Please help Left Behind Parents Japan with their joint custody signature campaign.  A bilingual version of the petition is at the following link:


Foreign minister to take charge of locating kids in international custody rows

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s foreign minister will be responsible for collecting information on children abducted to the country by one of their parents in determining their whereabouts and settling cross-border custody disputes as a result of failed international marriages, according to newly compiled guidelines made available to Kyodo News on Sunday.

The guidelines compiled by the Foreign Ministry in preparation for Tokyo’s accession to an international treaty that sets procedures for the settlement of international child custody disputes state that the foreign minister can seek the help of local governments, police, schools, childcare facilities and shelters for abused people to determine the whereabouts of children in such cases.

The government is aiming to submit a bill to parliament in March to endorse the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and have it enacted during the 150-day regular parliamentary session to be convened Tuesday.

The bill will state that a central authority will be established at the Foreign Ministry to locate children wrongfully removed or retained by one parent and secure their voluntary return in response to requests made by the other parent, according to government officials.

The guidelines state that those requested by the foreign minister to provide information on abducted children will be required to do so “without any delay.”

The foreign minister could also inform parents abroad and their former spouses who have abducted children to Japan about the system of mediation by Japanese courts as a way to resolve their disputes, according to the guidelines.

The planned submission of the bill to endorse the Hague Convention based on the ministry’s guidelines is in line with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s pledge to U.S. President Barack Obama during their talks in November. Around 10 countries including the United States have been pressing Japan to join the treaty.

Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight major countries yet to join the convention after Russia acceded to it in July. At present, 87 countries are parties to the treaty, which came into effect in 1983.

(Mainichi Japan) January 22, 2012


Parental abduction in Japan


A dark side to family life in Japan

Jan 21st 2012 | TOKYO | from the print edition

THIS Christmas Moises Garcia, a Nicaraguan living in America, got the gift he had spent almost four years and $350,000 fighting for: the return of his nine-year-old daughter. In 2008 Karina was whisked away to Japan by her Japanese mother. He set about fighting in the Japanese courts for the right to see her. During that period, he met her only three times. Their longest meeting lasted for only two hours.

Then he had a stroke of luck. Last April Karina’s mother travelled to Hawaii to renew her green card. She was arrested at the airport and charged with violating Karina’s custody agreement. As part of a plea bargain, the mother relinquished Karina, who became the first child seized by a Japanese parent to be returned to America via the courts. (Feel sorry for Karina, in the middle of this tug-of-love.)

Because of such cases, America is one of many countries that has pressed Japan to honour its promise to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Japan proposes to do so this year. The convention sets rules for the prompt return to their normal country of residence of children under 16 who have been abducted by one of their parents. The State Department says Japan has about 100 such cases involving children of Americans. There are scores from other countries, too.

But for one category of parents—those living in Japan without access to their children—the Hague convention changes nothing. When parents separate, Japan’s legal system does not recognise the joint custody of children common in other jurisdictions. Instead, children are put into the custody of a single parent after divorce. The family courts usually grant custody to the parent, most often the mother, who at that particular moment is in possession of the child—even if the parent has abducted him. The courts rarely enforce the stingy visitation rights of the “left-behind” parent. And so many fathers, in particular, vanish altogether from their children’s lives. Every year as many as 150,000 divorced parents in Japan lose contact with their children, according to estimates gleaned from official data. Some do so of their own accord, but most have no say in the matter.

One such father, an ex-deputy mayor, describes the system as a conjugal version of the prisoner’s dilemma. He says that when a marriage starts to break down, the unspoken question is: who will seize the child first, the mum or the dad? In his case, she did. For two years he has had no contact with his four-year-old daughter—even his presents are returned unopened—and all with the blessing of the family court. When he reminded the judge that the civil code had been changed to encourage visitation rights, the judge silenced him.

Satsuki Eda, who as justice minister last year pushed through the change in the civil code, says he hopes it will lead to more generous visitation rights. It may, he also hopes, one day lead to a serious consideration of joint custody. But, he cautions, judges are conservative, finding it “very difficult to change their minds”. And so, in a cruel twist, a country that has long sought redress for the past abduction of a few dozen citizens by the North Korean state tacitly supports vast numbers of abductions each year at home. “Many people in my situation commit suicide,” the estranged father says. “I can understand the feeling.”

from the print edition | Asia

Below is a link to the notes by Bruce Gherbetti  from a meeting of members of the leadership of Left Behind Parents Japan with Yoshinori Oguchi, member of the House of Representatives in Japan, on Monday, January 16th, 2012.

Mr. Oguchi is a member of the New Komeito party, the third largest political party in the Diet, and he was a member of the MoFA committee which discussed modifying Japan’s civil code last fall in order to sign The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Here is a report of a January 11, 2012 meeting between former Justice Minister Eda and left-behind parents Masako Suzuki Akeo, Carlos Smith, and Bruce Gherbetti.

For anyone with children in Japan, this short film, “blind,” is very powerful, and very scary, as it doesn’t seem all that unrealistic to imagine.
This map by Japanese professor Yukio Hayakawa suggests that the nuclear contamination that came from Fukushima may be pretty widespread, including the Tokyo metropolitan region.


