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Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Renting and dual nationality

In Japan, "truth" is often a very nebulous concept. A "situational ethics" approach to life here directly affects law and gives birth to the "don't ask, don't tell" attitude, which is pervasive in Japan.

I remember years ago when my mother found out that our home was built illegally. She insisted that we "turn ourselves in."

My father dutifully went to the city office and the man patiently tried to inform us that 80 percent of all the homes in Tokyo are technically "illegal," that is, built on more land than the law actually allows.

Unofficially he told us that "turning ourselves in" would be tough for us because it would make things hard for our neighbors. We insisted and a few days later a guy arrived on a bicycle, stood in front of our house and declared it "illegal."

He then bowed and rode off.

Dual nationality

Reader A. visited Justice Ministry Web site and discovered it states that nationality need not be chosen until the age of 22.

The Web site says people with dual nationality are required to submit a form to the ward office declaring a decision to keep Japanese nationality and proof of loss of the foreign nationality.

A.'s daughter is now 19, but he doesn't want to draw attention to her dual nationality by making inquiries at the city office. A. wonders if officials will come looking for his daughter if she hasn't declared her chosen nationality on time? He also wonders under what circumstances she might lose her Japanese nationality and what will happen at times when her family register is looked at, for example on issues of marriage, birth and inheritance?

In answer to A.'s question; first, nobody will "come looking" for anyone. The only way to lose Japanese nationality is if you do not turn in the record of a birth within three months.

At the same time, since it is on the books, the government can at any time, if it so chooses, enforce a "one nationality" clause, although this has never been enforced since the law was changed in 1985 and the tens of thousands who fit into this category is a very large number of people to tackle.

Your family register only includes details relating to family members who are "Japanese."

There is no family register for foreign residents.

A.'s daughter will be registered on her mother's family register as Japanese, so there is no problem with any changes she may make in the future.

A good place to go for more details on this is is www.crnjapan.com/citizenship/en/

For problems with this issue, you can get help directly by calling Mr. Nakai at (03) 6402-7654.


Reader X. heard from a housing agent that it is common practice in Japan for the owner of a property to hold on to one of their tenant's door keys. Is this true, she wonders. Or is it legal?

On this topic, we checked with our ever-reliable legal expert, Mr. Watanabe. His answer was very "Japanese."

Technically, the owner or manager can have a spare key. According to the law, this is to enable him or her to enter the apartment in the case of an emergency or under "unusual circumstances" -- though defining these can be pretty difficult, as you can imagine.

As a rule of thumb, it is best to assume that the landlord can enter at any time -- and probably does from time to time.

When you are in the apartment, it is best to always use the "inside lock."

I remember staying late in an office and being shocked to see the landlord enter with a flashlight and check the place out with no qualms whatsoever.

Do any of our readers have experiences with this? Please, let us hear from you.

Ken Joseph Jr. directs The Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com or on (0570) 000-911

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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