Yet another story of child-custody misery thanks to Japan’s insane family laws and enforcement


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Hi Blog.  Forwarding the below from a friend.  This is just another case of many where we have people (regardless of nationality, but thanks to the Koseki System NJ are in a particularly weak situation, particularly regarding international child abduction) doing awful things to their children after divorce simply because they can, and the authorities will do little or nothing to stop it.  I have of course written on the subject of divorce and post-divorce before (here and here, for example), but let me say at this juncture that for me it has gotten much, much worse over the past few years.  (I still myself have seen my kids maybe six times over the past six years, but now there is a development that someday I’ll tell you about, when I have drawn some conclusions and have some lessons from it.)

Meanwhile, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because it is a harsh reality:

As Japan’s Family Laws stand now, nobody — regardless of nationality — should get married to a Japanese and have kids.  Because if you divorce — or even separate — somebody will quite likely lose them completely.

Read on for yet another example of that.  Even more examples and case studies at the Japan Children’s Rights Network here.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo



(Please forward this message to everyone you know in Japan.)

On 25 March 2010, three children were abducted from their Tokyo home … by their own mother. All three were taken against their will.

Twenty days later, one child escaped, phoned for help, and was rescued. The abusive and mentally unstable mother immediately moved again and changed the remaining two children’s names … again.

The police consider this a family issue and will not help. The slow-moving family court has not made one ruling since this occurred, even though a petition for a return of physical custody was filed immediately after the children’s abduction.

More than 100 days has already passed, and your help is now being requested to find the abducted boys and return them to the home, neighborhood, school, friends, and family they have known their entire life –a  family that embraces all aspects of their mixed heritage.

Please look over the photos at the website below and keep an eye out for these two boys.


If you are tired of these primitive grab-and-runs quietly sanctioned by Japan’s ineffective family court structure, help us stop this one by keeping an eye out for these boys so that they can be returned home.

You can help. We NEED your help.




July 7 and 8, 2010

Dear Debito, I would like to request your help finding my two sons, who will be 10 and 7 this year.

Here’s a brief summary of what happened. I have been in Japan for nearly 20 years (married for 17), and I filed for divorce in January when I could no longer accept my wife’s increasing abuse of my three children (I have a daughter who just turned 13). My wife has also been in an ongoing affair since 2007. My wife and I began mediation, and at the end of March, she suddenly abducted all three children and disappeared.

After 20 days, my daughter was able to escape and phone for help, and I was able to rescue her. Her mother then immediately moved again. She has taken a leave of absence from work and even changed the boys’ names, but we do know that the boys are enrolled in a public school (1st and 4th grade) and are probably in or around Tokyo.

The family court has been incredibly ineffective (they won’t even interview the boys, and haven’t made any rulings), so after over 100 days of trying to go through the system to return these boys to their home, it appears that the only hope for doing so is to make this happen on our own…

The savetheboys website has been created, and I would like to ask for your help and the help of everyone possible to find these boys so that they can be safely returned to their home. Feel free to blog what I sent you in the initial e-mail or the text below. My only request is that you try to keep my family name out of it for the moment.

I certainly do appreciate your assistance.

Last weekend, my daughter and I saw “The Cove,” and the producer began the movie by announcing that their team initially desired to obtain footage by going through all the proper channels, but eventually had to resort to more extreme measures after encountering such staunch resistance.

That is the way I feel about this website and my actions now. I did not want to put that website up, and I resisted for quite a while. After nearly 20 years in Japan, I wanted to let this play out and give the system the opportunity to carefully examine this case and fix an obvious wrong. Instead, so many within the system have exhibited behavior that is unprofessional, biased, and outright dishonest. In particular, I find the dishonesty of so many “adults” to be troubling, and it leaves me with a really bad taste in my mouth.

If I did not actually go out and rescue my own daughter–against the advice of many, by the way–she would still be captive, even though she phoned begging for help.

Thank you again, Debito. Thank you so much. ENDS




2010年3月25日、私達3人兄弟は母によって東京都の自宅・・・から連れさられ、私 達3人とも自らの意思で連れていかれたわけではありませんでした。

20日後、私1人は自宅に電話をし、助けてもらいました。その事を知った母親はすぐ に残りの2人・・・を連れて引越しました。

警察はこれを親の問題だと考え、助ける事はしませんでした。のんびりと進む家庭 裁判所は母が子供を誘拐したというのに何も進歩を遂げません。

子供達が消えてから長い3ヶ月が過ぎました。そした今、私の弟達を探してください という事を皆さんにお願いしています。あの弟達を彼らの思い出の家、近所、学 校、友達、それと家族のもとへ戻してあげるのを手伝ってください。

下のリンクから弟達の写真などを見てください。もしかしたら彼らを町で見かける かもしれません。もし見つけたら連絡してください。お願いします。


もしあなたが今、この日本の家庭裁判所や日本国にウンザリしているのなら私の弟 達が家に戻れるように探す事で私達に力を貸してください。お願いします。





Sunday Tangent: CNN: Activist Junichi Sato on International Whaling Commission corruption and GOJ/NPA collusion


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Hi Blog.  For a Sunday Tangent, here is a hard-hitting article (thanks CNN) showing how activism against a corrupt but entrenched system gets treated:  Detention and interrogation of activists, possible sentencing under criminal law, and international bodies turning a blind eye to their own mandate.  Lucky for the author (and us) he is out on bail so he could write this.  He wouldn’t be bailed if he were NJ.  More on the IWC’s corruption in documentary The Cove — yet another reason why the bully boys who target people’s families (yet don’t get arrested for their “activism”) don’t want you to see it.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


IWC’s shame: Japan’s whale slaughter
By Junichi Sato, Special to CNN June 25, 2010 courtesy of SS

Junichi Sato, colleague face charges after finding corruption in Japan’s whaling industry
Sato: He and Toru Suzuki were held, questioned, often taped to chairs, for 23 days
Sato says Japan uses guise of “scientific research” to slaughter whales
Sato: As IWC does nothing, Iceland, Norway and Japan kill 30,000 whales
Editor’s note: Junichi Sato is the Greenpeace Japan program director, overseeing advocacy efforts for the international environmental organization’s Japanese branch.

(CNN) — After just two days of closed-door negotiations, the leaders who had gathered at the International Whaling Commission in Agadir, Morocco, announced no agreement was reached on the IWC chair’s proposal to improve whale conservation.

Greenpeace did not support the proposal, but we had hoped governments would change it to become an agreement to end whaling, not a recipe for continuing it.

It is particularly disappointing to me, because my professional commitment to end the whale hunt in my country of Japan — which led to the exposure of an embezzlement scandal at the heart of the whaling industry — has come at significant personal cost.

The investigation I conducted with my colleague, Toru Suzuki, led to our arrests in front of banks of media outlets who had been told about it in advance.

The homes of Greenpeace office and staff members were raided. Seventy-five police officers were deployed to handcuff two peaceful activists. We were held without charge for 23 days; questioned for up to 10 hours a day while tied to chairs and without a lawyer present. We are now out on bail awaiting verdict and sentencing, expected in early September.

If I can risk my future to bring the fraudulent Japanese hunt to an end, if whaling whistle-blowers are prepared to risk their lives to expose the corruption, how can it be that the IWC has yet again failed to take the political risk to pressure my government to end the scientific whaling sham?

Since the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling came into force in 1986, Japan has continued to hunt whales under the guise of “scientific research,” making a mockery of the moratorium. By claiming that slaughtering thousands of whales, in waters designated a whale sanctuary no less, is a scientific experiment needed to understand whales, Japan has violated the spirit and intention of the moratorium as well as the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary.

Iceland and Norway have simply ignored the moratorium. Those two nations, together with Japan, have killed more than 30,000 whales since then. I have always opposed my country’s hunt, which is why I decided to join Greenpeace. While it may be an emotionally charged political issue outside Japan, domestically it barely causes a political ripple. In 2006, Greenpeace decided to focus the bulk of its anti-whaling campaign in Japan to bring the issue home.

Wholly funded by Japanese taxpayers, the whaling program has produced no peer-reviewed scientific research and has been repeatedly told by the IWC that the so-called research is not needed or wanted. All it has produced is a massive bill for the taxpayers and tons of surplus whale meat that the Japanese public does not want to eat. It has also produced endless rumors and allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Two years ago, following a tip from three former whalers turned whistle-blowers, my colleagues at Greenpeace Japan and I began a public interest investigation and discovered that indeed, corruption runs deep.

All three whalers claimed that whale meat was routinely embezzled, with the full knowledge of government and whaling fleet operator officials. Greenpeace eventually intercepted one of nearly 100 suspicious boxes coming off the ships.

Although its contents were labeled as cardboard, 23.5 kilograms of prime whale meat were inside, destined for a private address.

On May 15, 2008, we handed over the box to the authorities, with additional evidence of the crime. Initially the Tokyo district prosecutor began to investigate. But we were eventually charged with trespass and theft of the whale meat, valued at nearly 60,000 yen (about $550 at the time). We face from 18 months up to 10 years in jail for exposing the truth behind an industry that is financially, morally and scientifically bankrupt.

The U.N.’s Human Rights Council on Arbitary Detention has ruled that our human rights have been breached and the prosecution is politically motivated. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed her concern about our case. Amnesty International, Transparency International, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, countless international legal experts, politicians and more than half a million individuals have raised their voices in opposition to the prosecution.

We will be tried and sentenced in September, more than two years after we first exposed the corruption. But the scandal does not end there. Just last week, more allegations emerged that Japan engages in vote-buying and bribery to keep its whaling fleet in the water.
But the truth is that Japan’s whaling program relies on secrecy and corruption to stay afloat.

And yet, the IWC continues to close its doors and ears to the reality of Japan’s commercial whaling. I came to Morocco in the hope that this, the International Year of Biodiversity, could mean an end to all commercial whaling, but I leave knowing that governments are only interested in taking strong public positions on whales but not in taking action to save them, not even behind closed doors.

Mine and Toru’s political prosecution is a clear sign that Japan has no intention of easily letting go of its debt-ridden whaling program. There are too many vested interests inside the government. That is not surprising. What is more disappointing is that those vested interests have gone unchallenged by the IWC, the body set up to conserve whales.

It may be surprising that in this day and age, and given the huge public interest in the issue, conversations about saving whales are held in secret. But the truth is that Japan’s whaling program relies on secrecy and corruption to stay afloat.

After two years of negotiations, this year’s meeting could have been an opportunity for the IWC to actually move forward and end the status quo. But its collective failure means that 24 years after the establishment of the moratorium on commercial whaling, Japan, Iceland and Norway will continue again to hunt whales with impunity.

I challenge the commission to throw open its doors and shine a spotlight on the corruption that is so evident, investigate all the allegations affecting the IWC that have been laid clearly before it on numerous occasions and realize that it is not only Japan’s international reputation that has been tainted by the failure in Agadir.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Junichi Sato.


FCCJ No.1 Shimbun & Jiji on Japanese police’s extralegal powers, and how that power corrupts


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Hi Blog.  Further exploring the theme of the Japanese police’s extralegal powers and how power corrupts, here are two articles outlining cases where the Japanese police can arrest people they find inconvenient.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


2010年6月24日13時51分配信 時事通信 Courtesy of XX

XX notes: So golly, apparently it actually is a crime to criticize the police. In this news item a man who does not like the police has been putting up notices near crime scenes that say “Congratulations on not catching the killer.” He was arrested and prosecutored for violating the Minor Crimes Act. Interestingly, the Minor Crimes Act does not seem to have any offenses which cover what he did. Minor technicality, I guess. Interesting law to read though – it is a crime to cut in line, among other things…


On the Wrong Side of the Law
by Julian Ryall
Japanese Police Branded as ‘Criminals’ by One of their Own

Number 1 Shimbun, June 2010

Haruhiko Kataoka is remarkably composed. For a man who has only recently been released from prison after completing a sentence of one year and four months for a crime that he is adamant he did not commit, his self-control is admirable. Even more so when one takes into account Kataoka’s insistence that he was framed by the police for the death of one of their officers, and that the legal system colluded in sending an innocent man to prison.

When he spoke at a press conference at the Club in April, there was no disguising Kataoka’s determination to continue the fight to clear his name.

There have been a number of high-profile cases that have gone against the police and judicial authorities in recent months – perhaps most famously the exoneration of Toshikazu Sugaya in March after he served more than 17 years in prison on the strength of inaccurate DNA evidence and a coerced confession to the sexual assault and murder of a girl aged 4 in Ashikaga in 1991. But Toshiro Semba, a former police officer who is supporting Kataoka’s claims, says these cases involving the Japanese police – which he describes as “a criminal organization” – are just the tip of the iceberg.

Kataoka’s head-on collision with the forces of law and order here began on the afternoon of May 3, 2006, as he was behind the wheel of a bus containing 22 students and three teachers on National Route 56 in Kochi City. After slowly pulling out of a restaurant parking lot – and observing all the appropriate safety precautions, he insists – a motorcycle being driven by a uniformed member of the Kochi Prefectural Police drove into the right side of his vehicle.

At the instant the accident happened, Kataoka says the bus was at a complete halt, a claim that he says has been backed up by the students and teachers aboard the vehicle as well as the principal of Niyodo Junior High School, who was in a passenger car following the bus.

As he tried to help the injured motorcyclist, another police officer who happened to be passing intervened and arrested Kataoka on the spot. When he reached the local police station, he was told that the officer on the motorcycle had died.

Taken back to the site of the accident later in the day, he was told to describe what had happened, but was not permitted to get out of the police patrol car. Kataoka says he could not even see the part of the road where the collision occurred. After being questioned for two days – and repeatedly told that the officer’s death was his fault – Kataoka was released.

“It was only eight months later that I was given an opportunity to explain what had happened, after I was summoned to the Kochi District Prosecutors’ office,” he said. “But the description of the accident they gave me then was beyond my belief.”

The prosecutors told Kataoka the accident had been entirely his fault due to his negligence to confirm that the road was clear, and that he was being charged with professional negligence resulting in death. To support their case, the police showed him photos of tire skid marks on the road.

“Since the bus was stopped, I told them, there was no way it could have made the skid marks,” he said. “It was then that I realized I was in a very problematic situation.


“From the moment the accident happened, the police had a scenario in which all the blame was put on me, and they didn’t even bother to carry out a proper on-site investigation.”

Kataoka had not given up the belief that his name would be cleared as, he reasoned, he would at least be able to explain what had really happened on Route 56 in court. He says he “had trust in Japan’s trial system.”

Instead, the testimony of the school principal and a teacher who had been aboard the bus were dismissed by Judge Yasushi Katata of the Kochi Local Court, on the grounds that their comments “lacked a realistic basis.” The testimony provided by the police officer who had been passing the scene of the accident on another motorcycle, however, was perfectly acceptable to the court because “testimony by a fellow officer is not necessarily unreliable.”

The court also accepted the tire skid marks put forward by the prosecution, which provided scientific analysis that the bus was moving at a speed of 14 kph while the motorcycle was traveling at between 30 kph and 40 kph. That contradicted another eye-witness statement that the police motorcycle was doing 60 kph. Judge Katata dismissed that suggestion as simply difficult to believe.

Kataoka was found guilty and sentenced to one year and four months in prison – with the judge taking a swipe at the defendant in his summing up by saying that he had failed to show feelings of remorse.

An appeal was immediately launched, with Kataoka’s lawyers carrying out exhaustive tests on an identical bus that revealed that even if the vehicle had been moving at the speed prosecutors insisted, it would only have left a skid mark measuring 30 cm long. Instead, police were presenting evidence of skid marks measuring 1 meter for the front right tire and 1.2 meters for the left tire. Kataoka says there are other discrepancies in the evidence, including the fact that the marks were not parallel. Fortunately for the police case, they claimed the marks had completely disappeared the day after the accident. And they refused to hand over the negatives of the photos of the skid marks, which could have been used to prove Kataoka’s innocence.

Even confronted with this evidence, the Takamatsu High Court dismissed Kataoka’s appeal.

“The judge said there was no reason to reopen the investigation,” Kataoka said. “He merely dismissed all the evidence that was unfavorable to the police and tried to cover up the criminal actions of the police against me.”

The Supreme Court reacted in the same way.

“I believe the courts have discarded the very principles of the judicial system and are only trying to cover up the wrongful actions of the police,” Kataoka said. “But I cannot allow that to happen. This case is not special at all and there have been many victims of criminal actions by the police and the failure of the powers that be to carry out full investigations.

“How can I put my faith in the justice system when the facts of a case are fabricated?”


And Kataoka reserves a healthy dose of scorn for the Japanese media.

“It is up to the media to follow up on cases such as this, but they looked away,” he said. “I was interviewed by the local media in Kochi, but no stories ever appeared.

“It is the responsibility of the Japanese media to report these events, but they cannot face up to the police,” he added.

Sitting alongside him, Semba nodded in agreement, adding that the system of kisha clubs “exists to conceal what is problematic for the police.” And he added that the media’s failure to report on these issues means that every day, more false charges are filed against innocent people.

Semba retired from the Ehime Prefectural Police in March, after 36 years on the force. At 24, he had been the youngest officer in the history of the prefectural force to be promoted to the rank of sergeant, but he says his refusal to falsify expenses forms that were funneled into a vast slush fund meant that he was never promoted again, was regularly transferred between unappealing assignments and had his handgun taken away on the grounds that he might kill himself or pose a danger to others.

“The Japanese police are a criminal organization and the senior officers of the force are all criminals,” Semba said. “Of all the companies and organizations in Japan, only the ‘yakuza’ and the police commit crimes on a daily basis. That includes building up slush funds and it was because I refused to participate in that that I stayed in the same position for all those years.”

Semba alleges that ¥40 billion is systematically racked up from falsified travel expenses and fictitious payments to individuals who assist the police in their investigations. Pretty much every officer in the country is involved in the scam, he claims, and they do not speak out because they are all too busy climbing the ranks to try to get their hands on a larger share of the pie.

“The money is spent by senior officer on purchasing cars, buying homes and entertainment,” he said, pointing to the example set by Takaji Kunimatsu, the former commissioner general of the National Police Agency who was shot by an unidentified assailant outside an apartment amid the Aum Shinrikyo cult investigations in 1995.

Even though Kunimatsu was on a civil servant’s wages, Semba alleges, he had two apartments worth a combined ¥80 million. And Semba says the gunman was able to get close enough to nearly kill him because Kunimatsu’s bodyguards had apparently been given the night off (for reasons that discretion prevents Number 1 Shimbun from mentioning).

“Japanese journalists all know this but they won’t report it,” Semba said.

Similarly, he said they know that the charges against Kataoka are based on falsified evidence, but the police are not held accountable.

Semba has written a series of books about police corruption and given 88 lectures around the country on his experiences, the vast majority of them while he was still a serving officer. He was never disciplined for his whistle-blowing, he believes, because the police do not want a court case in which all their dirty laundry can be aired in public.

Semba is still clearly a thorn in the side of the force – two plainclothes officers attended the press conference at the Club and took notes on what was said – and he half-joked that it is “a miracle that I am still alive.”

“If I was in a senior position in the police, I would definitely eliminate Semba,” he said. “I’m the police’s worst enemy. But it is those who have already given up their lives that are the strongest.” ❶

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent of The Daily Telegraph.


Japan Times’ Colin Jones on Japanese enforcement of vague laws: “No need to know the law, but you must obey it”


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Hi Blog. In one of the best articles I’ve ever read in the Japanese media, here we have legal scholar Colin Jones finally connecting the metadots, laying bare how things work in Japanese jurisprudence and law enforcement.  It’s an excellent explanation of just how powerful the police are in Japanese society.  God bless the Japan Times for being there as an available forum (I can’t imagine any other English-language paper in Japan publishing this) for this research. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times Tuesday, June 29, 2010
No need to know the law, but you must obey it
Colin P.A. Jones tells us why it’s hard to get clear answers when dealing with Japan’s legal system (excerpt)
By COLIN P.A. JONES (excerpt) courtesy of the author and John in Yokohama

A few months ago I met with some Western diplomats who were looking for information about Japanese law — in particular, an answer to the question, “Is parental child abduction a crime?” As international child abduction has become an increasingly sore point between Japan and other countries, foreign envoys have been making concerted efforts to understand the issue from the Japanese side. Having been told repeatedly by their Japanese counterparts that it is not a crime, some diplomats may be confused by recent cases of non-Japanese parents being arrested, even convicted for “kidnapping” their own children. I don’t think I helped much, since my contribution was something along the lines of “Well, it probably depends on whether the authorities need it to be a crime.”

Of course, the very question “Is x a crime?” reflects a fairly Western view of the law as a well-defined set of rules, the parameters of which people can know in advance in order to conduct themselves accordingly. However, there is a Confucian saying that is sometimes interpreted as “The people do not need to know the law, but they should be made to obey it.” This adage was a watchword of the Tokugawa Shogunate, whose philosophy of government was based in part on neo-Confucian principles.

It is also a saying that could provide some insights into why it sometimes seems difficult to get a clear answer about what exactly the law is in modern Japan. I am not suggesting that Japanese police and prosecutors have Confucian platitudes hanging framed over their desks, but knowing the law is a source of power. Being able to say what the law means is an even greater one, particularly if you can do so without being challenged. In a way, clearly defined criminal laws bind authority as much as they bind the people, by limiting the situations in which authorities can act. Since law enforcement in Japan often seems directed primarily at “keeping the peace,” laws that are flexible are more likely to serve this goal…

Rest at

Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)


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Hi Blog.  Now here we have the Suraj Case making it out of Japan and being reported overseas.  The new twist is that the widow now has lost her job allegedly because of the fuss made over her husband’s death while being deported by Japan’s Immigration Bureau.  I’m fond of the title, with Immigration being depicted as “Japan’s Bouncers”, and pleased the reporter noted how little coverage this horrible incident got domestically.  But the unaccountability regarding the cause of death and a possible homicide at the hands of GOJ officials is no joke.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japanese immigration policy

A nation’s bouncers

A suspicious death in police custody

May 13th 2010 | TOKYO | From The Economist print edition

ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ was already unconscious when the cabin crew of EgyptAir MS965 saw him on board, before the Tokyo-to-Cairo flight. Shortly later he was dead. A Ghanaian who had lived illegally in Japan, Mr Suraj was being deported on March 22nd, when he was lifted and forced onto the plane in handcuffs with a towel gagging him and knotted in the back to restrain him. An autopsy failed to determine a cause of death, yet his widow saw facial injuries when she identified the body. Three days later an Immigration Bureau official admitted: “It is a sorry thing that we have done.”

The death is putting Japan’s controversial immigration policy under a sharper spotlight. The country has long eschewed immigration. In recent months, however, its resistance has become even tougher. Families have been broken apart as parents of children born in Japan have been detained and deported. People who seemed to qualify for a special residency permit (SRP), designed for those who overstay their visa but wish to remain, have been denied. Forced deportations have become more frequent and rougher, according to the Asian People’s Friendship Society, a Japanese immigrant-support group. Japan’s Immigration Control Centres, where many illegal residents are detained, have faced special criticism. This year alone, two detainees have committed suicide, one has publicly complained of abuse, and 70 inmates staged a hunger strike demanding better treatment.

Around 2m foreigners live legally in Japan, which has a population of 128m; the justice ministry counted 91,778 illegal residents as of January. But the number, boosted by cheap Chinese labourers, may well be much higher. After a nine-day research trip last month, Jorge Bustamante, the UN’s special rapporteur on migrants’ rights, complained that legal and illegal migrants in Japan face “racism and discrimination, exploitation [and] a tendency by the judiciary and police to ignore their rights”.

The SRP system is an example of the problem. No criteria for eligibility are specified. Instead, published “guidelines” are applied arbitrarily. And people cannot apply directly for an SRP: illegal residents can only request it once in detention, or turn themselves in and try their luck while deportation proceedings are under way. So most illegal residents just stay mum. Mr Suraj fell into the SRP abyss after he was arrested for overstaying his visa. Although he had lived in Japan for 22 years, was fluent in the language and married to a Japanese citizen, his SRP request was denied.

Why the tougher policy now? Koichi Kodama, an immigration lawyer assisting Mr Suraj’s widow, believes it is a reaction to the appointment last year as justice minister of Keiko Chiba, a pro-immigration reformer; the old guard is clamping down. The police are investigating the incident and the ten immigration officers in whose custody Mr Suraj died, though no charges have been brought. As for Mr Suraj’s widow, she has yet to receive details about her husband’s death or an official apology. The topic is one Japanese society would rather avoid. The press barely reported it. Still, when her name appeared online, she was fired from her job lest the incident sully her firm’s name.


Swiss woman acquitted of crimes yet denied bail due to being NJ, then barred as “visa overstayer” anyway


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Hi Blog.  Bringing this old article up as a matter of record:  I mentioned on back in early 2008 about a Swiss woman who came to Japan as a tourist and was arrested on drug charges.  She got acquitted not once but twice in Japanese courts, yet was not released on bail because NJ and are considered more of a flight risk.  While actual convicted felons are released in the interim if they are Japanese.

Again, foreigners aren’t allowed bail in Japan. Unlike Japanese: When Japanese defendants appeal guilty verdicts, they are not detained (see Horie Takafumi and Suzuki Muneo; the latter, now convicted of corruption twice over, is still on the streets, even re-elected to the Diet!).

So despite being incarcerated as an innocent NJ since 2008, she finally gets booted out for “overstaying her visa” (oh, sure, she could have gone to Immigration any time and renewed, right?) and barred from reentry.  Rights of the defendant and “Hostage Justice” depending on your nationality.  What a swizz.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Held despite acquittal, now barred from re-entry, woman slams legal system
The Japan Times, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008, courtesy of MMT (excerpt)

CHIBA (Kyodo) A Swiss woman who was detained by Japanese authorities for seven months after being acquitted of a drug charge expressed anger over the Japanese legal system in a recent written message to Kyodo News.

“I was put under continuous detention because of shortfalls in Japanese law and alien policies,” wrote Klaudia Zaberl. “I have been filled with despair and anger.”

Upon arriving in Japan from Malaysia as a tourist in October 2006, Zaberl, 29, was arrested for allegedly smuggling about 2.2 kg of amphetamines hidden in a suitcase into Narita airport.

She denied the allegation, saying she was not aware the suitcase she had been handed by a stranger in return for money contained the drugs, but was later indicted.

The Chiba District Court cleared Zaberl of the charge in August 2007, saying there was reasonable doubt she was aware of the drugs.

However, following the ruling she was transferred to an immigration facility instead of being freed, as her visa had expired during her detention.

Prosecutors soon appealed the ruling and obtained court permission to detain her again to block her deportation.

In April, the Tokyo High Court ruled that she was not guilty of the charges, leading prosecutors to drop the case. She returned to Switzerland later in April.

Rest of the article at:

FCCJ Press Conference on Ghanian death while being deported, Tues Apr 20


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[Mr Suraj’s widow], Koichi Kodama and Mayumi Yoshida

Another illegal immigrant in Japan, another death:
The fatal journey of Mr. Suraj

10:00-11:00 Tuesday, April 20, 2010
(The speech and Q & A will be in Japanese with English interpretation)

On March 22, Mr. Abubakar Awudu Suraj, an illegal immigrant who was in the process of being deported to his native country of Ghana, died in Narita.
The circumstances surrounding Mr. Suraj’s death are unknown. What is clear is that the immigration officers used a towel and handcuff to restrain Mr. Suraj as he was boarding an Egypt Air flight. In February, a first attempt to send Mr. Suraj back to Ghana had failed. Since then, he had been subject to confinement. Married since 2006 to [a Japanese national], he had spent the equivalent of 2 years in detention for no other crime than staying illegally.
The death of Mr. Suraj follows the suicide by hanging of a South Korean man a week ago in the Ibaraki detention center. And the self-hanging of a young Brazilian man in Ibaraki again. And a hunger strike by 70 detainees at the Osaka detention center in March.
The appalling conditions Japan is placing illegal immigrants in have been regularly denounced. Immigration authorities in particular, which lack judicial oversight, have the ability to indefinitely detain people, breakup families by deporting one of their members, and so on. More tragedies are to come.
10 days ago, Jorge Bustamante, U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of immigrants, concluded a Japan visit at the end of which he was very critical of Japan.
Come and hear from [the] wife of the late Mr. Suraj, Koichi Kodama, Lawyer and Mayumi Yoshida, Deputy Representative of Asian People’s Friendship Society.
Please reserve in advance, 3211-3161 or (still & TV cameras inclusive). Reservations and cancellations are not complete without confirmation.

Professional Activities Committee

児玉 晃一、吉田 真由美
(スピーチ日本語: 逐次通訳付)

Ghanian dies while being deported March 22, scant media on it


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Hi Blog.  Here’s something shocking today.  I heard about this passim from UN Rep Bustamante on March 23 when he was in town asking about migrant worker issues.  I had heard nothing since then.  It took a rally the other day for it to make the news.  Anyone else see anything in the domestic press?  This sort of thing out to be reported much more widely.  Wonder where the investigation into this (if any) is going.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


50 rally for investigation of deportee’s death
Compiled from Kyodo, Staff report
The Japan Times, April 13, 2010, Courtesy of GS

The Japanese wife of a Ghanaian who died while being deported from Japan last month and some 50 supporters took to the streets Monday in Tokyo to demand a thorough investigation.

Holding a banner that read, “Uncover the truth behind the death of Mr. Suraj during his deportation,” the protesters, including Ghanaians living in Japan, marched through Roppongi shouting “We want justice.”

Although a police autopsy on Abubakar Awudu Suraj, 45, reportedly failed to pin down the cause of death and found no traces of violence, his wife and her supporters believe the death was probably caused by immigration officers.

The officers accompanied Suraj aboard a flight to Cairo from Narita International Airport on March 22 when he was being deported for illegally staying in Japan.

According to the police at the airport, Suraj suddenly turned violent aboard the plane, prompting the Japanese officers to restrain him. He then went limp and died…

Rest of the article at

A personal hero, Chong Hyang Gyun, retires her nursing post at 60


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Hi Blog.  Although I like to devote Mondays to “bigger news”, I’d like to take this day to salute a personal hero of mine, former nurse Chong Hyang Gyun, a Zainichi Korean who, like any other qualified civil servant in Japan, expected to be promoted commensurate with her experience and dedication.

But not in Japan.  She in 1994 was denied even the opportunity to sit the administrative civil service exam because, despite her being born in Japan, raised in Japan, a native speaker of Japanese, and a taxpayer in and contributor to Japan like any other, she was still, in the eyes of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, a “foreigner”, therefore not to be trusted with administrative power over Japanese (the old “Nationality Clause”, kokuseki joukou, struck again).

So she sued for the right to sit the exam nearly twenty years ago.  Over more than ten years she lost, won, then ultimately lost in the Supreme Court, which, in a landmark setback for civil rights and assimilation, ruled there was nothing unconstitutional in denying her the right to chose her occupation and employment opportunities.

Now she’s retired as of April 1 (although rehired and working fewer hours).  I’m just grateful that she tried.  Some occupations are completely denied to NJ, including public-sector food preparation (for fear that NJ might poison our bureaucrats) and firefighting (for fear that NJ entering Japanese houses and perhaps damaging Japanese property might cause an international incident), that it becomes ludicrous for NJ to even consider a public-service job in Japan.(*)  Especially if the “glass ceiling” (in fact, an iron barrier, thanks to the Supreme Court) means you can never reach your potential.  The Chong-san Case made that clear, to Japan’s shame.

A report on workplace discrimination in Japan from Chong-san (Japanese) archived on here.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(*) Apologies for the lack of links to substantiate the firefighting and food preparation claims.  My source was “Darling wa Gaikokujin” mascot Tony Laszlo’s Issho Kikaku website, which dozens of activists worked on in the late 1990’s, whose historical archives have all since mysteriously disappeared now that Issho Kikaku is moribund.


Korean worker who sued Tokyo govt retires
The Yomiuri Shimbun Apr. 3, 2010, Courtesy of JK

Public health nurse Chong Hyang Gyun was all smiles when she retired from the Tokyo metropolitan government recently, even though it had refused to let her seek promotion because of her South Korean nationality.

A second-generation Korean resident of this country, Chong sued the metropolitan government in 1994, demanding she be allowed to take a promotion exam for a managerial post. The trial went on for 10 years of Chong’s 22-year career with the metropolitan government.

Ultimately, Chong was not able to be promoted because the Supreme Court overturned her victory in a lower court. Upon her retirement, however, she smiled and said, “I have no regrets.”

Chong officially retired Wednesday, as she had reached her mandatory retirement age of 60.

Chong was born in Iwate Prefecture. In 1988, she was hired as the first non-Japanese public health nurse to work for the metropolitan government.

Her application to take the internal exam to become a manager was refused, however, because of the metropolitan government’s “nationality clause,” which prohibits the appointment of non-Japanese employees to managerial posts.

The Tokyo District Court decided against her in 1996, ruling that the metropolitan government’s action was constitutional.

In 1997, the Tokyo High Court ruled that the metropolitan government’s decision violated the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom to choose one’s occupation, and ordered the Tokyo government to pay compensation to Chong.

The metropolitan government appealed this decision and in 2005, the Supreme Court nullified the high court ruling and rejected Chong’s demand.

After Chong openly expressed her disappointment at a press conference about the Supreme Court ruling, she received critical e-mails and other messages. Chong also said she sometimes felt it was hard to stay in her workplace.

However, a sizable number of her colleagues and area residents understood her feelings.

