So this is how Tom Hanks' character in Terminal felt.
Apologies first off to anybody hoping for a heartrending story about some travesty of justice where a poor traveller is left stranded immobile in a foreign land without a place to call home. The revocation of my UK citizenship and the subsequent cancellation of my passport are in fact very positive things and entirely deliberate on my part. It's one of my worst kept secrets that for the past 18 months I've been applying for Japanese citizenship, and providing proof to the Minister for Justice that I owe allegiance to no other country is the final step in the application process before a decision is made (and from what I gather, the chances of anybody that has survived this far being turned down, are zero). It's just an amazingly ironic coincidence that the day I eventually decided I'd had enough of waiting for my proof of renunciation to turn up (applied for last July), a day spent constantly phoning and faxing the British Embassy, writing to the Home Office, negotiating with the Legal Affairs Bureau, and other important sounding but ultimately stressful stuff, was the exact same day that the piece of paper I'd been chasing eventually turned up (in the late afternoon post, of course). Now I just have to wait a few more months hoping I don't need to leave the country for any reason. It's close, but I can almost taste the banana.
Now I know what a lot of you are thinking – why on earth would somebody such as myself want to give up my British citizenship with all the perks of a European passport, in order to take citizenship in a country like Japan? It certainly wouldn't be the first time I was asked that, but there have in fact been occasions where my reasons were convincing enough to make other people choose to do the same thing. To be honest, I had considered naturalising a number of times but soon dismissed it because I wasn't keen on giving up my European passport, but then one day everything just made sense and I decided it was the thing for me.
First off, it's important to make the distinction between nationality, culture, language, physical appearance and sense of self. Nationality really is the odd one out there, as it probably has the least to say about you as a person. It's a legal status that opens some doors and closes others, and very little more. As somebody that plans to live here permanently, those doors that it opens are very important to me – doors such as the right to come and go without bribing immigration for permission, the right to live here permanently and work freely without requiring a visa, the right to vote, the right to legal protections guaranteed under the constitution that could be (and often are) interpreted to exclude foreign residents, the right to a full paper trail and legal identity which are especially useful when getting married and starting a family – international marriages are not fully recognised here, and the foreign party is legally invisible. The doors it closes – the ability to jump in the short queue at immigration on those odd occasions I go to Britain. Having citizenship also changes the attitudes of people around you. Foreign residents, no matter how long they stay, are always assumed to be guests, and are thus constantly subjected to less than welcoming questions such as "when are you leaving Japan?" and "can you eat Japanese fish?" Being a citizen is really the ultimate nullifying answer to all these questions, and it allows people to open themselves up a little more as it gives you an air of permanence. There are a lot of other minor perks like this too, which I'm sure I'll find out about once I'm accepted.
However, the most important reason to me personally is that I don't want to spend the rest of my life as a half-arsed tourist. If my British citizenship is so important to me, then what am I doing here? The feeling is probably best explained in terms of relationships. A guy and a girl get together, they get on great, so they move in together. They could live that way for the rest of their life, and many choose that option, but the majority then go the extra step of having their relationship publicly and officially legitimised by getting married. This is so much the norm, that not to do so is considered to be some sort of rebellion against the system. Those that have got married will generally confirm that while it hasn't necessarily changed the nature of their relationship, it most certainly is not without meaning. Even questions such as "what if we decide to live separately in the future" don't deter them. Likewise, the way I see it at least, if I'm to spend the rest of my life in a country I wasn't born in, then not taking citizenship when the option is available would seem as unnatural as not marrying somebody I planned to start a family with. I don't often say this, but Permanent Residency Visas are for half-hearted pussies that can't commit. In the blessed words of Jesus Christ himself, so then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Sadly though, many disagree on this point, frequently because they're blinded by their own misunderstanding as to the true nature of citizenship. Their loss I guess…
Update I have since been contacted and been informed that the process is complete and I am now a fully fledged Japanese citizen.