Eight men and women who were born in Japan and now live in Europe have filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government claiming that having to give up their citizenship upon gaining a foreign nationality is unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs argue that the obligation to give up one's Japanese citizenship upon acquiring a foreign one -- in accordance with a stipulation in the Nationality Act -- contravenes an article in the Constitution that guarantees freedom of all persons to "divest themselves of their nationality."
According to statements by the plaintiffs' lawyers at a news conference in Tokyo on March 12, the lawsuit, dated on March 9 and filed with the Tokyo District Court, is the first court case in Japan involving a claim that the stipulation in the Nationality Act is invalid.
According to the complaint, the eight plaintiffs are aged between 30 and 79 and all reside in European countries including Switzerland and France. Six of the eight have had to acquire foreign citizenship in order to continue with their respective academic or work pursuits, and they are each demanding compensation from the government worth 550,000 yen (about $5,160) to make up for the suffering caused by having to give up their Japanese nationality.
Meanwhile, the other two members are looking for confirmation that they will not lose their Japanese citizenship should they acquire foreign nationality in the future.
"The Nationality Act has not been revised once since before World War II, and is out of touch with the real world that is witnessing rapid globalization," said 74-year-old Hitoshi Nogawa at the March 12 news conference. Nogawa, one of the plaintiffs who lost his Japanese citizenship after acquiring Swiss nationality, had to do so to ensure that his company could take part in public bidding in Switzerland.
The eight plaintiffs have also gathered a petition with more than 15,000 signatures demanding that the Nationality Act be revised, taking into account the fact that dual nationality is recognized across Europe and other regions.
"When people living overseas who have lost their Japanese citizenship come back to Japan for such reasons as taking care of elderly relatives, they are forced to go through inconveniences like extending their visa," said Teruo Naka, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.