The Japanese government has stepped up efforts to search for remaining second-generation descendants of Japanese nationals who were repatriated after World War II.
Minister and Consul General Hanada Takahiro recently flew to Palawan to provide assistance to the remaining descendants, or nikkei-jins, in acquiring Japanese citizenship.
Nikkei-jin is a term used to describe Japanese emigrants and their children who have established families and communities in countries like the Philippines.
Between the late 19th century and 1945, a wave of Japanese migration took place, resulting in marriages with Filipinos. The children and subsequent generations born from these intermarriages are known as “Philippine Nikkei-jin.”
At a media conference on Tuesday, Hanada said that many of these descendants have endured harsh living conditions during the prolonged post-war period due to a lack of proper identification and nationality.
He said the purpose of his visit was to provide humanitarian assistance to nikkei-jins who are in need but remain unrecognized or unidentified because they are still hiding.
He pointed out that the Japanese embassy in Manila is prepared to assist them in their application processes through the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center if they come forward.
“The problem is we cannot identify the exact number—that is why we are asking for help to spread the information all over the Philippines, not only in Palawan. We are trying to reach out to those second-generation who might still be living in rural areas,” said Hanada.
In a separate interview on Wednesday, Margarette Lumauag, President of the Palawan Nikkei-jins, said 12 descendants have already received approval for Japanese nationality, while five others from Linapacan are still awaiting to be interviewed.
“The nikkei families that remain waiting are in Linapacan. They are what Minister Hanada wants to visit because he wants to personally interview them,” Lumauag said.
Lumauag’s mother, Veronica Sabando, is a second-generation Fujimoto/Doden Masaru.
Cherry Togo, who was a second-generation descendant of Hideo Togo, became the first nikkei-jin from Palawan to be granted Japanese nationality in 2015. Lumauag said that Cherry’s petition had been approved prior to the establishment of the Palawan Nikkei-jin organization in the province.
The five descendants living in Linapacan were the second-generation relatives of Yuhara Mitaku and Morine Kamoto.
Hanada pointed out that, according to their post-World War II estimates, over 30,000 nikkei-jins are believed to have remained in the Philippines. As of April 2023, their efforts have been focused on assisting approximately 1,548 nikkei-jins in their journey to obtain Japanese nationality.
He emphasized the urgency of their efforts due to the advanced age of many second-generation nikkei-jins, with individuals in their 80s and 90s.
Hanada also recollected that about 4,780 individuals had unfortunately passed away before achieving Japanese citizenship.
“According to our estimation, we have approximately 400 to 500 second-generation nikkei-jins left in the Philippines. As time goes by, to my regret, those numbers are decreasing because they passed away,” Hanada explained.
The 17th survey for second-generation nikkei-jins in the country, with individual interviews for Japanese nationality acquisition, is scheduled for February next year in the Philippines. In Palawan, interviews will be conducted in Puerto Princesa City and the town of El Nido from January to February 2024.
In preparation for individual interviews, applicants are requested to present the following: birth certificates (or delayed registration), their parents’ (first-generation) marriage certificates (or delayed registration), affidavits from witnesses, baptismal certificates, statelessness certifications, records of captivity, photos indicating Japanese ancestry, academic transcripts from students years, intertribal marriage certificates, and other pertinent documents that could prove their claim.
In August of this year, the Philippines took a step to resolve a long-standing humanitarian problem by removing fines imposed on the descendants of Japanese migrants who were displaced by war.
This issue had left these Filipino Japanese descendants without a nationality for many decades, leading to their status as unauthorized residents in Southeast Asian host countries.