Japanese Descendant’s Shuseki Application ApprovedKumamoto court reverses Tokyo court’s previous decision

Oligario Aguan Nagata, a resident of Mindanao Island in the Philippines and the child of a Philippine mother and Japanese father, received approval from the Kumamoto Family Court on April 4 to begin a process known as shuseki, the first step toward obtaining Japanese citizenship. Mr. Nagata’s previous application, made in 2013 at the Tokyo Family Court, was rejected the following year, but in November 2016 he made a new application at the family court in Kumamoto, which he believes was his father’s home prefecture. This second application included a statement taken in May 2016 with an official from the Japanese embassy in the Philippines present, which provided new evidence for his case.

Photo
Oligario Aguan Nagata in Kumamoto in November 2016

Officials from the Japanese embassy in the Philippines have conducted four sets of interviews in cities including Davao and Manila, and Mr. Nagata’s case was the first time a transcript from one of these interviews has been used as evidence for a shuseki application. As a result, the case received attention to determine whether the presence of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official at the interview would add weight to the reliability of the statement as evidence, and be effective in accelerating the process of obtaining Japanese citizenship for descendants who became separated from their Japanese fathers during World War II more than 70 years ago. Now at age 71, he and other descendants are in a “battle against time” for receiving Japanese citizenship.

Separated when 3 months old

Mr. Nagata was born in Mindanao in September 1945 to a Japanese father and a mother from the Bagobo ethnic group in Mindao, and he and his mother were separated from his father when he was three months old. According to his mother, his father was from Kumamoto Prefecture and his family name was “Nagata,” and he harvested akaba in Davao, but that is about all the information he has. His father named him “Masao,” but neighbors referred to him as “the Japanese boy,” and fearing for his safety he grew up using the name “Oligario.”

At the trial, the court cross-checked Mr. Nagata’s childhood memories and statements from friends of his mother, but was not able to identify definitively a person named “Nagata.” Nevertheless, the court found that there were no contradictions between the statements and determined that it was appropriate to recognize a father-son relationship between the petitioner, and based on the paternal lineage concept of the nationality law at that time, ruled that “the petitioner should have Japanese citizenship.”

The Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center has been assisting Mr. Nagata and other Japanese descendants to obtain Japanese citizenship, and in light of this ruling the group will seek to hold more hearings in the Philippines with a Japanese embassy official present. At a press conference in Kumamoto when he visited Japan in November 2016 for his hearing at the family court, Mr. Nagata said, “My father was Japanese, so I am Japanese. I would definitely like to live in Japan if my request is approved.”

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