lifestyle

Japan weighs up whether to give foreign residents the vote

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By Andy Sharp

"The Chinese coming to Japan now were educated during the rule of Jiang Zemin. Their ideology is not welcome in Japan. We want more foreigners like you — Americans and Britons — to come here.”

Atsuyuki Sassa, 79, makes no bones about what type of "gaikokujin" he’d prefer to see living and working in his native country. The former secretary general of the Security Council of Japan is up in arms about recent moves to allow the nearly 1 million permanent residents here to vote in local elections. In April, he organized a “10,000 People Rally” at the Nippon Budokan to bring together opponents of the plan, with keynote speeches by the likes of People’s New Party leader Shizuka Kamei and Your Party chief Yoshimi Watanabe.

“If Chinese could vote in local elections, they wouldn’t vote for candidates who criticize China or North Korea,” he says. “What could happen if this type of person were granted the vote?”

The debate over foreign suffrage has rolled on for decades, but it was reignited last summer when the Democratic Party of Japan — a longtime champion of the issue — ousted the ruling Liberal Democrat Party from power. However, with the DPJ itself split over the subject, is there any hope of permanent residents ever getting the vote — local or otherwise?

Forty-five countries — about one in every four democracies — offer some sort of voting rights for resident aliens, according to David Earnest, author of "Old Nations, New Voters," an extensive study of why democracies grant suffrage to non-citizens. These range from first-world powers such as the United States, Canada, the UK and other European Union members, to less preeminent nations like Malawi and Belize.

The type of voting rights differ from country to country: the UK permits resident Commonwealth citizens to vote in national and local elections; New Zealand allows foreigners who have lived there for more than a year to vote in parliamentary polls; Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway grant all foreign residents the vote in local polls, but not in national elections; and Portugal offers a hybrid that lets EU nationals vote only in local elections, but gives full enfranchisement in parliamentary elections to Brazilians.

Earnest explains that the consequences of granting local suffrage to foreigners are not yet entirely clear, seeing as how it is a relatively recent phenomenon. However, he gives four benefits that are typically cited by advocates: it encourages foreign residents to naturalize; it leads to better government; it’s an opportunity for “brain gain” rather than “brain drain”; and it makes for a more just society.

On the other hand, there are two core arguments for refusing to enfranchise alien residents. “By far and away, the most common reason is that governments or courts conclude that, as a constitutional or legal matter, the right to vote is reserved exclusively for citizens,” he says. “Another reason is that governments and citizens alike object to discrimination in voting rights. Canada and Australia once allowed British nationals to vote in parliamentary elections, but have since revoked this right. In both cases, the governments concluded that it was unfair to favor one group over other similar foreign residents.”

May devalue the institution of citizenship

According to Earnest, critics argue that extending voting rights to foreigners can devalue the institution of citizenship and discourage naturalization. They also say it can marginalize as much as integrate foreign residents, because governments may use it as a substitute for naturalization, assuring permanent populations of foreigners with no prospect of becoming citizens.

According to the most recent Ministry of Justice figures, 912,361 of the approximately 2.22 million foreigners living in Japan are permanent residents. These "eijusha" are divided into two categories — a classification that has muddied the waters of the suffrage issue.

Nearly half of them (420,305) are considered "tokubetsu eijusha" (special permanent residents) who hail mostly from the Korean Peninsula and have additional privileges in relation to immigration matters. The remaining 492,056 ordinary "eijusha" come from 190 different countries, the largest populations being Chinese (142,469), Brazilian (110,267), Filipino (75,806) and Korean (53,106). The Western country with the most permanent residents in Japan is the United States, with 11,814.

Granting local suffrage to these residents has long been a pet policy of DPJ pooh-bah Ichiro Ozawa, and was supported by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. However, like many of the pledges that the party made prior to its election victory last year, it remains unfulfilled. The government has procrastinated over the issue as it became bogged down by funding scandals and the Futenma base controversy, which spun Hatoyama off the prime-ministerial "kaiten-zushi" belt and toppled Ozawa from his secretary general perch. New PM Naoto Kan also backs foreign suffrage, but it’s unclear whether he will make it a top priority.

Other parties are divided on the subject. The leftist Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party are joined by New Komeito in their support of foreign suffrage, while the right-leaning Liberal Democratic Party, People’s New Party (a member of the DPJ-led coalition) and Your Party are opposed.

The liberal-conservative split is also evident in the media. The Asahi Shimbun is in favor, while the Sankei and Yomiuri have slammed the idea, the latter stating in an editorial last October: “It is not unfathomable that permanent foreign residents who are nationals of countries hostile to Japan could disrupt or undermine local governments’ cooperation with the central government by wielding influence through voting in local elections.”

Yet the public seems to approve of opening polling stations to these “lifers.” Surveys conducted by the Asahi in January and the Mainichi last November found that 60 and 59% of respondents, respectively, supported foreign suffrage in local elections — turnout for which tends to hover around the 40% mark.

This August will mark the 100th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of Korea, an event which understandably has enormous resonance with the Korean diaspora living here today. Zainichi Koreans who were forcibly brought to Japan for work had been able to vote in local elections until they lost this entitlement in December 1945 (which was, ironically, the same month in which women were first given the vote).

Since its establishment in 1946, the Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan) has repeatedly urged the government to restore local suffrage to "zainichi." The pro-Seoul organization (which is distinct from the Pyongyang-affiliated Chongryon) stepped up its campaign in the ’70s through increased activism by second-generation "zainichi."

“We were born in Japan,” says Seo Won Cheol, secretary-general of a Mindan taskforce on foreign suffrage. “All our friends were Japanese, yet we couldn’t become teachers or local civil servants, nor could we take out loans or buy homes. We started campaigning because of this prejudice based purely on our nationality.”

