Key U.K. jurist hopeful of Japan’s Hague entry




LONDON — Japan’s plan to sign an international treaty on cross-border parental child abductions has been welcomed by England’s most senior international family law judge.

Lord Justice Sir Mathew Thorpe said recently it is a “positive move” that Japan is going to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of being spirited by an estranged spouse across international boundaries by providing procedures to bring about their prompt return to their home country or country of habitual residence.

Thorpe, who is head of international family justice for England and Wales, said: “The campaign was led by the United States and Canada . . . and I think they will be hugely relieved to see the global law extending into the Far East. It needs it. It’s already in Hong Kong and Singapore.

“It will bring Japan into treaty relationship with 87 other countries, and that enables people to recover to Japan children who have been wrongly removed from Japan by one or other parent.”

Thorpe, whose office deals with legal inquiries, correspondence from judges, lawyers and other officials in the field of international family law, said the convention has been a “huge influence for good” by providing legal remedies where none was previously available.

“It (abduction) is an extraordinarily abusive thing to do to a child. And from the 1960s and 1970s, with the increasing mobility and decreasing price of air travel, you see the emergence of a global problem for which the global community felt bound to seek a solution and the end product is the 1980 convention,” the jurist said.

Thorpe and judges from other signatory countries regularly meet to review how the treaty operates and look at ways to improve both judicial and administrative performances.

The issue of international parental child abductions has been a growing problem in Japan due to the increasing number of international marriages.

The media have reported several cases where Japanese women living in the West, and unhappy in their relationship, have decided to take children to Japan without getting court permission.

Often they make this decision because they believe — often misguidedly — that the court will deny them their application to relocate with their child.

Or they may be relocating to another jurisdiction in the hope that the court in that country will reverse previous custody decisions.

Thorpe describes any act of international parental child abduction as “irresponsible and wrongful behavior” and urges all parents to go through the courts and seek permission before removing their children from the country.

At the moment, because Japan is not part of the convention, non-Japanese parents, many of them fathers in Western countries, have little chance of getting their abducted children returned to their country of habitual residence. And this is why many countries have been pressuring Japan to join.

However, once Japan has signed up to the convention, it will have to set up a “central authority” that will work to locate abducted children and initiate legal proceedings to get them returned.

The central authority will also act as a point of contact for Japanese parents seeking the return of their children abducted by an estranged foreign spouse.

Speaking at his room in the Royal Courts of Justice, Thorpe said: “Japan must have an effective and efficient central authority. That’s the cardinal prerequisite. And they should have concentrated the jurisdiction to deal with Hague cases to a small number of courts at a high level within the justice system. The judges need to be prepared and trained for the work.”

As it stands, the convention is not retroactive, but Thorpe holds out some hope for the British fathers whose children have been abducted.

“At the moment, British fathers are dependent on consular endeavor and the Foreign Office will continue to handle their cases. But once Japan has acceded, maybe there will be a much higher degree of cooperation at a diplomatic level,” he said.

“It would be perverse of the Japanese foreign office not to offer aid in those cases only because the abduction predates Japan’s accession. I would have expected the Japanese foreign office would say, well, they are tantamount to Hague cases and we will give diplomatic aid,” Thorpe said.

“They (Japanese diplomats and academics) have researched Hague exhaustively. Government officials, academics and diplomats have all been carrying out the most profound investigations, talking to judges, central authorities, academics, not just in this country, but in the United States, Canada and Europe. The Japanese could not have prepared the way more painstakingly,” he said.

This article was published a few years ago and mentions the cases of two board members of Children’s Rights Council of Japan, David Brian Thomas (who is also co-founder of CRC of Japan) and Michael Gulbraa.

Foreigners find divorce means sayonara to kids
— Their Japanese spouses split and courts laugh in their face


(This article was first published in the Washington Post, and later in the Japan Times)

It was quiet in the house when Sean Reedy got home after giving exams all day at the university. Too quiet. No cry of “Poppy!” from little Louie, 8, followed by the usual demands of Bunta, 6, and Yuzo, 5, to kick the soccer ball around before dinner.

And too neat, he recalled. The house on that Saturday 18 months ago was immaculate. As though it had been straightened in a final, departing gesture.

He looked quickly in closets. Clothes were gone. Louie’s school backpack — gone. Passports — gone, too.

His Japanese wife took his sons into hiding that day, preempting custody of the boys by simple possession. She could do so confident that the customs and laws of Japan would help her keep the children from their father.

It stunned Reedy, 44, a linguistics professor who had been in Japan for 16 years. Foreign spouses here frequently lose their children when their marriages collapse. There is no shared custody in Japanese divorces, and visitation rights are minimal and unenforceable. The wife gets the children in an estimated 80 percent to 90 percent of the cases, according to divorce lawyers, and fathers are expected to drop out of sight.

Although his marriage was not going well, Reedy said, he had no inkling that his children might be taken from him. The school system refused to tell him where they had been transferred, although there was no allegation of abuse. Through her attorney, his wife has let him see his sons three times in 18 months, but he still does not know where they live and cannot contact them. She sued for divorce, and he demanded frequent visitation rights.

