Me British, baby Japanese?

With Mami four months pregnant, we have been thinking about which nationality our child should be. It’s really not a hard decision to choose Japanese as Peanut‘s nationality since he or she will be born and raised in Japan and take Mami’s family name.

However, I’ve just been reading about birth registration on the British Embassy’s website and they point out that…

Under Japanese Nationality Law at the age of 20, but before the age of 22, dual Japanese/British children are required to choose which nationality they wish to retain. If they wish to retain Japanese nationality they may be asked to renounce British nationality by the Japanese authorities.

Well, I had heard that Japan was one of the few countries in which dual nationality is not allowed, but I didn’t realize that a child can have two nationalities until they are 20. So that’s a bonus for Peanut, but is there really any merit in registering our child with the embassy? I guess getting a British birth certificate could be handy…. erm… maybe.

I’m also interested in the wording used by the British Embassy when they say “they may be asked to renounce British nationality.” Could this mean that there’s a chance the law will be changed within 20 years and dual nationality will be allowed? Hmm.. if anyone reading this blog has had personal experience with choosing the nationality of their child, I’d love to hear from you.

It’s starting to feel a bit weird, you know, being British even though my life is Japanese. I was reading TV in Japan‘s post titled Man In Rabbit Suit Plays Giant Pinball Game with Bowling Balls, and even though Gavin described the show as completely absurd, I actually watched it when it aired on TV and thought it was… normal. So, perhaps Japan has become so familiar to me that what I now perceive as normal, my fellow foreigners think is absurd. Cripes!

When I retire, having spent my entire working life in Japan, I doubt I’ll have any connections with the U.K. at all, with the exception of my brother. So, as a 65-year old lifer in Japan, who by that time will probably have forgotten English, perhaps it would make sense to renounce my British nationality and become a Japanese citizen. Of course, I’ll need to choose a Japanese name, and I’ve been thinking quite hard about that:

Me: Hi. How are you? I’m Toshinobu.

Man: …

Me: Um…. but you can call me Nick?

Man: …Ah…Nikku-san! How do you do? Are you American? How you like Japan? Chopsticks, ok? Japanese food, ok?

I’m sure I’m thinking too much about this. Perhaps I’ll wait twenty years and let Peanut decide his or her own nationality, and I’ll just see which one works best for him or her.

22 comments

  1. Mike

    mmmm I know the child is supposed to choose which nationality they want when they become 20 years of age but to be honest would Japan really know if the child kept their British citizenship? I don’t think that they would and I think there are quite a number of people in Canada who are Japanese by birth but have Canadian citizenship and have just kept it a secret… woooo seeeeecccrrrrrreeeeeeeetttssss!!!!!!

  2. La Flor

    not that i have children, but i strongly believe you should make sure that Peanut has 2 nationalities up until he’s 20. oh, and i *really* hope that your name will be registered somewhere on his/her documents. you never know what can happen.

    p.s. Japan doting husbands

  3. nick

    Thanks La Flor, that certainly seems like the sensible thing to do. “Japan doting husbands” is a good read. It’s funny when it says he “recently started calling his wife by her name instead of grunting at her” !!! Classic.

  4. Mum

    Dad and I have been reading your blogs. They are very entertaining.
    With regards to Peanut’s nationality, I think she should be dual.
    Lots of love
    Mum and Dad

  5. Nick

    Wow, mum and dad! I didn’t know you read my blog! This is a pleasant surprise! Dual nationality definitely seems to be the way to go, at least for 20 years.

  6. Johan

    Rumors say that that law not allowing dual citizenships will be changed in the coming years. So you might be lucky that your child never even have to make that choice when the time comes.

  7. Michael Jolliffe

    would Japan really know if the child kept their British citizenship?
    *****
    The Japanese passport renewal form specifically asks if the applicant has any other nationality.
    As for the usefulness of claiming British citizenship, it does of course allow British citizens to work anywhere in the European Union, which could be an advantage in an increasingly globalised world.

  8. nick

    Thanks for that Michael. There are various pros and cons, but at least we’ve got 20 years to make a decision, one that Rikuto will no doubt make himself. Yep, it’s a boy and we’re going to call him Rikuto.

