Cultural Citizenship: ‘Jun Japa’ at Japanese Universities

by Rena Shoji

What makes a “pure Japanese”? Is it Japanese lineage or nationality? I will examine the term Jun Japa, which is frequently used in Japanese universities. It often draws a border between those with/without experiences abroad within the Japanese community. Specifically, returnees who have Japanese parents and hold Japanese nationality will be analyzed. Citizenship includes both legal and extra-legal terms. Through looking at the case of the world “Jun Japa”, I found notions of inclusion and exclusion in the Japanese society.

The term is frequently used in international environments at Japanese universities. Jun Japa is a word created by the campus culture of those universities to describe Japanese students with no experience abroad. Those who are categorized as Jun Japa are often put in the bottom of the student stratification system on campus because their language skills (mostly English skills) are often lower than those of returnees, mixed-race Japanese, immigrants, international students, and native English speakers. As myself being a Jun Japa in a university with many international students, I could understand, to some extent, what my friends in other universities tell me about, such as how hard to participate in class discussions and fit in the multi-national community.

On the one hand, the word describes inferiority of Japanese students to those who have backgrounds abroad in terms of language ability. On the other hand, however, it entails an exclusionary aspect of Japaneseness. The word Jun (純) means “pure” in Japanese, and Japa is a contracted form of “Japanese”. So Jun Japa can be translated into “pure Japanese”. As a Japanese grown up in the society, I have noticed the Japanese society is, in many ways, exclusive to foreigners and mixed-race Japanese and that “pure Japanese lineage” is likely to be a measurement of inclusion or “full membership” to the Japanese society. However, returnees—even if they are Japanese and their parents hold Japanese nationality—are excluded from the meaning of this buzzword just because of their background in other countries.

In “Citizenship and Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation and Challenges to the Nation-State” (2008), Irene Bloemraad and her co-authors argue that one can look at citizenship from four dimensions: legal status, rights, participation, and sense of belonging. Even in the face of globalization, nation-states still holds power “to shape the institutions that provide differentiated access to participation and belonging” (Bloemraad et al. 2008:154). A short/mid-term experience abroad can affect those “pure” Japanese’s behavior of othering, which influences returnees’ sense of belonging, and vice versa. Japanese society has diversified as globalization has continued, and the image towards those whose origin/background are from out of Japan seems to have improved. Their language abilities and experiences abroad are often seen an advantage on campus in Japan. However, the sense of otherness still exists.

What makes a “pure Japanese”? I found that this returnees’ case of exclusion in the Japanese society could be related to what Renato Rosaldo (1997) calls “Cultural Citizenship”. Citizenship includes legal terms, such as nationality, but he argues cultural background that is different from the mainstream of the country also can evoke marginalization and exclusion from the society. This concept was proposed in the process of Latino/na population increase in the United States. Rosaldo claims that Latinos/as’ bilingual ability and dual cultural background can arise marginalization and exclusion because of difference from the mainstream (living in the U.S. only, English only and Anglo heritage etc).

Not only legal terms, extra-legal terms can be applied to the notion of citizenship in the society. Even though returnees enjoy full legal membership in Japanese society, their bilingual abilities and multicultural experiences affect their evaluation from the mainstream. Thus, the term Jun Japa demonstrates the idea of exclusion in the social community in Japan, even though it is used to illustrate the sense of inferiority and envy to those who have a different cultural background.


Bloemraad, I., Korteweg, A., & Yurdakul, G. 2008. Citizenship and immigration: Multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the nation-state. Annual Review of Sociology. 34. 153-179.

Rosaldo, R. 1997. Cultural citizenship, inequality, and multiculturalism. In Flores W. F., & Benmayor, R. (Eds). Latino cultural citizenships. (pp. 27-38). Boston: Beacon Press.

