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) http://www.city.bunkyo.lg.jp/gmap/detail.php?id=1995

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 oyakonet2008@yahoo.co.jp  blog http://blog.goo.ne.jp/oyakonet




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!


7月13日文京区で「なぜ会えないの? 離婚後の親子」親子の面会交流を実現する全国ネットワーク発足集会


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
—– (Japanese translation of Oyakonet  (July 13 event))

「なぜ会えないの? 離婚後の親子」


■日時 7月13日12:30会場13:00開始〜16:30

■場所 文京区立アカデミー茗台会議室A


■ 内容


ポール・ワン 米国籍。日本国籍の妻の死別後、義父母によって娘と引き離され、児童虐待をでっち上げられて訴訟に

結城みすず(仮名) 子どもの前で夫に突然離婚を告げられ家を出される。弁護士にも調停でも二次被害を受ける。次第に面会を制約され現在は3人の子どもと会えていない

宗像 充 事実婚のため人身保護法により親権者である元妻と同棲相手のもとに子どもを移され、引き離しの間に養子に入れられた。面接交渉調停に相手は出てこない




■参加費 1000円(どなたでも参加できます。賛同者は無料)

■主催 親子の面会交流を実現する全国ネットワーク

■ 連絡先 042−573−4010(スペースF)

メール oyakonet2008@yahoo.co.jp

ブログ http://blog.goo.ne.jp/oyakonet






JT/Kyodo: “Innocents” apprehended by police rise to 2.9%!


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 some “good news”–the benefit of the doubt for innocent people has gone up by a factor of 28.  From 0.1% to 2.9%.  Wow. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)  A “more strict assessment of evidence”–what a revolutionary concept! (ditto).  Debito in Sapporo


‘Innocent rate’ rises to highest in decade

Japan Times Kyodo News, Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Courtesy of Mark MT and Todd Stradford

The Supreme Court said Monday that 2.9 percent of defendants who pleaded not guilty to criminal charges were found innocent at their initial trials in 2007, marking the highest level in a decade.

Other data by the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office indicated that more district courts have declined to accept depositions, which show defendants’ confessions, as evidence. In several cases, the focus of dispute was whether the confessions were voluntary and/or credible.

The circumstances suggest district courts are applying a more strict assessment of evidence prior to the introduction next year of the lay judge system, in which ordinary people will take part in criminal trials along with professional judges.

The so-called innocent rate at the initial trial level was up from 2.6 percent in 2006 after hovering above 2 percent since 2003, according to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Affairs Bureau. It hovered between 1.2 percent and 1.9 percent from 1998 to 2002.

District courts handed down rulings on 69,238 defendants last year, of whom 4,984 denied the charges against them as their trials opened.

Of the defendants pleading innocent, 97 were found fully innocent and 48 partially innocent. Among their trials were 896 serious cases, such as murder and arson, that will require the involvement of citizen judges. In the serious category, 19 of the defendants were found completely or partially innocent.

Separate data from the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office indicated that district courts rejected depositions as evidence in 10 of the 70 cases last year in which the voluntary nature of the confessions was challenged.

The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Japan’s Supreme Court rules Japan’s marriage requirement for Japanese nationality unconstitutional


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 think this will be the best news we’ll hear all year:

Thanks to the vagaries (and there are lots of them) of Japan’s koseki Family Registry system, if a child is born out of wedlock to a Japanese man and a NJ woman, and the father’s parentage is not acknowledged BEFORE birth, Japanese citizenship up to now has NOT been conferred.  Japanese citizenship is still NOT conferred EVEN IF the J man acknowledges parentage AFTER birth.  

(If the situation was reversed i.e. J mother-NJ father, it doesn’t matter–obviously the mother and child share Japanese blood, therefore Japanese citizenship is conferred.  Of course, the NJ father has no custody rights, but that’s a separate issue…  More in HANDBOOK pp 270-2.)

But as NHK reported tonight, that leaves tens of thousands of J children with J blood (the main requirement for Japanese citizenship) either without Japanese citizenship, or completely *STATELESS* (yes, that means they can never leave the country–they can’t get a passport!).  It’s inhumane and insane.

But the Japanese Supreme Court finally recognized that, and ruled this situation unconstitutional–conferring citizenship to ten international children plaintiffs.  Congratulations!

News photo

Photo by Kyodo News

(NHK 7PM also reported last night that three Supreme Court judges wrote dissents to the ruling, some claiming that the Diet should pass a law on this, not have the judiciary legislate from the bench.  Yeah, sure, wait for enough of the indifferent LDP dullards in the Diet to finally come round, sounds like a plan; not.)

Read on.  I’ll add more articles to this blog entry as they come online with more detail.  One more step in the right direction for Japan’s internationalizing and multiculturalizing society!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Top court says marriage requirement for nationality unconstitutional

TOKYO, June 4, 2008 KYODO


     The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a Nationality Law article requiring parents to be married in order for their children to receive Japanese nationality, ruling in favor of 10 Japanese-Filipino children.

     The top court’s grand bench made the landmark decision in two separate cases, filed in 2003 by one such child and in 2005 by a group of nine who were born out of wedlock to Japanese fathers and Filipino mothers and who obtained recognition of the paternity of their fathers after birth.

     After the ruling, the children — boys and girls aged 8 to 14 years who live in areas in eastern and central Japan — and their mothers celebrated in the courtroom by exchanging hugs, with some bursting into tears.

     One of the children, Jeisa Antiquiera, 11, told a press conference after the ruling, ”I want to travel to Hawaii with on Japanese passport.”

     One mother, Rossana Tapiru, 43, said, ”I am so happy that we could prove that society can be changed,” while another said, ”It was truly a long and painful battle.”

     Hironori Kondo, lawyer in one of the two cases, said it is the eighth top court ruling that has found a law unconstitutional in the postwar period and that ”it will have a significant bearing on the situation facing foreign nationals in Japan.”

     Yasuhiro Okuda, law professor at Chuo University who has submitted an opinion on the case to the Supreme Court, said that in the past 20 years tens of thousands of children are estimated to have been born out of wedlock to foreign mothers, citing data by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

     A majority of the 15 justices including Presiding Justice Niro Shimada on the grand bench ruled the Nationality Law clause goes against the Constitution.

     The justices said in a statement, ”there might have been compelling reasons that the parents’ marriages signify their child’s close ties with Japan at the time of the provision’s establishment in 1984.”

     ”But it cannot be said that the idea necessarily matches current family lifestyles and structures, which have become diversified,” they said.

     In light of the fact that obtaining nationality is essential in order for basic human rights to be guaranteed in Japan, ”the disadvantage created by such discriminatory treatment cannot easily be overlooked,” the justices stated in the document.

     Without nationality, these children face the threat of forced displacement in some cases and are not granted rights to vote when they reach adulthood, according to lawyer Genichi Yamaguchi, who represented the other case.

     Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a press conference following the ruling, ”I believe the government needs to take the verdict seriously, and we will discuss what steps should be taken after examining the ruling carefully.”

     Three justices countered the majority argument, saying it is not reasonable to take into consideration the recent trend in Western countries that have enacted laws authorizing nationality for children outside marriages, on the grounds that the countries’ social situations differ from that in Japan.

     In both of the cases, the Tokyo District Court in its April 2005 and March 2006 rulings granted the children’s claims, determining that the differentiation set by the parents’ marital status is unreasonable and that the Nationality Law’s Article 3 infringes Article 14 of the Constitution, which provides for equality for all.

     Overturning the decisions, however, the Tokyo High Court in February 2006 and February 2007 refused to pronounce on any constitutional decisions, saying it is the duty of the state to decide who is eligible for nationality, not the courts.

     Under Japan’s Nationality Law that determines citizenship based on bloodline, a child born in wedlock to a foreign mother and Japanese father is automatically granted Japanese nationality.

     A child born outside a marriage, however, can only obtain nationality if the father admits paternity while the child is in the mother’s womb. If the father recognizes the child as his only after the child’s birth, the child is unable to receive citizenship unless the parents get married.

     In short, the parents’ marital status determines whether the child with after-birth paternal recognition can obtain nationality.

     Children born to Japanese mothers are automatically granted Japanese nationality, irrespective of the nationality of the father and whether they are married.

==Kyodo  ENDS



June 6, 2008
Giving children their due


In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a Nationality Law clause that denies Japanese nationality to a child born out of wedlock to a foreign woman and Japanese man even if the man recognizes his paternity following the birth.

It thus granted Japanese nationality to 10 children who were born out of wedlock to Filipino women and Japanese men. The ruling deserves praise for clearly stating that the clause violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law. The government should immediately revise the law.

The 12-3 grand bench decision concerned two lawsuits filed by the 10 children aged 8 to 14, all living in Japan. The Tokyo District Court, in two rulings, had found the clause unconstitutional, thus granting Japanese nationality to the children. But the Tokyo High Court had overturned the rulings without addressing the issue of constitutionality.

Under the Nationality Law, a child born to a foreign woman married to a Japanese man automatically becomes a Japanese national. Japanese nationality is also granted to a child of an unmarried foreign woman and Japanese man if the man recognizes his paternity before the child is born. If paternal recognition comes after a child’s birth, however, the child is not eligible for Japanese nationality unless the couple marries.

The law lays emphasis on both bloodline and marriage because they supposedly represent the “close connection” of couples and their children with Japan.

The Supreme Court, however, not only pointed out that some foreign countries are scrapping such discriminatory treatment of children born out of wedlock but also paid attention to social changes. It said that in view of changes in people’s attitude toward, and the diversification of, family life and parent-child relationships, regarding marriage as a sign of the close connection with Japan does not agree with today’s reality.

The ruling is just and reasonable because children who were born and raised in Japan but do not have Japanese nationality are very likely to face disadvantages in Japanese society.

The Japan Times: Friday, June 6, 2008

Japan Times’ Colin Jones on Japan’s offer to sign Hague Convention on Child Abductions by 2010


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 professional assessment by legal scholar Colin Jones in the Japan Times, on Japan’s recent offer to sign the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, and promise to do something about Japan becoming a haven for international kidnapping. As Colin puts it, results remain to be seen–when an abducted child to Japan actually gets returned. But it’s never happened.  

And I know from personal experience that Japan’s signing a treaty doesn’t mean the legal structure actually enforces it, such as in the case of racial discrimination in Japan. Read on:


Hard work begins once Japan signs child-abduction treaty
By COLIN P.A. JONES, June 3, 2008



News photo

If my own mailbox is any indicator, the Internet is buzzing as international family lawyers, family rights activists and others share an exciting piece of news: Japan is reportedly planning to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction! Perhaps Japan’s days as a haven for international parental child abduction are numbered. Perhaps Japanese courts will stop giving the judicial seal of approval to one parent’s selfish desire to erase the other from a child’s life. Fingers crossed.

Though one could question the timing of the very low-key announcement two months before the Hokkaido G8 Summit, the Japanese authorities should be commended for taking what will be a big step forward in the sphere of private international law. The concerted pressure of diplomats from a number of countries (including several G8 nations) who have pushed Japan on this issue for years, and the efforts of activists often parents who have lost any hope of being part of their own children’s lives but have continued to speak up for the benefit of others must also be acknowledged and appreciated.

I must confess to having been skeptical that this would happen so soon (it could happen as early as 2010) if at all. I will be glad–ecstatic–to be proved wrong. However, I do not plan to crack open any champagne until an abducted child is actually returned home. International treaties, like marriages and childbirth, are events to be celebrated, but all of the hard work comes afterward.

