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 )

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 )

@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 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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 )

@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 )

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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