Identity problem from Dual citizenship

by Sungryoung Yoon

Dual citizenship is a status in which a person has two citizenships under the law. The number of the countries which allow dual citizenship has been increased by globalization like a lot of immigration. The United States is one of the representative countries which is multicultural country and also allow this system in the world. However Japanese government still doesn’t allow this system today. Japanese government forces people to choose one nationality when people get 22 years old. I think that system of dual citizenship will be one of the ways which helps solving the problem of people’s identity. I guess only one national system in Japan constrict one’s identity who have some roots so I would like to talk about good point of dual citizenship for identity problem. I am going to talk two different styles of people who have some different roots.

First one I will talk here is hafu style. Hafu people naturally get two different roots or more than two different roots from their parents when they were born, and then they grow up with their different roots. It should be so difficult for people who have some roots to choose only one nationality because different roots grow people’s identity naturally. For example, I have one friend whose father is from the United States and mother is from Japan. She was grown up in Japan until 6 years old and then she moved to the United States. She had to choose one nationality when she got 22 years old because of Japanese system even if she speaks both English and Japanese so well and she loves both cultures too. She didn’t want to throw away Japanese nationality if she could because she feels her identity is made by both. She told me when we talked about identity problems. Japanese government forced her to choose only one nationality even if her identity comes from both roots.

Second style is a foreigner living in Japan. I pick one example about Korean who were born in Japan and the United States. I am one of this example because I was born in Japan with Korean nationality. I was grown up in Japan and went to Japanese school and my almost friends were only Japanese before I go to Korea last year. My personality adapted to Japanese society but nationality is Korean. I was so surprised when I met a lot of Korean who were in the United States. They asked me why I do not have dual citizenship and told me Japanese government should give me the chance to choose. I hadn’t thought until then I could choose nationality but if I could have two citizenship, I think something would change to my identity problem.

I know a lot of problems will happen like government problem if we introduce dual citizenship system to Japanese society. However I don’t think it is the best way to force people to choose nationality because identity comes to people so naturally. Dual citizenship will make big helpful for people who have different roots more than bad points.

Should Japan allow dual citizenship?

by Asako Morita

At the present day, Japanese government does not allow a person to have dual or multiple citizenships after the age of 22. The person who has it needs to choose one citizenship he or she wants to hold. Many European countries and Australia for example, allow dual citizenship since numbers of people immigrated there. Along the globalization, it is more convenient and easier for us to live another country. Global economy is now expanding all over the world and flow of people is more active. Although Japan is a nearly homogeneous country, more and more people are facing difficult choice.  In this short essay, I would like to argue why Japan needs to allow dual citizenship at the view of rights of residents and making ties to global society.

First, if the person who already holds dual citizenship and has lived or has ties to Japan, they should have rights as a citizen. Becoming the citizenship means citizens have rights which people usually regard them as perfectly normal. The disqualification of becoming public workers and election rights are unfair to the person who lives in Japan for a long time and pay a tax as almost same as “Japanese”. They may want to become Japanese citizens but also they still do not want to give up on their other nationality of their roots. It is not they do not like Japan but the choice of their identity is an extreme to them. The Japanese politicians concern that admitting dual citizenship leads to undermine national loyalty. However, people who live in Japan for a long time or related to Japan must have feeling for the nation somehow. Pessimistic fear of manipulation of the nationality takes valuable rights from a number of people.

Second, the advantages of admitting dual citizenship are remarkably large. Especially, the tie to people from other countries become strong and it enhances economic advantage. Many Japanese who are quite active and achieves successful outcome in other countries have to give up on Japanese nationality. Once they let the nationality go away, they hardly come back to Japan and the relation to Japan easily fade when generation passes. The case of Ireland, which admits dual citizenship, proves people who once left the country for immigration and succeeded in various fields lately came back and produces prosperous economic condition. I think in this global trend, Japan should be tolerant to dual citizenship so that Japanese business can easily recruit a talented person who have experienced in another countries. We should not forget many variable Japanese people who live all over the world.

Therefore, I believe Japan should admit dual citizenship. As globalization move advance and more and more flow of people are active, the advantages of admitting dual citizenship are getting bigger and conservative perspective takes rights of great number of people away. I think it is advisable for the Japanese future to admit dual citizenship for not losing more Japanese all over the world.

Citizenship in Japan

by Yuuka Kageyama

What is the meaning of being Japanese or having a citizenship in Japan? The answer can be various, depending on the idea of citizenship and when and where is the citizenship used or considered. Citizenship is usually defined as a form of membership in a community. One of the biggest features of Japan is that many people have same or similar culture, language (Japanese) and race, that is, Japan has less ethnic diversity compared to other countries such as America which has so many kinds of ethnic groups and immigrants. However, with the advance of globalization, Japan came to have various people and culture. In this society, how does the citizenship work especially on the immigrants from other countries or people whose parental origin are different from that of Japanese?  Let’s think about it from three dimension of citizenship.

First, in order to hold the citizenship as legal status, people need to have Japanese mother or father. However, there are many immigrants and people who were born and grown up in Japan but don’t have Japanese parents. Such people cannot be “Japanese” in terms of nationality. They also don’t have Japanese passport.  I met a student whose both parents are American but born and grown up in Japan and even have never been to America. He was educated as Japanese and his way of thinking and behavior is quite Japanese. However he doesn’t have Japanese citizenship in this regards even if he spends his entire life in Japan.

Second, citizenship ensures the right of participation in the community. In a society in Japan people who have right to be Japanese have responsibility to obey the law, which gives the government obligation to protect them at the same time. Moreover, individual needs to be treated equally as human right. Although it sounds natural and easy to implement, the reality is that people are not always equal in some part. For example, people who don’t have Japanese nationality cannot be national civil servant and cannot join the government by voting. It is true that there is a difficulty to give every citizen equally the right to be involved in the national important organizations, however, such people as immigrants should also have chance to reflect their wishes in some ways.

Third, citizenship gives people in a community a sense of belonging. People in a community share their own culture, belief, language and so on, which is closely connected with their identities. Immigrants who don’t share such identity can be ‘other’ in the society. The citizenship in this regard is different from the one which come from legal or political meanings.

Immigrants in Japan have still difficulty to join the society there is a need that Japanese government takes measures including achievement of substantive citizenship or expansion of the criterion to hold citizenship.

How much do we know about Okinawa?

Have you ever heard of an ‘Amerasian?’ An Amerasian is a person born in Asia, to a U.S. father and an Asian mother. Several countries have significant populations of Amerasians, including the islands in Pacific Ocean such as Japan (Okinawa), Thailand, South Korea, and most notably, the Philippines, where the largest U.S. air and naval bases outside the U.S. mainland used to be situated (Since the U.S. bases situated in the Philippines were evacuated in 1992, the one in Japan has been the largest U.S. military base in Asia).

In the case of the Philippines, after the evacuation of the U.S. military, the Amerasians and their mothers left behind had suffered from discrimination and poverty without financial support from the government or the U.S. military. As for Japan, before the census registration law changed in 1984, they were treated even as nonnationals (Japanese nationality used to be assigned only based on the father’s lineage), and thus, they could not get support from the Japanese government that general Japanese could get. Now that the law has changed, but still, some other problems have remained. For example, some Amerasians are educated in-base when the both parents are fine in Japan, but when the father and the mother break apart, for example by divorce or when the father’s military survice is accomplished, the Amerasian children sometimes have to be educated out-base. For children who are educated in-base, living life out-base is so difficult because of the language difference and sometimes they get bullied by the other children. For children facing such problems, Amerasians School In Okinawa (AASO) was established in 1998. However, the problem here is that they do not get educational support from the Japanese government, and because of that, they are in short of educational materials.

