DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 22, 2009

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 22, 2009

Table of Contents:
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MORE ON THE SAVOIE CHILD ABDUCTION CASE
1) CBS News interviews Chris Savoie after his return to US
2) Joseph pieces together plausible timeline in Savoie Case, finds for Christopher
3) Colin Jones in Japan Times: What the media attention from Savoie Child Abduction Case highlights
4) Colin Jones II: How J media is portraying J divorcees and child abductors as victims, NJ as perps
5) Asahi Shinbun Editorial: Child abduction in Japan, English Translation tweaks for NJ audience
6) CSM’s Kambayashi ties up Savoie Case, alludes to gender discrimination
7) The Atlantic Monthly on mercenary child-retrievers, mentions Japan
8 ) Foreign Policy.com: US Govt advised Chris Savoie to get children to Fukuoka Consulate! Plus lots more media.
9) The Toland Child Abduction Case: making waves in the wake of the Savoie Case
10) Wiegert Case of child custody awarded to NJ: In 1984! A precedent, anyway.

ASIDE FROM THE SAVOIE CASE
11) YouTube: right-wing xenophobia: rightists resort to street violence to shut people up
12) Query: Driver License schools now checking NJ visas? (UPDATE: Also Postal Savings)
13) Reuters on skater Yuko Kawaguchi: How Japan’s lack of dual nationality brands her a “traitor”
14) Sunday Tangent: China Daily on Chinese African-American girl facing racism in China
15) JK: recent moves by Japan’s Immigration Bureau that seem like loosening but not really
16) Tangent: Japanese family wants to become naturalized Korean citizens
17) McDonald’s “Mr James” in Shuukan Kin’youbi — the only Japanese press coverage the issue got
18) Contacting San Fran Human Rights Comm re Japan Times letter to the editor from exclusionary landlord

… and finally …
19) Presentation at Japan Writer’s Conference Sat Oct 17, Doshisha Women’s Univ.
On how to write quickly, concisely, and with panache (link to handout)

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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org)
Updates in real time, Newsletter subscribe and unsubscribe at www.debito.org
Previous Newsletters archived at http://www.debito.org/?cat=3
Freely forwardable

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MORE ON THE SAVOIE CHILD ABDUCTION CASE

1) CBS News interviews Chris Savoie after his return to US

Left-behind father in the Savoie Abduction Case, Christopher Savoie is interviewed on CBS’s Early Show earlier today (courtesy of Newscenter5 Tennessee) after his recent release. He talks about his treatment in Japanese jails and by the US Consulate Fukuoka. According to him, the Consulate knew he was coming, and a consulate official was present when he arrived there with the kids. But for some reason the Consulate front gate never opened. He also says he is not permitted any contact whatsoever with his children now and must pursue matters through Japanese courts. Well, that’s it then. He’s lost them.

See media at
http://www.debito.org/?p=4794

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

I received this comment from Debito.org reader Joseph regarding the Savoie Case, piecing together with a minimum of speculation a plausible timeline for what happened between Christopher and Noriko. It’s too good to be buried as a comment, so I create a separate blog entry for it. He finds for Christopher, concluding:

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

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

http://www.debito.org/?p=4751

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

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

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

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

http://www.debito.org/?p=4784

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4) Colin Jones II: How J media is portraying J divorcees and child abductors as victims, NJ as perps

Lawyer Colin Jones has hit us with a one-two punch this week in the JT — first by explaining what Savoie’s arrest and recent release has brought to light, and now about how the domestic media is reacting to it. He notes how they portray Japanese as perpetual victim, NJ as perp and victimizer. I’ve mentioned a biased NHK report on the subject before (so does Colin below in his article). Now, here’s a deeper roundup and some crystal-balling about how this might affect NJ particularly adversely, as wagons circle and the GOJ protects its own. Excerpt follows:

“…While Japan signing the Hague Convention is certainly a desirable goal, it is probably convenient for everyone on the Japanese government side of the issue for foreigners to be the bad guys. That way they appear to be dealing with a “new” problem, rather than one that they have already ignored for far too long. From there, the easiest way to prevent further abductions is to require foreign residents seeking to exit Japan with their children to show proof that the other parent consents to the travel. This requirement, I believe, will be the most immediate tangible result of Japan signing the Hague Convention (if in fact it ever does).

