The nationality clause (kokuseki jōkō) is a longstanding restriction on the employment of foreign residents to the local civil service, traditionally enforced by the Ministry of Home Affairs as a “natural principle of law.” In 1995, Governor Daijirō Hashimoto raised the first public challenge to this restriction, and between 1997 and 2001 eleven prefectures proceeded to eliminate the clause. While some of these prefectures have large foreign resident populations and a history of local opposition to the nationality clause, other prefectures lack both of these factors. Why, then, was the issue taken up in such rural prefectures as Kōchi, Tottori or Iwate?
In this latter set of prefectures, “reformist governors” initiated nationality clause elimination. In this presentation, I argue that the initial articulation of the nationality clause issue by Governor Hashimoto, which was echoed by his reformist cohorts in Tottori, Mie, Iwate and Nagano, represented a fundamentally liberal approach to the role of local government and central-local relations. Such a conclusion challenges existing descriptions of the reformist governors as a group of largely technocratic, non-ideological local leaders. At the same time, the reformists’ liberal position was limited. Indeed, while the reformist governors found resonance with Hashimoto’s original elaboration of the nationality clause issue, and with the wider political context of the mid-1990s, this ideological space is now disappearing, along with the issue of nationality clause elimination itself.
Kate Dunlop is a doctoral student at Sophia University’s Graduate Program in Global Studies.