Debito interview with Asia Times: “Overcoming the ‘Japanese Only’ factor”, on human rights and Japan’s future


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

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Hi Blog.  Last month I had an extensive interview with Victor Fic of the Asia Times on me, the Otaru Onsens Case, human rights in Japan, and the future.  It went up last week.  While long-term readers of might not find much they haven’t heard before, it’s a good “catch-up” and summary of the issues for interested newbies.  Excerpt follows.  Arudou Debito


Overcoming the ‘Japanese only’ factor
By Victor Fic.  Asia Times, January 12, 2012, courtesy

When US-born Dave Aldwinckle became a Japanese citizen named Arudou Debito in 2000, two Japanese officials told him that only now did he have human rights in Japan. Such prejudice galvanized him into becoming a crusader against anti-gaijin(foreigner) discrimination after braving death threats to him and his family. Is Arudou throwing the egg of morality and legality against the rock of ancient bias? In this exclusive interview with Asia Times Online contributor Victor Fic, he sees Japan turning inward. 


TO  David “foolish” Aldwinkle [sic]
— Death threat in English and Japanese, postmarked February 5, 2001, from Asahikawa, Hokkaido, with a fake name that literally means “full of sperm”, and a fake organization called “Friends of Onsen Local 2”.  Reproduced in “Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” (Akashi Shoten, Inc. 2006), page 305. [NB: This was the original opening to the interview that Mr. Fic filed with the Asia Times.  It was removed by the editors, which is a pity.  Racial discrimination is an ugly thing, and the content and tone of this death threat is but one symptom.]

Victor Fic: Did you ever think that you would become a Japanese citizen? 

Arudou Debito: Hell no! I wasn’t even interested in foreign languages as a child. But I moved from my birthplace, California, to upstate New York at age five and traveled much overseas, learning early to communicate with non-native English speakers. I’d lived a lot of my life outside the US before I graduated from high school and wasn’t afraid to leave home. But changing my citizenship and my name, however, was completely off the radar screen. I didn’t originally go to Japan to emigrate – just to explore. But the longer I stayed, the more reasonable it seemed to become a permanent resident, then a citizen. Buying a house and land was the chief reason that I naturalized – a mortgage means I can’t leave. More on me and all this on my blog [1].

VF: The contrast with your earlier life is dramatic because you started life as an above average American guy in the northeast …

AD: How do you define “average?” I certainly had opportunities. I grew up in a good educational district and had high enough grades to get into Cornell University, where I earned a degree in government. I springboarded into a quality graduate program at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the UC San Diego, and availed myself of excellent Japanese studies programs, including a mentor relationship with the late East Asia expert Chalmers Johnson. I then did the hard slog of learning the language and culture and it set me up my life as an academic, writer, commentator, and educator about issues Japanese.

VF: Why do you insist that prejudice towards foreigners in Japan is severe? 

AD: It’s systematic. In my latest Japan Times column [2] I discuss the lack of “fairness” as a latent cultural value in Japan. Japanese tend to see foreigners as unquestionably different from them, therefore it follows that their treatment will be different. Everything else stems from that. My column gives more details, but for now let me note that a 2007 Cabinet survey asked Japanese, “Should foreigners have the same human-rights protections as Japanese?” The total who agreed was 59.3%. This is a decline from 1995 at 68.3%, 1999 at 65.5% and 2003 at 54%. Ichikawa Hiroshi, who was a Saga Prefecture public prosecutor, said on May 23, 2011, that people in his position “were taught that … foreigners have no human rights ” [3]. Coming from law enforcement, that is an indicative and incriminating statement.

VF: When immigrants to the West naturalize, they hear “congratulations!” But when you became Japanese, you were greeted with another statement … what was it? 

AD: On October 11, 2000, I naturalized. And yes, I heard “congratulations”. But I was also visited at home by two representatives of Japan’s Public Safety Commission to tell me that they would now take action against the threats and harassment I had been getting during the Otaru Onsens case. They said clearly, “Now that you are a Japanese citizen, we want to protect your human rights.” Meaning rights to protect when I became a citizen – not before.

VF: Can you cite practical examples from daily life? 

AD: Sure…

Interview continues at

Movie about Ichihashi Tatsuya, convicted killer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, already in the works — based upon his book. Ick.


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

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Hi Blog. Here’s some ghoulish news. According to Yahoo News below in Japanese, there is a biopic in the works on Ichihashi Tatsuya, convicted killer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, coming out next year based upon his book (which we lambasted here on last January as publisher profiteering) about his 2 1/2 years on the lam as a fugitive from justice.

Now, movies about killers are nothing new (including ones with overtones of hero worship; consider NATURAL BORN KILLERS), and biopics about Japanese killers (the very good VENGEANCE IS MINE, starring a lean and mean Ogata Ken, I saw back in college) are also out there (even though VENGEANCE, although it tries to analyze the killer’s motivations and mother complex, did not spare the audience of the horrific detail of his murderous activity).

Maybe this movie will do the same (even though many of the details of what Ichihashi did to Hawker’s corpse have not been made public).  But the article below says that the contents will focus on his life as a fugitive and offer insights into Japan’s low life (such as the day-laborer sector of Airin Chiku; cue sympathy for the killer’s hardships?).

In any case, I for one see this as just more profiteering.  It looks as though this story will be depicted through Ichihashi’s eyes, and there is apparently already quite an online hero cult out there for this creep that the studios would love to cash in upon.

Again, this sort of media event has happened before, but this is altogether too soon — still seems like moviemakers trying to make a fast yen (and an unknown actor trying to make a directorial debut; he talks briefly below about his “feeling of responsibility” towards the victims, but mostly about how the killer’s account fascinates him, so methinks that’s what the flick will focus upon) before Ichihashi fades from public memory. Ick. Arudou Debito


市橋被告逃亡記を映画化 初監督&主演にディーン・フジオカ大抜てき
スポーツ報知 2011年11月23日(水)8時2分配信
Courtesy of SL

2007年、千葉県市川市で英会話講師の英国人リンゼイ・アン・ホーカーさん(当時22歳)が殺害された事件が初めて映画化されることが22日、分かった。殺人罪などで無期懲役の判決を受けた市橋達也被告(32)が逃亡生活の様子、心境をつづった手記「逮捕されるまで 空白の2年7カ月の記録」をもとに、香港、台湾で活躍する日本人俳優ディーン・フジオカ(31)が初監督、主演に抜てきされた。タイトルは「I am Ichihashi~逮捕されるまで~」で、来年公開。

映画「I am Ichihashi―」は、市橋被告の手記「逮捕されるまで―」(幻冬舎刊)が原作。前例のない逃亡犯の手記として、公判前の1月に出版され話題になった。






◆リンゼイさん殺害事件 07年3月26日、千葉・市川市の市橋被告のマンションのベランダに置かれた浴槽から英会話講師リンゼイさんの遺体が見つかった。市橋被告は直前に、捜査員の職務質問を振り切り逃走。翌27日、県警に死体遺棄容疑で指名手配される。沖縄・オーハ島での自給自足の生活、顔の整形手術を受けるなどして2年7か月逃亡。09年11月10日、大阪市のフェリー乗り場で逮捕された。死体遺棄のほか、殺人と強姦致死の罪で起訴され、今年7月21日に無期懲役の判決。市橋被告は控訴している。

◆ディーン・フジオカ 1980年8月19日、福島県生まれ、千葉県育ち。31歳。高校卒業後、米シアトル留学。現地の大学を卒業後、香港でモデルとして活動。05年に映画「八月的故事」で俳優デビュー。06年から台湾を拠点にドラマ、映画に出演。12月2日に映画「The Road Less Traveled」、来年1月に「BLACK&WHITE」が台湾で封切られる。日本語、英語、中国語を話す。身長180センチ。体重60キロ。血液型A。


Japan Times: More NPA behavioral oddities re alleged murders of Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey Cases


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

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Hi Blog.  Speaking of odd Japanese police behavior towards NJ in criminal cases:  We’ve talked about the Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey Cases here on before.  Fortunately, these cases have gathered traction thanks to caring family members, and tenacious reporters who don’t accept the NPA’s line that both of these deaths of NJ were mere accidents (while refusing to cooperate promptly and clearly on autopsy reports).  I have argued before that Japanese justice operates on a different (and subordinate) track for NJ victims of Japanese crime (i.e., Japanese perps get off the hook, foreign perps get thrown the book).  These articles in the Japan Times help to fortify that case (not to mention further illustrate how the USG’s missions abroad are woefully inadequate in providing service and protections to their own citizens).  Arudou Debito


Japan Times, Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2011
Kang family takes fight for justice to Tokyo (excerpt)
Father of young Korean-American who died in murky circumstances in Kabuki-cho feels let down by both the police and U.S. Embassy
By SIMON SCOTT, courtesy of the author

…Sung Won, the father of Hoon “Scott” Kang, the Korean-American tourist who died in mysterious circumstances in Shinjuku last year, arrived in Tokyo this week to continue his fight to seek justice for his son…

The Kang family is upset by the news that the official investigation into their son’s death has now been closed after the police concluded his death was accidental.

“I feel very angry and heartbroken,” says Scott’s father.

The Kangs and their supporters strongly reject the police finding of accidental death and want to see the case re-opened. They are also deeply unhappy with the way the Japanese police carried out the investigation and their failure to inform the family when they closed the case.

“Not only did they not tell my family, but we heard the news five months late. I was furious,” Kang says.

Nineteen-year-old Scott Kang was found lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood in the early hours of Aug. 26, 2010, in the sixth-floor stairwell of Collins Building 15, an eight-story high-rise of small hostess bars and clubs located near Shinjuku City Hall in Kabuki-cho. He remained in a coma for five days before dying of his injuries, his mother by his side, at the Kokuritsu Kokusai Iryo Kenkyu Center in Shinjuku.

The police investigation into his death was officially closed on Feb. 22, but the family was not informed of the fact until July — five months later…

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police say they notified the consular section of the American Embassy in Tokyo that the investigation had been closed on Feb. 22, and thought the information would be passed on to the Kang family.

But according to Mr. Kang, he received no communication from the U.S. authorities about the investigation’s closure until early July when an officer from the U.S. State Department telephoned.

Kang says that the failure of the embassy to pass on such critical information in a timely fashion shows the embassy is not taking the case seriously. “I feel the U.S. Embassy acted as if Scott was not a U.S. citizen.”…

The Kang family don’t just believe the police’s decision to close the investigation into Scott’s death was premature; they also think the police are withholding critical evidence from them that could prove Scott’s death was not accidental. One such piece of evidence is the autopsy report.

When Mr. Kang and Wozniak met with the Shinjuku police in October they requested a copy of the autopsy report into Scott’s death, but the police refused…

The refusal by police to give the next-of-kin of a deceased person a copy of the autopsy is common in Japan, but it is an approach that has attracted increasing criticism over the years. No one is more familiar with the difficulty of getting the police to release an autopsy than 50-year-old U.S. citizen and Japan resident Charles Lacey.

Lacey’s younger brother, Matthew Lacey, tragically died in Fukuoka in 2004 in suspicious circumstances. On Aug. 17 of that year, while Charles was staying in New York, he got a call from the Fukuoka Police informing him that they had found his brother’s body at the apartment where he lived and that he had died from dehydration and diarrhea…

Despite the unusual circumstances of his brother’s death, Lacey says the police initially had no plans to perform an autopsy, and it was only at his own behest that they reluctantly agreed to carry one out.

After Charles signed the necessary papers, an autopsy was performed on Aug. 19, two days after he was told of his brother’s death, at Kyushu University Hospital. Later the police told Charles that the autopsy showed a 20-cm fracture on his brother’s skull, and that based on this, their determination of cause of death had changed from death by sickness to an accident…

Lacey added that in his home country, it is standard procedure for a copy of the autopsy to be given to the next-of-kin of a deceased person when requested. In Japan, as Lacey discovered, things are not so simple, and it took him almost three years to get a copy of the report.

Full article at


Earlier article by the same author:

The Japan Times Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Family slams stalled probe into Kabuki-cho death
Questions linger nine months after teenage American tourist was found unconscious in a Shinjuku stairwell
By SIMON SCOTT, courtesy of the author

Nine months after their only son, Hoon “Scott” Kang, a Korean-American tourist, died from severe head injuries sustained in the stairwell of a building in Kabuki-cho, his family and friends are still no closer to understanding how he died.

Although the Shinjuku police have officially opened an investigation into Scott’s death, the family has been told only that the investigation is “not complete.”

Rest of the article at


Earlier article on Matthew Lacey Case, by Eric Johnston:

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007
U.S. man on quest to find cause of brother’s death (excerpt)
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer, courtesy of the author

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…

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.”…

Rest of the article at

Suraj Case of police brutality and death during Immigration deportation in Japan Times Nov 1, 2011


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

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Hi Blog. Sorry to take a day or two to get to this. Here we have more reported (thanks to assiduous folks at the Community Page at the Japan Times) on the Suraj Case, a mysteriously underinvestigated case we’ve mentioned here before of police brutality and death of an African during deportation. What gets me is that even some of the veto gates at the Japan Times, according to the editor of this article on his facebook entry, took issue with the use of the word “brutal” in the headline; given what finally came to light regarding the condition of Mr. Suraj’s corpse below, “brutal” is obviously appropriate. And it would not have come to light at all had not Mr. Suraj’s widow and these reporters not pursued this case with such tenacity. Keep it up, Japan Times. Who else in a milquetoast Japanese media that is generally unsympathetic to NJ issues would give a toss? Arudou Debito


The Japan Times Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011

PHOTO CAPTION: Immigration policy on trial: Abubakar Awudu Suraj died after being restrained by immigration officers with hand and ankle cuffs, a rope, four plastic restraints and a towel gag before a flight to Cairo from Narita airport. Below: An illustrated note that Suraj passed to his wife during her visit to an immigration center during one of his periods in detention. COURTESY OF ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ’S WIDOW

Justice stalled in brutal death of deportee
Autopsy suggests immigration officers used excessive force in restraining Ghanaian
Courtesy, thanks to lots of people

Abubakar Awudu Suraj had been in Japan for over two decades when immigration authorities detained him in May 2009. The Ghanaian was told in Yokohama of his deportation to Ghana at 9:15 a.m. on March 22 last year. Six hours later he was dead, allegedly after being excessively restrained by guards.

Jimmy Mubenga also died last year while being held down by three private security guards before takeoff on a British Airways flight from London to Angola. The father of five had lost his appeal to stay in the U.K. and was being deported. Mubenga put up a struggle and died after the guards sat on him for 10 minutes, say witnesses.

But the details of the deportations of two men from rich countries back to their native Africa, and their aftermath, are strikingly different. Mubenga’s death is already the subject of a vigorous police inquiry, front-page stories and an investigation by The Guardian newspaper. The case has been discussed in Parliament, where security minister Baroness Neville-Jones called it “extraordinarily regrettable.”

Suraj has received no such honors. The 45-year-old’s case has largely been ignored in the Japanese media and no politician has answered for his death. An investigation by Chiba prosecutors appears to have stalled. There has been no explanation or apology from the authorities.

