French citizenship or the anti-communitarianism

by Marin Enault

By studying immigration in the United States, I noticed how much the vision of the migrants was different compared with France’s vision. The history of both countries being completely different, it seems that it influences the conception of the immigration. It seems interesting to compare sociologically these two ideologies as well as their result.

Countries as the United States, Australia or New Zealand built themselves thanks to the colonizing immigrants. This special past is important in the idea which these countries have of immigration: Immigration is always massive, wished, checked and presented as a strength. The multicultural society of the United States is described as a wealth, responding to a logic of market.

The public policies that control the immigration’s flow according to certain criteria: countries, languages, professional qualifications… This “chosen” immigration policy entails the creation of ethnic communities, sharing the same characteristics. In the US we can speak about South American, Asian or Black communities, which are themselves divided into an infinity of national or cultural communities. It is a large-scale communitarianism: the immigrants live parallel existences while sharing the same nationality.

European countries, in particular France, have a different immigration culture. Even if the number of immigrants is important (nearly 160,000/year), France sees the communitarianism as something bad, as a failure of the integration. Partially because this country is the heir of a long republican tradition, France pursues the dream of “republican messianism”: the French nation is one and indivisible: the origin, the color and the culture of an emigrant disappear since he becomes French. So the French state refuses to see ethnic communities on its territory, simply French citizens, without any other criterion of distinction.

To describe this ideal, Ernest Renan spoke about a “national project”, a nation based on the “will to live together”. However, today this myth seems unrealistic : it seems that the French nation, in spite of its historic will, does not integrate any more her immigrants as well as the native-born French people. Although the theory of the communitarianism is always refused by the political elite, ethnic groupings nevertheless built up themselves. The migrants, due to the lack of economic integration, live in the same poor suburbs areas. The myth of a “French-style” citizenship collapsed: the secularism loses its sense when the school holidays are based on the Christian calendar while in certain high schools the majority of the students are Muslim.

France always ideologically refused the creation of subgroups within the French citizenship, however it turns out that the economic reality does not allow any more the same integration for all.

To convince itself, it is enough to look at the exam’s results of the Parisians elite’s high schools compares to the very close high schools, considered as difficult, where the students are mainly sons of immigrants. Not recognizing communitarianism doesn’t makes it disappear, quite the contrary.


Costa-Lascoux, Jacqueline : « L’intégration « à la française » : une philosophie à l’épreuve des réalités »

Renan, Ernest. « What is a Nation? »


Immaculate Conceptions and Japanese Citizenship

by Robert Moorehead

According to the Mainichi, on September 13, the Osaka Family Court ruled that a child conceived through sperm donation must be registered as fatherless. The Court rejected the petition of a 31-year-old transgender man and his wife, who had sought to add their son to their family registry. The Tokyo Shinjuku Ward Office had refused to record the man as the child’s father, noting that he was biologically incapable of fathering the child. Instead, the Ward Office left the father section of the family register blank. An immaculate conception!

The man had legally changed his gender in 2008, and married his partner shortly thereafter. The Court ruled that Japanese law bases parenthood on a biological connection between parents and child. Since government officials are unable to watch people conceive their children and they do not require DNA tests to add children to family registers, the standard practice has been to record both parties in a married couple as the child’s parents—even if the child was conceived through sperm or egg donation.

This case comes down to whether the government knows whether you’re capable of conceiving a child. If the government does not know that reproductive technologies have been used, then the parents are in the clear to record the child as theirs. However, if you’re a transgender parent and had legally re-registered your gender, or a woman whose fertility is in question, then your claim to parenthood may be denied.

This privileging of biological ties is inconsistently applied, as in 2003 authorities refused to register actress Aki Mukai as the mother of twins who were born through an American surrogate, and instead registered the surrogate as the children’s legal mother. Mukai’s ova and the sperm of her husband, wrestler Nobuhiko Takada, were used in the surrogacy. However, the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that Japanese law only recognizes the woman who gives birth to the child as the legal mother. Mukai and Takada were required to adopt their children, who were registered as American citizens and foreign residents of Japan.