Mindan has continued to push for enfranchisement of all permanent residents over the years, filing a number of lawsuits — one of which led to a historical ruling. In 1995, the Supreme Court concluded that aliens with permanent residency have the constitutional right to vote in local elections, because local government is closely linked to the daily lives of residents.

Reenergized, the DPJ and Komeito submitted a bill to the Diet advocating foreign suffrage, prior to a visit by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in 1998. Similar bills have been presented on several other occasions since, but successive LDP-led governments have bounced them all out of parliament.

The South Korean government’s decision in 2005 to open ballot boxes to permanent residents in local elections gave proponents fresh hope, as did the change of government last summer. But Seo, a second-generation "zainichi," frets over the DPJ’s procrastination.

“It’s unlikely a bill will be submitted before the upper house election in July, but depending on where it lies on Kan’s list of priorities, it may or may not be put to the Diet during an extraordinary Diet session starting in September,” the 58-year-old says. “The resignations of Ozawa and Hatoyama are a blow, but Kan has long been a supporter and we’ll have to wait and see what develops.”

Foreigners should become Japanese citizens, say opponents

Opponents often argue that foreigners should become Japanese citizens if they want to vote, but permanent residents can be reluctant to relinquish their nationality for reasons of culture and identity — especially "zainichi," many of whom were forced migrants or their descendants. “The Supreme Court’s 1995 ruling showed we were entitled to vote at the local level without naturalizing,” says Seo.

Supporters of foreign suffrage aren’t the only ones who were galvanized by the DPJ’s election victory. There has also been a surge in activity by rightists, one of whom was so incensed that he stormed into the DPJ headquarters brandishing a wooden sword and smashed up a computer in Hatoyama’s empty office last October.

Sassa, who was decorated as a Commander of the British Empire for arranging security for Queen Elizabeth II’s visit here in 1975, takes a more conventional stance.

“I’m not prejudiced against foreigners, but the law states that foreigners must not take part in election campaigns,” he says. “The Constitution states that only Japanese citizens may vote. Foreigners should nationalize if they have money and speak the language. I do think, however, that this process takes many years and the conditions should be relaxed.”

Sassa has bitter memories of "zainichi" North Koreans from his days as a top brass in the Metropolitan Police Department. He fears that enfranchising pro-Pyongyang Koreans could lead to a repeat of the violent attacks against his constabulary peers during Communist-led demonstrations in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

“If we granted them suffrage, many police officers would have to put their bodies on the line, and so from a security perspective, there is no way that I could agree with the enfranchisement [of North Koreans],” he says. “We’d have to clamp down on some, but grant the vote to people of other nationalities. This is contradictory.”

Sassa also argues that foreign suffrage in local elections could have repercussions at a national level, if residents of prefectures that administer disputed territories were coerced by their respective governments to vote for particular candidates.

Kazuhiro Nagao, a professor of constitutional law at Chuo University, explained how this might work in a March 1 Daily Yomiuri op-ed: “There are about 30,000 eligible voters in Tsushima city, and a candidate can win in the city council election with at least 685 votes. If foreign residents are granted voting rights, those candidates who regard Tsushima Island as a South Korean territory can win in the election.”

While opponents and advocates seem to be interpreting the law to suit their own beliefs, Earnest sees the "zainichi" situation as unique, and argues that the suffrage issue raises important ethical questions.

“Japan’s special permanent residents did not choose to migrate to Japan,” he says. “No doubt there was some forced migration among the former European colonial powers and their overseas possessions, but Japan’s forced migration is more recent. What obligation does Japan have to permanent foreign residents?

“Japan may offer a case where two wrongs make a right,” he continues. “While one might normally object to discrimination in the granting of voting rights, in this case, one might justify special rights for Japan’s special permanent residents as the country’s commitment to redress an historical injustice.”

While such a solution could appease "zainichi," however, the majority of permanent residents would remain disenfranchised. This is unlikely to placate the likes of Shayne Bowden, an Australian teacher and musician who is a permanent resident living in Fukuoka.

“I’ve been here 11 years,” he says. “I should be able to have a say in the politics of my community. We pay our share and contribute to the place we live. This should justify our right to vote.”

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

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


81 Comments
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What the gentleman quoted in the begining of the article doesn't seem to understand is that he is not going to get a lot of Americans and Britons--our countries (still) have high standards of living and there's not much incentive for all but the most enthralled with Japan to go there. The people who have incentive to come are the people who the Japanese seem to detest-other east and southeast Asians.

The concern seems to be that giving foreigners the right to vote could undermine Japan in the sense that said foreigners might vote in ways that could be damaging to Japan. However the people who think this way don't realize that most of their "foreigners" are 2nd, 3rd and so on, generation Koreans who are as Japanese in language, mannerism, and thought as they are. These are people who should not and in any other civilized nation would not be considered "foreign". I have said before and will say again--Drop the stupid "Japanese Name" provision for citizenship and offer full citizenship to all zainichi Koreans who can prove a birthright to Japanese citizenship. After this is done, the issue of foreign sufferage is mute--I personally do not care whether or not some whiney westerner (and sorry, but it's always westerners, who whine about this issue in Japan) with a Japanese wife and kids, but who can't be bothered to apply for citizenship is represented in the government. If you've "been here for 11 years", that's long enough to have gotten a lawyer and started filing citizenship papers.

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Hrmmmm. If you want a vote, you should become a citizen. The real question we should be asking is why it is so hard to get citizenship.

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Non voting tax payers. The in-power governments dream ! When you still have second generation Koreans still carrying Gaijin cards, I can't voting rights changed.

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If they want to vote, they need to be citizens. Being a citizen is easy, its just that people don't want to relinquish their identity tied to their mother country. You can't have your cake and eat it at the same time.