His Japanese wife, who had shared a life with him for 22 years, was not even aware he was being deported. She was given no explanation when she identified his body later that day. His body was not returned to her for nearly three months. Supporters believe he put up a struggle because he wanted to tell his wife he was being sent home.

An autopsy report seen in a court document notes abrasions to his face, internal bleeding of muscles on the neck, back, abdomen and upper arm, along with leakage of blood around the eyes, blood congestion in some organs, and dark red blood in the heart. Yet the report bizarrely concluded that the cause of death is “unknown.”

Any movement in the Suraj case is largely down to his wife, who wants to remain anonymous. She won a lawsuit against the Justice Ministry, which oversees immigration issues, demanding it disclose documents related to his death. The documents were finally released in May, more than a year after he died…

Rest at

UPDATE: — Economist (London) reports on Suraj Case, and NPA not allowing journalists to investigate, courtesy CR. Debito

Justice in Japan
An ugly decision
The Economist Nov 4th 2011, 8:05 by K.N.C.

BOUND and gagged, a man dies in the custody of immigration officers while being forcibly deported. The police investigate slowly. Prosecutors mull the case. The wheels of justice barely turn.

Now, it looks like the case will be dropped completely—and a man’s death go unpunished. Prosecutors in Chiba prefecture, where Tokyo’s Narita airport is located, have decided not to indict the ten officers who carried Abubakar Awudu Suraj’s unconscious body onto an Air Egypt flight in March 2010 before he was declared dead, according to a new report in the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Two official autopsies at the time could not determine the cause of death, though Mr Suraj’s widow saw injuries to his face when she identified the body. A new autopsy however purports to reveal that he had suffered heart disease and says the cause of his death was illness.

This is hard to swallow at face value. Three days after the incident an immigration official told Mr Suraj’s widow “It is a sorry thing that we have done.” Officialdom dragged its heels to such a degree that she had to file criminal charges and later civil charges. The kind of gag that was used to restrain him is prohibited, though its use is said to be commonplace.

Mr Suraj was a Ghanaian national who arrived in Japan in 1988, learned the language, worked odd jobs and married a Japanese woman. He was arrested for overstaying his visa and the courts didn’t accept his requests to remain. The March 2010 deportation was the immigration bureau’s second attempt—after Mr Suraj made such a rumpus the first time round that it had to be stopped. So perhaps officers used a bit of extra force to make sure it didn’t fail.

It is an ugly situation. The authorities surely didn’t mean for Mr Suraj to die in custody. But since he did, the people responsible should be held legally accountable. The Chiba prosecutors, by suggesting they may drop the case, look as complicit as the ten officers themselves.

Addendum, 5 November 2011: When The Economist requested an interview with the Chiba prosecutor’s office, the answer was a firm no. An employee said that interviews are only allowed for members of the prosecutors’ “Kisha Club,” the quasi-formal groups that control the flow of news to major Japanese news organisations (and which tend to turn journalists into stenographers for officialdom, by neutering independent reporting). The employee said that the only time The Economist can prosecutors questions is during an annual “press registration”—whose application deadline is long past. Must every Japanese institution be designed to keep out outsiders?


RE: Civil suit mentioned above:

Japan’s immigration policy
Gone but not forgotten
The Economist Aug 5th 2011, 9:45 by K.N.C. | TOKYO

WRISTS cuffed, ankles bound and with a rolled towel shoved in his mouth, Abubakar Awudu Suraj died in the custody of nine Japanese immigration officers on March 22nd 2010 while being deported to Ghana for overstaying his visa. Since then his widow and friends have sought information—and justice—from the authorities, but have been ignored. On August 5th 2011 they filed a civil suit against the government.

The Chiba prefectural prosecutors have received the results of an investigation but have yet to act. None of the officers have been sanctioned at all, explains Koichi Kodama, a lawyer working on Mr Suraj’s case. He argues that the authorities are trying to cover up misdeeds. For example, restraining a person by using ankles cuffs and a towel is not permitted, he says. And in a videotape of the botched deportation, the supervisor tells the cameraman to stop filming as things get hot, says Mr Kodama.

The civil suit seeks compensation of ¥136m (around $1.5m) from the government for wrongful death. But the real motivation is to hold the authorities to account, explains Mr Suraj’s widow. “I want to reveal the truth without concealing anything,” she says. “They were carrying a human being. I don’t understand why they had to treat him like that. I feel very powerless,” she says.

The Japanese mainstream media have largely ignored the case. (We reported it May 2010 and followed up in December 2010.) The head of the immigration bureau left out unflattering facts about his officers’ conduct when he was called to the Diet (parliament) to explain what happened. A criminal case was filed as well, naming the officers involved, but it has barely budged on the court’s docket. The ministry of justice looks hampered by rather obvious conflicts of interest. The ministry’s agents hold the evidence of wrongdoing that their colleagues are alleged to have committed. The ministry stands responsible for penalising officials within its own ranks.

One small change is that since Mr Suraj’s death, there apparently have not been any other forced deportations. But that only sharpens the question. As long as Mr Suraj’s case is ignored by officialdom, it is Japan’s institutions of justice that fall under suspicion. Every day that the officers who were present when Mr Suraj died don their uniforms and walk into their offices is another day in which the Japanese state looks complicit in a cover-up.

Japan Times: Ichihashi trial bares translation woes: Courts refuse to admit that interpreters often lack the necessary skills


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

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Hi Blog.  Getting back to business, here’s an older article on how people who are not native speakers of Japanese are at a disadvantage in the Japanese judiciary due to things lost in translation.  Yes, the killer of Lindsay Ann Hawker got his, thank goodness, but not without a degree of unprofessionality unbecoming a purportedly modern justice system, as the JT gets into below.  This is not the first time this has been pointed out, yet we still hear of no particular movement to standardize training and certify translators.  This lack of prioritization couldn’t be due to allegations that the Japanese judiciary thinks “foreigners”, like yakuza, “have no human rights” (despite, as I have argued, Japan’s clear double standard in criminal jurisprudence depending on nationality).  Surely not.  Arudou Debito


The Japan Times, Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ichihashi trial bares translation woes
Courts refuse to admit interpreters often lack the necessary skills
By SETSUKO KAMIYA Staff writer

The lay judge trial of accused rapist and murderer Tatsuya Ichihashi, whose verdict is expected Thursday, has captured a lot of media attention since it started July 4, but one element that has escaped notice is the quality of the language translation.

Many errors by a court interpreter, from slight differences in nuance to the loss of a few details, have so far been observed during the high-profile case.

This has prompted concerned legal professionals and linguistic experts to call on the courts to face up to the quality of interpretations when foreign nationals are involved in court cases and to improve the training and status of interpreters.

The errors may not have been crucial for the lay and professional judges to decide the facts of the case and Ichihashi’s fate. But experts say having too many mistakes is a major problem because the accuracy of the interpretation is crucial to ensure a fair trial for everyone involved, from defendants, accusers and witnesses to victims and their families.

Several interpretation errors, for example, were made during the fifth session of the trial on July 11 when Julia Hawker, mother of the 22-year-old British victim, Lindsay Ann Hawker, testified as a witness for the prosecution.

The prosecutors’ goal in calling her to the stand was to establish that the consequences of the crimes were grave and that the family wanted Ichihashi severely punished for raping and taking Lindsay’s life and leaving her body in a soil-filled bathtub on his apartment balcony.

When questioned about the impact of her death on the family, the mother said she blamed herself for allowing her daughter to come to Japan. “I couldn’t take a bath for two years,” she said, apparently because of how her daughter was found.

But the court interpreter translated the phrase into Japanese as “I cannot take back the two years.”…

Rest of the article at Official correspondence re nonfeasance and negligence by US Consulate Osaka regarding the Mary Lake Child Abduction Case (allegations of USG refusing assistance to US citizen child)


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

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Hi Blog. Today’s entry is regards to the Mary Lake Case, which was covered on some weeks ago, and caused some controversy (including trolling emails) regarding differing accounts of treatment of a US citizen minor who unsuccessfully asked for protection and sanctuary from US Consulate Osaka.  Here is a followup series of emails between concerned Left-Behind Parents at and the US State Department. Reproduced with permission. Arudou Debito


From: Paul Toland [mailto:pptoland@…]
Sent: Friday, August 26, 2011 8:04 AM
To: Campbell, Kurt M; Loi, James L; Jacobs, Janice L; Kennedy, Patrick F; Burns, William J; Steinberg, James B;;; Posner, Michael H; Busby, Scott W;; MacLeod, Margaret G; Payne, Beth A;; Eye, Stefanie B; Jacobs, Susan S
Subject: Incident at Osaka Consulate

Two days ago, a kidnapped child in one of the most high-profile Japan abduction cases (Mary Victoria Lake) showed up at a US Consulate in Japan asking to be rescued and sent home to her lawful parent in the United States. The consuate denied her request and sent her back to her kidnapper. This action was beyond incompetent. It was reprehensible, disgraceful,disgusting,and un-American.

This is the third time State has failed this parent. Twice previously, State illegally issued passports for his daughter without obtaining the father’s signature, even after it had been established that her father was the lawful parent and the mother was a wanted kidnapper.

I am at a loss for words. I can only say that it is very clearly apparent now to all parents victimized by the crime of parental child abduction that the State Department clearly places relations with foreign nations over the safety, well-being and lives of American citizen children. Absolutely sickening.

Paul Toland
Commander, US Navy
Only living parent of Erika Toland, Abducted to Japan 2003.


From: Jacobs, Janice L
Subject: RE: Incident at Osaka Consulate
To: “Paul Toland” Cc: “Campbell, Kurt M” , “Loi, James L” , “Kennedy, Patrick F” , “Burns, William J” , “Steinberg, James B” ,,, “Posner, Michael H” , “Busby, Scott W” ,, “MacLeod, Margaret G” , “Payne, Beth A” ,, “Eye, Stefanie B” , “Jacobs, Susan S”
Date: Friday, August 26, 2011, 8:12 AM

Dear Commander Toland:
We have received your e-mail regarding the Lake case. The information you are reporting regarding recent events at Consulate Osaka is factually incorrect. While we cannot provide details to you due to statutory requirements in the Privacy Act, we have been in contact with the child’s father, who is aware of what actually transpired. I can assure you that U.S. Consulates in Japan, along with all other consular facilities around the world, stand ready to assist any child wrongfully removed from parental custody and do so on a regular basis.
Janice L. Jacobs
Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Consular Affairs
This email is UNCLASSIFIED.


From: Paul Toland [mailto:pptoland@]
Sent: Friday, August 26, 2011 1:02 PM
To: Jacobs, Janice L
Cc: Campbell, Kurt M; Loi, James L; Kennedy, Patrick F; Burns, William J; Steinberg, James B;;; Posner, Michael H; Busby, Scott W;; MacLeod, Margaret G; Payne, Beth A;; Eye, Stefanie B; Jacobs, Susan S
Subject: RE: Incident at Osaka Consulate

Assistant Secretary Jacobs, My information comes from the father. I have emails from him and have spoken to him. I would tend to believe his story. While I was not actually at the Consulate, I tend to believe what William is telling me, because he has not lied to me before.

Here is the email from Mr. Lake:

Wednesday Morning I got a email from Virginia Vause my newest case worker (#7 so far.) She told me that Mary had showed up at consulate and asked to be sent home. She also told me that Mary had asked them to put her up in a hotel. They refused. They apparently called my ex and got some sort of agreement that Mary could spend the night with her and then return to the consulate the next morning. Ms Vause said that the Osaka consulate had tried to call me. They called my land line instead of my cell. They didn’t leave a message because I only had a generic message on the machine and they were worried about so called privacy issues. So they sent Mary home. They also failed to send me an email.

I had several calls from Ms Vause and State that day. I was upset about Mary being sent home. I was worried that her mother had gotten physical with her again and that she might run away. I mean they must have some sort of accommodations at these places. Ms Vause informed me that the consulate could not get Mary a room because she was a minor. She also stated that the State department could not legally take custody of Mary without my written permission and that if they had taken Mary in someone from the consulate would have to be with her at all times. Her voice gave me the impression that this would have been an outrageous imposition to the consulate staff. According to her this is the law regarding these situations. At no time during the 4 plus years I have had a case with OCI has anyone, including the 7 different case workers I have had, ever told me that I need to give them written permission to take custody of my daughter.

In the afternoon the cost of the ticket became an issue. Apparently NCMEC is out of money for tickets. Then there was an issue raised by the consulate in Osaka, that the cost of a one way ticket was more than the guidelines allowed them to spend and that they couldn’t purchase a ticket without permission of Washington.

Note 1, I was asked to write a form letter saying that I was unable to afford the cost of the tickets. That is true. I have been unemployed since early June.

Note 2, The consulate was looking at the cost of a one way ticket. Approximately $3500. That is what their guidelines dictate and the maximum they could spend is $3000. However the cost of a roundtrip ticket is $2500.

Note 3, there was never any discussion about sharing the cost. It was over there guidelines so no ticket.

Now all this occurred between 0830 am and 900pm Wednesday. There were other calls to and from NCMEC. I got the Pensacola Police involved. Sgt Donohoe PPD is a wonderful man that alerted NCMEC and other law enforcement agencies. 845 pm Ms Vause called and said that Mary had not shown up at the consulate but had called and asked for a week to think about coming back. There was also the issue of the cost of the tickets which I could not afford. She suggested that I contact friends and relatives to see if I could round up the money for a ticket.

Today Thursday she called to talk to me about a repatriation loan. That I would have to submit these forms to State and that once they were processed they would be on file and that if Mary EVER DID THIS AGAIN then the forms would be in my file and the ticket could be bought with no problem. She told me that it would take a week or more to process this. She did mention that I should keep my receipts and that there was a chance NCMEC would reimburse me at a later date.

This is just another example of how the State department has mishandled my case.



From: Payne, Beth A Subject: RE: Incident at Osaka Consulate and RE: You sent my daughter back to her abductor
To: “Paul Toland” , CAPTLAKE@MCHSI.COM
Cc: “Campbell, Kurt M” , “Loi, James L” , “Kennedy, Patrick F” , “Burns, William J” , “Steinberg, James B” ,,, “Posner, Michael H” , “Busby, Scott W” ,, “MacLeod, Margaret G” ,, “Eye, Stefanie B” , “Jacobs, Susan S” , “Jacobs, Janice L” ,,,,,,,,,
Date: Thursday, September 1, 2011, 5:25 AM

Dear Mr. Lake and Cdr. Toland:

Thank you for your emails of August 26 regarding your concerns about Mary Lake and the Department of State’s response to her request for assistance last week in Osaka. While our policy is to discuss case-specific questions and concerns only with the parent and his or her designated representatives, Mr. Lake’s most recent Privacy Act Waiver allows us to speak about his case with other people and we can, therefore, respond simultaneously to your inquiries in order to clarify the status of this case. We regret that Mr. Lake has misunderstood many of the facts concerning the events of last week, and we hope this email helps to clarify what took place, and reassures you both that consular staff in Osaka and in the Office of Children’s Issues responded to Mary’s requests and offered to provide her the assistance she initially requested.

