Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Japan: Nationality Law Amended

(Dec. 17, 2008) The Diet (Japan's parliament) passed a bill to revise the Nationality Law on December 5, 2008. It was promulgated December 12 as Law No. 88 of 2008. Some parts of the amendment were effective upon the date of promulgation of the Law, and the rest will be effective 20 days later.

The unrevised Nationality Law states that a child can obtain Japanese nationality if the mother or father is a Japanese national at the time of the child's birth. (Law No. 147 of 1950, as amended, art. 2, item 1.) A child born out of wedlock to a Japanese father and a foreign mother cannot obtain Japanese nationality by birth, unless the father legally recognizes the child before the birth. If the father recognizes a child after the birth, the father was not legally the father at the time of the birth. Article 3 provides that, if the parents marry before the child reaches 20 years of age, Japanese nationality is given to the child.

The Supreme Court decided in June 2008, however, that article 3 of the Nationality Law has become unconstitutional, even though it was not so when enacted in 1984. After the issuance of the judgment, the government prepared the bill to amend the law. Under the bill, Japanese nationality is granted to a child whose father recognizes paternity after birth, whether or not the parents later marry.

After the bill was submitted to the Diet, many Internet users criticized the bill in online forums. They did not oppose half-Japanese children obtaining Japanese nationality; they are concerned rather that the amendment may lead to foreigners filing false claims of Japanese nationality if some Japanese men cooperate with them. Currently, there is no system to investigate suspicious filings. Some Diet members agreed with the criticism and expressed concern that the new system might make trafficking in women and children easier through the use of false nationality claims.

Both Houses of the Diet adopted resolutions to monitor the situation. The resolutions call on the government to report on the status of enforcement of the Law to the Diet every six months, to request an applicant to submit a photo of the father and the child, and to study a possible introduction of DNA analysis to confirm the parent-child relationship. (Revised Nationality Law Enacted, YOMIURI SHIMBUN [Yomiuri Newspaper], Dec. 6, 2008, available at