In another example, a woman’s spouse will be automatically recorded as the father if the child is conceived during the marriage, regardless of who the biological father is. If the woman conceives the child with someone other than her spouse while she and her spouse are separated, and she subsequently divorces and re-marries, the ex-husband will be listed as the child’s biological father.

Why engage in such legal and mental gymnastics? Defenders of the current law say that it is necessary to support the sanctity of marriage. Such marriage laws also legally discriminated against children born to unmarried parents by limiting them to half the inheritance their “legitimate” siblings would receive. On September 4, the Japanese Supreme Court unanimously overturned a 1995 decision that upheld the law.

Following the logic of the Osaka Family Court’s decision, if a child is born through anonymous sperm and egg donations to infertile parents, and the government knows the parents are infertile, that child could legally be recorded as having no parents. An even more immaculate conception!

Such a child would also be stateless. For children to receive Japanese citizenship at birth, they must have at least one parent who is a citizen. Thus, if the mother of the child in the Osaka case is not a Japanese citizen, then her child will also not be a citizen, as the child’s legally non-existent father would not be able pass on citizenship to him.

A further wrinkle is that an overseas birth must be registered with Japanese authorities within 90 days for the child to receive citizenship. Given the dearth of reproductive services in Japan, many women seek services outside the country. If, upon returning to Japan, the couple’s parenthood is in question, the couple must choose whether to register the surrogate as the mother, or challenge the decision and risk missing the window in which to register the child for Japanese citizenship.

Beyond the common situation of the law not keeping up with rapid changes in reproductive technology, these cases show how the law gets twisted and turned as judges and other officials see fit, to support a status quo that does not serve the interests of children or parents.

Is the dream act a good solution for undocumented immigrants in the US?

by Ryohei Sugiyama

The DREAM Act is a law that was suggested in the US in 2000. The purpose of this law is to give young illegal immigrants the opportunity to get a higher education. In the US for a long time the treatment toward young illegal immigrants has been one of the largest sections of immigrant problems. Many of the young illegal immigrants do not have consciousness that they are illegal immigrants. They were taken with their parents and grew up most of their lives in the US. Therefore, there are few differences between these people and American citizens. Nevertheless, these do not get appropriate supports. At this point, the DREAM Act is the progress of the immigrant problem in the US.

If the DREAM Act is approved, young illegal immigrants can have the opportunity to live in the US legally. This is very good point of this law. Today there are a lot of illegal immigrants in the US. They are paying large amount of taxes each year, and actually they have a large influence on the economy of the US. Nevertheless, they get unfair treatment like not entering higher-level schools or not getting jobs because of their illegalness. Especially there is no reason for young immigrants to get unfair treatment. So long as there is no reason, the young illegal immigrants should get the same opportunity as the legal people in the US.

On the other hand, there are a few negative points in the DREAM Act. The article about the military is one of the examples of the negative points. In older for young illegal immigrants to get the legal status there are mainly two choices: one is the entering higher-level school for two years after graduating from high school in the US, and the other is the joining the military. Many of the young immigrants hope to advance a grade, however they sometimes cannot do it because they do not have enough money. In this case in older to get legal status they have to join the military. They may be sent to Iraq and be forced to engage in hard actions. In my opinion, it is an inhumane act. They have to get wounds so as to get rights.

In this way the DREAM Act has some good points and bad points. Therefore, I partly agree with this law and partly disagree. Bad points, of course, should be changed. For instance, in my idea, instead of joining the military, they should engage in public enterprises such as cleaning streets or works at public places. However, it is true that the government of the US intends to tackle with the problems of illegal immigrants. Dream act is the expression of the attitude of the government, and the governments should continue to tackle with the problems of illegal immigrants sincerely and positively.


