Fujimori's Father Registered Son in Japan
By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service
TOKYO, Nov. 22 –– For 10 years as president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori
appears to have harbored a quiet little secret: He was registered for citizenship
father's home in Japan.
That secret might now be the key to his chosen refuge after he was forced
from the Peruvian presidency. Although the legalities are far from clear,
claim citizenship in Japan, an extraordinary move for a former head of state.
But that decision could cost him his Peruvian citizenship.
Fujimori, 62, who abandoned the presidency this week while holed up
in a Tokyo hotel, has told reporters he intends to stay in his parents'
homeland "for a long
Government officials here say he has not applied for asylum, but that
may not be necessary. Reports from his parents' home town in southwestern
Fujimori's father, a tailor who immigrated to Peru before the birth of his son in 1938, registered the boy's Peruvian birth in the ancestral family registry in Kawachi,
"As long as the name is registered there, we regard that person as having
a Japanese nationality," said an official at the Justice Ministry's office
But the case is not that clear. Japan does not officially permit dual
citizenship, and Fujimori cannot technically claim both Japanese and Peruvian
to Kazuhiro Nakamura, an official at the Justice Ministry's civil affairs bureau in Tokyo.
In practice, many foreign-born Japanese secretly keep two passports--"We
don't intervene," Nakamura said. But in Fujimori's high-profile case, it
would be difficult
to ignore the Peruvian citizenship of the former president.
"Because he was president of another country . . . he does not have
eligibility of Japanese nationality," argued Naoya Wada, a private immigration
lawyer. "There is
no possibility he is a Japanese national."
But others disagree, saying Fujimori could claim Japanese citizenship
with few complications and little opposition from the government. Japan
remains indebted to
Fujimori for his bold rescue of 72 hostages held by a rebel group in the Japanese ambassador's home in Lima in 1997.
Fujimori entered Japan with a diplomatic passport Friday, ostensibly
on a stopover from an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Brunei.
Officials here said
today he may remain in Japan on that visa until May, even though his diplomatic status was stripped by his resignation and the subsequent vote by the Peruvian
parliament to oust him from office as morally unfit.
Fujimori has long viewed Japan as a haven, and he still has supporters here.
"We think he did a great job. If he had a chance to come to our town,
we would welcome him with a warm heart," said Hisayuki Nakagawa, who heads
a group in
Kawachi that fosters ties with Peru.
Officials say 2,773 Japanese have immigrated to Peru from Kumamoto,
a depressed area on the southwest tip of Japan. Fujimori's parents were
among the first
trickle of immigrants who sought business opportunities there. Fujimori's father, Naochi, left for Peru in 1934; he died in 1971. Fujimori's mother remains in Peru,
where her son grew up, attended university and eventually burst onto the political scene.
When Fujimori took office 10 years ago, Kawachi and other towns in the
prefecture celebrated what they said was the first person of Japanese ancestry
president of another country.
Since then, the local Peru association has organized fundraisers and
sold phone cards to maintain ties. Last spring, the association sent eight
rehabilitated fire trucks to
Peru. It has also contributed money to build a hospital and a school.
Fujimori has a son who runs an export business in Tokyo, a brother-in-law who is Peru's ambassador to Japan, and other, more distant relatives here.
"After he became president, we haven't had any contact with him," said
Kyo Minami, 81, who lives in Ube, western Japan, and is married to an uncle
of Fujimori. "I
feel sorry for him. He had many accomplishments as president, but the end is very sad."
Fujimori said nothing publicly today about the opposition-led Peruvian parliament's decision to reject his resignation and oust him on grounds of moral unfitness.
Since his arrival in Japan, Fujimori has remained largely secluded in
an elegant Tokyo hotel, but he left the hotel today, reportedly to stay
with unidentified friends. He
spoke to reporters briefly Tuesday night.
"I want to go back [to Peru] someday, but I don't know when," he said.
"But I have some reasons that I cannot explain right now . . . they are
reasons that may be
difficult for the public to understand.
"I should be here for a long time," he added. "I am going to the Foreign Ministry to make it official."
Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said they have not been contacted by Fujimori and do not know what he meant.
According to various observers, Fujimori could have a variety of legal
options to stay in Japan. Aside from a childhood claim to citizenship based
on his father's
registry, Fujimori could ask for preferential consideration to become a citizen as the child of a Japanese immigrant.
He also could apply for refugee status--the Japanese equivalent of political
asylum, granted to about 10 people a year. Or he could request some sort
of work visa,
which would not endanger his Peruvian citizenship.
Japan's government, however, might be wary of offending the next government in Peru, which has a large community of Japanese immigrants and their descendents.
"We can foresee diplomatic pressures being brought, and we must see how the Japanese government will deal with it," Wada said.
Special correspondents Akiko Yamamoto and Shigehiko Togo contributed to this report.