Child care left undecided in divorces

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Less than 50 percent of divorcing couples have planned for such matters as child support and visitation rights since the revised Civil Code was implemented in April, which requires couples with small children to do so, according to the Justice Ministry.

As local governments accept divorce applications without making couples declare such arrangements, the effectiveness of the revision has often been questioned.

The ministry collected its first statistics on the issue during the first quarter since the revision came into force. The results reflect the difficulty couples face in reaching an agreement on child-related matters.

In tandem with the implementation of the revised code, the ministry in April added items to the divorce application form asking couples with young children to verify they have come to an accord on certain issues. This includes whether they have agreed on visitation arrangements for the noncustodial parent and how child support will be handled.

According to the ministry, 32,757 couples with young children mutually consented to file for divorce from April to June. Among them, 15,622, or 48 percent, indicated they had made arrangements regarding visitation for the noncustodial parent, and 6,843, or 21 percent, had not. The remaining 31 percent did not check any boxes.

Concerning payment of child support by noncustodial parents, 16,075 couples, or 49 percent, had made a decision on the matter, while 6,316, or 19 percent, had not. The other 32 percent left the boxes blank.

In 2011, about 235,700 couples got divorced, with about 90 percent of them doing so by mutual consent. Still, there have been many problems concerning the handling of these child-related matters after divorce.

“It’s necessary for couples to reach an accord [on such matters] for their children’s sake,” said Noriko Mizuno, a Civil Code professor at Tohoku University.

“In Western countries and South Korea, couples are not allowed to get divorced unless they agree on a plan to raise their children and the plan is approved by the court. In Japan, it’s not sufficient to simply check whether parents have come to an agreement on such matters. We must also create a system to verify their decisions really serve the best interests of the child and enforce them if so.”

(Sep. 15, 2012)

Children’s Rights Council of Japan recently detected an error in the online database of National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) that was resulting in only two of the posters of American children believed to be abducted to Japan to show up on the NCMEC website.  NCMEC has corrected the problem, and there are now 13 posters involving 17 American children showing up on their website.  Children’s Rights Council of Japan has reposted these cases including the posters with additional details for each case at the following link:

Below is a listing of publicized cases of American children believed to have been abducted to Japan in violation of U.S. laws.  The source for this information is the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).   As of September 11, 2012, there were 13 cases involving 17 American children on the NCMEC website.  This represents only a small fraction of the total cases involving abductions to Japan, as this is only for U.S. citizen children believed to have been taken to Japan.  Also, many left-behind parents do not report their cases to NCMEC, and not all left-behind parents have agreed to go public with their cases using the NCMEC Poster Campaign.  For more details on each case, click on the “View Poster” link.


Gunnar and Kianna Berg

Melissa Braden

Keisuke Collins

Jonas and Owen Daikaibush

Hiroki Hagisaka

Sean Hillman

Marina Kaneda

Ezra Lui

Diona Peterson

Isaac and Rebecca Savoie

Wayne Sawyer

Hana Scordato

Takoda and Tiana Weed

Another disturbing development that poses a threat to abducted children in Japan:


Pressure in Mount Fuji is now higher than last eruption, warn experts

06 September 12

The pressure in Mount Fuji’s magma chamber is now higher than it was in 1707, the last time the nearly 4,000-metre-high Japanese volcano erupted, causing volcanologists to speculate that a disaster is imminent.

The new readings, taken by the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention, reveal that the pressure is at 1.6 megapascals, nearly 16 times the 0.1 megapascals it takes to trigger an eruption.

This, lead volcanologist on the case Eisuke Fujita told Kyodo News, is “not a small figure”.

Researchers have speculated for some time that the volcano, located on Honshu Island 100km southwest of Tokyo, is overdue an eruption. In 2000 and 2001 a series of low-frequency earthquakes were recorded beneath the volcano, leading to widespread predictions of an imminent blow. Since the March 2011 tsunami and the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that followed four days later, Japan has been on tenterhooks, and in May 2012 a professor from Ryukyu University warned that a massive eruption within three years would be likely because of several major factors: steam and gases are being emitted from the crater, water eruptions are occurring nearby, massive holes emitting hot natural gases are appearing in the vicinity and finally, the warning sign that pushed the professor to make the announcement, a 34km-long fault was found underneath the volcano. The fault, experts suggested, could indicate a total collapse of the mountainside if there is another significant shift, and it would probably cause a collapse in the event of an eruption, leading to huge mud and landslides.

The new readings prove that the localised tectonic shifts of 2011 have indeed put immense pressure on the magma chamber, but the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention has qualified its warning by noting that pressure is just one contributory factor to an eruption. The 1707 eruption, however, was itself caused by a recent earthquake that amped up the pressure in its magma chamber.