Dream Act Portal. Retrieved June 26, 2013 from

Is the dream act good for the US? Retrieved June 26th 2013 fromドリーム法案は米経済にプラスかマイナスか?/#more-3416

Japanese aspect toward Hafu

by Ryota Takatsuka

What image do you have of hafu? Hafu means people who have one Japanese parent and one foreign parent. In Japanese, they are sometimes called “Ainoko” or “Konketsuji” and so on. What we can know from these word is that Japanese regard them as a not pure Japanese but as a half blood people. In fact, there are still discrimination against hafu in everywhere. For instance, according to the movie “Hafu project” almost all hafu people who interviewed have an experience that they were not treated as Japanese. In some case, when they were young, they were called “Gaikokujin” (means foreigner) and bullied. In general it is said that child is cruel because they do not cover word. However, what hafu people states is that they are still feeling as if they are outsider of Japanese society and they lost identity “Who am I”. This feeling gives Japanese a question”What make us treat hafu that way”.

In the movie “hafu project”, there some interesting interview of a Japanese young woman. She was asked the image of hafu people she has, and she answered”hafu people is cool and beautiful than us”. The point is she thinks hafu people has different characteristics and hafu is different from other people. In addition to this example, one man stated that he envy hafu, because they are bilingual.  From date which the director of this movie took, Japanese people pointed out almost same image they have such as cool. bilingual, and something about the differences what hafu have. Japanese tend to have image that hafu have a one Japanese aspect and other aspect from parent from oversea. This is why Japanese sometimes treat hafu as a foreigner because of such kind of image.

Due to this,what hafu people think of themselves? Many hafu people states they confuse whether they are Japanese or not. Once they in foreign country they feel I am Japanese, but in Japan they feel like different. This seems related with japanese image of Japanese people.

In my experience, some Japanese have narrow aspect against multiculturalism. Japanese have no education about culture in obligation education system. Japanese have less ability to understand the other aspect from other country, because we do not have knowledge about way of thinking. For example, I met person who is polychronic. He does not care about the time even when I rush him. I learned that there is such kind of idea in the world. As this experience shows Japanese people have to know the difference of other sense so that Japanese people adapt hafu.

Japanese society face aging problem and declining birth rate problem together. Therefore world tend to promote internationalization in terms of society, education and so on. In order to these situation around Japan, foreigner who try to get Japanese citizenship will be precious length for many field. My conclusion is Japanese should set an education about multiculturalism and promote reception of immigrants. Understanding of hafu people will be the key to develop internationalization in Japan.


Views from street on hafu (English Version), Hafu project, from

Hafu’s identity, Hafu project, from

How can people become Japanese?

by Tatsuya Haishi

Through the discussion in our class, I realized that there are many ways to become Japanese; however, it is a very difficult attempt to succeed. If I must choose one way to become Japanese, I would mention Japanese language. We cannot judge people’s nationality by their appearance like skin, hair and eyes in the age of globalization. We feel comfortable when we can communicate well with other people, yet if we feel that we cannot communicate well with them, maybe we begin thinking about a disparity between us and them. The most effective way to communicate well is the language. When I hit it off with a foreigner who really wants to be a Japanese citizen, it is difficult for me to recognize him as Japanese although I would like to.  He would be one of my foreign friends. However, if he can speak Japanese and communicate with me in Japanese, I will regard him as Japanese with no doubts. Accordingly, I think hafu people who grew up in Japan and can speak Japanese well are perfect Japanese.

I think that to be Japanese is still harder than to be other country’s citizen. Although I have no idea about the exact reason of that, in my experience, many Japanese people have the feeling that our society is a homogeneous community. Of course we learn and know Japan is not a racially homogeneous nation, but we have such sense unconsciously. I think that’s because we have few opportunities to meet foreigners in Japan. I also had never talked with foreigners until I entered the university.

