http://www.tokyofamilies.com/sections/entry.php?id=810

img_917_l

A father’s nightmare in Japan

By Tim Johnston | On the Cover

My journey to Japan began in 1996. I came here initially for a commercial modeling assignment and to sample the wonderful Japanese cuisine. I was tired of the United States and wanted to see the world. Japan was strange yet fascinating. It is a country where “no” means “yes” and “yes” means “no.”
I met my ex-wife on the night of my birthday in Narita, close to the airport. Coincidentally, we were born on the same day. That’s how this story began. We shared drinks and laughs. She was set to leave for the United Kingdom soon to study English. She gave me her name card and I called her a few days later. We began to date. She left me her car to use while she was away. I decided to move to Japan and wait for her return. We exchanged love letters and I took a job teaching English at the beach. This allowed me to exercise my passion for surfing. She returned and we moved in together, an arrangement that lasted eleven years.
We were married for two of those eleven years. We felt we had a good relationship. We took many overseas trips together and she even spent time with my mother and sister in France. Over the years she repeatedly asked my family, “When will Tim marry me?”
Some nine years after we first met, our wonderful son Kai Endo was born. It was the best day of my life when I saw his smiling face for the first time. He had the cutest grin and was definitely a mixed-race child. He looked more caucasian than Japanese, with blondish hair, but with his mother’s forehead and almond-shaped Asian eyes. He was big too, weighing about 3,500 grams at birth.
His mother returned to the apartment we had recently purchased after the traditional six weeks with her family. She looked exhausted, as was to be expected with a young infant and the new challenges of sleep deprivation. I began to help more with the chores and be the best husband I could be.
Conversations became more rigid and she often shouted demands at me. I accepted her change in behavior as the result of her being tired or having difficulty with her new role as a mother. Increasingly, she began to mention how single mothers in Japan are entitled to all sorts of benefits, such as subsidized education, health care, etc. I confronted her. “Why would you say such a thing?” But her reply was, “I don’t need you! You’re a foreigner anyway.  Our son is Japanese and I never want to live in your country!” I asked her how she could be so mean and spiteful.
We were drifting apart. I walked on eggshells around her when she was having her moments. It wasn’t long after that she asked for a divorce. I asked her if she was joking. She said no and walked away. When I saw her the following day, she asked me when I planned to move out.  I realized that this was no joke. She wanted me out and to have nothing to do with me anymore. I tried to get her to talk but she just tuned out. I remember vividly holding my son for the final two months before I moved out and just kissing him over and over and telling him how much I loved him and that this wasn’t his fault.
I signed the divorce papers and took an apartment close by so I could be near my son. My ex-wife had the audacity to tell me I should return to the United States. I had never felt so low in my life. After having my son, I felt complete as a person and loved my ex-wife more than anything. We had a child together. Now, my world was in shock. I reminded myself that I had to be a man. I decided to study Japanese more and accept being independent in a strange land. It was so difficult and often I couldn’t sleep. My nights were filled with questions about my son. What did he eat today? What’s he doing? Is he watching his favorite cartoon?
I told his mother upon moving out that I would see my son everyday. She agreed that I could see him once a week. We would meet in a local park and play together, sing songs and study English. He was always happy to see me and I was even happier to see him. My ex-wife, on the other hand, never once looked at me or talked to me when I met my son. As a young boy, he could understand English very well.
Some four years passed, and then one day everything changed. My wife got out of her car and walked towards me. I thought, “Wow! She’s actually going to speak to me.” I will never forget that she came within two meters of me. She looked scared. Then she said, “We are busy and I don’t have time for you to see your son anymore. I’m working now and I’m too busy.”
I live in the same neighborhood, I said. I can help, I can take him where he needs to go and pick him up from kindergarten. She said no… End of story! “Why don’t you just go back to your country and leave us alone?” she suggested. My son was seeing us like this for the first time, and a tear began to roll down his face. I asked her why she is doing this in front of our son.
She finally agreed to a two-hour meeting every two weeks. I was devastated. She grabbed my son’s arm and dragged him to the car. “I love you Kai,” I shouted. “Don’t worry, everything will be OK.”
The situation soon became unbearable. I couldn’t believe someone could be so heartless. She never returned my calls or emails inquiring about my son. I would confirm our next meeting but she would refuse to reply. This was escalating into her dominance and the alienation of her son’s father. Kai was now four years old. This carried on for two more years.
Meanwhile, my son was growing into a young man. I was so proud of him. When we did meet, we had the best four hours per month, filling the time with a lot of pictures, sports, affection and whatever else he wanted.
And then came 2:46 pm, March 11. After the initial tremor of the earthquake had subsided I panicked. I called my ex-wife and sent her emails to check that my son was safe. She never replied. Not even to say he was unhurt. I drove by her apartment but the lights were out, as with most places. Her car was gone. I guessed she had gone to her mother’s. I began to panic. I knew Japan would never be the same after March 11. I needed to see my son and hear his voice. I was worried that he may be suffering from trauma.
Following the earthquake, his mother never let the two of us talk. She probably thought I would move. Perhaps she would tell my son I had evacuated or died. However, after about a month I received a letter asking me to attend mediation court. When I opened the letter I fell to my knees and sobbed. The letter from her read, “I’m busy and have stress. You can see your son after mediation court.”
I finished  my seventh mediation hearing. The court granted me one visit with my son. He was worried about me and his mother refused to tell him anything. I comforted him and was thankful he was able to see his father. However, she told the court that I couldn’t see my son anymore. She is too busy, she said.
Japan must change its child custody laws! My current situation is unacceptable. I love my only son. I won’t ever give him up. Surely I have rights too? He is my son as well!
This is where I am today. I urge Japan to change its custody laws. I and all the other left-behind parents deserve rights and access to our children. Japanese law grants sole custody, usually to the mother. This was my wife’s plan all along. I just want to be a good father and hope Japan wakes up soon and realizes children need both parents. Loving children shouldn’t be alienated from loving parents. Japan, it’s 2012! Please help me to get access to my only son.
Tim Johnston is a resident of Narita, Chiba, Japan and the father of Kai Endo.
Advertisements