“It’s possible for Mount Fuji to erupt even several years after the March 2011 earthquake, therefore we need to be careful about the development,” a representative said.

A 2004 government report originally estimated that an eruption would cost the country £19.6 billion. However, new studies are underway by Honshu Island’s Shizuoka prefectural government. The study is focussing on the potential damage that would be caused by a series of simultaneous earthquakes in the Tokai, Tonankai and Nankai regions located along the Nankai Trough, where it is feared another earthquake will soon take place. The most recent modelshave revealed that, in the worst-case scenario, 323,000 people would die and the tremors could trigger an eruption at Mount Fuji.

Regions that would be affected, including Kanagawa, Yamanashi and Shizuoka, plan to hold a test run of an evacuation by 2014, with a meeting of local governments covering progress of the plans and of shelter preparations slated for April 2013.

During the past year the U.S. Embassy in Japan deleted a page from its website that included statistics for the U.S., Canada, France, Australia, and the United Kingdom showing the tremondous growth in the number of international child abduction cases by Japanese spouses since 2000, with the number of cases having quadrupled from 2005 to 2009.

It is not clear why this information is being suppressed, but CRC of Japan has retrieved this information and is reposting it on our blog, at the following link:

Rapid Increase in Child Abductions to Japan

Here is a link to video of the protest at the Consulate-General of Japan booth at the Aki Matsuri festival at the Bellevue College Main Campus in Bellevue, WA:


Saturday, Sep. 8, 2012



News photo
Outta here: Lower House members leave the chamber Friday as the Diet effectively ended all business for this legislative session before it concludes Saturday. KYODO


Rocky, extended Diet session over; bills, treaties left in lurch

Hague, vote-value, deficit bond measures fail to clear grudge fest


Staff writer

The extended 229-day Diet session closes with a whimper Saturday, with piles of important bills and treaties left unaddressed and voters left only with an image of lawmakers engaging in political maneuvering for their own goals — particularly those over the contentious sales tax hike and over the next Lower House election.

And now both the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party are focused on one thing — the presidential elections for both parties to be held this month to choose the leaders who will guide their parties in that next general election.

Political insiders and observers believe Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s re-election as DPJ chief, to be determined Sept. 21, is pretty much a given, especially since popular Environment Minister Goshi Hosono announced Friday he does not intend to run.

But pundits are quick to note that the DPJ has a slim chance of retaining control of the lower chamber amid the falling public support for Noda’s Cabinet in media polls.

Voters have grown disenchanted over the DPJ-led administration’s inability to overcome the political chaos in the divided Diet and deliver on campaign promises it made for the 2009 Lower House election that brought it to power for the first time.

Noda has also sparked public resentment for his unpopular drive to raises taxes, as he has failed to show any vision of how the increased revenue will be used to support the aging society and snowballing social security costs.

During the ordinary Diet session, Noda tried to execute leadership by putting “an end to on-the-fence politics” and passing the bill to double the 5 percent consumption tax by October 2015.

But during the process, DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa, who opposed the tax hike, left to form a new party, deepening voters’ impression that the existing parties are more interested in wrangling over political power than getting anything done.

“The DPJ had no outlook on how to maintain power after the tax hike, focusing only on trying to come out with as little damage as possible. And now it is in a situation that if an election were to take place, the DPJ would lose badly and be forced out of power,” said Sadafumi Kawato, a professor of political science at the University of Tokyo.

Noda is the third DPJ prime minister since 2009, when the party wrested power from the long-ruling LDP.

But since then, the DPJ has drawn criticism from the public for blunders over key issues, including failing to move the contentious Futenma air base out of Okinawa and enacting the tax hike bill after promising during the 2009 campaign not to raise the unpopular sales tax over the next four years.

The support rate for the Noda Cabinet has been steadily moving downhill, finally falling below 20 percent for the first time in August, according to a Jiji Press poll.

“Can the DPJ lawmakers devise a last-ditch plan to remain in power? I don’t think so. All they can do is postpone the election as long as possible,” said Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Nihon University.

Meanwhile, LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki is also on shaky ground and his re-election is in doubt. The party plans to hold its presidential election Sept. 26, less than a week after the DPJ.

Often regarded as being weak-kneed when it comes to power politics, Tanigaki tried but failed to execute strong leadership by demanding over and over that Noda dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election.

Tanigaki managed to get Noda to vaguely promise to dissolve the chamber “soon” in exchange of supporting the consumption tax hike.