“In court, when I said I wanted to see my kids every weekend, they laughed at me,” Reedy said.

Family experts say divorce carries a stigma, so  former spouses avoid seeing each other. The workaholic hallmark of post-war Japan resulted in a clear division of responsibility, they say, in which husbands belong to their job and children belong to their mothers. Mothers take total responsibility for the children — they’re blamed, for instance, if their children get bad marks in school — and are expected to retain that role after divorce.

In addition, some experts argue, children’s loyalties are less divided if the father is not around.

It is rare for Japanese fathers, or mothers,  to fight that tradition. When one parent in a failed marriage is a Westerner who wants continued contact with the children, however, there is little legal help. If a Japanese parent whisks the kids away, as Reedy’s wife did, there is no legal remedy. It is not treated as a crime.

Even if children are taken away from a parent abroad who has legal custody and are brought here, Japan is a haven from international law.

Japan is one of the few developed countries that has refused to sign the 1980 Hague Convention promising to return abducted children to the rightful custody of an overseas parent. So a Japanese parent is not prosecuted for bringing children into the country in violation of a foreign court’s custody order. Japan ranks second, behind Mexico, in the frequency of parental abduction cases handled by the U.S. State Department, a spokeswoman said.

Even as a tenured professor and taxpayer, Reedy found he could get no assistance from the Japanese courts in getting his children back — or even seeing them regularly.

“It’s a big problem, especially for foreign men,” said Kensuke Onuki, a lawyer here who handles international divorces. “The situation is totally different from the United States. There are hardly any cases where my clients are able to see their children.”

And it is a growing problem, as international marriages increase in Japan and the stigma of divorce declines. In 2001, the Health Ministry recorded nearly 40,000 marriages between a Japanese and a foreigner, more than triple the number in 1980. It also counted more than 13,000 divorces of mixed-nationality couples, nearly double that of a decade ago.

Das Pradip gets to meet with his children once a month, for 30 minutes, at a Roy Rogers restaurant
— when his ex-wife bothers to bring them.

She left her husband three years ago with the children, then 5 and 8, for a Japanese man. Pradip refuses to go home to India because he knows he would lose all contact with his children. Instead, he toils at a Tokyo short-order grill, flipping hamburgers and serving french fries.

“As long as I am alive, I will not give up my children,” he said. “I went outside their school and stood outside just to see them walking with their friends. I can’t even say hello to them. It’s so painful.” He asked to dine with them on Father’s Day, but the court said it was “not Japanese culture,” Pradip said. His ex-wife and her attorney declined to be interviewed.

In cases examined for this article, available court papers and interviews with attorneys revealed no finding of physical abuse, and the other spouses or their attorneys declined requests to respond to questions.

David Brian Thomas said he has not seen his son since his Japanese wife and her parents locked him out of their house in 1992. The divorce was overturned by the court on grounds that his wife doctored papers and forged his seal, but Thomas has been unable to see his son, Graham Hajime, who is now 13.

“The court says yes, I have rights to see my son,” Thomas said. “But there’s no method in Japan of enforcement. Technically, I have won, but I have lost. The laws are stacked against foreigners.

“I really love my son. That’s why I’ve tolerated this for so long,” said Thomas, 58, a native of Wales who teaches English in private schools here. “Why don’t I just go away and remarry and live my life? Because I have a son. How would I feel if my father ran away from me? There will come a time when he will ask, ‘Where is my father?’ and I want to be here.”

The first obstacle for foreigners is the recent custom in Japanese divorces for the wife to get the children. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was unusual when, in separating from his wife in 1982, he took custody of his two sons. More typical was the wall of silence that has remained since: His ex-wife has not seen their two children, now 22 and 24, since their divorce, and Koizumi has not spoken to his third son, now 20, who was born after the marriage dissolved.

Visitation rights aren’t part of a court’s divorce order. If the issue is raised, a family court will try to persuade parents to agree voluntarily, but there is no enforcement. Even foreign visitation or custody orders have no standing in Japan.

“I don’t want him to see my daughter,” said a 35-year-old Japanese woman who is violating a U.S. court order granting visitation rights each summer and winter to her American ex-husband. She won custody of her daughter, now 7, in U.S. courts and shuttled between countries to allow him visitation until they had a confrontation two years ago. He is suing to have the court order enforced. But she said she feels protected in Japan, which would not act even if she lost.

Salt Lake City lawyerMichael Gulbraa, 39, has a Utah court order for custody of his two sons, 12 and 13. But his Japanese ex-wife took them to Japan in 2001. Japanese police know where they are, he said, but won’t arrest them.

“They are wanted by the FBI and Interpol, but the (police) say abduction by a parent is not a crime in Japan,” he said in a telephone interview. “I just want my children back.”

Japan does not ratify the Hague Convention because it would have to return such children to foreign spouses, said Toshiyuki Kono, a law professor at Kyushu University. “Politically, there is no strong incentive here to do that,” he said. A spokesman for the treaty division of the Foreign Ministry said the Hague Convention has not been ratified because “we’ve been studying it.”

