http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Kirkland-mom-accused-of-fleeing-to-Japan-to-4824996.php

Kirkland mom accused of fleeing to Japan to thwart parenting plan

BY LEVI PULKKINEN, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
Published 7:29 pm, Wednesday, September 18, 2013
 
 
  • Maximus, pictured in a photo provided by his father Kris Morness. King County prosecutors contend Maximus's mother Chie Kawabata abducted the boy earlier this year and has taken him to Japan. Photo: Family Photos
    Maximus, pictured in a photo provided by his father Kris Morness. King County prosecutors contend Maximus’s mother Chie Kawabata abducted the boy earlier this year and has taken him to Japan. Photo: Family Photos

 

 

A Kirkland woman accused of fleeing to Japan with her son in an end run around a custody dispute now faces criminal charges.

King County prosecutors contend Chie Kawabata left the country earlier this year with her 5-year-old son, Maximus, despite court orders requiring her to keep the child in the United States. Kawabata has been charged with custodial interference, a kidnapping-related felony.

Writing the court, Deputy Prosecutor Benjamin Santos contends Kawabata has completely cut off contact with her son’s father, Vancouver, B.C., resident Kris Morness, and has no intention of returning the child.

“The defendant has ignored the conditions of the parenting plan and simply defied the court’s last order,” Santos told the court. “It appears the defendant has made arrangements to move all of her belongings to Japan. … There is little reason to believe this move is not permanent.”

Santos went on to contend the Maximus may be in danger.

Kawabata, 46, is the fourth Japanese mother in recent years to be charged in King County with taking children to Japan in violation of court orders. Because Japan has not ratified the leading international treaty on the issue, U.S. authorities are effectively blocked from returning the kidnapped children.

According to charging papers, Kawabata and Morness divorced in 2012. While Maximus lived primarily with Kawabata, the parenting plan mandated that either parent receive permission before taking Maximus out of the country.

In late 2012, Kawabata asked for a court order allowing her to take her son to Japan. King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel denied her request in January, finding in part that “the detrimental effects of relocation outweigh the benefits.”

Morness learned Kawabata was missing in late July after his son didn’t show up for a weekend visitation. At his request, Kirkland police went to the woman’s home and found she’d moved out.

As it turned out, Kawabata and the boy flew to Japan on July 26. She had a one-way ticket.

In an email, Kawabata admitted she took the boy to Osaka, a Kirkland detective told the court.

“The torment I have endured in recent years have left me … emotionally ruined and forced my hands to take this step that I wish I did not have to take,” Kawabata wrote in an email to her ex-husband, according to charging papers.

Since her disappearance, Morness has launched a website describing his ex as a “senior HR manager/child abductor.” He’s also posted court documents supporting the claims made by police – chiefly that Kawabata had no authority to run off with Maximus.

In recent years, U.S. authorities have seen an increase in the number of international custodial child abductions. Watchdogs on the issue say there are currently more than 1,000 such open cases involving U.S. parents whose children have been taken overseas.

Unlike the United States and 80 other countries, the Japanese government has not ratified the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. The 29-year-old United Nations accord requires that member countries honor custody agreements made outside their borders unless doing so threatens the child involved.

In addition to Kawabata, prosecutors in King County have charged three other Japanese women with kidnapping their own children. None have answered the charges against them.

Most recently, prosecutors charged former Seattle resident Ryoko Fukuda with absconding with her daughter the day she was supposed to hand over the girl’s Japanese passport. According to charging documents filed in Aug. 2012, the girl’s father rushed to Sea-Tac Airport in an attempt to retrieve her. Prosecutors say Fukuda and the child were already flying to Japan.

Michiyo Imoto Morehouse, previously of Bellevue, was charged with the same crime in 2010 after fleeing the country with her son. Her ex-husband had been awarded sole custody of the child.

In 2009, another former Seattle resident – Mayumi Ogawa – fled the country weeks after a King County Superior Court judge approved a parenting plan stating that her son would split his time between his parents, according to charging papers. The boy’s father has since been awarded sole control of the child.

Kawabata, like the rest of the women, remains at large. Prosecutors have requested that she be jailed if apprehended.

