Japan may lose its first tennis superstar — Naomi Osaka. The 21-year-old currently holds U.S. and Japanese citizenship. However, by Japanese law, anyone with dual citizenship must choose whether they want to retain or give up their Japanese passport when they turn 22.
For Osaka, that moment-of-truth is coming up in six months — Oct. 16. Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father is Haitian, was born in Japan but spent most of her life in the United States. Although Osaka lives and trains in the United States, her father decided when she was young that she would represent Japan athletically because the family has “always felt Japanese.”
After her wins at the U.S. Open and Australian Open, she was celebrated in Japan. The country has never had a No. 1-ranked tennis player. If Osaka chooses to renounce her Japanese citizenship, it would renew the debate over the archaic law. Osaka’s success has also advanced the discussion in Japan over what being Japanese means, in a society where many mixed-race Japanese still face discrimination.
Other Asian nations that don’t allow dual citizenship include China, Laos, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Myanmar, and India.
While the United States does not favor dual citizenship (Rogers v. Bellei, 1971), it is not prohibited. And U.S. law does not require a dual national to elect one nationality over another.
It’s about time that all nations allow for dual citizenship. The diaspora has a lot to offer, but the worry of losing the citizenship of their country of birth can be an obstacle for people to actually contribute. The diverse and collective knowledge would be a huge resource.
Why not embrace and appreciate those who went away to improve their lives and are willing to return and share their skills they have learned overseas?
Officially allowing dual citizenship is a step toward acknowledging a more diverse and inclusive world.