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what type of “gaikokujin” he’d prefer to see living and working in his native country

Almost sounds a litttle like the Americans position vis a vis the influx of Mexicans !!!

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I have not heard a single American here married to a Japanese woman complaining about not being able to vote.

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Nuff and well said, Triumvere

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oh

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I don't know why some people (right-wingers and certain politicians) are making such a big deal - I was always under the impression that voting was only ever going to be given to special PR - not just any PR.

First, these are local elections - we're not voting for the government.

Second, the only 'Chinese' who are special PR are those whose ancestors came from Taiwan.

Third, you can't vote for a foreigner, only for a Japanese (but then again, some politicians like Renho, have dirty foreign blood).

Fourth, shouldn't those against giving the vote urge all Japanese living abroad who are eligible to vote in their adopted country not to vote? Nobody so far has criticized civilized countries from giving some foreigners the right to vote in local elections.

Personally, vote or no vote, I will never relinquish my citizenship to gain Japanese citizenship. You'll never be treated as 'one of them' (again I quote Renho), you'll lose your old nationality, and need I mention the future of Japan? I feel sorry for those who are stuck here.

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Maybe we need to devalue the institution of citizenship. Let's face facts. The world is so interconnected today that no nation is immune to the problems of another. And the abuses and pollution of one nation poison all.

Perhaps a move where citizenship is opened somewhat to include people who live and work long term will help empower the country as immigration has done in many nations in the past.

They key for Japan is simple. There are not that many foreign residents here to overwhealm any political sentiment in Japan. That fear is unfounded and with the immigration laws here, unlikely to grow as an issue even with the need to bring in more labor. The percentages would never be high enough unless Japan radically changes policies.

The few who do vote would be doing so in local community elections and not on the national stage. They, We, pay taxes and should have some degree of representation. Local city representation means we become more involved in community, this is good for Japan.

So stop the unfounded fears and focus on a real workable solution, it is right here in front of you Japan.

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no taxation without representation

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"but permanent residents can be reluctant to relinquish their nationality for reasons of culture and identity — especially “zainichi,” many of whom were forced migrants or their descendants."

They are not forced now though, why dont they just go back to where they came from? This special permanent residence thing is a joke.

I agree with Mr Sassa in that there definitely are different kinds of foreigners, and Its time for the government to put a cap on Chinese and Korean immigrants. There are FAR too many of them in Japan now.

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shufu

Wow that's just sad and silly. The level of immigration to Japan is quite low compared to population. Canada where I'm from is far higher percentage and I know that USA is #1 by proportion here. However in Japan the immigration level is very low as noted from nationmaster.com statistics. Dual citizenship solves a lot of these problems but neither the article nor comments seem to know this.

But if you're born in a country and rejected on race, that's wrong. How can a gov't claim to be against racism if people are victims of state sponsored racism?

The real issue is understanding that people are not countries but in fact people on this earth, and are in your democratic one because they left their country of birth. Claiming political instability because you hate the country they are from is another hatred on top of the racism. One hate doesn't absolve the other.

The main concept lost in Japan is that heritage and country are different things, and should be respected as such.

BTW, as a Canadian, I have a mixed heritage and all my grandparents were from somewhere else. Japanese too can immigrate here and be both Japanese and Canadian. No conflict.

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Even if I were to naturalise, it wouldn't be because I desired voting rights here -- the selection of corrupt buffoons on the local and national ballots is appalling.

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Oookay, now I'm really confused:

In 1995, the Supreme Court concluded that aliens with permanent residency have the constitutional right to vote in local elections

... so there's this 1995 Supreme Court decision that everyone's ignoring? How precisely do you ignore your nation's Supreme Court? If foreigners with permanent residency have the right to vote in local elections then what's the debate about? Surely the debate is over? The Supreme Court has ruled and that's it, game over. As I understand the Japanese legal process, a decision by the Supreme Court on the interpretation of the constitution can only be overturned if the Japanese Government decides to either (a) produce regulations or other legislation specifically opposing that decision or (b) change the constitution, neither of which have been done.

... so why aren't foreign permanent residents lining up outside the nearest local voting stations with a copy of the 1995 decision in hand to wave in case someone says they can't vote?

Personally I'm opposed to non-citizens voting in either local or national elections simply because I think that it constitutes "outside interference" in Japanese sovereignty. In the same way that a guest steps aside when there's a family quarrel and lets their hosts sort it out in private, so a foreign resident shouldn't involve themselves in Japanese internal politics.

However the Japanese Supreme Court has decided that, at least in local matters, I'm "one of the family", so I'm no longer a guest and there's actually an obligation on me to get involved. This isn't me interfering, this is the Japanese legal system telling me, "get involved.".

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In the end the second generation, those that are born in the country, are then the full Japanese or what have you in any country. The ultimate compliment is to be born of a country. However to then be disowned by that country based on the race of your family is unjustifiable and only continues the problem of a hateful society. Note the 'hafu' craze of late. What is that? 1700? Been going on for quite some time, it's called humanity.

If the issue is the North Korean population that is politically negative, and rightly so since they didn't choose to be there, then give them an option. Join Japanese society or leave it.

Americans have a pledge of allegiance. America is a great example of immigration and somehow, generation after generation, people remain Americans. There is a new view, a new face, something interesting to mix it up a bit but the principles stay pretty much there or change when shown to be of no value to the whole community over time. That's the beauty of America in my view, and of other countries who do so similarly.

Once again as in so many issues, by not dealing with the problem head on Japan continues to allow the problem to linger with predictable results.

I think that getting a Japanese backbone from your new Shin-Nihonjin would only be a plus. They wouldn't want Japan to be less that it is, or else they wouldn't be there. The thinking that just because you are born of somewhere else thus cannot appreciate, or gasp, desire to remain of Japan is completely clueless to the general population.

