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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

  • Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination
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  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • MOFA offers public comments on signing Hague Convention on Child Abductions; not much there

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 27th, 2011

    IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

    New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「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

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    Hi Blog. Related to Japan’s future signing of the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, here we have an official report about a public forum held on November 22, 2011 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (something I attended before and incidentally considered a very flawed and biased format).  Present were academics, lawyers, the Ministries of Justice, Health and Welfare, Education, Internal Affairs, plus the Cabinet and the National Police Agency.

    In the course of discussions about setting up a central agency to handle the enforcement of the Hague, 168 public comments were collected since the end of September and were brought up at this meeting.  That report follows in full below, courtesy of TS.  A few things I found noteworthy within it:

    1) The term LBP (Left-Behind Parent) is now part of the Japanese lexicon.

    2) In discussions about the right of both parents to have information about (if not access to) their children, the same old saws about DV (domestic violence, however unclearly defined, and in Japan that matters) came up, and the GOJ is as usual being called in to do something about it (apparently more than just mediate, which the GOJ gets all control-freaky and nanny-state about) — seesawing between the LBP’s right to know about their children and the custodian’s right to be safe from the violent boogeyman ex-spouse.  This seesawing was also visible in an even more vague discussion about the GOJ holding onto passports of potential abductors and abductees, except under exceptional circumstances that were mentioned but left undeveloped.

    3) The GOJ, regarding contact between LBP and child, plans to “support the respect of visitation rights”, but it also leaves measures vague and expresses caution about doing much of anything, really.

    All told, this level of discussion was pretty low. I found little concrete here to sink one’s teeth into regarding advising toward future policies guaranteeing the lynchpins to this discussion: joint custody and guaranteed visitation that goes beyond an hour a two a month.  Not to mention return of internationally abducted children to their habitual residence as per the Hague.  Others are welcome to read the text below and squeeze out whatever interpretations I may have missed.  But given how much duplicity has taken place regarding the rights of LBPs in Japan up until now, I sadly remain unhopeful.  Arudou Debito












    • 中央当局が得た情報がLBP側に渡らないことが明確であれば,たとえば民間の団体たる私立学校と公立学校の間で情報提供義務に差をつける必要はなく,また差が出ることによる問題が生ずるのではないか。その一方で,情報提供義務を負う機関が広がることとのバランスで慎重な検討も必要。いずれにせよ,民間機関への情報の提供を求める場合,その範囲,方法については,政省令やガイドライン等で明確に定めることが必要。
    • 関係機関が中央当局に対して情報提供する際にDV被害のおそれがあるか否かについても併せて中央当局に通知することに関し,現場が何をどこまでやらねばならないのか,どう責任を取るのかが不明確なままでは,現場が委縮するので,そうならないように情報の流れが確保される具体的な通知の在り方について,今後関係機関内での実務的な検討が必要。他方,この点は,相手方の同意があった場合に情報を外部に提供するとの前提であったので中央当局としてDVのおそれの有無の情報が必要であったが,その必要がなくなったのであればそもそも中央当局にその情報を通知しなくても差支えないのではないか。
    • 情報提供を行う機関等が,「現に子を監護すると思われる者」か否かを判断することは難しく,外観上判断しやすい文言がより適当ではないか。なお,法制審で議論されている相手方適格の要件とは必ずしも同じ用語である必要はない。実態上,関係機関が,子を監護している者であるかどうかの判断を行うことは非常に困難であることからも,「監護する者」を「同居している者」としてはどうか。
    • 相手方となるべき「子を現に監護する者」の氏名(祖父母も含む)を申請者に開示後,相手方にその旨を知らせるべきか否かについては,さらに子が隠避されるといった事態を惹起するおそれもある一方で,DV被害者の居所の判明につながりかねないため,通知が必要とも考えられる。この点については,法律に明記せずとも対応できるのではないか。
    • 中央当局が集めた情報につき,行政機関個人情報保護法第8条第1項の「法令に基づく場合」により目的外提供できるとすることでは,弁護士法に基づく照会も該当することにならないか。その範囲が広くなりすぎるおそれもある。目的外提供の範囲につき絞ることも検討すべきではないか。


    • 条約に定める友好的な解決の促進のために,外務省として仲裁等の任意解決を外部団体に委託したいと考えるが,そのような団体の発掘・育成が検討課題。
    • 友好的な解決のために双方の合意があった場合に,返還手続の前後に関わらず中央当局が旅券を保管することは問題ない。ただし,返還に係る裁判手続が始まったら,合意がなくなったものとして保管を中止して,当事者に返付するケースもあるだろう。いずれにせよ,当事者の合意に基づく措置に過ぎず,合意の撤回があれば返付するということかと思われる。
    • 返還手続における保全的な処分との関連で,出国を差し止めるためにいかなる手段が可能かは今後の法制審にて引き続き検討。