Japan’s stance that parental abduction is not a crime can change when a foreigner is the abductor. Engle Nieman, 46, was arrested at the Osaka port and spent four months in jail for trying to go home to the Netherlands with his 1-year-old daughter after his wife moved in with her parents.

He was arrested under an old law against trafficking of girls for prostitution. He was prosecuted, but the ex-wife flouts the law, he complained.

“My wife is now hiding somewhere with my daughter. She doesn’t show up for court. My lawyer doesn’t know what to do,” he said. “On schooldays, I go around to the various kindergartens in Tokyo to see if I can find them. It’s terrible.”

Reedy said he was told to forget his three sons and go home to the U.S. Distraught and depressed, he has taken medical leave from his job and returned to California for what he said will be a temporary stay.

“People in the West don’t understand,” lamented Reedy. In Japan, “it has nothing to do with whether the kids would benefit by being with another parent. Once there is a divorce, the line is cut. That’s it.”


Photographer’s Statement:

I have been documenting the plight of Japan’s so-called Left-Behind Parents, of which there are believed to be over 2 million, since 2011. A recent exhibition of these images at Tokyo’s Foreign Correspondents Club, Japan drew wide media interest in a problem that is generally overlooked in Japan, where it is seen as something that only happens in international marriages or to “other people.” On the contrary, it is an issue that affects families throughout the country, as well as overseas.

This incredible documentary has been/is being internationally censured but seems to be available through these links:


For those who are unable to view the documentary online, here is the transcript:


WILLACY: The cherry blossoms are out for all to see. It’s a spectacular sight that lifts the spirits of Japanese and travellers lucky enough to be here. It’s difficult to imagine a time when Japan was completely isolated from the outside world, but under Sakoku from the 17th to the 19th centuries, no foreigner could enter nor any Japanese leave the locked country on the penalty of death. Eventually Japan opened up and foreigners returned but many of the old insular ways continue to this day.

Just ask parents trapped in the anguish of failed marriage, locked out from the lives of their children and with nowhere to turn.

ALEX KAHNEY: “So I thought my wife can’t kidnap my kids. I’ll just go to the police. The first two or three months I was shattered. The first six months I was numb”.

REGAN: “And when I got home I kind of just fell apart and my true feelings of you know not being able to trust him or being really angry with him came out”.

CRAIG MORREY: “Basically it all came down to I don’t want to be with you, I don’t want to be with you, I’m leaving. I didn’t even know my daughter was born”.

WILLACY: Tonight we reveal how Japan has long condoned one parent snatching children away from the other, not just from within its own jurisdiction but from around the world. This is the story of how Japan became a haven for parents abducting their own children and of the paralysing heartbreak and helplessness of those parents left behind.

Under Japanese law there’s no such thing as dual custody. The courts here almost universally award all legal rights over a child to the one parent – meaning the other parent is frozen out of their child’s life. Often the only contact the forgotten parent is allowed is a few photographs of their child every year.

Craig Morrey isn’t just a father. He’s a 24 hour a day carer for his profoundly disabled son Spencer. After terrible complications during birth, Spencer was left with catastrophic brain damage and severe cerebral palsy.

CRAIG MORREY: “He can’t swallow, he can’t move on his own. He obviously can’t sit up. He can’t close his eyes and obviously kids can be very, very resilient but in Spencer’s case he was essentially born dead”.

WILLACY: The Chicago native and reproductive biologist came to Japan 15 years ago to further his research, but he quickly fell for and married a Brazilian-born Japanese woman. While they were both struggling to care for their first born son, Craig Morrey’s wife discovered she was pregnant with their second child and it proved too much for her.

CRAIG MORREY: “So she started to say she wanted a divorce, she wanted to leave. She talked about wanting to you know not necessarily commit suicide but to die”.

WILLACY: Five months into her pregnancy, his wife disappeared leaving Craig Morrey to care for Spencer on his own and shut out of the birth of his second child.

CRAIG MORREY: “I didn’t even know my daughter was born. I found out that she was in the hospital and I went to try to see her with Spencer and she had called security and I was denied to see my daughter”.

WILLACY: “How old was she when you finally got to see her?”

CRAIG MORREY: “Six and a half months in a courtroom for 15 minutes with her mother wailing in the background. Not the ideal circumstances to meet your daughter”.

WILLACY: Craig Morrey has a night job. He’s unable to afford specialist care so he takes his son along to the bar he runs in the town of Okazaki. In between pulling beers, he has to clear Spencer’s airways to ensure he doesn’t suffocate. Despite his wife abandoning their son, the court awarded her guardianship of their baby daughter Amelia and now, still fighting that ruling, Craig Morrey has been placed in an extraordinary dilemma by the court – if he takes his son to the United States where he can get better care for him, he’s been told he’ll lose the right to see his daughter.

CRAIG MORREY: “I’m sort of put in the situation where I either have to abandon my daughter and leave her with someone who I don’t think is a particularly good role model at the moment or go back and get better care for Spencer which is just, for a lack of a better word idiotic”.

