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


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS now on iTunes, subscribe free

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

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

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

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

Arudou Debito in Sapporo



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

You can help. We NEED your help.




July 7 and 8, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

I certainly do appreciate your assistance.

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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


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





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

  • Ken Aston says:

    A very shocking story. What would make it even more convincing is if we could see the girl speak about what she writes. I’d consider putting up YouTube videos where she speaks about her claims on that site.

    — If you’d bother to look around the site, you’d see that they’ve done just that. For example:

  • I went through this kind of hysteria BS with my X wife. This is common in Japan. What I found works best is to step. Dont entertain it and you must remain in control. Control means walking away from it. If crazy came into my room at 2 AM, I wouldnt come back home for a week or so. Im to old for that b.s. and dont tolerate it anymore. Its either get physical or step. Logic dont work. Physical will get u in trouble and with the U.S. its always one sided with the authorities, that is your wrong, the poor asian wife is the victim. here we show proof that its sometimes different. wasted time/life only ensues with this type of relationship. It usually involves the japanese wife unable to communicate feeling so they resort to 2 am harassments etc. Been there done that. Never again.

  • Allot of guys, including myself, fall into a helpless mode, hunker down, like the locals do and gaman. I got out of a similar relationship and would never go back. Dont think one day about it. It can be tough to make the move at first, but I never regret it, only regret not having done it sooner. You got to be strong, and look out for yourself. japan looks out for its japanese, not you. Kids in the mix complicates it all. I dont have any but if I did, the kid would step with me.

  • While I have a lot of sympathy for the father not being able to see his children putting those videos up wasn’t the smartest move. It looks to me like nothing more than a husband/wife spate. Also having three nieces and one nephew I’ve seen my share of kids play one parent against another esp. in a case of divorce. Again I have much sympathy for those who find their children striped away but doubt in this instance the web page/videos are going to garner a of support. They come off to me as a bit too weird.

  • Altough what the wife did is really regrettable, we are only seeing one side of the story, the dad’s part. The videos on the web site are really strange. It is obvious the girl is more attached to her father. I just wanted to agree with what debito said in the SAvoie case, all of divorces are really nasty procedures and there is lots of fallout, in Japan is even worse with the actual state of the family laws. I believe that for japanese people it must be even worse, many things which are not known.

  • I certainly hope the family situation is resolved and comes to a happy end for all.

    However, I don’t believe for a second that the statements on that website were written by a 13-year-old. I probably wont win any friends for saying this, but sorry, I just don’t believe that was written by a young kid. Maybe it’s the translation, but I feel it was probably ghostwritten.

    I don’t deny that abuse probably happened (the girl did escape, after all), but reading the Q&A I get the feeling that the girl is being coached by somebody. What kind of 13-year-old writes a protest letter to the city governor? That kind of thing wasn’t even on my radar when I was 13.

    And this statement?

    “I have learned that these Japanese are being untruthful because they don’t want my father to ‘win,’ and I am very disappointed about that”

    These Japanese? So it’s an “us vs. them” thing? I wouldn’t be surprised if she was being fed lines by somebody.

    Either way, hope it turns out well.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Debito. Thanks for posting this. I really feel for the kids involved and wish I could go to Tokyo and help look for the boys.

  • Carl says:

    “I don’t deny that abuse probably happened (the girl did escape, after all), but reading the Q&A I get the feeling that the girl is being coached by somebody. What kind of 13-year-old writes a protest letter to the city governor? That kind of thing wasn’t even on my radar when I was 13.”

    Well, the question begs: were you abused? Abused people grow up really fast because they have to. At the age of 15, I was trying to gain legal evidence of my father’s abuse and get him in court for it. A letter to the governor doesn’t seem that far off to me at all.

  • It is obvisous that the dad wrote this and at their age the kids are easily manipulitive, however due to my own experiences I would have to side with the dad. I agree- putting up the videos seems a bit of a reach and the guy is feeling helpless, but as I said before your pretty much on your own over here and got to take a stand. Many Japanese will close in when they sense weakness, just like the mado ijeme you see in companies. They can be cold. It aint worth it if you ask my opinion, trying to battle in that mix gets you nowhere, you got to step.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    The dad is obviously desperate. Desperate people do desperate things. The fact she changed the kids names is enough for me to side with the dad. Period. If he was abusive, why would the daughter come back to him, for example. Hope it all works out somehow.

  • Ken Aston says:

    Debito, I was thinking of a video were the girl speaks into the camera making claims such as those on the Q&A page. Like seen in the comments here the website raises the question who wrote it and actually seeing the girl speak would give some more insights into her thoughts.

  • This father could give more information, so that others can help him. For example, we do not know his family name. Information like that could be necessary for the finder, if they happen to spot the boys and have a chance to speak with them. Here is an example:

  • Legal Man says:

    My wife and I signed a civil agreement before we got married (There are no pre-nuptials in Japanese law). We clearly stated what to do in case of divorce with kids, money and financial matters, what kind of punishment for not obeying the agreement (Around 150.000 US$ compensation), what to do if parents intervene, how to deal with the courts, visitations and custody rights, family name, koseki, my residence, etc, etc.

    We made the agreement in such a way, that it would be quite difficult for her and me or her family to step out of the line. The notary who made the agreement was quite impressed. He said it would be better for families to set such agreement. We actually cited the UN Rights of the Child Convention and other laws.