“I was supported by many people. I enjoyed my job,” Chong said.

For two years from 2006, Chong worked on Miyakejima island, helping residents deal with difficulties resulting from their prolonged evacuation.

Just before her retirement, Chong visited health care centers in Tokyo and other related facilities as chief of a section for preventing infectious diseases and caring for mentally handicapped people.

She was rehired from April as a nonregular employee at her workplace’s request, but she will work fewer days.

“I’ve been tense ever since filing the lawsuit, trying not to make any mistakes in other areas. Now I can finally relax,” Chong said.

Chong recently has been interested in supporting Indonesian nurse candidates in Japan. During the New Year holidays, she held a gathering to introduce them to Japanese culture.

“Now that a greater number of foreigners are in Japan, society as a whole should think about how to assimilate them,” Chong said.

She said she believed her lawsuit has helped raise those kind of questions.

(2010年3月28日20時29分 読売新聞)










(2010年3月28日20時29分 読売新聞)

Mainichi: Supreme Court defamation ruling sounds warning bell over online responsibility


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Hi Blog.  Here’s something that adds up to another brick in the wall against internet bullies and defamers in Japan (who play a significant role in the debate, surprisingly).  The Supreme Court rules that the defense often utilized by proponents of bullying and slandering BBS 2-Channel, that people can discern for themselves what is fact or fiction, therefore issues such as defamation are irrelevant to a free-speech-loving society, simply won’t wash anymore.  Sorry it has to come to this, but freedom of speech does not mean freedom to lie and willfully, maliciously hurt people.  Or get away with not paying up after successful libel lawsuits like the one I had four years ago.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo


Supreme Court defamation ruling sounds warning bell over online responsibility
(Mainichi Japan) March 19, 2010 Courtesy of MS

Just because a piece of information is published on the Internet, viewers do not necessarily deem it to be of low credibility. So ruled the Supreme Court recently in a defamation suit in which a man was accused of slandering a restaurant operator on his own Web site, saying that the company was affiliated with a cult.

The top’s court’s ruling secures a guilty verdict that ordered the man to pay 300,000 yen in compensation. It was the first ruling to confirm that the conditions for establishing defamation were not relaxed on the Internet.

Considering that people are often slandered, have their privacy violated, and sometimes even suffer human rights violations on the Internet — where users can post comments anonymously — the Supreme Court’s decision can be deemed appropriate.

In 2008 there were more than 500 online cases involving human rights violations in which the Ministry of Justice initiated relief measures. The figure was 2.5 times higher than in 2004. And in 2008 there were over 11,000 cases in which people approached police saying that they had been slandered. The figures indicate that there are many potential victims.

In what kind of situations do people not face defamation charges? One instance involves reports on information of public benefit, when the purpose of reporting the information is for public benefit and the information is true, or there are sufficient grounds to believe it is true. This has been established through judicial precedents.

In a district court ruling in the defamation case, the court found the man not guilty on the grounds that information on the Internet was of lower credibility and other users were able to rebut inappropriate claims. The court applied a more relaxed standard than the standard applied to newspaper and television reporting.

But in the latest ruling, the Supreme Court declared, “Online information is available to the general public very quickly, and it can cause serious damage in some cases. There is no guarantee that rebuttal of the information will restore a person’s reputation.” It judged that the standard should not be altered just for the Internet.

Internet users must keep in mind that if they post one-sided claims without backing up the information with evidence, or violate the privacy of others without confirming any of the facts with the person concerned, they may be accused of a crime.

Irresponsible and excessive words and deeds must not be permitted, regardless of whether they appear on the Internet or elsewhere. In the field of education, efforts are being made to provide instruction with teachers on hand to ensure that children do not get caught up in Internet crimes or engage in harassment online. As more people express themselves on blogs and other online forums, we want teachers to inform children that expression goes hand in hand with responsibility.

Under the limitation liability law for Internet providers, victims whose rights are violated can ask providers to delete posts or provide information on the ID of the person who posted the data. However, the decision on whether to comply with the request is left up to the provider.

Responding to the current situation in which child pornography or illegal information on drugs is being left unchecked on the Internet, the National Police Agency is reportedly preparing to actively pursue the criminal responsibility of site administrations who ignore requests to delete the information. Malicious cases of defamation are likely to be included as a matter of course.

We want everyone to come together to consider the appropriate form of a healthy Internet society.


社説:ネット中傷有罪 「無責任さ」への警鐘だ
毎日新聞 2010年3月19日 2時46分












Japan Times: UN Rep Bustamante meets Calderon Noriko, comments on GOJ harsh visa system that separates families


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Hi Blog . The Japan Times reported UN Special Rapporteur Bustamante’s interim comments during his current-two-week fact-finding mission to Japan, particularly as pertains to the GOJ visa system that deports people even if it means splitting apart families (cf. the Calderon Noriko Case).

Dr Bustamante takes a very dim view of this below. He will also be giving a press conference this Wednesday, March 31. I hope the information we at FRANCA provided him last week will also be factored into his statements and advice. Arudou Debito in Tokyo


The Japan Times, Sunday, March 28, 2010
Deportation rule troubles U.N. official (excerpt)
By MASAMI ITO, Staff writer
, Courtesy of John in Yokohama

A recent government decision to deport only the parents of families without residency status, thus separating children from their mothers and fathers, flies in the face of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Jorge Bustamante, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said Saturday in Tokyo.

Fact-finding: Jorge Bustamante, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, greets Noriko Calderon, the daughter of a deported Filipino couple, in Tokyo Saturday. Lawyer Shogo Watanabe, who represents her family, also attended the meeting. KYODO PHOTO

Bustamante, who is on his first official fact-finding mission to Japan, is meeting with government officials, nongovernmental organizations, legal experts and foreign residents, and is expected to submit a report on Japan to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

On Saturday, he met with residents caught in the deportation dilemma — among them Noriko Calderon, a 14-year-old girl who was born in Japan to an undocumented Filipino couple. Calderon’s case drew media attention when her parents were deported last spring.

“It is very difficult to live separated from my parents, and I miss them very much,” Calderon said. “But I hope that one day, all three of us can live in Japan together and I plan to do my best” to realize that goal.

Bustamante expressed concern over the separation of families and said he would cite the situation in his report.

“It’s going to be made public,” Bustamante told the gathering. “And this, of course, might result in an embarrassment for the government of Japan and therefore certain pressure (will be) put on the government of Japan.”

Rest of the article at


Table of Contents of FRANCA information folder to UN Spec. Rapporteur Bustamante, Mar 23. Last call for submissions from Readers.


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Hi Blog.  What follows is the Table of Contents for an information packet I will be presenting Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants Jorge A. Bustamante, who will be visiting Japan and holding hearings on the state of discrimination in Japan.  Presented on behalf of our NGO FRANCA (Sendai and Tokyo meetings on Sun Mar 21 and Sat Mar 27 respectively).

It’s a hefty packet of about 500 pages printed off or so, but I will keep a couple of pockets at the back for Readers who would like to submit something about discrimination in Japan they think the UN should hear.  It can be anonymous, but better would be people who provide contact details about themselves.

Last call for that.  Two pages A4 front and back, max (play with the fonts and margins if you like).  Please send to by NOON JST Thursday March 18, so I can print it on my laser printer and slip it in the back.

Here’s what I’ll be giving as part of an information pack.  I haven’t written my 20-minute presentation for March 23 yet, but thanks for all your feedback on that last week, everyone.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



To Mr. Jorge Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants:

Date: March 23, 2010  Tokyo, Japan

Thank you for coming to Japan and hearing our side of the story.  We have a lot to say and few domestic forums that will listen to us.  –ARUDOU Debito, Chair, FRANCA Japan (,


Referential documents and articles appear in the following order:

I. On Government-sponsored Xenophobia and Official-level Resistance to Immigration

This section will seek to demonstrate that discrimination is not just a societal issue.  It is something promoted by the Japanese government as part of official policy.

  1. OVERVIEW:  Japan Times article:  “THE MYOPIC STATE WE’RE IN:  Fingerprint scheme exposes xenophobic, short-sighted trend in government” (December 18, 2007).  Point:  How government policy is hard-wiring the Japanese public into fearing and blaming Non-Japanese for Japan’s social ills.
  2. Japan Times article, “Beware the Foreigner as Guinea Pig“, on how denying rights to one segment of the population (NJ) affects everyone badly, as policies that damage civil liberties, once tested on Non-Japanese residents, eventually get applied to citizens too (July 8, 2008).
  3. Japan Times article:  “THE BLAME GAME:  Convenience, creativity seen in efforts to scapegoat Japan’s foreign community” (August 28, 2007), depicting foreigners as criminal invaders, and thwarting their ability to assimilate properly.
  4. Japan Times article: “VISA VILLAINS: Japan’s new Immigration law overdoes enforcement and penalties” (June 29, 2004)
  5. Japan Times article, “Demography vs. Demagoguery“, on how politics has pervaded Japanese demographic science, making “immigration” a taboo for discussion as a possible solution to Japan’s aging society. (November 3, 2009)
  6. Japan Times article: “HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY STINKS:  Government effort riddled with bias, bad science” (October 23, 2007), talking about how official government surveys render human rights “optional” for Non-Japanese, and downplays the discrimination against them.
  7. Japan Times article: “WATCHING THE DETECTIVES: Japan’s human rights bureau falls woefully short of meeting its own job specifications” (July 8, 2003), on how the oft-touted Ministry of Justice’s “Jinken Yōgobu” is in fact a Potemkin System, doing little to assist those with human rights issues in Japan.
  8. Japan Times article, “Unlike Humans, Swine Flu is Indiscriminate“, on the lessons to be learned from Japan’s public panic from the Swine Flu Pandemic, and how to avoid discrimination once again from arising (August 4, 2009).
  9. Japan Times article, “Golden parachutes for Nikkei only mark failure of race-based policy“, on the downfall of Japan’s labor visa policies, e.g., the “April 2009 repatriation bribe” for the Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians, sending them “home” with a pittance instead of treating them like laborers who made investments and contributions to Japan’s welfare and pension systems.

II. On Abuses of Police Power and Racial Profiling vis-à-vis Non-Japanese

This section will seek to demonstrate that one arm of the government, the National Police Agency, has had a free hand in generating a fictitious “Foreign Crime Wave of the 2000s”, by characterizing Non-Japanese in the media as criminals, exaggerating or falsifying foreign crime reportage, bending laws to target them, engaging in flagrant racial profiling of minorities, and otherwise “making Japan the world’s safest country again” by portraying the foreign element as unsafe.

  1. Japan Times article: “DOWNLOADABLE DISCRIMINATION: The Immigration Bureau’s new “snitching” Web site is both short-sighted and wide open to all manner of abuses.” (March 30, 2004), on how online submission sites (which still exist) run by the government are open to the general public, for anonymous reporting of anyone who “looks foreign and suspicious” to the police.
  2. Japan Times article: “FORENSIC SCIENCE FICTION: Bad science and racism underpin police policy” (January 13, 2004), how the National Research Institute for Police Science has received government grants to study “foreign DNA” (somehow seen as genetically different from all Japanese DNA) for crime scene investigation.
  3. 3. Japan Times article:  “FOREIGN CRIME STATS COVER UP A REAL COP OUT:  Published figures are half the story” (Oct 4, 2002), indicating how the National Police Agency is falsifying and exaggerating foreign crime statistics to create the image of Non-Japanese residents as criminals.
  4. Japan Times article: “HERE COMES THE FEAR: Antiterrorist law creates legal conundrums for foreign residents” (May 24, 2005), showing nascent anti-terrorist policy introduced by the Koizumi Administration specifically targeting Non-Japanese as terrorists.
  5. Website:  “Ibaraki Prefectural Police put up new and improved public posters portraying Non-Japanese as coastal invaders” (November 20, 2008), and “Ibaraki Police’s third new NJ-scare poster” (July 29, 2009), showing how the Japanese police are putting up public posters portraying the issue as defending Japanese shores from foreign invasion, complete with images of beach storming, riot gear and machine guns. and
  6. Japan Times article: “UPPING THE FEAR FACTOR:  There is a disturbing gap between actual crime in Japan and public worry over it” (February 20, 2007), showing the Koizumi policy in full bloom, plus the media’s complicity in abetting the National Police Agency’s generation of a “foreign crime wave”.
  7. Japan Times article: “MINISTRY MISSIVE WRECKS RECEPTION: MHLW asks hotels to enforce nonexistent law” (October 18, 2005), and
  8. Japan Times article: “CREATING LAWS OUT OF THIN AIR: Revisions to hotel laws stretched by police to target foreigners” (March 8, 2005), both articles showing how the Japanese police use legal sleight-of-hand to convince hotels to target foreigners for visa and ID checks.
  9. Japan Times article: “‘GAIJIN CARD’ CHECKS SPREAD AS POLICE DEPUTIZE THE NATION” (November 13, 2007), showing how extralegal means are being used to expand the “visa dragnets” to people who are not Immigration Officers, or even police officers.
  10. Japan Times article, “IC You:  Bugging the Alien“, on the new IC Chip Gaijin Cards and national protests (May 19, 2009), how RFID-chipped ID cards (of which 24/7 carrying for Non-Japanese only is mandatory under criminal law) can be converted into remote tracking devices, for even better racial profiling as technology improves.
  11. Japan Times article, “Summit Wicked This Way Comes“, on the Japanese Government’s bad habits brought out by the Hokkaido Toyako 2008 G8 Summit (April 22, 2008) – namely, a clampdown on the peaceful activities of Japan’s civil society, with a focus on targeting people who “look foreign”.
  12. Japan Times article, “Forecast:  Rough with ID checks mainly to the north“, focusing on a protest against Hokkaido Police’s egregious racial profiling during the G8 Summit, and how the police dodged media scrutiny and public accountability (July 1, 2008).
  13. Japan Times article, “Cops Crack Down with ‘I Pee’ Checks“, on the Japanese police stretching their authority to demand urine samples from Non-Japanese on the street without warrants (July 7, 2009).
  14. Japan Times article, “PEDAL PUSHERS COP A LOAD ON YASUKUNI DORI: Japan’s low crime rate has many advantages, although harassment by bored cops certainly isn’t one of them” (June 20, 2002), demonstrating how arbitrarily Tokyo police will nab people at night ostensibly for “bicycle ownership checks”, but really for visa checks – if they are riding while “looking foreign”.

III. On Racism and Hate Speech in Japan

This section talks about other activities that are not state-sponsored or encouraged, but tolerated in society as “rational” or “reasonable” discrimination, or natural ascriptive social ordering.  These unfettered acts of discrimination towards minorities, decried by previous Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene as “deep and profound”, are examples of why we need a law against racial discrimination and hate speech in Japan.

1. OVERVIEWNGO Report Regarding the Rights of Non-Japanese Nationals, Minorities of Foreign Origins, and Refugees in Japan (33 pages).  Prepared for the 76th United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Japan, submitted to UNCERD February 2010.  Compiled by Solidarity with Migrants Japan.  Particularly germane to this information packet is Chapter 2 by Arudou Debito, entitled “Race and Nationality-Based Entrance Refusals at Private and Quasi-Public Establishments” (3 pages).

2. Japan Focus paper (14 pages):  “GAIJIN HANZAI MAGAZINE AND HATE SPEECH IN JAPAN:  The newfound power of Japan’s international residents” (March 20, 2007).  This academic paper talks about how a “Foreign Crime Magazine” deliberately distorted data (to the point of accusing Non-Japanese of criminal acts that were not actually crimes), and portrayed Chinese and other minorities as having criminality as part of their innate nature.

3. Japan Times article, “NJ Suffrage and the Racist Element” (February 2, 2010), on xenophobic Japan Dietmember Hiranuma’s racist statements towards fellow Dietmember Renho (who has Taiwanese roots), and how it lays bare the lie of the xenophobic Rightists demanding people take Japanese citizenship if they want the right to vote in local elections – when it clearly makes no difference to them if they do.

4. Japan Times article, “The Issue that dares not speak its name“, on the suppressed debate on racial discrimination in Japan (June 2, 2009), where the term “racial discrimination” itself is not part of the Japanese media’s vocabulary to describe even situations adjudged “racial discrimination” by Japanese courts.

5. Japan Times article:  “HOW TO KILL A BILL:  Tottori’s Human Rights Ordinance is a case study in alarmism” (May 2, 2006), on how Japan’s first prefectural-level ordinance against discrimination was actually unpassed months later, due to a hue and cry over the apparent dangers of giving foreigners too many rights.

6. Academic Paper (Linguapax Asia, forthcoming) (14 pages):  “Propaganda in Japan’s Media:  Manufacturing Consent for National Goals at the Expense of Non-Japanese Residents”, on how government policy, political opportunism, and the Japanese media fomented a fictitious “Foreign Crime Wave” in the 2000s, and how that caused quantifiable social damage to Non-Japanese residents.

7. Japan Focus paper (2 pages): “JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hotspring Case and Discrimination Against ‘Foreigners’ in Japan” (November 2005), a very brief summary explaining Japan’s first case of racial discrimination that made to the Supreme Court (where it was rejected for consideration), and what it means in terms of Japan’s blind-eying of discrimination.

8. Website:  “Tokyo Edogawa-ku Liberal Democratic Party flyer, likens granting Permanent Residents the right to vote in local elections to an alien invasion”.  (February 24, 2010)  Seventeen local politicians of the formerly-ruling LDP lend their names against the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s liberalizing policy, illustrated with a UFO targeting the Japanese archipelago.

9. Website:  “More anti-foreigner scare posters and publications, linking Permanent Resident suffrage bill to foreign crime and Chinese invasion”. (March 15, 2010)  Anonymous internet billeters are putting propaganda in home post boxes in Nagoya and Narita, and bookstores are selling books capitalizing on the fear by saying that granting NJ the vote will make Japan “disappear” by turning into a foreign country.

10. Website:  Anti-foreign suffrage protests in Shibuya Nov 28 2009. The invective in flyers and banners: “Japan is in danger!” (December 4, 2009).  An overview and summary translation of the invective and arguments being put forth by the xenophobic Far-Right in public demonstrations.

IV. On the Disenfranchisement of the Non-Japanese communities in Japan

This section touches upon how Non-Japanese minorities are shut out of Japan’s debate arenas, public events, even court rooms, making them largely unable to stand up for themselves and assimilate on their own terms.

1. Trans Pacific Radio:  “RUMBLE AT THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS – A hearing on human rights is disrupted by right wingers” (September 10, 2007), demonstrating how the government will not stop hate speech from Right-wingers even when it willfully disrupts their official fact-finding meetings.

2. Japan Times article, McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr James” campaign:  Why these stereotyping advertisements should be discontinued. (September 1, 2009), showing how McDonald’s, an otherwise racially-tolerant multinational corporation overseas, is able thanks to lax attitudes in Japan to stoop to racial stereotyping to sell product, moreover not engage in constructive public debate about the issues.

3. Japan Times article: “ABUSE, RACISM, LOST EVIDENCE DENY JUSTICE IN VALENTINE CASE: Nigerian’s ordeal shows that different judicial standards apply for foreigners in court” (August 14, 2007), where even foreigners’ testimony is overtly dismissed in court expressly because it is foreign.

4. Japan Times article: “TWISTED LEGAL LOGIC DEALS RIGHTS BLOW TO FOREIGNERS:  McGowan ruling has set a very dangerous precedent” (February 7, 2006), in that a store manager who barred an African-American customer entry, expressly because he dislikes black people, was exonerated in court on a semantic technicality.

5. Japan Times article: “SCHOOLS SINGLE OUT FOREIGN ROOTS: International kids suffer under archaic rules” (July 17, 2007). An article about the “Hair Police” in Japan’s schools, who force Non-Japanese and ethnically-diverse Japanese to dye their natural hair color black.

6. Japan Times article: “A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?: National Sports Festival bars gaijin, and amateur leagues follow suit” (Sept 30, 2003), on Japan’s National Sports Meets (kokutai), and how Japan’s amateur sports leagues refuse Non-Japanese residents’ participation:

7. Asahi Shimbun English-language POINT OF VIEW column, “IF CARTOON KIDS HAVE IT, WHY NOT FOREIGNERS?” (Dec 29, 2003).  A translation of my Nov 8 2003 Asahi Watashi no Shiten column, wondering why cartoon characters and wild sealions (see #9 below) are allowed to be registered as “residents” in Japan under the government’s jūminhyō Residency Certificate system, but not Non-Japanese.

8. Japan Times article, “FREEDOM OF SPEECH: ‘Tainted blood’ sees ‘foreign’ students barred from English contests” (Jan 6, 2004), with several odd, blood-based rules indicating a belief that foreign ancestry gives people an advantage in terms of language ability – even if the foreign ethnicity is not Anglophone!

9. Japan Times article on “SEALING THE DEAL ON PUBLIC MEETINGS: Outdoor gatherings are wrapped in red tape.” (March 4, 2003), on the sealion “Tama-chan” issue and demonstrations over the issue of family registry exclusionism (see #7 above).  Why is it so difficult to raise public awareness about minority issues in Japan?  Because police grant permission to public gatherings.

V. On What Japan should do to face its multicultural future

This section offers suggestions on what Japan ought to be doing:  Engaging immigration, instead of retreating further into a fortress mentality and defaming those who wish to emigrate here.

1. Japan Focus paper:  “JAPAN’S COMING INTERNATIONALIZATION:  Can Japan assimilate its immigrants?” (January 12, 2006)

2. Japan Times article, “A Level Playing Field for Immigrants” (December 1, 2009), offering policy proposals to the new DPJ ruling party on how to make Japan a more attractive place for immigration.

3. Japan Focus paper:  “JAPAN’S FUTURE AS AN INTERNATIONAL, MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY: From Migrants to Immigrants” (October 29, 2007)

4. “Medical Care for Non-Japanese Residents of Japan: Let’s look at Japanese Society’s General ‘Bedside Manner’ First“, Journal of International Health Vol.23, No.1 2008, pgs 19-21.

VI. Japan and the United Nations

1. Academic paper (forthcoming, draft, 21 pages):  “Racial Discrimination in Japan:  Arguments made by the Japanese government to justify the status quo in defiance of United Nations Treaty”.  This paper points out the blind spot in both United Nations and the Japanese government, which continues to overlook the plight of immigrants (viewing them more as temporary migrant workers), and their ethnically-diverse Japanese children, even in their February 2010 UNCERD Review of Japan (please skip to pages 18-19 in the paper).

2. Japan Times article: “PULLING THE WOOL:  Japan’s pitch for the UN Human Rights Council was disingenuous at best” (November 7, 2006), talking about the disinformation the government was giving the UN in its successful bid to have a leadership post on the newfound HRC.

3. Japan Times article: “RIGHTING A WRONG: United Nations representative Doudou Diene’s trip to Japan has caused a stir” (June 27, 2006).


Topics:  Daycare center teaching “Little Black Sambo” to preschoolers despite requests from international parents to desist, Anonymous statement regarding professional working conditions in Japan for professional and expatriate women (issues of CEDAW), Discriminatory hiring practices at English-language schools (2 cases), Racial profiling at Narita Airport, Harassment of foreign customers by Japanese credit agencies, Hunger strikers at Ibaraki Detention Center, Politician scaremongering regarding a hypothetical  “foreign Arab prince with 50 kids claiming child tax allowance”


NPR interview with Jake Adelstein, author “Tokyo Vice”, on how police and laws do not stop NJ human trafficking in Japan


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Hi Blog. Jake Adelstein, whose new book TOKYO VICE just came out, was interviewed on America’s National Public Radio program “FRESH AIR” on November 10, 2009. What follows is an excerpt from their podcast, minute 23:45 onwards, which talks about how domestic laws hamstring the NPA from actually cracking down on human trafficking and exploiting NJ for Japan’s sex trades. Jake’s work in part enabled the US State Department to list Japan as a Tier-Two Human Trafficker, and got Japan to pass more effective domestic laws against it.

Read on to see how the process works in particular against NJ, given their especially weak position (both legally and languagewise). If NJ go to the police to report their exploitation, it’s the NJ who get arrested (and deported), not the trafficker. And then the trafficker goes after the NJ’s family overseas.  Glad people like Jake are out there exposing this sort of thing.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


DAVE DAVIES: On a more serious note, you became aware of some women who were working in the sex industry, who appear not to be there of their own free will. There was human trafficking going on. How did it work in the cases that you found?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: Japan is much better than it was than the time I started writing about this. But essentially it works like this: You bring foreign women into the country, often under false pretences — that they would be working as hostesses, or working as waitresses in a restaurant. You take away their passports. You put them in a room. You monitor their activities so that they can’t leave. And then you take them to the clubs where they have sexual relations with the customers. And, aren’t paid. The women have no freedom of movement. They’re told, after they’ve slept with a customer, or been forced to sleep with a customer — sometimes they were raped first, so they’d get used to the job — that if they go to the police, since they’re in Japan illegally, that they would be deported and they would still owe money for their travel expenses to Japan. And very often these traffickers would have agents within the countries where they were recruiting these women, often Eastern Europe, and contact the families of the women under various pretexts, to let them know that if they disobeyed, or did something in Japan or ran away, that their families back home would be menaced or killed.

DAVE DAVIES: You worked really hard to develop sources, and get enough on the record to write a story about this going on, and identify some of the people who were operating these human trafficking sex joints. What was the reaction among the police and other authorities when you exposed this?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: The reaction was that they asked me to introduce them to some of the women who were victims, so that they could *arrest* them, and have a pretext to raid these clubs. An officer there I really liked a lot named Iida-san said, “I’d love to put these places out of business. But you have to understand that these women, while they are victims, that we can’t protect them. We have to prosecute them under Japanese law. There is no provision in the law that allows us to keep them in the country while we do the investigation. So, I *could* do the investigation, and I could put these people out of business, but in order to do that, I’m going to have to have you put me in contact with some of the women, and I’m not going to be able to take a statement from them without arresting them.” And I couldn’t do that.

I went to another division of the police department and asked them, “Can you do anything about that?” And they said, “We can do something about it, but first of all, we don’t have enough people who speak foreign languages to do a very competent investigation right now. And we’ve got a lot of other things on our plate. While your article is good, it is not something that is immediately actionable for us.”

DAVE DAVIES: Which was enormously frustrating for you.

JAKE ADELSTEIN: It was *enormously* frustrating. And when I realized of course was that, while the cops have problems with this and would like to do the investigations and put these people out of business, that essentially the law wouldn’t let them do it. That’s why I began writing about the flaws in the law, the whole legal system, and I also began taking studies and information and stories that I had written up as a reporter to the US State Department representative at the Embassy in Tokyo.

DAVE DAVIES: In effect, by embarrassing the government, you were able to get some reform?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: Yes. I can’t take total credit, but I would like to take some credit for supplying the US Government with enough information that they could embarrass Japan enough so that Japan felt compelled to actually put some laws on the books that trafficking harder to do. One of the things I was most proud of was, the International Labor Organization did a very scathing study of human trafficking problems in Japan — pointing out the victims weren’t protected, the traffickers were lightly punished, fined, and rarely did jail time. Which the Japanese Government, which sponsored this study, told them “never release”. I was able to get a copy of that report and put it on the front page of our newspaper as a scoop, while the Japanese Government was still getting ready to announce their plan of action. And I think that had a very positive effect of making them put together a plan that was actually effective.

AOL on Child Abductions and child retriever Gus Zamora, letter to from Gus


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Hi Blog.  More on how far people are willing to go to get their abducted kids back after divorce.  They don’t send in the SWAT team.  They hire Gus.  Gus himself comments to below.  Arudou Debito


Gustavo Zamora helps parents find their abducted kids.

A globe-trotting vigilante to retrieves children from foreign countries? Why would you need one?

Say you marry someone and you have children. You get divorced. There’s a custody battle. You win. Your ex-spouse refuses to accept the decision. He or she takes the children and flees overseas to a country that doesn’t recognize your custody rights.

What do you do?

This is not a hypothetical question for thousands of parents who go through this exact scenario every year. Their options are limited.

One option, however, is Gus Zamora.

He goes to other countries and gets kids back — one way or another. “There are lots of ways to recover a child,” he said in an interview with ParentDish. “There’s no one way.”

The Tampa Bay, Fla., resident and former Army Ranger prefers to do things nice and legal. If he can work through a foreign court system, fine. Failing that, he might try to bully foreign officials with threats — or at least bluffs — of crushing media attention.

As a last resort, Zamora said, he will grab the child and run. “That’s when you’ve run out of other options,” he said.

Rest of the article at



In response to a recent post on the Internet regarding “Snatchback” in The Atlantic Monthly I felt it was important for people to know what I do and what my real success rate is. The world of International Parental Abduction is a place I have spent the last Eighteen years. I have assisted parents in over 200 cases. Fifty-five children have been returned to their custodial parent with my guidance. Three of which were successful recoveries from Japan.

In addition to the fifty-five recoveries, I have also worked on twenty to twenty five cases that were resolved through mediation, Hague convention applications, media involvement, international law enforcement involvement and negotiations directly with the abductors. Zamora and Associates is presently involved in several cases in Japan, both in and out of Japanese courts.

Over the years I have spoken at numerous International Parental Abduction conferences. Through the years I have gotten to know the victims of parental abduction both children and their left behind parent. I have met with high-powered world leaders, activists who protest against hypocrisy and that Virginia woman who attempts to manage her local 501 c3 non-profit. I will never really understand what it’s like to lose a child. I am one of the few people who fight in this arena that doesn’t belong to the left behind parents club.

Parents come to me year after year with the same story. They are spent from their losing fight in unjust courts trying to regain their flesh and blood. They have met with politicians some of whom are empathetic and some who will shut their door in your face. These parents are tired and vulnerable, and near wits end.

Organizations like the Children’s Rights Council do good work in most circumstances. Some of their offshoots however do just the opposite. Making statements such as “I know of another case Gus worked on in Japan a few years ago, which also was unsuccessful. I don’t think he’s ever gotten a child out of Japan” are counterproductive and in fact limiting to a parent who should be able to care for their child. Why would a national organization bound by the laws of the United States choose to stymie what could be the last hope a parent has.

There are a number of parents out there who are adversely affected by the way these groups operate. Over the years some parents have come to me in confidence after being told that if they did not continue to support these organizations by following their instructions, attending their conferences and assisting as a volunteer they would be shut out of the group and would be on their own.

I have supported many non-profit organizations and groups from the early evolution of my child recovery career, but very quickly withdrew my support and speaking engagements at their conferences. In the end I decided it was best to withdraw any association with them altogether because of their unproductive nature and dictatorial style. I chose however to associate myself The Children’s Rights Network due to the fact that CRN does nothing other than assists parents.

The Children’s Rights Network doesn’t ask for donations. The Japan Chapter of the Children’s Rights Network website states “We are currently funded by a private organization and do not require donations. Thank you for your support and wish to help…” The information The Children’s Rights Network supplies to parents, attorneys, politicians, and the general public is free of charge. The Children’s Rights Network is there for the families being affected by International Parental Abduction to Japan.

CRN receives up to 20 inquiries per day through requesting assistance, or just a general push in the right direction. The Children’s Rights Network supplies answers and assistance to those in need. CRN doesn’t ask for donations from a needy parent. Even when a parent makes it as high as the Supreme Court and needs assistance writing a writ. The Children’s Rights network is an organization that has been called “The closest thing I have found to a support group.” I appreciate being associated with a support group as opposed to an organization that on their website sells “items” and requests you become a paid “member.”

No two cases are alike. No two parents are the same. There are never any guarantees made to anyone on any case, at any time. When a case reaches the point that Zamora And Associates needs to be involved we are upfront with the client as to what the risks and costs are. We do the best we can and rarely do parents expect more.

The Japanese case mentioned in the Atlantic Monthly was a successful recovery until it became obvious that the parent had misrepresented their relationship with their child. The parent that hired Zamora And Associates failed to disclose that the child and the parent did not have a close, loving relationship. The child was 100% against a further relationship with said parent.

We had been told over and over again by distraught parents that their child begged for reunification and return. After working hard on plans for a recovery however, on numerous occasions we only find out once the child is in our possession that this is not the case. We will never take an unwilling child from one parent and give that child to the other. Recovery is a last resort for children in dire situations and not something that should ever be based on ego or handled by a commando.

If there is information about any case where Zamora And Associates has misrepresented ourselves or failed to perform our job professionally for a client then please speak up rather than make false claims that we have never been successful in the land of the rising sun.

Zamora and Associates will not participate in any online character assassinations or unproductive bickering when we should all be fighting the evil of International Parental Abduction together. We challenge anyone to prove that they have a track record equal to ours in International child recovery. Do not believe in the self-promoting experts but rather investigate everyone, believe in no one and remember that time is not on your side when there is a child in the balance. No one is an “expert” at something that they cannot do themselves!

I have deep and sincere respect for all those left behind parents who have lost a child or children to another country where our laws and their legal systems refuse to intervene. Over the years I have learned to understand and feel the grief and pain that left behind parents feel everyday that their children are gone. You all have my full support.

Gus Zamora
Zamora & Associates – International Security Consultants
Children’s Rights Network board member

1 – 877 – KID CATCHER


Global Post’s Justin McCurry on Savoie Child Abduction Case. Issue isn’t passe yet.


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twitter: arudoudebito

Savoie’s choice: abduct or fight?
An American father wants his children back. Japan says no.
By Justin McCurry –

Published: October 27, 2009
Courtesy of the author

TOKYO, Japan — Under normal circumstances it would be impossible to summon any sympathy for a man who snatches two young children as they walk to school with their mother.
But what if the “abductor” is the children’s father, and the mother, his former wife, herself the subject of an arrest warrant?