But he later turned around and submitted a censure motion against the prime minister in the Upper House even though the DPJ and LDP have few disagreements over key policy matters, most notably the tax hike.

Tanigaki’s about-face led the voters to believe the LDP is trying to force Noda to dissolve the Lower House while the DPJ’s support rate is dwindling, and giving little attention to substantive policy matters that directly affect voters.

“I think Tanigaki became anxious and acted hastily. He knew he would have difficulty being re-elected so he decided to have a showdown with Noda and tried to write a scenario to force Noda to dissolve the Lower House,” University of Tokyo’s Kawato said. “And now, even many veteran lawmakers have decided not to support him.”

Political experts believe Noda probably won’t be able to postpone dissolving the Lower House and he is unlikely to implement any more new contentious policies, given the divided Diet and his weakened power over his own party members.

Meanwhile, some critically important bills didn’t make it through the divided Diet, most notably one to issue special deficit-covering bonds to cover a large portion of the fiscal 2012 budget and one to partially correct the vote-value disparity in general elections.

These two bills must be dealt with in an extraordinary Diet session that may convene in October.

“There is no way that the bond bill can go without being enacted because without it the government won’t be able to operate. It is already affecting the budget,” Kawato said. “I don’t think the next Lower House election should be held without at least some sort of revision” on the electoral system either.

Without the enactment of the bond bill and legislation to rectify the vote-value disparity, which the Supreme Court ruled as being in a state of “unconstitutionality,” critics say the results of any elections could eventually be judged as unconstitutional.

During the current Diet session, which started in January, only 66 percent of newly submitted government-sponsored bills cleared both chambers.

Political squabbling took center stage last month when the nonbinding censure motion against Noda was approved by the Upper House, stopping almost all Diet deliberations.

Thus the government also failed to live up to its promise to the international community to pass a bill to endorse the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to prevent estranged parents from spiriting a couple’s children across borders.

Noda also couldn’t gain Diet approval of the proposed commissioners for the new nuclear regulatory agency to be launched this month and will be forced to make the unusual move of appointing them under his authority.

“Confrontation between the DPJ and the LDP and New Komeito have risen clearly to the surface. The two sides are now in direct opposition and closed the Diet without deliberating on various bills,” Kawato said. “Noda will just have to be happy going down in history as the prime minister who raised the consumption tax.”



Delay in signing Hague child abduction treaty could provoke sanctions

Dear Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda,

The government submitted legislation to the Diet in March of this year to allow for accession to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. It has been five months since then and the legislation has been sitting on a shelf collecting dust ever since.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously said it is “treating the issue as its top priority.” Parliamentary Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kazuyuki Hamada also stated on April 9 that “We are determined to push it forward because the issue is hugely relevant to the values of not only our country, but also those of the international community.”

Evidence that the United States government is unconvinced of Japan’s sincerity has recently been highlighted by a new Senate resolution. Bipartisan Senate Resolution 543, dated Aug. 2, 2012, to express the sense of the Senate on international child abduction was introduced by California Sen. Barbara Boxer and 14 other senators, including 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

In the resolution, Japan is mentioned no less than three times: “Whereas Japan, India and Egypt are not parties to the Hague Abduction Convention and were also among the top 10 countries to which children in the United States were most frequently abducted in 2011”; “Whereas, in many countries, such as Japan and India, international parental child abduction is not considered a crime, and custody rulings made by courts in the United States are not typically recognized by courts in those countries,” and; “Whereas Japan is the only member of the Group of 7 major industrialized countries that has not ratified the Hague Abduction Convention.”

The resolution also quotes the U.S. State Department’s Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction from April 2010: “Research shows that abducted children are at risk of significant short and long-term problems, including ‘anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances (and) aggressive behavior’. ”

How much longer will foreign governments such as those of the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, France and New Zealand continue to believe Japan’s assertions that it will sign the Hague Convention? Evidence suggests that many countries’ patience is coming to an end. In the U.S. Congress, House Resolution 1940 calls for legislation that includes presidential actions up to and including economic sanctions against countries that condone child abduction, such as Japan.

How many more children will be abducted to Japan while the Japanese government breaks promises to the international community and does absolutely nothing on the issue? Perhaps it is time to hold Japan accountable in a way which they will understand: economic sanctions. Continued delay on this issue will likely ensure that this possibility becomes a reality.



Bruce Gherbetti is the father of three children abducted to Japan in 2009. Since that time, Bruce has moved to Japan to maintain contact with his children. He has also helped to form two organizations to fight for children’s human rights in Japan and has lobbied Diet members including former Justice Minister Satsuki Eda. Send comments on this issue and Hotline to Nagatacho submissions of 500-700 words