These statistics were provided by John Gomez of Kizuna-CPR (http://kizuna-cpr.org/meeting_summary_november_24_2012):

“4.6 million divorces 1992 – 2010, one child per divorce on average, 58% loss of access according to NHK Close Up Gendai yields an estimated 2.7 million children in Japan who have lost their relationship with their parent during this time, which is a human rights violation. It is about 150,000 children per year.”
That means every hour an additional 17 children living in Japan are being shut out of the life of one of their parents.  Considering the cumulative impact, not just in terms of the number of children involved, but also left-behind parents, family members, and others, this problem is having a devastating effect on a sizeable percentage of the Japanese population.

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

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-09/06/mount-fuji

 

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

06 September 12
Image1

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.

News reports like this are extremely worrisome to U.S. left-behind parents as well as parents in other countries with abducted dual citizen children being held in Japan.  A number of these children are believed to be living in or very near the Fukushima radiation zone.  The best interests of the child need to be considered by both the Japanese and foreign governments in cases such as this where the child’s future health is at risk.  Particularly troubling is the finding that “abnormal” traits doubled among the second generation born, with radiation damage intensifying in future generations.

http://news.yahoo.com/japan-nuclear-accident-abnormalities-butterflies-traced-fukushima-plant-153553981–abc-news-topstories.html

Japan Nuclear Accident: ‘Abnormalities’ in Butterflies Traced to Fukushima Plant

By Akiko Fujita | ABC News – Mon, Aug 13, 2012

Japanese scientists say “abnormalities” detected in the country’s butterflies may be a result of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year. In a study published in Scientific Reports, an online journal, researchers say “artificial radionuclides” from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant caused “physiological and genetic damage” to pale grass blue butterflies.

Scientists first began tracking common butterflies around the nuclear plant two months after the disaster. They collected 121 insects, and found 12 percent of them had unusually small wings. That number jumped more than 5 percent when butterflies collected from the plant site had offspring of their own.

In another group of butterflies collected six months after the disaster, scientists found 28 percent had “abnormal” traits. That number nearly doubled among the second generation born.

“At the time of the accident, the populations of this species were overwintering as larvae and were externally exposed to artificial radiation,” the researchers wrote in their study. “It is possible that they ate contaminated leaves during the spring and were thus also exposed to internal radiation.”

It has been 17 months after the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and its effects on human health have largely been considered minimal, with no radiation-related deaths or illnesses reported so far. But traces of radioactive cesium exceeding government safety levels have been detected in seafood off the Fukushima coast, limiting the catch for fisherman there.

Tiny amounts of cesium of 137 and cesium 134 were detected in more than a dozen bluefin tuna caught near San Diego in August last year. The levels were 10 times higher than tuna found in previous years, but well below those the Japanese and US governments considered harmful to human health.

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3g3g_0r01c

http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNDA2MzE2Nzcy.html

 

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

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”.

(DISTRESSED WOMAN AT MICROPHONE BREAKS DOWN)

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”.

http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/parents-urge-japan-to-return-abducted-children/2012/07/10

 

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.”

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201206080014

 

INTERNATIONAL MARRIAGE: Changing Japan as a safe haven for parental abductions

June 08, 2012

By HIROSHI MATSUBARA/ AJW Staff Writer

In February, 61-year-old Masahiro Yoshida was arrested for “abducting” his 7-year-old daughter from her elementary school in Ehime Prefecture the month before.