Now, for most of Japanese people, to be Japanese means to be “Japanese-Japanese”, not “Korean-Japanese” or “British-Japanese”, but this situation may change in the near future. Japan is an aging society with a declining birthrate and is facing a decrease of the work force. It will be necessary to accept immigrants from other countries to hire them. When they adapt themselves to Japanese society and have their kids, some of them come to feel that they are Japanese. I take it for granted that there are many kinds of races living together in London. Today, it is a quite natural scene that various different ethnic people are living together in the U.K. On the contrary, I would feel strange if there is a TV drama or a movie that a foreigner acts as Japanese. However, Japan may be a multiethnic nation like U.K. in future. If it becomes real, it will be easy to become Japanese.

The notion of citizenship in Japan

by Kentaro Sakamoto

Citizenship is a proof to show a person’s belonging to a certain community. Usually the community is a nation, or at least some sort of political community formed in a certain location. (n.d.) defines citizenship as “the character of an individual viewed as a member of society; behavior in terms of the duties, obligations, and functions of a citizen” (“Citizenship”). This definition makes us believe that one is accepted as a member of the society as long as he/she holds a citizenship of that community. However, the reality is different in many countries including Japan. Even if you have a Japanese citizenship, people often regard you as a foreigner as long as your appearance is different from an ‘average’ Japanese person or if you do not follow an ‘average’ Japanese cultural lifestyle. This is making harder for those who look ‘non-Japanese’ to incorporate into the society even when they have the citizenship of Japan. To know why this happens, understanding the modern history of Japan is important.

Since the Meiji Restoration, when Japan tore down the Samurai regime and started modernizing the society under a strong central government, the government worked hard to create an ethnic-based nation state by spreading the myth of ‘Japan as a mono-cultural, mono-ethnic society’ (Oguma, 1995). By giving people a common understanding of Japanese history and teaching them to speak the ‘common Japanese language’ which was created based on the Yamanote dialect, the central government succeeded to make the majority of Japanese people believe that Japan has been a homogenous country throughout the history (Ibid). The diversity represented by Ainu People and Okinawan people was denied, and they were force to assimilate into the Japanese society. Even when Japan started expanding its territory to overseas, it tried to assimilate people from its colonies in various ways. One example is claiming Japanese and Koreans have the same origin, implying Koreans to follow the Japanese way as ‘Japanese people’ (Kim, n.d.). After World War 2, this idea of homogenous Japanese society was even strengthened as Japan lost its territory overseas which resulted in having less diversity. Historically, having the citizenship of Japan did not merely meant having a legal contract with the Japanese government, but it also meant integrating to the Japanese society culturally.

However, Japan is becoming diverse. The number of international marriages is increasing which is making the so-called ‘hafu’ (a term described to use a person born between a Japanese parent and a foreign parent) people more and more visible to the society (Yamashita, 2013). Having Japanese citizenship does not automatically mean you look Japanese, speak Japanese, and follow Japanese lifestyle anymore. However, the myth of homogenous society is still dominating Japan so strongly that it seems like it will take more than decades for Japan to become a multicultural society where people do not automatically assume someone as a foreigner just because of the way he/she looks, or how he/she acts. While there are movements trying to create a multicultural society to accept hafus and other minorities, people from younger generations are tilting to the right influenced by the media, especially internet websites stirring up ill feelings against minority and foreign people. They often believe that Japan should be a nation only for Japanese, but their notion of ‘Japanese’ usually do not include those who do not look Japanese and do not follow the typical Japanese lifestyle, regardless of the possession of Japanese citizenship. What makes it harder for them to accept multiculturalism is news from European countries telling the ‘fail of multiculturalism’, represented by the 2011 England riots.

Then, what is the solution? How can Japan become a more open society? How can it change the notion of citizenship? It is very difficult to find the answer, but one way is to wipe away the negative images towards multiculturalism. What is not introduced about multiculturalism in Japan is how it has contributed to the economy of countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Canada, the United States, and Australia. By giving immigrants citizenship, the government can collect more taxes which can become a solution for the collapsing national pension system due to the rapid growth of the population of old people. It can solve depopulation in rural areas. It can increase workers in farming and fishing industries which are facing serious problems because of the lack of young labors. Many of these difficult issues that appear to be insoluble can be solve by giving immigrants Japanese citizenships, changing the notion of citizenship to a thing that is given to everyone who helps forming the community in Japan, and creating a diverse society accepting different people.


