How many Americans in Japan take Japanese citizenship, and then, don’t give up their American passport?

The number must be quite high.

As you might know, the United States government publishes a list, in the Federal Register, of U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship.   When an American takes Japanese citizenship, he or she is not required to renounce their American one.   (You can be a dual citizen.)    BUT, the Japanese require that you only have one citizenship.

The American Embassy is supposed to make inquiries when it learns that a U.S. citizen has voluntarily obtained a foreign passport; but, it seems, they never do, unless it’s for a Cold War country or something.

Here is the latest quarterly publication by the federal government, by the way.   I am waiting to see if I know anyone on May’s list.

Several years back, I met an American who was waving a Japanese passport around at an Eikaiwa.   For some time now, when I’ve seen the quarterly list, I’ve looked for his name.   It’s never there.    It’s a common name, so you might figure that maybe it would appear there, and not be him.    But even so, the common name just never shows.

By my figuring, this man has been able to live in Japan, as a citizen, for over six years, while still being an American citizen!   This is supposed to be a total no-no by Japanese law, but, I guess, it’s just one more way where the foreigner community in Japan rewrites things for its own benefit.

It may be, that the fellow has gotten away with it by keeping a low profile.   Except–if it’s the same person, his later Eikaiwa school got destroyed in the March 11, 2011 tsunami.

[Update 4/1/12:    Per the comment thread below, this is the same person whose picture appeared on KVAL-TV in Eugene, Oregon, last year, right?   Did you even bother to click the link above?

I’m just curious:   how does someone obtain Japanese citizenship and not give up their U.S passport?    A lot of Eikaiwa workers would want to know.   It’s a fair question.

[Update 4/3/12:   Wasn’t I just talking recently about foreigners writing their own rules in Japan?]

[Update 2/26/2014: Someone writing as Chris responds:

You raise a very good question on your blog.
But you have the wrong person. I hold and have always held a US passport! I do not have a Japanese passport! I have never had a Japanese passport. My children have both.
It would be very nice of you if you could fix the story on your blog.
Also my school was in shambles because of the earthquake not the tsunami. ( I look pretty rough in that picture…)
Have a great day!

I stand by the original material. This Chris Campbell, who at the time was involved in casual English teaching, was circulating a Japanese passport at an Eikaiwa event in Nishi Nippori sometime around 2006 or 2007. Several trustworthy Japanese had shared that with me. It is no surprise that someone would maintain a US passport. So I won’t change the original posting, but will include the statement above. If the passport did not belong to Mr. Campbell, that is, of course, some separate thing.]

23 thoughts on “How many Americans in Japan take Japanese citizenship, and then, don’t give up their American passport?

  1. Instead of putting up a photo of the fellow and making his name a tag, you could just leave him with his dignity and privacy.

    1. Privacy? Did you click on the link to KVAL television in Oregon? A good part of the state saw his picture on television after the earthquake and tsunami hit last year.

      It’s a fair question: how many Americans get to pick up Japanese citizenship, and not have to turn their old (i.e. American) passport in? How’s that a question of “dignity”?

      1. Hi Hoofin,

        I agree that the original question is a good one.

        That said, I think being in the news as the victim of one of the worst tragedies in recent memory does not make him a public figure. It would make more sense to use his name to illustrate the impact the tsunami had on teachers in Japan.

        My point is that this guy probably doesn’t want people poking into his private business. You obviously understand that because you don’t publish your personal information on your blog. Just because you were able to use publicly available information (which was interesting btw) to reveal someone’s passport status, doesn’t mean you should.

        I vaguely recall you saying in previous posts that some other blogs were attacking people without merit. I don’t see how this unsolicited exposure is any different than the unwarranted attacks you previously spoke against. Truth is a defense in court, but what is the upside of potentially hurting this guy in your blog?

