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Tama-chan celebration


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Arudou picked up the Tama-chan issue (posted on Arudou's behalf):

PLUS A seeing-eye dog in Kyushu gets "honorary citizenship" last January
and a column on these events in the Saga Shinbun


"Friends of Tama-chan" will be celebrating said sealion's receipt of a
Japanese Residency Certificate (Juuminhyou) on Saturday, February 22, from
noon, where Tama-chan's river runs by Yokohama Station.

Come dressed as a seal (or face paints--seriously!) and bring (humorous!)
signs asking for a Juuminhyou for foreigners too. Information Site (check
this for further updates on exact location) at

The Community's Dave Gutteridge ([email protected]) is coordinating the event


The Japan Times did a bit on this on Feb 11. Link at
including the famous Tama-chan Gaijin Card

The IHT/Asahi and the vernacular Asahi Shinbun have also been in touch.

For those of you within the Hokkaido Broadcast footprint, STV (Nihon Terebi
Keiretsu) will be doing a two-minute segment on the issue between 6:20 and
6:50 tonight, Thursday, Feb 13. Tune in if you can.


A reporter friend of mine, Mr Edward Crandall, who writes in Japanese for
the Saga Shinbun in Kyushu, passes on a column he just wrote, as well as
important information on how the Japanese government procedurally refuses to
allow foreigners to become "residents" (juumin) in the official sense. Yet
a seeing-eye dog in Saga, it turns out, was also granted "honorary
citizenship" last month (to very little fanfare). Read on.

Forwarded message begins:

Delivered-To: [email protected]
From: Edward Crandall <[email protected]>
To: "Arudou Debito" <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: "Friends of Tama-Chan" celebration ("We can be cute too!")
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2003 14:44:10 +0900

Dear Arudou Debito,

Edward Crandall, writer and columnist for the Saga Shimbun down in Kyushu,
here again.

I too have been following the Tama-chan issue and I read with great interest
your recent emails on the topic. Please find attached to this email message
the English translation of my most recent column. (snip)

A bit of background: in January of this year a seeing-eye dog was given
"honorary citizenship" in the small town here in Saga Prefecture where he
and his owner live. I thought this was a bit much at the time, but not
wanting to sound like the "grumbling gaijin" that people already think I am,
I brushed the topic aside and decided not to write a column piece about it.
However, when the Tama-chan thing hit the news, it was a bit more than I
could bear (snip)

I went to the City Hall here in Saga City and spoke to the guy at the
"Gaikokujin Touroku Shoumeisho Kakari," and he very nicely and carefully
explained the whole legal background to the fact that we foreign-born
residents of Japan are denied basic legal paperwork. In very simple terms it
goes as follows below (forgive me if you already know all this). But
simplified as it is, it is still rather complicated; bear with me:

"A Certificate of Residency is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry
of Home Affairs and is issued based on information found in the Family
Register. Family Registers are under the jurisdiction of the Regional
Legal Affairs Bureau which in turn is under the jurisdiction of the
Ministry of Justice. Since foreign-born residents of Japan do not have
Family Registers issued in their names, there is no legal documentation upon
which to issue a Certificate of Residency. Instead, the Immigration Office,
which is also under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice,
issues to foreign-born residents of Japan their Certificate of Alien
Registration. So, from the Ministry of Justice's point of view, a
person is either Japanese, in which case he or she is issued a Family
Register through one of their sub-offices (the Regional Legal Affairs
Bureau), or a person is a foreigner, in which case he or she is issued a
Certificate of Alien Registration through a completely separate sub-office
(Immigration Office). It's an either-or situation as far as they are
concerned. And so from the Ministry of Home Affairs point of view, since
foreigners do not have a Family Register, there is nothing upon which a
Certificate of Residency can be issued." (snip)

So, while reading that did you bring to mind certain Kafka stories, as I did
while it was being told to me? Ah well, such is Japan.

One other note: As you can read in my column, Saga City is informing
foreign-born residents via mail of their right to have their name listed on
their Japanese spouse's certificate of residency. The guy at city hall who
explained all this to me was proud of the fact that Saga City was so
"progressive" in its efforts to "actively inform foreigners about this
unique service" (snip). I
didn't have the heart to point out to him that it only "solves" the problem
for those who are married to a Japanese national -- that is, legally
connected to a Japanese person -- and that unmarried foreign-born residents
are still without the same legal papers that Japanese are entitled to.

You have my permission to post on your webpage: a. the English translation
of my column, including the copyright notice, b. a link to and/or the
original Japanese version, and c. the contents of this email message. (snip)
I simply offer them for the entertainment and possible interest of your
readers. The original Japanese version is not yet up on the newspaper's
homepage; it usually takes about two or three days for it to get posted
there. Once it is posted, you may want to either link to it or copy and
paste the whole thing onto your webpage. You can find my writings by putting
my name in katakana. in the search field on the homepage's database.
Here is the link to that: http://www.saga-s.co.jp/pubs/KijiDB/searchx.html.

Keep up the good work.

Edward Crandall
Reporter and Columnist
Saga Shimbun Newspaper

The English translation of my column begins below:


Foreign-born residents around Japan are upset by the fact that the local
government of Nishi-ku in Yokohama City has given a "residency certificate"
to Tama-chan, the seal that has been sighted in a nearby river since August
of last year.

Even though everyone understands that Tama-chan's "residency certificate" is
just a joke, it is hard for foreigners to see the humor in an animal
receiving a residency certificate when they themselves -- humans -- are
legally barred from having one,

Foreign-born residents of Japan are legally prevented from obtaining both a
residency certificate and a family registry certificate. In place of these,
foreigners are issued a "certificate of alien registration" that serves as
proof of residency and the main form of ID.

While it is true that foreigners -- by definition -- do not have Japanese
citizenship, a residency certificate has nothing to do with one's
nationality and is simply proof of where "residents" reside. That's why
foreign-born residents of Japan feel that listing the foreign resident's
home country in the "permanent residence" blank of the residency form should
be sufficient for bureaucratic needs.

Saga City has been aware of this issue, and last August began mailing to all
eligible foreigners in the city information on how they can be listed on
their Japanese spouse's residency certificate.

While the efforts of the Saga City government are laudable, it would be
better if Japan were to become a country where foreign-born residents' human
rights were respected and they were afforded at least the same privileges as

Edward Crandall
Saga Shimbun Newspaper
February 12, 2003
English translation copyright 2003 Edward P. Crandall
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