WILLACY: But this isn’t just a system layered with rulings many parents regard as idiotic – it’s a system in which court rulings are often flouted or ignored by parents who abduct their children. Englishman Alex Kahney is leaving Japan after 19 years. He’s lost his job, he’s broke and so he can’t afford to stay and that means he’s leaving behind everything he cares about – his two daughters.

ALEX KAHNEY: “They just love their daddy. They were real daddy’s girls. Every time we got in the car there’d be a fight who could sit next to daddy in the front”.

WILLACY: Two years ago with his marriage to his Japanese wife falling apart, Alex Kahney returned home from work one day to an empty house and an empty bank account.

ALEX KAHNEY: “I thought uh oh, something’s wrong here. I went to the police. I said to the police, ‘my wife’s taken my kids out of the house without my permission and we’re not divorced. There’s no agreement in place, there’s no court order and she’s refusing to let me speak to the children’. The policemen laughed. They both had a good chuckle about it”.

WILLACY: Alex Kahney says his marriage broke down after his wife reneged on an agreement to raise their children in England for a while. We tried to get his estranged wife’s side of the story.

YUMI: “We’ve heard your husband’s side of the story. Now we’d like to hear both sides of the story”.

WILLACY: But like other Japanese spouses we contacted, she refused to be part of this programme. Despite a court order giving Alex Kahney monthly access, his wife hasn’t allowed him to see his children since she snatched them two years ago. So his frustration has turned to desperation. It’s a harrowing scene as the father tries every now and then to connect with his daughters as they leave school. [Alex walking alongside them outside school trying to talk to his daughters] His daughters don’t want to listen. They run from their father without saying a word.

ALEX KAHNEY: “They just ignore me. They just ignore me. A child ignoring her own father, you know I’ve been disowned. I’m nothing. I might as well be a ghost”.

COLIN JONES: “When we talk about family law in Japan today, it’s a slight exaggeration but there really isn’t any. There is no body of law called family law”.

WILLACY: At this protest in one of Tokyo’s busiest districts, so-called left behind parents – both Japanese and foreign – have joined forces. They’re a very vocal part of an effort to stop Japan remaining a black hole for international and domestic child abduction. The country’s been under pressure from foreign governments and parents to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Convention sets out the rules for the prompt return of kids abducted across international borders by one of their parents. Every top industrialised country in the world – except Japan – has signed it. Japan says it plans to but nobody here is holding their breath and the courts have been very reluctant to break the mould. According to local media reports, there’s not been one recorded case of a Japanese judge ordering the repatriation of an abducted child.

COLIN JONES: “Who wants to be the first judge to order a crying child to be taken away from a crying Japanese mother and given back and sent overseas? Nobody, there’s nobody in the system I think who benefits from being the guy who ordered the crying child to be taken away”.


WILLACY: It’s not the sort of meeting they’re used to inside Japan’s parliament complex.

WOMAN: “I just want to spend a normal time with my children every day. And I don’t understand why this has happened”.

WILLACY: These parents of abducted children and a handful of Japanese MPs have come today to learn more about the Hague Convention. The man they’ve come to listen to is Colin Jones, a professor of law and Hague specialist from Kyoto’s Doshisha University – but his message isn’t encouraging.

PROFESSOR COLIN JONES: “Alienations will not end just with this. I don’t think there will be much improvement in international abductions”.

WILLACY: Professor Jones believes Japan could treat the Hague Convention very much like it does the international treaty on whaling – in other words, by using loopholes to largely ignore it and by putting national interest ahead of global cooperation.

PROFESSOR COLIN JONES: “You see this attitude up through the leadership levels in some situations, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the same thing happened with the Hague Convention”.

WILLACY: American mum, Regan Haight, didn’t take long to realise she could never rely on the Japanese legal system to get her children back. Her Japanese husband abducted their son and daughter from their home in Utah and took them to Japan where the police made it very clear to Regan Haight that they regarded this as a family matter.

POLICE: “I’m sorry, we don’t consider your case an abduction or even a crime”.

WILLACY: With no help from the US Government or Japanese authorities, Regan Haight decided to take matters into her own hands. It was a radical and very risky course of action.

REGAN HAIGHT: “I was told that I could do a snatch and grab kind of thing that was ….could be traumatic and most likely unsuccessful …and get myself into trouble”.

WILLACY: Regan Haight turned to this man, former British military special forces operative Steve Johnson is known in the business as a child recovery specialist.

STEVE JOHNSON: “Japan has a reputation around the world as being difficult, some say impossible to recover children from. I am robust, I’m head on, I’m in the face of anyone I’m going up against and I don’t leave until I get the job done”.

REGAN HAIGHT: “It gave me confidence and you know what I needed was support from somebody whose main goal was to help me”.

WILLACY: Steve Johnson soon joined Regan Haight in Japan where the case took another dramatic twist. Regan Haight’s husband Shuta revealed the children had been abducted a second time – this time by their Japanese grandmother who was effectively holding them for ransom.

REGAN HAIGHT: “At one point she told me that I had to sign over, sign my name off the house and that I could see the kids. You know so we did that. Then she wouldn’t let me see the kids after that. You know we had to pay her fifty thousand dollars, then we could see the kids and you know I didn’t…. I didn’t have that money”.