        1. No, he’s obviously not a public figure, “Be Nice”, but I really wonder whether you believe that one’s citizenship is a purely private matter, esp. when it comes to naturalization. You don’t know what steps or statements this person may have made, after he took Japanese citizenship, that tend to argue against your, um, construct of sorts, whether it is OK to talk about whether Chris Campbell has the Japanese passport, and just how much privacy should attach to that. We’ll capture that under your overall pitch of “Be Nice”, by which you seem to be saying “don’t ask questions or discuss the matter”. That, if someone grabs a Japanese passport, and never turns their US passport in, it is not a concern of anyone else but the Japanese government and that particular individual, which I don’t think that you think is even true.

          It isn’t solely an issue for Japan, either. After all, there is this Congressional statute: Simply because the State Department has decided not to follow up with people who voluntarily grab the Japanese passport, doesn’t mean it isn’t an issue of public concern here in America.

          There are many Japan-side Americans who would love to just get a Japanese passport, and keep their American ones as insurance. So if Mr. Campbell has figured out a way to do this, why should that get to be secret? Who’s being moral here?

          1. I am also curious to know whether you feel that citizenship is a private fact in Japan, or a public one?

            1. I’m not sure. It might be a public fact in the sense that records might be publicly available. But I would consider it a person commitment to the state. I know lots of people who take Japanese citizenship, but I don’t because I don’t feel a strong emotional connection to the country.
              Most of the people I know who take citizenship in Japan don’t give up their other passport. Why would they?

            2. So you bottom line it. It isn’t about “being nice”, it’s about an alternative rule for foreigners in Japan. The koseki national registration used to be entirely public. As I understand it, around 2008, the Japanese government started to put limits on what material can be released from it. (I think that the fact that the person is registered in one is still public.)

              So there are “lots of people” who are taking Japanese citizenship, and, you say, it should be based on a person’s commitment to the nation. The emotional connection, something really, really subjective. Yet the yardstick that the Japanese use for this commitment—one gives up the other passports, the other citizenships—is outright rejected.

              Hmmm. I have to think about this some more, because you seem to be saying things that are inconsistent: “I (i.e. someone) want to be a citizen of your country, but I want to make up exceptions to your laws.”

          2. You’re right that I don’t know what statements or actions this fellow may have made. I’ve never met him as far as I know. My point is that you could have written your blog and made all the same valid points without dragging his name or personal circumstances into it. He could have been “a guy I know”.

            I do think it is between the government and the individual. When did you get deputized? Do you have a badge we don’t know about? If the State Department doesn’t seem to care all that much, why should you?

            Besides, if he keeps dual citizenship then he may be obligated to pay taxes in the future. Even if they don’t earn enough to pay income tax now, he could still end up paying inheritance tax.

            1. Sure, we can always leave facts out. Then, it becomes “I know about someone who” on some matter of public concern, and by not saying who, any number of readers can say, “this could just be a made-up story”. I think that seeking out a Japanese passport is a matter of public concern if you do not turn your U.S. passport in. Why? Because a lot of people there would do this. You can get PR after 10 years, but apply for citizenship after five. Hmmm. Ten years, five years . . .

              If one person can do this without disadvantage, why shouldn’t everyone similarly situated get the same deal?

              It’s not just this one individual. If you are a longtime reader of mine, I broached the same issue with Chris Savoie when he was in the news. He explained that the Japanese let him keep both, because of a US rule concerning high net worth people who expatriate. That was, of course, second hand. But, at least, there was some credible reason behind that Chris’ (Chris Savoie’s) being dual for Japan. What’s this Chris’ one?

  2. —–I guess, it’s just one more way where the foreigner community in Japan rewrites things for its own benefit.—-

    Sure. I do it all the time.

    **** the Japanese govt. and while you`re at it **** the Obama admin. too!

  3. I wouldn’t put too much faith in the Federal Register list as a source of 100% veritas. That list is known to consistently have misspellings, omissions, and duplicates in it. The reason for this is probably because the process, even now, is very manual and there’s not enough people to implement a consistent process.