Comments delivered:  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tokyo, Japan, Jan. 6, 2012


Remarks to the Media at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Tokyo, Japan
January 6, 2012



ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, good evening everyone, and I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Let me just say, on behalf of my delegation, it’s wonderful to be back in Tokyo, in Japan. I’ve had a series of meetings today with my key interlocutors and others in the Japanese government. I’ve had a good opportunity to discuss issues of mutual concern with our excellent ambassador here, Ambassador Roos, and his team. Let me just say that we are enjoying an extraordinarily close period of partnership between the United States and Japan. We were able to review our progress last year in the outstanding meeting that took place between the Prime Minister and the President in Hawaii, and we reviewed our game plan going forward – areas that we need to enhance our cooperation. We talked in some detail about developments on the Korean Peninsula, and the need for close coordination between the United States and Japan and South Korea; we talked extensively about our mutual desire to see peace and stability, and to share information with all the key players, including China. In addition to these matters, we talked about a range of other issues of interest to the United States and Japan: our mutual efforts in Burma; our coordination in multilateral fora such as the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum. 

I also had a chance to visit the Justice Ministry. We reviewed the progress to date on the Japanese commitment to follow through on accession to the Hague Convention. The President, as you know, discussed this with the Prime Minister in Hawaii, and the Justice Minister spoke with us about next steps. We told him that we will be following closely issues associated with implementing legislation, and we want very much for that legislation to adhere to global norms in which Japan can work closely with other countries associated with issues associated with child welfare. We also underscored how important it will be for Japan to demonstrate progress on the existing cases. This is of enormous significance, importance, to us – and we want to work closely to ensure visitation, to ensure that the left-behind parents have the opportunity to interact with their children. We called on the Ministry and other key players to take the necessary steps. The United States has been very patient — we support this relationship very strongly — but we’re going to need to see some progress going forward.

I think with that, I’d be very pleased to take your questions. I only have a few minutes, but would be happy to answer questions going forward.

QUESTION: Did you discuss any details on the environmental assessment report on relocation of Futenma Air Base?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: We did, in some of our meetings, talk about the need to move forward on Futenma, and the submission of the report. I think we all understand the importance of making progress. I think it’s clear that yesterday, the President and Secretary Panetta underscored that even while the United States is making adjustments in its global military posture, we are intent on maintaining a very strong, enduring military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. And I just want to underscore that, overall, our commitment to the security of Japan and to regional security in Asia will continue. And we will also be taking steps to strengthen and diversify our security relationships around the Pacific.

QUESTION: Did you discuss any details about legislation on Iran sanctions, and how it’s going to affect Japan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes. The Japanese government has raised some concerns about this legislation. We understand some of the difficulties these raise for Japan and other partners. But I think we all share an interest in making sure that Iran is dissuaded from steps that lead towards unacceptable nuclear options.

QUESTION: About the North Korean issue: will the trilateral meeting with South Korea and Japan be held in Washington on the 16th of this month?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think we’ve agreed that we’ll be holding a meeting in the near future. I think the exact date, we are still coordinating among our partners.

QUESTION: There was a rumor in the Seoul stock exchange that there was an explosion in a North Korean nuclear facility. Did you hear anything about that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I haven’t yet. I’ve just heard that rumor, but I’ve heard nothing further. I can’t confirm or deny, and I just simply don’t know.

I’ll take one last question.

QUESTION: Is there any way that Japan can keep some of its Iranian oil imports, while avoiding the U.S. sanctions?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think I won’t get into further details beyond what I’ve already said, so I think, simply stated, we understand some of the concerns but we also have made clear what our ultimate goal will be with respect to putting the necessary pressure on Iran.

One last question, anyone?

QUESTION: When do you expect the Prime Minister to go to the States?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I don’t think… well, ultimately, a formal invitation, and the timing of an invitation, is handled by the White House. And I really have nothing further to say, beyond that obviously, we look forward to very close relations and high-level visits between the United States and Japan. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the magnificent gift of the cherry trees from the United States to Japan*. We’ll have about a month of festivities; I think very high-level Americans are going to participate in that. We hope to be able to make a reciprocal gift to Japan, and we will be working closely with Japanese colleagues about appropriate timing for visits. I think the Foreign Minister had a very good visit with Secretary Clinton in December, and we just look forward to continuing high-level engagements as we move forward.

Thank you all very much.

QUESTION: One question about the Hague Convention: do you see any progress in the situation in resolving the current ongoing cases?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: We haven’t seen enough progress, no. Thank you.

*should read “to the United States from Japan.”



Two left-behind parents with international cases have published books in December of 2011 relating to the parental kidnapping issue:


Parental Kidnapping in America: An Historical and Cultural Analysis[Paperback]

by Maureen Dabbagh

Book Description

ISBN-10: 0786465336 | ISBN-13: 978-0786465330 | Publication Date: December 6, 2011

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice reported an average of 200,000 cases of parental kidnapping each year. More than just the byproduct of a nasty custody dispute, parental kidnapping–defined as one parent taking his or her child and denying access of the child to the other parent–represents a form of child abuse that has sometimes resulted in the sale, abandonment and even death of children. This candid exploration of parental kidnapping in America from the eighteenth century to the present clarifies many misconceptions and reveals how the external influences of American social, political, legal, and religious culture can exacerbate family conflict, creating a social atmosphere ripe for abduction.

Life and Nihonjin: Dispatches from Japan [Paperback]

by Alex Kahney

Book Description

Publication Date: December 1, 2011

LIFE AND NIHONJIN relates, in the form of e-mail messages sent to family and friends abroad over many years, the true story of an Englishman who relocated to Japan in confident hope of finding prosperity but instead little-by-little lost everything, including his own children, to a harsh and strange land of the selfless non-entity where everybody is, Alex Kahney contends, at last reduced to nothing. The essay NIHONJIN (the Japanese word for Japanese people), in which Kahney describes Nihonjin as the anti-westerners, is an eye-opening look at how a modern society can hold a wholly different perspective to western views on what life is all about. The series of messages in LIFE , as the name suggests, touches on a wide variety of incidents and ideas, on chance occurrences, on dreams, the day s current events, family, work, and death. The nail that sticks out will be hammered back in. – Japanese saying