By entering into the convention, Japan will be agreeing with other signatory countries that children wrongfully brought to Japan even by a parent will be promptly returned. One key aspect of the convention is that it limits the role of judges in these decisions. Rather than deciding whether remaining in Japan is in a child’s best interests (which has almost always been the conclusion of Japanese judges in abduction cases), in cases under the convention judges are limited to deciding whether a child has been brought from his or her home country “wrongfully” (in violation of foreign law or court orders, without the consent of the other parent, etc.). If the removal is found to be wrongful, absent exceptional circumstances the judge is supposed to order the child’s return. All this is supposed to happen on an expedited basis in order to prevent a new status quo from developing in the child’s living environment.

Two other aspects of the convention are noteworthy. First, signatory countries are obliged to help locate abducted children. This would be a great improvement over the current situation in Japan, where parents who are able to commence what is likely to be hopelessly futile litigation in Japan’s family courts are actually the lucky ones, since this means they at least know where their children are. Less lucky parents have to try and find their children somewhere in the country, often disadvantaged by barriers of language and culture. The act of trying to find or communicate with your own child may even be deemed a form of stalking.

Second, the convention protects rights of access (or visitation, as it is called in some countries). Thus even foreign parents who do not have custody over their children can use the convention to try to preserve contact with children brought to Japan. Courts in some convention countries have been aggressive in interpreting this provision to ensure that even a parent with full custody does not use those rights to frustrate visitation by the other by relocating to a foreign country. Since Japanese courts typically only award visitation if both parents agree, and visitation orders are unenforceable anyway, any improvement in this area would be welcome.

Enforcement of return orders is likely to be the big hurdle for Japan in implementing the convention. Enforcement is an obstacle even in strictly domestic disputes between Japanese parents over child abduction or denial of access. Since family court orders are unenforceable, one wonders what will happen when the first return order is issued by a Japanese judge under the convention. It is, after all, clearly limited to the civil aspects of child abduction it does not require that children be returned by force.

In the U.S. or Canada, whether a case arises under the convention or not, court orders are backed by quasi-criminal sanctions such as contempt. In some states interfering with custody or visitation is itself a criminal offense. Even if it is not, a parent in these countries seeking to enforce access rights or the return of a child can usually call upon the police to help them. In extreme cases intransigent parents resisting enforcement may be arrested or jailed.

In Japan, however, police typically do not get involved in family matters or in the enforcement of court orders in civil matters. The only remedy available to parents with even a whiff of penal sanction involved is habeas corpus (which requires an abducting parent to appear with the child in court), though access to this remedy in disputes between parents has been limited by the Supreme Court.

It seems unlikely that Japan joining the convention alone would change this basic aspect of the country’s legal system, since it would involve the police (and prosecutors) in a vast new area of law enforcement family disputes when only a tiny fraction of such disputes would involve the Hague Convention. Perhaps some enforcement mechanism limited to convention cases will be developed, though it would be an odd (though not impossible) result if parents and children from abroad got a better deal in the Japanese legal system than those actually living in Japan. Furthermore, bureaucratic imperatives being at least as important as actual law in Japan, it is difficult to imagine how the police and prosecutors could ever find it in their interests to be arresting Japanese parents (more often than not mothers) in order to return Japanese children to foreigners.

Thus, if Japan joins the convention, its implementation may develop in one of three ways. First, it may be implemented as it is in other major countries and abducted children will be returned through its procedures–great! Or judges will issue return orders that prove impossible to enforce, leaving things largely as they are now. Perhaps convention cases will be given greater access to habeas corpus, which could be an improvement.

A third possibility, however, is that rather than issuing orders they know are unenforceable (or to avoid being seen as favoring foreigners), judges aggressively take advantage of the exceptions in the convention. One of these is that children do not need to be returned if it would “expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.” In some countries this exception is limited to cases where the child would be returned to a war zone, or similar situations. However, if the reasons used for denying visitation are any indicator–excessive present-buying, visitation making the custodial parent ill, etc. are any indicator, the bar for applying the psychological harm exception may end up being low.

Under the convention, another reason for refusing to return the child is if “the child objects and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of its views.” Since the convention does not specify what this age is, it gives courts a high degree of flexibility. Thus Japanese courts could continue to reward parental alienation by placing the burden of deciding on children. Getting children to say “I don’t want to see Daddy/Mommy” seems to work pretty well for getting a court to deny visitation, so getting them to say “I want to stay in Japan with Daddy/Mommy/Grandma” may work in convention cases too.

I feel like a bit of a wet blanket writing this. Make no mistake, it will be great if Japan actually does join the convention. Whatever help Japanese authorities need in understanding and implementing the convention should be offered unstintingly. Anything which improves the situation of children abducted to Japan is to be applauded. And if joining the convention somehow leads to improvements for the many more Japanese children in strictly domestic cases who lose one parent through judicial action (or inaction), it would be almost revolutionary.

Colin P.A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha University Law School. Send comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp
The Japan Times: Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Terrie’s Take 469: GOJ to sign Hague Convention on Child Abduction by 2010


Hi Blog. The GOJ recently told the United Nations Human Rights Council that it suddenly has an interest in upholding international treaty against child abductions. Witness:

Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Second session, Geneva, 5 – 19 May 2008
A/HRC/WG.6/2/L.10 14 May 2008
6. “Responding to various written questions submitted in advance, Japan stated its
willingness to cooperate with Special Rapporteurs, including arranging visits to the country
as time permits. Japan was also studying the relationship between the provisions of the
Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture protocol and domestic legislation,
including on how the “visits” mentioned in the protocol will be carried out in practice. It
stated that it regards the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child
Abduction and the Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, and
Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of
Children as effective tools for children’s rights and welfare, and will continue to study the
possible conclusion of the two conventions by giving due consideration to, inter alia, the
current social system, and the cultural situation of Japan.”


(More excerpts on Debito.org here.)


Well, what a nice little article in ABC News and a bit of pressure from a couple of governments won’t do! As witnessed in this nice little roundup in Terrie’s Take from last weekend. Forwarding in its entirety. Bests, 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 18, 2008 Issue No. 469 (excerpt)

Two weeks ago, the Japanese government made a notable announcement that may make Japan more compatible with the legal conventions used internationally, and will be of particular benefit to non-Japanese spouses of Japanese. The announcement was that by 2010, Japan would sign the the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international legal construct that attempts to deal with the thorny issue of court jurisdiction when children of international marriages are moved cross-border, often by a parent trying to thwart a court ruling in the previous jurisdiction.

Currently, Japan is known as a haven for disaffected Japanese spouses who, in getting divorced, abscond with their kids back to Japan. Once in Japan they can dare their foreign spouses to try getting the kids back — something that despite around 13,000 international divorces a year in Japan and more overseas, has NEVER happened.

The reason for this astounding statistic, that of zero repatriations of abducted children from international marriages after the kids have been abducted to Japan, is entirely to do with the attitudes of the Japanese judiciary and their wish to maintain 19th Century customs in the face of international pressure. Japan has ratified many parts of the Hague Convention treaties over the years, but in terms of repatriation of kids, they have been claiming for 20 years now to be “studying” the issue. That’s Japan-speak for “we’re not interested in making any changes”.

Our guess is that the recent announcement occurred after pressure from the USA and Canada, in particular. Things started to come to a head about 5 years ago, when fed up by repeating occurences of child abductions from both of those countries, and despite court decisions there for custody to go to the local parent, the consular staff of a number of these foreign embassies started holding annual summits to discuss the problem. These discussions escalated to pressure on foreign governmental agencies and politicians in some of Japan’s biggest trading partners — and finally someone spoke to the Japanese government at a sufficiently high enough level to get their attention.

The subject became especially sensitive when the Japanese were at the peak of their indignation over the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens several years ago, and were seeking international support. All the while, Japanese law allowed similar types of abductions here.

In case you’re not up on the state of play, there were 44,000 international marriages registered in Japan in 2006, and probably a good percentage of that number again of Japanese marrying overseas but not bothering to register back in Japan. The divorce rate within Japan is about 30%, and for Japanese living overseas (take the US as an example), it is typical of the local population, so more like 50%-60%. Thus there are a lot of international separations — many of which are not amicable.

But it’s when the kids are involved that things start getting really nasty. Usually in the case of a divorced international couple going to court overseas and after custody is awarded, if one of the parents fears a possible adbuction situation, the couple can be placed under a restraining order not to travel without the other spouse’s consent. The USA, Canada, Australia, and UK all do this. The kids’ passports will often be withheld as well. Unfortunately, there have been a number of cases where the Japanese spouse then “loses” the kids Japanese passports and applies to the local consulate for replacements — only to hop a flight back to Tokyo a few hours later, with the kids in tow.

Once in Japan, the jurisdiction suddenly falls to the Japanese courts, even if there is a foreign arrest warrant out for the absconding partner, and in several cases, even if there is an Interpol arrest warrant out. In Japan, there is no concept of joint custody, and the partner allowed to keep the kids is the one that has held them for the previous few months.

The courts’ opinion here is that kids need a stable environment, and the act of being the only guardian for a period of time, even if that guardian was in hiding, qualifies for this — unless the kids are under 5 years old, in which case they will typically be returned to the mother (if the father is the abscondee), or to the father if the mother has deceased. But not always. There are cases where the Japanese mother has died and the Japanese grandparents have kept the kids, instead of returning them to the foreign father. You can read more about this sad state of affairs at http://www.crnjapan.com/en/.

You won’t believe that this kind of thing is still going on in a first-world country like Japan in the 21st century.

The Japanese court attitude thereby encourages Japanese spouses wanting to hang on to their kids to hightail it back to Japan and lie low for 6 months. Currently there has been no case, even after the Japanese Supreme Court has awarded rightful custody to the foreign parent, where that aggrieved foreign parent has been able to go get their kids back. The reason is quite simply that Japan doesn’t have a mechanism for properly enforcing civil suit judgments, and typically a breach of an order in a civil suit does not result in the offender being subject to a subsequent criminal suit.

Thus, the Hague Convention on child abduction provides a mechanism whereby if children are illegally removed from their country of habitual residence, they must be returned, and the jurisdiction for subsequent court decisions is taken out of the hands of the Japanese courts. This is the first step in making international court rulings involving kids, stick.

We believe that this is going to be a long and slow process, but once the treaty is signed and the first few cases start to be heard, either the kids involved will be returned or the parent trying to hang on to them will create an international brouhaha that will highlight to the world the lack of protection of rights for international parents here in Japan. Who knows, maybe this will start another process — that of allowing foreigners actually residing within Japan to also regain the simple right of access to their children after a divorce.

But in reality we think this level of change will take several more generations and a lot more foreigners living in Japan to achieve…

Japan Today: NJ suspect acquitted by J Court, yet still detained–for overstaying his visa due to denial of bail!


Hi Blog. Here’s another way to make sure you perpetually incarcerate any NJ suspected of any crime. Even if they’ve been acquitted in court, just keep them in detention (after all, NJ aren’t allowed bail in Japan) long enough, and then you can get them for overstaying their visa! “Hostage Justice’s” safety catch for NJ only. Comment from contributor Mark Mino-Thompson and then article follows. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Seems the British Govt. has more pull here than the Swiss. Same situation as before, yet this time around the court releases a man acquitted of suspected drug smuggling, despite prosecutors wanting him detained until they appeal. Of course, he still hasn’t been freed; he’s in a gaijin tank waiting to be deported, despite the sole reason of his “overstay” was due to being in the custody of Japanese police.


