takes people who are willing to stand up for it. If you abhor it so much, we foreigners still have the option to go home; no one is forcing us to stay here.

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In Japan, being a foreigner or a Japanese citizen who's not a part of the Yamato Tribe (Ainu, Okinawans, Burakumin, Naturalized) is like being a feminist in Saudi Arabia.

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If you abhor it so much, we foreigners still have the option to go home; no one is forcing us to stay here.

I agree. Many of us forget that often times the reason we are in Japan is because the job and money situation back home was and is worse than the situation we are in now. Coming to Japan was a good way for us to pay off our student loans while exploring a culture that is different than ours. Some of us end up going back home finding the situation better; others do not (and end up coming back to Japan). In any case, we all are lucky to know that if it gets to the point where all we can say about living in Japan is negative, then we can use that passport we have and go back home. I guess Mr. Cleese thought so too and has found a niche in this corner of the world. Good for him.

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For all you Canada haters out there!!! Is Canada perfect not a chance the U.S does many things better and vice versa.but i"ll give you some facts on our standard of living.All members of my family are average working class people .My dad paid cash for his house in 1982,my sister paid of her house in 2 years1992,my bro in 6 years 1997 and me it will take 8 years.Aswell any one of us can sell our house in our 250,000 people city and buy about 2.5 houses in most areas of the U.S (costal california and ny city being out of reach).So please don't bash my country it's a great place to live!

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Regarding the changing of one's name: Just like when you become American, you cannot use your official name if it's written in Arabic, Cyrillic, or Greek. Even Europeans whose names have diacritics on the alphabetic letters must drop the diacritics for formal U.S. identity. You need to use the "script of the land" for your identity.

You can still keep your old name (or rather, something close to it), but you do need to convert it into the "script of the land", which is kana (hiragana or katakana) or Japanese kanji. When converted, your name may sound almost identical (if you're lucky) to something very different.

For more info, read http://www.turning-japanese.info/2010/07/faq-do-you-have-to-take-japanese-name.html

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