Citizenship. (n.d.). In Unabridged. Retrieved May 09, 2013, from

Kim, M. S. (n.d.). Koukoku shikan to kouminka seisaku [Emperor-centered historiography and Japanization]. Retrieved May 09, 2013, from

Oguma, E. (1995). Tannitsu minzoku shinwa no kigen: Nihonjin no jigazou no keihu [The origin of mono-ethnic myth in Japan: The history of a Japanese self-portrait]. Tokyo: Shinyosha

Yamashita, M. (2013, April 11). 30 nin ni hitori ga hafu no jidai: Tachihadakaru bunka no kabe wo dou norikoeruka [An age that one in 30 children are hafu: How to overcome cultural barriers]. Wedge Infinity. Retrieved May 09, 2013, from

Should Japan Allow Dual Citizenship?

by Satoshi Tanaka

Through  globalization, a lot of companies have an office and a factory in foreign country, and people have many opportunities to work overseas. However, Japanese government allows people to have citizenship of only one country. As a result, Japanese people who work in a foreign country cannot get a service as citizen of the country without resigning their Japanese citizenship. However, getting other citizenship makes people difficult to come back and live in Japan. In some countries, government allows people to have dual citizenship, and it helps people to work in other country, but I think that dual citizenship has also some disadvantages.

Dual citizenship has both advantage and disadvantage. Firstly, getting dual citizenship makes people feel more comfortable to work in foreign country. For example, people have no right to vote for the person who governs the country where they live if they have only Japanese citizenship. Moreover, people cannot get service without citizenship there such as a support of a fee for medical care and education. Therefore, dual citizenship gives people a support to live in the country. However, it also has demerits. Dual citizenship makes the tax system much more confused. Which government do people have to pay tax to? Which government do people get pension from? Now, tax and pension are already very complex problem which the government has. By introducing dual citizenship, the government must manage people who work all over the world.

Then, I suggest that people have two types of citizenship, main citizenship and sub citizenship. This system has the advantage of dual citizenship and solves the disadvantage which it has. First, this system gives people services such as medical care support and education in the country where they work like dual citizenship. Moreover, this system solves the problem of tax and pension. By dividing two citizenships into main and sub, it is easy to divide tax into the tax for home country and the tax for the country where people work. Moreover, this system makes people more flexible to change the second citizenship because they have the main citizenship.

In conclusion, following the globalization, the opportunity to work overseas is increasing. The current system of citizenship cannot support people to work in foreign country. I think that Japan should suit the change of the society by introducing dual citizenship. However, dual citizenship has still disadvantages. Then, allowing two types of citizenship, main and sub, makes up for the weakness of dual citizenship.

Help Us Get into Paperback

Language and Citizenship in Japan

Click on the book cover for more details on the book, including an order form with a 20% discount.

by Robert Moorehead

(Update: Routledge is offering a 20 percent discount on the book, if you use the code ERJ69. Ordering details are available by clicking here to access and attached PDF file and order form.)

Last year, I published a chapter in the book Language and Citizenship in Japan. The fine folks at Routledge released the book in hardcover and Kindle formats, and now we’d like to see the book in paperback. Why? Because the hardcover book costs $116, and the Kindle edition $100. Only libraries will purchase the book at that price, and I’d like to see the book on more people’s shelves. We do this work not for book royalties, but to spread and share ideas.

Routledge generally sells paperbacks at a fraction of the the cost of hardcovers, and a paperback edition would likely bring the price of the Kindle edition down, also. The lower the price, the more likely people will buy the book and order it for classes—and the more our ideas will be part of the debates.