“If such a requirement is imposed, will it apply to Japanese people? Probably not: Japanese citizens have a constitutional right to leave their country. And foreigners? They apparently lack this right — the re-entry permit foreigner residents are required to have is proof that they are not equally free to come and go as they please!”

http://www.debito.org/?p=4786

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5) Asahi Shinbun Editorial: Child abduction in Japan, English Translation tweaks for NJ audience

The Asahi has this editorial from Oct 20, in which it talks about the international attention being brought upon Japan for the child abductions issue. It gives a surprisingly balanced view. Although it threatens twice to devolve into issues of “differing customs and laws”, it does say that the Hague Convention should be signed, that joint custody would still be an issue even if it was signed, and that abducted children should be returned. But then it falls into parroting the claim (promoted by crank lawyers like Onuki Kensuke without any statistical evidence) that “not a small number” (sukunakunai) of Japanese wives abducting their children are victims of NJ domestic violence. It also merely alludes to the fact that child abductions happen in Japan regardless of nationality, and that conditions under the Hague would help Japanese as well. Again, there’s just a little too much “Japanese as victim” mentality that somehow always manages to sneak back into any domestic-press arguments.

Japanese here:
http://www.debito.org/?p=4799

The official English translation of this editorial has some tweaks within, eliminating “culture” as a factor in some places, while other places add it (as in, the lack of a “culture” of joint custody? Isn’t that a legal issue?). And how about the literal translation of Japan signing the Hague Convention now could be “as ineffective as grafting a shoot onto a different kind of tree” (I’m glad the original Japanese didn’t use an expression involving breeding dogs or something). Again, the need to “protect our own from NJ” is still too strong; the argument should be how everyone in Japan benefits regardless of nationality if you safeguard rights of custody and access a la international treaty.

In translation, editorial excerpt: “At present, divorced Japanese parents whose children have been taken abroad by their non-Japanese ex-spouses have no legal recourse. The ranks of Japanese citizens marrying non-Japanese are swelling steadily, and the number tops 40,000 a year. It is probably not realistic for Japan to continue avoiding the Hague Convention.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=4809

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6) CSM’s Kambayashi ties up Savoie Case, alludes to gender discrimination

Just to complete the arc, here’s the CSM surveying the final chapter of Christopher Savoie’s foray into getting his kids back: He gets released from jail and gets out of Dodge. But now, as we’ve pointed out here before, there are new problems related to this issue coming to light. In sum, Savoie’s stint in the clink was worth it, for all left-behind spouses in Japan.

CSM: Still, many hurdles remain in terms of society’s view of child-rearing. Mr. Miyahara, who divorced his wife two years ago and now lives with his three children, says motherless families like his do not receive public assistance such as child-care allowances, even as there are government programs that support fatherless families.

“It is taken for granted that fathers have a certain amount of income,” he says. “The system dates back to the wartime period.”

Miyahara came to Tokyo last year to meet Health Ministry officials and DPJ lawmakers to ask for help. Since the DPJ won a landslide victory in the elections and is now in power, the change is expected to come, he says.

“Many single fathers also tend to hide [the fact that] they are motherless families. But I tell them to talk openly about it,” he says. “In fact, more people are becoming interested in our situations.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=4765

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7) The Atlantic Monthly on mercenary child-retrievers, mentions Japan

Here are the lengths people will go to if there is no legal framework to enforce international child abductions: even hire a professional to retrieve your child. From The Atlantic Monthly November 2009, courtesy of Children’s Rights Network Japan. This is it, the big leagues.

Congratulations, left-behind spouses. You’ve hit a home run with this issue. All these years talking and writing about the Otaru Onsens Case and “JAPANESE ONLY” signs proliferating across Japan, and pffft — few countries really press Japan nowadays to enforce the UN CERD. Yet here practically overnight you’ve got US Congressional and State Department hearings, and Diet lobbying, and worldwide press. You’ve put Japan into the international spotlight over a problem just as long-suffering as racial discrimination in Japan. I guess Chris had to get arrested before it would happen, alas.

It will probably will get the GOJ to sign the Hague. Getting us to enforce it, however, is another matter. Keep on it.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4761

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8 ) Foreign Policy.com: US Govt advised Chris Savoie to get children to Fukuoka Consulate!
Plus lots more media.

Foreign Policy.com reports something interesting, and if true, exposes a deeper grain of irresponsibility within the USG:

“Even before Savoie traveled to Japan, he contacted the State Department’s Office for Citizen Services to ask for advice on how to get his children out of Japan. State Department officials advised Savoie that because a U.S. court had awarded him sole custody on Aug. 17, he could apply for new passports for the children if he could get them to the Fukuoka consulate.”