I reiterate that the Consular Officer in charge of American Services in Osaka and the Office of Children’s Issues together report a very different version of what happened. I have examined the steps and action taken since Mary first contacted the Consulate, and I can confirm that all action was proper, thorough, and responsive.

To ensure that I address all of your stated concerns, I am responding below with interlinear comments to the email that Mr. Lake wrote ([formatted in bold and] in italics) and which Cdr. Toland forwarded to me on August 26:

Wednesday Morning I got a email from Virginia Vause my newest case worker (#7 so far.) She told me that Mary had showed up at consulate and asked to be sent home. She also told me that Mary had asked them to put her up in a hotel. They refused. They apparently called my ex and got some sort of agreement that Mary could spend the night with her and then return to the consulate the next morning.

Mary called the Consulate at 5:00 p.m. on August 24 and requested that a consular officer contact her father to ask him to either fly her home or pay for long-term hotel accommodations in Japan. She did not visit the consulate. A consular officer in Osaka spoke with Mary at length and confirmed that she felt safe with her mother for the evening, that she was not in danger, and that she did not wish to leave her mother’s house that evening. Mary told the consular officer she would call again in the morning. The Consulate immediately notified the Office of Children’s Issues and began coordinating travel arrangements for the next day. The next morning, Mary called the consulate to report she would remain in Japan with her mother for the time being.

I had several calls from Ms Vause and State that day. I was upset about Mary being sent home. I was worried that her mother had gotten physical with her again and that she might run away. I mean they must have some sort of accommodations at these places. Ms Vause informed me that the consulate could not get Mary a room because she was a minor. She also stated that the State department could not legally take custody of Mary without my written permission and that if they had taken Mary in someone from the consulate would have to be with her at all times. Her voice gave me the impression that this would have been an outrageous imposition to the consulate staff. According to her this is the law regarding these situations. At no time during the 4 plus years I have had a case with OCI has anyone, including the 7 different case workers I have had, ever told me that I need to give them written permission to take custody of my daughter.

As soon as Ms. Vause in the Office of Children’s Issues received word from the Consulate that Mary was trying to reach her father, she called Mr. Lake and relayed Mary’s message. At that point, Mr. Lake stated that he could not pay for her airline ticket and that he would soon depart the country for a six-week work assignment. In her phone call with Mr. Lake, Ms. Vause was focused on the primary objectives of passing Mary’s message, determining if someone would be available to receive her in Florida, and determining if Mr. Lake could purchase her ticket home. The question of hotel lodging and/or refuge was not her focus because Mary did not request refuge or an alternative place to stay that evening. We are very concerned with Mary’s well-being and if there had been any indication that Mary’s welfare was in jeopardy, I assure you both that the Consulate would have taken immediate action to protect her. When necessary, consular officials will allow U.S. Citizen children in need of protection to stay at our facilities until appropriate lodging can be arranged.

In the afternoon the cost of the ticket became an issue. Apparently NCMEC is out of money for tickets. Then there was an issue raised by the consulate in Osaka, that the cost of a one way ticket was more than the guidelines allowed them to spend and that they couldn’t purchase a ticket without permission of Washington.
Note 1, I was asked to write a form letter saying that I was unable to afford the cost of the tickets. That is true. I have been unemployed since early June.
Note 2, The consulate was looking at the cost of a one way ticket. Approximately $3500. That is what their guidelines dictate and the maximum they could spend is $3000. However the cost of a roundtrip ticket is $2500.
Note 3, there was never any discussion about sharing the cost. It was over there guidelines so no ticket.

Upon learning that Mr. Lake was unable to pay for his daughter’s travel home, both Consulate and Children’s Issues officers began searching for alternate funding sources, including funding from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and a possible repatriation loan. While we were moving forward on this request in order to facilitate travel that day, Mary called the Consulate and reported that she wished to remain in Japan with her mother for the time being. Ms. Vause relayed this message to Mr. Lake immediately and continued to discuss funding options and procedures in case Mary did decide that she wished to travel to Florida.

Please allow me to clarify how the repatriation loan program works. The cost of a child’s travel to the United States, even in abduction cases, is the responsibility of the parent. In the event that a parent cannot cover the cost of the airline ticket, the U.S. government is able to provide a repatriation loan through a program that includes certain criteria that must be met in order to demonstrate need and to ensure eventual repayment. I regret that a repatriation loan cannot be set up in advance. Ms. Vause suggested to Mr. Lake, after Mary decided not to travel, that she’d check in after a week, and that Mr. Lake proceed with the paperwork required for a repatriation loan so that it could be quickly issued if Mary changes her mind again, thus enabling us to act very quickly to provide a plane ticket. Please let me emphasize that a repatriation loan is intended to provide emergency financial assistance when no other funds are available. We did consider Mary’s desire to return home to be an emergency and were prepared to assist Mr. Lake with obtaining such funds. We would also be happy to facilitate a transfer of funds if Mr. Lake is able to cover the costs of a plane ticket.

Now all this occurred between 0830 am and 900pm Wednesday. There were other calls to and from NCMEC. I got the Pensacola Police involved. Sgt Donohoe PPD is a wonderful man that alerted NCMEC and other law enforcement agencies. 845 pm Ms Vause called and said that Mary had not shown up at the consulate but had called and asked for a week to think about coming back. There was also the issue of the cost of the tickets which I could not afford. She suggested that I contact friends and relatives to see if I could round up the money for a ticket.

Today Thursday she called to talk to me about a repatriation loan. That I would have to submit these forms to State and that once they were processed they would be on file and that if Mary EVER DID THIS AGAIN then the forms would be in my file and the ticket could be bought with no problem. She told me that it would take a week or more to process this. She did mention that I should keep my receipts and that there was a chance NCMEC would reimburse me at a later date.

We feel we must reiterate at this point the fact that a repatriation loan was offered, and would have been available if Mr. Lake had been unable to pay for Mary’s return flight home.

This is just another example of how the State department has mishandled my case.

While we regret that Mr. Lake does not feel that he has been well-served by the Department of State, the U.S. Consulate in Osaka and Children’s Issues continue to have Mary’s well-being at the top of our priorities. At this point, the Consulate in Osaka strongly wishes to facilitate a phone call between Mary and Mr. Lake, as they have done in the past, to allow for further discussion about Mary’s future. As always, we stand ready to assist any child wrongfully removed from his or her home of habitual residence. I trust this information is useful to both of you.

This email is UNCLASSIFIED.


From: Paul Toland [mailto:pptoland@]
Sent: Thursday, September 15, 2011 5:20 PM
Cc: Kurt MCampbell; James LLoi; Patrick FKennedy; William JBurns; James BSteinberg;;; Michael HPosner; Scott WBusby;; Margaret GMacLeod;; Stefanie BEye; Susan SJacobs; Janice LJacobs;;;;;;;;;
Subject: RE: Incident at Osaka Consulate and RE: You sent my daughter back to her abductor

Ms. Payne, We are very disappointed with the answers provided in your email below and have prepared the attached response. We hope you and everyone else you included on this email string will read it. We look forward to your response. Sincerely, Commander Paul Toland, US Navy


September 15, 2011
Beth Payne, Director Office of Children’s Issues U.S. Department of State, SA-29 2201 C Street NW, SA-29 4th floor Washington, DC 20520-2818

Ms. Payne,
Mr. Lake has indicated that he is willing to provide a sworn affidavit that Ms. Vause told him his daughter Mary appeared in person at the Osaka consulate. However, even taking you at your word that Mary Lake called the consulate, we are simply distraught that the consulate employees did not do more to facilitate her rescue and return to her lawful parent.

Imagine that William Lake’s wife had abducted their daughter from Florida to Arizona instead of from Florida to Japan, and Mary Lake had called the authorities in Arizona asking them to “fly her home.” Those authorities would have kept Mary on the phone until they facilitated her rescue and brought the felon criminal abductor to justice. Now we understand that in an overseas environment, the State Department does not have the authority to physically go to the child in Japan to facilitate the rescue, but the State Department certainly had both the DUTY and OBLIGATION to obtain the same end result… to facilitate the rescue Mary Lake by asking the child victim of this felony crime to come to the consulate so they could then coordinate her rescue, yet this was never done.

You state that Mary “did not request refuge or an alternative place to stay that evening.” Are you seriously trying to place the burden and responsibility of having to request refuge upon a minor child who has been kidnapped and held in a foreign country for six years? She may not even understand such a concept. She called and reached out to the only American refuge she could find at the US Consulate, and they burdened her with an adult responsibility, eventually turning her away back to her captor?

And how, exactly, did you “confirm that (Mary) felt safe” with her felon kidnapper, and that she “was not in danger”? Your own Foreign Affairs Manual, Chapter 7, states “children involved (in abduction) have almost always been subjected to a traumatic experience.” What mental health worker counseled Mary Lake to determine her mental and emotional well being following six years of being held captive as a kidnapped child in a foreign land? If no mental health worker was available, then it was the State Department’s duty and obligation to err on the side of caution for Mary’s protection and proceed as if she was subjected to severe mental and physical trauma until a professional could determine otherwise. The consular officer was in no position to act as a medical provider in determining Mary’s physical and emotional state over the phone.

The State Department’s inability (or unwillingness) to try to talk Mary Lake into traveling to the consulate appears to be a failure of the State Department to acknowledge that the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) makes parental child abduction a felony crime and makes the perpetrator of that crime a felon criminal. The very fact that Mary is a child victim of a felony crime being held in a foreign land by a felon criminal is, in and of itself, enough to put Mary Lake “in danger.”

The State Department’s failure to act during the brief window of time available to rescue Mary allowed her to disappear again into the black hole abyss of Japan, to join the other 374 children abducted to Japan since 1994, none of whom has ever been returned.

We ask you to answer one simple question…if Mary Lake were kidnapped by a STRANGER and held in Japan for six years, and then contacted the US Consulate asking them to “fly her home”, would the consulate actions have been any different, and if so, why? The State Department’s DUTY to Mary Victoria Lake is no different than to any other victim of a felony crime, and for you to treat it otherwise is simply a flagrant disregard for the law.

We notice you also cc’d some of the press on your email response, yet you did not address our concerns about the fact that the State Department illegally issued a passport to William’s felon criminal wife, without obtaining William’s signature in violation of Public Law 106-113, Section 236. This, at least, tells us that IPKCA is not the only law that the State Department is in the habit of ignoring when it suits your purposes.

The State Department has conducted years of meetings, talks, meetings, talks, meetings and talks, but not a single parent has been able to even see their child as a result. This latest incident with William Lake’s daughter only further exacerbates the left-behind parent community’s total and complete loss of confidence in the State Department’s ability to protect our children. What happened to Mary Victoria Lake could have happened to any of our children, and this incident fills us with fear and anxiety that if a window of opportunity someday opens for the rescue of our children, State Department will simply shut that window, as they did with Mary Lake, rather than actually try to return our children.

Paul Toland, National Coordinating Director
Douglass Berg, Eastern Regional Director
Randy Collins, Southwest Regional Director
Jeffery Morehouse, Pacific Northwest Regional Co-Director
Brett Weed, Pacific Northwest Regional Co-Director
Dr. Christopher Savoie, Midwest, Regional Director
P.O. Box 16254, Arlington, VA 22215 • •



From: Payne, Beth A (payneba
Subject: RE: Incident at Osaka Consulate and RE: You sent my daughter back to her abductor
To: “Paul Toland” (pptoland @)
Date: Friday, September 30, 2011

Dear Commander Toland:

Thank you for your letter of September 15, on behalf of the BACHome organization, expressing your disappointment with the information I provided to you on September 1, regarding the Department of State’s actions in the active abduction case involving Mary Lake. I regret that our response left you unsatisfied.

The Office of Children’s Issues, in coordination with U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, is committed to protecting the welfare of abducted children. Facilitating their return to the United States is one of our top priorities. We recognize the emotional pain that left-behind parents face while separated from their children, and we will be ready to discuss additional details of Mary’s case with her father, should he wish to resume contact with our office.

For more information about the Department of State’s role in International Parental Child Abduction, please visit our website at .

Yours Sincerely,
Beth Payne
Director, Office of Children’s Issues


BAChome: US Consulate Osaka refuses to aid American citizen child abducted in Japan who came to them for help


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

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Hi Blog.  Here’s the USG demonstrating how much it cares for the welfare of its American citizens abroad (despite being one of the few countries that taxes its citizens abroad).  One might make the case that the USG’s missions abroad are basically to project hegemony and maintain weapons sales.  I wouldn’t, though, never ever.  But this case is a nonsense and the State Department’s negligent Office of Children’s Issues should hang its head in shame and make people accountable for refusing to help.  Arudou Debito



U.S. Consulate in Japan Gives Kidnapped Child Back To Her Captor
Osaka, Japan – August 31, 2011, courtesy EK and TK
Different version at

On August 24, 2011, 14 year-old Mary Victoria Lake, a U.S. citizen, who was kidnapped by her mother and taken to Japan in 2005, in one of the most high-profile international kidnapping cases in the United States, walked into the U.S. consulate in Osaka, Japan. She asked to be rescued from her kidnapper, an act of enormous bravery by a teenager who has been cut off from her father and held captive overseas for the past six years. Indifferent and incompetent U.S. Consular officials refused to aid or rescue her and instead sent her back to her kidnapper.

Her father, William Lake, was later informed of his daughter’s attempted return by caseworker Virginia Vause from the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues (OCI). During the multiple conversations with Ms. Vause that day, he learned that the consular officials had made a single attempt to call him at his residence. They did not to leave him a voicemail nor did they attempt to contact him on his cell phone or send an email. When Mr. Lake brought up the issue of why his daughter was turned away from the consulate, he was told that the consulate would not assist in his daughter’s rescue because they needed to have his written authorization to take her into custody. Furthermore, if Mary was taken into custody the Consulate would have to assign a staff member to stay with her until her return to the U.S., an inconvenience that the State Department refused to accept. They also needed him to sign an agreement, in advance, to repay any airline costs. These documents would take at least a week to process once OCI sent and received them.

None of the other parents we have checked with, who have been fighting for the return of their children for years, were aware of these consular requirements. State Department caseworkers had failed to inform them either out of negligence or purposeful deception, which leaves all internationally abducted children exposed to the same risk.

According to U.S. Department of State figures there are 268 cases involving 374 American citizen children who have been kidnapped to Japan since they started keeping track in 1994. OCI Division Chief Stefanie Eye has acknowledged “that our data is based entirely on proactive reporting and that because our database was designed primarily as a case management tool, it is difficult to provide statistical data with complete accuracy.”

Based on our statistical analysis, Bring Abducted Children Home ( has estimated 4,417 American children have lost significant, meaningful access to their parent after divorce in Japan and by international abduction. Each one of these is a human rights violation.

This is third and latest episode of gross negligence by the Department of State toward Mr. Lake and his daughter. Twice previously, they illegally issued passports for his daughter without obtaining the father’s signature, even after it had been established that her father was the lawful parent and the mother was a wanted kidnapper.

