Naturalization in Japan - the first step

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My partner and I are of the same sex, and while we are married in a country that recognizes our relationship, our cohabitation is, under Japanese law, just that: "room sharing." As such, a nightmare scenario is that whereby one of us is incapacitated and hospitalized and the other has no right to access him or to have a say in anything relating to him.
Pamphlet issued by Japan's Ministry of Justice about naturalization.

Both of us have been in Japan for around two decades, and are very likely to remain here. We already have permanent residency status, but for the above reasons we have decided to apply for Japanese citizenship. Once Japanese citizens, one of us can add the other to his koseki, or family register, and thus become de jure family members with a recognized say in each others' lives.

We therefore went to the Civil Affairs Office of the Ministry of Justice, Tokyo, today for the first stage in the process: the interview. Usually it is a one-on-one affair, but the gentleman who interviewed us agreed to see us together "just this once."

The atmosphere in the tiny office was less bureaucratic than professorial, with the elderly clerk taking us slowly through what was involved, carefully and clearly but without any hint of the condescension that is often to be encountered in officialdom.

We had brought all our passports, my Certificate of Alien Registration (which is now being replaced by the Residence Card, that my partner is already in possession of), and my driver's licence.

He first asked us for the broad story of our Japan experience, when and why we came here, and how long we had been away since that time. He flicked through our passports as we spoke, casually verifying what we said.

We had to meet six basic requirements: at least five consecutive years living in Japan, being twenty years or over (we cleared that in leaps in bounds!), absence of vice, ability to support ourselves, the willingness to lose our current non-Japanese citizenship, and a lack of any anti-social or seditious intent (more a repudiation of gang membership than anything else).

Building in Tokyo housing the Civil Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice.

He was an eminently even-handed man, but would look up at us after each item, briefly searching our countenances to satisfy himself that nothing egregious lurked beneath.

Once that had been established, we got to the nitty-gritty of it: what we would need for the application. There were only seven items on the list, but each involved considerable clerical work, and ... the last item was called "Other" - which one word promised a rabbit hole all of its own.

Some of the requirements were predictable: filling in of the naturalization application form, curriculum vitae; some were a little onerous: copies of every page of all our passports; and some were a plain chore: getting a Certificate of Citizenship from my home country, and submitting not only all the information about my family, but, in addition to my birth certificate, a statement from my mother not only that she actually bore me, but her marriage certificate to prove that I was born in wedlock!

He wrote a phone number at the top of the page, and his name, to call "just in case," which I get the feeling will be a number I'll have memorized before long.


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