Well, that didn’t happen. More media (not only on Savoie Case) in this blog entry, including accusations of Savoie being tortured in prison (it would be tantamount to such under international standards, as the UN has stated about Japan in the past), a divorced international family containing a child with a medical condition being financially strangled by court limbo, and Noriko Savoie reportedly complaining that she was treated “like a babysitter” and cheated out of money in the divorce settlement! Boy I’m glad I’m not a divorce lawyer.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4726

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9) The Toland Child Abduction Case: making waves in the wake of the Savoie Case

I’ve been following another case of child abduction to Japan, that of Paul Toland, US Navy Commander, who lost his daughter Erika to an international divorce with a Japanese seven years ago. Then when his ex-wife died two years ago, custody went not to the only surviving parent in existence, but to the Japanese mother-in-law! Background follows, but Toland has been pushing on both sides of the Pacific for reforms, and he just might succeed. Keep an eye on this one. Media from Facebook (in Toland’s own words), a CNN interview, and news of the lobbying taking place at the Diet follows.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4737

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10) Wiegert Case of child custody awarded to NJ: In 1984! A precedent, anyway.

I am forwarding this with permission from a person by the name of James Wiegert, who tells his story of how he received custody of his then 8-year-old son from a Japanese court a quarter century ago as a NJ.

He points out a number of mitigators — the clear and present unreasonableness of the mother (who first said he could have custody and then took it back), his gainful employment in a major company in Japan (and generous offer of a settlement to her), and the fact the son could only have US citizenship (i.e. could only have the citizenship of the father, which was the law at the time),

His wife did receive visitation rights, which Mr Wiegert allowed to be enforced.

Although this case is to me the exception that proves the rule (even he says he’s not sure why he was granted custody), there is indeed a legal precedent for allowing NJ to get custody in court. I hope that NJ parents in proceedings can cite this in order to tip the overwhelming one-sided judicial scales a little more in their favor.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4684

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ASIDE FROM THE SAVOIE CASE

11) YouTube: right-wing xenophobia: rightists resort to street violence to shut people up

One thing I’ve noticed in this modern day is how the Internet can get around the press and show you things that editors would rather you not see, as the modus operandi of certain elements within Japan’s debate arena is embarrassing and hypocritical (especially when you expect the image of perpetual calm and civility in Japan’s “safe society”).

Not when you take it to the streets. Demonstrators here are pretty nasty when they’re expressing xenophobic views. Footage of two street demonstrations against the vote for Zainichis (one of which resulted in violence), plus a bonus round of Tokyo Gov Ishihara resorting to deligitimizing a question during a press conference because it allegedly came from a foreigner (he even questions the nationality of the questioner as if somehow unpatriotic because it went against his Tokyo Olympic plans).

These things might not make headlines. But they continue to bubble under the surface in this society. It’s amazing how these people who use their right of free speech to express xenophobic views are all to eager to silence the other side — with violence if necessary.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3714

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12) Query: Driver License schools now checking NJ visas? (UPDATE: Also Postal Savings)

I got this email on October 5, 2009 from a reader who asks if Driver License schools are requiring three items of proof of valid visas from NJ before letting them take their driver’s ed classes? I said this is the first I’ve heard. Anyone else out there hearing that? Anyone even heard of the document called a “Kisai Jikou Shoumeisho”. Read on:

http://www.debito.org/?p=4679

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13) Reuters on skater Yuko Kawaguchi: How Japan’s lack of dual nationality brands her a “traitor”

MOSCOW, Oct 14 (Reuters) Yuko Kawaguchi was branded a traitor in her native Japan when she changed nationality to pursue her childhood dream of competing in the Olympics.

Since Japan does not allow dual citizenship, the figure skater was forced to give up her Japanese passport in exchange for a Russian one, enabling her and partner Alexander Smirnov to represent her adopted country at next year’s Winter Games in Vancouver…

While competing internationally for Russia required approval only from the sport’s governing body, the International Skating Union (ISU), she had to obtain Russian citizenship in order to take part in the Olympics.

COMMENT: Here’s another case of how Japan’s lack of dual nationality causes unnecessary hardship and sacrifice. Figure skater Yuko Kawaguchi has to give up her Japanese nationality in order to skate — and she reportedly gets branded a “traitor” for her trouble.