Court rejects prosecution request to detain Briton after acquittal
Japan Today/Kyodo News Friday 16th May, 07:15 AM JST

TOKYO –The Tokyo High Court rejected Thursday a request by prosecutors to detain a 54-year-old British man who has been acquitted by a district court of the charge of smuggling cannabis from South Africa into Japan. The court decided that ‘‘after reviewing the grounds for and records of the ruling, detention is unwarranted.’’ The Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office had sought the man’s detention to prevent him from being deported from Japan before appeal court proceedings can begin.

The man is being held by the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau for overstaying his legally permitted period in Japan. He was arrested in August last year on suspicion of carrying a suitcase containing about 9.7 kilograms of cannabis at Narita airport, east of Tokyo, after arriving from South Africa. On May 1, the Chiba District Court acquitted him, saying there remains reasonable doubt about whether he intentionally brought in a suitcase containing cannabis.


Filipina allegedly killed by J man, one let out of jail despite killing another Filipina in past


Hi Blog. Now here’s where Japan’s judiciary gets really astounding.

We have (insufficient) news reports about a case earlier this month of a Filipina suspected of being killed by a Japanese man, and having her body parts stowed in a locker in Hamamatsu Station (yes, the one with the Monorail; how many times have I walked past that spot?).

Then it turns out this guy, Nozaki Hiroshi, had killed a Filipina some years before, and apparently tried to flush her body parts down a toilet.

For that previous crime, Nozaki was convicted, but only sentenced to three years plus. It wasn’t even judged a murder. And he got out allegedly to kill again.

Oddly enough, Nozaki’s jail sentence was only a bit more than Nigerian citizen Mr Idubor’s, and Idubor’s conviction was for alleged rape, not murder. Yet Nozaki was apparently caught red-handed, while there was no physical evidence and discrepant testimony in Idubor’s Case. Ironically, that means that under these judicial litmus tests, the women involved could have been killed and it would have made no difference in the sentencing. That is, if you’re a Japanese criminal victimizing a foreigner, it seems. It’s getting harder to argue that the J judiciary is color-blind towards judging criminals and victims.

Sorry, I’ve seen a lot of funny things come out of this judicial system. But I’m having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around this one.

Sources follow. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Murder suspect hid body parts in locker
Kyodo News/The Japan Times: Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Courtesy of notnotchris and Red at Stippy.com

A man suspected of dismembering the body of a Filipino bar hostess in a high-rise Tokyo apartment last week was arrested Monday after he attempted suicide in Saitama Prefecture, police said.

Hiroshi Nozaki, 48, slashed his wrist Sunday evening on a road in Kawaguchi and dialed 119 himself, the police said. In the ambulance on the way to a hospital, he handed a memo to rescue workers indicating where the remaining body parts of Kamiosawa Honiefaith Ratila, 22, were hidden, the police said.

His injury was not life-threatening, they said.

Based on the memo, officers found some 10 body parts, including a piece of the woman’s chest, in a coin locker at the World Trade Center in Hamamatsucho, Tokyo, the police said.

The pieces were packed in a large suitcase, but the head was still missing, the police said.

Nozaki was arrested on suspicion of mutilating a corpse. The police plan to add a murder charge. He has refused to talk to investigators, they said.

According to sources, Nozaki committed a similar crime in 2000. He was convicted and served a prison term for dismembering a 27-year-old Filipino woman he was dating, they said. He was not charged with murder due to lack of evidence.

In Thursday’s incident, a paper bag containing a severed body part of the bar hostess was found in her high-rise apartment in the Odaiba waterfront area in Minato Ward.

The bag contained a 30-sq.-cm piece of human flesh from Ratila’s waist, which was apparently severed by a knife. A blood-soaked futon was found in the kitchen, the police said.

The apartment was shared by Nozaki, Ratila and two other Filipino women who work at the same bar in the Roppongi entertainment district, according to the police.

Although they initially believed Nozaki was employed by the bar to keep tabs on the hostesses, he is unemployed.

Ratila failed to report to work Thursday night, so a roommate went to look for her.

When she got to the apartment she encountered Nozaki carrying a severed body part. She fled to a nearby police box, but he was gone by the time police arrived.

The Japan Times: Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Eye-opening roundup of the case and media sources by Red at Stippy.com. See photos and video there. Excerpting text:

What would have happened if she was an American?
Red on Apr 10 2008 at 12:25 am | Filed under: Japan: News and Media

PHOTO: Kamiosawa: Murdered and Chopped Up in Tokyo

How many of you have been following the attempted suicide of Hiroshi Nozaki (野崎浩) on April 6? I’m guessing not that many of you, because for some reason it’s not really receiving that much air time on Japanese TV. Nozaki’s suicide is particularly controversial because after calling an ambulance he gave instructions to the doctor to search in a coin locker at the Hamamatsucho Station (浜松町駅) next to the World Trade Center Building. Inside the locker was a suitcase filled with 10 chopped up body parts of a 22 year old Filipina woman, Honiefaith Ratilla Kamiosawa. As foreigners in Japan, there is more to this story than the Japanese media make out. How much different would this situation be if she were say, American? Or perhaps if she was a Japanese national, and the killer was an African American?

In case you haven’t seen the news let me give you a very brief rundown on what appears to have happened:

PHOTO: Hiroshi Nozaki – Cut up Pinay into Pieces

Nozaki shared an apartment in Odaiba with the woman and 2 of her cousins. It seems that the 3 women all worked at the same hostess club in Roppongi.

Nozaki was a regular patron of Kamiosawa’s establishment, and he was hooked on Filipino women. He offered to pay half of Kamiosawa’s rent, on the condition that he could move in with her. She accepted.
Kamiosawa and Nozaki got in to a fight after Nozaki failed to pay his share of the rent. The police believe that Nozaki murdered Kamiosawa on April 3.

After killing Kamiosawa, Nozaki carved her body up in their bath and tried to hide the cause of death by washing her in their washing machine.

Three days later, Nozaki supposedly attempted to commit suicide by slitting his wrists (hmmm) but then called an ambulance for help (hmmm) . That’s a sure fire way of ensuring that you don’t die.

VIDEO: This video is a sample nonchalant media coverage that this case got on Japanese TV (Japanese language). The last line in the story regarding the washing machine trick is particularly interesting. Translation: “It is thought that Nozaki washed the parts of the body in a washing machine before putting them in a suitcase. The police are thinking about whether to charge him with Murder also”.

This alone is a pretty horrific story. But I ask you, Why isn’t this a bigger issue? Why isn’t it getting more press? Why is it that the life of a Filipino is deemed to be so worthless? Would it have been any different if she was an American? Of course it would have. It would be a high profile international crime case. President Bush would be knocking on Fukuda’s door. I know that Japan is an important country for the Philippines but come on? Where is the power of your politicians? Why aren’t they making a bigger issue of this? The future of the Philippines rides on the success of its overseas workers, it can’t afford to allow Japan to get away with something like this? Has anybody seen any comments from the Embassy?

PHOTO: Coin Lockers at the Tokyo Monorail; Hamamatsucho Station where the body was found

What makes it even worse, is that it is not the first time that this has happened. In fact it is not even the first time that this man has carved up a pinay! I can hear your jaw dropping and hitting the floor right now. Nozaki was arrested and sentenced in 2000 for three and a half years jail for carving up the body of another 27 year old Filipina girl that he was living with at the time. After hacking up her body, he flushed it down the toilet of a park in Yokohama!

This raises a few more questions. Why on earth was he only given a 3.5 year jail sentence? You’re never going to believe this, but apparently he wasn’t found guilty of murder at all. He was “only” found guilty of “mutilating and abandoning of a dead body” (死体損壊・遺棄). At the time he claimed that when he woke up she was lying dead beside him. Well, I guess that explains why he then cut her up into pieces doesn’t it. The investigation into the death of the 27 year old is still unsolved. This is wrong in so many ways (unless of course, Nozaki genuinely couldn’t pay for the funeral of the sexy young lady who died of natural causes in bed next to him – in which case chopping her up and disposing of her in a more unorthodox, though frugal way would have of course been the only option…)

How do you decide that three and a half years is an appropriate term for the “mutilating and abandoning of a dead body”?

Why isn’t it obvious that a man who was overheard fighting with a Filipina dancer and then caught flushing her body down a park toilet killed her, too?

Why does Japan allow such sickos to go back out into society?

Why would this story have been so different if either of the girls were American?

Perhaps even more provoking yet, why would this story have been so different if the murderer was an American? (Or even if the girl was British!)


Tabloid Tidbits: Clumsy cop the link between mutilated Filipina, slain stalker victim
Nikkan Gendai (4/10/08) Courtesy of Mainichi Waiwai

There’s a link between the arrest of habitual Filipina mutilator Hiroshi Nozaki and one of Japan’s most notorious crimes ever — the slaying of a Saitama Prefecture woman who was ignored by the cops when she complained about being stalked, according to Nikkan Gendai (4/10).

The link is Hiroshi Nishimura, who was head of the Saitama Prefectural Police in October 1999 when the stalker slaying occurred, and the now-62-year-old former top cop was lambasted by the public for his appalling mishandling of the case.

But at the same time, the same force that Nishimura headed had also arrested Nozaki for chopping up the body of another Filipina, but stuffed up that investigation so badly he was never charged with that woman’s murder.

The stalker slaying created public outcry. A young woman filed a criminal complaint to the Saitama Prefectural Police’s Ageo Police Station, saying that she was being stalked by a man threatening her with violence. Police did nothing about the case and the man she had been accusing stabbed her to death in broad daylight on the streets of Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture. Ageo cops later forged paperwork in an effort to appear a little less lax, but eventually several police were punished for their poor handling of the case, including Nishimura.

While all this was going on, Nishimura’s cops had Nozaki in their custody.

“In September 1999, he was charged with embezzlement for not returning a car he had rented. During his trial in January 2000, he said that he had mutilated a Filipina’s body in Soka, Saitama Prefecture, so he was arrested for mutilation of a corpse,” a Saitama Prefectural Police insider tells Nikkan Gendai. “Just like this case, Nozaki cut up the body in an apartment and dumped the parts in a public toilet in a park. The Saitama police tried to pin a murder charge on Nozaki, but they couldn’t find any evidence to pin him to the case and he refused to talk. He wasn’t even charged for the murder.”

Eventually, Nozaki was released from jail after serving just three years behind bars. He’s back in confinement now, having been arrested Monday, accused of chopping up the body of 22-year-old nightclub hostess Honiefith Ratilla Kamiosawa.

Nishimura, meanwhile, quickly bounced back from his tumultuous time at the head of the Saitama Prefectural Police. He was eventually transferred to Kyushu before he retired in September 2003 and landed a cushy job as the president of a security company based in Fukuoka.

“It’s the biggest security company in western Japan, with annual earnings of about 19 billion yen,” the Saitama police insider says.

Considering he let Nozaki go, perhaps Nishimura would like to comment on the current case.

“I don’t really know much about it,” he tells the lowbrow afternoon tabloid in a statement released through his company.

Ironic, Nikkan Gendai muses, considering his reply when asked for a comment about the stalker slaying not long after it happened.

“We haven’t got the investigation documents,” Nikkan Gendai quotes Nishimura saying at the time, “So I don’t really know much about it.” (By Ryann Connell)

死体損壊:女性切断の疑いで同居の男を逮捕 東京・台場
毎日新聞 2008年4月7日 11時37分(最終更新 4月7日 14時45分)








Man arrested for mutilation of Filipina hostess
(Mainichi Japan) April 7, 2008

A Japanese man who became the prime suspect in the murder of his Filipina hostess roommate was arrested Monday for mutilating her body, police said.