When Christopher Savoie, an American, went to these extraordinary lengths to regain custody of his children from his Japanese ex-wife last month, he not only landed himself in a police cell for more than two weeks, he also placed the spotlight firmly on Japan’s complicity in international parental child abduction — turning it from a minor irritant into a potential source of genuine tension between Washington and Tokyo.

Savoie was arrested after attempting to take his children, aged 9 and 6, to the U.S. consulate general in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, in September.

The 38-year-old from Tennessee, and his former wife, Noriko, lived in Japan for several years before moving to the U.S. in 2008. When they divorced in the U.S. in January this year, Noriko was granted primary custody of the children.

Despite giving assurances that she would remain with the children in the U.S., in August she took them to Japan, without Savoie’s knowledge and in defiance of a court order. The U.S. authorities awarded Savoie full custody in Noriko’s absence and issued a warrant for her arrest on suspicion of “custodial interference.”

Yet Savoie has no legal right to see his children for as long as they remain in Japan, which refuses to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

The treaty, with 81 signatories including every other member of the G7, states that a “child whose parents reside in different countries shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis … personal relations and direct contacts with both parents.”

Savoie’s is one of about 80 cases of international parental child abduction involving U.S. citizens, while France and Britain are dealing with 35 each.

The unofficial number is much higher, particularly when failed marriages between Japanese and people from other Asian countries are included. The Assembly for French Overseas Nationals for Japan estimates that 10,000 children with dual citizenship in Japan are prevented from seeing their foreign parent after separation or divorce.

Japanese courts habitually award custody of children to the mother. In many cases, they say they are simply trying to protect the rights of women fleeing abusive former husbands, a claim vigorously disputed by campaigners.

The country’s courts will be tested again later this week when Shane Clarke appeals in a custody battle with Japanese ex-wife.

The 39-year-old Briton has not seen his two young daughters since May 2008 after his ex-wife took them to Japan to visit their “ill” grandmother and never returned.

Though Britain’s media has taken an interest in his plight, Clarke says he has received little support from the authorities, despite a court order naming the U.K. as his children’s country of habitual residence.

“I have been writing repeatedly to more than a dozen government ministers, and not a single one has had the common decency to reply,” he told GlobalPost.

Legal precedent indicates that Clarke, who was denied custody at a hearing in Japan last year, will again return home without his daughters.

“We are talking about two British citizens, and no one will help me. The message our government is sending out to foreign nationals is that it’s perfectly all right for them to commit a crime on British soil, and as long as they leave the country quickly enough, they’ll get away scot-free.”

Left-alone parents in the U.S. have fared better. Chris Smith, a New Jersey congressman, recently urged the Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, to use the Savoie arrest as a “catalyst” to end Japan’s tacit approval of international parental child abduction.

Smith has drawn up legislation that would enable the U.S. to “more aggressively” pursue the rights of American parents, including imposing sanctions against countries that habitually refuse to cooperate on international child abductions.

Pressure is also mounting in Japan, where the ambassadors of eight countries, including the U.S., have urged the justice minister, Keiko Chiba, to sign the Hague treaty.

The foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, indicated he would speed up a study into the agreement’s pros and cons, although ratifying it will require changes to domestic laws that could take years to implement.

Savoie, meanwhile, says he is struggling to come to terms with the possibility that he will not see his children again until they are adults.

“If loving my kids so much that I really want to be with them is a crime, then, well, I’m guilty,” he told CBS News after returning to the U.S. “I’m guilty of loving my kids.”

Source URL (retrieved on October 28, 2009 01:16 ):

Colin Jones in Japan Times: What the media attention from Savoie Child Abduction Case highlights


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Hi Blog.  People have asked what the Savoie Child Abduction Case actually brought to light.  I’ll let lawyer Colin Jones explain that below.  Again, whichever side of the custody battle you support, you have to give Christopher credit for bringing the international spotlight on one of Japan’s dirty little secrets.  Excerpt follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009
Signing Hague treaty no cure-all for parental abduction scourge
‘Best interests of the bureaucracy’ standard applies in Japan
Excerpt follows:

…Thus, the fact that police have recently started to arrest parents like Mr. Savoie despite the Japanese penal code remaining unchanged may simply reflect the police having decided that parental abduction is a problem they should do something about either in general, or in specific cases. Having made this decision, what the law actually says or is intended to address doesn’t really matter, so long as there is a vaguely drafted statute they can point to as justification.

A similar dynamic plays out in Japanese courts. In custody disputes, courts purport to apply a “best interests of the child” standard. Fortunately for the courts, this standard remains undefined by either statute or clearly announced judicial rules, meaning that judges are free to resolve cases in whatever way is most convenient for the court — which more often than not is the status quo, which they have little power to change. Thus, the real standard being applied is probably what is in the best interests of the court.

A similarly bureaucratic approach may also explain the apparent willingness of Japanese courts to cooperate with other bureaucracies such as police and prosecutors by ratifying seemingly novel applications of criminal law arrests and prosecutions that seem to stretch the law. In another parental abduction case earlier this decade a Dutch man was arrested for trying to leave Japan with his daughter. He was prosecuted for violating an obscure human trafficking statute and duly convicted. In rejecting his appeal, Japan’s Supreme Court noted that there is a high degree of unlawfulness in taking a child whose life is established in one country to another country, even if the person doing so is one of that child’s parents. Apparently, neither this statute nor this logic has ever been applied to any of the scores of cases of abduction to Japan.

My own view is that as a matter of law, Japan could start returning abducted children tomorrow without having signed the Hague Convention — just as children who have been abducted to countries like the United States or England have been returned to Japan notwithstanding the country’s nonsignatory status. Mr. Savoie’s case clearly demonstrates that it is not actually necessary to waste time and money in futile family court proceedings to get your child back: The police will do it for you if it is in their interests to arrest the abducting parent. The converse is that they may not do anything if it is not, and this is also why it is conceivable that Japan could sign the Hague Convention and immediately appear on the U.S. State Department’s list of noncompliant treaty partners.

Whatever the law says, it is very hard to imagine it being in the interests of the police and prosecutors to be seen taking crying half-Japanese children away from distraught Japanese mothers.

This is why the media attention is so important on this issue. Because law in Japan tends to serve the bureaucrats first and the people second, legislation and litigation may not lead to solutions if the bureaucrats are part of the problem. Thus, it will likely be criticism — relentless pressure and attention from both domestic and foreign sources — that will probably carry the day in Japan shedding its shameful status as an abduction haven. If so, it will be because the criticism risks damaging the authority of the bureaucrats by making them look bad…

Full article at:

Joseph pieces together plausible timeline in Savoie Case, finds for Christopher


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Hi Blog. I received this comment early this morning from “Joseph” regarding the Savoie Case, piecing together with a minimum of speculation (shame on all you online rumormongers) a probable plausible timeline for what happened between Christopher and Noriko. It’s too good to be buried as a comment, so I create a separate blog entry for it. He finds for Christopher, concluding:

In Japan, sole custody is awarded to one parent, and one parent only. This means that if there is a messy divorce, as it appears to be in this case, and the mother doesn’t want to allow the father to see his children, there is nothing that can be done. Period. Christopher was obviously well aware of this, and knew that if he wanted to have any access to his children, he needed to have his divorce here.

Noriko, with full knowledge of Amy, came here specifically for the purpose of getting that divorce – she was not “tricked” into it. She came here, she had her day in court, she received a large financial settlement, she repeatedly assured the court that she had no intention of removing the father from his childrens’ lives, and then she went ahead and did just that. She took the children away, took the money, and now she happily spends her days walking the children to and from school, while he spends his being interrogated in jail. He sits there knowing that, as the Japanese courts always favor the Japanese parent in these cases, he will in all likelihood never see his children again.

Read on. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hello, This is a very confusing case due to all of the “facts” that are flying around. I have read everything that I can find, including the court transcripts ( and and I’m wondering whether anyone can add to any of this:

It has been reported that Noriko has either US citizenship or US permanent residency status. Some have suggested that this is false because she only just came here this year, and could not have gotten either in such a short amount of time. However, in the transcripts I mentioned above, Noriko states that she and Christopher have known each other for 18 years, and have been married for 14 years (See page 79

This would mean that they met sometime in or around 1991, and married sometime in or around 1995. From reading around, it seems that they had lived in Japan from 2001 through 2008. That would mean that they met outside of Japan? This seems to corroborate the information relayed on this message board by Amy Savoie ( Specifically, she stated that Noriko had been working in Silicon Valley, and that Isaac was born at Stanford University, in California. This suggests that the claims of Noriko’s US citizenship / permanet residency status might have some truth after all.

Combining those dates, with the other significant dates, allows one to contruct a possible timeline:

– 1991: Noriko and Christopher met in California, where Noriko was working? (Partial Speculation)

[correction from Joseph: -1995 ~ ? Christopher begins work at Kyushu University]
– 1996: Noriko and Christopher were married in California? (Partial Speculation)
– 2001: Issac was born at Stanford University, in California? (Partial Speculation)
– 2001: Noriko, Christopher, and Issac moved to Japan after Issac’s birth (Confirmed)
– 2003: Rebecca is born in Japan (Confirmed)
– 2005: Noriko and Christopher were separated. (Confirmed)
– 2005-2008?: Noriko asks for a divorce in Japan (Confirmed)
– January 2009: Noriko comes to Tennessee for the divorce (Confirmed)
– September 2009: Noriko takes children, and returns to Japan (Confirmed)

I will state outright that this timeline is partial speculation, but it fits the facts, and it does seem to paint a somewhat more sympathetic picture of Christopher.

He meets a Japanese woman in California in 1991. They are married, in California, in 1996. Their first child, Isaac, is born at Stanford University, in California, in 2001. Shortly after Issac’s birth, Noriko convinces Christopher to move to Japan. What the reasoning for that move was, only those two can know for sure, but knowing what I know of Japanese families (I am married to a Japanese national. My wife’s sister is a happily married Japanese woman, married to a Japanese man, and she and the children spend 75% of their time at her mother’s house. This is common over there), I am going to assume the reason was so that she could have lots of help raising Isaac (and eventually Rebecca) from her mother and extended family. Again, whatever the reason, the three of them move to Japan. Rebecca is born there three years later. Sometime between Rebecca’s birth and 2005, things fall apart, and he and Noriko are separated.

Once again, the reasons for the divorce are known only to Noriko and Christopher. People can speculate that it was because of Amy, but we do not yet know if the relationship with Amy started before or after the separation. Additionally, I have also read speculation or accusations that it was becasue Christopher was abusive, but the facts do not support this. Noriko was divorced here, and had her day in court. If he was abusive, she easily could have brought that up, received sole custody of the children, alimony, and carte blanche to return to Japan with the children permanently. She made no such claims, and Christopher was awared substantial visitation rights.

Either way, during this separation, Noriko asks Christopher for a divorce in Japan. Christopher knows that if he divorces in Japan, he will, with almost absolute certainty, have no contact whatsoever with his children, and refuses. He then talks Noriko into coming to Tennessee for the divorce, where he will receive the visitation rights he would never get in a Japanese court, and where she would recieve a large monetary settlement that she would never receive in a Japanese court.

She accepts this arrangement, comes to the US specifically for the divorce, and receives: (1) $800,000 in a lump sum; (2) $30,000 in an account for Isaac; (3) $30,000 in an account for Rebecca; (4) an unspecified (in the transcript) amount money for Noriko’s education; (5) unspecified (in the transcript) monthly alimony payments; (6) primary custody of the children (7) The right to take the children to Japan for 6 weeks every summer, with Christopher paying for all airfare (please see page 95-96

While staying here, the two of them continuously spar via email, culminating in an email from Noriko in which she basically threatens to take the children to Japan, and cut off all contact with him. This causes Christopher to file for a restraining order preventing Noriko from taking the Children to Japan for the six week vacation awarded in the marriage dissolution agreement, out of fear that she will not return, and that he will never see his children again.

It is at that hearing (again, the transcripts can be found at and, that Noriko repeatedly lies to the court:

Pg 77————————————————————–

Q: And do you think it’s important for the children to visit their father?

A: Yes, of course.

Q: Do you have plans to move permanently to Japan since we signed the – since you signed the permanent parenting plan and the final decree was enacted?

A. No, I haven’t.

PG 88————————————————————–

Q. Ms. Savoie, you know that one of Dr. Savoie’s biggest fears is that you will take the children to Japan, and he will never see them again –

A. Right

Q. — you know that correct?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. And he’s expressed that to you many, many times?

A. Yes, he did.

Q. But even knowing that, you put in writing to him, february 12th that “it is very hard to watch the kids become American and losing their Japanese identity. I have tremendous fear for my children and myself. I’m overwhelmed without a problem. Therefore, please cooperate with me in order for us to stay here”?

A. Correct.

Q. The only way I can read that is that was a threat to him; that if you don’t do what I want you to do, I’m going to take your children away and you will never see them again. You understand the fear?

A. I do understand his fear, however –

Q. Well, what can you do today to alleviate that fear; what can you do, what can you say to Judge Martin, what can you say to their father that assures us that when you get to Japan –

A. Yes

Q. — you will not let your parents and your friends and your — as you said, all the people that came to the airport, influence you to just stay there, what assurance do we have?

A. Yes, actually that’s why I brought this here. First of all, I have never thought about taking children away from their father, never. And — but based on that –

Q. Well, let me ask you this — and I’ll ask the questions, if you would — do you have plans to take your children and move to Japan?

A. No, I don’t.

Q. And are your plans to take the children for a vacation and return home?

A. Return home means –

Q. To Tennessee.

A. Yes.

p 100————————————————————–

Q How can we know that when you go, that you won’t let your family persuade you to stay there;

A. Because I won’t; I mean, because I won’t stay there.

In the end, it is that lying, and that dishonesty, that I have a real problem with. That, and the fact that the Japanese courts, with regards to this sort of thing, are a complete and total mess.

In Japan, sole custody is awarded to one parent, and one parent only. This means that if there is a messy divorce, as it appears to be in this case, and the mother doesn’t want to allow the father to see his children, there is nothing that can be done. Period. Christopher was obviously well aware of this, and knew that if he wanted to have any access to his children, he needed to have his divorce here.

Noriko, with full knowledge of Amy, came here specifically for the purpose of getting that divorce – she was not “tricked” into it. She came here, she had her day in court, she received a large financial settlement, she repeatedly assured the court that she had no intention of removing the father from his childrens’ lives, and then she went ahead and did just that. She took the children away, took the money, and now she happily spends her days walking the children to and from school, while he spends his being interrogated in jail. He sits there knowing that, as the Japanese courts always favor the Japanese parent in these cases, he will in all likelihood never see his children again.

Terrie’s Take offers the best piece yet on the Savoie Child Abduction Case


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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Just received this.  It’s good enough to quote in full.  It’s the best, most thorough, most balanced opinion yet on the case, in my view.  Let’s see if I can do better tomorrow in my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, October 4, 2009 Issue No. 536


On September 28th this last week, news starting emerging on CNN and several other media about an American dad who was arrested in Fukuoka for trying to abduct his kids back, after his Japanese ex-wife had first abducted them from him in the USA. The Dad, 38-year old Chris Savoie, is now in jail in Fukuoka for some indeterminate period, while the police try to extract a confession from him.

Well… at least we think this is what is going on, because as many readers will know, the police can keep a suspect in detention for months for questioning, with very limited access to a lawyer, until they think the case is ready to send to the courts. This process is partly the reason why Japan has a successful conviction rate (versus a relatively low prosecution rate) in the 99%+ range.

Chris Savoie is not a wet-behind-the-ears foreigner who knows nothing about Japan and its customs. Indeed, he has led a highly successful business career here, and amongst other things built a pharmaceutical business called GNI in Fukuoka that went on to do an IPO on the Mothers market in September 2007. He is a strong Japanese speaker, has a PhD, and according to press reports naturalized as a Japanese national several years ago. So his being in jail is both a surprise and then again it isn’t.

No one other than Savoie himself knows what was going through his mind when he had a friend drive a car along side his ex-wife and two children, aged 6 and 8, while they were walking to school. However, according to reports he jumped out of the vehicle, bundled the kids into the car and raced to the U.S. Consul’s compound in Fukuoka. This was a big mistake, because at the compound he was not allowed entry by the guards, and since his ex-wife had already alerted the police, they soon arrived on the scene and nabbed both him and the kids.

While we don’t know what Savoie was thinking, we do know the facts surrounding his decision to try to get his kids back:

1. His wife is on record in a U.S. divorce court as stating that she would not abduct the kids, despite Savoie’s fears that this might happen.

2. She did abduct the kids and she clearly didn’t expect to return them to the U.S. Indeed, she was taking them to school, meaning that they weren’t just on holiday.

3. As readers will know from our previous commentary on this subject (, there are NO recorded cases of U.S.-Japanese kids abducted from the U.S. being returned to the custodial parent in the U.S. by court action, and only 3 that were mutually resolved between the parties. This among 102 open cases of abduction known to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and possibly several thousand unreported cases which have probably happened over the last ten years.

4. Previous cases we have heard of indicate that it is not a crime for a spouse to take the kids into hiding in Japan. The idea being that the abductor waits until the kids acclimate to them, before resurfacing. If the kids have been with that abducting spouse for more than a year, then typically judges will award that spouse custody on the basis that the kids should have a “stable home life” and better to have them not experience another major change. Until now that’s been the pattern of rulings, anyway.

5. While joint custody may be legally allowed in Japan, there has been no tradition nor legal enforcement of joint custody arrangements. So if a spouse, almost always the Japanese spouse, has possession of the kids and doesn’t want the other parent to see them, then the left-behind spouse can’t.

Given that Savoie has probably been aware of the legal situation, it is not so surprising that he attempted to get his kids back by taking preemptive action. He will have realized that the Family courts in Japan would pay no heed to his U.S. custodial rights (he has sole custody) and that Japan is well known globally as a destination for child abductors, not all of whom are Japanese. If he wanted to see his kids again, kidnapping them back again was about all he really could do. Otherwise he would have joined the ranks of hundreds of other left-behind parents who desperately miss their kids and can’t do anything about it. They are powerless in the face of a 19th century judicial values system.

But what is surprising is that he chose to get his kids back in a way that exposed him to many untested theories. One of these theories has been that it is OK to abduct your kids back. Indeed the police often do turn a blind eye to home disputes and will allow “mini-abductions” to happen. There was a case some years ago where Chinese American Samuel Lui tried, like Savoie, to abduct his child back on the streets of Osaka. Like Savoie, he also had sole custody rights awarded in the USA. Lui failed in his attempt, subsequently turning himself in to the Osaka police, who after questioning him for a day, rapped his knuckles and effectively said, “Don’t do it again.”

But in trying to regain possession of your kids, once trespass and violence or threat of violence are used, that is where a person steps over the line. Savoie must have known that the police here can pretty much arrest people whenever they want. If we’d been him, and were committed to such a drastic action, we would have used our local contacts to hide out for a while and figured out how to get the kids out of the country. As a Japanese, if he’d successfully kept off the police radar for more than 6 months, he might have even been able to apply to the courts for sole custody in Japan and have gotten away with it.

In the last couple of days, details surrounding Savoie’s divorce have emerged that paint him in a less than flattering light. In particular he seems to have been engaged in an affair with a person who has since become his new wife, and that this probably occurred around the same time he brought his ex-wife and kids to the USA. Comments of disgust about his possible manipulation of the ex-wife abound on U.S. comment boards of major news sites carrying stories about the case.

HOWEVER, again, we can only speculate about what really happened, and until the facts are made public, we can probably assume that Savoie was acting logically throughout — in that he was trying to get his soon-to-be ex-wife and kids into a jurisdiction (the U.S.) where the law protects BOTH parents rights and upholds the concept of joint custody. Whether his behavior is cruel or is manipulative is beside the point. Savoie would have known that if his divorce was contested in Japan, he would have been 100% guaranteed to have lost his kids, and would have been at the whim of his wife whether or not he would be able to see them ever again as children.

This situation is caused by the Japanese judiciary’s refusal to accept that divorced parents should have equal access to their children. The view of most judges (based on interviews with judges that we have done in the past) is that kids need to be insulated from the hurt between divorcing parents by giving them just one care-giver. But this is a traditional view and has no basis in fact. Child psychologists outside Japan generally agree that kids need the love and attention of both parents, even if they are divorced. Splitting the kids from one parent naturally causes them to side with the other (Parental Alienation Syndrome: PAS), which causes them to have complexes about the missing parent later in life.

PAS also works in reverse, because as the left-behind parent gets alienated, they simply stop paying child support, causing poverty and depression for the (typically) single-mother family. The fact is that if the Dads are not encouraged to feel a connection to their kids, and given that Japanese family law courts have little or no power to enforce child support judgments, then why would ex-Dads feel like paying for offspring who won’t even acknowledge them as a parent? Yes, the law says they should pay, but given the lack of legal enforcement, building a feeling of responsibility by the Dads is the only other way to get the money flowing again.

This situation is wrong and needs fixing.

Since there appears to be little will by the judiciary to change their ways or values, any change in the status quo needs to be a political one — using outside political pressure (“Gaiatsu”). This is a long-term project unfortunately, but it does give us a possible motive why an otherwise intelligent individual such as Savoie may have been driven to try kidnap his kids when such an undertaking would have such a high possibility for failure.

Finally, our take is that what he did is not right, but under the current legal system, it is understandable. We think similar incidents will happen again until things change.


SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie’s Take at:


Valentine Court Case re police brutality next hearing Tues Oct 6 2:30PM, Tokyo High Court Kasumigaseki


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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  I heard word from Plaintiff Valentine last week that the latest hearing on his lawsuit against the Japanese police (which has lasted four years now) for police brutality will be happening next Tuesday.  Do attend if you can.  Here’s why:

You may not remember, but I wrote about the Valentine Case for the Japan Times:

ABUSE, RACISM, LOST EVIDENCE DENY JUSTICE IN VALENTINE CASE: Nigerian’s ordeal shows that different standards apply for foreigners in court” (Japan Times Zeit Gist August 14, 2007).

where I did a bit of sleuthing and described how the police’s claim that Nigerian citizen Valentine smashed his knee on a sign while running from them is pretty much impossible.  Then their denying him medical treatment during interrogation has left him crippled for life.  This is one major case of how a man (who has not been convicted to this day of any crime) can be abused due to the lack of accountability in the police system of criminal investigation, and have it covered up by negligent Japanese courts.  The outcome of this case will speak volumes.

More background from his supporters group follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


WHO MAY BE THE NEXT VICTIM?   Mr. Valentine   who was beaten up  with a broken knee by the uncovered police officers  4 years ago,  is calling on the foreign  community living in Japan to  attend his next  high  court  trial on 6th. tuesday 2009.  By  2:30pm.  Venue: Tokyo  High court. Kasumigaseki.   8th  floor. Room   808.

Why?  This  Case is very  important   to attend is because some  thing strange is  going on with this case.  On 6th. tuesday,  a  DNA professor.   Prof  Ishiyama.  is coming to  give  his expert opinion   about   the  cause of the broken knee. on behalf of the  Tokyo Govt.

We need  Justice  to be done.   Your presence is highly needed.  This  matter has  being going on for 4 years  now.


1st appeal hearing (July 17th,2007) A statement of reasons for appeal. Requests the court to provide order to submit a document(s) ( the Shinjuku ward police would have some inhouse documents that recorded how his injury was). Also requested a record(s) of monitoring video camera at the scene at Shinjuku.

2nd appeal hearing(Sep.25th,2007) Metropolitan Government (the Police) says these two evidences that he requested have never existed. Conversely, they asked the appellant to submit a ground(s) why he asks so. Also asked to order to let a new doctor(s) give an expert opinion.(This was to withdraw by the appellant himself after that and re-submit a doctor’s expert opinion).

3rd appeal hearing(Nov.20th,2007) The court requests more detailed statement of eyewitness and the appellant to be prepared again. Also the court asked the appellant to appeal against his original doctor’s expert opinion(already submitted)

4th appeal hearing(Feb.12th, 2008) Every orders to submit documents sorted out. Reply of Metropolitan Gov.:1)Detention name list->exist, but no need to submit 2) A report(s) from a chief investigator to a chief of detention-> no exist 3) a detentions’ medical report->exist, but no need to submit. For 3), the chief judge urged the Metropolitan Gov. to submit “with painting in black at the non related ”, and Gov. under examination.

5th appeal hearing(May.22nd, 2008)The court didn’t make any approval or decision for testimony of new eyewitness & 2nd doctor. A detention name list and a detentions’ medical report have submitted before this time. The appellant pursuited to release internal regulations to the court, that concerning a report(s) when the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department arrested him. However, Metropolitan Gov. refused it and requested “in-camera” proceeding*1).
*1)”In-Camera” proceeding:”It is not submitted to court where opens to the public, and no chance to read it is given even to the person concerned, only the judge receives the presentation of the document. “

6th appeal hearing(Jul.8th, 2008)The chief justice instruct to conclude the appeal. The most point is the reason of his injury whether it is advantageous accident or others disadvantageous accident. This time an inhouse documents has submitted by the Shinjuku police station that might concern about it. The court wait for counterarguement from Tokyo gov. side (if any), then the chief justice to judge.

7th appeal hearing(Oct.28th, 2008)At last hearing, Mr.Tsuzuki instructed to conclude new proofs and new states during last 6 hearings, and the appallant submitted concerned documents, then Tokyo Gov. side submitted counterarguements following after that. This time the court confirmed these documents again, and also no other request has confirmed. Also the court confirmed no other documents to be submitted, and a witness and a docter witness accepted after consultation at the backyard of the court. Two witness to be stand at next hearing.

8th appeal hearing(Jan.27th, 2009)From appalent side, a witness who stayed close at scene of the accident and, a doctor who declare the cause of his fracture and also explained 10 day detention affection, stood for the court.

9th appeal hearing(Apr.21st, 2009)Most of people believed that conclusion of the hearings to be announced. However, Tokyo Gov. side submit a “Ishiyama Opinion” more than after one week of the closing date. Appallent side pursuit not to accept it because it is clealy expired, however the chief justice Mr Tsuzuki accepted it (as document No. Otsu-18) by the reason he want to compete the expert opinions, and also he called Prof.Ishiyama to the witness stand.

10th appeal hearing(Jul.21st, 2009)The plaintiff side submit Ishiyama’s second opinion and pre-documents, and the chief justice decided to call Prof.Ishiyama as a witness. FYI: Mr.Ikuo ISHIYAMA, a honorary professor to the Teikyo University, is a famous expert opinion. The 6th professor to a legal medicine class of the Tokyo University. He is a suceeder of Professor Furuhata who generate a lot of false charge by his attempt judge. Mr.Ishiyama also close to Police side.

Copyright (c) Valentine Trial Support Group/バレンタイン裁判支援会 All Rights Reserved.

Again, background on the case at

Court Transcripts of Christopher vs. Noriko Savoie re child abduction


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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Obviously since yesterday the Savoie Child Abduction Case has gotten a lot more complicated.  So let’s go to the primary source information:  the sworn testimonies of the parties to the case.

Now, divorces are generally nasty messy affairs with both sides at fault and deserving of criticism. But the fact is that wife Noriko Savoie negotiated in bad faith, broke her promises, abducted the children, and committed a criminal offense, and she should not be allowed to get away with it. Or else it just encourages other Japanese to take the kids and run (or threaten to) whenever there’s a domestic dispute. This situation as it stands will also remain a deterrent to people marrying Japanese, and is ultimately defeating of Japan’s intent to stem the demographic juggernaut that is Japan’s falling population.

Courtesy of David in yesterday’s comments (thanks), here are the last seventy pages of testimony in Tennessee court.


There was a restraining order against Noriko Savoie filed due to various threats from Noriko to abduct the children (page 94).

She promised in court under oath that she would not do that.

She obviously lied.

She came to the US willingly, knowing how things would turn out (i.e. divorce, not reconciliation):

(pg 121)
THE COURT: And she clearly understood that when she was
coming to the United States, she wasn’t coming
here to reconcile . And it was clear she came here knowing that
her husband was involved with another woman, and
she came here knowing that he wanted a divorce.

and a social worker testified that she was in fact acclimatizing to the US and would probably stay (pg 109).

Noriko even tried to use the allegation of husband Christopher’s Japanese citizenship (which looks like it may be true, although given the relatively amount of time Christopher was in Japan it was gleaned awfully quickly) against him to say that he had the same rights as a Japanese. Which he technically would (but not positively, when Japanese have so few rights between them regarding child custody and visitation following divorce anyway), but then again probably not (as the court admits, see below).

Court testimony excerpts follow, then further commentary from me:

I don’t have any plans to
return to Japan or move to Japan, I haven’t had
any plans to move to Japan since I entered the
final decree
. (page 80)

(page 88-89)
… you put in writing to him
February 12th that “it is very hard to watch the kids
become American and losing their Japanese identity . I
have tremendous fear for my children and myself . I’m
overwhelmed without a problem . Therefore, please
cooperate with me in order for us to stay here”?

A. Correct.

Q. The only way I can read that is that was a threat
to him ; that if you don’t do what I want you to do, I’m
going to take your children and you will never see them
again . You understand his fear?

A I do understand his fear; however —

Q. Well, what can you do today to alleviate that
fear ; what can you do, what can you say to Judge Martin,
what can you say to their father that assures us that
when you get to Japan —

A. Yes.

Q. — you will not let your parents and your friends
and your — as you said, all the people that came to the
airport, influence you to just stay there ; what
assurance do we have?

A. Yes, actually that’s why I brought this here .
First of all, I have never thought about taking children
away from their father, never . And — but based on
that —

Q. Well, let me ask you this — and I’ll ask the
questions, if you would — do you have plans to take
your children and move to Japan?

A . No, I don’t .

(pg 96-97)
NORIKO: Yes, I actually want to say because if you
talking about based on he has no authority in Japan,
however, he is Japanese citizen ; he is not — Hague
Convention has nothing to do with him, because that is
between American citizen and Japanese citizen .

THE COURT : Ms . Savoie, let me just say that
this kind of discussion concerns the Court . I
really don’t care what his rights are in Japan .
What I care about is ensuring that you don’t take
these children permanently to Japan .


THE COURT : You’ll never convince this Court
that this gentleman has the same rights that you
have in Japan to freely enforce the terms of this
order, because every bit of the law that I’ve
ever seen as mediator — and this case was
presented – and this case, by the way, was
discussed in mediation, so that’s not anything
new either .So for you to try to convince the Court now
that Dr . Savoie has the full ability to enforce a
foreign decree in Japan, is not going to be very
productive . That causes me concern that you
might have some intent to move that you said you
do not have . See what I’m saying?

THE WITNESS : Yes, Sir, I understand .

THE COURT: They’re inconsistent positions .
On the one hand you say, “I’m not moving, I’ve
made no plans to move, I intend to go on vacation
and return here and bring the children back
here”; on the other hand you’re saying, “but he
has full rights to enforce the decree in Japan .”
Well, if you have no intent to move, why do you —

THE WITNESS : Yes, Sir .

THE COURT: — try to convince the Court
that he has the full rights to enforce a foreign
decree in Japan . There’s no reason to try to go
there . You see what I’m saying?

(skip to page 100)

THE WITNESS : Yes . However, he won’t see
them again that — that part is that concern
before me that from a long time ago, like I said
I’ve never split children and father . I know how
important father is for children, and I am not
going to do that . I keep telling him I’m not
going to do that .

(skip to page 119-120)
I think Ms . Savoie understands that if she
elects to go to Japan and not return, she’s going
to lose her alimony, because the Court’s going to
pay it into court ; she’s going to have problems
with her child support ; she’s going to have
problems with her education fund ; she’s going to
be fighting her husband in the courts of Japan ;
and it just — it’s going to be a terrible mess
for her and the children if she pursues that, and
the Court has no reason to believe that she
doesn’t understand that or that she intends to
pursue that .

But on the other hand, obviously Dr . Savoie
is not convinced that his former wife is acting
with him in good faith . Frankly, I don’t know
that he will ever be convinced until time passes
and she’s made trips to Japan and she’s returned
from Japan, and the children seem to be
acclimating to the notion that they have two
cultures that form them ; one is a Japanese
culture and the other is an American culture, and
they’re part Japanese, they’re part American,
they have part Japanese heritage, they have part
American heritage, and they’re entitled to know
both heritages, they’re entitled to know
grandparents from their Japanese heritage .

And what she will do when she gets to Japan
and she’s under the pressure of her family and
friends to stay there and not return, remains to
be seen.

(pg 121)
THE COURT: And she clearly understood that when she was
coming to the United States, she wasn’t coming
here to reconcile . And it was clear she came here knowing that
her husband was involved with another woman, and
she came here knowing that he wanted a divorce .
(snip, pg 122)
And it’s clear to this Court that it’s in
the best interest of these children that these
children–and I’ll say it again–have a
relationship with their father, and that they
also understand their Japanese culture and
heritage, and it’s part of their makeup, and that
they unde, and their American culture and
heritage as part of their makeup .
So based on the limited issue that’s before
me, the Court’s going to dissolve the restraining

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  So the retraining order gets dissolved and Noriko breaks her sworn promises.  That is the background to the case.  Her current extraterritoriality notwithstanding, she broke the law, and now there’s an arrest warrant out on her.  That’s what occasioned Christopher taking the drastic actions that he did.