It marked the second time that Yoshida, a former professional jazz drummer, was driven to desperation and snatched his daughter, since his ex-wife has parental custody over his daughter, and he is not allowed to have any contact with her.

In Japan, courts do not recognize shared custody, and mothers retain custody in about 90 percent of court-mediated divorces involving minors.

In response to mounting criticism that Japan is a safe haven for parental abductions, the government finally submitted a bill to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides for the return of unlawfully abducted children.

The legislation is unlikely to pass in the current Diet session, as deliberations of controversial bills to hike the consumption tax are taking center stage. But if enacted, the convention, which has 87 signatory countries, will mandate that Japan return children whom its nationals took from other countries in a divorce, unless it harms the child’s welfare.

The public’s perception in Japan is that such post-divorce disputes are taking place only between Japanese mothers and fathers from Western countries. But many Japanese parents now claim that the justice system here is equally tormenting those who lost custody over their children following a divorce.

The case involving Yoshida has much in common with the well-publicized arrest of an American man in 2009 after attempting to abduct his son and daughter and flee to the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka.

According to Yoshida’s mother, Michiko, an 87-year-old former liquor store operator in Yokohama, it was her daughter-in-law who “abducted” her grandchild five years ago in an attempt to gain parental custody.

Michiko’s son is currently on trial at the Matsuyama District Court.

As Masahiro is likely to be given a prison sentence this time, Michiko said there must be fundamental flaws in the country’s justice system, which made her son a “criminal for just wanting to see his daughter.”

 

IS “GAIATSU” LAST RESORT?

 

In a nearly identical case, former family court judge Masanori Watanabe, 53, was arrested for abducting his daughter, then an elementary school third-grader, from a train station in Fukuoka in October 2005.

Watanabe, then a Yokohama-based lawyer, was subsequently given a suspended three-year prison sentence, dismissed from the bar association and cannot practice law.

“I certainly knew the consequences, but I thought it was my last opportunity to persuade her to come back to me when she becomes old enough to make her own judgments,” Watanabe said.

While waging court battles to gain custody of or visitation rights to their children, Yoshida and Watanabe campaigned for the Hague Convention, which they thought would help their causes.

“The convention means Japan’s last chance to review its cruel tradition to completely dismiss one parent’s right over children after divorce,” Watanabe said. “It is also my last resort to clear my name as a kidnapper.”

While the convention does not directly affect Japan-based families, Japanese and foreign parents here who lost custody pin hopes on their hopeful “gaiatsu,” or foreign pressure, scenario.

Lawyer Mikiko Otani, a member of the Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice on the Hague Convention, said ratification will bring positive changes to the family courts here, which will examine and rule whether to return a child in accordance with the convention.

The family courts will need to examine and rule on what types of child-taking are unlawful and what serves as the best interest of children in ways that are convincing to foreign authorities.

If the expatriation of children becomes a common practice, courts need to break free from traditional reluctance in using force in family conflict cases. It will discourage parents from simply taking away their children, even by force, as is widely occurring today, she added.

“Ultimately, Japan will need to approve a form of shared custody, which is the norm in most of the countries that are signatory to the convention,” Otani said.

But gaiatsu inevitably draws a backlash. To the relief of Japanese parents who flee with their children from overseas, the proposed domestic legislation to set court procedures for a child’s repatriation sets strict criteria for judges to do so.

The vaguest and most potentially controversial clause among the six requirements is that courts need to ensure there will be no possibility that the concerned child suffers “physical or psychological” abuse once returned.

“Can courts expatriate its nationals, minors, over public opinion? I don’t think that can happen,” said a Japanese mother who fought a lengthy, exhausting court battle in Australia with her ex-husband over custody of their two children.

 

BACKLASH FOR CHANGE

 

Interestingly, parties opposing the convention, and moves that can lead to the idea of shared custody, include both those from conservative and liberal camps.

Conservatives say that the single custody system is vital to maintaining the integrity of “koseki,” or Japan’s family registry system.

Kensuke Onuki, a lawyer who has represented Japanese mothers who have brought their children to Japan, agrees that one of the divorced parents must back away, in order to make a child’s new environment more stable.

“I don’t think many Japanese can stand the Western way of communication between children and their divorced parents, in which both parents participate in their children’s growing-up process,” Onuki said.

A head of a parents’ group seeking visitation rights said that even many of its group members, mostly fathers, will find it too burdening to fulfill shared custody, given the limited roles they played in child-rearing before their divorce.

Recalling his days on a family court bench in the mid-1990s, ex-judge Watanabe expressed regret that he and his colleagues had no doubts that it serves the interests of children to grant custody to their mothers.

