JAPAN: Will Naomi Osaka Pick Japanese Citizenship or American?

TALAL BUKHAMSEEN WRITES– Naomi Osaka, the number one ranked tennis player by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), is the first Asian person to hold the top ranking in singles. The winner of three grand titles is presently facing a challenge off the court–her dilemma? Her nationality.

As a dual-citizen, she has to decide whether she is to keep her Japanese passport or take up her American citizenry. As of her 22nd  birthday later this year, Osaka may no longer represent Japan in the Tokyo Olympics as long as she is a dual citizen. The Nationality Act of Japan requires individuals with multiple citizenships to choose one country once they reach the age of 22.

The brilliant young athlete was born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, and was raised in the US. She decided to represent Japan in competitions from an early age, with her story being symbolic of having a sense of belonging to one country and culture.

Bu as Japan continues to adhere to customs such as the Nationality Act created in the 19th century, its citizens are forced to abandon one of their legally held nationalities once they come of age. However, it is estimated that more than 80% of dual nationals are likely to try to hold onto their American citizenship.

While some countries around the globe allow their citizens to enjoy dual citizenship by virtue of birth or otherwise, those holding Japanese passports technically do not have that luxury. People who have become naturalized as citizens of a foreign country risk getting their Japanese passport revoked. The loss for Japan here is that the nation may lose out on the glory of being ranked tops in tennis if Osaka opts to forgo her Japanese passport.

The concept of dual nationality in Japan is a controversial topic as it has loopholes and it forces citizens to choose between family and career. The law is however not wholly clear on this as the government does not actively check on which individuals have dual citizenship and will still issue Japanese passports without enforcing the Nationality Act. Often enough,individuals who are not high profile or seeking government office can remain quiet and not have their nationality revoked. But Naomi is not exactly low profile.

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