Talk to a foreigner about Japan. It's a beautiful country. But locking it up isn't how to achieve success.

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As long as they don't make voting compulsory I'm good.

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Actually a compulsory vote would be a great way to affirm citizenship as an important civic responsibility and not some flippant shopping choice.

Denying the vote on race is wrong

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what does your race have to do with anything? I was asked more than a few times when I was in Japan and it always struck me as a pigeon hole exercise rather than just talking to me and getting to know who I am instead. The question was just as irrelevant as to the answer.

I think this issue harkens to old biases and unquestioned ideas about racial purity and rightists rather than the reality that we are all a free people and should be respected as such.

Put it another way, if you were in another country, wouldn't you want to be respected on your own merits, not your face?

The World Cup is a team sport, and countries of the world are also like a team. Be proud of your fellow countrymen and women, regardless of race.

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I'm quite happy not being able to vote: all the blame for the useless, corrupt politicians resides solely with the Japanese and they will get what they deserve in the end.

I'm fairly confident that no Diet vote will ever be passed enfranchising non-Japanese. The sentiment here is generally anti-foreigner and shows no sign of changing.

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mikihouse wrote: "If they want to vote, they need to be citizens. Being a citizen is easy, its just that people don't want to relinquish their identity tied to their mother country. You can't have your cake and eat it at the same time."

So why doesn't Japan join the rest of the first world nations (and many developing ones) and allow duel citizenship?

A: I think "shufu" summed it up very clearly with his remarks "racism" an "xenophobia"

Semprefi: your comments are irrelevant and clearly a provocation.

I am not American but I do know the issues and the vast majority of Americans couldn't careless where the immigrants come from as long as they do it legally, but you can keep on trolling if you want!

I for one would not give up my present citizenship for Japanese. I have seen the results first hand watching those who have still be treated like "gaijins", and if you don't know anyone just take a look at what has and still goes on with Debito Arudou.

I would however take Japanese citizenship if duel citizenship was possible. My parents each have 2 citizenships, I potentially could have 3 ( just never bothered filling in the paperwork) and my brother-in-law has 4 and no one seems to care back home.

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a single American here married to a Japanese woman

I know this word "single" means "not one" above but, hworta269, I just had to chuckle when I first read it. Add me to the "no complaint" list.

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if you want to vote become a citizen. there is no excuse not to especially for "special permanent residents".

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Permanent residents should be allowed to vote in at least local elections. They (and me too someday) pay taxes, etc.

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Well on the flip side how many 2nd and 3rd generation Japanese, Koreans, or Chinese born and raised in America still wish or have their citizenship from their mother country? None or very few...

What on earth would a 2nd or 3rd generation Korean or Chinese born and raised in Japan only speaking Japanese want or need to retain a S.Korea, N.Korean, Taiwanese passport? For what purpose does it serve besides a personal agenda? I know of and have many Zainichi Korean friends that are now 2nd generation Japanese passport carrying citizens and they are proud Japanese and don't speak Korean or even give one shit about either Koreas. They know the advantage of being Japanese and making a comfortable successful living here being able to travel the world without restrictions as a Japanese national and actively participate in local and national elections. There are many like this and they themselves cannot understand the stubborn rhetoric of their counterparts with a personal or political agenda that is being forced upon them by overbearing parents, grandparents, etc.. with identity and inferiority complexes. There is a flip side to this and all can become Japanese and it is not very hard, I also know of an Indian national that recently became Japanese and is quite happy with the decision as replicating the life and success he has here was due to the unique opportunity that Japan provides for many foreigners and going back to India at this point in his life would be unimaginable to him and his family.

This is the rules of Japan. Just abide by them and work with the system, many do and have no issues and thrive. If you hate to have to tell your relatives that you have become Japanese like it is some kind of turncoat that it is a personal issue that needs to addressed. If you want to vote in Japan and make a difference, do the needful and become proud Japanese.. Stop complaining about not being able to retain your original citizenship. When dual citizenship is truly realized then we can cross that bridge when it comes.

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Hahaha... Great statement:

“If Chinese could vote in local elections, they wouldn’t vote for candidates who criticize China or North Korea,” he says. “What could happen if this type of person were granted the vote?”

People like you wouldn't be in office!

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I hope they don't because then we would get blamed for Japans problems.

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In 1995, the Supreme Court concluded that aliens with permanent residency have the constitutional right to vote in local elections

Now that is either an intentional lie, or an ignorance of the facts. The ruling was that it is not unconstitutional to grant voting rights. i.e. The government can choose to give voting rights, but it is not required to.

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NihonRyu, my dear Japanese friend that only shows up when is convenient. You know my family came from Ishigakijima and yes, we are PROUD to be japanese, except one thing, no surgery can change the fact that I wasn't born with Asian features like them or yourself. No matter where I go, I am always regarded as "gaijin"...thus carrying a japanese passport and citizenship make ZERO difference, you see? It just doesn't matter. My face isn't Japanese, though I'm yellow and I have jet black hair, probably blacker than yours, lol. At the end of the day, people will always judge me based on my facial features, not for who I am. I'm kind of used to it but sometimes when you less expect it...it can break your heart apart. I have never ever look down on someone because of race, I do LOOK DOWN on this Government, corruption, the keystones, child-murderers, ect. I am same as everyone else, I'm good with the people everywhere I go. Sadly, the only thing I can't seem to escape from are the stereotypes (sometimes). Other than that, I'm very happy living here and raising my husband and children. Don't judge my face, judge who I am. ne?

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Marry a Japanese person. Then at least your kids can have the option of voting in Japan.

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@bicultural, are you referring to my post? If so, my husband(native) and children are japanese nationals, born and raised here.

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I've been in Japan for 14 years and have a permanent residency visa.

I pay taxes, (company) health insurance and pension.

I have never broken the law.