WILLACY: After a period of subtle negotiation, Steve Johnson decided to apply the blow torch at a street side rendezvous filmed by other abandoned parents documenting the traumatic consequences of child abduction.

STEVE JOHNSON: [to Shuta at a road side meeting] “Your mother must understand that things are about to get bad. TV cameras are going to be here, the police are going to be called. Then Interpol will take over. The easiest thing for her to do Shuta is to hand over the children this afternoon, and it all goes away. Everything disappears. If your mum wants to swipe the kids up and run away – then good luck to her”.

WILLACY: With that the ultimatum was delivered and the deadline set. But the odds were well and truly stacked against Regan Haight. How would her ordeal end?

Australian Chayne Inaba believes he knows the perils of pushing too hard to right the wrong of child abduction.

As this video indicates family life seemed pretty happy and contented for the medical trauma specialist. Four days later his wife abducted their daughter Ai and brought her here [family home].

“This is your family home over there?”

CHAYNE INABA: “Yep that’s the family home, the home of the Inova family”.

WILLACY: “And if you went to the house there’d be big problems?”

CHAYNE INABA: “There’d be major problems which I would say the police would be involved and a lot of nasty things would happen yeah”.

WILLACY: Chayne Inaba has already had a run in he thinks was all about scaring him off. Not long after being warned by his wife’s family to stay away from his daughter, he was attacked inside his own home.

CHAYNE INABA: “I walked inside, closed the door, walking down towards the living room and I was attacked by a brick from the bathroom. I had two black eyes, fractures – I had a lot”.

WILLACY: He has his suspicions about who was responsible but the police weren’t interested.

CHAYNE INABA: “The brick had skin and hair and blood on it and they said, to my knowledge, that they told the Australian Consulate that the brick wasn’t the weapon”.

PROFESSOR COLIN JONES: “Parental abduction is an effort to eliminate the other parent from the child’s life and the sad cases we see here repeatedly are the child can’t talk to their father or sometimes their mother anymore. They’re taken away at a young age, they don’t get exposed to their foreign parent’s native language, they only speak Japanese. The foreign parent doesn’t speak Japanese. It’s a destruction of one half of the child’s identity to do that”.

WILLACY: Government MP Masae Ido is a leading sceptic of the Hague Convention and a chief defender of Japan’s approach to family law.

MASAE IDO: “While Westerners call it abduction it’s common among the Japanese that a mother and child return to the mother’s parents’ home after a divorce”.

WILLACY: She has a better understanding of this issue than most because as her political opponents gleefully advertise on the internet, she snatched her three children away from her first husband.

MASAE IDO: “Like other parents, I left a note so the other parent knew where the children were and understood that they were at a safe place. Not many people think of this as kidnapping or a crime. If anything, they think it’s not a bad thing. It’s really a custom”.

WILLACY: It’s a day out for happy families at the Osaka aquarium, but the group handing out these balloons is also dishing out a blunt message. Craig Morrey and other left behind parents have launched a public education campaign about an issue few Japanese are even aware of.

CRAIG MORREY: “Do you know that they only have a sole custody system in Japan”.

FATHER: “I’m sorry, I don’t really know”.

WILLACY: This custom of sole custody has torn apart parents and children from all corners of the world. But while local awareness of the issue is limited, Japanese do figure prominently among the victims. Every year 150,000 divorced Japanese parents join the ranks of the dispossessed.

RYOMA TAKAHASHI NEW: “My love for my children and my desire to see them has not changed”.

WILLACY: Ryoma Takahashi is one such parent and because of his profile, the recent abduction of his children has sparked media interest. His wife took their sons for a short break but never returned and the renowned local artist has now been frozen out of their lives.

RYMOA TAKAHASHI: “My mind went blank – what I thought and what to do – it was really blank. It was as if I lost sight of tomorrow… I lost sight of the future. I didn’t know what to do. The point is that my children were abducted by her and they were stolen from me. It’s become a country where whoever abducts children wins. In my case the judge told me on the first day, ‘You haven’t seen your children for seven months now. Did your children contact you? No, right? Your sons don’t want to see you anymore’.”

WILLACY: He’s trying desperately to win back his children but his wife has countered with a claim of domestic violence. The abuse? That Takahashi suggested his wife should give up work because of the stress it was causing her.

RYMOA TAKAHASHI: “She’s accusing me of verbal violence – but just what is verbal violence? It seems like my suggestion that she quit her job was verbal violence. I think it’s a major problem that the police accept that as domestic violence”.

PROFESSOR COLIN JONES: “Basically anything can be abuse. Verbal abuse is covered…. financial abuse. I’ve seen literature which includes ignoring someone as a form of abuse”.

WILLACY: For Regan Haight there was a happy ending. After months of trying to get her son and daughter back from the clutches of her Japanese husband’s family, the efforts of her private child recovery specialist paid off. The children were surrendered.

REGAN HAIGHT: “It was, it was amazing. It was a surprise. I didn’t expect them to walk through this door. I was expecting that you know that this was going to go on for a long period of time and then the sliding glass door opened and they came through and it was just, it was a relief. It was just, it was amazing”.

