Tuesday, February 18, 2003



There I was defending Japanese probity just a few posts ago, and at just about that time Yokohama City goes and issues a Juminhyo (Certificate of Residence) to a sea lion. The lucky new resident, nicknamed Tama-chan, was given residency because he has been seen of late frolicking in and basking along a local river. I myself, however, who also occasionally frolic, though I bask less than I used to, can't get a Juminhyo no matter how cute I am, because I'm a foreign alien. Our Juminhyo has to be in my wife's name, since she's the Japanese in the family.

In officially listing the members of Japanese families, the Juminhyo (feudal holdover from the Tokugawa era, when everyone was tracked very carefully, the wet dream of every government since the dawn of time) gives the family unit official status (as though families derive legitimacy from governments!). The irony in granting residency to a marine mammal is that terran mammals such as foreign national and ethnic homo sapiens within Japan are forbidden by law from appearing on Juminhyo. Members of the international community here cannot get Juminhyo; and "mixed-race" (laughable concept) family units lack full official recognition.

The government recently expanded the list of Juminhyo-able kanji characters that can be used for naming children, if you can imagine such a thing, all you freely naming folks in other countries to whom such a thing as a government-approved name for your child, not to mention family certification, is anathema (bet the Dubya crew would LOVE to have a Juminhyo system). But the rather malleable populace here seems to be quite pleased at this governmental largesse.

There are even second- and third-generation Chinese and Korean residents of Japan who cannot get Juminhyo (not that they all want one, but still...). Hence foreign spouses appear in their Japanese spouses' Juminhyo as "missing." Thus the children of such unions are officially illegitimate, and if the Japanese spouse (holder of the Juminhyo) dies, the children are listed as orphans. Unless, of course, they're sea lions.

(For greater and more accurate detail on the current status quo of this and other aspects of de jure life in Japan, check out this very informative site.)

And visit this site to take part in the Friends of Tama Chan Celebration!!

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