Hi Blog. The story about Japan as a safe haven for internationally abducted kids spreads from Canada to the US to Australia, this time in the Sydney Morning Herald. And this time, the crank lawyer, a Mr Onuki, who claimed that “90 per cent of cases in which the Japanese women return to Japan, the man is at fault, such as with domestic violence and child abuse”, finally gets a response (the Mainichi printed it without counter, the rotters). Meanwhile, the GOJ just keeps on dithering on the Hague Convention. It’s one of Japan’s worst-kept secrets. But not for long at this rate. Keep on exposing. Courtesy of Paul Wong. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Little hope for Japan’s forsaken fathers
Abandoned … George Obiso, at his Gold Coast home, has held onto the books and videos his children left behind when their mother abducted them.
Photo: Steve Holland
Denial of child abduction as a crime is hurting those left behind, writes Justin Norrie in Tokyo.
“I waited and waited. I kept listening out for their voices at the door, but they never came. Sachi had no intention of ever bringing them back,” says Mr Obiso, of Southport, who had split from his Japanese wife the previous year after she became depressed and withdrawn.
“Her family moved out of their Yokohama home, disconnected the phone and disappeared somewhere into Japan, so I couldn’t find them or even talk to my sons.
“It’s been four years. I’ve missed a large part of their childhood and I’m starting to doubt I’ll ever see them again. It’s been a horrible, horrible nightmare.”
Even if he found Anthony, now 12, and Jorge jnr, 8, Mr Obiso would be unlikely to get much sympathy from Japan’s family law courts. For almost 30 years, Japan has resisted pressure from other Group of Seven nations to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; as such its judiciary does not recognise parental child abduction as a crime.
Mr Obiso is one of hundreds of “left-behind” parents from international marriages whose children have been abducted by a spouse who in effect enjoys immunity in Japan from prosecution by local authorities.
The Hague convention, which has been signed by every other developed country, requires the “prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence”. Since it took effect, foreign parents have spent millions of dollars working their way through Japan’s bureaucratic court system in an effort to see their children again and take them home. No court has ever ruled in their favour.
Many more Japanese parents have been affected. There is no tradition of dual access, so when parents separate, one gets custody while the other typically never sees the children again.
Colin Jones, a professor at Doshisha University Law School in Kyoto, believes that Japan is essentially “a haven for parental child abduction”. This is largely because Japanese courts are entrenched in a national bureaucracy whose goal is to ratify “the status quo, particularly in child custody and visitation cases, where courts have few, if any, powers to enforce change”.
Because there is no substantive law defining the best interests of the child in cases of parental separation, ratifying the status quo invariably means deciding in favour of the parent who already has custody.
The problem is compounded in cases where there are allegations of abuse, as Paul Wong can attest. After the death of his Japanese wife, Akemi, from cancer in 2005, the US lawyer, 42, left his daughter Kaya, now 5, with her maternal grandparents in Kyoto and made fortnightly visits from Hong Kong, where he was working, while he looked for a job in Tokyo.
“I promised my wife before she died I would make sure Kaya knew her Japanese cultural heritage and her grandparents, so I decided to honour that and live with her in Japan,” he says. “Just as I was about to move to Tokyo, Akemi’s parents hit me with a lawsuit alleging I had sexually assaulted my own daughter. The lawsuit was full of so many crazy, disgusting lies. Akemi’s friends told me they blamed me for her death, and that’s why they wanted to take Kaya away.”
The court found the claims could not be substantiated by evidence, but ruled that custody should be given to the grandparents anyway.
“This has done irreparable harm not just to me, but to a sweet, innocent child,” says Mr Wong. “It’s gut-wrenching, but I simply can’t give up hope.”
Japanese family lawyers say allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence are common in parental child abduction cases. In a recent article in Mainichi Shimbun, a prominent family lawyer, Kensuke Onuki, said he opposed Japan signing the convention because “in more than 90 per cent of cases in which the Japanese women return to Japan, the man is at fault, such as with domestic violence and child abuse”. Whereas women can’t easily provide evidence of the abuse, he says, the men rarely have trouble drumming up attention in the media.
For fathers like Mr Wong, this claim “is insulting. It simply doesn’t make sense. If it’s the voices of foreign fathers that get heard, then why is it that not one foreigner has had his child returned to him? Not one – ever.”
“A lot of people are getting fed up with the way Japan is running around the world lobbying for diplomatic support over the few Japanese abductees to North Korea, when the country is permitting hundreds of its own citizens to do the same thing to foreign parents in broad daylight.”