Almost all of the existing cases involve at least one parent who is Japanese. This case however is a clear exception. Neither one of the victims nor the kidnapping mother are of Japanese ancestry. There is simply no reason for Mary to be held in Japan. However, no one from the White House or The State Department is publicly demanding the return of Mary Victoria Lake or any of the other 374, and more realistically, thousands of American children held captive there.

It has become starkly apparent to the parents victimized by the crime of parental child abduction that the Department of State clearly values the relations with foreign nations over the safety, well-being and lives of U.S. citizen children being held captive in Japan.

Bring Abducted Children Home

Paul Toland

NCN: Stunning revelation from former prosecutor on the real situation of initial training, “We were taught that yakuza and foreigners have no rights”


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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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
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Hi Blog.  Dovetailing with yesterday’s post regarding two Japanese who were finally declared innocent 44 years after being suspected, then convicted, of a crime (spending 30 years behind bars for it), here’s why Japan’s criminal justice system is particularly dangerous when it comes to non-Japanese.

Niconico News cites a former prosecutor who said his training was to deny human rights to organized crime members and foreign suspects.

Level3, Mark in Yayoi, and Sora amend an original translation, featured below.  More commentary follows the translation:


Stunning revelation from former prosecutor on the real situation of initial training, “We were taught that yakuza and foreigners have no rights”

Niconico News, May 23, 2011 (updated May 31, 2011)

The chief prosecutor in the Saga City Agricultural Co-op case, now known to be a frame-up, spoke at a symposium held in Tokyo on May 23, 2011, offering a revealing discussion of the surprising reality of the training he received when he joined his department.  “We were taught that yakuza and foreigners have no human rights,” he disclosed, and “public prosecutors were taught to make up confessions and then have suspects sign them.” Describing how terrifying this warped training system is, he added that “after being trained in that way, [he] began to almost believe that this was natural.”

The person making the statements about his erstwhile workplace was former public prosecutor Hiroshi Ichikawa.  Appointed to handle the 2000 Saga City Agricultural Co-op case, he coerced a confession from the former union leader that he was interrogating, using violent language such as “Bastard! I’ll kill you!” The union leader had been indicted on suspicion breach of trust.  His confession was deemed not to have been voluntary, and he was acquitted. As a result, Mr. Ichikawa was severely reprimanded and resigned his post as public prosecutor.

Mr. Ichikawa took the podium as a panelist at the symposium
“Prosecution, Public Opinion, and False Convictions,” sponsored by the Graduate School of Communications at Meiji University.  “I have done things that no public prosecutor should do,” he said.  “I want to tell the truth about how it is that a prosecutor could say such things.”  This was a shocking statement.

Mr. Ichikawa was appointed to the Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office in 1993.  He said that in his first year, a superior prosecutor taught him that “yakuza and foreigners have no human rights.” Describing his experiences, he mentioned that that superior said, “Foreigners don’t understand Japanese, so you can use whatever threatening language you like if it’s in Japanese.”  The same superior also said that when investigating one foreign suspect, he held a pointed awl in front of the suspect’s face and shouted abuse at the suspect in Japanese. “‘That’s how you get them to confess,’ the superior said.”

In his third year, a superior taught him how to obtain a confession; this consisted of the prosecutor taking a document filled with whatever the prosecutor chose to say, threatening the suspect with it, and obtaining the suspect’s signature. What if the suspect refused to sign?  “If the suspect resisted, my boss said, I should say that the document was my [investigation], not his [confession form],” said Mr. Ichikawa.

“As I continued to be educated this way, I began to think that these methods were natural.  By my eighth year, I was saying things I definitely shouldn’t have; the [Saga] case resulted in an acquittal, and I ended up quitting.”

Mr. Ichikawa quit his post in 2005 and is currently practicing as an attorney. On May 22, the day before the symposium, he drew attention by offering a televised apology to the family of the union head that he had verbally mistreated, appearing on the TV Asahi program “The Scoop – Special”.  This Meiji University symposium was also broadcast on Nico Nico Douga, where Mr. Ichikawa explained why he made these statements in public: “I think it is my role now to tell about what I have seen and heard in order to atone for the terrible mistakes I have made.”


COMMENT:  Good that this came out, and bravo for Mr. Ichikawa.  Mark in Yayoi offers the best comment by looking at the Twitter reactions to this article (also reproduced below), where a number of posters sought to justify the status quo.  In Mark’s words:

“The Twitter comments that follow it are dispiriting — nobody seems to notice the fundamental incongruousness of discussing members of a criminal organization and people who happen to have different nationalities in the same breath. And then there are the other commenters who support the idea of certain people not having human rights. Others claim that foreign embassies should be the ones to guarantee the rights of immigrants. They miss the fundamental meaning of ‘human’ rights: rights are inherent aren’t handed down by the government! The government can restrict certain people’s rights, but the default state is not ‘zero rights’.”

That is very insightful about the public awareness and understanding of human rights in Japan, including at the highest levels of law enforcement.  Bear this in mind in future discussions.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo.



「ヤクザと外国人に人権はないと教えられた」 元検事が暴露した驚くべき「新人教育」の実態
NCN 2011年5月23日(月), courtesy lots of people, but especially Fucked Gaijin

市川寛氏(元検事) 冤罪事件として知られる佐賀市農協事件に関与した元主任検事が2011年5月23日、東京都内で開かれたシンポジウムに出演し、検察内部の驚くべき新人教育の実態を生々しく語った。「ヤクザと外国人に人権はないと教えられた」「検事が勝手に自白をしゃべって、それを被疑者に署名させるよう指導された」と過去の経験を暴露したうえで、「このような教育を受ける間にそれが当たり前だとなかば思うようになる」と、ゆがんだ教育の恐ろしさを語った。






2005年に検事をやめ、現在は弁護士として活動している市川氏。シンポジウムの前日の22日には、テレビ朝日系の報道番組「ザ・スクープ スペシャル」で、かつて暴言を吐いた元組合長の家族に謝罪する様子が放映され、話題を呼んだ。ニコニコ動画でも中継された明大のシンポジウムでは「大変な過ちを犯したつぐないとして、私が見てきたことや聞いてきたことを伝えていくのが、私の役割ではないかと考えた」と、公の場で証言した理由を述べた。

[ニコニコニュース]記事内の元検事・市川寛氏による発言 全文書き起こし(1)
[ニコニコニュース]記事内の元検事・市川寛氏による発言 全文書き起こし(2)
[ニコニコ生放送]元検事・市川寛氏の「新人教育」実態暴露から視聴 – 会員登録が必要




  • @Engravingkira02売国奴と糞チョンに人権はないの間違いじゃなくて?
  • @WH04HLいつの間にこんなフォーラムやってたんだ、と思ったら情コミか。法学部にもアナウンスしてくれたら見に行ったのに・・・
  • @lenawashこういうことが正々堂々と行われてる中でよく死刑を認められるんだね。
  • productまあヤクザに人権はいらないなw
  • @riagyoちから と かね が すべてです それ いがいは なんの いみも ありません
  • @wkwk2500今さら何しても免罪符にはならない。先輩がどうとか関係無いですから。
  • @help_99最初から色眼鏡か?
  • @rietmm「外国人って行っても特定の国だろうなwww」今はそうかもしれんが昔はなぁ
  • @than25先輩にこういう価値観を植え付けられたのでこうなりました?それでいいと思ってるの?元々そういう人間だとしか思えん…
  • @yuki_takamori正論ではどうにもならないことがある。この元検事の意見は正しいし間違いだ。
  • @hoshimorisubaru犯罪者の国籍見たら外国人にむかつくのは分かる。犯罪者の人権を擁護しようとする議論に持っていこうとするのはどうなんだろうか。
  • @babanred外国人って行っても特定の国だろうなwww
  • @hakutyuumu検察ってこわいな。
  • @kakusanheiki外国人犯罪が多いなか鵜呑みにする人間がいるの?そっちのほうが怖いんだけど。因みに日本で起きてる事件の8割が外人関与
  • @hirossann1行政の人に知り合いがいるんだが、その人によると行政から見れば警察は『たかり』だと言っていたのを思い出した。
  • @harudrr66他人に迷惑をかけていてそれに気が付いていない人間に人権を与える必要があるのか。
  • @Angelan_HKこの国の刑法や、他人の人権を守れない人間は、人権あるない以前に、普通に犯罪者だから。
  • @milk_mia極論過ぎるけどそういう認識も間違ってはいないでしょ、リスクの統計取れば、そう身構える割合高くなるだろうしね。
  • @lm767この手の記事が新聞に載る日は来るだろうか?
  • @akisugarはいはい。実際には外国人(の多くを占める東アジア出身者)の人権は過剰に保護されてるけどね。日本人よりもね。
  • @johan1414g893に人権なんて与えたくない、日本に害のある外人(日本人になりすましてる奴らも)にも日本国内での人権なんてやる必要ない。
  • @absent_mindedneやくざに人権が必要だっていうの?
  • @OPUSKENヤクザと外国人(シナ、朝鮮人)に人権が無いのは当たり前
  • @fullbocco_bokkoいや、その教えは正しい。ただし「冤罪でない」という一言が入る
  • @hibiiikagenいや、ヤクザに関しては本当に人権が無くていい
  • @samxxchihまぁ、人権以前に、日本語普通にできる外国人としてその先輩と上司が言ってることは喧嘩売ってるしか思えないなヽ(`⌒´♯)ノ
  • @alan_mai外国人は極論だと思うけど893に人権はないには大賛成!
  • @nagamatsu88市川さんの言ってることもわかるけど「ヤクザと外国人に人権はない」とまでは言わないがそれに近い考え方はありと思う!駄目?!
  • @yukianpanまあ外人だからって甘くみるのは間違っている
  • @ninjajournalistよくカミングアウトしたなー。それにしても検察は恐ろしい。
  • @SANNGATUUSAGINO昨日から、TLに検察の文字が並んでいたのはこのことなのね。RT@shinichiroinaba……。
  • @mo198112ヤクザにはなくていいな。 RT @shinichiroinaba: ……。
  • @shinichiroinaba……。
  • @syokenngorosiこの発言をする勇気はすごいと思うが、外人はともかくヤクザは罵倒してもいいとおもうが。
  • @Gabicyouワーオ!RT@unbalance_x @yuuzarmeiがリツイート「ヤクザと外国人に人権はないと教えられた」 元検事が暴露した驚くべき「新人教育」の実態 一般市民でもそう思ってる奴は多そうである。
  • @FPS5不法外国人と罪人の人権が著しく制限されるのは当然のことだろ
  • @gallu検察屋さんの面目躍如 B-p :
  • @tomystina日本国に属しない者(母国に利する者)や反社会的勢力に温情を持って対応しろと教育されてる方が逆に怖いだろ。基本はかくあるべし
  • @Meilin23外国人だからといって甘く見るような流れになるのはいかがなものか。犯罪をしに来日する輩もいないわけではないしな。
  • @Miki_Jonnyとりあえずこの人は電車で移動したり人の多いエスカレーターに乗らないほうが良いだろうな
  • @hottokokoa1027そういうのを暴露して改善していこうとする人がいるのがいいことだと思う。
  • @myossy5「犯罪を犯した」を最初に付けるのなら、それでいいじゃない。人権を盾に居直る連中だっているんだから。
  • @yao_tomi小佐古さん(元内閣官房参与)もそうだったけど、ドロップアウトした後の内部告発って威力あるよな。この方には期待してます。
  • @Trapiche何を今更といった印象。
  • @tolyicこいつは自衛の為に責任転嫁してるだけ。こんな事で検事が委縮して外人被疑者に配慮しなきゃいけない風潮になれば冤罪以上に恐い
  • @tolyicその上で行き過ぎや間違いがあれば今回のようにきちんと責任を取らされる社会にしていけば良い
  • @tolyicこういう仕事が何のために存在するのか、犯罪者を野放しにせず善良な市民を守る為。そこが何より優先されるべき
  • @nananananasi警察や政治家と深く繋がりがある代表例がヤクザと朝鮮系の在日なわけで。警察のバック=公明=創価=朝鮮
  • @solar_grass89人権の話はおいといて「検事が勝手に自白をしゃべって、それを被疑者に署名させるよう指導された」こっちの方が問題では?
  • @b7af213b非国民としてまとめて扱うのは正しい 人種差別は良くないからな
  • @UMAnoHONEnicoヤクザは、ともかく外人は極論だろ・・・、たしかに問題のある外国人も多いけどさ(‘A`)
  • @Bleed_Kagaだいたいの893は在日中国・朝鮮人。犯罪をする外国人は中国or朝鮮人。あとは・・・わかるな?
  • @taka_19682002俺も大した事を呟いていないが、ここはUstで見た呟きと大分色が異なる。
  • @drkinokoru家畜に神はいない!を連想する名セリフだな…。検察改革というか一度潰して作り直さなければだめなんじゃないかとすら思う。
  • @annwfn666893に人権がないのは当然だが、さすがに外国人と一括りにするのはどうかと
  • @Meisou_AKつぶやきの履歴も見れるんだけど、コメントの6割方を見てると程度の低さに頭が痛くなる。
  • @fuzita2003スパイ訓練されている特亜人に普通の事情聴取するほうがおかしいと思うけどね?暴露した理由が想像できる
  • @dd182…まあ、少なくとも『日本人』では無い事は確か。…別の見方をすれば、そのくらいの気迫で挑まないとだめという事だ。
  • @kakusanheikiなんか自分を解雇した検事に対する復讐にしか見えない。こいつの眼を見てまともだと思うならおかしい。蹴ったりしないよ。机蹴る
  • @kakusanheiki生放送見てきたが・・・こいつ程度で怖いとか言う人間はマルボウにであったら死んじゃうんだるな
  • @SENKICHI71これは生々しいし怖い話。市川氏の勇気ある発言を見よ。
  • @mushokuchuunenヤクザには当然人権はないでしょ?不良外国人も同様です。
  • @sunakuzira999こういう事もあるのか
  • @ilovejpn1941犯罪者の人権は法で保護されてるのに被害者の人権は保護されないのはおかしい。
  • @tomox_ht「こういうやつがいるから日本が差別の国に」って間違ってはいないが果たしてあっているのだろうか
  • @moritania2009そりゃヤクザは既に犯罪者だし(でもなぜか存在する)、人権はその国の政府が国民に保証してるものだから、外国人はまた別だしな。
  • @ossannzzヤメ検の言う事も当てにはならんけどな
  • @Death13Zaitsev悪い事してる奴はゆるせんがみんな同じ人間なんだけどな
  • @masaki_ntamパスポート見るといいよ。自分たちが外国で自分たちの安全を保障してくれているのは日本の外務省の圧力だよ
  • @masaki_ntam外国人の人権を日本人が守ってやる必要はない。その国の外務省が圧力で保障するべきモノ。
  • @kanenooto7248これも現実の話。
  • @RICHIPPOだろうね。一朝一夕で捜査機関のこんな体質が出来上がるわけがない。そういうことは思ってもいいが言ってはいけない。
  • @moringo1988なるほど、裁判官だけでなく検察官すら公正とは程遠かったわけか・・・。それを知るのに23年かかるとは思わなかったよ。
  • @Nmdmnヤクザと外国人に人権はない。正解
  • @kakusanheiki信じてる奴ってなんなの?自分こいつにすごまれてビビルと思う?気持ち悪くはあるがビビラないだろ人選ミス
  • @nullpo8NETの情報管制と検察叩きはリンクしてます。 何より怪しげな証言だけで弾圧する姿勢はおかしい。
  • @mattareコメント履歴とか見てて思うのは「裁判受ける権利」も人権だからな、と。
  • @jone_uytoいや当たり前なんだが・・・
  • @YoU_verTwまー。そんなもんやろ
  • @han_org変わってないなあ。70年代に警察の内部資料でそういうのが表面化したことがあったけど…。 /
  • @tazuna9これを聞いてもさして驚かない自分がいる。ネットが今ほど普及する以前なら「また左翼の妄言か」と一笑に付してたんだろうな・・・
  • @LIQUITEX2245こいつの言ってる事が本当かどうかは怪しいけどね
  • @kakusanheiki8年目のとき、自ら絶対にあってはならない暴言をはき、事件が無罪になり、辞職することになった。はい、ここ注目
  • @kakusanheikiよく考えナ。外国人がだよ。こいつに脅されて恐れると思う?どうせ馬鹿にされ発狂して解雇されたから復讐に検事潰そうとしてるだけ
  • @5hingo891外国人云々は取って付けたんだろう。てかこいつなんか変な宗教に染まってそうな顔つきだな
  • @yossikawこれが日本です
  • @kojiprohairitaiこんなのがホントにあるのか。アホすぎる。
  • @applebingo0710この教育ははたしてあっているのだろうか
  • @zako2kai検事「容疑者様本当の事をおっしゃって頂けませんか?」外国人はともかく犯罪の疑いがある人には、それなりの態度で臨むべきでは?
  • @cyber_omame思想が差別の多かった戦中と変わらないなと思ったら顔のタイプも古かった。
  • @anabisuよくやってる手口だよな、悪質な人権侵害だとTV等では言いつつも決して法的手段には出ないという本当に遭ったなら訴えろよ
  • @deltastyleその教育自体もはや「正義」じゃないどころか罪があるかないかも定かではない人間に脅迫染みた自白をさせる「悪」の組織だな。
  • @pomspomヤクザはともかく外国人には人権がある。ただし参政権は全く別の話しだけどね。
  • @anabisuこいつは謝罪をするのに何故TVで報道されながらやったんだ?本当に詫びるつもりだったならメディアなんか要らないはずだよな
  • @sayokusinjaこんな連中がいるから日本が差別国と叩かれるんだ、正しい国に戻るまで断固たたかう
  • @yuel_え?当たり前のことじゃない?
  • @phycho_break犯罪者の人権が被害者の人権より優遇されていいはずがない。 でも、歪んだ形での正義は冤罪を誘発するだろうね。
  • @whiteboxtest「韓国の国会議員3人北方領土入り」日本政府は何してるんだ?侵略行為受けて守りもできないとは。外国人保護法だ?ふざけるな
  • @unbalance_x「ヤクザと外国人に人権はないと教えられた」 元検事が暴露した驚くべき「新人教育」の実態 一般市民でもそう思ってる奴は多そうである。
  • @watanabe0221関連ツイートがまた極端だなあ・・・犯罪者にだって人権はある。ただ、被害者より加害者の権利が優先されて良い訳は無い。
  • @nyanyaaaaaaan犯罪者に人権が無いのは理解できなくないけどこんな教え方じゃそりゃ冤罪とかも発生するわ。
  • @furisker僕は10年前から公安警察に人権を踏みにじられています。「人権侵害日記」で検索
  • @bullz1213犯罪起こしたなら日本人だろうが外国人だろうが人権なんてあるわけない。至極もっともな意見だと思うけど、この人は何をいってるのENDS