Check the Seattle 911 crime blog for more Seattle crime news. Visit seattlepi.com‘s home page for more Seattle news.

Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 orlevipulkkinen@seattlepi.com. Follow Levi on Twitter at twitter.com/levipulk.

 

Advertisements

http://www.kotaku.com.au/2013/08/game-developer-says-his-son-has-been-kidnapped/

IN REAL LIFE

Game Developer Says His Son Has Been Kidnapped

Game Developer Says His Son Has Been Kidnapped

The last time game programmer Kris Morness says he saw his five-year-old son, Maximus, was on July 25 this year. It was a Thursday, and they talked on Skype. Everything seemed normal, but normal can be deceiving. That was the last time Morness has seen — or heard from — his son. Now, he’s doing everything to get him back.

The boy’s mother, Chie Kawabata, has left the US, according to a description in this Kirkland, Washington police report, taking Maximus with her to Japan in what her ex-husband is calling a case of child abduction. Kawabata was born in Osaka, but is now apparently a US citizen.

“I decided to go public because there is lots of evidence she is not returning,” Morness told Kotaku. And by going public, Morness means it: He created a website called ChieKawabata.com. While there’s no mincing words, this isn’t some simple takedown site designed to destroy her credibility and make it impossible for future employers to hire her. Morness hopes it can help him find his son. It just might.

Every story has two sides, and Kotaku reached out to Chie Kawabata for comment via the email listed on the website Morness created as well as through a Facebook account and the cell phone number listed onChieKawabata.com. At the time of publication, Kawabata had yet to reply. There was an automated message saying the phone was not accepting calls at this time.

ChieKawabata.com is a gutsy move that helps Morness get his story out there so he can hopefully be reunited with his son. When asked if he was worried if Kawabata would sue him for defamation, Morness replied, “I kind of wish she would try, because she would have to return to the jurisdiction. In any case, I had already looked into the legal risks of putting up such a website and I am in the green there.”

“On the site are all the relevant court orders and the police report,” said Morness, adding, “I took an approach of full transparency. The trial transcripts are there — and they paint an incredibly detailed picture of what kind of stuff has been going on for the past two years.”

This isn’t the kind of thing you’d expect from a 16-year game industry veteran like Morness, with games such as Command & Conquer titles, Jagged Alliance 2, and The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earthunder his belt. Currently, he is the lead programmer on Age of Empires II HD. Then again, this probably isn’t what Morness expected.

Creating a website like this comes with huge risks for Morness, both professionally and personally. It shines a light on a messy divorce with both sides making ugly allegations (more here in the 2012 Parenting Plan document). But shining a light on this case is exactly what Morness wants to do after what he says happened. According to the same 2012 document, Kawabata was named Maximus’ primary parent, with Morness receiving weekends, holiday time and scheduled Skype talks. As noted in the Final Parenting Plandocument, international travel requires “advance written approval by the other parent”.

Maximus spent two and a half weeks in early July with his father, but later that month, Morness could no longer get in touch with his son. Morness emailed his ex-wife, asking her where his son was. Then, as documented on ChieKawabata.com, he supposedly received this reply from his ex-wife on August 2:

After much thought, I have taken a leave of absence from work until the end of August and have traveled with Maximus to Japan to visit my cancer-stricken mother. The torment I have endured in recent years have left me (and therefore Max) emotionally ruined and have forced my hands to take this step that I wish I did not have to take. We are in Osaka with our family where you have visited before, and I just need [a] little time to have my and Max’s wound to be healed through the love of my family.

Morness believes this move is permanent since, as documented on ChieKawabata.com, he says she’s tried to relocate outside the U.S. twice before: Once to Beijing, China, and the other time to Tokyo, Japan.

Still unable to get in touch with his son, Morness contacted the police in Kirkland, Washington, where his ex-wife lived. The Kirkland police report on ChieKawabata.com states that Morness’s ex-wife and Maximus flew out of San Francisco to Japan on July 26 without providing the proper parental notification. A spokesperson for the Kirkland Police Department confirmed to Kotaku the authenticity of the police report posted by Morness.