    More info on this at

      1. They are the equivalent. Certain persons went around the internet a year or two ago, trying to convince the inquiring reader that there was some legal difference in calling a renunciation a “relinquishment”. The fact is, once someone has sought out another citizenship which would put his/her US citizenship in conflict, they’ve renounced. The Federal Register doesn’t update because apparently there is a game going on between State and Treasury, where individuals who request to be left off the list are accommodated. This is despite what the statute, and the statutory intent, envisioned.

        1. Not at all. I relinquished my US Citizenship. I would NEVER renounce it. It’s not just some dude online, it’s the US government. If you go to their site, or just read US law, renouncing and relinquishing are two totally different processes. Even an online dictionary can explain to you the difference of these two concepts.

          For example, naturalizing in a foreign country means you never have to relinquish your US citizenship. The fact is, particularly in the case of Japan, you have already lost your US citizenship. So you cannot renounce it. You must relinquish it.

          Tina Turner, as another example, a naturalized Swiss, relinquished her US citizenship. There was no need to renounce, as there was nothing to renounce. Only relinquish, as she had already lost her US citizenship by becoming Swiss.

          1. Yes, this is some old stupid technical argument, put out there by the guy who picks fights or wants to engage in long diatribes with Japan-expat-issue internet commenters. He was going back and forth with a fellow blogger I met in Japan while I was there this summer. I quickly filled his latest target in. The last I had dealt with him (April 2013), private criminal complaint deatils were lodged here at my county courthouse in Pennsylvania. He went away.

            There are two concepts, but they are fundamentally the same thing. This person was trying to say that “relinquishment” is somehow of a different nature than renunciation. But the end result is the same thing. The person has given up his/her US citizenship. I think Hogden Law has said the same thing at their website, and maybe he can go hassle them.

  4. I wonder how it is possible to have both Japanese and foreign nationality at the same time. In my case, several years ago, everything was prepared ready for my Japanese nationality. But the final requirement was that the responsible office of the country of my foreign citizenship in Europe sends a legally verified document that by foreign citizenship has ended. Only then I was registered to be a Japanese citizen. Therefore, I see it quite impossible to keep a foreign citizenship alive while having Japanese citizenship.

  5. American citizenship exists in two ways. Either you’re born in America or you became naturalized. If you get Japanese citizenship, you have to give up American citizenship only if you’ve gained American citizenship through naturalization. Usually people who are naturalized citizens of America in Japan don’t want to give up their passports or American citizenship because it’s a lot harder to acquire it than it is to get Japanese citizenship. And the fact that the Japanese are just so pig ignorant of “gaijin” and subtly racist toward foreigners, it’s no surprise if they don’t want to sell out to Japan entirely.

    However, for the second way, which is being born in America, you’re a permanent citizen. Even if you publicly give up your American citizenship at an embassy in Japan, if you were born in America then the government has no right to take away anything pertaining to your rights, freedoms, or citizenship thereof. They won’t recognize your Japanese citizenship or they simply won’t care, but it won’t matter because you can become a Japanese citizen while retaining your American citizenship. I am studying to be an English teacher, and it is very likely that one day I will travel to Japan and enter into the JET program there, and it is likely I will acquire my Japanese citizenship.

    However, it is stupid and folly to think that I will abandon my citizenship to the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of the planet for a nation whose landmass is smaller than my state. It is also stupid and folly to expect me to throw away my passport when my American citizenship is permanent from birth. I do believe there are MANY Japanese “gaijin” living in my country right now who want to soak up the benefits of living in America while still retaining their Japanese citizenship “back home” for when they want to return there.

    1. Once you give up your American citizenship, it is extremely difficult to get it back. Otherwise, you’d be hearing about people flipping in an’ out of the American passport. It just doesn’t happen.