Kyodo: 2 men acquitted in retrial after serving nearly 30 years in prison


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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  This is a bit of a tangent, but what affects citizens will also affect non-citizens as well (especially so, actually), so here goes:

The Mainichi reported yesterday that two men who were wrongfully committed of a crime were finally released.  The problem is that it was a 44-year ordeal for them, thirty years of it spent in prison.  And they are not the only examples of this lack of due process.  As the article says, “The case has become the seventh in postwar Japan involving the acquittal in a retrial of defendants previously sentenced to death or life imprisonment.”

I’ve said before (after experiencing now six civil court cases that have all been riddled with absolute illogic) that the Japanese judiciary is pretty fucked up.  So this is an example of how fucked up the Japanese criminal justice system is.  This deserves to be known about. So know about it.  (You can also read about it in my novel IN APPROPRIATE.)

NB:  Before all you relativists start looking for examples of wrongful convictions in other countries that were later overturned, don’t even bother.  For a) it doesn’t justify it happening here, and b) How much of this rigmarole and unaccountability will happen in other healthy judiciaries?  Thirty years is a sizeable chunk of a person’s life lost!

Is the Japanese justice system more concerned about looking like it never makes mistakes than about rectifying past ones and avoiding future ones?  Arudou Debito


2 men acquitted in retrial after serving nearly 30 years in prison
Mainichi Daily News, May 24, 2011, Courtesy of CP

TSUCHIURA (Kyodo) — A district court in a retrial Tuesday acquitted two men convicted in a 1967 murder-robbery case who each served nearly 30 years in prison.

The Tsuchiura branch of the Mito District Court delivered a not guilty verdict for Shoji Sakurai and Takao Sugiyama, both 64.

They had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 1970 for the August 1967 robbery and murder of Shoten Tamamura, a 62-year-old carpenter, and were freed on parole in 1996.

The case was dubbed the Fukawa murder case, after the crime site in the town of Tone, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Presiding Judge Daisuke Kanda said in the decision that there was no objective evidence to link the defendants to the crime, noting that hairs and fingerprints detected at the crime scene did not match those of the defendants.

The judge also said witness accounts placing the two men at the victim’s home lacked credibility.

The two were arrested in October 1967, indicted in December that year and sentenced to imprisonment for life in October 1970 as suspects in the Fukawa murder case.

The case has become the seventh in postwar Japan involving the acquittal in a retrial of defendants previously sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

Sugiyama, who earlier in the day spoke to reporters at his home in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, said he was unhappy with a mere not-guilty decision and hoped the court would look into prosecutors’ effort to conceal evidence that may have helped acquit the defendants.

Sakurai said a not-guilty decision was natural.

The three-judge panel at the court’s Tsuchiura branch held six rounds of hearings in the two men’s retrial starting in July 2010, when the two pleaded innocent.

In the hearings, the defense counsel played a tape recording of investigators interrogating Sakurai and argued that the tape was found to have been edited. The defense contended that investigators apparently coerced Sakurai into confessing.

A 78-year-old woman, who saw a man on the day of the crime at the crime scene, testified in a retrial hearing that the man was not Sugiyama.

During the original trial, the two pleaded innocent to the charges, arguing that police investigators had forced them to confess.

But the district court’s Tsuchiura branch, citing their confessions and witnesses’ accounts, found the two men guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment in October 1970 — a decision upheld by the Tokyo High Court in 1973 and later by the Supreme Court in 1978.

They were released on parole in November 1996.

The two first filed for a retrial in 1983 when serving in prison but were rejected. They again filed for a retrial in 2001 after being freed.

In September 2005, the district court’s Tsuchiura branch accepted the two men’s second petition and decided to launch a retrial — a decision upheld by the Tokyo High Court in July 2008 and then by the top court in December 2009.

In the retrial, prosecutors again sought life imprisonment for the pair, arguing that the defendants had confessed voluntarily and their depositions were credible, urging the court to find them guilty.

The prosecutors called for conducting a DNA test on four items of evidence including underwear found wrapped around the victim’s neck. But the court turned down the prosecutors’ request.

The court was initially scheduled to give its decision on March 16.

But the court put off the date to Tuesday in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan and parts of the Kanto region and crippled railways and other mass transit in the region.

One of the two, Sakurai, worked as a volunteer at shelters in the quake-hit city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, after the March disaster.

Toshikazu Sugaya, also 64, who spent 17 years in prison after being sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly killing a kindergartener in 1960 and was acquitted in a retrial in 2009, was among the audience at the courtroom Tuesday.

Sugaya told reporters he would work with Sugiyama and Sakurai to wipe out unjust convictions.

(Mainichi Japan) May 24, 2011


Mainichi: “Many foreign residents wish to stay in Japan despite disaster: survey”


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

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign 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 on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Related to the debunkable claims of “Fly-jin” NJ deserting Japan in its time of need, here is an article in the media with a survey of how NJ are actually by-and-large NOT wanting to be “Fly-jin”.  Good.

The problem is, it seems (after a short search) that this article has come out in English only — there is no link to the “original Japanese story” like many Mainichi articles have.  So this may sadly may not be for domestic consumption.  Or it may be available on Kyodo wire services (but again, not in Japanese for Mainichi readers).  Sigh.  Arudou Debito


Many foreign residents wish to stay in Japan despite disaster: survey

Greg Lekich, far left, and other volunteers are pictured in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 20. (Photo courtesy of Greg Lekich)

Greg Lekich, far left, and other volunteers are pictured in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 20. (Photo courtesy of Greg Lekich)
(Mainichi Japan) May 7, 2011, Courtesy of JK

TOKYO (Kyodo) — More than 90 percent of foreigners studying or working in Japan expressed willingness to continue staying in the country despite the March 11 disaster, according to a recent online survey by a supporting group for them.

The International Foreign Students Association conducted the survey between March 22 and 26, to which 392 people responded. Of the respondents, 60 percent were students and the remaining 40 percent were graduates, while more than 90 percent of them were from China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Those who are willing to stay in Japan said, “Because I like Japan,” or “At a time like this, I think I want to work together (with Japanese) to help the recovery,” according to the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization.

The survey also showed that 73 percent of the respondents saw information gaps between Japan and their home countries on the earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent nuclear emergency, with some saying overseas news on the nuclear crisis was “excessive.”

Some respondents also pointed out that the Japanese government does not fully disclose information on the nuclear disaster.

Foreign volunteers help clear mud from a shopping street in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 14. (Mainichi)

Foreign volunteers help clear mud from a shopping street in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 14. (Mainichi)

Around 60 percent said they have not been preparing for disasters, while some voiced the need for multilingual information on disasters.


Japan Times Suraj Case of death during deportation sent to prosecutors


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Hi Blog. It’s taken nearly a year, but the Suraj Case has finally been sent to prosecutors, for what it’s worth. Somebody dies in your custody and you can’t determine the cause of death? Joudan ja nai. Let’s see if anyone is held accountable. (Suraj’s wife certainly was — she was fired from her job for making a fuss about her husband’s death!) More on the Suraj Case at here. Arudou Debito


Japan Times Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010
Prosecutors get case of deportee’s death

Chiba police have turned over to prosecutors their case against 10 immigration officers suspected of being involved in the death of a Ghanaian deportee they had restrained and physically placed aboard a jetliner last March at Narita International Airport.

The action Monday came six months after the man’s Japanese widow and her lawyers filed a criminal complaint demanding that prosecutors take action against the airport immigration officers who overpowered Abubakar Awudu Suraj to get him on the jet, where he subsequently died of unknown causes while handcuffed in his seat.

The police turned their case against the 10 men, aged 24 to 48, who are still working, over to the Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office. They could face charges of violence and cruelty by special public officers resulting in death, a Chiba police officer said.

“This has taken way too long,” lawyer Koichi Kodama, who is representing Suraj’s widow, said Tuesday. “I just hope prosecutors handle the case appropriately.”

An official of the Immigration Bureau’s Immigration Control Division, to which the 10 officers belong, said, “We will continue to cooperate in the investigation, try to find out the truth and take appropriate action.”

Mayumi Yoshida, assistant general secretary of Asian People’s Friendship Society and a supporter of the widow, had quoted a Chiba police officer as saying the immigration officers carried Suraj, who was acting violently, aboard an Egypt Air jet on March 22. Handcuffed and his mouth covered with a towel, Suraj was found unconscious in the aircraft and confirmed dead at a hospital, Yoshida had quoted the officer as saying.

The police were unable to pinpoint the cause of death…

Rest of article at


Domestic articles:

(2010年12月28日11時35分 読売新聞)






入管警備官10人書類送検 強制送還のガーナ人死亡
2010/12/28 11:56 【共同通信】






産経ニュース 2010.12.28 11:17







朝日新聞 2010年12月28日11時13分






Economist London on corrupt public prosecutors in Japan


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Hi Blog. Here’s an article I spotted last week in my issue of The Economist. Not sure I’ve ever heard of 官尊民卑 referred to below, but I certainly have heard of how skewed towards the prosecution Japan’s criminal justice system is. Here’s one symptom of the problem — falsification of evidence by prosecutors — which came to light only because the judge did the unusual step of bucking the system. Arudou Debito


Japan’s judiciary on trial
Prosecutors or persecutors?
A legal scandal may spark reform of the Japanese judicial system
The Economist London, Oct 14th 2010 | TOKYO

AMONG the four-character idioms that all Japanese schoolchildren must learn is kan son min pi (“respect officials, despise the people”). It defines the traditional relationship of individuals as subservient to the state—among whose representatives none is accorded more authority than the public prosecutor. The great privilege this confers on the role, however, can lead to its abuse.

A run of recent legal scandals, including wrongful convictions and brutal incarcerations, has tested respect for Japan’s criminal-justice system. The latest example, alleged evidence-tampering by a high-flying prosecutor and a cover-up by his bosses, has rallied many who want to see more regard for individual rights and greater checks on state power. The prosecutor in question, Tsunehiko Maeda, allegedly changed the date of a file on a computer disk that was being used as evidence against a woman accused of involvement in a massive benefit fraud. When Mr Maeda admitted this to his superiors, they are said to have ordered him to produce a report explaining how it happened “unintentionally”. On October 11th the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office dismissed Mr Maeda, the chief prosecutor in Osaka’s special investigative unit, and pressed charges against him.

The scandal has hit a nerve. Japan takes pride in one of the world’s lowest crime rates. But it also has a fishily high conviction rate, at 99.9%. That matches China’s and is far above rates in the West (see chart). In their defence, Japanese lawyers say that the country’s under-resourced state prosecution service is only able to bring the strongest cases to trial. Fear of failure, with which all Japan’s bureaucrats are imbued, reinforces a reticence to test weaker cases in court. According to a former Tokyo district court judge, a single courtroom loss can badly damage a prosecutor’s career. A second can end it.

Yet the recent scandals suggest that miscarriages of justice are all too common. So do several quirks of the justice system, which weigh the scales against the accused. Suspects can be held for up to 23 days without charge, for example. They often have little access to a lawyer and none during questioning. Police interrogations commonly last up to ten hours and are rife with mental and verbal abuse. On October 7th a businessman in Osaka produced a surreptitious recording of his seven-hour “voluntary” questioning, in which the police threaten to hit him and destroy his life.