Because of this, according to this Superior Court of Washington King County document also onChieKawabata.com, Morness was granted custody of Maximus due to “custodial interference of the first degree for mother which includes abduction of child to Japan against court orders and withholding access of child to father for protracted periods of time.”

In Japan, joint custody for divorced parents doesn’t exist. Complicating things for international marriage is that, for many years, Japan hasn’t participated in the Hague Convention, which states children must be returned to their country of residence. Since Japan hasn’t been a part of the Hague Convention, this has meant that many Japanese parents can flee back to their home country with their children, whether the reasons are truly warranted or unwarranted. It’s meant there is little non-Japanese parents can do legally to get their kids back.

This case is unusual: Kawabata was born in Japan, but she’s a US citizen. Morness, however, says he “can’t be sure” his ex-wife gave up her Japanese citizenship when she naturalised.

Earlier this spring, Japanese parliament voted to approve the Hague treaty and, as Japan Daily Press reports, is setting a deadline of March 2014 for final ratification. According to The Daily Beast, there is scepticism even among Japanese pundits about the country’s implementing of the Hague Convention as doing so could take years and might need more international pressure.

Today is August 30. It is still unknown if Kawabata does plan on returning to the US at the end of the month. Morness still doesn’t know his son’s whereabouts, telling Kotaku, “I was supposed to have him here for another two weeks right now but obviously that didn’t happen.”

ChieKawabata.com [Official Site]

Owen Good contributed to this article.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/japan-eyes-change-over-snatched-kids

Agence France-PresseFebruary 19, 2013 23:00
Japan eyes change over snatched kids

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be under pressure when he meets US President Barack Obama this week to pledge progress on a long-stalled treaty to prevent the snatching of children by a Japanese parent in international divorce cases.

Abe is expected to promise that Japan will follow through on a decades-old pledge to ratify the Hague Convention on child abduction, giving some legal muscle to hundreds of foreign fathers — including Americans, French and Canadians — kept apart from their half-Japanese children.

“Those are only the reported cases,” French Senator Richard Yung told AFP during a recent trip to Tokyo to press officials on the issue.

Japan is the lone member of the G8 industrialised nations — the others being the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia and Canada — not to have adopted the 32-year-old international treaty.

Key allies including the US, France and Britain have long demanded Tokyo step into line.

Diplomats say ratification of the Hague Convention could come during Japan’s current parliamentary session, which ends in the summer.

That would make it the 90th state to adopt the treaty, which is aimed at securing “the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or held” in another treaty state.

“These cases are particularly cruel — birthday or Christmas presents are returned,” said Yung, who added that he met a vice foreign affairs minister but was refused a sit down with Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki.

The changes would also offer hope to hundreds of thousands of Japanese fathers who face similar estrangement under domestic custody laws.

Japan is unique among major industrialised nations when it comes to the children of estranged parents.

Courts do not recognise joint custody — for foreigners or Japanese nationals — and almost always order that children live with their mothers, leaving desperate fathers with almost no recourse to see their children.

Many lose touch with their offspring if the ex-spouse blocks access, a common occurrence due to the widely held opinion that child rearing is a task for women, while men earn the money.

Yasuyuki Watanabe, the deputy mayor of a small Japanese town, has not seen his daughter in years. After the country’s devastating 2011 quake-tsunami disaster, he says he tried to make contact with the now five-year-old girl.

“And my wife called the police on me,” he said.

Michael, a foreigner who has lived in Japan for three decades, had a messy divorce that ultimately saw two of his three kids tell a Japanese court they had no wish to ever see their father again.

That, he says, was the product of “brainwashing” by his ex-spouse. Michael, which is not his real name, has never met his two grandchildren.

Sometimes, judges do order the custodial parent to send photos of a child to their former spouse, or to allow a short monthly visit.

But police almost never intervene when those orders are commonly ignored.

Ratification of the convention would not automatically change Japanese laws, but it offers hope for hundreds of thousands of Japanese men cut off from their kids, including Watanabe who said he recently met with the justice minister.

“I told him how the judicial system is malfunctioning and that judges encourage these abductions, whether it is international or in Japan,” he added.