To get the magic paperback edition released, Routledge first needs to sell 200 copies of the hardcover. We can get there if more libraries purchase the book. So, if your library doesn’t already have it, then please encourage them to order it. This link gives you the information your library will need to order the book from Routledge:

Here’s a blurb about the book:

The relationship between language and citizenship in Japan has traditionally been regarded as a fixed tripartite: ‘Japanese citizenship’ means ‘Japanese ethnicity,’ which in turn means ‘Japanese as one’s first language.’ Historically, most non-Japanese who have chosen to take out citizenship have been members of the ‘oldcomer’ Chinese and Korean communities, born and raised in Japan. But this is changing: the last three decades have seen an influx of ‘newcomer’ economic migrants from a wide range of countries, many of whom choose to stay. The likelihood that they will apply for citizenship, to access the benefits it confers, means that citizenship and ethnicity can no longer be assumed to be synonyms in Japan.

This is an important change for national discourse on cohesive communities. This book’s chapters discuss discourses, educational practices, and local linguistic practices which call into question the accepted view of the language-citizenship nexus in lived contexts of both existing Japanese citizens and potential future citizens. Through an examination of key themes relating both to newcomers and to an older group of citizens whose language practices have been shaped by historical forces, these essays highlight the fluid relationship of language and citizenship in the Japanese context.

It’s an excellent book, with engaging chapters written by leading scholars that are appropriate for general and academic audiences. If I weren’t already in the book, I’d definitely buy it—in paperback. And if my library didn’t have it, I’d push them to order it.

I’ll avoid for now any existential whinging about the fact that we can’t even sell 200 copies of a fine book. It’s depressing, and I’d rather not think about it. But this is a reflection of the tight market for academic books, where good books don’t get ordered because of shrinking budgets. Less expensive editions of books don’t get published because the more expensive editions didn’t sell, thereby discouraging people even more. It’s a downward spiral. But we can try to stop this downward trend by promoting each others’ books, and by gently nudging our librarians toward the texts that we want to read.

What is the problem of immigrants?

by Naruko Nakagawa

I think Japanese people don’t argue citizenship of immigrants as serious as other countries, because of characteristic of Japan as island country and homogeneous state. So Japanese don’t put a special emphasis on this problem of immigrant. Of course I was also one of them. But I wonder; now I think immigrants haven’t gotten “citizenship” yet, but if they get a citizenship officially, how does it influence our lives? What’s the problem of immigrant?

First, one of concern is possibility of political takeover by foreigner. The consensus of nations was made by citizens. So the more immigrants get citizenship by legal procedure, the larger consensus will be formed. Though I don’t know the example, this logic was told ever. Second, the Japanese society may blame the increase of unemployment on immigrant, as well as recent some countries, like French. I think that rate of unemployment is not related to immigrant, originally it’s structural problem in society or reason among individuals. And as other concern, in general government doesn’t have to take care of people of other counties. Is giving citizenship defined as immigrants become nations, or not? Are giving citizenship and the naturalization synonym? Before this question, should citizenship be given to someone at all?

My primary concern is discrimination toward immigrant. Some problem stated above may create new common sense of discrimination. Immigrant problem regards as outlet of complaint of nations by particular political group.

However, when I was high school student, I heard a story from the man, who was discriminated because he is from certain community (we called Buraku) ranked bottom of hierarchy in Japanese society, as Eta and Hinin (it means “not people”) in the past. He said that if young people haven’t known about discrimination toward this certain community, it’s OK. This problem is old contents, so most of them don’t know about this problem in detail. So they don’t have to know, because they can take it easy and deal with them as normal people when they remain unlearned about certain community. I think there is something in what he said, but at the same time, I wonder people must improve the situation of discrimination, or don’t have to? All nations are responsibility to face this problem, or not?

I think that the discrimination toward to foreigner or hafu is from difficulty of understand and fear against uncertain something. So responsibility to improve is in individuals. Giving citizenship is including many serious problems, so we can’t make light of this, we should ready for the time Japan will address refugee problem.