Part of the problem is that Japan has too few lawyers; one tenth the number per head of Britain (see chart, again). That is largely because the government makes it remarkably difficult to become one. For years it set the bar exam pass-rate at around 3%, though it has recently increased it to 25%. This reflects a fear, in a conflict-shy country, that more lawyers will make society more litigious, not more just.

Recent reforms have improved matters a little. A sort-of jury system, introduced last year, has a panel of six citizens review cases alongside judges, who ultimately pronounce on them. This system produced its first acquittal in June. A more important change, says Kazuko Ito, a lawyer specialising in wrongful-conviction cases, would oblige prosecutors to disclose any mitigating evidence. Former prosecutors also urge judges to be more skeptical about the word of prosecutors and the police.

In Mr Maeda’s shabby case, the court threw out much of the evidence and acquitted the accused. Mr Maeda’s supervisors have also been arrested. Now a titillated Japanese public looks forward to prosecuting the prosecutors.

Mainichi: “NJ have no right to welfare payments”, rules Oita District Court two weeks later. Gee that was a quick kibosh.


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Hi Blog. After a half-month interlude of light and reason (as in September 30 to October 17), where it actually looked like a Japanese courtroom was actually going to be nice to somebody and rule against The State, another court has come along and put things back to normal. Read on below.

Gee, that was quick by Japanese judicial standards! I guess they know the value of putting the kibosh on something before the floodgates open: Can’t have all the goddamn foreigners expecting to have rights to something like our social welfare benefits, especially at an advanced age.  Arudou Debito


Foreigners have no right to welfare payments, rules Oita District Court
(Mainichi Japan) October 18, 2010, Courtesy of KS, JK, and lots of other people

OITA — The Oita District Court ruled on Oct. 18 that foreigners with the right to permanent residence but without Japanese citizenship are not entitled to welfare benefits, rejecting the claims of a 78-year-old Chinese woman who sued after being denied benefits by the Oita city government.

In the ruling, Presiding Judge Yasuji Isshi said, “The Livelihood Protection Law is intended for Japanese citizens only. Welfare payments to non-citizens would be a form of charity. Non-citizens do not hold a right to receive payments.”

The court rejected the woman’s requests that it overturn the city’s decision and order the commencement of payments. The woman intends to appeal. The ruling is the first in the country to deal with the issue of welfare payments to people with foreign citizenship and permanent residency in Japan.

According to the ruling, the woman has Chinese nationality but was born in Japan and holds the right to permanent residence. In December 2008, the woman applied to the welfare office in Oita city for welfare payments, but was turned down with the reason that she had “a comfortable amount of money” in her savings.

The main issues of the trial became whether the woman held the right as a foreigner to receive welfare payments and whether her financial status justified her receiving aid.

“Excluding foreign citizens from the protection of welfare benefits is not unconstitutional,” said Isshi. He did not say anything about the woman’s financial status in the ruling, effectively indicating that any such discussion was overruled by the issue of nationality.



Original Japanese story

大分・生活保護訴訟:永住外国人、受給権なし 地裁が初判決
毎日新聞 2010年10月18日 東京夕刊




Japan Times “Richard Cory” on child custody woes part 2: Who abducts wins


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As part two to yesterday’s excerpt, here’s how Richard Cory managed to save one of his children from a cheating, insane, abusive mom — by simply abducting her. Too bad for the other two. Godspeed. Arudou Debito in transit

Behind the facade of family law
Having been reunited with his daughter, Richard Cory faces a tougher battle for custody of his sons
By Richard Cory
The Japan Times Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010

(excerpt): Look at my case (and what the judge wrote in her custody ruling in July). My wife had admitted to the following:

• More than three years of ongoing adultery (“The reason for the breakup of the marriage was the respondent’s adultery”); Giving large sums of money (¥7.7 million) to her lover to help him pay off his gambling debt (“Respondent lent a large sum of money to her colleague”);

• Taking my children on dates to bet on horse racing;

• Being currently on medication for various disorders (“Respondent became mentally ill and started seeing a doctor in or around January 2010 and worried about her insufficient communication with the children”);

• Physically abusing her own spouse and children (“Respondent attacked petitioner . . . and used physical power that cannot be justified as discipline against the children”).

Her own daughter fled from her after being abducted, and then testified against her. Moreover, my wife did not even petition for custody of the children until four months after I filed for divorce and custody. I even submitted a video showing my wife with not one of the bruises or injuries she claimed to have sustained the day before the video was taken. And we even had eyewitness testimony of her trying to injure herself. Could my case be any stronger?

Nevertheless, when the judge awarded me physical custody of my daughter, she also awarded physical custody of the boys to their mother. The reason: “There’s no big problem (with the boys staying where they are).”

Based on such reasoning, you can bet the bank that this judge would have awarded custody of all three children to my wife had I not been able to rescue one. And the judge would probably have given me custody of them all had they all been able to get free.

Japan’s family court is simply a facade designed to make an unevolved system appear civilized.

Let’s not kid ourselves. In Japan, “possession of the children” trumps the “best interests of the children” every time, particularly when the “best interests of the children” are never even addressed. And when you have a country that is pouring great sums of money into a system that shuffles children off to hidden locations whenever a parent makes an unverified DV claim, the state, in essence, becomes complicit in the abduction of the children…

Full article at

Japan Times “Richard Cory” updates us on child custody woes and systematic bias against NJ fathers


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Hi Blog. Here’s the first part of a sad story from a friend whose marriage broke down, and how the system is geared against NJ (particular fathers) who want custody of and access to their children.  This came out last week, and part two came out today.  You can also read about it in Japanese here.  Wow.  May more stories like these get into print and offer cautionary tales.  Arudou Debito in Calgary.


The Japan Times THE ZEIT GIST
Battling a broken system
A left-behind father tells the story of his fight to find and win custody of his lost daughter
September 21, 2010

(excerpt) In December 2009, shortly after I detailed my fears in this column (Zeit Gist, Nov. 3, 2009) about my wife’s ongoing affair potentially resulting in me losing custody of my children, family life got even worse as she became increasingly physically abusive toward our children. In fact, the police visited my home after one incident in December and recommended that I take my daughter to the Child Guidance Center (jidosodanjo) so that we could determine how to best handle her mother’s violent behavior. Over the next few months, my daughter was interviewed twice at the Child Guidance Center and a few times at her public elementary school.

Unfortunately, as we neared the abduction date, bias against her American father started to become evident. Exactly two weeks before her abduction, her female school principal met privately with my daughter, who summarized her principal’s comments as follows: “Your mother might be violent, but we know she’s a very nice mother on the inside. She will change one day. She’s just stressed right now.”

Two days before the abduction, the school principal and two child welfare officers met with my daughter in the principal’s office, and just hours after returning home, my daughter reported the following exchange between her and one of the welfare officers, an older Japanese woman: “And then she said, ‘Who are you going to choose?’ And I said, ‘Because Mama beats me, I want to go to Daddy’s side. I’m going to choose Daddy.’ Then she said, ‘Your mother does all the stuff at home, like cooking and doing the clothes and stuff like that, so I think it would be better if you choose your mother.’ “

Rest of the article at

Japan will apologize for Korean Annexation 100 years ago and give back some war spoils. Bravo.


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Hi Blog. In another big piece of news, Japan is taking another step closer to healing the wounds around Asia of a cruel colonial past by saying sorry to South Korea. Good. Bravo. Sad that it took a century for the apologies and return of some war spoils, but better now than never. Let’s hope it further buries the ahistorical revisionist arguments that basically run, “We were invited to Korea, and did them a favor by taking them over.” — arguments that help nobody get over the past or help with neighborly Asian cooperation. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japan To Voice Remorse Tues. Over Annexation of Korea 100 Years Ago
Kyodo World Service in English 1211 GMT 09 Aug 10 2010, courtesy Club of 99.

Tokyo, Aug. 9 Kyodo — Prime Minister Naoto Kan is scheduled to release a statement for South Korea on Tuesday regarding the centenary later this month of Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula, ruling party lawmakers said Monday.

The statement will include a phrase expressing deep remorse and apologizing for Japan’s colonial rule, stating also that Japan will return cultural artifacts taken from the peninsula that South Korea has been demanding, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The expressions used closely follow those of past prime ministerial statements — one by Tomiichi Murayama in August 1995 and another by Junichiro Koizumi in August 2005, the sources said.

The government told the Democratic Party of Japan that Kan is planning to release a statement in connection with the centenary after securing approval from the Cabinet on Tuesday, Goshi Hosono, acting secretary general of the DPJ, told reporters after attending a ruling party meeting.

While apologizing for the annexation, the statement will also be aimed at deepening future-oriented ties with South Korea, the sources said.

Kan is hoping to turn the page on bilateral historical issues, while enhancing cooperation with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s government in addressing challenges related to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and its past abduction of foreign nationals, the sources said.

On the transfer of cultural artifacts, the items in question are believed to be held by the Imperial Household Agency, including the Joseon Wangsil Uigwe, a meticulous record of Korean royal ceremonies and rituals.

The statement to be released Tuesday will only be directed at South Korea, whereas the Murayama statement apologized to Asian victims of Japan’s past aggression, the sources said.

The statement does not refer to Japan-North Korea relations, the sources said.

The release will take place before Aug. 15, when South Korea celebrates its liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

Kan’s Cabinet had been considering releasing the statement either before Aug.15 or Aug. 29, the day the annexation treaty was proclaimed 100 years ago.

Kan is slated to hold a news conference on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to explain his reason for issuing the statement.

Opposition to releasing such a document remains among conservative lawmakers within and outside the DPJ, with some expressing concern over renewed claims for financial compensation for the suffering inflicted during Japan’s colonial rule in some Asian countries.

DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano said at a news conference that the party did not make any special request regarding the release.

Edano also said he has no concerns about reigniting the issue of compensation in Asia because of the release.


Shame on Berlitz Japan for its court harassments, firing teacher for having cancer


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Hi Blog. Shame on Berlitz Japan for its harassment of employees in court, and for firing people for their union activities (illegal under labor law) and for having cancer. This sort of thing should not be allowed in a civilized labor union market. But of course, especially in Japan’s Eikaiwa market, that’s assuming a lot. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Talks drag on, teachers fired in Berlitz case
By JAMES McCROSTIE, courtesy of Kevin (excerpt)

After 20 months of legal wrangling, neither side has managed to snag a win in Berlitz Japan’s ¥110 million lawsuit against five teachers and their union, Begunto.

On the recommendation of the case’s lead judge, the company and union have been in court-mediated reconciliation talks since December. The agreement to enter the talks came after a year of court hearings into the suit…

Louis Carlet, one of the union officials being sued, describes progress at the once-a-month, 30-minute negotiating sessions as “glacially slow.”…

The battle between Berlitz Japan and Begunto began with a strike launched Dec. 13, 2007, as Berlitz Japan and its parent company, Benesse Corp., were enjoying record profits. Teachers, who had gone without an across-the-board raise for 16 years, struck for a 4.6-percent pay hike and a one-month bonus. The action grew into the largest sustained strike in the history of Japan’s language school industry, with more than 100 English, Spanish and French teachers participating in walkouts across Kanto.

On Dec. 3, 2008, Berlitz Japan claimed the strike was illegal and sued for a total of ¥110 million in damages. Named in the suit were the five teachers volunteering as Begunto executives, as well as two union officials: the president of the National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu, Yujiro Hiraga , and Carlet, former NUGW case officer for Begunto and currently executive president of Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union (Tozen)…

Another of the teachers named in the suit, Catherine Campbell, was fired earlier this month after taking too long to recover from late-stage breast cancer cancer. In June 2009, Campbell took a year of unpaid leave to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Because Berlitz Japan failed to enroll Campbell in the shakai hoken health insurance scheme, she was unable to receive the two-thirds wage coverage it provides and had to live with her parents in Canada during treatment. The company denied Campbell’s request to extend her leave from June to Sept. 2010 and fired her for failing to return to work.

Berlitz Japan work rules allow for leave-of-absence extensions where the company deems it necessary.

“If cancer is not such a case, what would be?” Campbell asks. “On one hand, I’m lucky to be alive and healthy enough to even want to go back to work, so everything else pales in comparison,” she explained. “But on the other, the company’s decision does seem hard to understand. The leave is unpaid, and I don’t receive any health benefits, so it wouldn’t cost Berlitz anything to keep me on; and for me, it’s that much harder to restart my life without a job.”

Rest of the article at

Yomiuri: New “lay judges” in J judiciary strict about demanding evidence from prosecutors, give ‘benefit of doubt’. Well, fancy that.


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Hi Blog.  Here’s an article (I can’t find in Japanese) regarding what’s happening in Japan’s “Lay Judge” system (i.e. generally bringing six common folk to sit on Japanese juries as “saiban’in”, with three other real judges offering “legal guidance”, as in, keeping an eye on them).  Well, guess what, we have “Runaway Juries”, by Japanese standards!  They’re getting in the way of the public prosecutor (who gets his or her way in convicting more than 99.9% of cases brought to Japanese criminal court) and offering acquittals!  Well, how outrageous!  Given what I know about the Japanese police and how they arrest and detain suspects (particularly if they are existing while foreign), I doubt they are right 99.9% of the time.  And it looks like some of the saiban’in would agree.  But here’s a lament by the Yomiuri about how those darn lay judges (how belittling; why aren’t they just “jurists”?) are getting in the way.  Good.  Raise the standard for burden of proof.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Lay judges strict about ‘benefit of doubt’
Mariko Sakai, Takashi Maemura and Mayumi Oshige / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers
Yomiuri Jul. 21, 2010, Courtesy of TTB

Three complete or partial acquittals were handed down in lay-judge trials in June and July, in which the principle of giving the benefit of the doubt to defendants in criminal trials was strictly applied. As a result, some prosecutors believe it is becoming harder and harder to persuade lay judges that defendants are guilty.

There have been about 620 rulings rendered in trials involving lay judges since the launch of the system in May last year. Most were guilty rulings, as the facts of the cases were not in dispute. However, June and July saw sentences of not guilty in trials at the Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court, Chiba District Court and Tokyo District Court.

Prosecutors have already appealed the sentence in the Chiba District Court case, in which the defendant was indicted on suspicion of smuggling stimulant drugs in three chocolate cans from Malaysia to Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture.

This is the first appeal to be filed involving a lay judge trial.

In a case of arson, trespassing and theft tried at the Tokyo District Court, the prosecution has decided to appeal the ruling to a high court. The defendant was sentenced to 18 months in prison for trespassing and theft but acquitted of arson.

In both of these cases, prosecutors did not have confessions from the defendants or strong material evidence, and thus tried to prove the defendants’ guilt with circumstantial evidence.


Perception gap

According to lawyer Koshi Murakami, a former division chief of the Tokyo High Court, the sentences of not guilty were handed down in these cases due to professional judges and lay judges’ different understanding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for deciding whether a defendant is guilty.