But ratifying the treaty alone is no silver bullet and there are fears that future changes to domestic laws could lack both scope and substance, warned Yung, who cited public opinion as the biggest weapon in winning the fight for access.

Richard Delrieu, president of advocacy group SOS Parents Japan, has not seen his own half-Japanese son in years and also said that ratifying the treaty alone won’t change things overnight.

“This situation is not worthy of a great country like Japan,” he said.

jlh-pb/hg/ao/pdh

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/japan-eyes-change-over-snatched-kids

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/02/15/national/ldp-gets-behind-the-hague-convention/#.USJvjqXBG5K

From Japan Times:

LDP gets behind the Hague Convention
BY REIJI YOSHIDA
STAFF WRITER
FEB 15, 2013
Now that a majority of the Diet appears to support joining the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, the government expressed determination Thursday to push for quick ratification of the 1980 Hague Convention.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s joint foreign and legal affairs policy panel gave the green light Wednesday for the government to sign the convention, making it almost certain that the necessary legislation will be enacted before the Diet session ends in June.

The LDP panel is expected to formally approve the bills next Tuesday.

“We’re now making our utmost efforts to conclude the convention quickly,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

Some members of New Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, had been cautious about approving the treaty and related bills, fearing that Japanese mothers who flee domestic violence overseas could lose protection.

But New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said Tuesday the party is willing to approve the treaty by the end of this Diet session.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, is expected to get on board because it had submitted similar bills to the Diet last year.

“(Joining) the Hague Convention is important for our country as well,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Lower House Budget Committee on Wednesday.

Abe has cited the increase in international marriages in recent years as another reason for joining the convention.

The number of international divorces involving a Japanese spouse more than doubled to about 19,000 in 2010 from about 7,700 in 1992, which has meant a corresponding increase in the number of cross-border disputes over child custody.

Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight richest countries not to join the convention.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the U.S. government had requested Tokyo help solve 81 alleged child abduction cases involving a Japanese parent as of last September, while the British and Canadian governments have sought help on 39 cases each and the French government 33 cases.

During his first summit with President Barack Obama in Washington next week, Abe is expected to express his determination to have Japan join the Hague Convention.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/bring-back-374-american-children-who-have-been-kidnapped-japan/wJTk3QWH

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Bring back the 374 American children who have been kidnapped to Japan!
Over 374 American children have been kidnapped to Japan. Most of these children were too young or too scared to have a voice and contact their American parent. My knowledge comes from BacHome.org, my Son and, the other Parents of Kidnapped Children (PKC) We will not stop until we get our government’s help to bring our children home.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20130117a9.html

Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013

Hague pact on fast track, Abe to tell Obama
Kyodo
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will tell U.S. President Barack Obama when they meet, probably in February, that he wants to speed up the procedure for Japan to join the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, sources said Wednesday.

The previous administration led by former Democratic Party of Japan leader Yoshihiko Noda had already made participation in the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction an international commitment.

The Abe team is aiming to submit a bill to the Diet early this year to endorse the convention, which sets rules for the prompt return of children under 16, taken or retained by one parent following the failure of international marriages, to the country of their habitual residence.

Domestic legislation is necessary to join the convention, but a related bill was scrapped when the Lower House was dissolved in November.

Among the Group of Eight nations, Japan is the only one yet to join the convention and has been facing calls from the United States and European countries to get on board soon.

Children’s Rights Council of Japan has obtained the following statistical summary from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children regarding the outcomes of cases it is handling involving children taken from the U.S. to Japan:

As of October 2012, NCMEC’s database reflects that in ninety-three percent (93%) of our active (unresolved) cases involving children taken from the U.S. to Japan, we have been seeking the return of the children for two years or longer and forty-four percent (44%) of these cases have remained unresolved for five years or longer. NCMEC’s database also reflects that, out of all of our closed cases involving children taken from the U.S. to Japan, seventy-six percent (76%) of the children were never recovered. To date, twenty percent (20%) of our closed cases involving children taken from the U.S to Japan, the children were returned or allowed access to the left-behind parent solely because of voluntary action on the part of the taking parent.