He added that judges believe that courts must respect women’s parental rights, because it was historically denied to them and they had to gain them through postwar feminism.

“I also remember my boss telling me that the court should give men a ‘free hand’ to start a new life by eliminating responsibility to raise their children, and I really did not find much wrong with it,” Watanabe said.

“Now I know how painful, how cruel it is for a parent, regardless of the mother or father, to have their access denied.”

Watanabe added that he knows that the signing of the Hague Convention may be just the beginning of change for Japanese society.

“But I won’t give up, because this is the only way left for me to show my love for my daughter,” he said.

By HIROSHI MATSUBARA/ AJW Staff Writer

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120509005259.htm

 

Divorced parents lack ways to meet kids / Ministry has asked local govts to help out, but so far only Tokyo has taken active steps

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The welfare ministry has asked local governments to encourage meetings between divorced parents and their children by arranging and overseeing such encounters, but little progress has been made.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry started a project this fiscal year to increase opportunities for parents to meet their children after a divorce by encouraging prefectural governments and those of 20 ordinance-designated major cities nationwide to help out.

But among them, only the Tokyo metropolitan government has decided to begin to offer relevant services by the end of this fiscal year. The other 66 local governments will do so later, or have no plans.

Though the local governments admitted the project is necessary, they said the services cannot be provided because they have no officials with know-how about such meeting arrangements.

Thus it is an urgent task to train personnel who can implement the services.

Experts have said that meeting with parents after they get divorced is important for the children’s growth.

But in many cases, meetings by those directly involved are difficult to hold because of emotional conflicts.

According to the Supreme Court, applications for parent-child meetings in 2010 numbered 7,749, an about 3.2-fold jump from 10 years ago.

There have been many cases in which parents who have been refused permission to meet their children have taken matters into their own hands and absconded with them.

Private organizations offering to arrange and oversee such meetings do exist, but there are too few of them to meet nationwide demand. Consequently, only a limited number of people can use the services of such organizations.

A man in his 30s living in Hiroshima Prefecture apart from his wife and child while the couple’s divorce proceedings are under way said, “As my trusting relationship with my wife has been lost, I can’t even directly contact her.”

He said an arbitration service by a nonprofit organization cost 18,000 yen for two hours. He said, “Public assistance is necessary.”

In response to such opinions, starting in this fiscal year, the ministry decided to subsidize part of the costs if local governments of prefectures, major cities and regional core cities implement their own parent-child meeting services.

The public services cover low-income earners with children under 15, and the services are free of charge.

The idea is for officials of the local governments or other public entities to coordinate times and places for the meetings and also accompany the persons involved.

Since autumn last year, the ministry has asked the local governments to proactively implement the services.

However, in a survey conducted in April by The Yomiuri Shimbun on prefectural and major city governments, only the Tokyo metropolitan government replied it planned to introduce the service within this fiscal year.

Forty-six of the local governments, or 69 percent, said they were still considering whether to introduce the service. Twenty, or 30 percent, replied that they had no plans to do so.

On why such a service had not yet been introduced, a question for which multiple responses were permitted, 32 of the governments, or 48 percent, said they do not have officials or outside experts with expertise about such meetings, and 21 of them, or 32 percent, said they could not secure budgets for the purpose.

Most of the surveyed local governments admitted the project is necessary. But the Kochi prefectural government said the project means that public entities will get involved in the participants’ private affairs and thus careful consideration is necessary.

The Fukuoka prefectural government said that local governments alone have a limit on what can be done because difficult adjustments will be necessary in some cases, and it will be necessary to establish a system in which local governments will closely cooperate with lawyers, family courts and other experts.

A ministry official said, “We’ll take the opinions into consideration so that more local governments will implement the project.”

Waseda University Prof. Masayuki Tanamura, an expert on family law, said: “Maintaining interactions between parents and children after a divorce is important for the children’s growth. As there are many parents who say they can allow children to meet divorced spouses with third-party oversight, the project is significant.

“Because this is the first attempt of its kind, the local governments seem to be reluctant due to fear of possible trouble. But it’s useful even just to coordinate meeting schedules or contact parents on behalf of the other spouses. It’s necessary to actively provide the services,” he said.

(May. 10, 2012)
Below is a link to a condensed version of a Japanese court video that up to now has been available through the Japanese courts on a highly restricted basis.  This video openly talks about the importance of access to one’s child after separation.  It hopefully reflects a step in the right direction in Japanese court attitudes regarding a child’s access to both parents after a separation or divorce.
 http://www.courts.go.jp/video/kodomo_video/flv/kodomo_bb_01.html

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

http://lbpjapan.org/LBPJ_JC_Signature_Campaign/page.html