Now, speaking as a left-behind parent myself might be coloring my attitude towards this issue. But divorces are nearly always messy and fault can be found with both sides in mediations. And the fact remains that Noriko did what so many Japanese will do in these situations — abduct the children and claim Japan as a safe haven. Then the children are NEVER returned, and usually contact is completely broken off with the left-behind parent for the remainder of the childhood.

This is an untenable situation. And it must stop. For the sake of the children. This in my mind is undisputable. The children must be returned to Dr Savoie in order to discourage this sort of thing happening again. Anything else is just more encouragement for Japanese to abduct their children.

More media up on the case later today.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Candlelight vigil re Christopher Savoie arrest Sat Oct 3 2PM outside Japanese Embassy to US in Wash DC (corrected)


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
twitter: arudoudebito
FYI: (sorry, corrected)

“Rally and Candelight Vigil to Free Christopher Savoie” on Saturday, October 3 at 2:00pm.

Event: Rally and Candelight Vigil to Free Christopher Savoie
What: Rally
Start Time: Saturday, October 3 at 2:00pm
End Time: Saturday, October 3 at 5:00pm
Where: In front of the Japanese Embassy to the United States

More information:


CNN and NBC TODAY Show: American attempts to recover his abducted kids, is turned away from Fukuoka Consulate, arrested for “kidnapping”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. This has been big news all of yesterday. (I’m pretty strict about only doing one major blog post per day — otherwise I’d have floods and famines of news instead of dribs and drabs — so sorry for the delay on reporting this. And thanks to the dozens of people who sent articles.  Here goes:)

An American named Christopher Savoie faced a case of child abduction when his Japanese ex-wife Noriko did something that is increasingly coming to light (and has been featured prominently on in the past):  abducted their children to Japan.

Japan has now become truly infamous as a haven for international child abductions, due not only to its non-signatory status vis-a-vis the Hague Treaty on International Child Abductions, but also because its problematic koseki Family Registry system enables one parent sole custody of the kids (and no visitation rights — I know:  I’m divorced, and despite Japanese citizenship, I’ve seen one of my daughters all of *once* over the past close to five years): abduction and lack of contact in Japan happens regardless of nationality, but it’s particularly disadvantageous for NJ because they don’t even have a koseki to put their children on (not to mention the difficulty of conducting an intercontinental custody battle).

This issue has been brought up numerous times internationally over the years, to a lot of handwringing (and some biased domestic media coverage) on the part of Japan. Consequently, no abducted child to Japan, according to a number of embassies and and the upcoming documentary FROM THE SHADOWS, has EVER been returned. Even though, in Mr Savoie’s case, he was awarded custody of his children by a Tennessee court, and there is an arrest warrant out for his wife in the US.

So Mr Savoie did something I consider very brave.  He came to Japan and tried to retrieve his children.  He put them in his car and did a runner for the Fukuoka US Consulate.  However, according to online and word-of-mouth sources familiar with this case, the American Consulate would not open the gate for him.  One left-behind father commented to a mailing list thusly:

It does not surprise me one bit. I met with the U.S. Embassy in Okinawa shortly after my daughter was abducted and I found her there [in Okinawa]. They told me flat out that is what they would do if I tried to bring her [to the Consulate], in spite of the U.S. Warrants for her mother’s arrest and the U.S. Court papers showing that I had full unconditional custody of my daughter.

I’ve known for quite some time that the USG is quite unhelpful towards its citizens, but this is getting ridiculous.  Especially since the children are also US citizens.

Mr Savoie was then arrested by Japanese police and charged with kidnapping — a charge that may incarcerate him for up to five years, and his outcome at this writing remains uncertain.

But it’s about time somebody took a stand like this, if you ask me, since no other channels are working (witness what happened in the very similar Murray Wood Case), and nothing short of this is probably going to draw the attention this situation needs.  Bravo Mr Savoie!

CNN has been the leader on reporting this case, and anchor Campbell Brown did an excellent report at 10:40 AM JST (I watched it intercontinentally over skype with a friend), with CNN’s legal counsel commenting agape at how Japan’s courts ignore overseas rulings and allow one family to capture the kids after divorce.  They also had an interview with Paul Toland, a commander in the US Navy, who similarly lost his child 6 years ago — and when his ex-wife died two years ago, the Japanese courts awarded custody to his Japanese mother-in-law!  Very, very sobering.

See that report here:

Download that report in mp4 format here:

Anderson Cooper also took it up, guest-starring Christopher’s current wife Amy Savoie and international lawyer Jeremy Morley:

NBC’s TODAY Show took this up this morning US time, with special guests Jeremy Morley, FROM THE SHADOWS director Matt Antell, and Amy again (can’t embed, so click):

CNNj’s Kyung Lah, however, did some pretty lackluster reporting, where they ended the show with relativities and how Noriko too is legally permitted the kids in Japan.  Aw shucks.  Don’t it just sting when people do these things to each other, don’tcha know?  Why can’t we just all get along?

Local TV in Nashville, Tennessee did a much better job, reporting surprising negligence on the part of the local judge who granted Noriko the right to leave the country in the first place with the kids, despite advance evidence in writing that Noriko was threatening to abduct them (the judge declined to comment for the report).  Text and TV here:

Finally, some more media courtesy of the assiduous coverage of Mark at the Children’s Rights Network Japan (CRN), your one-stop shopping for all information relating to international child abduction cases involving Japanese.  Recent news stories up at CRN about the issue here.  And just go here for the latest in real time:

The latest: CNN reports the GOJ claiming Savoie is a naturalized Japanese citizen!  See article at very bottom as this story keeps mushrooming…

Arudou Debito in Sapporo



A Story that CRN Japan reported on just last week has taken a sorry turn!

TOKYO, Japan (CNN September 29, 2009) — Had this parental abduction drama played out in the United States, Christopher Savoie might be considered a hero — snatching his two little children back from an ex-wife who defied the law and ran off with them.

A Tennessee court awarded Christopher Savoie custody of his son, Isaac, and daughter, Rebecca.

But this story unfolds 7,000 miles away in the Japanese city of Fukuoka, where the U.S. legal system holds no sway.

And here, Savoie sits in jail, charged with the abduction of minors. And his Japanese ex-wife — a fugitive in the United States for taking his children from Tennessee — is considered the victim.

“Japan is an important partner and friend of the U.S., but on this issue, our points of view differ,” the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said Tuesday. “Our two nations approach divorce and child-rearing differently. Parental child abduction is not considered a crime in Japan.”

The story begins in Franklin, Tennessee, with the divorce of Savoie from his first wife, Noriko, a Japanese native.

The ex-wife had agreed to live in Franklin to be close to the children, taking them to Japan for summer vacations.

But in August — on the first day of classes for 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca — the school called to say they hadn’t arrived.

Worried, Savoie called his ex-wife’s father in Japan, who told him not to worry.

“I said, ‘What do you mean — don’t worry? They weren’t at school.’ ‘Oh, don’t worry, they are here,’ ” Savoie recounted the conversation to CNN affiliate WTVF earlier this month. “I said, ‘They are what, they are what, they are in Japan?’ ”

After the abduction, a court in Williamson County, Tennessee, granted Savoie full custody of the children. And Franklin police issued an arrest warrant for his ex-wife, the television station reported.

But there was a major hitch: Japan is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction.

The international agreement standardizes laws, but only among participating countries.

So while Japanese civil law stresses that courts resolve custody issues based on the best interest of the children without regard to the parent’s nationality, foreign parents have had little success in regaining custody.

Japanese family law follows a tradition of sole custody divorces. When a couple splits, one parent typically makes a complete and lifelong break from the children.

The International Association for Parent-Child Reunion, formed in Japan this year, claims to know of more than 100 cases of children abducted by noncustodial Japanese parents.

And the U.S. State Department says it is not aware of a single case in which a child taken from the United States to Japan has been ordered returned by Japanese courts — even when the left-behind parent has a U.S. custody decree.

Saddled with such statistics and the possibility of never seeing his kids again, Savoie took matters into his own hands.

He flew to Fukuoka. And as his ex-wife walked the two children to school Monday morning, Savoie drove alongside them.

He grabbed them, forced them into his car, and drove off, said police in Fukuoka.

He headed for the U.S. consulate in Fukuoka to try to obtain passports for Isaac and Rebecca.

But Japanese police, alerted by Savoie’s ex-wife, were waiting.

Consulate spokeswoman Tracy Taylor said she heard a scuffle outside the doors of the consulate. She ran up and saw a little girl and a man, whom police were trying to talk to.

Eventually, police took Savoie away, charging him with the abduction of minors — a crime that upon conviction carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

The consulate met with Savoie on Monday and Tuesday, Taylor said. It has provided him with a list of local lawyers and said it will continue to assist.

Meanwhile, the international diplomacy continues. During the first official talks between the United States and Japan’s new government, the issue of parental abductions was raised.

But it is anybody’s guess what happens next to Savoie, who sits in a jail cell.



Father, kids in custody case Japanese citizens, officials say

TOKYO, Japan (CNN September 30, 2009) — The case of a Tennessee man jailed in Japan for trying to snatch back his children from his estranged wife is not as clear-cut as it’s been made out to be, authorities here said Wednesday.

The father, Christopher Savoie, apparently became a naturalized Japanese citizen four years ago, listing a permanent address in Tokyo, they said.

And while he and Noriko Savoie, a Japanese native, divorced in Tennessee, the two never annulled their marriage in Japan, Japanese officials said.

Also, the two children at the center of the case hold Japanese passports, they said.

“His chances of getting his children back home to the States, I think, are pretty slim right now,” Jeremy Morley, Savoie’s lawyer in the United States, told CNN’s “AC 360” on Tuesday night. Watch how dad landed in Japanese jail »

“We’re getting this in the hands of Interpol. We’re putting the pressure,” he added. “We want diplomatic pressure. We want the United States government to act strongly.”

Savoie was arrested Monday when he snatched his two children — 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca — as Noriko Savoie was walking them to school in Fukuoka, about 680 miles (1,100 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Tokyo.

He headed for the U.S. consulate in that city to try to obtain passports for them, authorities said. But Japanese police, alerted by Noriko Savoie, arrested him.

Japanese authorities said Wednesday that Savoie was eating well and was staying in a jail cell by himself.

He will be held for 10 days while prosecutors sort out the details of the case. Watch a discussion of U.S.-Japan custody cases »

“I know he had to go to the hospital for blood pressure issues,” said Amy Savoie, whom Savoie married after divorcing Noriko Savoie in Tennessee in January. “The gentleman from the consulate was able to contact me this morning, and he confirmed that Christopher had gone to the hospital. The first night he needed medication for his high blood pressure.”

After their Tennessee divorce, Noriko Savoie agreed to live in Franklin, Tennessee, to be close to the children, taking them to Japan for summer vacations.

In March, Savoie requested a restraining order to prevent his wife from taking the children to Japan, fearing she would not return.

“I was on a speaker phone telephone call once when she proclaimed to him, ‘You have no idea what I’m capable of,” said Amy Savoie. “So, yes, he had the idea.”

Noriko Savoie could not be reached by CNN for comment.

On the day that the two children were to begin school in August, Savoie learned Noriko Savoie had fled with them to Japan.

After that, Savoie filed for and was granted full custody of the children by a Tennessee court. And Franklin police issued an arrest warrant for Noriko Savoie.

But Japan is not a party to a 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction.

Foreign parents have had little luck in regaining custody, the U.S. State Department said.

“She has committed a felony, the mother,” Morley said. “It’s a very serious felony. She would go to jail for serious time if she were here.

“But Japan has a different legal system and a different set of customs and ideas about custody. And their idea is that somebody who is Japanese and the mother should be entitled to have the kids and have the kids alone. The fact that they were living here is kind of irrelevant, and the fact that there’s a court order here is irrelevant.”

So, Savoie flew to Fukuoka to try to get back his children — and landed himself in jail.

“These kids are the ones that are suffering,” Morley said. “These kids are without their father, and their father needs to be a part of their life. It’s not fair that he’s been taken away from them.”

General Union: City govt seizes assets of NJ worker whose employer refused to pay for Shakai Hoken (Terrie’s Take and Japan Times articles too)


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Here we have a case of how NJ can be hurt by careless Immigration decisions. The upcoming requirement for all NJ to be enrolled in health insurance (shakai hoken), or else no visa granted, has been created without necessarily requiring negligent employers to pony up themselves. As usual it’s punishing the powerless. As I wrote on last August:

Here’s a good article in the Japan Times describing issues of health insurance and pensions, and how recent revisions clarifying that every resident in Japan (including NJ) must be enrolled may expose the graft that employers have been indulging in (”opting out” of paying mandatory social security fees, encouraging NJ not to pay them, or just preying on their ignorance by not telling them at all) to save money. The problem is, instead of granting an amnesty for those employees who unwittingly did not pay into the system, they’re requiring back payments (for however many years) to enroll or else they get no visa renewal! Once again, it’s the NJ employee who gets punished for the vices of the employer.

Now, according to the FGU, we have a case where the GOJ is seizing a NJ’s assets (not the negligent employer’s) for non-back-payments that the employer should have handled. Read on.  A Japan Times article also substantiates this practice of employers fudging working hours to escape paying into NJ health insurance (click here).

A recent Terrie’s Take is also included below for more background information.

And yet another Japan Times Zeit Gist column came out on this only yesterday — describing how half-baked the policy process and probable implementation has been! (click here)

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


City seizes bank account to pay health insurance premiums
General, Undated, Downloaded early September 2009

An ALT, after having received a letter from city hall demanding two years of back payments forKokumin Kenko Hoken (National Health Insurance), contacted the Fukuoka General Union (FGU).

What was troubling about this case was that until now, the teacher had never had any problems with insurance. His ex-employer, following the law, had enrolled him in Shakai Hoken (Employees Health and Pension Insurance).

The problem started with his new employer, who would not enroll him onto Shakai Hoken. Even though the teacher was required to be at work from 8:30 to 5:00 every day, the company told him that he did not work thirty hours per week and therefore was ineligible for Shakai Hoken. Now the story gets worse.

Not only was the city demanding back payments, but it seized 50,000yen from the teacher’s bank account. Why? Very simple. In Japan, all residents are required to be enrolled in health insurance. Since the employer failed to enroll in Shakai Hoken, the city’s position was that the teacher should be in the city run Kokumin Kenko Hoken system and therefore deducted the money that was owed to them.

The union’s position on payment was different because the union believes that the employer has a duty to enrol in Shakai Hoken. The union officer from FGU told the teacher to make sure that he cleared his bank account immediately after being paid each month. This should have prevented the seizure of more money from the account. But the story’s not over yet.

Finally, the teacher was called into his company’s head office and told that the city would be seizing 130,000yen from his pay. Sorry, the company couldn’t do anything to prevent it; the city has a right to the money. The employer couldn’t see that this could have been prevented if they had honoured the teacher’s right to Shakai Hokenenrolment.

The teacher now still has to pay all his back payments, and for the first time that the union has ever seen, the teacher will not be allowed Kokumin Kenko Hoken coverage until all his back payments are made.

A sign of things to come? Maybe. We wouldn’t recommend that you stick around to see if it’ll happen to you. Talk to your coworkers, join a union, and make sure that you get covered by Shakai Hoken.



More on the issue from Terrie Lloyd:

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, September 20, 2009 Issue No. 534


A revision to the immigration law passed in the Diet earlier this year has caused the Ministry of Justice to instruct the Immigration Bureau to start checking that foreigner residents in Japan are enrolled in one of the nation’s health insurance programs. Although not stated explicitly, the implication is that those without such enrollment may be denied a visa renewal. This will start happening from April 1st, 2010 and has a lot of foreigners concerned.

The reason for this concern is that although all residents of Japan, including foreigners, are supposed to be enrolled in one of the health insurance programs, and indeed, in one of the overall social insurance programs, the reality is that many people are not. Most such people are typically either self-employed, contractors, students, part-timers, unemployed people between jobs, or housewives (i.e., all outside the regular employee situation).

We have been following the various media and chat boards about the topic, and the conversations seem to follow three main threads: that the Japanese insurance program is unwanted and unfair to foreigners, that it is discriminatory vis-a-vis Japanese non-payers, and that come April 1st, what can people do about it?

We try to answer some of these questions below.

Most of us know the health insurance program through a collective social insurance package that most private companies are enrolled in, called Shakai Hoken. This refers to health (kenko hoken), pension (kosei nenkin), unemployment (koyo hoken), and nursing (kaigo hoken — for those over 40) insurances. Effectively for most of us, these insurances function as a 16% tax, and result in us getting that much less in our take-home pay packets every month. Our employers also pay out the same 16% to the government as their contribution.

Thus, for those of us on lower-to-medium salaries (say, JPY300,000 a month), while you may think you’re only paying out 20% or so for your payroll taxes (being 10%-12% average for national tax and 10% or so for your local inhabitance tax), in actual fact the real number is more like 38%. If you’re in the higher tax brackets, then this number goes much higher — into the 45%+ range.

As many readers will know, there are four main social insurance programs of which health insurance is part: the Shakai Hoken program which most private companies are subscribed to, the Kokumin Hoken program, which is for people not in regular employment or who are self-employed, private insurance programs which are run by a few major Japanese conglomerates, and a government employee program. For most of us, getting a visa renewal will mean being enrolled in either the Shakai Hoken or Kokumin Hoken programs.

Come April 1st next year, what can you do if you are not currently a contributor to social insurance? We contacted the Immigration Bureau to ask this question, and from what we can tell, they themselves have not yet settled on a policy of how to handle non-compliant people. They did say that they will only be checking for health insurance certificates, not pension and other insurances. So we suppose that the simplest answer is to go get yourself enrolled now in the Kokumin Kenko Hoken program. However, since there are a number of exemption categories for kenko hoken (working in a company of less than 5 people, for example), we suppose it might be possible to present yourself as being an exempt person, with, we think, some chance of being able to convince the interviewing officer that your visa should be renewed.

But is it really worth all the risk and hassle?

So how is it that people have been allowed to get away with not paying in health and other social welfare taxes until now? There doesn’t seem to be an official reason, however, we believe it is because the government for the longest time held that the social insurance package was NOT a tax but rather a benefit, which is why it has not been administrated by the National Tax Agency. This duality of positioning caused the Social Insurance Agency (SIA) to be run differently, and unlike the Tax Agency, has for many decades decided for itself whether to make people pay or not. As we all know, this has changed over the last 5 years, as it came to light that the SIA not only let people off having to pay, but also themselves lost 50MM or so contributor records.

It seems that the new government position is that the SIA once it has been reorganized into a new agency next year, will function more like the National Tax Agency. Indeed, we think that within 5-10 years, the two will be merged, and then the Japanese public will be faced with the reality that Social Insurance really is a tax, not just a pretend one.

So you’re stuck with having to pay at least something. The good news is that if you’re self-employed, a contractor, or a student, you can pay directly to the government, and the rates are not all that unreasonable — certainly the overall cost of social insurance is significantly cheaper than if you’re a regular salaryperson. As a general guide:

* Kokumin Nenkin (National Pension) — JPY14,660/month currently

* Kokumin Kenko Hoken (National Health Insurance) — roughly about 9%. Actual premium is based on your previous year’s taxable income and number of dependents. Annual premiums range up to JPY530,000/year (JPY44,166/month)

* Kaigo Hoken — only paid by those over 40. Levied as portion of previous year’s taxable income, up to JPY90,000/year

Lastly, is the threat of withholding a foreigner’s visa renewal if they don’t pay their social insurance fair? Our guess is that this point may eventually be taken to court by someone caught by the new rule. It is clear that Social Insurance is NOT a tax yet, and in June this year the Nikkei ran an article saying that the Social Insurance Agency had a contributor compliance rate for Japanese citizens for National Pension of just 62.1% (no word on the health rate) — so obviously there are plenty of Japanese not paying in to the system. Yet, we don’t hear of anyone being punished for that. In fact, just the opposite, the Agency allows people who are on low wages to only pay a portion of their obligations, and so the real non-full compliance rate for social insurance is just 45.6%!

Bad luck if you’re a foreigner… you don’t get to choose.

SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie’s Take at:


THE OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT, TEN YEARS ON: Article for Japonesia Review


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Today is the tenth anniversary of our visit, on September 19, 1999,  to “Japanese Only” Yunohana Onsen et al in Otaru, a life-changing event that to this day has not been fully resolved — mainly because we still don’t have a law against racial discrimination in Japan.  This situation remains more than 13 years after Japan effecting of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, where it promised to take “all measures, including legislation” to effectively eliminate all forms of RD.  And it deserves comment and reflection after years of protests, two books, countless articles, and successful lawsuits against the onsen (albeit not against the negligent City of Otaru).

I wrote this article by invitation for the Japonesia Review last January and submitted it in February.  After more than seven months’ wait, I see no reason not to publish it here in advance on on this auspicious occasion.  Written in a simpler style for a non-native audience, there are some anachronisms within (such as regarding FRANCA’s founding).  Enjoy.

My thoughts on this day are bittersweet.  I know we did the right thing (as Olaf noted, when I called him today, people are still talking about the case), and we had a good outcome in court.  But I judge things like this based upon whether or not they could ever happen again.  The answer is, unfortunately, yes.  After all, all Yunohana Onsen has to do is put up another “Japanese Only” sign and we’d have to take them to court all over again just to get it down.  There is no law to stop it, nothing for authorities to enforce.  Ten years later, it feels more overdue now than in 1999.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo




What has and has not changed regarding human rights for Non-Japanese in Japan.



Photo Caption:  The author in front of Yunohana Onsen, Otaru.

(Photo courtesy Shouya Grigg of

For publication in Japonesia Review 2009, Submitted February 3, 2009 and still not published.



On September 19, 1999, a group of seventeen people went to take a bath at a “super sento” (public bathhouse) named Yunohana Onsen ( in Otaru, Hokkaido.  All seventeen were Japanese, except for three Caucasian males (including the author) from America and Germany, and one Chinese woman from Shanghai.  She, like the non-Japanese (NJ) men, was married to a Japanese and came to Yunohana as an international family.  We had heard over the Internet that Yunohana, Otaru’s largest bathhouse, was not only refusing entry to NJ, they were even openly displaying a “JAPANESE ONLY” sign on their front door in three languages (Japanese, English, and Russian).


Caption:  Yunohana Onsen’s exclusionary sign, 1999

As soon as everyone had entered and bought tickets, we were told that the three Caucasian males in our group (your author included) were not allowed inside.

Consulting with the manager on duty, we heard Yunohana’s justification:  Russian sailors (who at the time were frequent visitors to and traders with Otaru) had a history of not following bathhouse rules, therefore were not allowed in because they might cause trouble and inconvenience Japanese customers.  When we made it clear that we were neither Russian sailors nor troublemakers, Yunohana said it did not matter:  “Refusing only Russians would be discrimination.  So we refuse all foreigners equally.”

All foreigners?  All.  “How about our Chinese friend you allowed in?”  As soon as they realized their mistake, management showed her the door.  We asked them further about their criteria for determining who was “Japanese”, since it was clear by this example that it was whether somebody looked “Asian” enough.  So my wife at the time asked about our daughters, both of whom were born and raised in Japan, spoke Japanese as their first language, and have Japanese citizenship.


One looks more Asian, with black hair and brown eyes, while one looks more Western, with brown hair and bluish eyes.  How would they be treated under Yunohana’s rules?

“The Japanese-looking one can come in.  But the younger one who looks like a gaijin will be refused entry.”

This made it clear to everyone, nationwide, that “Japanese Only” signs and rules would affect Japanese citizens too.


If you want to know more about what happened next in the Otaru Case, please read (in English or Japanese) Arudou Debito, “JAPANESE ONLY” — The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan[1] (Akashi Shoten Inc, 2003 and 2004, both books revised 2006).  The books describe the worldwide debate on the issue; the months of extralegal efforts made to get “Japanese Only” signs down at Yunohana, at other onsens, in other business sectors, and in other cities around Japan; and the successful lawsuit filed against Yunohana Onsen and the City of Otaru that went all the way up to the Supreme Court.

September 19, 2009 marks ten years since we visited Yunohana.  Here is a survey of how things have changed, or not changed, in the past decade regarding human rights for NJ in Japan:

1) A spread of “Japanese Only” signs and rules around Japan.[2]

A website devoted to businesses with exclusionary signs and rules called “The Rogues’ Gallery” (, coordinated by the author, has collected photographic evidence on over 150 places, in 29 cities and towns across Japan, with “Japanese Only” signs and rules.  Some places (such as Yuransen bathhouse in Wakkanai, Hokkaido, and bars in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture) directly copied the very substance and style of Otaru’s “Japanese Only” signs.


Bathhouse “Osupa”, Otaru, 2000.   Hands holding up newspaper substantiating the date are the author’s.


Bar “Globe”, Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, 2002.  Note capital “J”, small “o”, font style of “a”, and “y” with a tail.

The language of “Japanese Only” has clearly become established as a “meme” (learned cultural behavior), as a concise and comprehensive way of saying “stay out” to undesirable customers — who just happen to lack (or look like they lack) Japanese citizenship.[AD1]


Hotel “Tsubakuro”, Hyakunincho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 2003.


Internet café “Dragon BOZ”, Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, 2006.


B-Ball billiards hall, Uruma, Okinawa, 2006


Bar “Santa Monica”, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture 2004.  Manager confirming author’s Japanese passport before telling him to leave the premises, as the bar is “Japanese Only”.

Cause:  Despite signing the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1995 (effected 1996), and despite Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution banning discrimination by “race, creed, sex, social status, or family origin”, Japan still has no law against discrimination by race.  This means that if a “Japanese Only” sign goes up, there is no law in the Civil or Criminal Code for police or authorities to enforce, demanding that signs come down and rules change.  To the present day, as in 1999, there are no legal means, outside of a courtroom, for people who are discriminated against to stop it.

Effect:  If there are no means to stop this kind of discrimination, it spreads, because it is a “quick fix”.  It is convenient for vigilantes (who dislike, fear, or do not want to be bothered with NJ) to put a sign barring them.  A “Japanese Only” sign up in public lends legitimacy to the exclusion, and encourages copycatting.  Numerous interviews carried out by the author of exclusionary establishments have demonstrated a theme of, “We’re not the only ones with the sign up, so why pick on us?”  Like any “tipping point”, enough occurrences can lead to a threshold where isolated instances become legitimized by numbers and precedent, leading to an established practice.  That is how discrimination spreads:  strength in numbers.

2) The rubric of “Japanese Only” is still based upon physical appearance.

The author of this essay is a naturalized Japanese citizen.  However, as the reader can see from his photo at the very beginning, a change of passport has not led to a change from Caucasian to Asian.  In the majority of interviews I have had with exclusionary businesses, they have said that even after seeing proof of my Japanese citizenship (my passport or driver license), I would still be excluded from the premises.  “You don’t look Japanese.  It’ll cause misunderstandings,” was the standard reason.

Cause:  Japan still makes a strong association with face/race and nationality, i.e. Japanese people look “Japanese”.  Indubitably part of the reason is that Japanese society and media have had limited exposure to “non-Asian Japanese”, such as soccer star Ramos Rui, tarento Konda Bobbi (ne Bobby Ologun), and Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei, to name but a few.  There has, however, been copious exposure to international Japanese children Miyazawa Rie, Umemiya Anna, Rebecca Eri RayVaughan (aka “Bekkii”), and also to naturalized citizens with more Asian faces like sumo wrestlers Konishiki and Akebono.  However, it is unclear that the public eye has done a complete connect between “Japanese citizenship through roots” and “Japanese citizenship by legal application”, which would mean that “Japaneseness is a legal status”, not a blood status.  Reinforcing this disconnect are Japan’s nationality laws, currently under consideration for revision, which explicitly say that Japanese status is something inherited.  The laws are jus sanguinis, meaning you must have a Japanese blood relative in order to automatically get Japanese citizenship.

Effect:  Many Japanese citizens who do not “look Japanese” will be treated as NJ — not only this author, but also many hundreds of thousands of children of international marriages.  Japan’s international marriages are currently about 40,000 per year, up substantially from about 30,000 in 2000, and the number of “mixed children” born annually to be about 21,000[3].  Like the “tipping point” mentioned above that encourages the spread of “Japanese Only” signs, I anticipate that there will be a similar “tipping point” where people realize that racial admixtures are still Japanese.  “Conditional Japanese” (as in “half”, “quarter”, “double”, “mix”) have been in the lexicon for quite some time.  I think the qualifiers will fade as the numbers increase.  Accepting naturalized “non-blood Japanese” will take longer.  However, without laws against racial discrimination, one’s face will still not save many “people of mixture” from capricious or ignorant treatment as apparent NJ.

3) “Monocultural, monoethnic Japan” is officially no longer.

Japan’s public policy is also surprisingly exclusionary.  Postwar Japan has had public speech at the highest levels (most famously former Prime Minister Nakasone in 1986) extolling “ethnic homogeneity” and “racial purity” as a strength.  The Japanese government has repeatedly reported to the UN that the CERD treaty was not applicable to Japan.  Japan apparently has no racial minorities (moreover that all people who were in fact racially different were not citizens, therefore also not covered)[4].  This is reinforced in public policymaking.  When one reads white papers and laws, the rubric is that the policy is for the benefit of “citizens” (kokumin)[5], as opposed to “taxpayers” (nouzeisha) or “residents” (juumin).  Thanks to the vagaries of the Residency Certificate (juuminhyou) system[6], NJ are still not officially listed or counted as “juumin“.  Local governments (such as Tokyo Nerima-ku[7]) also do not include NJ in their tally of “residents”.  Nor does the National Census (kokusei chousa) survey residents for ethnicity (minzoku) — only nationality (kokuseki).  Nor does the Ministry of Health always include NJ (or even newly-naturalized citizens) in its tally of population growth or shrinkage:  preferring to use a simple calculation of “births minus deaths”[8].

That said, in June 6, 2008, the Diet for the first time unanimously passed a resolution stating that the Ainu aboriginal people of Hokkaido were a “indigenous people with a distinct language, religion, and culture”.  For the first time, Japan’s government did not ignore an ethnic minority in its public policy, and in fact had set up a government panel to study remedial actions.

Cause:  It was good timing.  As was discussed in this forum (Ota Masakuni, Japonesia Review No. 5, 2008), both the confluence of a UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review on Japan in May, and the Hokkaido G8 Summit (where Hokkaido minority issues were gaining attention and traction) in July that same year, contributed to a push the Fukuda Administration to offer this showcase for human rights.  A multi-partisan “Concerned Diet Members’ Group for the Rights of the Ainu” spearheaded the drive.

Effect:  On September 28, 2008, new Transport Minister Nakayama Nariaki resigned over various gaffes (including calling Nikkyouso schoolteacher union “a cancer”) that reflected older-school thinking:  Speaking on behalf of Japan’s new tourism agency, he mentioned that Japan was “ethnically homogeneous” and in general “Japanese don’t like foreigners”.  He was roundly criticized, notably by Social Democratic Party leader Fukushima Mizuho, who said, “Is he ignorant of a Diet resolution which all the members (of both houses of the Diet) supported?”[9] Thus began an ignominious start to the 2008 Aso Cabinet, which helped set the tone for the rest of his unpopular administration.  This is the first time a resignation has resulted from a “homogeneous” remark, a far cry from the days of Nakasone.

That said, Ota notes that without a supplemental change in historical perspective in the Japanese public, the consequences for Ainu and other (unrecognized) minority rights may be “inconclusive” (the abovementioned government panel, after all, only has one Ainu member).  Similarly, it is probably too early to draw conclusions or show undue pessimism at this time.  Wait and see.

4) Japan’s economics and demographics are making immigration inevitable.

Japan is still the second-largest economy by GDP and by most measures larger than all other Asian economies combined.  The current worldwide economic downturn notwithstanding, Japan has for three decades had a labor shortage.  The government recognized this in 1990 and, at the behest of the industrial lobby, inaugurated a backdoor “Trainee”, “Researcher”, and “Returnee” (teijuusha for overseas Nikkei) working visa program.  This regime brought over millions of cheap Asian and South American laborers, more than doubled the NJ population of 1990 from one million to two, and fundamentally shifted the top three NJ ethnicities from 1) Korea (North and South), 2) China, and 3) The Philippines[10] to 1) China, 2) Korea, and 3) Brazil.  Industrial towns in Shizuoka, Gifu, and Aichi Prefectures showed NJ population percentages in the double digits, and for the first time mayors of these towns were demanding the national government secure equal rights and enhanced access to social services for their NJ residents[11].  NJ were coming to Japan, being welcomed, and put to work.

They were filling a gap.  Thanks to the low birthrate and long life expectancies of the Japanese public, the UN and the Obuchi Administration in 2000 jointly recognized that the Japanese population was aging, and would decrease by the late 2000s if Japan did not import 600,000 NJ per annum[12].  Japan has, on average this decade, imported a net total of 50,000 NJ per annum.  Sure enough, by 2007, Japan’s population was first officially announced as dropping.  If trends continue, by 2050, according to Shuukan Ekonomisuto (January 15, 2008, pg 16), the percentage of Japanese over retirement age (65) is projected to be more than half of the entire population.  Who will man the factories, pay in taxes, and maintain social security pension payments?  NJ keep Japanese society young and the birthrate from falling further.  The government is currently deliberating scrapping the current backdoor-labor visa regime, and establishing an official immigration policy.