  9. Michael Jolliffe

    Congratulations on the forthcoming happy event.

    Our eldest has recently reached 18 – which makes him legally an adult in Europe. He has always used his Japanese passport when travelling to Japan (2-3 times a year since birth) and his British passport when visiting the UK and other European countries. He is now renewing his Japanese passport, and the authorities have amended the application form because there is now a question which specifically asks whether the applicant has another nationality.

  10. nick

    That’s interesting. So if the applicant answers ‘yes’, will he be denied a passport? What will your son’s answer be?

  11. Michael Jolliffe

    There is a further Catch-22. My son speaks Japanese at home but has only basic reading and writing skills, since all his education has been in English and French. He wants to spend a year at a Japanese university to study the language, but the universities don’t seem to be keen on accepting applications from Japanese citizens. His choice is therefore to accept Japanese nationality and be rejected from a language course because he is not a foreigner; or opt for another nationality, which then means he can study Japanese but has no right of abode in the country with which he most closely identifies.

  12. Michael Jolliffe

    Ah, but if he goes to a language school he does not qualify for my employer’s education allowance and health insurance. To continue receiving the fairly generous education allowance and to remain covered by the health insurance scheme, he must attend a university.

    What’s the Japanese for kafkaesque!?

  13. nick

    Wow, you sent my spam filter into a frenzy with that last question!

    That is a catch-22. I can only hope you’ll find a university that will accept him, otherwise he might be better off studying Japanese at a UK university. A 4-year sandwich course might include a year in Japan. I know that’s the case with French and other languages. Good luck Michael, I’m off to bed!

  14. Lisa

    Aloha!
    My name is Lisa and I am Japanese born and raised in Hawaii and do a lot of work with an organisation in the UK. (Reading, Berkshire to be exact) I have a 2 comments and a question. My comment is I love this conversational blog you have going Nick! My next comment is for Michael – (interestingly my son is Nicholas and my work partner in the UK is Michael) There is a University in Reading that is a Japanese university or affiliated with a Japanese university. Not sure if that will help your son’s language situation but just thought I’d add that in. And my question is – where can I find Japanese stuff in Reading or UK? I would like to send or have Michael either participate in or purchase some Japanese things for New Year. Like the good luck mochi or maybe even participate in it if they have any cultural things there???? I have been searching the net and cannot seem to find much in the UK. Also am looking for food they can buy to make and also a Daruma for business. Any clues?
    Hauoli Makahiki Hou! (happy new year in hawaiian)
    Lisa Akemi
    Oh, and FYI, in Hawaii New Years is celebrated mostly Japanese style since many of our traditions here are from the Japanese immigrants before Hawaii became a state.

    • Nick Ramsay

      Hi Lisa, thanks for the comment. I hope someone reading ths can answer your question, as I have no idea whatsoever! Sorry! Anyway, Hauoli Makahiki Hou! πŸ˜€

  15. Jay

    Hi

    Your birth certificate Nationality question.

    If you haven’t already done it, get the birth certificate. Your child will always be considered British, unless they specifically write a letter renouncing citizenship.

    Japan will never ask your child to renounce British citizenship as that would be construed as pressure by the British government and the British Govt will not accept pressurised renounciation of British citizenship as legally binding.

    So Japan has citizenship laws and asks people to abide by them, but they are very unlikely to really push your child to abide by them, as they can’t without upsetting half the governments of the world.

    • Nick Ramsay

      Thanks Jay, that’s interesting. I’ve been meaning to, but still haven’t gotten around to getting a birth certificate for him, even though he’s one-year-old now! I must pull my finger out and do that.

      • Michael Jolliffe

        It is easy to register a birth at a British diplomatic representation (embassy or consulate) and to get a birth certificate stating that the child is British. You can then apply for a British passport on behalf of the child. If the child has been officially British for most of his life, there is unlikely to be any problem when he becomes an adult.

        Another point to remember is that, although you can pass on your British nationality to your child, he will not be able to do the same for any children unless they are born in the United Kingdom. Your grandchildren may not be British.