    • 当事者が自らの裁判に必要と判断する情報を提供されるべきとの観点から,我が国中央当局から他の条約締約国の中央当局に,子の社会的背景に関する情報の提供を求める際は,裁判所からの求めだけでなく,申立人及び相手方からの依頼による場合も認めるべきではないか。
    • 他方,上記については,我が国中央当局及び他の締約国中央当局の事務的負担との関係から困難がある他,我が国と他の締約国との間で片務的な関係とならざるを得ないこと,相手国中央当局がどこまで社会的背景に関する情報収集に協力するか不明であること,相手国中央当局の情報収集結果を待っていれば迅速な裁判を確保できないおそれがあること等,現実的な問題として限界があることも事実。


    • 中央当局による援助の対象となる事案の範囲,及び中央当局がとるべき措置の範囲については,論点ペーパーの整理とすることで特段の意見なし。特に,援助の対象となる事案の範囲としては,他の締約国で認められた接触の権利を我が国において尊重されることを支援する(その逆も然り)と整理。
    • ただ,接触の権利についての支援は,当事者の協力が前提となることから,接触の権利の実施体制の確立(中央当局から当事者に紹介する実施団体の発掘及び育成含む)は大きな課題。
    • 他の条約締約国は条約締結後20~30年の年月をかけ,接触の権利の実施体制を整えてきた経緯がある。我が国も締結後,直ちに十分な体制を確立するのは難しくとも,関係行政機関が連携しつつ,面会交流を支援する団体等の育成に努めて欲しい。




    1. (1)パブリックコメントのとりまとめ結果及び概要パブリックコメントで寄せられた意見(PDF)PDF
    2. (2)論点ペーパー(PDF)PDF
    3. (3)参考資料


    7 Responses to “MOFA offers public comments on signing Hague Convention on Child Abductions; not much there”

    1. Patrick Says:

      In my opinion, it is all just tatemae. Until foreign governments say “enough is enough”, and stop turning a blind eye to Japan’s abuses, nothing of substance is likely to change.

    2. 無名 Says:

      It will take many many high profile embarrassing Inoue Emiko incidents with clear fault on the Japanese side to finally get things rolling in this country. International loss of face is the ONLY way to get the ball rolling. Perhaps a TV personality in addition to a prominent politician or royal family member will wake up the policy makers to the reality of this situation. This scenario is applicable to any and all situations that need changing in this country.

    3. Jim Di Griz Says:

      無名 is right, I think. Only a sense of international outrage, the idea that abductors are disgracing Japan, will provoke change. I am waiting for the official line to become ‘ don’t marry a foreigner ‘ as a way of sparing Japan the embarrassment ( a neat, and very Japanese solution, since it avoids admitting that Team Japan is in the wrong).
      As an unrelated aside (sorry Debito), the JGov love to give stats about the number of foreigners in Japan, but I can’t find any stats about the number of Japanese that leave Japan. Any ideas?

    4. Maxabillion Slartibartfast Says:

      The only thing more Emikos will create in Japan is an increasing sense of self-righteous victimhood, e.g., “How dare those wife-beating barbarians lock up our good, decent Japanese mothers who are only trying to protect their poor children!”

      Still, I am of course happy for the father in this case and I am interested to see what happens next at the policy level in Japan.

    5. Mumei Says:

      (Note that I am different 無名 than #2.)

      Jim Di Griz,

      > I am waiting for the official line to become ‘ don’t marry a foreigner ‘ as a way of sparing Japan the embarrassment

      Japan has spun the Hague Convention as a J vs. NJ issue.
      While so-called “international marriage” is surely the largest group, I think that the Hague Convention could be equally applicable to Japanese families as well.
      For example, imagine a married Japanese couple moves to the US for work. (In modern society, this is not so rare.)
      They eventually start a family.
      There is marital trouble and one of them decides to move back to Japan with their child.
      The child at this time would have habitually resided in the US at the time of his/her removal.
      If Japan had signed the convention, the left-behind parent–regardless of being Japanese–should be able to have the child returned to the habitual residence: US.
      Other similar scenarios are equally plausible, but equally relevant to Japanese as well.

    6. Loverilakkuma Says:

      I agree with the people above. No matter what they discuss, it’s quite unrealistic to expect this country to establish a comprehensive legal framework and system on international child custody and prevention of child abduction. After reviewing the documents attached above, I saw none of them are able to craft their visions and attitudes toward the representatives (NJ as well as Japanese) into their language. The terms the authorities describe in these documents are—as you expect—vague (意見,取り計らう), unclear (裁量, DV,接触の権利[huh?]), confusing (行方不明者,効果的に尊重する [I don’t even know how to translate this in English. anyone?]), and even misleading (i.e., 監護,留置. The list goes on and on… The reason I have trouble reading Japanese–which is my 1st language. Ugh!).