    I don`t say it would be the solution for a happy marriage but it does help. It`s a sort of constitution. It is also a tool to make authorities to act as I (and she) can take each other to court in case we get divorce and we don`t follow such agreement.

    I would recommend to people to do it. The notary fees only costs 40.000 Yens but it is worth the money. I showed my wife all the information about families getting divorced, getting nasty, that she decided to go ahead. Of course her parents opposed it as they opposed our marriage. It gave me the excuse to tell them what I really thought about them and to cut contact.

    If your wife to be opposes this idea, then follow Debito advice, not to get marry.

    Well, this is only my advice.

    — Thanks for this. Is there any way we can get the text of your prenup as a template? We don’t need your names and individual details. Just the text (formatted if possible) for us to fill in. It would be most helpful to others. Thanks for sharing.

  • Legal Man, I am not sure that will work because the general rule is as follows.

    Civil Code of Japan
    Article 754 Either husband or wife may at any time during marriage rescind a contract between husband and wife; provided, however, that this may not harm the rights of a third party.

    In spite of this general rule, a couple can make a contract regarding “property rights and duties of a husband and wife” before marriage, which cannot be altered or rescinded during marriage.

    Article 755 The property rights and duties of a husband and wife shall be prescribed by the following subsections, unless they entered into a contract setting forth otherwise, regarding their property before giving notification of the marriage.

    Article 758 The contract regarding the property rights of a husband and wife may not be altered after notification of marriage.

    However, the scope of “the contract regarding the property rights and duties of a husband and wife” is limited to “who will pay the costs of living during marriage”, “who will have what proportion of the properties acquired during marriage”, and “who owns the properties that had been acquired before marriage.” If a contract goes beyond the scope, it faces unilateral cancellation by one of the spouses per article 754.

    Legal Man, did your lawyer say anything about article 754 when you and your wife signed the contract?

  • Legal Man says:

    Yes, I can do a template with the text with the main points. Just give me a week or two. We tried to cover all important points: Koseki, name, custody, visitation rights, place of residence for our kid, my residence in Japan, amount of money to pay (Possible to update with court supervision), etc. There are also clauses for domestic violence, infidelity, what if one or both die, go into prison, etc.

    One clarification, there is no prenuptial agreements in Japanese law, so it needs to be done as a civil agreement.

    A prenuptial agreement would be recognized by Japanese courts if it is done in a country where prenuptial are recognized and the couple married under that jurisdiction.

    Go to Japan:

    Maybe it would be better to get married under a foreign law with a clear pre-nuptial.

    One important point we arranged that if one gets the physical custody, then the other gets the legal custody, unless one is incapacitated (Physically, mentally, financially) to do so.

    Another point is that the agreement clearly states that is made for the benefit of our kid and for his best interests.

    Maybe this agreement is worth nothing but it is still under Japanese law, so the courts cannot ignore that easily. It is a sort of pressure on the Japanese side and for both sides not to get out of control and settle for a negotiated solution.

    It is also advisable to do it even after marriage.

    One should show clearly to the Japanese spouse the situation in Japan and ask whether he/she wants to end up like those couples or not. Or to end up like a typical Japanese marriage where they don`t get divorced and hate each other for years to end.

    — Lovely. When you’re good and ready, please let me have a template and I’ll put it up as a separate blog entry. It’s definitely worth a try, and may even set legal precedent in years or decades to come. Thanks very much for your assistance.

  • Debito, after studying similar cases, I came to a conclusion that “Act on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims” is at the center of the unfairness.

    The law says in its preamble, “the majority of victims of spousal violence are women.” So, women are assumed to be the victims. The victims need to claim but do not need to prove the fact that they were abused. (Article 12) The court does not need to hear from the husband. (Article 14) When the court recognizes the abuse based on the claim by the victim, it issues protection order, which prohibits the alleged abuser to contact the victim and any of the children. (Article 10)

    So, if a wife claims DV, a husband loses any contact with his children.

    What further complicates the matter is that there are “DV activists” who inflates a small quarrel between a couple into a family destroying battle. They just make up a DV story and take it to the court so that their client can get rid of the husband and they can earn legal fees. It seems the DV activists are now growing into a big industry in the legal profession.

    — Thanks for the report.

  • There was an interesting ruling by the Supreme Court on August 4, 2010, regarding child custody and the power of a judgment issued by a foreign court.

    A father who is designated as a sole custodian of his child through a judgment issued by the circuit court of Milwaukee in State of Wisconsin filed a habeas corpus in Japan against a mother (ex-wife) who lives with the child in Japan. District court and high court turned down the petition without hearing the case. The father appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that the judgment by the Milwaukee court satisfies the requirements in article 118 of code of civil procedure which gives legally binding power to foreign judgments in Japan, and that, therefore, it is illegal to turn down the petition of habeas corpus without hearing.
    Although, the Supreme court also ruled that it does not have power to accept an appeal to habeas corpus ruling by a high court unless constitutionality is involved and turned down the appeal by the father, saying the petitioner should file the same petition at the district court again.

    — So just to be clear, the Japanese Supreme Court has just granted increased powers to foreign custody rulings in Japan. But that means people have just gained the right to a hearing (not to custody), and the plaintiff in this case has to start from zero all over again. It’s kinda a step in the right direction, but to me a somewhat devoid-of-meaning victory.

    Thanks for advising.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>