9 Philippine 'Nikkei-jin' eye Japanese citizenship

By Ronron Calunsod, Kyodo News

Posted at Aug 07 2013 12:23 AM | Updated as of Aug 07 2013 08:23 AM

MANILA - Nine second-generation Filipino-Japanese will fly to Tokyo on Wednesday to try their luck in acquiring the citizenship of their Japanese fathers.

Their five-day trip includes appearances at a Tokyo Family Court for interviews by judges on their formal petition, said Yuka Kanamaru, officer-in-charge of the Philippine Nikkei-Jin Legal Support Center, a nonprofit organization that has been helping Filipino-Japanese get Japanese citizenship since 2006.

The center identified the nine as Saide Takihara, 72; Francisca Tapales, 81; Oligario Nagata, 67, all from Davao in Mindanao; Antonio Takara, 68, from Baguio City in the northern Philippines; Jovani Kiyama, 67, from the central Philippine province Iloilo; Jovita Santos, 67, from Manila; Inia Blah, 79, from the southern province Sarangani; Hibico Ancheta, 68, from the northern province Ilocos; and Rogelio Kimura, 69, from Nueva Ecija Province.

"I have a strong feeling that my petition to become a Japanese citizen will be granted now. I have prepared for this during the last 29 years," Kimura, who filed his petition in 2010, said while showing photos of his father.

Kimura identified his father as Kiichiro Kimura, from Hiroshima, who arrived in the Philippines in 1936. The elder Kimura was repatriated to Japan after World War II, leaving his family behind.

"I am very excited about this trip because after 29 years of searching for my father, the time has come for me to finally see his birthplace. And I would have been much happier if I'd see him. But I have been told he died in 1995. Nevertheless, I look forward to meeting my four half-siblings there," Kimura said.

Ancheta, whose father, Hikichi Suzuki, was said to be a captain in the Imperial Japanese Army during the Japanese occupation, said Japanese citizenship will not only complete her identity, it will also help her improve her family's living conditions, a change that would be shared by her eight companions.

"I want my grandchildren to have the opportunity to work in Japan because life here in the Philippines is very difficult. Some of my grandchildren have graduated from college, but they remain jobless," she said.

Kanamaru said most of the petitioners have lived difficult lives because they were deprived of a good education when their Japanese fathers left, and they were discriminated against after the war.

"Of course, it is important for them emotionally and mentally. But also, if they get Japanese nationality, their children and grandchildren can apply for a long-term residential visa. So, it will benefit their lives economically," she said.

Nagata said that if the opportunity comes, his children who are now working in Saudi Arabia would be willing to transfer and find jobs in Japan.

Kanamaru said the Japanese family court has so far granted the petitions of 95 Filipino-Japanese since 2006 and continues to hear more than 50 other cases.

More than 100 other cases are being prepared by Kanamaru's center and the Nippon Foundation.

"We think that the Japanese court is a bit strict or somewhat slow in making decisions. Although, so far, this year, we have seen more approvals than two years ago or so. So, we are hopeful that they will be granting more," Kanamaru said.

She underscored the urgency in acting fast on the petitions because of the old age of the petitioners.

The center estimates there were around 3,000 second-generation Filipino-Japanese, of whom, nearly 900 were not officially registered with the Japanese government due to their disrupted lives after the war.

Most of the fathers of the second generation arrived in the Philippines before wartime and married local women.