      Also, be careful of these people, mouthing off on the internet, about how “relinquishing” your American passport is somehow different than “renouncing” your American citizenship. Both are the same—only with one, there’s a fee (the renunciation – $380). Certain persons are claiming that relinquishing your citizenship allows you to get it back “more easily” in the future. That’s a myth. Once you’re out, you’re out: born here or not.

      There is no “backdating” two years on a relinquishment, if Japan gives you two years to decide whether you want to keep the Japanese passport. You are American until you notify the State Department otherwise. Some (e.g. Christopher Campbell) never do.

    2. At no moment can you have two citizenships in Japan. If you think you can just keep your American citizenship and acquire Japanese citizenship at the same time, you are hugely mistaken.

    3. So how is that working out for you, Jake?
      It’s 2016 and I will bet you are nowhere near permanent residency let alone citizenship in Japan.
      Do you even know the first thing about acquiring Japanese citizenship? It’s damn difficult – some foreigners who speak good Japanese, have lived in Japan for 8 or 9 years in a row and paid everything can’t even get permanent residency. Good luck with the citizenship delusion.
      And yes, Hoofin is correct – you cannot have your cake and eat it too. There is no keeping your American passport ‘alive’ and functioning once you are a Japanese citizen. You can hide this from the authorities but as I write in 2016, the Jp authorities have found new ways to track everybody’s activities.
      And here’s a little something for the boys and girls who delude themselves they can merrily skip through the systems and do their own thing – once you have been in Japan for only 5 years of the past 10, Japan can tax you as a permanent resident.
      In doing this it doesn’t have to and won’t in most cases give you permanent residency with rights as in the US and other western countries. It just means you are treated like a permanent resident for tax purposes only.
      Yep, that means they can pry and probe into all your tax affairs back home. You have to list all your sources of income, foreign as well as Japanese. They now have special sections of the tax department devoted to scrutinising foreigners who have lived in Japan for that period and longer, especially those who send money home by wire/bank transfer.
      Hoofin – I don’t get all this crying about Uncle Sam from your fellow Americans. They can earn up to 80,000 bucks abroad – try that in other western countries. Sorry to have bumped this but I like your blog and wish you were still blogging from Japan.

      1. David, I appreciate your compliment and your commentary.

        I still am of the position that there is no way to keep both a Japanese and American passports, without running afoul of Japanese rules. The individual at the start of the post, who was doing eikaiwa work in Nishi Nippori around 2006/2007 apparently had both passports and then turned the Japanese passport back in after he got married (and therefore could obtain a marriage visa). Doubt he files (or filed) US taxes for all the years he was in-between countries.

        Frankly, I stopped blogging because I had too many things in my career and work going on, and the internet is highly unregulated. I became the victim of at least one crime, where authorities did some investigating but would not move on it, because of the nature of the crime. (If authorities pursued all the crime on the internet, they wouldn’t have time for the crime going on in RL. So, understandable, maybe. But the better approach would be to treat the internet as a tool of the crime, and treating it as if it happened without electronic aid.)

        Currently, I am resident both in Japan and America, and located wherever my company needs the work done. Right now, it’s America. But I have also been back in Japan for a number of times. I hope to be in Japan more, and US less.

        My key issues are defeating TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) and raising US awareness to all the unfair deals that happen when “our” negotiators strike deals with the Japanese.

  6. Take a copy of his US Passport and send it to the Ministry of Justice (Hommukyoku) along with a copy of his Japanese Passport, Juminhyo, Koseki Tohon, Juki Card, and his Inkan Shomeisho. If he had renewed his passport AFTER he acquired his Japanese Nationality, that would be grounds that he has NOT made an effort to renounce his US citizenship.

    1. I have a feeling this gentleman never turned the US passport in, but he was waving around a Japanese one at an Eikaiwa party in Nishi Nippori in the fall of 2006. However it resolved itself, it goes to lack of respect for one or the other country’s standards.

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