The author and two other plaintiffs sued both Yunohana Onsen and the City of Otaru for racial discrimination and negligence under the CERD.  Yunohana lost both in Sapporo District and High Court, and was ordered to pay plaintiffs one million yen each for “unrational discrimination”.  The City of Otaru won in Sapporo District Court, High Court, and the Supreme Court; the District and High Courts grounded their arguments in “separation of powers” arguments (as in, the judiciary cannot force a government body to pass laws against discrimination, and cannot hold one accountable for not doing so).  The Supreme Court ruled that this contravention of Article 14 was “not a Constitutional issue”[13].

Yunohana Onsen took their “Japanese Only” sign down shortly before the lawsuit began, but never apologized for its action.  It took advantage of the publicity from the lawsuit to open new branches.  Yunohana is now a chain with outlets in Otaru Temiya, Otaru Asari, Sapporo Jozankei, and Ebetsu.  Other places and business sectors around Hokkaido and Japan still have their “Japanese Only” signs up.

The Japanese government made it clear to the UN again in March 2008 that it has no intention of creating a law against racial discrimination, reiterating that it has an active judiciary for grievances, therefore no laws are necessary.  It stressed in the indicatively-named “Third, fourth, fifth, and sixth combined periodic report to the UN HRC”[14] that it had taken “every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination” (begging the question why passing a law is “inconceivable”).  Several draft bills have been submitted to the Diet and to the Otaru City Government, but all have died in deliberation.

Author and plaintiff Arudou Debito still works as a university educator at Hokkaido Information University in Ebetsu.  Author of two books on the Otaru Onsens Case, Arudou, 44, has recently co-authored another book to help NJ make more secure lives in Japan:  Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan (Akashi Shoten Inc. 2008, English and Japanese).  He also is setting up an NPO called FRANCA[15] to better lobby for rights of NJ in the political sphere.  He sees the Ebetsu branch of Yunohana every day on his drive to work.


2600 WORDS


[2] More information on this in Japanese in「『外国人』入店禁止という人種差別」(有道 出人 著)、単行本『日本の民族差別 人種差別撤廃条約からみた課題)』p218ー229、岡本雅享先生監修・編著、明石書店(株)2005年6月出版

[3] “Japanese youth help compatriots embrace diversity”, Christian Science Monitor, January 18, 2008,

[4] The text of the debate between Japan and the United Nations may be found at

[5] See example at “Forensic Science Fiction:  Bad science and racism underpin police policy.”  Japan Times, January 13, 2004, at, particularly sidebar at bottom.



[8] “Japan sees biggest population fall”, Associated Press, printed in the Manchester Guardian, January 2, 2009,



[11] See for example the Hamamatsu Sengen at

[12] Arudou, Debito, “The Coming Internationalization:  Can Japan assimilate its immigrants”.  Japan Focus, January 12, 2006,




[AD1]To Hikaru:  Play with the layout and put these signs around the article as you like.  More at

Eikaiwa NOVA embezzler and former boss Saruhashi gets his: 3.5 years


Hi Blog.  Sorry to be so late in reporting this, but some good news a couple of weeks ago:  Eikaiwa NOVA embezzler and former boss Saruhashi gets his:  sentenced to 3.5 years in the clink.  No word if the employees are going to get their money back, however.

More background details on this case here (plug in the word “sahashi”) into search engine.  More on here.

Arudou Debito in Nagoya


Nova boss handed 3 1/2 years
Staff writer
The Japan Times Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009

OSAKA — Former Nova President Nozomu Sahashi was sentenced Wednesday to 3 1/2 years in prison by the Osaka District Court for his role in skimming off employee funds in 2007, just before the foreign language school giant’s bankruptcy that October.

Presiding Judge Hiroaki Higuchi’s severe sentence took some in the courtroom by surprise. Prosecutors had sought five years for the former president of what was once the country’s largest foreign language school chain and employer of foreign nationals. Sahashi is expected to appeal the sentence.

Sahashi was charged with funneling nearly ¥320 million from employee benefit funds to a bank account belonging to a Nova affiliate in July 2007. He denied embezzling the funds, telling the court he used the money on behalf of his employees.

He tried to portray himself as only one of a group of senior Nova executives responsible for the decision. But the judge said that given the amount of money and his authority, Sahashi bore a heavy responsibility for the crime.

Rest of the article at

Naturalized J citizen Jiei stopped by Osaka cops for Gaijin Card check. Shitsukoidom ensues


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Here’s an important bellwether essay from Jiei, a fellow naturalized Japanese citizen who was singled out for a Gaijin Card Check by Osaka Cops last night. He tells the story of how he stood up for himself despite being explicitly suspected of being drunk or on drugs, and for sitting on a swingset while white when taking a break from jogging in a park. He cites the law back to the cops chapter and verse, but they undeterredly continue the questioning and racial profiling. I won’t give away the ending.

The point is, this is going to happen more and more often as more people naturalize, and more Japanese of international marriages come of age and get hassled for not looking “Japanese” enough to allay cops’ suspicion. This is not legally sanctioned, in any case. Which means people must learn about their rights and assert them, because there are no other checks and balances here.  Read on.

Thanks to Jiei for bringing this up to government-registered human rights group FRANCA.  Join us if you like.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Like Debito, I am a former American naturalized Japanese citizen. While I don’t look Japanese, I also had to jump over many hurdles for my naturalization application to be accepted by the government a year ago, and now I’m proud to call myself a Japanese and be recognized as a fully contributing member of this country.

Living here has had its ups and downs; I’ve been stopped at least 10 times by the police when I was a foreigner (once when I was leaving my apartment in the morning to go shopping because I “just looked suspicious”!), yet I never tried to exercise my full rights as Debito did, partly because of ignorance and partly because of fear.

However, tonight (09/7/25) I just had my first experience being stopped by the police as a Japanese citizen, and the situation was different. This time, I was going jogging around the park near my house in Osaka prefecture around midnight (something I always do since I work late and cannot go jogging during the daytime.) The park is a popular spot for teenagers to hang out at night, so I was not alone that night.

I took a short rest on the swings and then tried to leave the park from the main entrance to continue my run, when two “around 30” police officers on bicycles approached me from behind and suddenly stopped me with a loud “Konbanwa! Doko ikun’ desuka?” I removed my headphones and took a deep breath since I knew exactly where this was heading, and tried to prepare myself for the coming debate.

The two officers “greeted” me again and the proceeded to surround me on both sides as if to stop me from escaping easily. I was looking down at my cell phone the time, so the officer on the left asked if I was drunk or on drugs. Slightly amused, I closed my eyes and touched my nose with my index fingers to show that I wasn’t drunk. The one on the right looked at my face and simply said “Torokusho!” I asked him what he was talking about, and he repeated “Gaikokujin torokusho!” while making a rectangular symbol with his hands.

I stared at him for a moment and replied, “I am a Japanese citizen, I don’t have any alien registration card.” He looked genuinely shocked and asked me again twice if I was indeed Japanese. I simply responded,”I am Japanese.” When asked to show my driver’s license to prove it, I replied, “I refuse!”

The officer on the left then ordered me to empty my pockets and show my identification, so I said “Sure, I have my identification right here!” and pulled a copy of the “Keisatsukan Shokumu Shikkou Hou” that I always keep in my wallet, and showed the officer on the right the letter of the law concerning voluntary questioning by police officers.

Surprised, he asked, “What is this? Why did you pull something like this out?” I told them it’s the law concerning police activity and asked them if my actions (kyodou) seemed strange (fushin) to them and if they had probable cause (soutou na riyuu) to stop me.

When they both responded with a strong and clear “yes,” I asked if going for a jog is a crime in Japan. They both responded no, and then asked if I lived near the park. I deflected the question and said that it was quite rude of them to approach me and assume I was a foreigner and treat me like this.

The officer on the right laughingly apologized but then continued to ask if I was “haafu” or where I was born. I told them I refuse to answer any questions because police questioning is voluntary. They asked me “Why do you keep a copy of the law in your pocket? Are you trying to hide anything?” I spread my palms out to show I had nothing hidden, and replied that I was studying law and asked them if they were aware of the constitution or the code of criminal procedure.

The officer on the left said, “then you must know that voluntary questioning by police officers is a legally sanctioned activity (keisatsu katsudou.) I replied “That’s true, and it is also voluntary, so I have the legal right to refuse your questioning.” The officer on the right then repeated, “but we have the right to stop and ask you.” I repeated, “I have the right to not answer.”

This was repeated many times and after calmly debating with them for five minutes about what the meaning of “voluntary” (nin’i) is, and after repeated requests to show my license, the officer on the right asked if this was my first time getting stopped by the police, to which I said, “What do you think? With a face like this I’ve been stopped many many times in my life.”

The officer on the left finally changed his attitude and said, “Well then, at least tell us your name, job, family member’s names and where you live!” Naturally, I refused this also and said, “if you want to search me or see my license, you first need to arrest me or have a warrant. I am not on drugs, nor am I a criminal. I have been singled out for looking different many times now and I refuse to put up with it any longer. I know the law, so I honestly want to be arrested and take this to court; I’m sure I’ll win in the end even if I have to take this to the Supreme Court!”

After asking if they had their handcuffs ready and if they were going to arrest me, they both laughed and the officer on the left said, “Who’s talking about arresting you, we just want to see your identification! Don’t you have anything?” I then pulled out my wallet and waved it around. “My identification is in this wallet but I refuse to show it and if you want to see it, arrest me here and now.”

After more repetitive requests to identify myself and prove I am Japanese, they received a police report on their walkie-talkies, and finally sped off on their bicycles without saying anything or even looking back at me.

All in all, they were actually very calm about the whole thing; they seemed half amused to debate the meaning of the law with a “suspicious foreigner looking type” like me. To tell the truth, I was surprised at how easily they gave up without ask me to go to a police station with them, trying to search my pockets, or even actually see my driver’s license.

While it may sound that I was fearless, I was actually quite nervous and my legs and hands were trembling, so I forgot to ask to see their badges and note their information or try to walk away during the questioning.

Yet when I returned home and told my native Japanese friends about this, they were not so supportive of me. They all simply asked why I didn’t show my license first and not go through any hassle. I told them that this was a bigger issue about legal rights. I am definitely not the fighting type, and I basically keep to myself and try not to make any waves. However, I refuse to be treated as a second-class citizen in my own country, and if need be, I am absolutely willing to risk being arrested for standing up for what I believe in.

I’m sure that I will be stopped again in the future many times, along with all other non-Asian looking people in Japan, but I plan to stand up for my rights every time. While confronting the police and asserting your rights so clearly like this is not for everyone, I hope that my experience proves that calmly using the law to assert your rights does work in Japan, and can make a difference!



By the way, concerning the legality of photographing police officers’ badges…unfortunately Japan has no clear law concerning image rights (shozoken) and the leading supreme court decision in the Hayashi Masumi case found that while people generally have the right to not have their images taken and published without reason, image rights still have to be considered specially in each case based on the situation…leaving things still unclear.

However, considering that they were public servants on duty and I needed to confirm their identity since I didn’t have a pen to write it doen, I think that I would have a case if it went to court. However, it would take a clear Supreme Court verdict to give a definitive answer. In any case, as seen from the many shokumu shitsumon videos uploaded on YouTube, the police aren’t actively pursuing fighting this.


IHT/Asahi on Japan’s reticence to sign Hague Treaty on Child Abduction


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatartwitter: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Follow-up to the biased coverage by NHK two days ago on this issue of international divorces, we have the Japanese media once again quoting crank lawyer Ohnuki, depicting Japanese divorcees as refugees of violent NJ spouses. “Abductions”, of course, gets rendered in tentative “quotes”, and also you see how Japanese spouses have their cake and eat it too, with an example of the British legal system returning a child to the J side. Japan hasn’t signed the Hague Convention on Child Abductions yet, and why should it increase expectations of international cooperation by doing so?

I’ll say it:

The GOJ doesn’t want to cooperate with these international treaties because we have enough trouble getting Japanese to have babies. We don’t want to surrender them to NJ overseas. I have heard that theory off the record from an international lawyer quoting somebody in the ministries.

And I bet that even if Japan signs the Hague, it won’t enforce it (similar in the ways it will not enforce the CCPR or the CERD treaties). Why would the GOJ ever give more power over custody to NJ than it would its own citizens, who can already abduct and shut out one parent after divorce thanks in part to the koseki system? Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Tokyo in bind over treaty on child abduction
Courtesy of Paul Wong

Broken international marriages involving Japanese in which one parent takes offspring overseas without the other’s consent are on the rise, putting the government in a bind about how to deal with such cases.

The question is whether Japan should be a party to an international treaty aimed at settling such parental “abduction” disputes across national borders.

Tokyo is under pressure–from within and from outside–to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980, which now has 81 parties.

The rise in cases involving Japanese parents as “abductors” has led to stepped-up calls from countries in North America and Europe for Tokyo’s accession.

Some divorced parents say their children would not have been taken overseas by their ex-spouses had Japan ratified the treaty; or it would have been much easier to have them returned.

Opponents, however, say Japan’s ratification would make it difficult for victims of domestic violence to flee with children.

There are also cultural and systematic factors to consider, given that under Japanese law only one parent is granted custody of offspring after a divorce.

The convention, which went into force in 1983, requires a child to be promptly returned to the country of their habitual residence.

It also requests contracting parties to take “all appropriate measures” to expedite the return of a child.

Senior officials and diplomats of the United States, Britain, France and Canada held a news conference in Tokyo in May to press Japan to join the treaty.

They said if children of broken marriages are taken to Japan, a non-party nation, there is “little realistic hope” of having them returned.

According to embassies here, there have been 73 child abductions by Japanese parents from the United States, 36 from Britain and 33 each from Canada and France. [NB: Time period not indicated.]

Kurt Campbell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs who is visiting Japan from today, told a Senate committee in June that he would raise this issue in his first meeting with Japanese officials.

As it stands, the Foreign Ministry can only serve as “liaison” when it receives an inquiry from other countries.

The government has said it “is seriously considering” accession as it would help Japanese parents retrieve children from their ex-spouses.

A 40-year-old self-employed Japanese woman who faced difficulty regaining custody of her children said Japan should join. In 2007, her British husband went on a “trip” to Britain with the children, aged 5 and 9, and then told her they would never return. Communications were severed.

It took a month and a British lawyer’s services before she located the children at a school near London.

She finally got them back after a divorce mediation in Britain. She said lawyer fees alone cost 7 million yen to 8 million yen.

“Had Japan been a party to the treaty, their whereabouts would have been known right away,” she said. “It should have been much easier, too, to get them back.”

Another self-employed woman, 51, was cautious, however. She had long been a victim of domestic violence by her American husband.

The family moved from the United States to Chiba Prefecture in 1992, and she fled with two children to Tokyo in 1995.

She is now on an international wanted list on suspicion of abduction because the husband, saying the mother and children’s legal abode is in the United States, brought the matter before U.S. authorities.

The woman, who says “all I could do was flee,” thinks the treaty would make such escape difficult.

Lawyer Kensuke Ohnuki, who handles about 200 divorces among international matches a year, says most child “abductions” by Japanese women are a result of spousal violence.

The treaty does not take a parent’s reason for fleeing into consideration, he said.(IHT/Asahi: July 16,2009)

Japan Times, NHK, Terrie’s Take & Mainichi on Japan’s child abductions from broken marriages, and Hague Treaty developments


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Hi Blog. I received word from Paul Wong yesterday that NHK would be doing a segment this morning on child abductions after divorce, and Japan’s negligence towards signing the Hague Convention on this.






As the Japan Times reports:
Japan’s allies urge government to sign Hague convention on child abduction
Friday, May 22, 2009
Full article at

The United States, Canada, France and the U.K. jointly urged the Japanese government Thursday to sign the Hague Convention on international child abduction, which is aimed at preventing parents from wrongfully keeping or taking their children to their countries before and after they divorce.

“Our joint statement demonstrates that very clearly Japan’s allies are united in their concern regarding this tragic issue of international child abduction,” said Michele Bond, a deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs for overseas citizen services at the U.S. Department of State, at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. “We are acting together at this point to ensure that our concern for the children is heard.”

Diplomats from the U.S., Canadian, French and British embassies attended the press conference.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty that entered into force between signatory members on Dec. 1, 1983.

The convention states that children who are abducted from their country of residence, or retained in a state that is not their country of normal residence, must be returned promptly to their original country of residence.

More than 80 countries have signed the convention, but Japan is the only nonsignatory state among the Group of Seven nations.

Among abductions involving Japanese whose parents have wrongfully taken or kept their children, Britain has reported 36 cases since 2003, with none of them resolved. There are currently 11 active cases, said David Fitton, deputy head of mission to the British Embassy in Japan. France has had 26 cases, half of which are still active, and the U.S has 73 active cases.
Full article at

I watched the NHK report this morning, and was, frankly, gravely disappointed. After giving some stats on international divorce (around 20,000 cases last year, about double that ten years ago), NHK gave three case studies in brief:

1) One of an an American father in America who had lost his child to his abducting Japanese ex-wife. Point: How he loves his child and would like to be part of her life.

2) One of a Japanese mother with custody of kids trapped in America working waitress jobs because her Japanese passport has been impounded by an American court ruling (which is bullshit, as she can go to any Japanese consulate in the US and get new passports without the permission of both parents; the converse is not true), with bonus time devoted to how much she and her daughters would like to return home, see relatives, and eat Japanese food.

3) One of a Japanese mother from an international divorce who abducted her kids to Japan; she opposes Japan signing the Hague Convention because of her violent American husband (which she somehow blamed on differing cultures), and wouldn’t want to give up custody to him.

Then we had a Hitotsubashi prof who said Japan must sign because child abduction was unjust. And a lawyer named Onuki (who has represented these cases before, and claimed in the international media that somehow 90% of these abductions are due to NJ domestic violence.)

It even concluded with the typical relativities (i.e. how everyone’s doing it, therefore Japanese can too), mentioning in passing alleged cases of how NJ mothers were abducting Japanese kids overseas (meaning that now suddenly Japanese fathers were kawaisou; the bottom line was that Japanese are being kawaisoued). The MOFA was quoted as not being able to comment on whether Japan would be able to sign Hague.

No mention at all was made by NHK that there has not been a single case of children being returned to the NJ parent by Japanese courts (the converse is untrue), that Japanese are committing crimes (and not honoring overseas court custody rulings, such as the Murray Wood Case), or that (and I speak from experience of not seeing my kids for about five years now) the Koseki system will deny all title and access to Japanese parents too after divorce.

NHK tried too hard to be sympathetic to either abducting Japanese mothers, or the position of Japanese in general (not the kids and how they’re affected by not having both parents in their lives). What a crock.

Consider that biased coverage in light of the following articles. If you find the NHK report online, please feel free to send a link to the Comments section.

Other links on
Arudou Debito in Sapporo


* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *

A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
General Edition Sunday, May 24, 2009 Issue No. 518

After the U.S. presidential election, the first foreign trip by his new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was to Japan. This was presumably to send a symbol to the Japanese that the U.S. values their relationship and not to cash in all those U.S. Treasuries that they are holding! Then in a symbolic action within a symbolic trip, Clinton visited with the Japanese families whose children and relatives were abducted by the North Koreans over a 30-year period since the 1970’s.

Clinton told reporters, “On a very personal and, you know, human basis, I don’t know that I’ll be meeting as a secretary of state any more than I will be meeting with them as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister.” This was the right thing to say in response to a situation that has the Japanese public outraged.

But there was one segment of the population in Japan that felt Clinton’s words were more like daggers than bandages. That segment is the foreign parents of children from international marriages, who have had their children kidnapped by the Japanese parent back to Japan, never to see them again. For these people the North Korean abductions of possibly 70 or 80 people pales into insignificance when compared to the hundreds (yes, that’s the number the CRC-Japan people are stating) of kids abducted to Japan.

And while there have been a handful of those North Korean abductees returned to Japan, there has NEVER been a successful return of a mixed nationality child to the foreign parent through diplomacy or court action. Further, U.S. officials say they only know of 3 cases where mutually agreed returns have occurred. And yet many court actions have been brought against Japanese abductors over the years.

This unbelievable state of affairs has started to cause major headaches for both legal and diplomatic agencies of Japan’s allies, and the U.S. in particular appears to be looking for ways to pressure Japan to mend its ways and to institute the necessary legal changes needed so as to support and enforce an eventual signing of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven not to have signed this important treaty.

The pressure ratcheted up several weeks ago when the embassies of the U.S., Canada, Britain, and France, along with various representatives from other nations and foreign parents trying to get their kids back, participated in a joint conference to discuss the issue and taking action that will precipitate change. While similar conferences have happened in previous years without much more than a bout of hand-wringing, this time, the U.S. and the other Japanese allies held a rare press conference to urge Japan to sign the treaty. Furthermore, they provided information on cases where foreign parents have been cut off from their kids.

The U.S. said it has been informed of 73 abduction cases of 104 kids with a U.S. parent but where that parent is not resident in Japan, and another 29 cases where the U.S. parent is here. The other allied nations reported an additional 95 cases. As this writer can testify, these cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Most foreign parents give up after going through the farcical proceedings of the Japanese Family Courts — realizing that there is no justice when there is no law to even enact justice in the first place.

For, above all, we need to remember that Japan has no concept of joint child custody and that abduction by one parent is not a crime. The judiciary in its wisdom still follows the feudal “Iie system” (House system) whereby it believes that the child should belong to one house only. Certainly, having a child undergo emotional surgery by cutting off one of the parents is a lot cleaner than the bickering and fighting that many western parents go through in their shared custody divorces. But for those parents adult enough to share their kids civilly, the law offers only heartbreak and no compromise. Officially, of the 166,000 children involved in divorces in Japan every year, less than 20% of them wind up with the father, and of course in the case of foreign fathers, the number is zero. One particularly poignant case of child abduction does not even include the Japanese parent absconding with the child, but rather her parents — who were able to convince a Japanese judge to give the child to them based on trumped up charges, rather than return her to her foreign father.

The story of Paul Wong is a story that epitomizes the problem — that of the judiciary and their slanted views on untrustworthy foreigners versus nice decent Japanese. Wong was happily married in the U.S. to a Japanese women, Akemi, and after many years of partnership, they finally had a daughter, Kaya. Unfortunately, his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor before the birth in 2004 and this got much worse following the birth. Akemi and daughter Kaya went to stay with the grandparents in Japan one last time before she died in 2005. Akemi on her death bed asked Wong to leave Kaya in Japan with her parents for a while, so that Kaya could learn something about her heritage. Wong kept his promise, and after his wife died he made the decision to settle down in Japan so that Kaya could continue seeing her grandparents. He left Kaya with the grandparents while working his lawyer job in Hong Kong and looking for a transfer to Japan. He commuted back and forth for a year and eventually found a position in Japan.

After returning to Japan, he found that the grandparents wouldn’t let Kaya return to him, and they eventually claimed to the police that Wong had sexually molested Kaya during a visit — something which has since been disproven after a medical exam. Wong took the case to court, and despite evidence that contradicted the grandparents claims, the Judge decided that “The grandparents would have no reason to not make such claims,” so he sided with them and awarded custody to them, despite them being in their 70’s. After they die, Kaya will become a ward of the state.

And thus Wong was arbitrarily banned from access to his own daughter. He knows where she lives and where she goes to school, but thanks to trespass laws, he is unable to visit her. Wong reckons one of the grandparents’ motives for taking Kaya is the monthly government stipend they get for her, given that they are desperately poor themselves — and of course now they have a small piece of their dead daughter, so the emotional ties must be strong as well. So what to do? Wong has since spent millions of yen trying to work with the Japanese legal system, but has been stymied at every step. As other foreign parents quickly find out, there is no pre-trial disclosure of evidence and no cross-examination rights. Further, there is no ability to bring in outside counselors and child psychology experts to testify for either side. In the end, the judge makes their own decision, based on serial presentations, with little apparent interest in whether each side is telling the truth. Indeed, several years ago, this writer interviewed a retired Family Court judge who intimated that he expected both sides in a child custody dispute to be lying, so “evidence” didn’t really mean much.

So there really isn’t much that Wong can do, except hope that the recent pressure for Japan to sign the Hague convention will start a legal review of the current family law system. There are over 15 domestic NPO groups who are hoping for the same changes — since these outmoded laws also affect Japanese parents as much as foreign ones. But we think change will be unlikely. So perhaps Wong should take the advice of an old friend of this writer, who had a single piece of advice to counter the Japanese condition…

“…Get yourself another family, and next time don’t get divorced in Japan!”

For more on this subject, go to

Japan urged to sign treaty against parental child abductions
(Mainichi Japan) June 2, 2009, Courtesy of Jeff K.
Diplomats from the U.S., France, Canada and the U.K. are pressing Japan to sign an international treaty against parental child abductions.

The number of cases of parental child abduction being committed by Japanese is rising sharply. Officials from the four embassies say there have been 168 reported cases to date involving 214 children, and that there could be many more.

As a result, they are urging Japan to sign the Hague Convention, which came into force in 1983 and provides a legal means for returning abducted children. The country’s refusal to sign means that the government is not legally required to release any information in such cases and prevents it from soliciting help in repatriating children to Japan.

“If the well-being of the child is given top priority, he or she should be brought up with links to both parents. For a situation to not be addressed at all is a big problem,” said the officials during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on May 21.

The U.S. Embassy reported one case of a Japanese woman divorcing her American husband, taking their child back to Japan with her and preventing her former husband from seeing the child. In another case, letters sent by a foreign father living abroad were returned, and all contact was effectively severed.

In the U.S., such parental abductions are considered a crime, with suspects placed on international watch lists by the FBI in some cases.

However, critics say that signing the convention will prevent Japan from protecting its citizens fully.

“The attitude of the government is non-involvement in civil affairs,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ International Legal Affairs Bureau.

“However, with the number of international marriages and divorces rising, the possibility of signing is under consideration.”


毎日新聞 2009年5月31日 22時59分











Anonymous re Scott Tucker, killed in a Tokyo bar by a man who got a suspended sentence.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. I wrote here about Scott Tucker, a man who was killed in a bar by a DJ in 2008 who got off lightly in Japanese court.

Background article here:

And my Japan Times article last March about the emerging double standards of justice (a suspended sentence for a murder? Hard to envision happening for many NJ if the situations were reversed):

Here’s some background from the victim from a friend of his. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


About Scott Tucker…
By Anonymous, June 16, 2009

Hello Debito,

I have many friends who are permanent residents of Japan, and I suppose I came very close to being one of them myself, as I have a long and endearing relationship with the country–and like most permanent residents, had an emotional relationship with a Japanese National which was stronger, shall we say, than international bonds… I lived in Japan from infancy until I was six, and returned after college to work for many years in Tokyo. I applaud your site and your efforts, and wish you the very best in your ongoing pursuits.

I am writing about the unfortunate incident involving “Scott” Tucker, the American businessman who was killed in the Azabu club “Bull Ett” (Bullet) last year. I have read the many comments, and the attached links, and somehow I feel compelled to say a bit more on the subject–though certainly I do not claim to be an expert regarding what exactly took place at the club that night. What follows is my “read-between-the-lines” take on what likely happened, with regrets…

Scott Tucker was a multimillionaire. This simple fact doesn’t seem to percolate through the many official accounts of the incident; Scotty is portrayed as some disaffected gaijin who was inebriated and belligerent, wandered into some club, and accidentally received a fatal choke-hold from the concerned and threatened disk-jockey on duty at the time–hence the probationary sentence for murder… A few articles mention that Scotty owned the building next door to the club where the incident took place; they do not mention Tokyo city ordinances regarding noise, or the operation of commercial businesses, or discos, which create noise, after midnight in that particular neighborhood: that club was in Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo, the most expensive real estate, per square meter, in the world. If he had chosen, Scott could have lived on Park Avenue, New York, or along the Champs Elysees, in Paris. He could have lived anywhere he chose, but he chose Tokyo, because of the low crime rate and his affinity for Japan and its culture. His wife was one of the most famous jewelry designers in Japan. He spoke beautifully fluent Japanese–another fact not found in most accounts–and he was a great fan of music, with an exceptional singing voice and rather discerning, and eclectic, musical tastes. He was not some angry foreign English teacher who wandered into a club and got past the security bouncers; he was a property owner who had had enough of the club operating illegally next door to his property. This is a crucial detail: Tokyo city ordinance prohibits loud music and club function in that residential section of Azabu after midnight, as it is a residential neighborhood. The club was functioning “After Hours” in blatant violation of city ordinance–an ordinance which was neither enforced nor cited. Again, Scotty OWNED the building next door; he was not some yahoo foreigner wandering into a club looking for a fight. Take a moment to reflect on that, as most of you do not own anything in Japan, not to mention a building in Azabu; if you are lucky enough to own some crap mansion in Chiba, and the Takoyaki shop beneath you insists on entertaining drunk patrons headed for the first train, you have probably gone downstairs–at your wife’s behest–and said “Hey, fuck! It’s three o’clock in the morning! Close it down and shut up!”

On a classier, more expensive scale, Scotty was doing the same thing…

So, Scott comes home, after a night of Japanese-style drinking with his friends. His building is shaking from the sounds of a club operating illegally after-hours next door to him. He has a history with that club, and with the DJ (per written accounts), having asked, on several occasions, that they keep it down, as city ordinances dictated. So, he goes next door, feeling justified–which, quite frankly, he is (and I don’t suppose you’ll ever read that in any official account). He wants the people out of there, wants the music shut down, and wants some peace and quiet in his own building next door (again, which he OWNS). The DJ, who is on his midnight roll, sees Scott scattering the crowd and insisting people go home, gets pissed (and, by his own admission, having seen a tv program on choke-holds and special forces moves), leaves his Disk Jockey box, comes up behind Scott, kicks him in the groin (there is no clear account of him actually facing off with Scott, meaning it is likely he kicked him in the “Groin” from behind, got him in the chokehold from behind–the choke hold he recently he saw on tv–and accidentally broke Scott’s windpipe, or snapped his neck? (the original account said Scott’s neck was broken). I have been to so many Tokyo clubs it is not worth trying to recount; I am 6’1 and 240 pounds, and fit: I have ejected American marines and military personnel from clubs I like for behaving in a manner I didn’t like, clubs I considered my local favourites, where other foreigners were ruining my good time, or embarrassing me in front of my Japanese friends. I never, ever, in my wildest youthful belligerence, saw the wimpy disk jockey come out of his booth and take a personal stake in the ejection of a patron. Quite the contrary, frankly.

Now, this is why I’m writing this addendum. Clearly, I knew Scott Tucker. I knew him very well. I drank with him, Japanese-style, at least a hundred times. We drank beer, we ate very good sushi and drank sake; we drank expensive whiskey most foreigners couldn’t, or wouldn’t afford–in keep bottles at very nice, exclusive clubs and snacks in central Tokyo. I never, ever, ever, saw Scott Tucker get belligerent. I never saw him get argumentative, even after polishing off a full bottle, with my help, of pricey Japanese whiskey. The implication that somehow, because of his drunkenness, he was threatening enough to pose a danger to a 154-pound disk jockey is so absurd that it leaves me livid. If I were there, and I were tanked up, and the disk jockey decided to come down and take charge of things, it would make sense. I am not a diplomat: when I’m drunk and unhappy and things are waxing ridiculous, I will throw a few people around. But Scotty, no. No, I’m sorry. Whatever the official account, he was a diplomat. Again, I never saw him belligerent, ever, and I knew him for many, many, years. This is what bothers me about the whole “Official” account; it is simply not accurate, and is stilted towards character assassination and implication that is wholly unjustified and clearly driven by agenda. To think that someone can get a probationary sentence for what amounts to ‘sucker-punching’ a neighbor to death just rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t surprise me–as I say, I spent the better part of my life in Japan, and I never assumed for a moment that justice would err in my favour were I to be caught out for an indiscretion–but I feel compelled to to say something on Scotty’s behalf.

I feel compelled for this reason: were a wealthy Japanese property owner from Azabu, with a famous, elegant wife, to go into a club next door, a club operating in violation of city ordinance, and get into a row with the owners, or the disk jockey, and be killed–and were that disk jockey to be a non-Japanese–the media would have a field day with it. And were the non-Japanese disk jockey–an American, or a Brit, or an African– to claim he had asphyxiated the wealthy Japanese neighbor out of fear or his own life–he would be hung from the highest tree in Japan, on national tv, as a murderer, and a fiend, and a crazed violent foreign interloper. But if it’s just a guy who blindsided Scotty, by all means, give him a suspended probationary sentence. A simple self-defense accident. The whole thing is kawaii-soo. And, in fact, as I sit here in California, thinking about Scott Tucker, my old friend, the whole incident is indeed Kawaii soo.

When you click on a Quicktime video and watch it in Japan, you are clicking on Scott Tucker; he pioneered that app. in Japan. If you have a serious internal medical problem, and must receive surgery for it in Japan, it is possible your life will be saved by Scott Tucker–he developed distance software for medical applications, so that a qualified surgeon–rather than the hereditary fool with lax training who is cutting you open in Saitama–can supervise in real-time from abroad, and oversee the procedure with modern surgical techniques. Please do not forget that a 154-pound disk jockey, with a baddass attitude and a few Chimpira behind him, skirting the local and ineffectual police, put an end to any other innovations my talented and gentle friend, who loved Japan, might ever develop. That is who Scott Tucker was, that is what was lost when Mr. disk jockey got his suspended sentence. Hell, it’s almost a Bob Dylan song, and no one would laugh louder at the absurdity of it all than Richard Scott Tucker. He had a good sense of humor, most of all. And I will miss him.

