Friday, April 07, 2006

Turning Japanese

And about time too. I finally got a call from the Legal Affairs Bureau on Wednesday afternoon to the effect that as of Tuesday 4th April, I am officially a Japanese citizen. Great – 2 birthdays in one week! I have to take a half day off next week to collect the official paperwork confirming this and then register at the town hall for my new ID to take effect, but at least the period of wondering which side the coin was going to fall on is over, and I can get back to work.

Not surprisingly, I don't feel particularly any different. I think it is going to take a while though for me to get used to using a different name, and leaving the house without carrying my alien registration card – a legal requirement for foreign residents on pain of arrest. With luck I may be able to get my driving licence reissued with my old name in parenthesis as a kind of pseudonym. I can explain to them that my bike and insurance is registered in the old name so it would save a lot of confusion and that might convince them, though the real reason is that it would be so handy to have photo ID for both names in case I need to pick up a parcel from the Post Office after hours – something which happens often.

While this is all fresh in my mind, I'm considering putting into an action an idea suggested to me by human rights activist Debito Arudou, a naturalised citizen like myself. As he's a fairly prominent figure, well known for wielding his citizenship like a blunt weapon, it's very easy for a lot of people currently on the fence to ignore the many benefits that naturalisation could potentially bring them. The site would be a politically neutral archive of information on various aspects of naturalisation such as merits and demerits, procedures etc., and more importantly a collection of interview style profiles of the various people that grew up outside Japan but chose to take citizenship. I wonder if footballers Alessandro Sandos and Ruy Ramos, politician Marutei Tsurunen, and the many naturalized Sumo champions would be willing to lend me their time? If you happen to be in contact with any, please ask them for me! I figure the more people that do this, the less unusual it will become, and the less unusual it becomes the better it is for everybody.