WILLACY: For the man who helped get her children back, it’s proof that kids can be saved from Japan’s black hole of abduction.

STEVE JOHNSON: “There is only one way to recover children that have been abducted and that’s to get on a plane, to land in country and get on with it, and confront people and upset people, ruffle feathers”.

WILLACY: But the happy endings are rare indeed, overwhelmed by the thousands of stories of heartbreak, American Craig Morrey will continue to care for his son Spencer and continue to fight to be with his daughter Amelia and he’ll continue in his struggle to change the system in Japan.

CRAIG MORREY: “Every three minutes a child loses contact with a parent in Japan through divorce. Every three minutes. And you know the government doesn’t want to acknowledge that because they don’t know how to deal with it and they’re not willing to deal with it”.

CHAYNE INABA: [footage of his children] “Sometimes it’s hard to watch”.

WILLACY: Chayne Inaba continues to fight for his daughter in the courts but he knows he may not get to see her for many years.

CHAYNE INABA: “And she’ll know that her father [upset]…… her father did everything humanly possible to keep the family together and protect her. She’ll know that”.

WILLACY: They once loved to play music together but for Englishman Alex Kahney, it’s sayonara to Japan and the daughters he can’t see and who will no longer speak to him. While recently packing up his Tokyo home he discovered a note left for him by one of his daughters before she was snatched away. He turned it into a song for them called “Someday We Can Meet”.

ALEX KAHNEY: “I didn’t want you to be out of my life, or for me to be out of yours. It wasn’t me that did this to you. I’ve done my best to get you back. I think about you all the time. If you want anything I’m here and I’m looking forward to that day”.


Parents urge Japan to return abducted children

BY  · JULY 10, 2012 · NO COMMENTS

Jeffrey and Mochi

Imagine getting a phone call stating that your children have been kidnapped. Your spouse has taken your kids to Japan, using the country’s laws to maintain custody. Every day becomes an exhausting task of contacting government officials to help, but little is accomplished.

This scenario is very real to Patrick McPike and the parents of nearly 400 abducted U.S. children living in Japan. Including Japanese children, an estimated 10,000 have been abducted by parents within Japan.

Japan has never returned any of them.

McPike traveled with his family to Japan to complete an assignment for his company. His marriage strained and his wife did the unthinkable.

“It seemed like a good opportunity to provide my wife’s family with an opportunity to spend some time with their grandchildren while they were still young,” McPike said. “When my assignment was up and it was time to come home, my wife abducted the children.”

McPike’s wife cut him off from communication with his two sons, Kai and Koh. The children became victims of Japanese law, which treats child abduction as a custody dispute rather than a felony crime. His wife is living in Japan, but could not be reached or found for comment.

Japan’s view of child abduction is different from the rest of the world. They are not a member of The Hague Convention – a treaty designed to return internationally abducted children to their home nations – and their courts favor one parent having sole custody. In 90 percent of cases, the rights go to the mother.

Japan is revising laws to open the possibility ratifying The Hague, but these changes may not be a total acceptance of The Hague in its current form.

“If we look at the domestic laws submitted by the government in order to execute the Convention, changes have been made with current Japanese public opinion and family court practices in mind, and it is questionable whether the intent of the Hague Convention has been incorporated,” said Takao Tanase, a professor who specializes in Japanese law.

During a U.S. Department of State briefing on U.S. child abductions to Japan, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell spoke about persuading Japan to join The Hague.

“The President also very strongly affirmed the Japanese decision to enter into The Hague Convention,” Campbell said. “He asked that these steps be taken clearly and that the necessary implementing legislation would be addressed.

“This is a human tragedy, that unless you get to experience and get to know these brave parents, it’s just impossible to imagine,” Campbell said.

Getting Japan to join The Hague would be helpful, but McPike says it will not be enough, by itself, to bring back all the missing children.

“The Hague is not enforceable,” McPike said. “The decision to comply with a Hague return is determined by the courts of the abducting country. To solve the problem requires reform of the Japanese system.  They need to hold courts and judges responsible for following the law.  They need to enforce kidnapping laws consistently and they need to provide for joint-custody.”

There have also been concerns about the lack of action from the U.S. per policy, the U.S. Department of State has not formally requested from Japan the return of any abducted U.S. children.

Kai and Koh together laughing in happier times. (Courtesy photo.)

Susan Jacobs, a special adviser for children’s issues for the U.S. Department of State, said that individual cases are raised with the permission of parents and the parents are updated on these discussions. However, most parents say they have not been told of their personal cases being discussed with Japanese government officials.

Ironically, Japan refuses to return U.S. children but they want their own citizens who are abducted to be returned. From 1978-1981, about 16 Japanese teenagers were abducted by North Korea. Five of those children were returned and about six have died. The others are still missing. Japan has come to the U.S. and the U.N. asking for help to get North Korea to return these children.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama have met with Japanese families and assured they would provide help. Yet they have not met with any U.S. parents about their children being abducted to Japan, giving the appearance that they are more concerned with helping Japan.