Zannen na kotodeshita, Scotty San, kawaii soo to omoo… Ma, shoganaii, yo ne? Shoganaii…


Sugaya Case: M-J on policing and Japanese jurisprudence


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog.  Happy Monday.  Big news last week was Sugaya Toshikazu’s acquittal after nearly two decades in prison (see articles below).  It describes well what’s really awry about Japan’s judicial system (primer on that here), which you had better pay attention to because as NJ you’re more likely to be stopped, prosecuted, and convicted in Japan (primer on that here) by the police forces.  

Here’s what the Mainichi had to say last week about the Sugaya Case, followed by an appraisal of the situation by reader M-J.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Man falsely convicted of child murder: ‘I want my own life back’

Toshikazu Sugaya meets reporters at a hotel in Chiba after his release from prison on Thursday afternoon. (Mainichi)     

Toshikazu Sugaya meets reporters at a hotel in Chiba after his release from prison on Thursday afternoon. (Mainichi Shinbun, June 5, 2009)

CHIBA — A man released after 17 1/2 years in detention after recent DNA tests overturned the evidence that convicted him of murder has told reporters that he wants to take his life back.

“I can never forgive the detectives and prosecutors at that time. I want them to apologize to me, and bring my life back to me,” said Toshikazu Sugaya, 62, at a press conference in Chiba on Thursday evening.

Sugaya was arrested in December 1991 and later sentenced to life imprisonment over the killing of a 4-year-old girl in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, in a ruling that became fixed in 2000. However, recent DNA tests found that Sugaya’s DNA did not match that of bodily fluid on the victim’s clothing, leading prosecutors to conclude that there was a high possibility the new tests proved his innocence.

After being released from Chiba Prison on Thursday afternoon, Sugaya met reporters at a hotel in the city of Chiba shortly before 5 p.m. after spending 17 1/2 years behind bars.

“I am overjoyed (at being released). I am innocent and not the perpetrator,” he said.

Toshikazu Sugaya, right, smiles as he holds a bouquet during a press conference at a hotel in Chiba on Thursday afternoon. (Mainichi)     

Toshikazu Sugaya, right, smiles as he holds a bouquet during a press conference at a hotel in Chiba on Thursday afternoon. (Mainichi)

“I was falsely labeled as the perpetrator, and I have endured it for all these years. I want the detectives and prosecutors at that time to apologize to me,” Sugaya said. “Just saying that they were wrong can’t pay for this. I can never forgive them. I want my own life back.”

He also demanded an apology from the judges that convicted him.

Sugaya recalled how intensively he was grilled by investigators when they visited his home on the morning shortly before his arrest. “You killed the girl, didn’t you?” one of the investigators told him, according to Sugaya.

After his arrest, he underwent a grueling interrogation. “The detectives pulled my hair and kicked me, saying, ‘Confess right away and you’ll feel better.'”

“I told them all day long that I didn’t commit the crime but they didn’t accept my claim. Finally, I ended up being forced to make a confession,” Sugaya said.

When the trial began, Sugaya was so scared at the thought of the detectives who interrogated him might be sitting in the court’s gallery that he was unable to plead not guilty, he said.

Asked about his thoughts about the perpetrator, Sugaya said he cannot forgive the person though the 15-year statute of limitations has expired. “I would like to support those who are suffering from false accusations like me,” he added.

During the press conference, he smiled when he received bouquets from his supporters. Sugaya also expressed his gratitude to his defense lawyers for their support.

“I want to sing karaoke and eat sushi,” he said.

He said he was surprised when he was told by a prison official on Thursday that he was going to be released that day: “I had thought that my release would take some more time.”

Sugaya said he wanted to go back to his hometown of Ashikaga to see his brothers and tell the victim that he was not the culprit. After his arrest, Sugaya’s father died from shock, and his mother passed away two years ago.

When he visits his parents’ graves, he wants to tell them: “Please don’t worry any more, as I am not the perpetrator.”

Commenting on the case on Thursday, Prime Minister Taro Aso said at the Prime Minister’s Office: “He served for 17 years over a crime that he was not guilty of. This kind of thing shouldn’t have happened.”

However, Aso was cautious about the move to introduce the recording and filming of interrogation processes.

“I don’t think making (interrogations) visible would immediately lead to reducing false accusations,” he said.

The Tokyo High Court is highly likely to decide to open a retrial after conferring with both prosecutors and defense lawyers on June 12. If the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office does not file an objection, the retrial will then begin at the Utsunomiya District Court.



Commentary from M-J follows, with his permission:


MJ:  I’ve read comments here and there on the blog from people who don’t believe that the police coerce confessions and use intimidation and strong-arm tactics. However, if Sugaya is telling the truth, it would seem the investigators of his case did exactly that. I suppose it could be argued that police tactics may have changed since the early 90’s, but I highly doubt it.

Man falsely convicted of child murder: ‘I want my own life back’

New DNA evidence wins release for man after 17 years of life term for murder

Aso pleased with improved DNA testing but against recording questioning of suspects

Man jailed for life over 1990 murder of 4-yr-old girl freed after DNA test

The most interesting part for me was Aso’s view of filming interrogations and his quote, “I don’t think making (interrogations) visible would immediately lead to reducing false accusations.” Wow! I’ve never read an article regarding Aso’s reasoning leading to reluctance to film interrogations but I can’t logically come to the same conclusion. Japan obviously has no problem using video technology to deter crime (like the 363 cameras the NPA already operates as well as the 375 cameras they plan to install around elementary schools to prevent crimes against children ) so why not tape something as important as suspect interrogations?

And a side note on the new lay jury B.S.:

Supreme Court says no promise to keep sex crime victims’ names from
jury candidates

It would be humiliating enough for a rape victim in Japan to come forward to press charges and have to deal with the lackadaisical attitude towards rape, but to potentially have your neighbours find out about it may deter more than a few victims i.e. this recent gang rape victim:

Yours, M-J



TIME Mag, Asahi, NY Times: “Japan to Immigrants: Thanks, but go home”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog. Three articles that echo much of the sentiment I expressed in my April 7, 2009 Japan Times article on the Nikkei repatriation bribe. First TIME Magazine, then a blurb (that’s all) from the Asahi on how returned Nikkei are faring overseas, and than finally the New York Times with some good quotes from the architect of this policy, the LDP’s Kawasaki Jiro (who amazingly calls US immigration policy “a failure”, and uses it to justify kicking out Japan’s immigrants). Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PS:  Here’s a political comic based upon the NY Times photo accompanying the article below.  Courtesy of creator RDV:


TIME Magazine, Monday, Apr. 20, 2009
Japan to Immigrants: Thanks, But You Can Go Home Now
By Coco Masters / Tokyo,
Courtesy Matt Dioguardi and KG,8599,1892469,00.html

When union leader Francisco Freitas has something to say, Japan’s Brazilian community listens. The 49-year old director of the Japan Metal and Information Machinery Workers called up the Brazilian Embassy in Tokyo April 14, fuming over a form being passed out at employment offices in Hamamatsu City, southwest of Tokyo. Double-sided and printed on large sheets of paper, the form enables unemployed workers of Japanese descent — and their family members — to secure government money for tickets home. It sounded like a good deal to the Brazilians for whom it was intended. The fine print in Portuguese, however, revealed a catch that soured the deal: it’s a one-way ticket with an agreement not to return.

Japan’s offer to minority communities in need has spawned the ire of those whom it intends to help. It is one thing to be laid off in an economic crisis. It is quite another to be unemployed and to feel unwanted by the country where you’ve settled. That’s how Freitas and other Brazilians feel since the Japanese government started the program to pay $3,000 to each jobless foreigner of Japanese descent (called Nikkei) and $2,000 to each family member to return to their country of origin. The money isn’t the problem, the Brazilians say; it’s the fact that they will not be allowed to return until economic and employment conditions improve — whenever that may be. “When Nikkei go back and can’t return, for us that’s discrimination,” says Freitas, who has lived in Japan with his family for 12 years.

With Japan’s unemployment rate on the rise — it reached a three-year high of 4.4% in February — the government is frantic to find solutions to stanch the flow of job losses and to help the unemployed. The virtual collapse of Japan’s export-driven economy, in which exports have nearly halved compared to the first two months of last year, has forced manufacturers to cut production. Temporary and contract workers at automotive and electronics companies have been hit especially hard. Hamamatsu has 18,000 Brazilian residents, about 5% of the total in Japan, and is home to the nation’s largest Brazilian community. After immigration laws relaxed in 1990, making it easier for foreigners to live and work in Japan, Brazilians have grown to be the country’s third largest minority, after Koreans and Chinese. But as jobs grow scarce and money runs out, some Nikkei ironically now face the same tough decision their Japanese relatives did 100 years ago, when they migrated to Brazil.

Japan can scarcely afford to lose part of its labor force, or close itself off further to foreigners. Japan, with its aging population that is projected to shrink by one-third over the next 50 years, needs all the workers it can get. The U.N. has projected that the nation will need 17 million immigrants by 2050 to maintain a productive economy. But immigration laws remain strict, and foreign-born workers make up only 1.7% of the total population. Brazilians feel particularly hard done by. “The reaction from the Brazilian community is very hot,” says a Brazilian Embassy official. The embassy has asked Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to “ease the conditions” of reentry for Brazilians who accept the money. (Paradoxically, the Japanese government had recently stepped up efforts to help Brazilian residents, with programs such as Japanese-language training and job-counseling.) This particular solution to unemployment, however, is perceived as a misguided gift. “Maybe there were good intentions, but the offer was presented in the worst way possible,” says the Brazilian official. The program applies to Brazilians who have long-term Nikkei visas, but restricts their right — and that of their family members — to reentry until jobs are available in Japan. The terms are vague and will probably stay that way. Tatsushi Nagasawa, a Japanese health ministry official says it’s not possible to know when those who accept the money will be allowed back into Japan, though the conditions for reentry for highly skilled positions might be relaxed.

The Brazilian community plainly needs some help. The Brazilian embassy normally pays for between 10 and 15 repatriations each year, but in the last few months it has already paid for about 40. Since last September, Carlos Zaha has seen many in his Hamamatsu community lose their jobs. In December, he helped start Brasil Fureai, or “Contact Brazil,” an association to help unemployed Brazilian residents find jobs. He’s thankful to the Japanese government for the offer of assisted repatriation, but says the decision will be a rough one for workers. “I don’t think [the government] thought this through well,” Zaha says. “If someone is over 50 years old and is already thinking of returning to Brazil then it might work. But there are many people in their 20s and 30s, and after two or three years they’re going to want to come back to Japan — and they won’t be able to.”

Lenine Freitas, 23, the son of the union leader, lost his job at Asmo, a small motor manufacturer, one month ago, but says he plans to stay in Japan and work. Freitas says that there would be no problem if the Japanese government set a term of, say, three years, after which Brazilians who took the money could return. But after nine years working at Suzuki Motor Corp., he thinks that the government should continue to take responsibility for foreigners in Japan. “They have to help people to continue working in Japan,” he says. “If Brazilians go home, what will they do there?”

And if Nikkei Brazilians, Peruvians and others who have lost their jobs go home, what will Japan do? Last week, Prime Minister Taro Aso unveiled a long-term growth strategy to create millions of jobs and add $1.2 trillion to GDP by 2020. But the discussion of immigration reform is notoriously absent in Japan, and reaching a sensible policy for foreign workers has hardly got under way. Encouraging those foreigners who would actually like to stay in Japan to leave seems a funny place to start.



Returnees to Brazil finding it tough


2009/4/17, courtesy of KG
SAO PAULO–Many Brazilians of Japanese ancestry returning here from recession-struck Japan are struggling to find work, according to Grupo Nikkei, an NGO set up to support the job-seekers.

The group said the number of returnees seeking help had more than doubled from 70 a month last year to 150 a month this year.

Some returnees who performed unskilled labor in Japan have found it difficult to return to old jobs that require specific expertise, according to Leda Shimabukuro, 57, who heads the group. Some youths also lack Portuguese literacy skills, Shimabukuro said.(IHT/Asahi: April 17,2009)

ENDS (yes, that’s all the space this merits in the Asahi)


New York Times April 23, 2009

Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Go Home

The government will pay thousands of dollars to fly Mrs. Yamaoka; her husband, who is a Brazilian citizen of Japanese descent; and their family back to Brazil. But in exchange, Mrs. Yamaoka and her husband must agree never to seek to work in Japan again.

“I feel immense stress. I’ve been crying very often,” Mrs. Yamaoka, 38, said after a meeting where local officials detailed the offer in this industrial town in central Japan.

“I tell my husband that we should take the money and go back,” she said, her eyes teary. “We can’t afford to stay here much longer.”

Japan’s offer, extended to hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Latin American immigrants, is part of a new drive to encourage them to leave this recession-racked country. So far, at least 100 workers and their families have agreed to leave, Japanese officials said.

But critics denounce the program as shortsighted, inhumane and a threat to what little progress Japan has made in opening its economy to foreign workers.

“It’s a disgrace. It’s cold-hearted,” said Hidenori Sakanaka, director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, an independent research organization.

“And Japan is kicking itself in the foot,” he added. “We might be in a recession now, but it’s clear it doesn’t have a future without workers from overseas.”

The program is limited to the country’s Latin American guest workers, whose Japanese parents and grandparents emigrated to Brazil and neighboring countries a century ago to work on coffee plantations.

In 1990, Japan — facing a growing industrial labor shortage — started issuing thousands of special work visas to descendants of these emigrants. An estimated 366,000 Brazilians and Peruvians now live in Japan.

The guest workers quickly became the largest group of foreign blue-collar workers in an otherwise immigration-averse country, filling the so-called three-K jobs (kitsui, kitanai, kiken — hard, dirty and dangerous).

But the nation’s manufacturing sector has slumped as demand for Japanese goods evaporated, pushing unemployment to a three-year high of 4.4 percent. Japan’s exports plunged 45.6 percent in March from a year earlier, and industrial production is at its lowest level in 25 years.

New data from the Japanese trade ministry suggested manufacturing output could rise in March and April, as manufacturers start to ease production cuts. But the numbers could have more to do with inventories falling so low that they need to be replenished than with any increase in demand.

While Japan waits for that to happen, it has been keen to help foreign workers leave, which could ease pressure on domestic labor markets and the unemployment rolls.

“There won’t be good employment opportunities for a while, so that’s why we’re suggesting that the Nikkei Brazilians go home,” said Jiro Kawasaki, a former health minister and senior lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“Nikkei” visas are special visas granted because of Japanese ancestry or association.

Mr. Kawasaki led the ruling party task force that devised the repatriation plan, part of a wider emergency strategy to combat rising unemployment.

Under the emergency program, introduced this month, the country’s Brazilian and other Latin American guest workers are offered $3,000 toward air fare, plus $2,000 for each dependent — attractive lump sums for many immigrants here. Workers who leave have been told they can pocket any amount left over.

But those who travel home on Japan’s dime will not be allowed to reapply for a work visa. Stripped of that status, most would find it all but impossible to return. They could come back on three-month tourist visas. Or, if they became doctors or bankers or held certain other positions, and had a company sponsor, they could apply for professional visas.

Spain, with a unemployment rate of 15.5 percent, has adopted a similar program, but immigrants are allowed to reclaim their residency and work visas after three years.

Japan is under pressure to allow returns. Officials have said they will consider such a modification, but have not committed to it.

“Naturally, we don’t want those same people back in Japan after a couple of months,” Mr. Kawasaki said. “Japanese taxpayers would ask, ‘What kind of ridiculous policy is this?’ ”

The plan came as a shock to many, especially after the government introduced a number of measures in recent months to help jobless foreigners, including free Japanese-language courses, vocational training and job counseling. Guest workers are eligible for limited cash unemployment benefits, provided they have paid monthly premiums.

“It’s baffling,” said Angelo Ishi, an associate professor in sociology at Musashi University in Tokyo. “The Japanese government has previously made it clear that they welcome Japanese-Brazilians, but this is an insult to the community.”

It could also hurt Japan in the long run. The aging country faces an impending labor shortage. The population has been falling since 2005, and its working-age population could fall by a third by 2050. Though manufacturers have been laying off workers, sectors like farming and care for the elderly still face shortages.

But Mr. Kawasaki said the economic slump was a good opportunity to overhaul Japan’s immigration policy as a whole.

“We should stop letting unskilled laborers into Japan. We should make sure that even the three-K jobs are paid well, and that they are filled by Japanese,” he said. “I do not think that Japan should ever become a multi-ethnic society.”

He said the United States had been “a failure on the immigration front,” and cited extreme income inequalities between rich Americans and poor immigrants.

At the packed town hall meeting in Hamamatsu, immigrants voiced disbelief that they would be barred from returning. Angry members of the audience converged on officials. Others walked out of the meeting room.

“Are you saying even our children will not be able to come back?” one man shouted.

“That is correct, they will not be able to come back,” a local labor official, Masahiro Watai, answered calmly.

Claudio Nishimori, 30, said he was considering returning to Brazil because his shifts at a electronics parts factory were recently reduced. But he felt anxious about going back to a country he had left so long ago.

“I’ve lived in Japan for 13 years. I’m not sure what job I can find when I return to Brazil,” he said. But his wife has been unemployed since being laid off last year and he can no longer afford to support his family.

Mrs. Yamaoka and her husband, Sergio, who settled here three years ago at the height of the export boom, are undecided. But they have both lost jobs at auto factories. Others have made up their minds to leave. About 1,000 of Hamamatsu’s Brazilian inhabitants left the city before the aid was even announced. The city’s Brazilian elementary school closed last month.

“They put up with us as long as they needed the labor,” said Wellington Shibuya, who came six years ago and lost his job at a stove factory in October. “But now that the economy is bad, they throw us a bit of cash and say goodbye.”

He recently applied for the government repatriation aid and is set to leave in June.

“We worked hard; we tried to fit in. Yet they’re so quick to kick us out,” he said. “I’m happy to leave a country like this.”


Japan Times ZEIT GIST Mar 24, 2009: “Punishing Foreigners, Exonerating Japanese”


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Growing evidence that Japan’s judiciary has double standards by nationality
By Arudou Debito
Column 47 for the Japan Times ZEIT GIST Community Page
March 24, 2009
Based upon Newsletter May 11, 2008 (
DRAFT SIXTEEN, as submitted to Japan Times editor, version with links to sources

Examine any justice system and patterns emerge.  For example, consider how Japan’s policing system treats non-Japanese.  ZEIT GIST has discussed numerous times (Jul. 8 2008, Feb. 20 and Nov. 13 2007, May 24 2005, Jan. 13 2004, Oct. 7 2003) how police target and racially profile foreigners under anti-crime and anti-terrorism campaigns.


But the bias goes beyond cops and into criminal prosecution, with Japanese courts treating suspects differently according to nationality.  We’ve already discussed how judges discount testimony from foreigners (ZG Aug. 14 2007), but here’s the emerging pattern:  If you are a Japanese committing a crime towards a non-Japanese, you tend to get off lightly.  Vice versa and you “haven’t a Chinaman’s chance,” as it were.’s_chance

For example, consider the Hiroshi Nozaki Case.  In 2000, Nozaki was caught flushing a Filipina’s body parts down a public toilet.  However, he was not charged with murder — only with “abandoning a corpse” (shitai iki).  That got him all of three-and-a-half years in jail.  By 2008 he was stowing another dismembered Filipina corpse, that of Honiefaith Ratila Kamiosawa, in a train station locker.

We’ve had plenty of cases where Japanese men kill and mutilate Japanese women (e.g.  Yoshio Kodaira, Kiyoshi Okubo), and they tend to get the hangman’s noose.  Not Nozaki.

Contrast this with the case of Nigerian Osayuwamen Idubor, convicted on appeal in 2008 of sexually assaulting a Japanese woman.  Sentenced to two years plus time served during trial, Idubor asserts that his confession was forced, that police destroyed crucial evidence, and most importantly that there was no material evidence.  Didn’t matter:  He got about as much jail time as Nozaki.  Which means, pardon the ghoulish tone, that if Idubor had been Japanese and the woman foreign, he could have chopped her up without adding much to his sentence.  If there was material evidence, that is.


Hyperbole?  Consider other crimes against non-Japanese women, like those by convicted serial rapist Joji Obara.  His connection with the Lucie Blackman murder has been well-reported, particularly the botched police investigation despite ample material evidence — even video tapes of his rapes.  Regardless, in 2007 Obara was acquitted of Blackman’s murder due to “lack of evidence”. 

Obara did get life imprisonment (not death), since he was only charged with “rape leading to death” of nine other women (one of them foreign).  But only after strenuous appeals from Blackman’s family was the acquittal overturned in 2008.  Obara became guilty of “dismembering and abandoning” her corpse.  Again, guilty of crimes to their dead bodies, not of making them dead.

Lousy investigation

Now triangulate that with the case of Lindsay Ann Hawker, who was allegedly murdered by Tatsuya Ichihashi in 2007.  The evidence here is damning too:  video evidence of her accompanying him to his apartment building, her beaten and strangled body found in a tub of sand on his apartment balcony, and his fleeing barefoot when police visited to investigate.  He’s still at large today.  You can see his mug shot on police posters for people wanted for “murder” (satsujin).  That is, except for Ichihashi.  He’s just accused of “abandonment of a corpse”, again.



Last week I called Chiba Police inquiring about Ichihashi’s charges.  An investigator entrusted with the case wouldn’t comment on specifics.  Asked about the process of determining murder or abandonment, he said if the suspect admits “homicidal intent” (satsu-i), it’s murder.  However, it’s unclear how at least one of the  crimes shown on the poster are significantly different from Ichihashi’s, or how some suspects indicated their homicidal intent before escaping.  Police did not respond to requests for further clarification.

Clearer is the exceptional treatment given Atsushi Watanabe, who in March 2008 choked to death an allegedly irate Scott Tucker at a Tokyo bar.  Generally, in these situations the survivor goes down for “too much self defense” (kajou bouei), regardless of intent.  That precedent was set in the 1980s by Steve Bellamy, a British martial artist, who intervened in a drunken altercation and killed someone.  Bellamy was acquitted of wrongdoing, then convicted on appeal, then acquitted again.

Although asphyxiating somebody is arguably overdoing it, media anticipated the case was “likely to draw leniency”.  They were right.  Last November Tucker’s killer got a “suspended sentence” of three years.  Moreover, public prosecutors, normally pit-bulls in these situations, unusually decided not to appeal.

Even less tenacious were the police prosecuting Peter Barakan’s case.  Barakan, a famous British commentator on Japanese TV, was assaulted with pepper spray by a masked assailant in 2007.  Police tracked down the getaway van, found the driver, and found mace cans in the back.  Yet no one was given that 23-day-maximum marathon of interrogations granted for investigating lesser crimes (such as foreigners who don’t cooperate with police ID checks).  Barakan tells me the police have since done “absolutely zilch” about his case.

Maybe police were too busy to pursue Barakan’s macing, but I doubt the relatives of American Matthew Lacey would sympathize.  As the Japan Times reported in 2007, Lacey was found dead in his apartment in a pool of blood in 2004.  Fukuoka Police declared the cause of death to be “dehydration”.  When his family insisted on an autopsy, the cause was updated to “cerebral hemorrhage”, apparently from an accidental fall.  The police, however, refused to issue Lacey’s full autopsy for independent inspection.  Public prosecutors and the US Embassy have not pursued the case.  It’s a busy world.

So does this mean that authorities have it in for foreigners?  You could make that case.  This is a land with a policing regime instead of an immigration policy, where under the Foreign Registry Law (Article 18) only foreigners can be arrested, fined up to 200,000 yen, and incarcerated for up to a year just for not carrying ID 24-7.  Severe criminal penalties for something as easy to misplace as a library card or car keys? (Article 18)

You could counterargue that this system affects everyone regardless of nationality.  Masayuki Suo’s excellent movie “I Just Didn’t Do It” depicts how the judicial process overwhelmingly favors the prosecution.  Don’t forget that 99.9% conviction rate. 

But you’d be wrong.  Non-Japanese are particularly disadvantaged because 1) there is no certified quality control for court and investigative language interpretation, 2) public prosecutors can have negative attitudes towards non-Japanese, and 3) non-Japanese cannot get bail (hoshaku).

Item 1 creates obvious communication problems for non-natives, especially given how heavily Japan’s judiciary relies on confessions, so let’s not dwell further.  The next item, attitudes of prosecutors, has received due attention from scholars.

Professor David T. Johnson writes in his  book “The Japanese Way of Justice” that prosecutors consider “crimes committed by foreigners” as “one of the three main challenges facing the procuracy”.  Tokyo University law professor Daniel H. Foote was cited saying that criminal justice officials “have stepped up their surveillance and prosecution of [foreign workers]”, and the foreign influx poses “the greatest external challenge” to Japan’s “benevolent paternalism” in criminal justice.  Thus foreigners, in Foote’s view, have “a separate track” for criminal prosecution.

CITES:  Johnson pp 137, 157, 181

As for bail, it’s not only difficult for Japanese to get — it’s impossible for non-Japanese to get.  Standard reasons for denial are fears that the suspect might flee or destroy evidence.  However, that didn’t stop twice-convicted-yet-bailed businessman Takafumi Horie or Diet member Muneo Suzuki (who even got reelected during his perpetual appeal).



Non-Japanese, however, face an extra legal layer:  status of residence.  Stuck in Japanese jug means you can’t renew your visa at Immigration.  Therefore, the logic goes, if a foreigner is bailed, even if they don’t flee, they might get deported before their trial is finished.  So they remain in custody for the duration of the case, no matter how many years it takes.  Then they can be released for deportation.

Released then deported:

And it will indeed take years.  For example, a Swiss woman, declared innocent twice in court of drug smuggling, has been incarcerated since October 2006.  Even though an acquitted Japanese would have been released during the appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the denial of her bail.  Same with Nepalese man Govinda Prasad Mainali, acquitted of murder in 2000, yet detained until his conviction in high court that same year.  Thus for foreign defendants, all a public prosecutor has to do is file an appeal and it will void any court acquittal.

CITES: Johnson 158

So let’s summarize.  If you’re a foreigner facing Japan’s criminal justice system, you can be questioned without probable cause on the street by police, apprehended for “voluntary questioning” in a foreign language, incarcerated perpetually while in litigation, and treated differently in jurisprudence than a Japanese.

Statistics bear this out:  According to Johnson, 10% of all trials in Japan had foreign defendants in 2000.  Considering that non-Japanese residents back then were 1.3% of the Japanese population, and foreign crime (depending on how you calculate it) ranged between <1% to 4% of the total, you have a disproportionate number of foreigners behind bars in Japan.

CITES:  Johnson page 181

Feeling paranoid?  Don’t.  Just don’t believe the bromide that Japanese are a “peaceful, law-abiding people by nature”.  They’re actually scared stiff of the police and the public prosecutor.  So should you be.  For until official government policy changes to make Japan more receptive to immigration, non-Japanese will be treated as a social problem and policed as such.

1528 WORDS

Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.”  A version of this essay with links to sources can be found at  Send comments to


Ichihashi, suspect in Hawker murder case, officially charged with “abandonment of corpse” on NPA wanted posters


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Hi Blog.  Something interesting I found last week:  An NPA wanted poster for murderers, put up in banks, post offices, and police boxes nationwide, offering tidy rewards for information leading to their arrest.


Snap taken March 3, 2009, by the ATMs of Hokuyou Ginkou Ebetsu Branch.  Sorry it’s a bit hard to see, but all of them are wanted for murder (satsujin).

Actually, sorry, I fib.  One isn’t.  The fourth one from the left.  Closeup.


Recognize the name and that face?  That’s Ichihashi Tatsuya, the suspected murderer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, former NOVA English teacher, found beaten, suffocated, and buried in a tub of sand on his apartment balcony back in 2007.  Police bungled their investigation, and he escaped on foot down a fire escape without even his shoes.  He’s still at large.  Hence the wanted poster.  Sources:

Funnily enough, unlike everyone else on that poster, Ichihashi is not wanted on a charge of “murder”.  It’s rendered as “abandonment of a corpse” (shitai iki).  Even more funnily enough, that’s the same charge levelled at Nozaki Hiroshi (the dismemberer of a Filipina in 2000, who got out after only 3 years to stow more Filipina body parts in a locker in 2008), and at Obara Jouji, convicted serial rapist and dismemberer of Lucie Blackman.  Seems like these crimes, if they involve NJ, are crimes to their dead bodies, not crimes of making them dead.

My next Japan Times article is on this, in part (due out Tuesday, March 24).  So as part of my research, today I called the Chiba Police number provided on the poster above to ask why Ichihashi wasn’t accused of murder. The investigator, a Mr Shibusa, said he couldn’t comment in specific on the case. When I asked how one distinguishes between charges of murder vs. abandonment, he said that it depended on the details of each case, but generally if the suspect admits homicidal intent (satsu-i), it’s murder. However, how the other suspects on the poster were so cooperative as to let the police know their will to kill before escaping remains unclear.  I’m still waiting for an answer to my request for further clarification on why Ichihashi’s charge was rendered differently.

I’ll be making the case in the JT article that Japanese jurisprudence and criminal procedure, both in the prosecution of criminals and as criminals, differs by nationality, with the NJ getting a raw deal.  The wanted poster above is but one piece of evidence.  Stay tuned.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Thoughts on Suo Masayuki’s movie “I just didn’t do it”: A must-see.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Sunday’s tangent:  Suo Masayuki’s movie “Sore de mo, boku wa yatte nai” (I just didn’t do it), some quick thoughts:

Saw the movie on TV last week, I think it’s a must buy (I’m angling for the special edition, with 200 or so minutes of extras).  I agree with the January 2008 Japan Times review by Mark Schilling:  “…the Japanese are a law-abiding people for a very good reason — once the system here has you in its grips you are well and truly in the meat grinder. True, safeguards exist for the accused, who are entitled to a defense lawyer, but the legal scales are tipped in favor of the police and prosecution, who want to save face by convicting as many “criminals” as possible — and nearly always succeed.”

You can see more on about the nastiness of criminal procedure here.  

Soreboku is an excellent illustration of how court procedure in Japan grinds one down (remember, Asahara Shoko, correctly judged guilty, was on trial for more than a decade (1995-2006); it drove him nuts, and calls into the question the Constitutional right to a speedy trial in Japan (Article 37)).  I fortunately have not been involved in a criminal court case (I have done Civil Court, with the Otaru Onsens Case (1999-2005) and the 2-Channel Case (2005-present day), and can attest that it’s a long procedure), but am not in any hurry to.  Soreboku — long, drawn-out, well researched, and necessarily tedious — is one vicarious way to experience it.

What came to mind mid-movie was Michael Moore’s SICKO.  One very salient point he made was how rotten the health insurance system is in the US:  If you get sick in the US, given how much things cost and how insurance companies enforce a “culture of no” for claimants, you could lose everything.

Japan’s got health insurance covered.  But the “SICKO Syndrome” here in Japan is the threat of arrest, given the enormous discretion allowed Japan’s police forces.  You will disappear for days if not weeks, be ground down by police interrogations, face months if not years in trial if you maintain innocence, have enormous bills from court and lawyers’ fees (and if you lose your job for being arrested, as often happens, you have no income), and may be one of the 0.1 percent of people who emerge unscathed; well, adjudged innocent, anyway.

The “SICKO Syndrome” is particularly likely to happen to NJ, too.  Random searches on the street without probable cause are permitted by law only for NJ.  If you’re arrested, you will be incarcerated for the duration of your trial, no matter how many years it takes, even if you are adjudged innocent (the Prosecution generally appeals), because NJ are not allowed bail (only a minority of Japanese get it as well, but the number is not zero; NJ are particularly seen as a flight risk, and there are visa overstay issues).  And NJ have been convicted without material evidence (see Idubor Case).  Given the official association with NJ and crime, NJ are more likely to be targeted, apprehended, and incarcerated than a Japanese.

Sources:  Research I’m doing for my PhD thesis; subsection I’ve written on this is still pretty rough.  But in the meantime, see David T. Johnson, THE JAPANESE WAY OF JUSTICE.

See Suo’s Soreboku.  It’s excellent.  And like Michael Moore’s SICKO, a good expose of a long-standing social injustice perpetuated on a people that think that it couldn’t happen to them.  Be forewarned.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES, on Japan’s NJ labor, screening schedule Mar 21-31 Tokyo Nagoya Osaka Okayama Kumamoto


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========= PRESS RELEASE =============


A documentary by Daniel Kremers and Tilman Koenig, Leipzig, Germany
on “Japan’s Hidden Workers” and human rights

Hi all. An hourlong documentary, on how NJ workers are being treated as part of Japan’s labor force, will be shown nationwide, from Tsukuba to Kumamoto, with stops in Tokyo, Nagoya, Shiga, Osaka, and Okayama.

========= WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT =========

The documentary “Sour Strawberries – Japan’s hidden guest workers” was shot in March 2008 by a German-Japanese film crew in Tokyo. The movie shows migrants fighting for their rights as workers and citizens. The persons concerned are always at the centre of interest. While describing their situation, they are the protagonists of the movie. Contains interviews with NJ workers on their treatment, with input from people like migration expert Dr Gabriele Vogt, Dietmember Kouno Taro, Keidanren policymaker Inoue Hiroshi, labor rights leader Torii Ippei, Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei, and activist Arudou Debito, who gives us an animated tour of “Japanese Only” signs in Kabukicho.