I have lived in Japan longer than any Japanese child under 14 years old, and none of them pay taxes etc. I therefore contribute to society more than millions of Japanese people. They are not of voting age, but I do more for Japan than them.

I have no right to vote.

There are thousands, even millions of Japanese people who are pro-China or Korea, or even anti-Japan yet they may vote.

The number of foreign residents in Japan is less than ONE percent of the entire population of Japan.

Clearly the government FEAR us, and may well be racist, xenophobic and ethnocentric.

Why am I still here? I'm planning to leave, no more of this anti-foreign attitude for me, もういい。

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This will not happen in my lifetime. My little ones will be able to vote and have dual citizenship (british can not renounce) so I'm not too worried. As someone said above I can take joy in blaming others for the joke of a government beit LDP or DPJ. I've been here a long long time since I was just a young un, I'm told I'm more Japanese than the Japanese but because of my facial features I'm always gaijin and that's where I'm happy. Debito takes things too far although I agree with his sentiments for the most part. I travel a lot and spend alot of time in rural japan ( which is one of the most beautiful countries on earth), I'm heavily tattooed too but have only met friendliness and interest from locals, although my Tokyo accent is often made fun off. I have only once had someone try to refuse me entry, but when I told them in japanese, that i was Japanese, from Hokkaido but had a bad cold so was pale they just laughed. We became great friends and I go back every year now. My meaning is that too many forigners never learn Japanese, they just cause a scene. Learn Japanese and your life will enrich a thousandfold on these amazing shores. You'll still meet the xeno and racists, but you can answer them and maybe change their views. Of course there are many things that annoy me but I keep those to myself or gaijin circles to kick and scream about. In short I don't need the vote cause I'm happy where I am. Korean Japanese is another issue though and I'm not willing to comment on it.

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if you want to vote become a citizen. there is no excuse not to especially for "special permanent residents".

As you wish to alienate us, may we then not pay taxes or pension etc. too? Keep your double standards.

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bicultural-

Marry a Japanese person. Then at least your kids can have the option of voting in Japan.

sorry, but we dont marry a japanese person for the right to vote. we marry whoever we love, not because we want the right to vote.

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I've only lived in Japan for 3 years. I'm not sure if I want to get citizenship eventually or not, but I plan to stay indefinitely. I don't particularly feel I should get to vote. Yes, I pay taxes and health insurance, etc. And yes, local government affects me directly. But without citizenship, it could hardly be said that I have made a commitment to the country. Because I retain my old citizenship I can leave any time I want. I'm not sure it makes sense to cater to a special interest group like mine (being a foreigner). If they make an effort to accomodate us and we just leave, it kind of sucks for them.

In reality giving foreigners the vote would do almost nothing, given that there are so few of us. But I am sympathetic to the idea that without a commitment such as citizenship perhaps we shouldn't be entitled to this privilege. If not citizenship, perhaps stating that someone who has resided in a certain location for 5 years or something would be OK.

It is very unfortunate that some of the politicians are also making not-so-veiled racist comments. This only complicates an issue that doesn't really have to be complicated (IMHO).

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I hate to bust some of your bubbles "buggerlugs" fore one, but NO your little ones will not be able to vote unless they renounce their other citizenship!

It does not mater if you say that the British cannot do so then the result is simple your little ones will lose their Japanese citizenship at 22!

I have been hearing many great stories about a change in the law that somehow happened mysteriously but they are just that STORIES!

Here are the facts:

This from Wiki: Some countries consider multiple citizenship undesirable and take measures to prevent it. This may take the following forms:

Automatic loss of citizenship if another citizenship is acquired voluntarily (e.g., China, Denmark, Japan, and Singapore). Automatic loss of citizenship if children born with multiple citizenships do not renounce the other citizenships after reaching the age of majority (e.g., Japan).

But more so this from my lawyer:

Its an English translation of the Japanese law on dual citizenship, from the Japanese Embassy in the USA:

WHO MUST CHOOSE A NATIONALITY According to Japanese law, for dual nationals there is a specific period of time within which one must choose one’s nationality. As regards the acquisition of dual nationality, there are the following five examples:

A child born to a Japanese citizen father or mother and a mother or father from a country that allows transmission of citizenship by a parent of either gender (for example, France).

A child born to a Japanese citizen mother and a father from a country whose laws provide for transmission of citizenship only through the father (for example, Korea).

A child born to a Japanese citizen mother or father, or two Japanese citizen parents, in a country whose laws provide for acquisition of citizenship by birth in that country (for example, the United States).

A child of a Japanese citizen who is legitimated by a foreign father’s declaration of paternity (for example, Canada), by a foreign parent through adoption (for example, Switzerland), or through marriage to a foreigner (for example, Switzerland).

People who have acquired Japanese nationality through naturalization, or by filing a declaration of acquisition of Japanese nationality, but who did not forfeit their former foreign nationality, must also choose which nationality they wish to hold.

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR NATIONALITY For Japanese citizens holding a foreign nationality, below are listed the methods for declaring a single nationality. When the time comes to choose one nationality, think carefully and then make your decision known by one of the following methods.

ABANDONING YOUR FOREIGN NATIONALITY Based on the applicable foreign law, submit to the nearest city, ward or town office, or to a Japanese Embassy or Consulate abroad, the form Gaikoku Kokuseki Soositu Todoke, showing your abandonment of your foreign nationality. For specifics on the procedures for renouncing a foreign nationality, please consult directly with the foreign government or its representatives.

SWEARING TO JAPANESE NATIONALITY At the nearest city, ward or town office, or at a Japanese Embassy or Consulate abroad, you must state your decision to choose Japanese nationality and abandon your foreign nationality on a special form called the Kokuseki Sentaku Todoke.

So in conclusion this statement basically means that if you do not or are not able to renounce your other citizenship then you lose your Japanese one!

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If they got rid of their issues with dual citizenship I would be first in line to get a Japanese passport.

Meh. This issue gets recycled every month on here and I am tired of reading the same comments over and over and over again. JT, don't bother until there is actually NEWS on the issue.

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@buggerlugs

Brits certainly can renounce, and are required by Japanese law to do so if they choose Japanese citizenship. Have a look at this:

http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/britishcitizenship/givingupcitizenship/

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Regardless of the constitutional issues of giving foreigners the vote, it would serve to lift the voting rate above the current 30%.

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PRs should get the local vote. They can have a say on issues such as rubbish collection and street lighting etc. How subversive is that! Otherwise why care about your locality if you have no say?

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“If Chinese could vote in local elections, they wouldn’t vote for candidates who criticize China or North Korea,” he says. “What could happen if this type of person were granted the vote?”

Wow - this olf fogie's logic is so off it's hilarious! In countries like Australia, the people of Chinese origin, for example, are the most critical opponents of the regime in China. And what's this rubbish about "Americans and Britons" being better immigrants than Chinese or Koreans? This old fossils type are hopefully dying out...

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“If Chinese could vote in local elections, they wouldn’t vote for candidates who criticize China or North Korea,”

so you're not really free to vote for the candidate of your choice then?

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I am with WMD PR's should have local voting rights.

Remember at my sons creche for years they local goverment tried to put things in it to cool the place down so they didn't have to install air-cons.

End-result trials failed and they had to install air-cons after massive spendings.

All the foreigners who had kids in the creche were invited to talks, etc but our voices were not counted during the decision making process. Local elections were also held during that time.

I and many others feel like we are being milked by having to pay taxes, etc and get no say in how our community is run or managed.

Just my 0.2yen worth.

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I'm a Permanent Resident of Japan. But I don't wish to vote for any Japanese Politicians because I'm not that knowledgeable about the Japanese political history let alone the Japanese history. My job is to contribute my expertise to the Japanese society and I'm well paid for that. I'm still a gaijin and will never be accepted into the society. So I'm just happy being a 'long time guest' of this Country...:)

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seesaw.

If you don't want to vote that is fine, many japanese also choose not do to so.

That is the point being given the "choice" to vote or not. As a PR we are bassically equal to Japanese Citizens in our benefits(social welfare, etc), duties, etc.

Also many PR own Apartments, Houses, etc that we have bought, raising families here. Meaning we are here for the duration, why many (like myself) don't go for Japanese Citizenship is individual and has multiple reasons.

PR gives us quiet a bit more than just no visa renewals, etc.

So we are seen as equal to the Japanese by the goverment (and many Japanese) except for the local voting right.

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Perhaps someone has pointed this out already, but this paragraph makes no sense.

Forty-five countries — about one in every four democracies — offer some sort of voting rights for resident aliens, according to David Earnest, author of “Old Nations, New Voters,” an extensive study of why democracies grant suffrage to non-citizens. These range from first-world powers such as the United States, Canada, the UK and other European Union members, to less preeminent nations like Malawi and Belize.

If this is what this badly written passage is saying, the U.S. does not grant voting rights to non-citizens. Never has and, I hope, never will.

This is a stupid idea and I agree with the grumpy old bureaucrat - why in the world would Japan want it's growing, mostly hostile, economic refugee population of Chinese and it's even odder population of Koreans who have allegiance to the North Korea voting even in local elections?

@ seesaw

"I'm a Permanent Resident of Japan. But I don't wish to vote for any Japanese Politicians because I'm not that knowledgeable about the Japanese political history let alone the Japanese history."

I think you've just described about 70% of Japanese voters (and about the same number of American voters for that matter).

@ WMD

"PRs should get the local vote. They can have a say on issues such as rubbish collection and street lighting etc. How subversive is that!"

You have an interesting concept of Japanese "democracy" and seem to believe that citizens have even the slightest say in local matters. Maybe in rural villages. But if you live in a large metropolitan area, not a chance.

@ limboinjapan

The whole enterprise of losing dual citizenship lies with the respective governments. In other words, neither government, in my children's case, is going to chase them down when they reach the age of 21 and force them to chose. This is something that depends entirely on the individual to initiate. There are thousands of "Japanese" and tens of thousands of "Americans" holding two passports into adulthood. While not "swearing allegiance" may curtail their ability to vote in Japan at some future date (as if voting there matters anyway), but in the U.S. our voting verification is so lax that it simply never comes up.

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the U.S. does not grant voting rights to non-citizens. Never has

Never has? Has.

Throughout the 1800s, for example, resident aliens voted in presidential elections in the United States (Aylsworth 1931)

http://www.odu.edu/~dearnest/pdfs/Earnest_ISANE_2003.pdf

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cleo at 02:10 AM JST - 24th June Throughout the 1800s, for example, resident aliens voted in presidential elections in the United States (Aylsworth 1931) http://www.odu.edu/~dearnest/pdfs/EarnestISANE2003.pdf

Good catch cleo. As the cliche goes, ya learn something ever day. That being said, we don't allow this any longer, and I can't imagine any reason to justify it. I don't think most Americans should vote to begin with and I especially don't think anyone who does not speak English (or Japanese in this case) fluently and is not fully literate should be voting either.

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Whoever you vote for, that guy (yes, a male) would only stay for a few months.

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This would all be simpler if they allowed dual citizenship and reformed the naturalization process. Don't see that happening any time soon.

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bicultural:

Marry a Japanese person. Then at least your kids can have the option of voting in Japan.

That has got to be one of the most insane comments (amongst others posted by you). I have a Jp partner and we're together because we love each other, not because I wanted any future offspring to get the vote. No wonder so many international marriages end in divorce if this is the reason to get married. A few weeks back, you also said foreigners here should 'be Japanese'. Short of a caucasian painting his face yellow, how can you 'be Japanese'? Naturalizing sure won't end the discrimination - just ask Arudou. Although he can vote (yippee!)

Oh, I just realized fishy said the same thing.

Nihonryu:

What on earth would a 2nd or 3rd generation Korean or Chinese born and raised in Japan only speaking Japanese want or need to retain a S.Korea, N.Korean, Taiwanese passport?

I think your bringing up the examples of Asian Americans (and might I add Asian Europeans) actually answers your own question. In N America and W Europe, Asians (right from the first generation) can be 100% of society and be regarded as citizens. They don't need to change their surnames to fit in society and if they come against any discrimination, the law will come on those racists like a tonne of bricks. They can also be proud of their heritage without any backlash, be they African Americans, Chinese British, Japanese Canadians, Vietnamese French, etc. Koreans in Japan, I would say, aren't in the same situation. They still face discrimination, and so either naturalize and hope people don't know they're ethnic Koreans or stay completely within the Korean community and get support from them. Of course things are changing slowly now, but when was the last time people like Wada Akiko (also known as Kim Bokcha) talk about their heritage? However, I am glad to see more and more naturalized Japanese who have kept their Korean surnames (there's a footballer and the boss of Softbank?)

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I think that many here are getting themselves tied up in the red tape of their own making. Take Japanese citizenship and them if you want your old citizenship back simply walk into your old embassy and get a new passport. Sorry to take the drama out of your tales but it does work. And no you do not have to give up your Japanese citizenship, so long as you keep your mouth shut about it. Big brother really isn’t there watching you.

Personally I can’t say it worries me at all, especially this bit about no tax without representation. For those that want to keep their respective passports and have the vote because they pay tax, why? You get the benefits of the tax you pay which ever passport you hold and your vote is going to be of so little significance as to be meaningless, why put yourself through the hassle?

Granted at some point the people around you are going to wonder why you are not making the commitment to living in the country. For example those that are married to a Japanese woman and have children, how do you think your in laws feel when they know that you have retained your passport and not taken Japanese citizenship? Do you believe this inspires trust? How would you feel if you were living in your home country for many years and your Japanese wife refused to give up her nationality? Would it not create a degree of insecurity in you and maybe your family? I suspect some here are asking more of others than they would be willing to give. I think it becomes much easier to understand why Japan isn’t that trusting of its “visitors”.

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So we are seen as equal to the Japanese by the goverment (and many Japanese) except for the local voting right

Zenny11: In papers yes we are seen as equal. But not in reality. I'm also a Permanent Resident of another country where my parents reside. I do vote for that country because I'm knowledgeable about that country and feel welcome in that country. Plus I grew up understanding that country's language and culture before moving there. But in Japan, apart from lack of knowledge, I also don't feel welcome to be part of the society. So I don't see the reason to vote and get myself involved with the Japanese politics.

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grafton.

I have to disagree, in my family we got lots of international marriages with people holding a variety of citizenships and passports. No bad feelings whatsoever, why because we care more about the person than the citizenship that they hold.

And some countries like mine also don't allow dual-citizenships, so if I take Japanese citizenship I would loose my EU passport and all the benefits that come with being an EU Citizen.

In my country once you renounced your citizenship you CANNOT get it back under any circumsstances.

HTH.

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Voting in my eyes should be ONLY for the citizens of the country where one was born !What should be done is to raise awareness in the native population on the absolute need to participate in the democratic process,lest they be usurped by outsiders with WHO KNOWS WHAT Agenda!!

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Buggerlugs wrote My meaning is that too many forigners never learn Japanese, they just cause a scene. Learn Japanese and your life will enrich a thousandfold on these amazing shores. You'll still meet the xeno and racists, but you can answer them and maybe change their views. Of course there are many things that annoy me but I keep those to myself or gaijin circles to kick and scream about. In short I don't need the vote cause I'm happy where I am. Korean Japanese is another issue though and I'm not willing to comment on it.

LOVE this post of you.. GREAT piece of mind there, my friend. I agree 150% with you.

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They still face discrimination, and so either naturalize and hope people don't know they're ethnic Koreans or stay completely within the Korean community and get support from them. Of course things are changing slowly now, but when was the last time people like Wada Akiko (also known as Kim Bokcha) talk about their heritage? However, I am glad to see more and more naturalized Japanese who have kept their Korean surnames (there's a footballer and the boss of Softbank?)

Very TRUE!!

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Im not much for politics and I know nothing about it really, I have never voted, and I'm 34 yrs old.But I do believe that if you are a citizen of a country, you live there rent, bought a home, work etc...you should be able to have a voice as well.

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Want to vote? Become a citizen.

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I would love to become a Japanese citizen. But not if that means that I have to give up my American passport and therefore apply for a visa if I want to go and visit my family. I am here for the long run, and I want to be able to say that I am a japanese citizen, but I'm not going to break the law and hold two passports. Maybe if, as a permanent resident, I could vote, then I could change that law that requires you to renounce citizenship.

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but I'm not going to break the law and hold two passports

While it's probably a bit dodgy for a US citizen to try to possess a J passport (the US would probably grass you up) the UK actually operates a scheme specifically designed to sidestep restrictions imposed by countries like Japan.

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Want to vote? Become a citizen

ha ha ha Who the hell, would want to take japanese citizenship?? We are just talking about local voting here. Sooner or later, PRs will get the local vote here and then the PRs who are against don't have to exercise their vote. So we are all happy.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I am puzzled why aggitating for the right to vote takes priority over agitating for allowing dual citizenship.

The right to vote would follow naturally from acquiring citizenship.

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taiko666 at 08:30 PM JST - 24th June

“While it's probably a bit dodgy for a US citizen to try to possess a J passport (the US would probably grass you up) the UK actually operates a scheme specifically designed to sidestep restrictions imposed by countries like Japan.”

Exactly my point, though I was being deliberately vague about the details. The UK does operate dual nationality even when the other country does not. So, as long as you don’t make a fuss they wont. As far as the UK goes you can hold a second passport along with your UK passport, you would still be British to the British, though in this case the Japanese (who know perfect well that this happens) would see you as being solely Japanese. The Japanese will turn a blind eye to this so long as you don’t rub their nose in it, they don’t want to know so don’t tell them. As far as voting goes I have never truly lived anywhere long enough to feel that I have a right to vote because I don’t believe it is simply a matter of being a citizen. As far as I am concerned you need to be a part of the country and know it the way only someone brought up in that country could know it. Simply holding a passport doesn’t do for me.

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Well Sassa san is a racist but at least he likes my brand of Gaijin. I say give permanent residents in local if not national elections because they live here and pay taxes here. Permanent residents own property and businesses and have just as much concern for what goes on in there towns and prefectures.

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Its just wrong giving rights for foreigners to vote...it will anger most japanese and why need brits and americans? The country is stable and don't need anyone i think. when u give em rights next thing you there are non japanese there, and over populate the country. well i don't think many foreigners will stay in japan anyway.

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The Japanese never have, and never will,give basic human rights like voting, to foreign residents of their country. Ive been here for several decades, and I can see this country slowly closing its doors to the outside world again. History repeating itself. They dont need us, and dont want us. Over 60% say they dont want to have anything to do with foreigners. We get the message, loud and clear.

I cant see this ever being passed in Japan, because the country is moving backwards, not forwards, with each passing day. The DPJ were full of promises and good intentions before they got elected, but they have gone the way of all ;politicians - they have backtracked on their election promises. They will do son on this issue, too, because there simple isw no "consensus" on this issue, and never will be. Japan never changes.

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@realist

Basic humans rights, are rights that are unalienable and you are born with. You can't practice the "right" to vote once you are born.. Or from an early age. Also, not everything is a human right. Some are just privileges which are alienable and no one should complain about. If gaijins were given the special privilege of voting, they would perhaps set up a system to invite more gaijins in by the popular vote. So the natives should not have to put up with this.

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@grafton

The UK goes further: you can actually suspend your UK citizenship for up to 6 months solely in order to obtain a passport from a 1-passport country like Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This has nothing to do with foreign resident votes. What is the big deal about having the right to vote? Is i that important?

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I am sure many Chinese would vote for those who are more friendly to their motherland, not the LPD. They would make Hatoyama etc..in the DPJ stay in power. Maybe vote to kick out the yanks from not only Okinawa but out of all the Japanese islands too??

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Of course foreigners will vote for a goverment that is more foreign friendly and has a better international policy.

Not a bad thing in my eyes.

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Its just wrong giving rights for foreigners to vote...it will anger most japanese and why need brits and americans? The country is stable and don't need anyone i think. when u give em rights next thing you there are non japanese there, and over populate the country. well i don't think many foreigners will stay in japan anyway.

katsuro, have you looked at the Japanese population pyramid latey, know much about birth rates, know how social services fund themselves?? Just asking

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Voting is a right granted by citizenship. Want to vote, you should have to become a citizen...at least in my opinion

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If Japan allowed dual citizenship, none of this would be a problem.

I don't see why one should have to swear exclusive loyalty to a large nation just to be able to have a say in the workings of one's own small town or neighborhood. Let local issues be decided by local residents regardless of what country claims them!

I myself would consider taking Japanese citizenship just so that I don't have to carry that god-awful ID card arond all the time. It doesn't sound like much on the oppression scale, but when you consider that you have to remember to carry it every time you leave home, the psychological burden (and risk of identity theft if you get pickpocketed) can add up. Let people have dual citizenship!

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Forty-five countries — about one in every four democracies — offer some sort of voting rights for resident aliens, according to David Earnest, author of “Old Nations, New Voters,” an extensive study of why democracies grant suffrage to non-citizens. These range from first-world powers such as the United States, Canada, the UK and other European Union members, to less preeminent nations like Malawi and Belize.

Last I checked you must be a citizen of Canada to vote so this story seems to have less that creditable information.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I myself would consider taking Japanese citizenship just so that I don't have to carry that god-awful ID card arond all the time. It doesn't sound like much on the oppression scale, but when you consider that you have to remember to carry it every time you leave home, the psychological burden (and risk of identity theft if you get pickpocketed) can add up. Let people have dual citizenship!

Dream on ThonTaddeo! First if you don't look Japanese then you will get carded on the street whether or not you are a Japanese citizen afterall how would they know you are a Japanese citizen? Are you going to carry proof stapled to your forehead to prevent the public carding?

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I'm not going to carry anything at all, KnowBetter. If the overzealous bullies in the NPA want to take me to a holding cell to confirm my status, I'll have them apologizing to me on television like they did for that poor woman from Saitama who was brought in for questioning just because she was carrying a book written in Portuguese and was too shy around people to speak clearly to the police.

I'm always amazed at the ferocity with which the police handle their duties as domestic immigration enforcers. Even the "real" immigration officials at the border -- the prime place to catch illegal entrants -- aren't aggressive in the least. And those are the ones whose jobs are exclusively devoted to immigration!

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My "Alien registration Card" lives in my Wallet, and my wallet lives in my back/hip-pocket.

So no hassles, simply don't think about it even being there.

Said that the card also provides needed help when I can't verify my own identity(like in an accident, etc).

HTH.

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Maybe the japanese should allow the Ainu to impliment and enforce japans "foreign policy issues. After all they are the only true natives. But wait, are the ainu allowed a vote, or for that matter do they have ANY rights at all? just wondering...

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