Parents also question efforts by the U.S. Department of State because of the Mary Lake case.

In 2005, William Lake’s daughter was abducted by his ex-wife and taken to Japan. No one in the Lake family was Japanese, but William’s ex-wife knew of Japan’s custody laws.

On August 24, 2011, Mary Lake went to the U.S. Consulate in Japan and spoke with an official who told her to return home to her abductor since she did not have the money for a plane ticket to the states. Pressure was put on the U.S. Consulate and they aided Mary Lake’s effort to go home to her father the second time.

The return of Mary Lake gave parents of abducted children a small glimmer of hope for their own cases. For McPike and others like Jeffrey Morehouse and Randy Collins, getting their children back has become a daily job.

Morehouse and Collins serve as regional directors for Bring Abducted Children Home (BACHome), an organization established in 2010 to raise awareness of the missing U.S. citizen children kidnapped to in Japan.

Both men testified before the California State Senate Judiciary Committee for Senate Bill 1206 – Child Abduction Prevention. This is just one of many hearings they have attended to gather support.

During his testimony, Morehouse explained that he dropped his son Mochi off with his ex-wife for a parental visit in 2010. His ex-wife had threatened to kidnap Mochi before but the passport policy stated “when both parents have custody of the child, and the child is taken out of the country by one of the parents without consent of the other parent, it is punishable by criminal law.”

The Portland consulate violated the policy and provided his ex-wife with the passport for Mochi. Six days later he received a phone call from the police telling him his wife and child were missing. His wife kidnapped their son to Japan.

“In that moment, my life was shattered,” Morehouse said. “My days became consumed with dealing with local law enforcement, the U.S. Department of State, Japanese consular officials and anything I could think of to find my little boy.

“Every morning I wake up twice. The first time, I rush out of bed and prepare to get him ready for school. I can hear his voice in my head and my heart skips a beat. And then I really wake up and realize he’s still missing. The ongoing nightmare continues. The last time I held his hand, the last time I heard his voice was on Father’s Day 2010 and I’m still spending every day trying to locate my son.”

Morehouse, Collins and the other members of BacHome continue to exhaust their resources to locate their children.

They recently wrote a letter in advance of Clinton’s July 8 trip to Japan. Urging officials to help return their children, it was addressed to the Prime Minister to the Los Angeles consulate, four other Japanese consulates, members of the media, the Department of State, White House Office staff, all U.S. Senate offices, and members of the House of Representatives.

During Clinton’s visit about 40 parents of abducted children in Japan participated in a rally attempting to secure her help in pressuring Japan to address the issue of child custody.

Parents will continue to fight and hope that those in charge take notice and urge Japan to return their children.

“Imagine that tomorrow your child is going to be abducted,” Collins said. “What would you do today to prevent that from happening tomorrow?”

“I haven’t seen or heard from my son in almost four years. I don’t know what he’s thinking. But I did everything my government told me I was supposed to do to protect my son. I did everything that the courts told me to do to protect my son. Nobody protected my son.”


Tuesday, July 10, 2012



Japan’s battered men suffer abuse in silence

Equality bureau turns a blind eye as growing ranks of husbands claim mistreatment at the hands of their wives



As in many surveys, numbers and percentages are abundant. But for me, it was that little 3.4 at the bottom of page 21 that stood out more than any other: 3.4 percent of married men in Japan say that their spouses have forced them to engage in sexual relations against their will. And that is down from 4.3 percent reported three years ago. Improvement is apparently being made: Married men in Japan are essentially being raped less by their wives.


News photo
The abused or the abuser?: The Gender Equality Bureau’s emblem against violence is unlikely to reassure male victims of spousal abuse that the agency is looking out for their interests as well as those of battered women.


This survey, conducted by the Cabinet Office every three years, sampled 5,000 men and women across the nation in November and December of last year. About 6 percent of all marriages in Japan now involve a non-Japanese partner.

Most of the reported findings, which were released in April, are alarming: 32.9 percent of married women in Japan claim to be victims of spousal violence; 25.9 percent say they have been punched, kicked or shoved.

The assertions made by the other gender are nearly as troubling: 18.3 percent of married men in Japan are now claiming to be victims of spousal violence, with 13.3 percent of all married men in the sample claiming to be victims of violence that entailed punching, kicking or shoving.

These numbers are far higher than those often cited in the U.S., where one in four women is reported to have experienced domestic violence (DV) over a lifetime, and 85 percent of the victims of intimate partner violence are women. Intimate partner violence (IPV) includes violence from current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, including same-sex relationships. Domestic violence includes IPV in addition to violence from other family members, such as in-laws, siblings, parents or children.

In the Cabinet Office survey, 8.7 percent of married men subjected to physical, emotional or sexual violence indicated that it was so intense that they actually feared for their life; 13.4 percent of married women reported the same. In fact, 5.5 percent of married men apparently found the abuse so intolerable that they decided to end the relationship, which interestingly is nearly identical to the 5.6 percent of married women who did the same.