“Even if they doubt a piece of circumstantial evidence, professional judges decide whether a defendant is guilty after a comprehensive review of other pieces of evidence,” Murakami said. “However, lay judges may consider a not guilty decision if they are suspicious of even one piece of evidence.”

The ruling in the Tokyo District Court case says there is a strong possibility the defendant committed the arson. However, a great deal of weight was given to the fact that there was a window of about five hours and 20 minutes in which the fire could have been set to the victim’s residence, and therefore it cannot be denied that a third person could have committed that crime.

In the smuggling case at the Chiba District Court, the ruling says, “The court acknowledges as a fact that the defendant thought the cans he received in Malaysia might have contained drugs.”

However, it also says, “It is going too far to say that he must have known the actual content of the cans,” focusing on the fact that the defendant agreed to a customs official’s demand for an X-ray inspection of the cans, among other things.

Given this tendency, a senior prosecution official said, “Prosecutors need to not only explain each piece of evidence at trials, but also persuade lay judges to decide guilty or not guilty based on the whole picture of material and circumstantial evidence.”


Selection of evidence

These three not-guilty rulings have senior prosecutors increasingly worried that the bar for achieving convictions in lay judge trials has been raised, according to a senior prosecution official.

The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office has begun studying what points lay judges consider important, and certain issues have already come to light.

In the Tachikawa case, which involved fraud and robbery resulting in injuries, the defendant was indicted on suspicion of robbing three women with a friend on separate occasions, injuring one woman seriously and buying a bracelet with a credit card they stole. He was convicted of the robberies, but acquitted of the fraud.

During the trial, the prosecution did not submit as evidence a security video that recorded conversations between a shop clerk and the defendant and his accomplice.

The prosecution decided it was unnecessary to submit the videotape and did not preserve it because of the consistent statements given by the defendant, the accomplice and the clerk in the course of the investigation.

However, one of the trial’s lay judges criticized the prosecution for its choice.

“I felt the prosecution was overly optimistic not submitting the security video record, which is very objective evidence,” said company employee Nanako Sugawara, 62.

“From now on, objective pieces of evidence such as video tapes must be preserved until all hearings related to a case are finished,” a senior official at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office said, reflecting on the trial. “We have to improve our investigation methods so that we can prove our allegations regardless of who is chosen as lay judges.”

A man who was a lay judge at the Chiba District Court case had some advice for the prosecution.

“I felt the reward of 300,000 yen [the defendant was promised for transporting the drugs] was rather small. Prosecutors should have explained more about the standard rewards for drug mules,” he said.

A veteran judge said: “Prosecutors are choosing evidence based on standards like those they used for trials handled only by professional judges. They should reexamine their methods so they don’t overlook evidence that would particularly appeal to lay judges.”

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


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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。





Sunday Tangent: CNN: Activist Junichi Sato on International Whaling Commission corruption and GOJ/NPA collusion


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Hi Blog.  For a Sunday Tangent, here is a hard-hitting article (thanks CNN) showing how activism against a corrupt but entrenched system gets treated:  Detention and interrogation of activists, possible sentencing under criminal law, and international bodies turning a blind eye to their own mandate.  Lucky for the author (and us) he is out on bail so he could write this.  He wouldn’t be bailed if he were NJ.  More on the IWC’s corruption in documentary The Cove — yet another reason why the bully boys who target people’s families (yet don’t get arrested for their “activism”) don’t want you to see it.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


IWC’s shame: Japan’s whale slaughter
By Junichi Sato, Special to CNN June 25, 2010 courtesy of SS

Junichi Sato, colleague face charges after finding corruption in Japan’s whaling industry
Sato: He and Toru Suzuki were held, questioned, often taped to chairs, for 23 days
Sato says Japan uses guise of “scientific research” to slaughter whales
Sato: As IWC does nothing, Iceland, Norway and Japan kill 30,000 whales
Editor’s note: Junichi Sato is the Greenpeace Japan program director, overseeing advocacy efforts for the international environmental organization’s Japanese branch.

(CNN) — After just two days of closed-door negotiations, the leaders who had gathered at the International Whaling Commission in Agadir, Morocco, announced no agreement was reached on the IWC chair’s proposal to improve whale conservation.

Greenpeace did not support the proposal, but we had hoped governments would change it to become an agreement to end whaling, not a recipe for continuing it.

It is particularly disappointing to me, because my professional commitment to end the whale hunt in my country of Japan — which led to the exposure of an embezzlement scandal at the heart of the whaling industry — has come at significant personal cost.

The investigation I conducted with my colleague, Toru Suzuki, led to our arrests in front of banks of media outlets who had been told about it in advance.

The homes of Greenpeace office and staff members were raided. Seventy-five police officers were deployed to handcuff two peaceful activists. We were held without charge for 23 days; questioned for up to 10 hours a day while tied to chairs and without a lawyer present. We are now out on bail awaiting verdict and sentencing, expected in early September.

If I can risk my future to bring the fraudulent Japanese hunt to an end, if whaling whistle-blowers are prepared to risk their lives to expose the corruption, how can it be that the IWC has yet again failed to take the political risk to pressure my government to end the scientific whaling sham?

Since the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling came into force in 1986, Japan has continued to hunt whales under the guise of “scientific research,” making a mockery of the moratorium. By claiming that slaughtering thousands of whales, in waters designated a whale sanctuary no less, is a scientific experiment needed to understand whales, Japan has violated the spirit and intention of the moratorium as well as the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary.

Iceland and Norway have simply ignored the moratorium. Those two nations, together with Japan, have killed more than 30,000 whales since then. I have always opposed my country’s hunt, which is why I decided to join Greenpeace. While it may be an emotionally charged political issue outside Japan, domestically it barely causes a political ripple. In 2006, Greenpeace decided to focus the bulk of its anti-whaling campaign in Japan to bring the issue home.

Wholly funded by Japanese taxpayers, the whaling program has produced no peer-reviewed scientific research and has been repeatedly told by the IWC that the so-called research is not needed or wanted. All it has produced is a massive bill for the taxpayers and tons of surplus whale meat that the Japanese public does not want to eat. It has also produced endless rumors and allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Two years ago, following a tip from three former whalers turned whistle-blowers, my colleagues at Greenpeace Japan and I began a public interest investigation and discovered that indeed, corruption runs deep.

All three whalers claimed that whale meat was routinely embezzled, with the full knowledge of government and whaling fleet operator officials. Greenpeace eventually intercepted one of nearly 100 suspicious boxes coming off the ships.

Although its contents were labeled as cardboard, 23.5 kilograms of prime whale meat were inside, destined for a private address.

On May 15, 2008, we handed over the box to the authorities, with additional evidence of the crime. Initially the Tokyo district prosecutor began to investigate. But we were eventually charged with trespass and theft of the whale meat, valued at nearly 60,000 yen (about $550 at the time). We face from 18 months up to 10 years in jail for exposing the truth behind an industry that is financially, morally and scientifically bankrupt.

The U.N.’s Human Rights Council on Arbitary Detention has ruled that our human rights have been breached and the prosecution is politically motivated. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed her concern about our case. Amnesty International, Transparency International, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, countless international legal experts, politicians and more than half a million individuals have raised their voices in opposition to the prosecution.

We will be tried and sentenced in September, more than two years after we first exposed the corruption. But the scandal does not end there. Just last week, more allegations emerged that Japan engages in vote-buying and bribery to keep its whaling fleet in the water.
But the truth is that Japan’s whaling program relies on secrecy and corruption to stay afloat.

And yet, the IWC continues to close its doors and ears to the reality of Japan’s commercial whaling. I came to Morocco in the hope that this, the International Year of Biodiversity, could mean an end to all commercial whaling, but I leave knowing that governments are only interested in taking strong public positions on whales but not in taking action to save them, not even behind closed doors.

Mine and Toru’s political prosecution is a clear sign that Japan has no intention of easily letting go of its debt-ridden whaling program. There are too many vested interests inside the government. That is not surprising. What is more disappointing is that those vested interests have gone unchallenged by the IWC, the body set up to conserve whales.

It may be surprising that in this day and age, and given the huge public interest in the issue, conversations about saving whales are held in secret. But the truth is that Japan’s whaling program relies on secrecy and corruption to stay afloat.

After two years of negotiations, this year’s meeting could have been an opportunity for the IWC to actually move forward and end the status quo. But its collective failure means that 24 years after the establishment of the moratorium on commercial whaling, Japan, Iceland and Norway will continue again to hunt whales with impunity.

I challenge the commission to throw open its doors and shine a spotlight on the corruption that is so evident, investigate all the allegations affecting the IWC that have been laid clearly before it on numerous occasions and realize that it is not only Japan’s international reputation that has been tainted by the failure in Agadir.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Junichi Sato.


FCCJ No.1 Shimbun & Jiji on Japanese police’s extralegal powers, and how that power corrupts


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Hi Blog.  Further exploring the theme of the Japanese police’s extralegal powers and how power corrupts, here are two articles outlining cases where the Japanese police can arrest people they find inconvenient.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


2010年6月24日13時51分配信 時事通信 Courtesy of XX

XX notes: So golly, apparently it actually is a crime to criticize the police. In this news item a man who does not like the police has been putting up notices near crime scenes that say “Congratulations on not catching the killer.” He was arrested and prosecutored for violating the Minor Crimes Act. Interestingly, the Minor Crimes Act does not seem to have any offenses which cover what he did. Minor technicality, I guess. Interesting law to read though – it is a crime to cut in line, among other things…


On the Wrong Side of the Law
by Julian Ryall
Japanese Police Branded as ‘Criminals’ by One of their Own

Number 1 Shimbun, June 2010

Haruhiko Kataoka is remarkably composed. For a man who has only recently been released from prison after completing a sentence of one year and four months for a crime that he is adamant he did not commit, his self-control is admirable. Even more so when one takes into account Kataoka’s insistence that he was framed by the police for the death of one of their officers, and that the legal system colluded in sending an innocent man to prison.

When he spoke at a press conference at the Club in April, there was no disguising Kataoka’s determination to continue the fight to clear his name.

There have been a number of high-profile cases that have gone against the police and judicial authorities in recent months – perhaps most famously the exoneration of Toshikazu Sugaya in March after he served more than 17 years in prison on the strength of inaccurate DNA evidence and a coerced confession to the sexual assault and murder of a girl aged 4 in Ashikaga in 1991. But Toshiro Semba, a former police officer who is supporting Kataoka’s claims, says these cases involving the Japanese police – which he describes as “a criminal organization” – are just the tip of the iceberg.

Kataoka’s head-on collision with the forces of law and order here began on the afternoon of May 3, 2006, as he was behind the wheel of a bus containing 22 students and three teachers on National Route 56 in Kochi City. After slowly pulling out of a restaurant parking lot – and observing all the appropriate safety precautions, he insists – a motorcycle being driven by a uniformed member of the Kochi Prefectural Police drove into the right side of his vehicle.

At the instant the accident happened, Kataoka says the bus was at a complete halt, a claim that he says has been backed up by the students and teachers aboard the vehicle as well as the principal of Niyodo Junior High School, who was in a passenger car following the bus.

As he tried to help the injured motorcyclist, another police officer who happened to be passing intervened and arrested Kataoka on the spot. When he reached the local police station, he was told that the officer on the motorcycle had died.

Taken back to the site of the accident later in the day, he was told to describe what had happened, but was not permitted to get out of the police patrol car. Kataoka says he could not even see the part of the road where the collision occurred. After being questioned for two days – and repeatedly told that the officer’s death was his fault – Kataoka was released.

“It was only eight months later that I was given an opportunity to explain what had happened, after I was summoned to the Kochi District Prosecutors’ office,” he said. “But the description of the accident they gave me then was beyond my belief.”

The prosecutors told Kataoka the accident had been entirely his fault due to his negligence to confirm that the road was clear, and that he was being charged with professional negligence resulting in death. To support their case, the police showed him photos of tire skid marks on the road.

“Since the bus was stopped, I told them, there was no way it could have made the skid marks,” he said. “It was then that I realized I was in a very problematic situation.


“From the moment the accident happened, the police had a scenario in which all the blame was put on me, and they didn’t even bother to carry out a proper on-site investigation.”

Kataoka had not given up the belief that his name would be cleared as, he reasoned, he would at least be able to explain what had really happened on Route 56 in court. He says he “had trust in Japan’s trial system.”

Instead, the testimony of the school principal and a teacher who had been aboard the bus were dismissed by Judge Yasushi Katata of the Kochi Local Court, on the grounds that their comments “lacked a realistic basis.” The testimony provided by the police officer who had been passing the scene of the accident on another motorcycle, however, was perfectly acceptable to the court because “testimony by a fellow officer is not necessarily unreliable.”

The court also accepted the tire skid marks put forward by the prosecution, which provided scientific analysis that the bus was moving at a speed of 14 kph while the motorcycle was traveling at between 30 kph and 40 kph. That contradicted another eye-witness statement that the police motorcycle was doing 60 kph. Judge Katata dismissed that suggestion as simply difficult to believe.

Kataoka was found guilty and sentenced to one year and four months in prison – with the judge taking a swipe at the defendant in his summing up by saying that he had failed to show feelings of remorse.

An appeal was immediately launched, with Kataoka’s lawyers carrying out exhaustive tests on an identical bus that revealed that even if the vehicle had been moving at the speed prosecutors insisted, it would only have left a skid mark measuring 30 cm long. Instead, police were presenting evidence of skid marks measuring 1 meter for the front right tire and 1.2 meters for the left tire. Kataoka says there are other discrepancies in the evidence, including the fact that the marks were not parallel. Fortunately for the police case, they claimed the marks had completely disappeared the day after the accident. And they refused to hand over the negatives of the photos of the skid marks, which could have been used to prove Kataoka’s innocence.

Even confronted with this evidence, the Takamatsu High Court dismissed Kataoka’s appeal.

“The judge said there was no reason to reopen the investigation,” Kataoka said. “He merely dismissed all the evidence that was unfavorable to the police and tried to cover up the criminal actions of the police against me.”

The Supreme Court reacted in the same way.

“I believe the courts have discarded the very principles of the judicial system and are only trying to cover up the wrongful actions of the police,” Kataoka said. “But I cannot allow that to happen. This case is not special at all and there have been many victims of criminal actions by the police and the failure of the powers that be to carry out full investigations.

“How can I put my faith in the justice system when the facts of a case are fabricated?”


And Kataoka reserves a healthy dose of scorn for the Japanese media.

“It is up to the media to follow up on cases such as this, but they looked away,” he said. “I was interviewed by the local media in Kochi, but no stories ever appeared.

“It is the responsibility of the Japanese media to report these events, but they cannot face up to the police,” he added.

Sitting alongside him, Semba nodded in agreement, adding that the system of kisha clubs “exists to conceal what is problematic for the police.” And he added that the media’s failure to report on these issues means that every day, more false charges are filed against innocent people.