More information and stills from the movie at
A three-minute promo of the movie at

May I add that I have seen the movie, and it is excellent.
========= ========= ========= =========

In lieu of the directors, Arudou Debito will host the movie screenings at each of the venues below and lead discussions in English and Japanese. (The movie is subtitled in both English and Japanese simultaneously.)  Screening schedule as follows (with information on how to get there from adjacent links):

========= TOKYO AND KANTO AREA =========

AKIHABARA: Sat March 21, 5PM Second Harvest Japan Offices
Sponsored by distributor of food to the homeless Second Harvest Japan

TSUKUBA: Sun March 22, evening screening
(venue still being arranged, please contact Debito at if you are interested in attending)
Sponsored by City Assemblyman Jon Heese (

SHINBASHI: Mon March 23, 7PM at NUGW Main Office
Sponsored by the National Union of General Workers

TAKADANOBABA: Tues March 24, 7:30 PM at Ben’s Cafe
Sponsored by Amnesty International AITEN group

========= CHUBU AND KANSAI AREA =========

NAGOYA: Weds March 25, 6PM Nagoya University Kougakubu Building 2 North Building Room 332
Number 30 on the map at

HIKONE: Thurs March 26, 1PM to 3PM, Shiga University
(please contact Dr Robert Aspinall at aspinall_robert AT hotmail DOT com for venue)

OSAKA: Thurs March 26, 7:30PM The Blarney Stone, Osaka
Sponsored by Osaka Amnesty International, EWA Osaka, Democrats Abroad Japan, and Osaka JALT.

========= FARTHER SOUTH =========

OKAYAMA: Sat March 28, Japanese screening (1:30PM) then English (3:30PM),
Sankaku A Bldg 2F, Omotecho, Okayama. Sponsored by Okayama JALT.

KUMAMOTO: Tues March 31, 2PM, Kumamoto Gakuen Daigaku, Bldg 14, Rm 1411 on the first floor.

========= HOKKAIDO =========

April 2009, Sapporo SOUR STRAWBERRIES screening for the Hokkaido International Business Association (HIBA) (BEING FINALIZED)


Please note that all screenings will have a voluntary contribution of 500 yen per person. (The directors went to great time and expense to create this documentary; let’s do what we can to compensate them.)

Fifty copies of the movie will also be on sale at the venue for 1500 yen each. If you would like to contact the directors directly, email and

See you in late March!
Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Feb 3, 2009: “2channel the bullies’ forum”


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Hi Blog.  Here’s yesterday’s article in the Japan Times.   Enjoy.  Debito in Sapporo

2channel: the bullies’ forum

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

Bullying in Japan is a big problem. The victims have limited recourse. Too often they are told to suck it up and self-reflect. Or if they fight back, they get criticized for lashing out. It’s a destructive dynamic, causing much misery and many a suicide.

The bullies are empowered by an odd phenomenon: In Japan, the right to know your accuser is not a given. When kids get criticized by the anonymous rumor mill, authorities make insufficient efforts to disclose who said what. The blindfolded bullied become powerless: There are lots of them and one of you, and unless you put names to critics they escalate with impunity.

Internet bulletin board (BBS) 2channel, the world’s largest, is the ultimate example of this dynamic. Although the BBS is very useful for public discussions, its debate firestorms also target and hurt individuals. This flurry of bullies is guaranteed anonymity through undisclosed Internet Protocol addresses, meaning they avoid the scrutiny they mete out to others.

Why absolute anonymity? 2channel’s founder and coordinator, Hiroyuki Nishimura, believes it liberates debate and provides true freedom of speech. People speak without reservation because nobody knows who they are.

Quite. But freedom of speech is not absolute. It does not grant freedom to lie or deceive (as in fraud), nor to engage in malicious behavior designed to hinder calm and free discourse. The classic example is the lack of freedom to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. But libel and slander, where people willfully lie to assassinate characters and destroy lives, is also beyond the pale.

Japan does have checks against libel — lawsuits. Dozens of civil court cases have been brought against 2channel. When a problematic post appears, victims contact the BBS coordinator and request its removal. Alas, many get ignored. Then, when taken to court, Nishimura ignores summons to appear. Finally, even after losing dozens of times in court, Nishimura refuses to pay out. Years later, adjudged libelous posts (some about your correspondent) are still online and proliferating.

How is this possible? The Internet is a new media, and the judiciary hasn’t caught up. If a newspaper or TV station publicizes erroneous information, they too can be sued. But the old media are more accountable. They have to register their corporation and get a license, so their wherewithal’s whereabouts is public. If they lose and don’t pay, the court will file a lien on their assets and withdraw the award for the plaintiffs.

However, in cyberspace people can start a “media outlet” without incorporation or licensing, meaning their assets remain invisible. Nishimura owes millions of dollars in court penalties, but unless he divulges his personal bank accounts, his wages can’t be seized.

The dynamic becomes watertight thanks to a weakness in Japan’s judiciary: In this case, one cannot convert a civil suit into a criminal case through “contempt of court.” No cops will arrest him for being on the lam. Plaintiffs must hire their own private detectives to dig up Nishimura’s assets. No checks, no balances, and the bully society remains above the law.

The abuses continue. Last month, cops decided to arrest a 2channeler who issued a death threat against sumo wrestler Asashoryu. About time: Hate-posters have long vilified ethnic minorities, threatened individuals, and waged cyberwars to deny others the freedom of speech they apparently so cherish.

Meanwhile, Nishimura keeps on wriggling. Last month he announced 2channel’s sale to a Singaporean firm, making his assets even more unaccountable.

Some salute Nishimura as a “hero” and an “evangelist.” He’s also a willing abettor in the pollution of cyberspace, legitimizing an already powerful domestic bully culture with a worldwide audience. He had his day in court to explain himself. He didn’t show. He lost. Now he must pay up.

If not, there will be blow-back. Our government has already made reactionary overtures to limit “illegal or harmful content” (whatever that means) on the Internet. Be advised: Once you give the unsophisticated Japanese police a vague mandate over anything, you’ll have random enforcement and policy creep, as usual. Kaplooey goes cyberfreedom of speech.

Unless contempt of court procedures are tightened up to reflect the realities of new media, I believe Nishimura will be remembered historically as the irresponsible kid who spoiled the Internet for the rest of us.

Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.” More on his 2006 libel lawsuit victory at Send comments to
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

Kyodo/JT: Death penalty obstructs “presumption of innocence” in Japanese justice


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. This is not a “NJ issues”-specific post today (although issues of criminal justice ultimately affect everybody, except maybe bent cops). But this short article on a presentation, regarding the aftermath of the famous 1948 Teigin Bank Poisoning Incident (where a bank robber posed as a doctor, told everybody that there had been an outbreak of dysentery, and to take medicine that was actually poison; themes of Milgram’s Experiment), calls into question the use of the death penalty not as a preventive deterrent or a form of Hammurabian justice, but as a weapon during interrogation.  I have brought up issues of “presumption of guilt” (where the accused has to prove his innocence, despite the Constitution) here before.  This too-short article is still good food for thought about the abuses of power, especially if governing life and death.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Legal system defect makes presumed innocence a joke: gallows foe
Kyodo News/The Japan Times  Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009, courtesy of JB

It’s easy to wrongfully charge innocent people under the legal system because the principle of presumed innocence is a mere slogan, according to a prominent campaigner against the death penalty.

“People sometimes admit to offenses they did not commit because if they continue to deny guilt, they will not be released on bail after their arrest and indictment,” Yoshihiro Yasuda, a Tokyo-based lawyer, told a Monday symposium in Tokyo. “And they cannot be acquitted unless their lawyers completely prove their innocence.”

The symposium was held on the 61st anniversary of the Teigin Incident, the most notorious case of mass poisoning in postwar Japan, in which the adopted son of a late death-row inmate is still seeking a retrial to clear the convicted killer’s name.

The case, in which 12 people were fatally poisoned, occurred at a Teikoku Ginko (Imperial Bank) branch in Tokyo on Jan. 26, 1948. An award-winning painter, Sadamichi Hirasawa, was sentenced to death, but died of natural causes in prison at the age of 95 in 1987 while still proclaiming his innocence.

His son, Takehiko, has filed a 19th petition for a retrial, which is pending at the Tokyo High Court. Yasuda believed this structural defect in the legal system remains, 61 years after the Teigin Incident.

“The death penalty is a ‘weapon’ for investigators. They could tell suspects, ‘You will be hanged if you do not admit to the charges,’ ” he said.

As for the Teigin case, more than 30 justice ministers refused to sign the execution order, and Yasuda told the audience of about 50, “They must have had concerns over the possible discovery of the real culprit, but they refused to release Hirasawa to save the ‘honor’ of the legal system.”

The Japan Times: Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009

Tokyo High Court overrules lower court regarding murder of Lucie Blackman: Obara Joji now guilty of “dismemberment and abandonment of a body”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. Serial rapist and sexual predator Obara Joji yesterday had his “innocent on the grounds of lack of evidence” lower court decision overturned by the Tokyo High Court, with Lucie Blackman’s rape and murder now added to his long list of crimes against women. A hair was split between actual murder and just doing nasty things to her corpse, but for people outraged about the rather odd consideration of evidence in this case (which I in the past have indicated might have something to do with a J crime against a NJ, as opposed to the opposite), this is a victory of sorts. Given that Obara got away with a heckuva lot before he was finally nailed (including some pretty hapless police investigation), I wonder if the outcome of his cases will be much of a deterrent to other sociopathic predators out there. Anyway, this verdict is better than upholding the previous one, of course. Two articles follow. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Guilty verdict ends Blackman family’s fight for justice
By David McNeill in Tokyo
The Independent. Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A Japanese businessman has been convicted of abducting Lucie Blackman and mutilating her body, ending an eight-year campaign by her family.

The millionaire property developer Joji Obara was cleared last year of raping and killing the 21-year-old British bar hostess in Japan in 2000. Yesterday the High Court in Tokyo agreed that there was insufficient evidence to convict him on these charges but ruled that Obara dismembered and abandoned her body.

Ms Blackman’s family said they were “delighted” by the higher court’s judgment but added that they were left with a bitter taste in the mouth after their long fight for justice through Japan’s drawn-out legal system.

Her mother, Jane Steare, sat weeping yards from Obara in court as the verdict was read out, an experience she called “very, very harrowing”. It was her first sighting of the man who used a chainsaw to mutilate her daughter’s body, which he then dumped in a cave south-west of Tokyo. On a previous court appearance, Obara had failed to show up.

After the verdict, she said: “At last we have two guilty verdicts and a life sentence for the crimes Obara committed against my wonderful Lucie. He’s got a life sentence and I think justice has been done.”

Her father, Tim Blackman, who lives on the Isle of Wight, said: “Although the result is not the absolute decision we had hoped for, it is still an obvious recognition of guilt. After such a long time it is clear that it was necessary for this protracted process to get any degree of result and some form of justice for Lucie, but it still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.”

Ms Blackman’s sister, Sophie, 26, said: “It is not important exactly what he was charged with – what matters is that he is finally taking responsibility after all this time. I’m delighted.”

Ms Blackman, a former flight attendant, went to Japan in May 2000 and found a job as a hostess at a Tokyo nightclub. She vanished in July that year after telephoning her flatmate to say she was going out for the afternoon with a man. Her remains were found in a cave near Obara’s beachside condominium in February 2001 following an extensive search.

In April last year Tokyo District Court acquitted Obara of involvement in Ms Blackman’s death. But he was ordered to spend life in prison for a string of rapes and causing the death of an Australian woman. Tokyo High Court also upheld this sentence yesterday. Judge Hiroshi Kadono held that Obara’s actions left no room for leniency and said: “His action of damaging and abandoning her body was ruthless and did not even give the slightest consideration to her dignity.”

Police found hundreds of home-made videos in the businessman’s flat, showing him having sex with unconscious women, many of whom he met while cruising the Tokyo entertainment district where Ms Blackman worked.

However, although strong circumstantial evidence, including proof that he bought the chainsaw, apparently linked him to the death of the former air stewardess, there was no video recording of her rape.


The Japan Times, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008
High court: Obara buried Blackman
Serial rapist’s life term is upheld; abduction added to convictions
By SETSUKO KAMIYA Staff writer

The Tokyo High Court on Tuesday sentenced serial rapist Joji Obara to life in prison for kidnapping Briton Lucie Blackman and mutilating her corpse eight years ago, after a lower court acquitted him of the charges.

The high court also upheld the Tokyo District Court’s life sentence for Obara, 56, for nine other rape cases, including that of an Australian woman who died from an overdose of sleeping drugs Obara slipped her before the assault.

Dressed in a dark suit and brown-framed glasses, Obara nervously wiped his face with a blue handkerchief before the judge read out the 1 1/2-hour decision. As the ruling was being announced, Obara stared at the floor and remained motionless.

Obara was charged with six cases of rape, two cases of rape resulting in bodily injury, and rape resulting in the death of Australian hostess Carita Ridgway.

In the Blackman case, he was charged with kidnapping with intent to rape, attempted rape, and damaging and disposing of a body. He was not charged with murder or manslaughter, however, due to lack of evidence.

Prosecutors demanded a life term.

Presiding Judge Hiroshi Kadono said that while the court couldn’t find direct evidence that Obara raped Blackman, there was enough circumstantial evidence to conclude he abducted the 21-year-old from her residence in Shibuya Ward with the intention of drugging and raping her in July 2000.

The court also said that there was enough evidence to believe that Blackman died for some reason after Obara drugged her in his condominium in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, and that he dismembered her with a chain saw and buried her body parts in a cave near another condo he owned on the Miura coastline.

But the court said it was unable to determine exactly where Obara dismembered her corpse, except that it was in the vicinity of his condo.

The court also rejected Obara’s appeal in the Ridgway case and determined her death was caused by the chloroform Obara forced her to inhale, which caused her to die from fulminant hepatitis in 1992.

Afterward, Ridgway’s family issued a statement saying they welcomed the ruling.

“It is hoped that this finally brings an end to a process that began over eight years ago. The process has been prolonged because Obara refused to accept his guilt and has had access to significant financial resources which he used to fund his attempts to escape justice,” they said.

In April 2007, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Obara to life in prison for a string of nine rapes between 1992 and 2000, including Ridgway’s.

But the court acquitted him of all charges in the Blackman case, ruling that the circumstantial evidence linking him to her dismemberment and burial was not convincing enough to link him directly to her death.

Although the evidence included some 200 videotapes showing Obara engaging in sexual acts with his victims, Blackman was not among them, and the court said other evidence could not prove Obara was involved in any way with Blackman.

During appeal sessions that began in March, prosecutors said there was sufficient evidence showing Obara was involved in the Briton’s death.

Blackman’s dismembered corpse was found in February 2001 in a Miura cave near one of his condos. The prosecution argued that Obara raped her at his Zushi condo several kilometers away.

Prosecutors said he bought a chain saw shortly after the ex-British Airways flight attendant vanished in July 2000.

ENDS Bilateral agreements to give US servicemen immunity from Japanese criminal procedure


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. I’ve covered this case on before, but here’s something with a little more depth from The Economist Newsmagazine. Seems that some perpetrators are more privileged than others. Greenpeace activists get zapped while American servicemen, according to the article below, get off lightly in Japanese police work and jurisprudence. By bilateral geopolitical agreement. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Dec 10th 2008
From, Courtesy AW

Crime without punishment in Japan

THIS story is of no material importance to Japan. It is the story of Jane. And it is a story of a very small, dark sliver of 20th century geopolitics that festers still.

Jane is an attractive, blonde 40-something Australian, resident for many years in Japan and a mother of three boys. She is also the victim of a rape. Jane is not her real name.

She is actually the victim of two violations. The physical one was committed on April 6th 2002 near the American naval base at Yokosuka by Bloke T. Deans, an American serviceman. He violently raped her in her car.

What Jane refers to as her “second rape” happened afterwards, when she reported the crime to the Kanagawa prefectural police. There, she alleges that she was interrogated for hours by six policemen, who mocked her. At a later meeting, they laughed and made crude sexual comments. She was initially denied medical treatment, water and food. Jane was denied a receptacle to keep a urine sample—key forensic evidence in a rape. After four hours, all she could do was relieve herself on a cold police toilet and cry. The police made no attempt to preserve sperm or DNA on her body.

Her torment at the hands of the police so amplified the trauma of the evening that she actually tried to dial emergency services to report that she was being held against her will at the station, but an officer ripped the phone from her hand. Ultimately she was kept in custody for some 12 hours following the crime, before having to drive herself home.

The police located the assailant, Mr Deans, of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, but for reasons that remained unclear, no charges were filed against him.

Jane, however, filed and won a civil case against him: a Tokyo court ordered him to pay ¥3m (around $30,000) in November 2004. But unbeknownst to Jane or the court, soon after the suit was filed, the American navy had quietly discharged Mr Deans, who returned to America and disappeared. Later, she received compensation from Japan’s Ministry of Defence, out of a discreet fund for civilian victims of crimes by American military personnel.

In Jane’s view, the first rape went unpunished: Mr Deans remains at large. So she turned her attention to the “second rape”. She sued the Kanagawa police for a bungled investigation that denied her proper justice. In December 2007 the court ruled against her, stating that the police had fulfilled their responsibilities. She appealed the decision.

Jane’s ordeal underscores the clumsiness of Japan’s police force. In several recent high-profile cases, the police have coerced confessions from suspects. It also highlights the lack of a tradition of individual rights in the country, and the often thinly reasoned rulings of Japanese courts. And it fits the pattern that in many crimes by American servicemen, the Japanese authorities fail to press charges.

But the reason why cases like Jane’s are not prosecuted may have less to do with incompetent police and more because of a secret agreement between America and Japan in 1953 that has recently come to light.

In September 2008, Shoji Niihara, a researcher on Japanese-American relations, uncovered previously classified documents in the U.S. National Archives. They show that in 1953, soon after Dwight Eisenhower assumed the presidency, John Foster Dulles, his secretary of state, embarked on a massive programme to get countries to waive their jurisdiction in cases of crimes by American servicemen.

On October 28th 1953, a Japanese official, Minoru Tsuda, made a formal declaration to the United States (not intended for public disclosure), stating, “The Japanese authorities do not normally intend to exercise the primary right of jurisdiction over members of the United States Armed Forces, the civilian component, or their dependents subject to the military law of the United States, other than in cases considered to be of material importance to Japan.”

In other words, Japan agreed to ignore almost all crimes by American servicemen, under the hope that the military itself would prosecute such offences—but with no means of redress if it did not.

This helps explain the perplexing, toothless approach of the Japanese police and prosecutors even today in cases of crimes by American military personnel. When Mr Niihara first made the documents public in October, a senior Japanese official denied any such agreement, but in words so mealy-mouthed that it raised suspicion.

Japan’s landmark accord with the United States over troops stationed in the country, called the Status of Forces Agreement, was signed in 1960. Article XVII.1b states: “The authorities of Japan shall have jurisdiction over the members of the United States armed forces, the civilian component, and their dependents with respect to offences committed within the territory of Japan and punishable by the law of Japan.”

But in practice the Japanese do not exercise their authority. Jane’s case was just one of many in which the Japanese authorities opted to look the other way. This has nothing to do with the specifics of her case; it stems from an intergovernmental security protocol negotiated a half-century earlier.

Why did America fight so hard in 1953 to maintain control of criminal cases involving its boys? The documents do not say, but provide a clue: in numerous settings, American officials express unease that American servicemen commit roughly 30 serious crimes each month. Having 350 soldiers sent to Japanese jails each year would have been bad for America’s image. According to a separate document, America struck similar, secret agreements with the governments of Canada, Italy, Ireland and Denmark.

When Jane talks to reporters, she wears stylish, bug-eyed, mirrored sunglasses that seem more shields than fashion statement. It is futile protection—a tangible symbol of her quest for anonymity, akin to her pseudonymity.

On December 10th 2008, the Tokyo High Court ruled on Jane’s appeal in the suit against the Kanagawa police. Judge Toshifumi Minami entered the court, told her “You lost. And the financial burden of the case lies with you,” and then left. A 20-page ruling, considered short, sheds little insight into how the court reached its decision. Jane plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. “I lost—but they lost too,” she said.

Jane will always bear indelible, invisible scars. But this is of no material importance to Japan. Or America.

The killer of Scott Tucker, choked to death by a DJ in a Tokyo bar, gets suspended sentence.


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

HI Blog.  I made the case last May, in a special DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER on criminal justice and policing of NJ, that NJ get special (as in negative) treatment by courts and cops.  An article I included from the Japan Times mentioned that a case of a NJ man killed in a bar “was likely to draw leniency” in criminal court.  It did.  The killer essentially got off last September.  Here’s an article about it, from Charleston, WV.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

That special NEWSLETTER:


No appeal in Japan murder of state man
The Charleston Gazette, September 20, 2008

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Prosecutors in Japan have decided not appeal the sentence in the murder conviction of a man placed on five years’ probation for murdering Charleston native and West Virginia University graduate Scott Tucker.

“Prosecutors decided not to even present the appeal,” said Kenneth Tucker II, Scott Tucker’s brother. “They said the witness’s testimony was strong enough not to appeal.”

Tucker’s wife and family had hoped prosecutors would appeal the sentencing in an attempt to get the man jail time. But prosecutors said Thursday they would not pursue an appeal before the two-week window to file ends on Monday.

On Sept. 8, Atsushi Watanabe, 29, was sentenced to three years in prison or five years’ probation for killing Scott Tucker. Under Japanese law, probation in murder cases can begin immediately so Watanabe will serve five years probation rather than three years in prison, David Yoshida, who attended the trial with Tucker’s wife, Yumiko Yamakazi, said previously.

Yamakazi is weighing her options in pursuing a civil case against Watanabe, Kenneth Tucker said.

“Unfortunately we just have to live with it and go on,” he said. “I know my brother was a Christian and I hope to see him again someday.”

Tucker, 47, had been drinking at a bar before going into Bullets, a club located beside his home in downtown Tokyo.

The club was known for its parties, noise and fights, and Tucker went there because he wanted the place to quiet down, according to witness statements.

At the time, officials with Tokyo police told Japan Today, an English-language newspaper, that Tucker appeared very drunk and acted violently toward customers, at times striking a boxer’s pose.

“With the help of alcohol he went down there to tell them,” said David Yoshida, who attended the trial with Yamakazi.

Yoshida, a Baptist missionary, served as an interpreter for Ken Tucker when he went to Japan after his brother died.

According to Yoshida and Yamakazi, witnesses told the court that Scott pushed a couple of people who fell on the floor and were not hurt.

Watanabe then kicked him in the groin and got Tucker in a chokehold, crushing his Adam’s apple.

In court, Watanabe said he felt his life was in danger. Watanabe is 5 feet, 9 inches and weighs 154 pounds. Scott was 5 feet, 9 inches and weighed 242 pounds.

The courtroom was flooded with supporters for Watanabe, Yoshida said.

Earlier this week, Tucker’s family sent a letter to Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s ambassador to the United States. They hope that he will look into the case.

“We do not understand how it is possible that the two detectives (Sergeant Abe and Megumi Akita, who assured us the evidence pointed to a deliberate and brutal murder), were not in court because they had been re-assigned or possibly promoted; nor do we understand the absence of the original prosecutor at the trial,” Kenneth Tucker wrote in the letter, provided to the Gazette. “We also don’t understand how our family’s concerns were not admitted into evidence during the court proceeding.”

The conviction rate for those accused of murder in Japan is 99.95 percent, Michael Griffith, an international criminal defense attorney who has handled many cases in Japan said previously.

Japanese police routinely hold suspects for 23 days without seeing a judge, Griffith said. During that time they can interrogate them daily, for as much as 12 hours at a time.

“The lawyers over there aren’t defense lawyers. I’d categorize them as sentencing experts,” Griffith said previously.

Once a case goes to sentencing, the convicted often get more lenient sentences than in the U.S., he said. People convicted for murder often get under 10 years, he said.

Reach Gary Harki at gha… or 348-5163.

Post#1000: Oyako-Net and “From the Shadows” Documentary Forum on post-divorce child abductions


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog. This marks the 1000th post on the blog since it started a little over two years ago, in June 2006.  Long may we run. To celebrate, some good news about the developing documentary called FROM THE SHADOWS, on child abductions after divorce in Japan, and the growing attention being devoted to it (including NHK). Word from David Hearn, one of the directors (along with Matt Antell). Arudou Debito in Sapporo

A brief update: Matt told me that the filming of Murray Wood in Vancouver went well last weekend.
It was a busy three days and a lot of material was shot. Our volunteer assistants were very helpful.

I joined 5 other panelists at the Oyakonet event today. There are a couple photos below. I talked about my experience growing up to show an example of how custody after divorce was handled in the US.

At one point they asked for a show of hands for how many people were first timers to an Oyakonet event. About half of the crowd of 50 put their hands up.

There was also quite a bit of discussion afterward that the 20 minute segment which appeared on NHK (zenkoku) last Tuesday was well received. Many people also pushed attending the Nichibenren (Japanese Bar Association) event this coming Saturday Nov. 15th.

That’s all for now. Warm regards, David Hearn, one director, FROM THE SHADOWS documentary (reachable at ghosty eighty seven [write as numbers, no spaces] AT cablenet DOT ne DOT jp)

This is the video clip from the BBC that has been in the works for a little while now.



Filmmakers tackle contentious issue of parents’ abduction of children to Japan THE JAPAN TIMES, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008

Spirited Away: Japan Won’t Let Abducted Kids Go
American Parents Have Little Hope of Being Reunited With Children Kidnapped to Japan

ABC News (USA) Feb. 26, 2008

Here’s the powerpoint my speech last December 2007 at the upcoming film documentary on this subject, FOR TAKA AND MANA. Glad he’s gotten the attention his horrible case deserves. 

More on this issue on here.

Japan Times Zeit Gist on PM Aso’s connection to WWII forced labor


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  If people want to become world leaders, it’s only natural that they will have their past investigated.  But according to the article below which came out yesterday in the Japan Times, PM Aso hasn’t exactly come clean about his family’s wartime past using forced labor.  Fascinating article follows from, where else, the Japan Times Zeit Gist Column.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo


The Japan Times, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008




WWII forced labor issue dogs Aso, Japanese firms

Special to The Japan Times

After evading the issue for more than two years, Taro Aso conceded to foreign reporters on the eve of becoming prime minister that Allied POWs worked at his family’s coal mine in Kyushu during World War II.


News photo
Labor pains: Prime Minister Taro Aso was president of Aso Cement Co., the successor firm to Aso Mining, in the 1970s. Hundreds of Allied POWs and thousands of Koreans conscripts were forced to work for the firm during the war. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO


But Aso’s terse admission fell far short of the apology overseas veterans’ groups have demanded, while refocusing attention on Japan’s unhealed legacy of wartime forced labor by Asians and Westerners.

Calls for forced labor reparations are growing louder due to Prime Minister Aso’s personal ties to the brutal practice, as well as his combative reputation as a historical revisionist. The New York Times recently referred to “nostalgic fantasies about Japan’s ugly past for which Mr. Aso has become well known.” Reuters ran an article headlined “Japan’s PM haunted by family’s wartime past.”

Three hundred Allied prisoners of war (197 Australians, 101 British and two Dutch) were forced to dig coal without pay for Aso Mining Co. in 1945. Some 10,000 Korean labor conscripts worked under severe conditions in the company’s mines between 1939 and 1945; many died and most were never properly paid.

Taro Aso was president of Aso Cement Co., the successor firm to Aso Mining, during the 1970s and oversaw publication of a 1,000-page corporate history that omitted all mention of Allied POWs. Aso’s father headed Aso Mining during the war. The family’s business empire is known as Aso Group today and is run by Aso’s younger brother, with the prime minister’s wife serving on the board of directors. The company has never commented on the POW issue, nor provided information about Aso Mining’s Korean workforce despite requests from the South Korean government.

Newspapers in Australia and the United Kingdom vigorously reported Aso Mining’s use of POWs in 2006. But with Aso then at its helm, Japan’s Foreign Ministry cast doubt on the overseas media accounts and challenged journalists to provide evidence.

Last year The Japan Times described how, in early 1946, the Japanese government presented Allied war crimes investigators with the Aso Company Report, detailing living and working conditions for the 300 prisoners. Yet Foreign Minister Aso continued to sidestep the POW controversy even after his office was provided with a copy of the report, which is written on Aso Mining stationery and bears company seals.

Courts in Japan and former Allied nations have rejected legal claims by ex-POWs, so the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Norway have all compensated their own surviving POWs. Hundreds of British and Dutch POWs and family members have made reconciliation-style visits to Japan in recent years as part of the Tokyo-sponsored Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative. Stiffed by the U.S. government, American POWs have also been excluded from Japan’s reconciliation schemes — a situation they say Prime Minister Aso has a special responsibility to correct.

Some 700,000 Korean civilians — including teenage girls — were brought to Japan to work for private firms through various means of coercion. Hundreds of thousands of other Koreans were forced to perform harsh labor elsewhere in Japan’s empire or conscripted into the Japanese military.

South Korea’s 85-member Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization Under Japanese Imperialism began work in 2005. Legislation passed last year will provide national payments of up to $20,000 to former military and civilian conscripts and family members. The measure also calls for individually tailored compensation based on unpaid wages, pension contributions and related benefits owed to Korean workers but now held by the Bank of Japan.

Seoul needs Japanese cooperation in the form of name rosters and details about the BOJ financial deposits in order to fully implement its compensation plan. Repatriating the hundreds of sets of Korean remains currently stored in Japan, many of them belonging to military and civilian conscripts killed during the war, is another key aim of ongoing reparations work. Company records would greatly aid the process of identifying remains that have been located in temples and municipal charnel houses around the country.

The Japanese government has been cooperating fitfully on “humanitarian grounds” in the case of military conscription, supplying Korean officials with some wartime records and returning the remains of 101 Korean soldiers to Seoul last January. But the Japanese side is mostly stonewalling on civilian conscripts like those at Aso Mining.

Japanese officials contend, rather implausibly, that they do not know how many Korean civilians were conscripted or how many died in the custody of private companies because the state was never directly involved. South Korea’s truth commission criticized Aso Group and Foreign Minister Aso in 2005 for failing to supply information.

“I have no intention to explain,” Japan’s chief diplomat told a Japanese reporter at the time. Earlier this month, Diet member Shokichi Kina asked Prime Minister Aso whether any data about Aso Mining was ever given to South Korea. Aso replied that his administration will not disclose how individual corporations have responded to Korean inquiries.

Noriaki Fukudome of the Truth-Seeking Network for Forced Mobilization, a citizens group based in Fukuoka, has been centrally involved in advancing the South Korean truth commission’s work within Japan.

Aso Group, says Fukudome, “has an obligation to actively cooperate with returning remains and providing records because it was one of the companies that employed the most forced laborers. But Japanese companies are keeping a lid on the whole forced labor issue. In the unlikely event that Prime Minister Aso was to direct Aso Cement (now Aso Lafarge Cement since its merger with a French conglomerate) to actively face the forced labor problem, it would have a huge effect on all Japanese companies.”

Fukudome pointed to Japan’s conformist corporate culture as one reason why very few of the hundreds of companies that used Asians and Allied POWs for forced labor have taken steps toward reconciliation. “Even if one company has a relatively positive attitude regarding reparations, it will not take action out of deference for other companies,” he said.

Chinese were the victims of the third class of forced labor in Japan. While Aso Mining was not involved in Chinese forced labor, lack of progress for the especially compelling redress claim highlights Japan’s weak commitment to settling wartime accounts.

Postwar records secretly compiled — and then purposely destroyed — by the Japanese government and 35 companies state that 38,935 Chinese males between the ages of 11 and 78 were brought to Japan between 1943 and 1945. More than one out of six died.

Japan’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the 1972 treaty that restored ties between Japan and China bars Chinese forced labor survivors from filing legal claims. Yet the court found that plaintiffs had been forcibly transported to Japan and forced to toil in wretched conditions, and suggested they be redressed through non-judicial means. Having previously declared that the “slave-like forced labor was an outrage against humanity,” the Fukuoka High Court earlier this month similarly urged “voluntary measures” to remedy the injustice.

Kajima Corp., one of the world’s largest construction companies, set up a “relief fund” in 2000 to compensate survivors of its Hanaoka work site, where 418 out of 986 Chinese perished and an uprising took place. The move prompted expectations that Japan’s industrial sector and central government might establish a redress fund for all its victims of forced labor, similar to the “Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future” Foundation enacted in Germany that same year. The $6 billion German fund eventually compensated 1.6 million forced labor victims or their heirs.

Such hopes for corporate social responsibility in Japan were dashed. On the contrary, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. defended itself in a Fukuoka courtroom in 2005 by rejecting facts about Chinese forced labor routinely recognized by Japan’s judiciary and insisting only voluntary workers were used — despite death rates of up to 31 percent at its Kyushu mines. Mitsubishi openly questioned whether Japan ever “invaded” China at all and warned judges that compensating the elderly Chinese plaintiffs would saddle Japan with a “mistaken burden of the soul” for hundreds of years.

Taro Aso, in fact, is not the Japanese prime minister most closely connected to forced labor. Wartime Cabinet minister Nobusuke Kishi was in charge of the empire’s labor programs and was later imprisoned for three years as a Class A war crimes suspect. Kishi went on to become a founder of the Liberal Democratic Party in 1955 and Japan’s premier from 1957-60. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is Kishi’s grandson.

Foreign Ministry files declassified in 2002 revealed that Kishi’s administration conspired to deceive the Diet and citizens’ groups about the state’s possession of Chinese forced labor records. Kishi’s intent was to block Japanese activists from returning remains to China and publicizing the program’s true nature, as well as to head off state reparations demands from Beijing. In 2003, the Foreign Ministry searched a basement storeroom and found 20,000 pages of Chinese forced labor records submitted by companies in 1946, despite decades of denials that such records existed.

Millions of Asians performed forced labor outside of Japan during the Asia Pacific War, very often for the benefit of Japanese companies still operating today. The so-called comfort women represent a uniquely abused group of war victims forced to provide sex for Japan’s military. Last year governments in North America and Europe urged Japan to do more to right the egregious comfort-women wrong.

The Dutch foreign minister renewed that call last week, prior to a visit to Japan set to include a stop at the Commonwealth War Cemetery where hundreds of Allied POWs are buried, including two Australians who died at Aso Mining.

Days after assuming Japan’s top post, Aso apologized “for my past careless remarks” in a speech before Parliament. “From now on,” he pledged, “I will make statements while bearing in mind the gravity of the words of a prime minister.” Many are waiting for the words “I’m sorry” for forced labor.


William Underwood completed his doctoral dissertation at Kyushu University on forced labor in wartime Japan. His past research is available at and he can be reached Send comments on this issue and story ideas to

Govt websites don’t include NJ residents in their tallies of “local population”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Mark in Yayoi pointed out a singular thing to me the other night — that the Tokyo Nerima-ku website lists its population and households in various municipal subsections.  Then puts at the top that “foreigners are not included”.  

Screen capture (click on image to go to website) from:

etc. We already saw in yesterday’s blog entry that NJ workers are not included in official unemployment statistics.  Now NJ taxpayers are also not included as part of the “general population”?

So I did a google search using the words “人口 総数には、外国人登録数を含んでいません” and found that other government websites do the same thing!  It is, in fact, SOP.人口 総数には、外国人登録数を含んでいません。&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

The Nerima-ku page, BTW, does not even mention anywhere on the page I captured above that foreigners even exist in Nerima-ku — you have to go to a separate page, a separate enclave, for the gaijin.

Pedants (meaning the GOJ) will no doubt claim (as is worded at the top) that “we’re only counting registered residents, and NJ aren’t registered residents, therefore we can’t count them“.  But that doesn’t make it a good thing to do, especially when you’re using the context of “人口総数” (total population).  What a nasty thing anyway to do to people who pay your taxes and live there!  It also becomes a tad harder to complain about “Japanese Only” signs on businesses when even the GOJ also excludes foreigners from official statistics.

And it’s also harder to believe the GOJ’s claim to the UN that it has taken “every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination”.  How about measures like counting (not to mention officially registering) foreigners as taxpayers and members of the population?  

(I bet if any measure actually does get taken in response to this blog entry, the only “conceivable” one to the bureaucrats will be to change the terminology, using the word “juumin” instead of “jinkou sousuu”.  Solve the problem by futzing with the rubric, not changing the law.  Beyond conception.)

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


UPDATE:  And of course, don’t forget this, from too…

Population rises 1st time in 3 years The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug 1, 2008

The nation’s population grew for the first time in three years to 127,066,178 in the year to March 31, up 12,707 from a year earlier, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said Thursday.

The figure was based on resident registrations at municipal government offices and does not include foreign residents…

Kyodo: ‘Institutional racism’ lets Japan spouses abduct kids


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Here’s an article further keeping the hoop rolling on Japan’s child abduction issue after divorce.  Not a great one, though.  In its need to be cautious (actually, probably to save the reporter the need of doing complete research, even though there a few articles already out in English, including a much better one by The Guardian on this very same case; the sources below are mostly “Clarke said”), it says below, “The foreign father is rarely able to persuade the judge to grant joint custody or have the child returned to the home country.”  Wrong.  Joint custody does not exist in Japan.  And according to reports, no child has EVER been returned to a foreign country by a J court ruling.  Anyway, more coverage, more pressure.  That’s good enough.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008

‘Institutional racism’ lets Japan spouses abduct kids

Kyodo News

LONDON — Japanese courts should give more support to foreigners seeking access to their children now living in Japan, according to a British father seeking the return of his two daughters to England.

News photo
Shane Clarke

Shane Clarke said Japanese courts need to do more for the hundreds of foreign parents whose estranged Japanese spouses have taken children away from their home countries to Japan.

Once back in Japan, family courts will generally award custody to the Japanese parent even when the spouse (normally the mother) has deliberately taken children away from their home country.

The foreign father is rarely able to persuade the judge to grant joint custody or have the child returned to the home country. The courts will generally side with the Japanese mother who already has custody in an effort to avoid any further disruption of the child’s life.

This is the current situation Shane Clarke finds himself in, and he would like the British government to press Japan to get its courts to acknowledge the access rights of foreign fathers.

Britain is calling on Japan to improve the rights of foreign fathers, and the Japanese government said it is looking at legal moves to improve the situation. But Tokyo disputes claims that the courts are instinctively biased toward Japanese mothers.

Clarke’s problems began in January when his wife took his daughters, aged 1 and 3, to Japan on a long holiday to visit her family in Ibaraki Prefecture. She claimed her mother was terminally ill.

As far as Clarke was aware there were no major problems in the four-year marriage — although his wife did not like him seeing his other child by a previous marriage. But when he went out to see his wife in May, he realized something was wrong.

She acted strangely and in the end told him she and the children would not be returning to Britain.

In hindsight, he realizes it was a “very well planned child abduction.” His wife had taken all the necessary papers and, like many others before her, had decided to go back home because she could expect the courts to side with her.

He claims his wife has refused mediation and access to his children. She has now started divorce proceedings.

Clarke, 38, who lives in central England, has since been given an order from the British courts that declares that the children are “habitually resident” in Britain, and he claims his wife would be prosecuted under English law if she returned.

However, the family judge in Ibaraki Prefecture has told Clarke informally that if his case went to court, he would not order that the children return home or give Clarke access.

The judge explained that it was “complicated” and he did not have the powers to enforce an order coming from a British court, Clarke said.

Critics claim this habitual refusal from family courts stems from the fact that Japan has not yet ratified the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

In effect, the convention requires signatory states to order the return of children to their home countries and to provide police and legal assistance. Many major developed countries have signed on.

Clarke argues that aspects of Japanese law should already support foreigners in his circumstances. Even if Japan did sign the convention, he wonders whether its courts would actually abide by their obligations, given what he feels is the “institutional racism” in the judicial system.

Parental abduction is not recognized as a crime in Japan and there have been no extraditions of Japanese to countries where the child originally lived.

According to Clarke, there are as many as 10,000 foreign fathers currently in his position, including at least 23 from Britain.

“The message to Japanese nationals is that they can commit crimes on foreign soil and if they get home in time they won’t face extradition,” he said.

He said he has had little help from the British Embassy or government in his fight.

“I would never have let her leave Britain if I knew what was going to happen,” he said. “I need the kids returned to Britain. I have not spoken to the children since June. I miss them so much, it’s killing me.”

Clarke wants to highlight the situation, which he brands “Japan’s dirty little secret,” to get some changes in the family courts.

A spokesman for the Japanese Embassy in London said: “Japan acknowledges that the treaty is one tool in dealing with this situation. We are currently exploring the possibilities of signing it.”




More cases at the Children’s Rights Network Japan.

Good roundup of the issue at Terrie’s Take (issue 469, May 18, 2008)

ABC News on what’s happening to abducted children of American citizens. (Answer=same thing:  ”Not a single American child kidnapped to Japan has ever been returned to the United States through legal or diplomatic means, according to the State Department.”)

What’s happening to Canadians:  The Murray Wood Case and Japanese courts ignoring Canadian court custody rulings in favor of the NJ parent.

And it happens to Japanese citizens too, thanks to the lack of joint custody and unenforceable visitation rights.


Guardian UK on child abductions in Japan, this time concerning UK citizens


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Last day on the road, I’m finally heading home today after more than six weeks of living out of a suitcase.  It’s been a long and very productive trip (with well over a dozen speeches), but I can honestly say that I’m ready to be a homebody for a little while, and don’t want to look at a plane or shinkansen for at least a month.  Meanwhile, here’s an article that Tony Kehoe sent me this morning (thanks!), about the continuing adventures of the GOJ and the international child abduction issue.  It happens often enough in Japan between Japanese after divorce.  Here’s hoping that international attention will make things better for Japanese children of torn parents regardless of nationality–this system as it stands must not, for the children’s sake.  More referential links below.  Arudou Debito in Morioka


Family: Custody battle in Japan highlights loophole in child abduction cases

· Girls taken from UK on pretext, claims father 
· Courts ‘habitually’ side with Japanese parents

By Justin McCurry in Tokyo, Monday September 15 2008

Shane Clarke had no reason to be suspicious when his wife took their two children to Japan to see their ill grandmother in January.

The couple had married four years earlier after meeting online, and settled down with their daughters, aged three and one, in the west Midlands. Clarke, they agreed, would join his family in Japan in May for a holiday, and they would all return together.

Last week, however, he faced his wife and her lawyer in a Japanese courtroom, uncertain if he would ever see his children again. When his wife left the UK, Clarke now believes, she never had any intention of returning with him, or of letting her children see him.

“From the moment I met her at Narita airport I knew something was wrong,” Clarke told the Guardian before a custody hearing in Mito, north of Tokyo. “I soon realised she’d played me like a grand piano. The whole thing had been orchestrated,” he claims.

Clarke, a 38-year-old management consultant from West Bromwich, has gone to great lengths to win custody. The Crown Prosecution Service said his wife could be prosecuted in the UK under the 1984 child abduction act.

However, he can expect little sympathy from Japanese courts, which do not recognise parental child abduction as a crime and habitually rule in favour of the custodial – Japanese – parent.

Japan is the only G7 nation not to have signed the 1980 Hague convention on civil aspects of child abduction, which requires parents accused of abducting their children to return them to their country of habitual residence. He is one of an estimated 10,000 parents, divorced or separated from their Japanese spouses, who have been denied access to their children. Since the Hague treaty came into effect, not a single ruling in Japan has gone in favour of the foreign parent.

Campaigners say Japan’s refusal to join the treaty’s 80 other signatories has turned it into a haven for child abductors.

The European Union, Canada and the US have urged Japan to sign, but Takao Tanase, a law professor at Chuo University, says international pressure is unlikely to have much impact. “In Japan, if the child is secure in its new environment and doesn’t want more disruption, family courts don’t believe that it is in the child’s best interest to force it to see the non-custodial parent,” he said.

Japanese courts prefer to leave it to divorced couples to negotiate custody arrangements, Takase said. Officials say the government is looking at signing the Hague treaty, though not soon.

“We recognise that the convention is a useful tool to secure children’s rights and we are seriously considering the possibility of signing the convention, but we’ve yet to reach a conclusion,” said Yasuhisa Kawamura, a foreign ministry spokesman.

“We understand the anxieties of international parents, but there is no difference between the western approach and ours.”

Clarke’s two custody hearings this week did not go well. An interpreter arranged by the foreign office failed to materialise. The British embassy in Tokyo provided him with a list of alternative interpreters but said it could offer no more help.

The judge was forced to postpone his ruling, but Clarke is convinced he will never see his daughters again.

“We are talking about two British citizens, and no one will help me. The message our government is sending out to foreign nationals is that it’s perfectly all right for them to commit a crime on British soil, and as long as they leave the country quickly enough, they’ll get away scot-free.”


The rise in the number of parental child abductions has been fuelled by a dramatic increase in marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals. According to the health and welfare ministry, there were 44,701 such marriages in 2006, compared with 7,261 in 1980, the vast majority between Japanese and Chinese, Koreans and Filipinos. An estimated 20,000 children are born to Japanese-foreign couples every year. Though Japan does not keep an official count, there are 47 unresolved cases of US children being taken to Japan – only Mexico and India are more popular destinations – and 30 involving Canadian citizens. British officials are dealing with 10 cases, a foreign office spokeswoman told the Guardian, including that of Shane Clarke.




More cases at the Children’s Rights Network Japan.

Good roundup of the issue at Terrie’s Take (issue 469, May 18, 2008)

ABC News on what’s happening to abducted children of American citizens. (Answer=same thing:  “Not a single American child kidnapped to Japan has ever been returned to the United States through legal or diplomatic means, according to the State Department.”)

What’s happening to Canadians:  The Murray Wood Case and Japanese courts ignoring Canadian court custody rulings in favor of the NJ parent.

And it happens to Japanese citizens too, thanks to the lack of joint custody and unenforceable visitation rights.


2-Channel’s Nishimura again ducks responsibility for BBS’s excesses


 Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hello Blog.  Yet another interview with BBS 2-Channel’s Nishimura, where he claims that what goes on at 2-Channel is not his responsibility.

Love the section below where he says, “Unless there is a court order, we will not delete any messages.”  That’s a lie.  He’s had a court order since January 2006 to delete the posts on me judged by a court to be libelous.  More than two and a half years later, they’re still there…!  And with copy-pastes the number just keeps rising.

I don’t think this guy realizes that sooner or later, there’s going to be legislation passed that will ultimately deprive the Internet of the privacy he allows his BBS to so wantonly abuse.  More on 2ch on my blog here.  Debito in San Francisco

2channel founder says don't blame him for criminals' posts    

Hiroyuki Nishimura

2channel founder says don’t blame him for criminals’ posts

Courtesy Japan Today, undated, but downloaded August 27, 2008

Over the past few years 2 Channel (2ch) has become the largest online forum in Japan, registering up to 200 million hits a day. Launched by college student Hiroyuki Nishimura in 1999, the site is often at the center of controversy and was criticized in June after it was used by the suspect in the Akihabara stabbing rampage to announce his plans.

Freelance journalist Tetsuya Shibui interviews Nishimura for Shukan Post.

The suspect in the Akihabara rampage has told police he killed people because his messages were ignored on 2ch. 

That case has nothing to do with us. I don’t believe he killed people just because he was ignored online. He says he doesn’t have friends. But it’s not surprising people like him don’t have friends. But that alone cannot be a reason for murder. It’s too simple to think the Internet causes such crimes.

Many crime announcements have been made on 2ch since the Akihabara case. Do you have any plans to change the site?

Not at all. 2Ch has clear rules of use that allow people to request deletion of messages and a system to report inappropriate messages.

Don’t you think it’s irresponsible for you to make your users take all the responsibility?

I don’t think so. I always cooperate with police when I think some messages clearly indicate a crime may be involved and when police request disclosure of posters’ information such as IP addresses, we oblige.

2ch also carries information on how to commit crimes, does it not?

No, no, no. Many people misunderstand 2ch. It has links to other websites which might contain information like how to make a bomb, but that’s a matter for other websites to address, not 2ch.

However, 2ch recently carried detailed information on the spate of hydrogen sulfide gas suicides. 

Yes, 2ch did carry that kind of information. But that’s copy and paste information copied from other websites. It’s the mainstream media which is spreading information that 2ch has that kind of information. Those who were not interested in such information have suddenly become interested in 2ch through newspaper coverage. Why don’t those media criticize themselves?

Are you saying you have no responsibility because other websites have the same information.

Well, let me ask you a question. Is there any evidence that the Internet has led to an increase in crimes? I’ve never seen any such evidence. The Internet is just a tool and all tools have side effects. Look at cars. Do you blame car makers when accidents are caused by speeding? I have my own logic to justify what I’m doing. People can submit information freely on the Internet. Anti-Internet people are just afraid of the unknown potential of the Internet which has a short history.

Perhaps, one reason for the fear is not the “unknown,” as you cal it, but the anonymity of the information. Why don’t make your users post messages using their real names?

I disagree. Even Social Network Services which have greater transparency have trouble and contain inappropriate information. It totally depends on users when dealing with inappropriate information. Those who cannot make judgments by themselves or don’t like 2ch should not use it.

What do you think about the information filter for minors

I support information filtering measures for kids because they are not capable of making proper judgments on information they get from the Internet. If I had a kid, I would give him/her a mobile phone without an Internet connection function. I think the issue has to be debated nationwide.

You’ve been ignoring lawsuits against you for defamation for years, and you don’t pay compensation that courts have ordered you to make.

Yes, that’s correct. I’ve received more than 100 lawsuits so far. It’s time consuming, but recently, I’ve been working on about 30 legal cases. I’m seeing how it goes. The reason why I don’t pay compensation is that I think I am not responsible for what others post. If I were posting death threats or whatever, then I must pay. But I’m just a manager of 2ch. I don’t feel guilty at all.

Why don’t you make a system to check inappropriate messages?

It’s difficult even for legal professionals to distinguish between legal and illegal content. If we were to delete messages, 2ch would cease to be a forum where people can freely post. Unless there is a court order, we will not delete any messages.

Have you ever thought of closing 2ch?

Never. That’s because we currently monopolize this sort of business in Japan.

Your income is reported to be around 100 million yen acquired from online ads and book sales.

Yes, that’s about right.

What do your parents think of your business and all the flak?

My father is an ex-tax officer. But we have never talked about our businesses to each other. When I go home sometimes, he just says to me: “Go ahead with what you’re doing.” (Translated by Taro Fujimoto)

Japan Times Community Page on upcoming movie on divorce and child abduction in Japan


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  More attention being given this movie, which I have seen previews of and can attest that it will be worth seeing.  Debito in San Francisco

Coming out of the shadows 

Filmmakers tackle contentious issue of parents’ abduction of children to Japan

THE JAPAN TIMES, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008

Special to The Japan Times

“We judge that it will be best for the child that the (parent) pray from the shadows for his healthy upbringing. If worried about the child, ask about him through others, secretly watch him from behind a wall, and be satisfied with what is heard about the way he is growing up. Acting in accordance with emotion, even if based on love, will cause the child misfortune. Suppressing emotions for the sake of one’s child — that is the true love of a (parent) toward a child.’


News photo
Better days: Canadian Murray Wood plays with his children, Taka and Mana, before their abduction. COURTESY OF DAVID HEARN


Imagine the trauma of the mother being permanently denied visitation with her own children in this family court decision handed down by the Tokyo High Court. Being told to pray, watch and love “from the shadows.”

Imagine losing contact with your children after your spouse files a domestic-abuse grievance, causing an immediate and renewable six-month restraining order to be issued in response to real or fabricated “abuse” for which not an iota of evidence is required. Next, imagine permanently losing custody of, and contact with, your children when the ruling favors your spouse because he or she has been caring for the children while these orders have kept you away.

As a 4-year-old child, imagine being told that your father murdered your mother by creating and then releasing into her body a demonic bug that crawled up inside of her and festered on her innards.

Sound awful? Well, welcome to the hell of parental child abduction and custody battles, Japanese style.

In January 2006, David Hearn, Matthew Antell and Sean Nichols began research on a documentary film that would dramatically affect their lives over the next few years.

They had heard about high-profile cases of parental child abduction, such as the two children of Murray Wood being abducted from their home in Canada by their Japanese mother, but these filmmakers had not yet realized all the muck they would have to work through in order to gain a clearer understanding of what has increasingly become Japan’s own scarlet letter.

News photo
Capital location: Filmmakers Matthew Antell (left) and David Hearn take a break from filming in Washington, D.C.

For those new to the topic of child abduction, here are the basics:

The parent who has physical custody of the children and has established a routine for them for the duration of at least a few weeks when divorce is filed is granted custody in virtually every case.

Japan has neither statutes nor judicial precedents providing for joint custody. When divorce occurs, either the father or mother receives custody. Visitation is not a substantive right that can be asserted by parents.

In 2006, there were 257,475 divorces involving 150,050 children. Fathers maintained custody of all children 14.9 percent of the time, down from 48.7 percent in 1950, and custody of at least one of several children 3.6 percent of the time, down from 11 percent in 1950.

A parent attempting to take children outside Japan can possibly be arrested if charges are processed before the children exit the country. A married Dutchman was arrested in 2000 and sentenced the following year for doing exactly that after his Japanese wife objected to him taking their daughter to visit the young girl’s dying grandfather. If children are unlawfully removed from Japan, every attempt will usually be made by law enforcement in the destination country to return the children to Japan if the destination country is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Japan has not signed this treaty so children abducted to Japan are not returned. One source has reported that Japan plans to sign this treaty by 2010.

Now, back to the movie.

Earlier this month, I sat down with director David Hearn to inquire about the progress of his documentary on this most contentious subject.

What is the working title for the film and when do you expect to have it completed? We initially titled the film “For Taka and Mana” in response to the unlimited access and cooperation so generously provided to us by Murray Wood. We have since changed the title to “From the Shadows” because we will also be highlighting cases involving many others who have had to endure the tragedy of losing a child in this often cruel manner.

We have conducted scores of interviews with those involved in these tragedies — parents, children, government officials, and experts on the subject — and we hope to complete the film in time to enter it in several film festivals next year. We have been humbled by the generosity of so many, but how quickly we can finish and the quality of the film is dependent on our fundraising from here forward, so we ask that people do what they can do to be of assistance. Information and clips can be found at our Web site, In custody cases in Japan, possession is actually more than nine-tenths of the law, isn’t it? Certainly. The parent who has the children keeps them 99 percent of the time.

Before divorce occurs, lawyers, divorce advisers and legal experts routinely advise their clients to get the kids and run. The application for divorce can then be submitted from the new setup, and the left-behind parent can be left with absolutely no information about the relocation of the children.

Once the divorce process has begun, the court will all too commonly ignore how the new setup was achieved, and instead justify it as now being “in the best interests of the child” so that a stable environment can be maintained.

And even if the court were to rule in favor of the noncustodial side, there is no legal entity, such as police or a child welfare agency, to enforce the ruling if one side does not live up to its responsibilities as dictated by the court. So, in the very rare case when the court does rule in favor of the noncustodial parent, it can be worth no more than the paper it is printed on if the physical custody-holder simply holds on to the children.

According to Colin P. A. Jones, a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto, “With little or no enforcement mechanisms, the family court fails to protect children and their parents.” How are the children affected by these highly emotional clashes? We have interviewed a number of children involved in these battles, and sadly what is most often lost in the shuffle is the psychological damage done to these children caught in the middle. There are numerous horror stories. Unfortunately, the custodial parent often abuses his or her authority by dispensing information to the children about the other parent to paint a scenario that works best for the custodial parent no matter how devious or outright false the information is. This behavior is defined widely as parental alienation syndrome. Despite its acceptance in courts in most Western countries, it is entirely unrecognized in Japan. Aren’t some parents able to individually agree on and work out visitation arrangements? For those custodial parents who permit it, the standard of one visit for a couple of hours a month is about average. Though considerably less than Western standards, most participating parents agree it is better than nothing. This might be the one silver lining of this entire issue. Slowly, more custodial parents are seeing the benefits for the child to meet the noncustodial parent even when by law they are not required to do so.

However, the legal shortcomings make visitation for the noncustodial parent a very touchy situation. He or she must play by the rules of the custodial parent, and visitation is often changed or simply halted, many times for very frivolous reasons, such as if the noncustodial parent begins dating. How did you react to the report that Japan may become a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction by 2010? Hopeful, but not yet convinced. This was reported by only one news outlet and the details of the source were very vague. We do not know the source, and we have not been able to confirm the report. But, we remain hopeful.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo puts the number of active abduction cases involving American children at 80. That’s just from the United States. So we have hundreds, if not thousands, of children in this country who have had to endure the loss of a living, usually loving, parent — one who desires to see and interact with his or her children. Our film aims to inspire an open discussion on this issue and encourage a more critical review of this “take the kids and run” mentality that has become so prevalent.

Children are losing contact with their parents every day and one has to wonder, is this the best Japan can do? Do we want to continue to hurt the children involved and push loving parents off into the shadows?

Send comments on this issue and story ideas to

Very good report on Japanese criminal justice system from British Channel 4


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  Here’s a very good report on the Japanese criminal justice system and the upcoming lay judge “reforms” from Britain’s Channel Four.  Courtesy of Gary.


More information on the issue from

Some testimonial from somebody who went through the interrogation process here and beat the rap:

More information on the interrogation process here:

Do not get arrested in Japan.  Debito

Japan Times on how divorce and child custody in Japan is not a fair fight


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Custody battles: an unfair fight

Japan Times Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008


“Sport at its best obliterates divisions between peoples, such as ostentatious flag-waving and exaggerated national sentiment.” New York Times senior writer Howard W. French — who has covered China for the past five years, was Tokyo bureau chief from 1999 to 2003, and has lived overseas for all but 3 1/2 years since 1979 — made this astute observation last month after staying up most of the night in Shanghai to watch the remarkable five-set Wimbledon final between Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Switzerland’s Roger Federer.

News photo

Only four days into the long-awaited Beijing Olympics, we can only lament the regression that has taken place after only a month and will most certainly intensify over the next 12 days, in what media often infuses into our very beings as “us vs. them.” Unfortunately, here in Japan, it is not only the media that eagerly participates in this engine of propaganda — it’s the education system itself.

As many may know, in response to new curriculum guidelines introduced in the 2002 school year that included the fostering of “feelings of love for one’s country” as an objective for sixth-grade social studies, students at a number of public elementary schools around the nation have since been subjected to evaluations on their love for Japan. Moreover, in December 2006 this country’s basso ostinato of excessive pride bordering on jingoistic fanaticism ground on as the ruling bloc in the Diet forced through revisions to the Fundamental Law of Education by removing a reference to “respecting the value of the individual” and instead calling on schools to cultivate in students a “love of the national homeland.”

But what impact does this have on families here in which one parent is Japanese and the other is not? A relationship between individuals from different countries will generally experience great friction when one or both of the partners remain more committed to their nationality than they do to their spouse — in other words, when they are more married to their country than they are to each other. And this can become exacerbated when children are encouraged to side with one country or the other. Or, in Japan’s case, taught to love Nippon and then graded on patriotism.

One year ago, The Japan Times (Zeit Gist, Aug. 7) printed some findings of mine that showed that there is a 21.1-percent likelihood that a man who marries a Japanese national will do the following: create at least one child with his spouse (85.2 percent probability), then divorce within the first 20 years of marriage (31 percent), and subsequently lose custody of any children (80 percent). And in a country such as Japan — one that has no visitation rights and neither statutes nor judicial precedents providing for joint custody — loss of custody often translates into complete loss of contact, depending on the desire of the mother.

And if this figure is not startling enough, this year’s calculation using more current data would leave us with an even higher likelihood: 22 percent. Having this information, we must now ask a question that most of us would dread presenting to a friend in a fog of engagement glee: Is it the behavior of a wise man to pursue a course of action that has such a high probability of leaving your future children without any contact with their own father?

Most of us enter a marriage with the realization that divorce is a possibility. Of course, we don’t hope for a breakup, but we accept that unions do occasionally dissolve, and heartbreak — usually temporary — will often result. However, do we ever enter marriage thinking beyond our own selves to the realization that there is a substantial likelihood that our own children — our personal flesh and blood — will be ripped from our lives? Doubtful. But in this country, this loss happens to one in every four fathers. Does it happen more to non-Japanese men? Most likely not. The divorce-to-marriage ratio for relationships between Japanese women and foreign men was nearly 39 percent in 2006. For the entire nation it was 41 percent.

And non-Japanese women married to Japanese men should not rest too comfortably either. Their divorce-to-marriage ratio was over 38 percent in 2006. And even though mothers are usually awarded custody of children, it has been widely reported that foreign parents here in Japan are almost never successful in custody claims, and even if the foreign parent is lucky enough to eventually be granted custody, effecting such a court order may prove very difficult because law enforcement generally prefers to remain uninvolved in these complicated, emotion-filled cases. According to Colin P. A. Jones, a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto, “family courts will usually do what is easy, and giving custody to the Japanese parent is usually going to be easier.”

David Hearn, director of “From the Shadows” ( ), a documentary in production about child abduction by parents and relatives in Japan, says that he has so far come across only two cases in which non-Japanese had physical custody going into divorce proceedings and received custody at the ruling. And in one of these two cases, the Japanese parent did not put up much of a fight for the children.

According to Hearn, “Whoever has the children when proceedings begin gets sole custody of the children in virtually every case. It’s then easy to understand why parents do such cruel things to each other, and the kids, to get physical custody before divorce is petitioned for and custody is decided in family court.”

Now, when criticism of Japan or the Japanese system is presented, two forms of rebuttal are common: 1) It’s just as bad or worse elsewhere (as if this somehow justifies poor conditions here); or 2) It has never happened to me (as if a pattern can’t exist unless that particular person is part of it).

When it comes to comparisons of countries, the United States is generally one that is used as a benchmark. And the likelihood of the above progression — from marriage to parenthood to divorce to loss of custody — is slightly greater, at 25.9 percent, in the United States. However, joint custody has become an integral part of U.S. society, and even though 68 percent of mothers receive both sole legal and physical custody in a U.S. divorce, a man who truly desires custody and makes the effort to obtain such is usually going to be accorded some form of it.

As for the second type of criticism — it has never happened to me — well, good for you! Me neither.

So, what is a foreigner deeply in love with a Japanese national and eager to make little Himes and Taros to do? Residing outside Japan is probably the best option. Japan has yet to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but is reportedly planning to do so by 2010. For the most part, overseas courts would accord greater protection of custodial rights for both parents. And we can only hope that changes that will need to be made to comply with this treaty will encourage alterations to law that will encourage the introduction of joint custody here in Japan.

But as we continue through this Olympic week and into the next — weeks that are sure to be filled with intense, core-emanating, possibly desperate cries for the success of ‘ol “NI-PPON,” followed by tears that deprive one of breath, or jubilation that rivals life’s greatest climaxes — perhaps we should review the intended purpose of these games, as exemplified in the Olympic Creed: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

This creed could also apply to marriage, parenthood and divorce. There is a reason why pride is one of the seven deadly sins: When winning takes precedence in any of these joint endeavors, a great mess is usually left by the one who has triumphed and conquered, and the remaining institution is left blackened. Those in mixed marriages would be wise to tread carefully during these Olympic weeks. Or better yet, cheer for Iceland!

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OYAKO NET Meeting and rally July 13th Tokyo: The First Conference of the Nationwide Network For Realizing Visitation In Japan


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

“Why can’t we meet?—the children and parents after divorce—”


The First Conference of the Nationwide Network For Realizing Visitation In Japan

l     July 13th 2008  Open 12:30pm, 13:00~16:30

l     Academy Meidai  Gakusyu-Shitu A, Kasuga 2-9-5 Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo

(Tel 03-3817-8306) 15 minutes-walk from Kourakuen station or Myo-ga-dani station. (Tokyo Metro, Marunouchi-line)

l     1. Guest Speaker Subjects: “Children in the custody battle.”

Paul Wong, US citizen, Attorney at law admitted in California.

After the death of his wife, he has been alienated from his daughter by his wife’s parents who alleged Wong’s child abuse.

Misuzu Yuki (an alias)

Yuki was forced to leave home by her ex-husband after he had declared divorce in front of their children. Her ex-husband’s attorney prevented her from having contact with the children in the mediation session. Yuki cannot see her three children now.

Mitsuru Munakata

He cannot see his biological child from the common law marriage or his stepchild. His ex-common law wife registered Munakata’s child under her new husband’s family registration without his consent. Thus, Munakata has little possibility to contact his children. His ex-wife has not appeared at the mediation.

2. Lecture: “Joint Parenting After Divorce and ‘The Best Interest of the Children.’”

Takao Tanase, Chuo Law School Professor of Sociology of Law, Attorney at Law.

Tanase is the author of “Visitation and Parenting Rights after Divorce—Study of Comparative Legal Structure” (“Kenri-no Gensetsu” Keisou-Shobou, 2003) and many other books.

l       Question, discussion, and report from the Oyako-Net about lobbing the Diet members and local council initiatives.

l       Street Demonstration 16:30~

l       Admission  \1,000

The Nationwide Network For Realizing Visitation In Japan, Tel 042-573-4010 (Space 1)

e-mail  blog




We demand that the government of Japan enact laws of visitation and support adequate visitation so that children can maintain sincere relationships with non-custodial parents after separation or divorce.

We urge that the sole custody system be replaced into a system where both parents can share responsibilities to care for children after separation or divorce.

In Japan, only the parents that have possessing the children can decide on visitation between the children and the other parents. Since we, non-custodial parents, legally cease to be parents of our children after divorce, no remedy do we have to enforce our visitation agreement made by the mediation or granted by the court.

Until today, few have criticized this inhumane treatment: worse, we suffer from discrimination by the public who consider non-custodial parents lacking in parenting skills.

It is time to establish an adequate visitation system.

The parents are divorcing; yet, the children are not divorcing from their parents.
Children have the right to maintain regular and personal contact with their parents. In fact, alienating children from non-custodial parents, without just reasons, not only harms the children psychologically, but also violates the rights of children under the UN Convention.

Lacking of stipulation for joint custody and visitation, indeed, exacerbates custodial battles in Japan. Parental abduction, abusing of habeas corps, false allegation of domestic violence and child abuse is prevalent.

Children are suffering from this outdated Japanese family law.
It is time to establish an adequate visitation system.

No longer will we tolerate this ongoing plight. In order to protect children from discrimination or misery after parent’s divorce, we establish a network to; exchange information and opinion; press the Judiciary, the Executive, the Legislature, and local councils to enact laws and systems to comply with the UN Convention.

On July 13th 2008, we will have the first conference of Oyako Network.

We urge your support!