Hiroshi Nozaki, 48, a resident of Tokyo’s Minato-ku and of unknown occupation, was arrested for the desecration of the body of his 22-year-old nightclub hostess roommate Honiefith Ratilla Kamiosawa.

Nozaki, who has served time for mutilating a Filipina he once dated almost a decade ago, is exercising his right to remain silent while being investigated in a criminal case.

Police said Nozaki dismembered Ratilla’s body and chopped it up into little parts on or around the night of April 3.

Police said Nozaki attempted suicide on Sunday night in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, slashing his wrists, but later called for an ambulance when he didn’t die. Based on notes he had with him at the time, police went to a coin locker in the World Trade Center building in Minato-ku, where early Monday they found a suitcase containing several body parts.

DNA testing has confirmed human remains found in Nozaki’s apartment belonged to Ratilla and the parts found in the locker are also believed to be hers. The woman’s dismembered head has not been found and investigators continue searching for it.

Nozaki and Ratilla shared an apartment with two other Filipinas.

In January 2000, Nozaki was arrested for the illegal disposal in about spring 1999 of the body of a 27-year-old Filipina he had been dating. He was later convicted and served time in prison for the offense.

イドゥボ氏の 第2回公判4/23(水)14:30陳述書記載


◇東京高裁 803号法廷

 私は1969年11月26日生まれのナイジェリア人です。1990年から日本に18年間住んで来ました。2年前に日本で知り合ったポーランド人と結婚しました。横浜市の元町で「Big Y’s Cafe」という飲食店を経営しています。

 私はそのBig Y’s Cafeで2007年1月22日に加賀署の警官に逮捕されました。容疑は、告訴人の日本人女性の言うところによれば、酔っていた彼女を2006年11月1日の朝にレイプしたというものでした。まったく身に覚えがありません。逮捕は物証なく、一転二転して相互にくいちがいのある申立てにのみ基づいて行なわれました。告訴人の女性の友人が彼女を利用して私に対する訴訟を起こさせたものと思います。告訴人の友人は私の店の客でしたが、以前、私との間にトラブルがありました。警察は、私に有利な証拠を破壊することによって彼女らを助けて起訴に至りました。告訴人が店で身動きできないほど酔っていたというのも事実に反します。





Rough Guide on what to do if and when arrested in Japan


Hi Blog. From someone with experience. Name and nationality withheld at author’s request. Arudou Debito


Rough guide to police arrest in Japan
By Anonymous

The real earthquake

In Japan, earthquakes can hit anyone, any time. They do not come announced. There are many guidebooks and government leaflets that prepare you for the big bang and tell you what to do if.

In Japan, police can arrest anyone, any time. They do not come announced. There are no government leaflets that prepare you for the catastrophe. So, I wrote this one instead, compiled from my own painful experience and those of many other foreigners in Japan.
The actual chances to be arrested in Japan are much higher than the chances to be hurt by an earthquake in Japan – especially if you are a foreigner. Don’t think that you will be able to deal with it just because “you know your rights” from back home or from Hollywood court movies. Japan is not about justice, it is about bustice. So prepare yourself for the real big bang – read this.

Advice in a nutshell

Do not get involved.
Memorize telephone numbers NOW.
Don’t talk, don’t sign – anything.
Insist on your rights to contact people.
And finally:
You cannot make your situation worse – they already put you in the worst situation possible.

Do not get involved

Do not get involved with the police, or with other people’s problems. That is the golden rule to avoid being arrested in the first place. In Japan, police can arrest anybody without a reason, and if a foreigner is involved, they tend to arrest the foreigner.

 Do not get violent: Many foreigners get arrested because they got violent, namely because they got mingled up in fights. So, even if some asshole provokes you; while in Japan: control your temper, give in and never get physical by any means. Instead, take some revenge in thinking how the small the other guy’s penis is.

 Don’t call the police yourself. Think twice before calling or involving the police even if you are the victim of a crime. However clear the facts might seem to you – by your virtue of being non-Japanese, you are automatically a suspect, too.

 Do not help strangers. This is a harsh advice for Western altruists. But again, keep in mind that in a suspicious situation, you as the foreigner, are the suspect by default. I once tried to intervene when I saw a guy who had the chutzpa to beat up his wife in the open street. When I interfered, they both suddenly started beating up me instead because it turned out they were both piss-drunk. This aroused the attention of the nearby koban police: they took all three of us to the koban and as it was 2:1, police ended up demanding that I apologize to the couple. So do not ask the cute, drunk girl, who is puking at the side of the street, if she is OK – her nearby friends might just take out their frustration on you and accuse you of trying to rape her, for example.

 Avoid bad odds. Be especially careful, when you are just by yourself, and the other party consists of several people, who might afterwards give each other false alibis. Also, it goes without saying that if the other party is Japanese, police tend to believe them more.

 Don’t be a good citizen. The police will ask you (politely) to do something only when they do not have (yet) the grounds to force you to do the same thing. They drag you by force to the koban as soon as they see you getting in trouble. On the other hand, they ask you to come to the koban “to talk about it” only when they have nothing yet justifying to drag you. They will come directly to your apartment and break the door if they have a warrant or a specific complaint. On the other hand, they will wait downstairs and ask you via interphone if they may come up only if they have nothing yet. Complying with their request does not mean you are proving to be a good citizen, but it means you are helping them to build a case against you. Never comply; instead ask them for the concrete reason “Go-you-wa nani-desu¬-ka?” and if they don’t tell you or just say, we will tell you at the koban, tell them you will not do shit unless they tell you here and now and walk away slowly (or don’t open the door) . They cannot hold you back, because if they had grounds for that, they would have dragged you to the koban in the first place.

 Play the dumb gaijin, especially, when the situation seems to escalate: Smile broadly and constantly to all participants (police and adversaries), talk only English or your native language in a friendly tone, say “Sorry” or “Sumimasen”, at whatever they say or shout at you and bow every time. Police have been known to let gaijin go simply because of the hassle of dealing with them.

 Film them. If you see the situation worsening and especially if you are on your own: Take out your mobile phone and film your conversation with the police. Ask them in front of the camera what they want, what the grounds are for hassling you and what their name and affiliation is. They will probably not answer any of this, but the presence of a camera has a controlling effect. As long as they don’t formally arrest you, they can’t touch (and take away your phone). Even if they do and then infallibly delete the video, IT geeks should be able recover that video once you get your phone back.

Memorize telephone numbers NOW.

Memorize telephone numbers NOW. Arrest will in most cases come over you as a complete surprise; sometimes, you will not even have the chance of taking out your cell phone and tell your partner or friends about it. Once in prison, obviously, you will not be able to access your phone’s address book, either. This said, the prison staff (not the investigators) normally do call people for you whenever you ask them to do so (nicely). But they don’t look up numbers for you. So you need to know telephone numbers by heart – memorize them TODAY.
The most important number is the number of a lawyer. If you don’t know one, get yourself acquainted with one right now. Most embassies provide a list of lawyers, for example.
Also, you should memorize the numbers of friends, partners, family – who live in Japan – among them preferably people who have landline telephones (staff sometimes refuses to call mobile phones), and who speak some Japanese. Being able to contact your friends is important from the very beginning because you need somebody outside who will pay the lawyer his initial fees (between 150.000 and 300.000 yen).

Don’t sign, don’t talk.

As soon as you are formally arrested, the main suspect is YOU. They are not questioning you to find out more about the truth, they are interrogating you only to gather more evidence against you. That is why the core rule is: Do not make any statements about the crime, and do not sign any statement (signing is done by your fingerprints, so don’t fingerprint anything). Despite what police or prosecutor or even your lawyer might tell you: Signing doesn’t get you out faster; it will help keeping you inside longer.

Signing is the grand prize for them

In most cases, the evidence the police have is ridiculously thin, even if your file seems to have a lot of pages (Typically, most of the pages are just filled with dozens or hundreds of photos of the so-called crime scene, one picture per page) So, in many cases, they have no “proof” at all, except for the statements of (Japanese) witnesses and “victims”.

This is why your signed statement is the grand prize to them. Even if you don’t confess explicitly to having committed the crime: In the Japanese justice system, you will be convicted of the crime as soon as you make a signed statement about it. No further “proof” will then be considered necessary.

On the other hand, it will be difficult for prosecution/judge to further detain you without having any statement of your side.

Just don’t talk at all. Even if you refuse signing what you said, the police officer and the prosecutor are writing down rough summaries of what you say during interrogation and will add that to your file. It is legally less relevant, but it will nevertheless be seen by the prosecutor and by the judge.

A second reason for you to keep your mouth shut tight: If you tell them about the loopholes in their reasoning, they will not let you go, but they will close the loopholes. So telling them convincing reasons or tell them about evidence that would prove that you are innocent, only makes them look harder for counter-evidence, or worse, invites them to alter the statement of the victim or tamper with the evidence they have.

What you sign is what they said, not what you said

What you sign will never be what you said anyway. Investigator or prosecutor do not bother writing down your statement word by word; they take notes while you talk and then reformulate (or reinterpret generously) what you “meant”, using their own wordings. It is this re-enactment of what you said that they will want to you to sign (and which will count in court). You can be sure that they will insert all the legal keywords to make sure you are busted. Add to that the language barrier, and you see how little your influence is on what you sign.

Psychological spiel

It is of course very difficult to stay silent and to not make any statements for the whole period of 20 days in detention. This is precisely the reason why detention in Japan is so long. They say it is so long to allow for “collecting additional proof” but in fact, it is so long to increase the pressure on you to make a statement day by day.

The whole situation can probably be compared to a playboy who is trying to absolutely get laid with a girl. He will alternate between being nice and threatening, he will say anything, promise anything, use every trick that has worked before. He won’t keep any of his promises after reaching the goal, of course. Now, this guy has not only a night in a club to convince the girl – he has three entire weeks. And in fact, he has kidnapped the girl and has her locked up in a dark room inside his house where nobody can hear her. He promises to release her if she just sleeps with him only once – this seems so easy a way out, but if she complies, he will just keep her locked up longer.

So, it is indeed very hard to keep your virginity (=not to sign a statement) in jail. It is said that more than 80% of arrestees in Japan end up signing a confession during detention. Here are some details of the psychological mechanics to prepare you for that. Many of them are well-advertised in TV and movies; you would be surprised how well they work in reality:

 “Defend yourself against unfair accusations” trap. You have never dealt with a situation like this before. They have. And they know that your instincts will advise you to handle this as a “unfair accusations”-scenario, a familiar situation you have been through a thousand times in your life with your parents, teachers, partners, bosses. The natural human reaction to a reproach is to defend yourself, to justify your actions, to tell them how it really was – by discussing their arguments one by one, admitting to some of the facts but justifying it with moral means, counter-accusing the other party or trying to convince them of your good intentions… You see where this is going? All this means talking, cooperating and eventually signing. Never forget that your real and only crime is to be a foreigner. There is no way you can refute that. So stick with Nelson’s rule: Never admit, never explain.

 Lies. Once you have started talking (what you should never do in the first place) they will constantly accuse you of lying and being contradictory. This again triggers the “unfair accusations”-reaction in most people, only making them talk more and more. In reality, it is them who are using lies, fake promises and false accusations as standard interrogation techniques. And they don’t feel bad about it a tiny bit.

 Good cop, bad cop. Often the prosecutor will take the part of the good “cop”, as opposed to the (bad) police. On the third day after you arrested, you will meet the prosecutor for the first time. He often appears to be the first civilized person after you have been through what was probably the two most horrible days in your life. In my case, the prosecutor looked through my file and then gave me an astonished look and said: “I cannot understand why they had to lock you up for this!” smiling sympathetically and telling me about his close friend in my home country while afterwards it turned out he was the one who signed the arrest warrant in the first place. Still, you start thinking, after all those brute policemen, finally somebody who understands me, so you start explaining your point of view – and before you can say “chigau”, you will see him dictating “your” statement to his secretary.

 Little treats. Most of the day you are locked up in a tiny cell lying on the carpet and staring at the yellow walls. You will start welcoming anything that gets you out of that monotony, including the interrogations by the police detective. Firstly, there is a person that speaks your language – even though it is only the interpreter! Then, the officer will offer you real coffee or tea (in prison, the only liquids you get are water and miso soup). And you may smoke as much as you want (in prison, only 2 cigarettes per day, after breakfast). So the interrogation puts you at ease – and some people will just keep on talking (=making statements) to be able to smoke another cigarette.

 Feeling of guilt. You are being treated like scum – for a reason: They want you to start feeling like scum.
But it is them who are scum, by the way they are treating you. And even if you have indeed done something bad – their inhuman, brutal, unfair and undemocratic way annihilates any of their rights to superior morality – they are at least as bad as you are. Plus, in many cases, they wouldn’t lock up a Japanese national for the same “crime”, and, in a democracy, your case probably wouldn’t be considered a crime in the first place.

They sometimes remind you of your “promises” to tell them the truth – don’t feel obliged to your promises, don’t feel obliged to do anything. They do not deserve to be treated like a fellow human, because they don’t treat you like one.

 Promises and threats. They have a standard catalogue of promises and threats all with one goal: To make you sing and sign. On the promise side they offer you: a quick release, a mild sentence, a “deal”, they will offer to talk in your favor to judge/prosecutor, or to let you see the evidence (in reality, they will never let a suspect see the evidence; not even your lawyer may see the evidence before you are formally charged),. On the threats side you will encounter: They make you think of your responsibilities to your people outside. They will tell you they can keep you locked up forever. They will tell you that they have new/stronger/undoubtable evidence (which, again, you will never be shown). Also, they notice immediately if you want or fear something specific and turn that into another vain promise or threat. Just ignore what they are saying from the start because they may sound dramatic but it is all just tactics and lies.

 Cooperation. In short: Don’t cooperate. It is a long way from you being stubborn and refusing to talk at all to you signing the statement. This way is called “cooperation”, they have 20 long days to put you on the track, and they will infallibly ask you to cooperate (kyoryoku) fifty times a day. It starts with innocent things like “What is the profession of your parents?” where you might think, well telling him that cannot do me any harm. But keep in mind that every step of cooperation is a step towards making you sign the statement. It goes more or less like this: “Now that you have come this far, you might as well sign it, right?!”

In Japanese (justice system) eyes, cooperation means that you are showing signs of weakness, that they can lead you all the way up to the signing of the statement, and in the end, it means that you are guilty. This is why a very lenient judge might not even need a signed statement to find you guilty – any indication that you have cooperated with them will be interpreted as a hint that you are guilty.

 Be a pain in the ass – it won’t harm you. So instead of being cooperative, be stubborn from the start. There is a lot of signing (=fingerprinting), especially at the beginning. Start being strong by not signing anything, not even the form that states the number and content of the belongings they take from you when they arrest you. They cannot force your thumb down and fake a sign because you might claim they hurt you and complain with your embassy (that’s precisely why they do things like that with Japanese prisoners who have no embassy).

On the second day, refuse what they will present as a “necessary” routine to you: Taking your mugshots and fingerprints. If you comply with that, the next thing they will present as a routine is asking for a sample of your DNA (which is absolutely voluntary).
After having refused to sign at least a dozen papers during my first 24 hours in jail, on the second day, they came up with a search warrant for my house and they said: “We will open it with your house key from the things that you had on you but you have to sign a release form to allow us to use it” – power play time.

I asked: “What happens if I don’t sign?” They said: “We will have to open the door by force and leave it like that” – openly threatening me that they would leave my apartment visibly open for the next weeks that I was not there. So I took the warrant, and I signed but I added, in Japanese, below the signature: “Forced to sign under threats”. As soon as the police officer saw me writing that, he took the paper away from me, tore it into pieces and yelled to the others: “Let’s go and break the door with without the key.”
When I was finally released, I expected the worst. Only then, they told me they had actually notified the janitor when they broke in. The janitor had set up a provisional door lock right away that was not distinguishable from a real door lock.

 Right to remain silent. If you do not answer any of the interrogator’s questions, he will tell you that, in Japan, you only have the right to remain silent in case your statement would incriminate you. So he will infallibly ask you if the answer would actually incriminate you. This is a mean, double-bind game: you answer, you lose, you refuse to answer, you lose, too. So don’t play their game at all – just remain silent and there is nothing they can do about it. If you want to respond, respond every single time that you refuse to say anything because your human rights are violated, because you have no lawyer present or because Japan is no democracy or because he has bad breath.

Don’t be intimated by him scribbling or typing a lot while he has these one-way-conversations with you – if you don’t say anything, he will just have to copy-and-paste your refusal every single time. At the end of the “interrogation”, he will still ask to you sign the document (to confirm that you have said nothing). You will refuse that too (because, remember, never sign anything!), then he will ask you a last time why you refused to sign and you will just stay silent again to that.

 Don’t apologize. You will be reminded countless times how much the so-called victim has suffered from the crime. And then you will be asked if you don’t feel sorry at all for the victim. Don’t feel sorry and don’t comment on that! The only person you have to care for at this moment is you and nobody else.

If you start showing the slightest pity for the victim, they will pressure you into signing or writing a letter of apology – both of which are, in the eyes of any Japanese judge, the next best thing to a “real” confession.

By the way, even lawyers get trapped in this ruse. Your lawyer might advise you with good intentions that for reaching a deal with the victim (and the victim subsequently withdrawing the complaint), you must first show that you feel sorry for your crime. It is true that reaching a deal with the victim is in most cases the best way out – but you have to stay one step ahead of the police. Check out the notes on “Getting out” below for details.

 Slips of the tongue. It is definitely hard to refuse to say anything for three entire weeks – you will be questioned at least five or six full days from morning to evening out of that time.

The officer will sometimes start to deviate from the subject and start talking about your family, your life in Japan etc. Don’t be mistaken – he is the last person in the world who is interested in that (and who has a right to know about your private life). It is just a ruse to put you at ease and to make you talkative. Remember: He is not “actually a nice guy”, but he is your biggest enemy.

If you think your silence is going to crumble, you could deal with the situation and fill the time with asking HIM questions, how he feels working for such a shitty system, ask him about his grand-mother or hometown or just do small-talk. Just do never touch even remotely information about yourself.

But, even if you happened to say something about the crime: don’t panic. It still has almost no legal meaning until you sign it. So don’t start agonizing like “Now that I have already told him, I might just as well sign it.” For the prosecutor and even more for the judge, it is first and foremost a signed statement that counts. Of course, once something has slipped out of your mouth, the investigator will be furious to get you repeat it (and sign it). Don’t even say you lied. Just sit this out by getting back to remaining silent.

 Stockholm syndrome. When people are kidnapped and suddenly deprived of their entire normal social environment, they tend to create ersatz relations with the people who surround them. So you, too, might end up “understanding” why and what the police or the prosecutor did to you ( “after all, they are just doing their job”). Don’t! If you are desperate for human relations with scum, become friends with the yakuza detainees in your cell instead. You will find out that they have more dignity than the cops – at least under these special circumstances.

Insist on your rights to contact people

They will strip you of almost any dignity, but you should by all means use your rights to contact people from outside. Insist on your rights – you don’t have to sign forms for that.

 Vienna convention: Foreign prisoners have two exclusive rights that Japanese nationals don’t have. You are entitled to see embassy staff and to have an interpreter around. These rights are fixed in the Vienna convention which has been signed also by Japan. The words Vienna convention (Wiin-joyaku) and “human rights” (jinken) come in very handy throughout your stay. Mention them at liberty whenever you are unhappy with something; especially down in the detention cells. They don’t care about your private complaints, but they are afraid you could eventually report a violation of your rights to embassy people, who in return could complain about your treatment with their superiors (the Ministry of Justice via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

 Embassy: Police have to notify your embassy or consulate of your arrest immediately, even if you do not explicitly ask them to. They are contacting them through official channels though: police authority → ministry of Justice → ministry of Foreign Affairs → your embassy. This takes up your first two days – during which they will try especially hard to pressure you into a statement. Tell them you will not say anything before you have seen your embassy people (and after embassy people have come to see you, continue your silence, because you are not bound to your promise)

People from the embassy or the consulate have to come and see you as many times as you ask them to, even if you are imprisoned in a remote police station in Aomori – consular assistance to nationals is one of their core tasks.

The embassy/consulate can do a lot for you – but they cannot get you out of prison. You are not important enough that your government will start an international conflict with Japan. But what they do for you is indeed of help;

– Provide a lawyer. Officially an arrestee is informed of his rights to an attorney on the 4th day in jail – and then you have to remember his telephone number. Embassy staff typically visits you on your 3rd day and will make sure you get a lawyer. asap

– Contact your friends and family. They will explain to them in a familiar language (i.e., not in Japanese) what happened to you. Again, probably the embassy is going to get faster to them than your lawyer so this route is especially useful for contacting the friends that are able to help you out with money necessary to pay the lawyer and the victim.

– Improve your prison condition. The conversation with embassy staff has to be in Japanese or has to be translated into Japanese, and it will be monitored by somebody of the prison staff. This might seem obnoxious in the first place, but it is actually the chance to improve your conditions. Just tell them frankly all the little humiliations police has inflicted on you so far – you can be sure the prison staff guy is listening carefully (Vienna convention!). In my case, I had been refused pen and paper – I mentioned that to my embassy representative in front of the prison staff guy, in Japanese. For the rest of my stay, I basically got my own pen for the whole day.

 Interpreter. The Japanese police have registered interpreters for any language that is an official language in some country of this world. That is because the Vienna convention states that every official conversation has to be translated into (and from) your language by an interpreter. This starts right at the arrest – the arrest warrant has to be read to you in your language.

So, by all means, never waive your right to an interpreter, thinking you handle this on your level of Japanese. And don’t accept an English interpreter, either, if your native tongue is not English. You probably don’t know all those legal terms in your own language – how the hell should you be familiar with them in a foreign language?!

When I asked my interrogator once what he would do if he had to deal with a suspect from Iceland (only 300,000 native speakers), he said he was positive that they would find somebody for that too, somewhere in Japan, even, if the translation had to be conducted by telephone.

The presence of a third person (interpreter) also helps alleviating the aggressive atmosphere between you and your interrogator. And last but not least the lengthy translations take up some of your endless interrogation time.

 Lawyer. Get one as soon as possible.
You have the right to a lawyer and your lawyer is the only person who is allowed to see you as often as he wants to, and, as opposed to the embassy people, without your conversations being monitored by prison staff. He is the only person who the police or prosecutor will accept as your official representative. And most importantly, he is the only person that can really get you out.

Insist loudly on having a lawyer from the minute you are arrested. Here it comes in handy if you remember your lawyer’s phone number – give it to the police or the prison staff and they will probably contact him just to make you shut your mouth.

You shouldn’t talk at all – but this goes especially for the time before you have seen your lawyer for the first time. So, while they are exerting special pressure on you to talk while you have no lawyer yet, tell them during that time that precisely because you have no lawyer, you will not make any statements. That will speed their efforts to get you one.

Just forget what you saw in the movies: In Japan, lawyers do not have the right to assist you or be present during your interrogations. They do not have the right to see the evidence before the prosecutor formally charges you (that’s when it is too late). And you will only be able to talk to them through a Plexiglas window

 Doctor. Even if you have to take some medicine regularly, you are not allowed to take any of your pills with you into jail. The positive side is that they are obliged to take you to a doctor or the hospital as soon as you tell them that you really feel ill. You should consider playing this card as the ultimate resort, for example, when you think that you are going to crack (and talk and sing) during their endless interrogations. Tell them you feel terrible and that you have to see a real doctor. Make up fake health problems. They will take you to a normal hospital because of your Vienna convention rights – afterwards, they have no way of punishing you if the doctor finds you to be in good shape.

 Friends and Partners. On foreign arrestees, the prosecutor will infallibly put a communication ban (sekkin-kinshi), which means that you may not see anybody from outside except for members of the group of people mentioned above.

There is a trick, however, to see your close ones, or at least one of them. He or she has to pose as an interpreter for your lawyer. The conversations with your lawyer are not monitored (as compared to those with embassy people), so they should be able to talk to you relatively freely.

Your friend/partner has to:

– Speak good Japanese (otherwise obvious that he/she doesn’t qualify as interpreter), or, if he/she is Japanese, speak your/a foreign language
– Preferably have some name card that shows that he is qualified to do translations
Of course, the lawyer must be willing to play along, and the police must not know about the prior connection between you and the “interpreter”.

Getting out

There are two main ways to get out unharmed.

 Alibi. You have got or know of convincing proof establishing that you have been far from the crime scene at the time of the crime, and that you can thusly not be connected to the crime. Or you have proof that the witnesses or victims lied. In any case, never tell the interrogators about this proof. They lose their face when you can prove their arrest was wrong from the start . Instead of releasing you, they might be tempted to tamper with their/your evidence.

Instead, tell your lawyer about the proof as soon as possible and make sure that your lawyer can provide the proof to the prosecutor (not to the police) while you are still detained. Even here, the lawyer should hand over only copies to the prosecutor, not originals. You cannot be too paranoid…

 Victims withdraws complaint. Lighter crimes like assault or sexual harassment typically belong to the shinkokuzai type of crimes. This means that police/prosecutor only investigate the crime if the so-called victim of the crime officially files a complaint. On the other hand, it means that they have to stop the investigation – and release you– immediately if the victim withdraws his/her complaint before the prosecutor officially files charges against you.

Thusly, your lawyer has a time window of the 20 days the prosecutor detains you before deciding if he/she is actually going to file charges. In this time window, your lawyer should be able to contact the victim and convince her/him to withdraw. Most lawyers claim to be successful sooner or later in talking the victim into signing the magical withdraw form. Lawyers carry that form with them and will submit it instantly to the prosecutor once signed.

For succeeding with this strategy, your lawyer needs three things:

– Money (“apology money”). The going rate for a complaint withdrawal starts at 200,000 Yen and can reach 500,000 Yen or even a million. You need your friends to provide the lawyer with the money, he will not advance it at his own expense.

– Time. At first, most victims will be stubborn and even avoid contact with your lawyer. On the long run, a skilled lawyer can convince most people that you do not really deserve years in jail, that you have already been punished enough by the weeks in detention that you feel sorry and that money is nice. So the victim should be contacted as soon as possible – the withdrawal form has to be signed before the prosecutor files charges.

– Contact data of the victim. This is the tricky part. Don’t rely on getting it from the police or prosecutor; instead use the bumpy road and hire a private investigator.

Police and prosecutor will not release telephone number or address of the victim to your lawyer unless you show them that you feel sorry for the victim. However – that is the trap – they will not give it to your lawyer the victim afterwards, either. After all, they have gone through all this pain talking the victim into charging you with a crime – why should they help you talking the victim into withdrawing it again? In my case, after my lawyer had approached the police investigators about the contact data, it so turned out that the victim had “conveniently” gone abroad for vacation, by “coincidence”, he wouldn’t come back until the end of my detention period.

So do not write letters or make statements of apology (that prosecutor might use against you if the victim does not withdraw). Instead, your lawyer has to find the victim by himself. Even if you don’t know the victim’s full name, it will be on your arrest report. With the name and some circumstantial information provided by you, a private detective should be able to find out contact data of the victim in a few days.

Fascist Disneyland: Stay, leave, revenge?

Foreigners who get out of prison hell tend to reconsider the very base of their life: Is this country (Japan) still really the place where I want to live after all this wrong has been done to me?

Unfortunately, it appears that police are watching you twice as hard as they did before that, when you were just “one of those foreigners”.

Regardless of what you decide to do, consider this after getting out of jail:
– Write down your story.
– Post it on the net and/or send it to civil right groups. The Japanese justice system is definitely fucked up, and the more people talk about it, the better.
– Legal action. It is close to impossible to sue Japanese police or prosecutors in Japan. It is also difficult to (counter-)sue a Japanese national (for example, accusing the victim of perjury) if you are a foreigner. However, there are three more convenient ways to take revenge in court:
➢ Sue them in your home country. If they have been ignoring some fundamental rights during your detention, there might be a chance police-prosecution-victim are liable of a criminal offense against you in your home country.
➢ Start a class action in Japan: In Japan, more than elsewhere, it is the number of plaintiffs that makes a case. If you discover that a number of people have experienced the same unfair treatment, consider gathering those people and suing the responsible parties together. Again, for this, you should be getting in touch with civil rights groups first.
➢ Sue them in a civil court. The Japanese justice system is much more balanced and advanced on the civil side than it is on the penal side. Check with your lawyer.

Whatever your actions are – inform friends and public about what you are doing.

無罪でも延々勾留 スイス人に裁判長「お気の毒」…また無罪


無罪でも延々勾留 スイス人に裁判長「お気の毒」…また無罪








“Hostage Justice”: Swiss woman acquitted of a crime, but detained for eight months anyway during prosecution’s appeal


Hi Blog. Here’s another oddity of Japanese “justice”. The prosecution is so strong in this country that it can hold people hostage–incarcerate them even if they are judged innocent.

In the extremely rare case (more than 99 percent of all criminal cases that go to trial result in conviction) where the prosecution loses (meaning and the accused is adjudged innocent and goes free), the prosecutors can appeal. Unfortunately, as you can see in the article below, the rights of the accused differ by nationality.

If you are a Non-Japanese, and even if you are judged innocent by a lower court, you are still incarcerated for however many months it takes for the higher court to deliver a verdict (in the case below, innocent again). Because 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!).

The logic for detaining the Swiss woman in the article below is even more stupefying. The usual argument given for continuing to imprison foreigners is because they are assumed to be a flight risk (the same logic applied to denying foreigners home loans, credit cards and cell phones)–i.e. they might leave the country! (whereas Japanese are chained to these islands, of course). However, in the Swiss woman’s case below, the prosecution argued for her detention because she might overstay her visa and be deported! (I wonder if she was then counted as an “overstayer”…)

Finally, note that the innocent Swiss defendant below still is in custody, despite two innocent verdicts. Expect more months (if not years!) of detention if the prosecution decides to appeal to the Supreme Court! Read on and shake your head in noncomprehension….

Let’s launch a series on the Debito.org Blog on how fucked up Japan’s judiciary is–and start with this case of “hostage justice”. Debito in Sapporo

Swiss woman acquitted of drug smuggling again; questions raised about her detention
Courtesy of TPR

A Swiss woman on Wednesday was again found not guilty of drug smuggling, but she had to remain in detention for nearly eight months after being acquitted the first time.

The decision by the Tokyo High Court raises further questions about the practice of incarcerating foreign defendants during the appeals process after they are found innocent.

Lawyers representing the 28-year-old woman said she is a “victim of defects in Japanese laws” and called for new legislation to deal with the problem.

In the ruling, Presiding Judge Takao Nakayama brushed aside prosecutors’ arguments that the Swiss woman intentionally tried to smuggle about 2.3 kilograms of methamphetamines hidden in a suitcase in 2006, saying there was “room for reasonable doubt” about her guilt.

The woman said she was asked to carry the suitcase by an acquaintance and did not know what was inside.

The woman was arrested in October 2006 and later indicted on charges of trying to smuggle methamphetamines from Malaysia.

In August 2007, the Chiba District Court ruled the woman was innocent. But prosecutors appealed, and were granted permission from the district court to detain the woman.

Her detention, including the period spent in an immigration facility, lasted for more than 11/2 years.

After reading the ruling Wednesday, Judge Nakayama told the woman that her detention could not be avoided.

“Even this court cannot help but feel sympathy,” Nakayama said. “But you imprudently brought methamphetamines into Japan even though you said you were not aware.

“Please understand there was ample reason to assume a criminal act,” he said.

Her lawyers said there is a double standard concerning Japanese and foreign defendants.

“If the defendant were Japanese, she would not have been detained,” one lawyer said. “Now that she has been found not guilty, the rationale behind her detention has become even more unclear.”

Under the Criminal Procedure Law, a Japanese defendant found innocent would be immediately released from detention. But it is not the same for foreigners.

Prosecutors have argued that if foreign defendants are deported because their permits to stay in the country have expired, it would be difficult to continue with an appeals trial.

The twice-acquitted woman could end up back in detention if prosecutors decide to appeal once again.

Kazuhiro Suzuki, deputy chief prosecutor of the Tokyo High Prosecutors Office, issued a statement Wednesday, saying the ruling was “very disappointing” and that prosecutors will “study the ruling carefully and take appropriate measures.”

The woman was taken into custody at an immigration facility after Wednesday’s ruling.

The woman’s lawyers sought her release after her first acquittal, but the Supreme Court in December ruled in favor of the prosecutors.

The top court said there was sufficient reason to suspect a crime had occurred and saw no problem in detaining the woman for the appeals trial.

However, two of the five justices on the panel said the detention was the result of flaws in the Criminal Procedure Law and the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law.(IHT/Asahi: April 10,2008)

Two articles from The Economist on bent Japanese criminal justice system, death penalty



Hi Blog. It takes The Economist some time to come to its senses on many things regarding reporting on Japan, but it’s done a fine job this time in this tight little article, on how bent the Japanese criminal justice system is. Read on. The more attention brought to these sorts of injustices, the better. Debito in Sapporo

Criminal justice in Japan
Throw away the key
Japan’s Supreme Court misses a chance to right a 42-year-old wrong
Mar 27th 2008 | TOKYO
The Economist (London), March 27, 2008

IN 1966 Iwao Hakamada was accused of killing a family and setting fire to its house during a robbery. He denied it. But after 19 days of 12-hour interrogations by police and prosecutors, he confessed. He saw a lawyer just three times for a total of 37 minutes. At his trial he said the “confession” had been coerced: the police had beaten and threatened to kill him. Judges noticed discrepancies in the confession, and demanded he redo it—45 times—until they were satisfied.

Mr Hakamada was found guilty in a 2-1 decision. The dissenting magistrate, Norimichi Kumamoto, quit the bench in silent protest. Last year he broke 39 years of silence to denounce the verdict. Requests for retrials and appeals had been denied from the 1970s onwards. But armed with the former magistrate’s words, supporters of Mr Hakamada, who has come to symbolise the rot in Japan’s criminal-justice system, felt their case was strong.

Yet on March 24th the Supreme Court turned down a retrial plea, citing a lack of “reasonable doubt” about the verdict. His lawyers plan to appeal against the decision. As for Mr Hakamada, now 72, he is losing his mind as he languishes in solitary confinement on death row.

Article 34 of the Japanese Constitution guarantees the right to counsel and habeas corpus, but is systematically ignored. Police and prosecutors can detain suspects for 23 days. Interrogations are relentless and sometimes abusive. Prosecutors are reluctant to bring cases to trial without a confession. Indeed, it is considered a first step in a criminal’s rehabilitation. When asked about the country’s 99% conviction rate, Japan’s justice minister, Kunio Hatoyama, corrected your correspondent to state that it was actually 99.9%, because prosecutors only present cases that are watertight.

Slow reform is coming. First, to tackle an acute shortage, the government is to let more people pass the bar exam and become lawyers: at present Japan has a mere 24,000, ten times fewer per head than Britain. Only 7% of students pass the bar exam. Second, a jury system will be brought in next year for serious cases. This will open the judiciary to greater public scrutiny. Third, the police are to introduce procedures for monitoring interrogations (though they rejected proposals to videotape them). All too late for Mr Hakamada.

In a similar vein…
The death penalty in Japan
Just plead guilty and die
Mar 13th 2008 | TOKYO
From The Economist print edition

The wheels start to wobble on Japan’s judicial juggernaut

IT WAS a rarity for Japan: two notable acquittals within a month. On March 5th Mitsuko Katagishi, a 60-year-old from southern Kyushu island, was acquitted of charges that she had killed her brother and set fire to his house. The case against her rested on prosecution claims that she had confessed her crime to a cellmate during months in police detention. The presiding judge chided the police for planting the cellmate and dismissed the evidence as not credible. In a country with a conviction rate of over 99%—and where even defence lawyers urge clients to plead guilty—this was a deep embarrassment.

It follows a farcical trial in February of 11 mainly elderly defendants accused of vote-buying in Kagoshima, also on Kyushu. The trial collapsed when it became plain that the police had fabricated the evidence—though not before one defendant had died and another been subjected to over 700 hours of interrogation and 400 days in detention. All the accused had been ground down until they signed confessions of guilt.

In response to these problems, the authorities have closed ranks. Japan’s justice minister, Kunio Hatoyama, argues with casuistic skill that the vote-buying case cannot be described as a false prosecution: that would imply the real culprits are still at large when, happily for all, there are no culprits at all. But such complacency is wearing thin. Two changes are afoot in Japan’s criminal-justice system. One is the introduction next year of trials in which a lay jury of six will join three judges to adjudicate in criminal cases, with convictions secured by majority vote. This may encourage more popular involvement in the criminal-justice system. The other is the emergence of establishment figures prepared to question the shortcomings of that system, and especially of the death penalty, which means victims pay an irreversible price for miscarriages of justice.

Shizuka Kamei, a former chief in the National Police Agency and now a member of the Diet (parliament), describes Japan’s high conviction rate as “abnormal”. The police, he says, are under more pressure to find any culprit for a crime than to find the real one. To save face, senior officers are reluctant to highlight mistakes made by subordinates. Worse, prosecutors are not bound to disclose material that they choose not to use in court. Many false prosecutions never come to light.

The notion of being innocent until proven guilty is not strong in Japan. Mr Hatoyama calls it “an idea which I want to constrain”. But confessions are important and the courts rely heavily upon them. Apart from helping secure convictions, they are widely interpreted as expressions of remorse. A defendant not only risks a longer sentence if he insists he is innocent, he is also much less likely to be granted bail before trial—often remaining isolated in police custody, without access to counsel, for long enough to confess. Toshiko Terada, a private lawyer, calls this hitojichi shiho—hostage justice. Perversely, where little supporting evidence exists, the system helps hardened criminals, who know that if they do not confess they are unlikely to be indicted. Innocents, on the other hand, may crack—as in the Kagoshima case, or in a notorious 2002 rape case when the accused confessed under pressure but was released last October after the real culprit came forward.

Growing concerns about such miscarriages have helped forge an unlikely parliamentary alliance between politicians of the left pushing to abolish the death penalty, Mr Kamei (who in other areas is an arch-conservative) and Koichi Kato, a former secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Last year Japan executed nine people, compared with America’s 42; it also has 106 people on death row. But its murder rate is only one-fifth that of America so its execution rate is roughly comparable. Some of Mr Hatoyama’s predecessors have been unwilling to sign death warrants, but in the past 18 months executions have leapt (see chart), including several accused who were elderly and infirm.

Executions take place in extreme secrecy under the auspices of the Justice Ministry. Prisoners are kept in near-isolation and are not usually informed that their time is up until less than an hour before the sentence is carried out—often after waiting for decades. The names of those executed were made public for the first time only in December. Not even Diet members may inspect a working gallows, and many people do not know that hanging is Japan’s method of execution. Bureaucratic secrecy has served to suppress debate about the death penalty—and give ordinary people a sense that justice is something best left to the authorities.

Matthew Lacey Case: Fukuoka police dismiss NJ death by blow to the head as “dehydration” (Yomiuri & Japan Times)


Hi Blog. Here are two articles about a mysterious death of a NJ, found dead in his apartment 3 1/2 years ago, deemed not a product of foul play by Fukuoka police (with no autopsy performed). An autopsy overseas reveals the cause of death to be a blow to the head. The Japan Times took the case up a full year ago, but no ripples. Now, thanks to the tenacity of the deceased’s brother, even the Yomiuri is taking it up. Yes, even the Yomiuri.

Is this yet another case of when it’s a crime against a foreigner, the J police don’t bother with it? It’s happened before. Debito in Sapporo


Family queries cause of U.S. man’s death
The Yomiuri Shimbun Jan. 30, 2008

The bereaved family of a U.S. man who died in 2004 at his condominium in Fukuoka will ask police on Wednesday to reinvestigate the cause of his death, after an autopsy carried out at the insistence of the bereaved family found injuries contradicting the initial judgment made by police.

Even though the Fukuoka prefectural police found a lump on the man’s head, police did not carry out an autopsy and instead judged the man to have died of an illness.

According to police, the naked body of Matthew Lacey was found on his bed on Aug. 17, 2004, by his friends, who came to his condominium in Chuo Ward, Fukuoka. Lacey’s room was on the sixth floor of the building. He was 41 years old.

At the time, police decided that no intruder had entered his condo. They were also unable to find any evidence of a fight or struggle.

Police discovered that Lacey had a been going to hospital for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. They found traces of fecal material on the floor of the kitchen next to the bedroom. Police, after hearing the opinion of a police doctor, decided Lacey had died of an illness related to dehydration and diarrhea, an explanation they gave to the bereaved family.

Japanese and U.S. specialists who were consulted by the family and shown the police records relating to the death, both suggested the possibility of murder, according to the family.

Police only conducted an autopsy after the bereaved family requested them to do so. The autopsy revealed the man died from a serious injury caused by a blow to the head. After the autopsy, the police changed the judgment of the cause of death, saying he died from an accidental fall.

The bereaved family, including Matthew’s elder brother Charles, 46, of Nagoya, who is an English teacher, dissatisfied with the police explanation for the cause of death, will visit the prefectural police headquarters and request a reinvestigation of the case.

In the wake of the scandal involving the Tokitsukaze stable–in which a young sumo wrestler was initially judged to have died of heart failure, but later was found to have died of traumatic shock after being beaten–the new judgment may again cast doubt on the way police make visual inspections when determining the cause of death and how autopsies are carried out.

(Jan. 30, 2008)


U.S. man on quest to find cause of brother’s death
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007

PHOTO: Charles Lacey in Nagoya last week says he has not given up his search for answers 2 1/2 years after his brother’s death. ERIC JOHNSTON PHOTO

OSAKA — Charles Lacey’s brother died mysteriously 2 1/2 years ago in Fukuoka and he’s still trying to learn the cause.

He believes police bungled the investigation, wrongly concluded the death was due to an accident and are, like prosecutors, purposely withholding key information that could suggest foul play.

On Aug. 16, 2004, Lacey, who lives in Nagoya but was visiting family in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., received a fateful call. The director of the Fukuoka YMCA was calling to tell him that his brother, Matt, 42, a language student at the YMCA, had been found dead in his apartment.

A fellow student, worried because Matt didn’t show up for class, dropped by his apartment. After voicing concern to the landlord, the two went up to Matt’s sixth-floor unit to check on him.

What happened next is unclear. Lacey says he was told by the landlord in August 2004 the door was unlocked. The landlord told The Japan Times last September, however, that she only remembers putting the key in the door and turning it, and doesn’t recall if it was locked or not.

But when the door was opened, the student and landlord were greeted by the sight of Matt’s body, sprawled on a futon, soaked in blood around his head and shoulders. Police were called, and after initial attempts to track down Lacey in Nagoya failed, the YMCA finally reached him at his family home in Poughkeepsie.

By the time Lacey and his other brother, Denny, arrived in Fukuoka and met with police, it was nearly six days after Matt’s body had been discovered. While still in New York, the Lacey family requested an autopsy over the phone, which Charles says police reluctantly granted.

At the time, the family was told by police the preliminary cause of death was thought to be severe diarrhea and dehydration. Feces stains had been found on the toilet seat and the carpet, and Matt, who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, had recently received a prescription to treat diarrhea. Robbery did not appear to be a motive, as Japanese and U.S. currency worth nearly $ 1,000 was found in plain view.

But once the Lacey brothers arrived in Fukuoka, the cops changed their story. The autopsy had revealed a 20-cm crack in Matt’s skull, and “cerebral hemorrhage” was now listed as the cause of death.

The English translation of the postmortem, which was prepared by Fukuoka police and not by the doctor who performed the exam, attributed the death to an “unknown external cause” and “it is suspected the subject was hit on the head.”

To the family’s surprise, foul play was ruled out.

“We were told by police that Matt must have fallen down in the kitchen, striking his head, and that the fall resulted in the skull fracture, despite the fact there were no signs in the kitchen of a fall,” Lacey said. “Our family felt something was wrong and that the police weren’t doing their job. There were too many unanswered questions to believe this was just an accident, as the police wanted us to believe.”

Over the ensuing months, Lacey began playing detective, calling Matt’s old friends and colleagues and traveling to Fukuoka to bang on doors and ask questions.

If foul play was involved, none of the evidence that has come to light so far offers a clear indication of who the culprit might be.

The fact that no neighbor reported anything strange prior to Matt’s death suggests that someone who knew him may have been involved.

However, Lacey said Matt sounded normal and there was no indication he was being threatened by anybody in a phone conversation they had not long before he is believed to have died.

Lacey was astonished to learn police never apparently questioned anyone around his brother.

“When I asked the police if they had spoken to the tenants directly above and below Matt’s apartment, they said they had. But later, when I questioned the tenants, they said the police had never contacted them,” he said.

Lacey become further convinced that Matt’s death was not an accident after speaking with a Fukuoka-based physician familiar with Matt’s health record who told him the death was probably not accidental.

“Given the size of the crack on the victim’s head, which resulted in an egg-size bump, and the way the body was found, it’s unlikely the death was by natural causes or an accident,” said the physician, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The family contacted Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent in the U.S. who is now a forensic investigator. “Matt’s death was obviously suspicious, but that without the full autopsy report and photos, it was impossible to say what really happened,” he e-mailed to The Japan Times.

The Fukuoka Public Prosecutor’s Office refused to turn over a copy of either the full autopsy report or the autopsy photos, both of which the Laceys had arranged to show a prominent American forensic specialist for a second opinion. The office only allowed Lacey to take photos of a few pages of the autopsy report.

The Lacey family sent a letter to the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka in August 2005 seeking the report and photos be referred to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

An embassy investigation found that the Fukuoka prosecutors had taken no further action. The embassy was told it was not the general policy of the prosecutor’s office to release copies of autopsy reports, even to the next of kin.

“Both we and the American citizen relatives of a deceased person often feel the level of attention to an investigation and into the cause of death is not equal to that found in the United States,” said Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs Edward McKeon in an Aug. 18, 2005, letter to the family. McKeon did not respond to a request for an interview on the case. A U.S. Embassy spokesman said it was standard policy not to publicly discuss such cases due to U.S. privacy laws.

Lacey contacted several Japanese lawyers about possible legal action to get the full autopsy report. But legal experts warned that police and prosecutors have broad discretionary authority over an autopsy report, and there is little legal recourse to force them to turn it over.

Fukuoka police refused to answer a list of questions submitted by The Japan Times. However, Yoichi Oyama, a Fukuoka police spokesman said: “We believe we had no reason to treat the case as a murder. We explained to the family why we ruled Matt’s death an accident.”

Michael Fox, a Hyogo Prefecture-based American activist who has a decade of experience working on cases involving wrongful arrests and faulty police probes, said Lacey now has three basic choices if he wants to keep pursuing what happened.

“Charles can continue to put pressure on (Fukuoka prosecutors) to have police redo the investigation, as the case is still officially open.

“However, if the prosecutor decides to officially close the case, he could then file a (local) request for what’s known as a Committee for the Inquest for the Prosecution (“kensatsu shinsa iinkai”). This is the closest thing Japan has to a U.S.-style grand jury, and the only instance in the present criminal justice system which allows citizen participation,” Fox said.

After filing a claim, 11 citizens would be chosen to hear Lacey’s case and submit their recommendation to the prosecutor. The panel’s decision is not legally binding, but its recommendation would be seriously considered.

“The third option is a suit against the state seeking redress. Charles can say he has suffered mental duress as a result of police bungling. But the chances of winning are slim and the redress is small,” Fox said.

Lacey said he and his family are still weighing their options. “We never expected that this would happen to our family. All we ever wanted is for the police to have done their job properly. Our greatest fear now is that we will never know why our brother died,” he said.

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007

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The Australian/Japan Today on Kanagawa Police rape case lawsuit loss


Hi Blog. Developing a case for police patterns of behavior. If it’s a foreigner allegedly committing a crime against Japanese (as in the Idubor Case), the police go after it even if there is no evidence. If a Japanese commits a crime against a foreigner, it’s either not pursued (see the Valentine Case, for the time being) or handled with different standards (see the Lucie Blackman Case).

And when it’s a foreigner on foreigner crime, free pass. See below. Arudou Debito in Tokyo


Australian woman, raped by U.S. sailor, loses 5-year court battle with Japanese police
By Peter Alford
Japan Today/The Australian Friday, December 7, 2007 at 05:53 EST

TOKYO — After being dealt another bitter blow by the justice system Tuesday afternoon, Jane seemed oddly jaunty: “I’m going to keep fighting. I’m fighting this not only for myself, but for other women who’ve been raped — Japanese women.”

Early on the morning of April 6 2002, Jane, an Australian expatriate, was raped near the American naval base at Yokosuka by a sailor off the USS Kitty Hawk, whom she had met earlier that night in a bar.

Then, Jane says, she was violated again, by the Kanagawa prefectural police who denied her medical attention for more than six hours while carrying out a callous and botched “investigation,” who forced her into a re-enactment of the assault and who then refused to charge her attacker.

On Tuesday, in the Tokyo District Court, the same court that found in November 2004 she had in fact been raped, Chief Judge Kenichi Kato and two colleagues ruled the Kanagawa police had acted within the law and fulfilled their responsibilities to the victim. “The case is rejected,” he said brusquely. “Costs will be paid by the plaintiff.” A woman in the courtroom began crying.

Minutes later as her lawyers, Mami Nakano and Masako Shinno who have stood beside her for the whole 5 1/2 years, hurriedly prepared their appeal to the Tokyo High Court, Jane told The Australian: “I hoped my case would cause a positive attitude to improving justice here and support for victims of sexual assault. But, so far, no. Deans is still a free man, free to rape other women, and the police did nothing … they wouldn’t even tell me his name — if that’s what his name was!”

Jane isn’t her real name. Nor, probably is the name given to the police by the Navy: Bloke T. Deans. That, Jane suspects, was just an offhand sneer at a woman who inconveniently got assaulted by one of their young men — just some Aussie woman stirring up trouble over a Bloke!

Apart from her being a foreigner, Jane’s case isn’t so unusual in most aspects; neither the rape, nor the police’s primitive methods of dealing with it, nor that the perpetrator was a U.S. serviceman, nor that the system let him get away.

What has made Jane’s case a cause celebre with Japanese women’s rights groups and with campaigners against military sex assault cover-ups, is that rather than slink away as she was supposed to from those humiliations, she stood and fought.

Nor was she content to be yoked to victimhood. Though still today struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, Jane works with two doctors at a Tokyo university hospital to establish a 24-hour children’s sexual assault clinic.

Once established, she hopes, the clinic can gradually broaden its scope to rape victims generally. The doctors declined to be named or interviewed, apparently because publicity in association with a campaigner like Jane would hurt their project.

Set up self-help network for victims

She has set up a self-help network for victims of sexual abuse and campaigns for a 24-hour rape crisis center. There is not yet such an establishment in Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan.

“The government does provide a rape hotline,” says Masako Motoyama of the Asia-Japan Women’s Resource Centere. “But there are no adequate facilities, almost everything else is done by volunteers.”

The Tokyo Rape Crisis Center, which has been open for 24 years is restricted to telephone counseling twice a week. An official, who again asked not to be identified, says the center’s operations are severely restricted by the lack of any public funding.

Sometimes the police recommend victims to the centere but, reflecting their distrust of investigation procedures, center workers do not refer assaulted women to the police.

“The Japanese police have a prejudice against victims,” says the center official. “They don’t care for the rights of the women; they don’t feel any obligation to the victims.”

Though some large public hospitals and general crime victims’ services do provide some basic support services for sexual assault victims, there is just one other rape crisis center in this land of 126 million people. It was established on Okinawa, the island prefecture that hosts the largest number of U.S. bases and American servicemen, by an anti-military women’s group.

Jane’s case has also been taken up by a coalition of Japanese women’s groups in their submission on violence against women and rights violations to a U.N. Committee Against Torture report, released this year, was highly critical of Japanese official methods.

While welcoming the recognition, Jane is mildly bitter that until she won her Tokyo District Court civil case against the so-called Deans in late 2004, it was just her and her stalwart lawyers, Nakano and Shinno, against the system.

“Yes, she has a right to feel we were not giving her adequate support,” says Motoyama. “But our group did not become aware of her case until last year … Now we definitely want to support her. What she has done in bringing this case has been so courageous.”

Single mother living in Japan for 20 years

When Jane encountered Deans, she had lived in Japan for 20 years — half her life, having come here first with her parents as a teenager. She was separated from a Japanese husband and caring for three sons. An actress and model who appeared on Japanese network TV, she was an active and lively presence in Tokyo’s expatriate circles.

That all stopped immediately after the assault and the nightmarish 12 hours spent in the “care” of the Kanagawa prefectural police. “Working on TV was something that I truly enjoyed, but after I got raped, I could no longer bear to be near a camera,” she says. “I could not even bear to look in the mirror anymore. The rape made me feel so ugly, depressed, suicidal.”

At the station, she says, she was denied medical treatment during the first six hours, though bruised, scraped and suffering a whiplash injury from the force of the assault. The attitude of the policemen throughout was coarse and mocking. She says no attempt was made by the police to preserve bodily samples as evidence.

“Not only the rapist but even the Japanese police contributed to an abridgement of my civil and human rights,” she says. “I begged to be taken to a hospital from the onset of reporting the incident, but my pleas were repeatedly denied.”

Even after finally being taken to a nearby hospital about 9 a.m., she says she was returned to the station about midday for a further three hours of questioning.

(In court, the police contested her account of the timing, saying she was taken to the hospital earlier and released earlier. However Nakano and Shinno produced medical records that refuted this account.)

Deans, in the meantime, was enjoying the relative ease of the Yokosuka naval base. No long night at the police station for this Bloke.

The Status of U.S. Armed Forces in Japan agreement between the two governments stipulates that a serviceman accused of a civilian criminal offense shall be dealt with by the Japanese police and courts.

But the agreement also says: “The custody of an accused member … shall, if he is in the hands of the U.S., remain with the US until he is charged by Japan.” This means, in effect, U.S. military authorities can restrict civilian police access to military suspects.

Unfortunately for Jane, however, Deans did agree to one police procedural: a reenactment of the incident at the scene, her car.

Police reenacted the rape

In most modern jurisdictions, even hardened investigators would balk at the idea of putting an alleged rape victim through a reenactment. But that’s what happened — the only concession to her horrified protests was that a policewoman “played”Jane’s role, while she stood alongside the vehicle, giving directions. Deans had a separate reenactment of the encounter, which he claimed was consensual

And, at the end of it all, the Kanagawa police decided against charging Deans. The Yokahama district prosecutors endorsed this in June 2002, without giving reasons.

That, in the authorities’ view, is where the matter should have rested — as it has in a recent Hiroshima case. There last month, the district prosecutors’ office dropped charges against four U.S. Marines, aged 19 to 38 years, who were accused of raping and robbing a 19-year-woman in a car in October. The Marines said she consented to sex.

“We made the decision based on evidence,” said the assistant prosecutor, who then refused to give any further information.

But Jane wouldn’t go away. Unable to get a criminal prosecution, her lawyers started a civil action. In November 2004, the Tokyo District Court ruled Deans had raped her and ordered him to pay 3 million yen in damages and costs. But it was a Pyrrhic victory.

Two months after Jane filed suit, the U.S. Navy discharged Deans who immediately left Japan. Jane’s side wasn’t aware of this until 11 months later, the day before Deans was to testify, when his lawyer disclosed to the court what obviously he had known for at least some months.

Around then, Jane and her lawyers resolved to take the unprecedented step of suing the Kanagawa police, on the ground that their investigation had denied her proper justice and abrogated her human rights.

The events that literally changed her life, the rape and the Kanagawa police’s shabby treatment, happened within 15 hours. But in refusing to let go of those experiences, Jane has subjected herself and those close to her to more than five years of strain and misery.

She still suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and stomach ulcers. Each of her teenage sons, she believes, has been made ill by their experience of her unhappiness.

She’s perpetually broke and currently way behind in her rent; what money she gets in goes to supporting herself and the boys and funding the legal struggle. Her extraordinarily dedicated lawyers, Nakano and Shinno, have carried the case often without payment.

Jane tells The Australian she would happily reveal her identity — “I am not ashamed, I haven’t done anything to be ashamed of — but cannot risk any more damage to her family, particularly the boys. But I mostly feel so sorry for the next women that gets raped in this country — right now I would say to her: do not go to the police. Go to the hospital yourself, go home, don’t go near them. The police will treat you like trash.”

Peter Alford is Tokyo correspondent for The Australian newspaper, where this story ran on Wednesday.