In Okinawa, several problematic things that most Japanese do not even know are happening; Amerasians example that I just mentioned above can be one of them. Can we be so selfish as enforcing Okinawa to take the majority of all risks that Japan has to take for its national defense, ignoring the problems that Okinawa has because of that? If we settle down on the present solution that we place the U.S. military base in Okinawa, we should at least fully understand what are going on in Okinawa.

by Koji Arai

Brazilian Children in Mie Prefecture

My cousin and grandparents family lives in Mie prefecture, where there are many Brazilian workers and their family. The reason why there are so many Brazilian workers is because Mie prefecture and Sao Paolo, Brazil have a sister-city relationship among each other. From the beginning of 20th century to 1960s, many Brazilians have migrated to Japan for work. Since then, there has been a promotion of wide-ranging exchanges, such as in the areas of culture, sports, and technological fields. However, what I see in Mie is different to what is said; the Brazilian immigrants and the local people in Japan lives nearby but there are the discriminations and prejudice visible, which are the sufferings minorities often face.

In Mie, there are many manufacturing companies which need cheap labor working for a long time, so that the product costs can be kept low. My cousin is now 10 years old now, and at the school he goes to, there are about 30 Brazilian students, about 10 students classified into 3 classes. They are the “sansei” or “yonsei”, who’s ancestor has came to Japan as migrant workers who decided to settle in Japan living with their family. Most of them acquire a permanent resident visa and a while later, obtain Japanese nationality. Most of the Brazilian students in my cousin’s school spoke Japanese fluently than Portuguese; since they were born and raised in Japan, just like any other people called “zainichi.”

However they belong to a Japanese school speaking in Japanese, at first when they enter elementary school, they tend to stay together with the Brazilian friends and not hang out with others. In other words, the Japanese children keep a distance from them. This situation continues until they graduate. What I saw was shocking; when I went to school to pick up my cousin, in the playground, there were many children playing soccer and dodge ball who were only Japanese, and the Brazilian children group were shoved by the corner, passing the soccer ball to one another. After school, I asked my cousin how they stay with the Brazilian group, he said that “they don’t speak that much and play with us so we don’t stay with them. They look so different and don’t feel like we are in the same classroom.”

As we went home to my grandparents’ house, my grandmother said the same thing, that they are so different. Also, she said that they are said to be noisy in night, not following the rules and making the environment bad. This is exactly what we learnt and saw in looking at the class of zainichi and Nikkei, the cases we saw in the Koreans and Filipinos; especially since where my cousin lives is at the country side, people have the prejudice from the beginning and recognize them as “foreigners.”

I feel miserable that these problems are occurring close to me. When I go to Mie again, I would like to talk to my relatives more deeply, and persuade how their attitude is wrong and rude.

International Affairs Office, Department of Social and Cultural Affairs.
Mie Prefectural Government, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2012.

by Shiori Miyake

Dual Citizenship in Japan


Dual citizenship occurs when one person acquires nationality from more than one country. This can happen when a child is born of parents of mixed nationality or of parents who are living in country other than that of their citizenship.


Nowadays, a child born in Japan of mixed parents would be eligible for both Japanese citizenship and the citizenship of their foreign parents. However, Japan takes a stricter view of individuals holding more than one nationality, since the situations and laws can easily become a bit complex. Therefore, when young people become adult, about 22, they have to choose their citizenship.

Unlike many countries that tolerate but not officially endorse dual citizenship, Japan chooses to take restrictions on dual nationality. Thus, when a Japanese national holding a foreign nationality turns 20, they will be required to choose on sole citizenship within 2 years.


For Japanese citizens holding a foreign nationality, there are two methods of declaring a single nationality. One is abandoning the foreign nationality, the other one is swearing to Japanese nationality. When the time comes to choose one nationality, people are usually supposed to think carefully and make the right decision.


In my own opinion, the actively cracking down on dual nationality in Japan may be a wise choice, even though the practice to require one to make a decision seems a little cruel. But what I am thinking of is that it’s better for one to choose which country one belongs to. In this way, it will be more clearly who is responsible for you, but you don’t have to cut the tie with the other country. It’s just like choosing your belief. To our motherland, we should become a faithful, loyal and devoted national.

By Yan Yinyan