In September, after a newspaper report claimed Japan would sign the convention as soon as 2010, the Australian embassy in Tokyo sent a “formal government-to-government communication … commending them and offering assistance,” an embassy official said.
But Japan’s Foreign Ministry subsequently distanced itself from the report. A spokesman said the Government was still considering signing the convention but had not made a decision.
12 comments on “Sydney Morning Herald: Little hope for Japan’s Abandoned Fathers”
The point about the hypocrisy regarding North Korea abductees is strong one, and perhaps would be a good basis for organizing a co-protest and/or counter-protest [what should one call it?]whereever and whenever the North Korea abductee problem is trumpeted by the powers that be.
A truck parading around 12 photos of NK abductees followed by a truck showing hundreds of photos of abducted children in Japan, or if “privacy” is an issue, hundreds of photos of fathers longing just to see thier own children.
Imagine a TV commercial, hundreds of faces saying “My child was abducted…” starting with the NK abductee families, but continuing into the fathers..then the final reveal that these fathers are victims of losing their children to the Japanese courts wihtout exception.
It’s just so wrong that the grandparents would get awarded custody ahead of the father.
“its judiciary does not recognise parental child abduction as a crime.”
It does. There are at least 2 Supreme Court cases where a parent who abducted his own child is found guilty by Japanese court.
Case Number H14(A)805
Case Number H16(A)2199
Prof. Colin Jones at Doshisha University Law School, I do not know if you read this comment or if you read the article before it is published, but if you do and did, do you have any comment about this apparent contradiction?
“The point about the hypocrisy regarding North Korea abductees is strong one,”
Not hardly. Let’s see – people abducted from their homes and families by complete strangers, who don’t give a damn about them and only want to use them for training spies or whatever, and who killed abductees who got word out about where they were…
And children taken by one parent, who loves them, surrounded by other family who love them, nurtured and cared for…
And these two things are comparable how? Try again. You are talking apples and oranges.
Bringing North Korea into this issue is a very very stupid move.
There are a lot of Japanese who support signing Hague Convention as reported in the article. There are a lot of Japanese who support stronger visitation rights. The judiciary branch makes it clear that parental child abduction is a crime.
But saying “A lot of people are getting fed up with the way Japan is running around the world lobbying for diplomatic support over the few Japanese abductees to North Korea, when the country is permitting hundreds of its own citizens to do the same thing to foreign parents in broad daylight.” is a kiss of death. By saying so, those fathers are associating themselves with North Korea. No Japanese would ever support them. All the efforts by Hague Convention supporters are ruined by that reckless speech.
Keep North Korea away from this issue. Try to get popular support from the Japanese by persuasion, for they will decide whether to sign the Convention or not. Antagonizing or insulting them will not help those fathers.
There’s no contradiction. The parent who wsa found at fault in the first case you posted was Dutch, with the Japanese mother being awarded custody. I haven’t read the full transcript of the second case, but the precis makes no mention of nationality, so wouldn’t both participants be Japanese?
The non-Japanese still gets shafted. When is the gaiatsu finally going to be what it should, with sanctions and blockades against Japan?
you usually have good information to share. Those two cases, are good information, but of little value to anyone.
So if there is a law that makes abduction a crime, but that law is almost never invoked, what use is it? It’s just the same as a case where there is no law.
Plus, I can’t believe your showing us those two cases where children are abducted OUT of Japan and taken to foreign countries. In those cases it was punnished, but not in any cases where the child was abducted INTO japan. That’s complete nonsense.
Well. to say that’s the Fathers fault is rediculios, What’a the percentage of the so called wifes either LYED about the reasons the tok off with the kids, also alot can’t funtion properly outside of Japan so run back to mommy…It abduction plan and simple no bleeding hearts here for those womwn. I think its very cowardly. peace out
I’m glad to see Kensuke Onuki’s quote resurface. That guy deserves a lot of grief for saying that. My girlfriend read it and told me that she’s afraid if she married a white person, like me, he’ll beat her.
Why did Mainichi print that sentence? If that statement wasn’t in quotes, it’d practically be slander.
Onuki is overlooking cases where non-Japanese courts have awarded the children to non-Japanese paretns. In these cases surely the judges wouldn’t suspect the NJ parent was violent.
I don`t understand…If the Japanese Government isn`t taking this issue seriously, why are these other nations continuing to make economic/political ties with them? At some point this issue must take precedence…They just can`t cooperate can they? Once and for all justice must be served and the people of Japan must learn about this sick problem.
issue about child abduction is a disgrace in japan,i wish us and japanese governments do something about this.!