For those who stay in these abusive relationships, the question must be “Why?” Men reported staying mostly for the children. In fact, a greater percentage of male victims (65.0 percent) than female victims (57.3 percent) cited the children as their reason for staying. Men also indicated worries about keeping up appearances and concerns for their partner’s needs far more than women when asked why they stayed.

Men more than women recognized DV as consisting of slapping, kicking or causing a bodily injury, whereas a greater percentage of women said DV also included behavior such as ignoring the partner for a long period of time, calling the partner a “good-for-nothing useless person” (kaishō nashi) or shouting in a loud voice.

The percentage of respondents who were unaware that a DV-related law exists — i.e., the Act on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims (2001) — has actually grown to 22.5 percent over the 19.3 percent recorded in 2005, with most of the uninformed being men between the ages of 20 and 39.

A tone that is fairly prevalent throughout the report, though, is an emphasis on the suffering by female victims over that of men. For example, even though the raw data shows that 76.1 percent of married men who had been victims of spousal violence over the past five years did not seek assistance or guidance in response to the abuse they were subjected to, the heading given to this section of the report emphasizes that help had not been sought by about 40 percent of women. While the assertion about women is certainly true, turning a blind eye to the apparent hidden shame of abuse being borne by a far higher percentage of male victims seems to indicate the leanings of the Gender Equality Bureau, which is tasked with producing this report for the Cabinet Office.

Moreover, nine pages of the 57-page report are dedicated to the 14.1 percent of married women who claim to have been forced to engage in sexual relations against their will. Not one word is given to explaining the 3.4 percent of married men who claimed the same, or the 4.3 percent who claimed it three years ago.

The survey seems to indicate that the apparently passive men and women who comprise the stereotypical family in Japan may not be as docile as thought once the front door closes. Nearly 1 in 5 married men in Japan is now claiming to be a victim of spousal violence, up from 17.7 percent in 2008 and 17.4 percent in 2005. The percentage for married women making the same claim has actually decreased slightly since 2005, but remains 1 in 3.

Why would spousal violence against married men in Japan be steadily increasing? The peer-reviewed European Journal of Scientific Research tackled a similar question in 2010 in a research article titled “The Relationship between Jealousy and Aggression: A Review of Literatures Related to Wives’ Aggression.” The article mentions an oft-cited study by professors Richard Felson and Maureen Outlaw based on an analysis of data obtained through the National Violence Against Women survey conducted in 2000. The journal reports, “Individuals who are controlling of their partners are much more likely to also be physically assaultive, and this holds equally for both male and female perpetrators.”

When asked whether abusive men or women in Japan could possibly be characterized as controlling of their households and partners, a representative of the Gender Equality Bureau declined to comment. The bureau representative answered some questions, but she said she was not able to respond to others, such as how the bureau would explain the progressive rise in spousal violence claims by men.

Moreover, spousal violence against men in Japan has interestingly been ignored by the mainstream English press. The Daily Yomiuri and The Japan Times ( both reported the claim of spousal violence by 32.9 percent of married women. Neither mentioned the reported abuse of 1 in 5 married men. Both newspapers reported that 14.1 percent of married women had been forced to engage in sexual relations with their husband. Neither paper reported on the marital rape of 3.4 percent of men. Both newspapers reported that 41.4 percent of abused women suffered in silence. Neither reported the silent suffering by a much higher 76.1 percent of abused men.

Why? Why is spousal violence against men seemingly being ignored by the press and the government bureau that conducts this survey? When I put this very question to the Gender Equality Bureau, I was told that even though men are included in the sample, the purpose of this research is to protect women from DV. Women.

And DV against women in Japan is obviously a problem, even though the latest data in this survey clearly shows that claims by women are trending slightly downward, and claims by men are trending upward.

Several of the questions I had for the Gender Equality Bureau concerned the composition of their organization: How many men and women work there? How many men and women were involved in the writing of this survey analysis?

Even though corporations often publish data on employee demographics, I was surprisingly told that the government bureau tasked with ensuring gender equality was unable to specify the gender makeup of its own organization or those who crafted this survey analysis.

With the bureau apparently giving no attention to its own data indicating an increase in the spousal abuse of the nation’s men — men who mostly classify abuse as physical assaults — one must wonder how the bureau would respond if more men subjected to nonphysical forms of abuse began to make claims, thus resulting in a rapid surge in the overall percentage of men reporting abuse. Would the bureau continue to ignore the men, leaving so many to suffer in silence as they do now? Or would it begin what may be a much needed campaign to help women in Japan better recognize, control and eliminate their own abusive behavior?

If the claims in this data can be trusted, Japan clearly has a developing DV epidemic on its hands. And it’s not rising because of any increase in violence against women. Rather, it’s the women who are increasingly charging into battle against the nation’s men.

The word “married” in this article refers to men and women who are or have been legally married or in common-law unions. Guidance for victims of spousal abuse is provided in Japanese, English, Spanish, Thai, Tagalog, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese and Russian Information in English on phone numbers for spousal violence centers across Japan can also be found on this website. Send comments on this issue

Left-behind parents in Tokyo have intensified efforts in advance of Secretary of State Clinton’s July 8 visit to Japan: