rugby union

JRFU rules certain Japan passport holders will be regarded as non-Japanes

26 Comments
By Rich Freeman

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This reminds me of a story I read recently about Jeremy Lin. The Taiwanese American basketball player who generating a cultural phenomenon known as "Linsanity" in the 2011 NBA season. Jeremy has left NBA and joined the Beijing Ducks in China. It is reported that Jeremy has applied for Taiwanese Citizenship (He was born in the USA but his parents are from Taiwan). The reason is each team in the Chinese league has limited quotes for foreign players. However, Taiwanese players are regarded as local players. Therefore by getting Taiwanese citizenship Lin can become a local player and the management can recruit another foreign player to beef up the team.

The ruling by JRFU sounds unreasonable but it does kinda have a point.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Never understood how a non Japanese born player could represent Japan, especially if they spent the majority of their lives outside and obviously moved here later in life. Countries should present their best in each sport with local members or else it’s pointless.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Rugby has become just a game played by players in different colored shirts.

Half the “Japan” team have no birth, parental or cultural ties to Japan. But not only Japan, many of the top teams have a significant number of “mercenaries” playing. England, Australia and New Zealand. Soon we will be cheering 15 Kiwis and Islanders in red vs 15 Kiwis and Islanders in blue. Meanwhile Samoa and Tonga will wonder what could be if only their players played for them!

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Is this the only way Japan can do well in international rugby?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Never understood how a non Japanese born player could represent Japan, especially if they spent the majority of their lives outside and obviously moved here later in life. Countries should present their best in each sport with local members or else it’s pointless.

Bear in mind that this isn’t just a passport of convenience these guys took out for the purposes of joining a team. Japan bans dual nationality, so to naturalize all of these guys had to renounce their citizenship in their countries of birth. They are just Japanese now and likely for the rest of their lives, its a huge commitment they have made. I think they deserve to be treated equally.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

This decision seems a bit harsh, but I can also sympathise with JFRU to some extent. Few people would disagree that women's sports leagues have a legitimate reason to exclude male competitors on the basis that men would completely dominate women in most sports with their larger size and strength. In the same way, a Japanese rugby league (or a Chinese basketball league) might have an equally legitimate reason to limit participation to ethnically/racially Japanese or Chinese competitors. The reality is that as an average European man, I'm actually taller and heavier than many of the Japanese rugby players on the national team. It might seem a bit insulting to compare Asian sport to women's sport, but I think there are undeniable parallels in terms of competitiveness, and both leagues deserve to exist and be protected.

I'm also confused that I'm able to represent Japan at the Olympics but still not a Japanese player in the Top League.

The national Olympic team is based solely on legal citizenship, but the JFRU is a private organisation free to set its own rules. Being a legal citizen of Japan is not necessarily synonymous with being a member of the Japanese ethnic/racial group. One of JFRU's goals as an organisation might be to increase the popularity and participation of Japanese people (meaning ethnically/racially Japanese people) in the sport of rugby. As long as they are open and honest about this I don't have a problem, but changing the rules every few years seems unfair. They should probably compromise by only applying these rules to new players going forward.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

This is disgraceful discrimination. Don't ever give up your US passport if you have one.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Well, there are arguments back and forth about sporting illegibility.

However, the legal and constitutional argument is clear and the precedent is extremely dangerous.

Those of you guys posting above in support of this are thinking too narrowly. Think beyond rugby and what this implies. An organization can create sub-classes of citizens and treat one subclass worse.

I doubt the players will read this, but they should sue. There is no way this can stand up in court. In Japan, despite what people may say about your ethnicity and belonging, if you are a citizen, you are a citizen.

This incidentally, is one of the reasons the government does not collect data on mixed-race Japanese and therefore has no evidence one way or the other on whether they face discrimination in the job market or housing market. etc.

Japan Today - do you employ journalists? Please ask a member of the ruling party why they don't collect data on discrimination against mixed race Japanese. They will no doubt reply "because Japan is a free and fair democratic country. All of its citizens are equal before the law and subclasses citizen would go against the constitution". Then ask then about this rugby question and watch them about face.

It is sad that these illegal and hypocritical actions are allowed to go unchallenged.

I believe that the sumo association also has similar unconstitutional rules. Perhaps a lawyer could get on this pro bono.

And fellow JT posters - in your desire to diss Japan's rugby team, have another think about what you are actually supporting here. Shall we get some ID cards for the Japanese citizens who are not quite "Japanese" enough maybe?

This is blatant discrimination. Call it out. How just Japan get to demand to be a member of the global community and then refuse to play by the rules?

Japan should not get a pass.

No pass. No kid gloves. No racism.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

But not only Japan, many of the top teams have a significant number of “mercenaries”

We can’t really call them mercenaries because these men might also have their hearts set on representing their new country which they call home! They want to repay the country which has given them a new and better life then what they had! Take the Japan rugby team captain Micheal Leitch for example... he definitely isn’t a mercenary! For him Japan is his home and he gives his heart and soul to represent Japan with such pride and honor! There are many other foreign born players like him! For them it’s more about giving something back the country that they call hone now!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

But not only Japan, many of the top teams have a significant number of “mercenaries”

We can’t really call them mercenaries because these men might also have their hearts set on representing their new country which they call home! They want to repay the country which has given them a new and better life then what they had! Take the Japan rugby team captain Micheal Leitch for example... he definitely isn’t a mercenary! For him Japan is his home and he gives his heart and soul to represent Japan with such pride and honor! There are many other foreign born players like him! For them it’s more about giving something back to the country that they call home now!

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

So, even if you naturalize, you are discriminated against because you aren't Japanese. How Japanese is that?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

How Japanese is that?

How illegal is that?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@jpn_guy

This is blatant discrimination. Call it out. How just Japan get to demand to be a member of the global community and then refuse to play by the rules?

Is it blatant discrimination or is it a form of 'affirmative action' for ethnically Japanese people who would otherwise be underrepresented as compared to their non-ethnically Japanese fellow citizens?

Those of you guys posting above in support of this are thinking too narrowly. Think beyond rugby and what this implies. An organization can create sub-classes of citizens and treat one subclass worse.

Creating 'subclasses' of citizen by treating people differently based on various characteristics is not exactly new. Do quotas for hiring women, or physically disabled people, or people of a certain racial or ethnic background amount to discrimination? If so, it's something that most western societies engage in.

If corporations are allowed to set racial diversity quotas for their boardrooms, and the Academy Awards is allowed to announce that Black actors and directors must now be represented in proportion to their overall percentage of the population to be eligible for an award, why shouldn't the JRFU be allowed to insist that ethnically Japanese people be represented in proportion to their percentage of the overall population of Japan (98%)? The principle is fundamentally the same.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Seems to me these guys gave up their citizenship for the high salaries offered in Japan. I personally would never do that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

M3M3M3 -

Think very carefully about what you are saying here.

Firstly, shall we agree to leave aside arguments above quotas for women or physically disabled people since this is a question of race and ethnicity.

Let's focus on that and on your comparison with affirmative action in the US.

How can you draw equivalence here?

Which groups of people in Japan is denied are housing? Which groups of people are denied credit cards even when earning double the average salary? Who is automatically deemed to be at fault when two races fight in the street? I'll give you a clue. It is not local-born people of the majority ethnicity people. Who benefits from majority privilege in Japan? It is not the foreign born.

Which groups were recently denied the ability to return to their place of habitual residence during the COVID crisis? I think you know the answer. Shall we go on?

Think about your argument. Do you not realize that you are equating the following two things:

measures designed to protect minorities (affirmative action to give opportunities to Black people)

measures designed to disadvantage minorities (restrictions on the employment of foreign-born Japanese, who are in this case also all ethnic minorities).

The principle is fundamentally the same.

Is it though?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Back on topic please.

this can serve as a reminder and a warning. ( to you, normal hardworking people ). think carefully before considering the possibility of obtaining Japanese citizenship. when you give everything ( especially when you can’t have dual citizenship ) to a country that doesn’t think of you as first class citizens / real Japanese... that’s not for everybody.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@jpn_guy

You seem to be suggesting that racially based quotas can only be justified if they benefit an impoverished, oppressed, or underprivileged minority underclass. That's sometimes the case, but it doesn't have to be. CEOs, board members, and movie stars who benefit most from quotas are generally not poor or oppressed. In my view, a racially based quota can be justified where the target group would be disproportionately under-represented if the quota didn't exist, and this under-representation could have detrimental consequences.

In the case of Japanese rugby, there's little doubt that removing the strict limits on non-Japanese players (and now some newly minted citizens who've played abroad) would lead to teams replacing more Japanese players with physically larger, stronger international players if it helped them win. What's the problem you might ask? The problem is that this would probably threaten the long-term viability and commercial success of a league where 98%+ of the fan base is Japanese. In order to grow rugby as a sport in Japan they need to hook young Japanese fans to attend the games, idolize their favourite players, and buy the shirts. This becomes increasingly difficult if all the top scoring stars don't look like the fans, don't speak their language well, have unpronounceable names, and a backstory which is completely unrelatable for any Japanese person. Young fans want to see representations of themselves on the field/on screen.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I was against the ruling, read some the arguments above and not so sure now. However, they naturalised on the promise of being actually 'Japanese' so I bet they're not happy about it at least!

What complicates this is that the ruling was made after they naturalised so they couldn't have predicted it and I think there was a little bit of spite involved in the decision. There was actually a similar case like this but in the UK regarding a (minor) pop star with Japanese parents where she chose to retain Japanese citizenship and remain in the UK as a permanent resident (I bet she's kept the UK passport though, she's just being quiet about it):

https://bbcmews.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-53580260

I have no sympathy for her though because she should have thought about it before choosing and the rule is being applied fairly. I can't really sympathise at all with people like that who just want to have their cake and eat it really, especially when they're so privileged anyway. If she wanted to be eligible for the same things as UK citizens she should have chosen the UK passport, it's not difficult

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Well, it seems there is a price to pay for throwing away your natural citizenship for a starting position or any position on a team that you will obviously be cut from eventually, and left with the fact that you are without employment and a bit of an elephant in the room.

Although I do understand the dream-like quality of such an enterprise it's just, in hindsight it sounds a bit unwise if you ask me.

Remember, that precious passport you have doesn't just encompass a few seasons; it encompasses your entire life. You need to think long and hard no matter who you are, or what your position, about the cost of such an endeavor, and the true and ultimate consequences of those actions.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

removing the strict limits on non-Japanese players (and now some newly minted citizens who've played abroad) would lead to teams replacing more Japanese players with international players

This sentence does not make logical sense. What do you mean by replacing "more Japanese players?". The newly minted citizes are "Japanese players". That's the whole point. When you naturalize, you are Japanese. That is not my opinion. That is the law of Japan which the Japanese people made themselves. Do you think the law is wrong?

So in your above sentence, you are replacing "Japanese players" with... "Japanese players". This is the problem with the stance of the Rugby Association. It encourages divisive thinking and a "them and us" mentality that is to the detriment of society as a whole.

These individuals have given up their old citizenship, demonstrated commitment to Japan, moved across the world and made sacrifices...and this is how you reward them? You are not "really" Japanese because you don't look right. We can't let you play because you are too big and strong. It's ridiculous.

But think of the children you say!!

In order to grow rugby as a sport in Japan they need to hook young Japanese fans to attend the games, idolize their favourite players, and buy the shirts. This becomes increasingly difficult if all the top scoring stars don't look like the fans, don't speak their language well, have unpronounceable names, and a backstory which is completely unrelatable for any Japanese person.

Wait, now you are actually arguing that Japanese people don't like or want to associate with foreign, or foreign-looking people? Are you saying that young ethnic Japanese don't like people who don't look like them? That they can't relate to people who grew up overseas? This seems to be quite a dangerous game to play and rather at odds with the usual rhetoric we here about how there is "no racism" in Japan.

Besides which, there is also no evidence for this besides what you have invented.

Some kids want to be Spiderman, don't they? Kid's don't really care. I think you should give them more credit.

Kids love Hollywood movies and actors. The only reason the music industry here is dominated by local faces is because of vested interests and what is pushed on the public. The most successful soccer league in the world, the English Premier league, is based in England but welcomes allcomers, including "top scoring stars who don't look like the fans, players who don't speak their language well, and player who have unpronounceable names".

None of what you say stands up to scrutiny.

Rugby maybe struggling in Japan. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the reluctance of parents to let their children play a game in which they think they might be injured. Then there is the lack of clubs which produces a chicken and egg problem. The fact that the leadership of most Japanese sports organizations are more senior people who are not in touch with modern methods of advertising and PR probably does not help either. Then, in the specific case of rugby, there is the shambles with the top league and the Sunwolves. I am sure there are other problems.

"Children don't want to play because the top Japanese players are not the right type of Japanese".

Is that really the one obstacle you have identified to the future development of rugby in Japan?

Play by the rules Japan.

No pass. No kid gloves. No racism.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Jpn_guy you are such an angel, I applaud your argument, and respect it.

I would only say that these 'newly minted' Japanese citizens were not 'spring chickens' and Thier motivations were probably more on the whole competition side of things.

And, frankly, these people are not 'Japanese' they are people from foreign lands, like myself, but instead of being satisfied and grateful and appreciative of their natural citizenship like me, instead tossed thier citizenships to compete at the national level, and took on Japanese Citizenship, and now they are victims of immigration bureaucracy.

Now, If these individuals would have come here as kids or something you may have more empathy; Or they had taken advantage of some legal loophole that had suddenly closed on the count of thier retained nationality, this too may have garnered support; But in reality we know deep down these guys need to take their medicine and drop this.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Thier motivations were probably more on the whole competition side of things.

Maybe, maybe not. But we need to rank concepts in order of importance.

International rugby is one thing. Human rights is another.

The law says their is only one type of citizen, no-subclasses allowed. Historically, there are good reasons for not subdividing citizens at all (and keeping discrimination against non-citizens to the bare necessary minimum).

Standing firm to say that a given organization cannot suddenly wake up one day and say "you may be a citizen but you are not a citizen" is too important a concept to start making exceptions.

Whatever the personal histories of the gentlemen involved, and whatever motivations other people may decide they had for naturalizing, Japan Rugby are absolutely and unequivocally breaking the law here.

If you try to argue this with many local people they may respond "but they are foreign so it can't be helped". This attitude in itself is at the route of many of Japan's problems, and Japan Rugby behaving in this way is not helping.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you try to argue this with many local people they may respond "but they are foreign so it can't be helped". This attitude in itself is at the route of many of Japan's problems, and Japan Rugby behaving in this way is not helping.

International rugby is one thing. Human rights is another.

I agree that these are important issues. Like I said, I applaud your argument, and respect it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@jpn_guy

Standing firm to say that a given organization cannot suddenly wake up one day and say "you may be a citizen but you are not a citizen" is too important a concept to start making exceptions.

The JRFU is not denying that these people are legal citizens of Japan. Let's be clear about the fact that none of these players are being denied the chance to play because of their citizenship status or because of their ethnicity. The new rules simply treat citizens in a way that is similar to foreigners if they've played for another international side. The rule would apply equally to any ethnically Japanese citizen who joins another side before returning to play in Japan. Of course, we know that ethnically Japanese players are much less likely to have played for another side, so the rules will disproportionately affect non-ethnically Japanese players (and this is clearly the aim), but that doesn't necessarily make it unreasonable.

The JRFU's one unfortunate mistake here was lumping these players into the 'foreign players' category as a matter of convenience. What they should have done is create a separate category called 'Citizens who have played for other international sides'. If the JRFU had three new categories: 1.) Citizens who have never played for an international side. 2.) Citizens who have played for an international side. 3.) Foreigners. Would you still have a problem? What would your argument be?

This sentence does not make logical sense. What do you mean by replacing "more Japanese players?". The newly minted citizes are "Japanese players". That's the whole point. When you naturalize, you are Japanese. That is not my opinion. That is the law of Japan which the Japanese people made themselves. Do you think the law is wrong?

When I say Japanese I'm referring to the Japanese ethnic/racial group. When I say citizens, I'm including naturalized citizens of Japan. These categories often overlap, but they are not the same. If the government of Japan were to collapse, passports and naturalization papers would no longer be recognised but the Japanese ethnic/racial group would continue to exist.

Wait, now you are actually arguing that Japanese people don't like or want to associate with foreign, or foreign-looking people? Are you saying that young ethnic Japanese don't like people who don't look like them? That they can't relate to people who grew up overseas? This seems to be quite a dangerous game to play and rather at odds with the usual rhetoric we here about how there is "no racism" in Japan.

This sound very virtuous, but your race-blind rhetoric will eventually hit the brick wall of reality. When I was a kid I had a white friend who was really into basketball. Of all the players in the NBA. he idolized Larry Bird. Why do you think that is? Was this kid some horrible racist white supremacist, or is it just human nature for young people to gravitate towards role models who look like them, who grew up in similar circumstances, who speak their language, who share a cultural background, and who are living proof that they too can achieve great things?

This is the entire philosophy justifying racial representation quotas in many countries. Are you taking a stand against this? Because the implication of saying that Japanese children should look up to an entirely non-Japanese slate of role models is that you can just as easily say minority children in places like America can look up to an entirely white slate of role models. You can't logically support one and oppose the other. This is where anti-racism rhetoric tends to twist itself into a pretzel.

The most successful soccer league in the world, the English Premier league, is based in England but welcomes allcomers, including "top scoring stars who don't look like the fans, players who don't speak their language well, and player who have unpronounceable names".

The key word here is 'including'. There are high-calibre stars of every race and nationality in the Premier League. This is not true in Japanese Rugby where the vast majority of high-calibre stars are not ethnically Japanese. Big difference.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Without foreign experience, leadership/coaching, & foreign talent, Japan would probably occupy one of the wooden spoon positions on the ladder - where would their beloved "high pride" be then?

Until these backward clowns that make these idiot rules are replaced with wiser heads, sport, food security, the labour market, & the economy will continue the languish as it is the same source for all of these problems.

This trouble with rugby is just another manifestation of this widespread high pride & stupidity.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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