Japan is commonly regarded as a country that is closed against migrants. It does not allow their entries in a large size, granting restricted rights. As an attempt to understand this tendency, this research claims that Japan’s citizenship law, jus sanguinis (by ancestry) principle, sets a fundamental frame for its migration policymaking. To test this claim, it examines how the citizenship law influences attitudes of the general public as well as those of politicians. Specifically, Japan under a strong emphasis on blood ties is more likely to impose a restrictive migration policy, because (1) the general public tends to reveal a greater distance toward migrants (societal nature); and (2) migrant groups are excluded from electorate, and thus, politicians are less inclined to impose generous policies for them (electoral nature). In order to demonstrate these mechanisms, this research traces Japanese public attitude and political incentives, which have governed its migration policy until today.
Yu Jin Woo is a Japan Program Research Scholar at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC). Woo’s research interests are in the fields of international and comparative political economy, particularly migration policies and citizenship laws. Woo holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Virginia. She received her first master’s degree in international cooperation at Seoul National University and her second master’s degree in political economy at New York University. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies at Smith College.