Children’s Rights Council of Japan is not aware of a single recovery from Japan that has resulted from a civil legal proceeding, and is aware of only one recovery following the issuance of a criminal warrant for the taking parent, in the case of Dr. Moises Garcia and his daughter, Karina Garcia.

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.

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.

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T121116004864.htm

 

Many important bills being shelved, scrapped

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Many important bills were hastily passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday, including a bill allowing the government to issue deficit-covering bonds, ahead of the imminent dissolution of the lower house.

However, there are quite a few important bills that were scrapped or shelved, such as a bill for Diet approval of Japan joining the Hague Convention, which stipulates procedures among member states to resolve international child custody issues. A bill to introduce the My Number system, which would provide each person with a unique identification number, also was canned.

During a debate with main opposition Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he could dissolve the lower house Friday. After that, the LDP and its opposition coalition partner New Komeito softened their stances regarding Diet affairs.

At its plenary session on Thursday, the lower house passed bills such as the deficit bond bill and a revision to the National Pension Law, which will reduce pension benefits that are currently 2.5 percent higher than they should be in deflation-adjusted terms in three stages from October 2013.

These bills were enacted after being passed in the House of Councillors on Friday.

In order to resolve as many bills as possible, both houses held two plenary sessions Friday.

The issue of electoral reform of the lower house, which was the main point of concern before the dissolution of the house, became complicated, as two separate bills were passed in the lower house.

The Diet affairs committee chairmen of the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito met Thursday morning to discuss how to handle two separate bills related to electoral reform of the lower house, submitted by the DPJ and the LDP.

During the meeting, they compromised on various points. First, they agreed to drop from the DPJ-sponsored bill a plan to cut a single-seat constituency from each of five prefectures in the lower house without increasing other prefectures’ single-seat electoral districts.

However, they decided to keep in the bill another provision to reduce the number of lower house seats contested through proportional representation and then to partially introduce a new method in the proportional representation system that benefits small parties.

The three parties’ Diet affairs committee chairmen then agreed to put both the modified DPJ-sponsored bill and the LDP-sponsored bill to a vote. The LDP bill also includes trimming five single-seat constituencies in the lower house.

Following their negotiations, the lower house’s special committee on establishing political ethics and revising the Public Offices Election Law voted on both bills separately. The modified DPJ-sponsored bill was passed with the support of the DPJ and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), and the LDP-sponsored bill was passed with the support of the LDP, Komeito and the DPJ. Subsequently, both bills were passed in a plenary meeting in the lower house and were sent to the upper house for a vote.

In the upper house, which is dominated by opposition parties, only the LDP-sponsored bill was passed and enacted, resulting in the plan of trimming five single-seat constituencies being realized ahead of other issues.

The three parties did not narrow the two bills down to one, out of consideration for DPJ members who insist on the party-sponsored proposal to cut the number of lower house seats contested  through proportional representation.

Meanwhile, a bill to approve the nation’s participation in the Hague Convention and another one to implement its membership were scrapped.

Among the Group of Eight industrialized nations, only Japan has not ratified the treaty, because of a lack of Diet approval.

Western countries see the situation as problematic, prompting concern that scrapping the bills may invite criticism from the international community.

Regarding bills related to integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, a modified bill to introduce the My Number system, which was largely agreed upon by the three leading parties at the previous ordinary Diet session, was scrapped.

The three parties have given up on submitting a bill to promote regenerative medicine to prevent the bill  from being scrapped. The bill aims to encourage research on the topic using induced pluripotent stem and other cells and put the findings into practical use.

“I’m extremely sorry about this. We have no choice but to submit the bill to the next ordinary Diet session,” said Chikara Sakaguchi, Komeito member and former health minister who played a central role in compiling the bill.

On Thursday, the Noda Cabinet approved legislation concerning local civil service reform that will grant local government officials the right to collective labor agreements, one of the fundamental labor rights. The legislation was submitted to the lower house.

The labor right was promised in the DPJ’s policy pledges and organizations supporting the party have been calling for submission of corresponding legislation. This had prompted criticism from the LDP that the promise was merely an electoral ploy.

(Nov. 17, 2012)