Number of Persons Achieving Japanese Citizenship Reaches 200Government responding to almost 900 requests made since 2006

The number of Japanese descendants left in the Philippines as children after World War II who have obtained Japanese citizenship through a process called shuseki reached 200 on July 21. Shuseki is a process whereby a person is allowed by a family court to create a family registry, the first step toward obtaining Japanese citizenship. Of the many children of Japanese fathers and Filipino mothers who were left in the Philippines without citizenship of either country in the turmoil during and after the war, 261 have made shuseki applications since 2004 (of whom, 16 died before the process was completed). Roughly three out of four of these people have been able to obtain Japanese citizenship, but there are still close to 900 Japanese descendants in the Philippines who wish to do so. With more than 70 years having passed since the war’s end, the average age of these people is 78, and they are asking that the Japanese government take a more proactive approach to their requests.

This bar chart shows the number of second-generation Japanese descendants in the Philippines who have had shuseki applications approved. The numbers are two in 2006, two in 2007, five in 2008, twenty nine in 2009, eighteen in 2010, eight in 2011, seven in 2012, thirty in 2013, thirty in 2014, thirty four in 2015, twenty four in 2016, and eleven in 2017, for a total of 200.
‘Shuseki’ approvals by year

11 approvals this year bring total to 200

The 200th person to have their shuseki request approved was Aurora Haruko Akamine, a 78-year-old resident of Manila. She submitted her application to the district court in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, on June 16, and the court gave its approval on July 21, and her supporters sent her the notification. Ms. Akamine was born in 1939, the 10th child of her Filipina mother and Kame Akamine, her father, who was born in Okinawa. Her father worked with the Japanese military during the war, and after the war ended he and his third son, Ryoichi, were forcibly repatriated to Japan.

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Akira Maeda, Vice President of The Nippon Foundation (left), and Norihiro Inomata, secretary-general of the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center (right), announce the 200th favorable family court decision

Mr. and Mrs. Akamine had 12 children, but Mrs. Akamine died in 1944 and was followed in close succession by 10 of her children, and Mr. Akamine died in 1946, leaving just Aurora in the Philippines. She had been able to contact Ryoichi, however, and returned to Japan with his help, and this was why her application was approved in the unusually short time of just over one month.

The first shuseki applications of Japanese descendants in the Philippines to be approved were for two people, in 2006. Since then, the number of approvals has varied from year to year, with the most being a total of 94 approvals in the three years from 2013 to 2015. Ms. Akamine’s was the 11th this year, bringing the total to 200, which breaks down as 127 women and 73 men. The average age of successful applicants at the time their application was approved is 75.9 years old, with the oldest being 94. By prefecture of father’s birth, Okinawa had the highest number, at 45, followed by Hiroshima at 27, Kumamoto at 26, and Fukushima at 10, with 40 whose prefecture of birth was unknown.

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Attorney Naoko Ohiwa answers a question at the briefing

Number of remaining descendants estimated at 900

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted a survey of Japanese descendants in the Philippines 50 years after the war ended, in 1995. This survey confirmed the existence of approximately 3,500 descendants, of whom approximately 1,000 were able to obtain Japanese citizenship for reasons including the fact that their names were recorded in their father’s family registry. An additional 1,000 or so could not be contacted, and the remaining roughly 1,500 persons could not obtain Japanese citizenship even though their father was Japanese, and as a result had no citizenship. As this group aged, 400 to 500 are seen as having passed away, and according to the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center, which together with The Nippon Foundation is assisting these descendants with obtaining citizenship, the remaining roughly 900 people want to obtain Japanese citizenship.

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Aurora Haruko Akamine (left), the 200th successful ‘shuseki’ applicant

Currently, eight cases are pending in family courts and another close to 50 people are expected to make shuseki applications in the near future, and roughly 500 who have relatively ample evidence are considering making applications. Efforts to expedite the process, including having a representative from the Japanese embassy in the Philippines witness the descendants’ documents when they are prepared, and ensuring that applications are made in family courts close to the father’s birthplace, are proceeding, but as the descendants age it will be impossible to resolve all of these cases at the current pace.

Noting this situation, The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa commented, “The standard procedure is not enough for these descendants to obtain proof that they are Japanese during their lifetime; the national government needs to act quickly.” Hiroyuki Kawai, president of the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center added, “I am delighted with the great success of having reached 200 successful shuseki applications, and our support center will continue to work with The Nippon Foundation to ensure that every last person is able to obtain Japanese citizenship.”

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