Japan puts enough pressure on its athletes to be world-class (sometimes demanding no less than a gold medal), and this lack of a “personal-best” culture (i.e. Japanese athletes have to become the pride or shame of the entire nation in any international competition) means many Japanese choke and crumble under the stress. Or in this case, give up their legal ties to Japan entirely. Silly. Then again, if Kawaguchi DOES get the Gold, we might claim her all over again (like we did the emigrant “Japanese” who got Nobel Prizes last year).

It’s time to get governments off their 20th-Century war footings (as in, “If we grant dual nationality , what if we go to war with that country? Which side will you choose?”) and allow individuals more options and identities. And nationalities. Because, again, international migration warrants that.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4773

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14) Sunday Tangent: China Daily on Chinese African-American girl facing racism in China

It’s not only Japan that will have to deal with a multicultural, multiracial future. Lou Jing, the daughter of a liaison with a Chinese woman and an African-American, is having to deal with small minds on the other side of our pond. China has its share of internet bullies, it seems. Read on and see if there are any lessons here. One I can think of is: At least the (English language) media in China is brave enough to call it racism.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4771

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15) JK: recent moves by Japan’s Immigration Bureau that seem like loosening but not really

News Item: Minister grants Chinese daughters of Japanese war orphan permission to stay in Japan

JK COMMENTS: But this is a hollow victory at best because the zairyuu tokubetsu kyoka that was fought so hard for is only good for a year *and* with strings attached:

“Kana, 21, a first-year student at Tezukayama University, and Yoko, 19, also in her first year at Osaka University of Economics and Law, were given long-term resident visas good for one year. The visa conditions allow the sisters to work in Japan, take trips outside the country, and may be renewed if the sisters can provide for their own livelihoods.”

This whole situation is just plain wrong on so many levels  the sisters landed in Japan when they were 9 and 7 and are now attending college. The two are de facto Japanese citizens, and yet it took 6 years of churn and an act of God (well, almost!) just so that they can stay in Japan for another year on a short leash. If the archipelago was about to burst at the seams with humanity, I could understand the need for all the wrangling, but as we all know this simply isn’t the case, and in fact the opposite is true, which is why the government needs to stop picking nits already!

http://www.debito.org/?p=4705

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16) Tangent: Japanese family wants to become naturalized Korean citizens

JoongAng Daily: The Masashi family’s five children are fully Japanese, but think like Koreans. They can speak their mother tongue but are more fluent in Korean. They have been to Japan but have lived in Korea all their lives. Now, the family is trying to become naturalized as Korean citizens.

Their parents, Ananose Masashi, 47, and his wife Kazuko, 46, came to Korea in 1989, a year after they got married. Like many newlywed couples before them, they started their new life in Seoul. They eventually decided to set up their own Japanese translation and interpretation company…

http://www.debito.org/?p=4703

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17) McDonald’s “Mr James” in Shuukan Kin’youbi — the only Japanese press coverage the issue got

And it’s a fair article, too, trying to explain why some NJ might find “Mr James” offensive. Japanese at

http://www.debito.org/?p=4632

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18) Contacting San Francisco Human Rights Comm re Japan Times letter to the editor from exclusionary landlord

Here’s a letter I emailed to San Francisco two days ago re a Letter to the Editor of the Japan Times. The author claims to engage in discriminatory practices in the US — a landlord who claims that he refuses potential foreign tenants “just because they are foreigners”. If he is a real person, at a real company, then let’s hope San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission investigates and writes back. Worth a try. Feel free to email the HRC yourself, email address included.

http://www.debito.org/?p=4691

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… and finally …
19) Presentation at Japan Writer’s Conference Sat Oct 17, Doshisha Women’s Univ.
On how to write quickly, concisely, and with panache
(link to handout)

Handout for my upcoming talk in Kyoto at the Japan Writer’s Conference. Introduction:

I write a lot. Five books, umpteen academic essays and chapters, a daily diary for more than a decade, and a blog entry basically every day for more than three years. In addition to thousands of essays (all archived online at Debito.org), I write two columns a month for newspapers plus exposition for other venues upon request. I pound out a good 1500 words every day, never suffering from “Writer’s Block”.

Howcum? Here are my tricks…

http://www.debito.org/?p=4709

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That’s all for this Newsletter! Thanks as always for reading!

Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org)
Updates in real time, Newsletter subscribe and unsubscribe at www.debito.org
Previous Newsletters archived at http://www.debito.org/?cat=3
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 22, 2009 ENDS

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