    7. John Says:

      In the shoe on the other foot dept.

      “Japanese parents unarmed in battle for kids taken abroad amid radiation fears
      January 10, 2012 The Asahi Shimbun
      By MANABU SASAKI / Staff Writer

      A woman who has not seen her two children since March, when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, is starting to give up hope of ever seeing her sons again.

      The woman’s apartment still contains the brand-new jacket and school bag that her older son would have used if he had entered elementary school in April. The mother, a civil servant, also finds herself searching for her two sons in her apartment when she returns home from work, despite knowing deep inside that her home is empty.

      But it wasn’t the quake or tsunami that separated her from the boys, aged 5 and 7.

      “It is like a kidnapping,” said the woman, who lives in the Tokai region.

      The boys are now in the United States with the woman’s American husband, who has refused to return to Japan, citing radiation fears. He has also filed for divorce.

      There is very little she can do to win custody of the children because the Japanese government has not passed the necessary legislation to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Under the convention, if a parent illegally flees with a child under 16 to another nation, the child has to be returned to the former nation of residence.

      Tokyo signaled its intention to ratify the treaty after a number of high-profile cases involving Japanese mothers taking their children to Japan without the consent of their foreign ex-spouses or in defiance of court orders.

      But since the Fukushima nuclear accident started in March, Foreign Ministry officials have received a number of inquiries from Japanese parents whose spouses have left Japan for their home nations with their children in tow, using the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant as an excuse not to return.

      About the only thing ministry officials can do is pass on lists of lawyers in the foreign nations where the spouse has gone to.

      “We feel sorry for the parents because this is a form of negative publicity from the nuclear accident,” a ministry official said. “We hope the couples will hold calm discussions based on objective information about radiation.”

      The Tokai woman’s husband in March took the boys to the United States for what was supposed to have been a one-month visit. But the Great East Japan Earthquake soon struck, and the husband refused to return to Japan, expressing concerns that the sons could be exposed to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident.

      Daily reports in the United States showed the damage from the quake and tsunami. Nuclear experts often appeared on TV citing the dangers of the radiation spewing from the Fukushima plant.

      The woman used a TV phone over the Internet to talk with her husband and children, trying to convince them that the Tokai region was safe.

      But the children, perhaps influenced by their father, also expressed concerns about the danger of waves flowing inland as well as poison in the air.

      The husband initially said he would return to Japan once the situation at the nuclear plant stabilized. However, by summer, he had withdrawn about $17,000 from his wife’s bank account and had rented an apartment in the United States.

      In November, he filed a lawsuit in the United States seeking a divorce. He did not abide by his initial promise even after the Japanese government declared the situation at the Fukushima plant to be under control.

      The woman met her future husband in 2001, when she was studying in New York. They were married the following year.

      The husband was still a student, and living in New York was not economically feasible. So the couple decided to move to Japan with the wife working to support the family.

      But now, she lacks any assurance of finding a stable job in the United States. She feels the possibility is low that she would be granted custody of the children under such conditions.

      She has consulted with a U.S. office handling inquiries about abducted children. If Japan had joined the Hague Convention, the United States would have been obligated to return her children to Japan as a member of the convention, the office told her.

      But Japan has not yet joined, leaving her and her children uncovered for protection under the convention.

      She also consulted a lawyer in the United States because she felt the only way to get her children back was through a lawsuit of her own. But she was told that U.S. courts looked at how the children were being raised over the most recent six months. That would put her at a disadvantage because she had been separated from her children since the natural disasters.

      Having allowed her children to remain in the United States because of radiation fears ended up working against her.

      A court case in the United States can be time-consuming and costly, and she has no guarantee of winning.

      Through letters and phone calls, she repeatedly tells her two children that they mean everything to her, but she has no idea when she may see them again.

      “I hope the government joins the convention as soon as possible to prevent parents from successfully fleeing with their children,” she said.

      Officials said there have been cases of lawyers recommending that parents flee Japan with their children because there is a good chance they can get away with it.

      “Custody battles with a foreign nation should be resolved through international rules after joining the Hague Convention,” said Mikiko Otani, a lawyer who specializes in divorces among international couples. “It is extremely difficult for an individual to find a lawyer in a foreign nation specializing in such matters and proceeding with legal action.”

      She also said many parents in Japan face difficulties because there are few lawyers knowledgeable about international divorce cases.

      “There are risks involved in international marriage because of differences in laws and cultures,” Otani said. “There are also major differences in thinking on divorce and custody, so there is a need to be aware of the need for a basic understanding of the related laws.”

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