Encouragement for second-generation Filipinos of Japanese descent [2008/01/16]
Davao, the Philippines
On November 25, Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation visited two second-generation Filipinos of Japanese descent to offer encouragement in their bid to achieve Japanese citizenship. In the chaos that followed the end of World War II, people with Filipino mothers and Japanese fathers were often unable to attain Japanese citizenship, and today the Japanese government has yet to recognize many of them. The Nippon Foundation supports these individuals in their bids for citizenship and accordingly, during his visit Sasakawa called for Japan to recognize them as Japanese citizens during their lifetimes.
Sasakawa visited Hiroko Shinabara (age, 76; Filipino name: Francisca Maravilias) and Tomiko Sakagawa (estimated age, 71; Filipino name: Ilenia Ongei), who live in the Davao City district of Calinan. (Photo 2: Hiroko Shinabara)
According to the Tokyo-based Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center, which provides support to such people, Ms. Shinabara was born in 1931 in the Davao City district of Toril, as the first daughter of a Japanese father and a Filipina mother. Her father died of an illness when she was seven years old, and after the war her mother also died while fleeing through the mountains with her children. She lost all means of proving the identity of her Japanese father. Ms. Shinabara only remembers her father being called "Bara-san." However, recently her baptismal certificate was discovered in a church, showing her father's name as “Shinaba-Shinaisu,” from Nagasaki.
Two of Ms Shinabara’s three siblings have already passed away, and today she lives with her youngest brother, Eustacio (age, 70). A woman of few words, Ms. Shinabara said, "Although I used my Filipina name to hide the fact that I was Japanese, I have always thought of myself as Japanese because my father was from Japan. I would like to receive Japanese citizenship as soon as possible."
Tomiko Sasagawa was born in 1936, as the oldest of five siblings, to Mitsuhiro Sasagawa (a Japanese carpenter) and a Bagobo mother. Drafted to work on construction of an airfield during the war, her father died in bombing by the U.S. military. After marrying a Filipino man at age 19, Ms. Sasagawa has been blessed with eight children and lives today with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She can write her name in Japanese, and a number of acquaintances have testified that she is the daughter of a Japanese man. (Photo: Tomiko Sasagawa)
Although without a doubt both of these women were Japanese under the Family Registration Law of the time, which recognized children's citizenship based on that of their father, it is difficult for them to attain such citizenship under current circumstances without knowledge of their fathers' family registration. For this reason, application for Japanese citizenship has proceeded using new family registers. In October, the Tokyo family court for the first time approved the Japanese citizenship to two second-generation Filipinos of Japanese descent who were unable to identify their fathers. According to the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center, 53 such people, including Tomiko Sasagawa (who applied in August), are awaiting court judgment, and a further 20 persons plan to apply by the end of this year.