Semba retired from the Ehime Prefectural Police in March, after 36 years on the force. At 24, he had been the youngest officer in the history of the prefectural force to be promoted to the rank of sergeant, but he says his refusal to falsify expenses forms that were funneled into a vast slush fund meant that he was never promoted again, was regularly transferred between unappealing assignments and had his handgun taken away on the grounds that he might kill himself or pose a danger to others.

“The Japanese police are a criminal organization and the senior officers of the force are all criminals,” Semba said. “Of all the companies and organizations in Japan, only the ‘yakuza’ and the police commit crimes on a daily basis. That includes building up slush funds and it was because I refused to participate in that that I stayed in the same position for all those years.”

Semba alleges that ¥40 billion is systematically racked up from falsified travel expenses and fictitious payments to individuals who assist the police in their investigations. Pretty much every officer in the country is involved in the scam, he claims, and they do not speak out because they are all too busy climbing the ranks to try to get their hands on a larger share of the pie.

“The money is spent by senior officer on purchasing cars, buying homes and entertainment,” he said, pointing to the example set by Takaji Kunimatsu, the former commissioner general of the National Police Agency who was shot by an unidentified assailant outside an apartment amid the Aum Shinrikyo cult investigations in 1995.

Even though Kunimatsu was on a civil servant’s wages, Semba alleges, he had two apartments worth a combined ¥80 million. And Semba says the gunman was able to get close enough to nearly kill him because Kunimatsu’s bodyguards had apparently been given the night off (for reasons that discretion prevents Number 1 Shimbun from mentioning).

“Japanese journalists all know this but they won’t report it,” Semba said.

Similarly, he said they know that the charges against Kataoka are based on falsified evidence, but the police are not held accountable.

Semba has written a series of books about police corruption and given 88 lectures around the country on his experiences, the vast majority of them while he was still a serving officer. He was never disciplined for his whistle-blowing, he believes, because the police do not want a court case in which all their dirty laundry can be aired in public.

Semba is still clearly a thorn in the side of the force – two plainclothes officers attended the press conference at the Club and took notes on what was said – and he half-joked that it is “a miracle that I am still alive.”

“If I was in a senior position in the police, I would definitely eliminate Semba,” he said. “I’m the police’s worst enemy. But it is those who have already given up their lives that are the strongest.” ❶

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent of The Daily Telegraph.


Japan Times’ Colin Jones on Japanese enforcement of vague laws: “No need to know the law, but you must obey it”


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Hi Blog. In one of the best articles I’ve ever read in the Japanese media, here we have legal scholar Colin Jones finally connecting the metadots, laying bare how things work in Japanese jurisprudence and law enforcement.  It’s an excellent explanation of just how powerful the police are in Japanese society.  God bless the Japan Times for being there as an available forum (I can’t imagine any other English-language paper in Japan publishing this) for this research. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times Tuesday, June 29, 2010
No need to know the law, but you must obey it
Colin P.A. Jones tells us why it’s hard to get clear answers when dealing with Japan’s legal system (excerpt)
By COLIN P.A. JONES (excerpt) courtesy of the author and John in Yokohama

A few months ago I met with some Western diplomats who were looking for information about Japanese law — in particular, an answer to the question, “Is parental child abduction a crime?” As international child abduction has become an increasingly sore point between Japan and other countries, foreign envoys have been making concerted efforts to understand the issue from the Japanese side. Having been told repeatedly by their Japanese counterparts that it is not a crime, some diplomats may be confused by recent cases of non-Japanese parents being arrested, even convicted for “kidnapping” their own children. I don’t think I helped much, since my contribution was something along the lines of “Well, it probably depends on whether the authorities need it to be a crime.”

Of course, the very question “Is x a crime?” reflects a fairly Western view of the law as a well-defined set of rules, the parameters of which people can know in advance in order to conduct themselves accordingly. However, there is a Confucian saying that is sometimes interpreted as “The people do not need to know the law, but they should be made to obey it.” This adage was a watchword of the Tokugawa Shogunate, whose philosophy of government was based in part on neo-Confucian principles.

It is also a saying that could provide some insights into why it sometimes seems difficult to get a clear answer about what exactly the law is in modern Japan. I am not suggesting that Japanese police and prosecutors have Confucian platitudes hanging framed over their desks, but knowing the law is a source of power. Being able to say what the law means is an even greater one, particularly if you can do so without being challenged. In a way, clearly defined criminal laws bind authority as much as they bind the people, by limiting the situations in which authorities can act. Since law enforcement in Japan often seems directed primarily at “keeping the peace,” laws that are flexible are more likely to serve this goal…

Rest at

Suraj Case of death during deportation makes The Economist (London)


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Hi Blog.  Now here we have the Suraj Case making it out of Japan and being reported overseas.  The new twist is that the widow now has lost her job allegedly because of the fuss made over her husband’s death while being deported by Japan’s Immigration Bureau.  I’m fond of the title, with Immigration being depicted as “Japan’s Bouncers”, and pleased the reporter noted how little coverage this horrible incident got domestically.  But the unaccountability regarding the cause of death and a possible homicide at the hands of GOJ officials is no joke.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Japanese immigration policy

A nation’s bouncers

A suspicious death in police custody

May 13th 2010 | TOKYO | From The Economist print edition

ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ was already unconscious when the cabin crew of EgyptAir MS965 saw him on board, before the Tokyo-to-Cairo flight. Shortly later he was dead. A Ghanaian who had lived illegally in Japan, Mr Suraj was being deported on March 22nd, when he was lifted and forced onto the plane in handcuffs with a towel gagging him and knotted in the back to restrain him. An autopsy failed to determine a cause of death, yet his widow saw facial injuries when she identified the body. Three days later an Immigration Bureau official admitted: “It is a sorry thing that we have done.”

The death is putting Japan’s controversial immigration policy under a sharper spotlight. The country has long eschewed immigration. In recent months, however, its resistance has become even tougher. Families have been broken apart as parents of children born in Japan have been detained and deported. People who seemed to qualify for a special residency permit (SRP), designed for those who overstay their visa but wish to remain, have been denied. Forced deportations have become more frequent and rougher, according to the Asian People’s Friendship Society, a Japanese immigrant-support group. Japan’s Immigration Control Centres, where many illegal residents are detained, have faced special criticism. This year alone, two detainees have committed suicide, one has publicly complained of abuse, and 70 inmates staged a hunger strike demanding better treatment.

Around 2m foreigners live legally in Japan, which has a population of 128m; the justice ministry counted 91,778 illegal residents as of January. But the number, boosted by cheap Chinese labourers, may well be much higher. After a nine-day research trip last month, Jorge Bustamante, the UN’s special rapporteur on migrants’ rights, complained that legal and illegal migrants in Japan face “racism and discrimination, exploitation [and] a tendency by the judiciary and police to ignore their rights”.

The SRP system is an example of the problem. No criteria for eligibility are specified. Instead, published “guidelines” are applied arbitrarily. And people cannot apply directly for an SRP: illegal residents can only request it once in detention, or turn themselves in and try their luck while deportation proceedings are under way. So most illegal residents just stay mum. Mr Suraj fell into the SRP abyss after he was arrested for overstaying his visa. Although he had lived in Japan for 22 years, was fluent in the language and married to a Japanese citizen, his SRP request was denied.

Why the tougher policy now? Koichi Kodama, an immigration lawyer assisting Mr Suraj’s widow, believes it is a reaction to the appointment last year as justice minister of Keiko Chiba, a pro-immigration reformer; the old guard is clamping down. The police are investigating the incident and the ten immigration officers in whose custody Mr Suraj died, though no charges have been brought. As for Mr Suraj’s widow, she has yet to receive details about her husband’s death or an official apology. The topic is one Japanese society would rather avoid. The press barely reported it. Still, when her name appeared online, she was fired from her job lest the incident sully her firm’s name.


Swiss woman acquitted of crimes yet denied bail due to being NJ, then barred as “visa overstayer” anyway


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Hi Blog.  Bringing this old article up as a matter of record:  I mentioned on back in early 2008 about a Swiss woman who came to Japan as a tourist and was arrested on drug charges.  She got acquitted not once but twice in Japanese courts, yet was not released on bail because NJ and are considered more of a flight risk.  While actual convicted felons are released in the interim if they are Japanese.

Again, 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!).

So despite being incarcerated as an innocent NJ since 2008, she finally gets booted out for “overstaying her visa” (oh, sure, she could have gone to Immigration any time and renewed, right?) and barred from reentry.  Rights of the defendant and “Hostage Justice” depending on your nationality.  What a swizz.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Held despite acquittal, now barred from re-entry, woman slams legal system
The Japan Times, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008, courtesy of MMT (excerpt)

CHIBA (Kyodo) A Swiss woman who was detained by Japanese authorities for seven months after being acquitted of a drug charge expressed anger over the Japanese legal system in a recent written message to Kyodo News.

“I was put under continuous detention because of shortfalls in Japanese law and alien policies,” wrote Klaudia Zaberl. “I have been filled with despair and anger.”

Upon arriving in Japan from Malaysia as a tourist in October 2006, Zaberl, 29, was arrested for allegedly smuggling about 2.2 kg of amphetamines hidden in a suitcase into Narita airport.

She denied the allegation, saying she was not aware the suitcase she had been handed by a stranger in return for money contained the drugs, but was later indicted.

The Chiba District Court cleared Zaberl of the charge in August 2007, saying there was reasonable doubt she was aware of the drugs.

However, following the ruling she was transferred to an immigration facility instead of being freed, as her visa had expired during her detention.

Prosecutors soon appealed the ruling and obtained court permission to detain her again to block her deportation.

In April, the Tokyo High Court ruled that she was not guilty of the charges, leading prosecutors to drop the case. She returned to Switzerland later in April.

Rest of the article at:

FCCJ Press Conference on Ghanian death while being deported, Tues Apr 20


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[Mr Suraj’s widow], Koichi Kodama and Mayumi Yoshida

Another illegal immigrant in Japan, another death:
The fatal journey of Mr. Suraj

10:00-11:00 Tuesday, April 20, 2010
(The speech and Q & A will be in Japanese with English interpretation)

On March 22, Mr. Abubakar Awudu Suraj, an illegal immigrant who was in the process of being deported to his native country of Ghana, died in Narita.
The circumstances surrounding Mr. Suraj’s death are unknown. What is clear is that the immigration officers used a towel and handcuff to restrain Mr. Suraj as he was boarding an Egypt Air flight. In February, a first attempt to send Mr. Suraj back to Ghana had failed. Since then, he had been subject to confinement. Married since 2006 to [a Japanese national], he had spent the equivalent of 2 years in detention for no other crime than staying illegally.
The death of Mr. Suraj follows the suicide by hanging of a South Korean man a week ago in the Ibaraki detention center. And the self-hanging of a young Brazilian man in Ibaraki again. And a hunger strike by 70 detainees at the Osaka detention center in March.
The appalling conditions Japan is placing illegal immigrants in have been regularly denounced. Immigration authorities in particular, which lack judicial oversight, have the ability to indefinitely detain people, breakup families by deporting one of their members, and so on. More tragedies are to come.
10 days ago, Jorge Bustamante, U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of immigrants, concluded a Japan visit at the end of which he was very critical of Japan.
Come and hear from [the] wife of the late Mr. Suraj, Koichi Kodama, Lawyer and Mayumi Yoshida, Deputy Representative of Asian People’s Friendship Society.
Please reserve in advance, 3211-3161 or (still & TV cameras inclusive). Reservations and cancellations are not complete without confirmation.

Professional Activities Committee

児玉 晃一、吉田 真由美
(スピーチ日本語: 逐次通訳付)

Ghanian dies while being deported March 22, scant media on it


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Hi Blog.  Here’s something shocking today.  I heard about this passim from UN Rep Bustamante on March 23 when he was in town asking about migrant worker issues.  I had heard nothing since then.  It took a rally the other day for it to make the news.  Anyone else see anything in the domestic press?  This sort of thing out to be reported much more widely.  Wonder where the investigation into this (if any) is going.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


50 rally for investigation of deportee’s death
Compiled from Kyodo, Staff report
The Japan Times, April 13, 2010, Courtesy of GS

The Japanese wife of a Ghanaian who died while being deported from Japan last month and some 50 supporters took to the streets Monday in Tokyo to demand a thorough investigation.

Holding a banner that read, “Uncover the truth behind the death of Mr. Suraj during his deportation,” the protesters, including Ghanaians living in Japan, marched through Roppongi shouting “We want justice.”

Although a police autopsy on Abubakar Awudu Suraj, 45, reportedly failed to pin down the cause of death and found no traces of violence, his wife and her supporters believe the death was probably caused by immigration officers.

The officers accompanied Suraj aboard a flight to Cairo from Narita International Airport on March 22 when he was being deported for illegally staying in Japan.

According to the police at the airport, Suraj suddenly turned violent aboard the plane, prompting the Japanese officers to restrain him. He then went limp and died…

Rest of the article at

A personal hero, Chong Hyang Gyun, retires her nursing post at 60


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Hi Blog.  Although I like to devote Mondays to “bigger news”, I’d like to take this day to salute a personal hero of mine, former nurse Chong Hyang Gyun, a Zainichi Korean who, like any other qualified civil servant in Japan, expected to be promoted commensurate with her experience and dedication.

But not in Japan.  She in 1994 was denied even the opportunity to sit the administrative civil service exam because, despite her being born in Japan, raised in Japan, a native speaker of Japanese, and a taxpayer in and contributor to Japan like any other, she was still, in the eyes of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, a “foreigner”, therefore not to be trusted with administrative power over Japanese (the old “Nationality Clause”, kokuseki joukou, struck again).

So she sued for the right to sit the exam nearly twenty years ago.  Over more than ten years she lost, won, then ultimately lost in the Supreme Court, which, in a landmark setback for civil rights and assimilation, ruled there was nothing unconstitutional in denying her the right to chose her occupation and employment opportunities.

Now she’s retired as of April 1 (although rehired and working fewer hours).  I’m just grateful that she tried.  Some occupations are completely denied to NJ, including public-sector food preparation (for fear that NJ might poison our bureaucrats) and firefighting (for fear that NJ entering Japanese houses and perhaps damaging Japanese property might cause an international incident), that it becomes ludicrous for NJ to even consider a public-service job in Japan.(*)  Especially if the “glass ceiling” (in fact, an iron barrier, thanks to the Supreme Court) means you can never reach your potential.  The Chong-san Case made that clear, to Japan’s shame.

A report on workplace discrimination in Japan from Chong-san (Japanese) archived on here.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

(*) Apologies for the lack of links to substantiate the firefighting and food preparation claims.  My source was “Darling wa Gaikokujin” mascot Tony Laszlo’s Issho Kikaku website, which dozens of activists worked on in the late 1990’s, whose historical archives have all since mysteriously disappeared now that Issho Kikaku is moribund.


Korean worker who sued Tokyo govt retires
The Yomiuri Shimbun Apr. 3, 2010, Courtesy of JK

Public health nurse Chong Hyang Gyun was all smiles when she retired from the Tokyo metropolitan government recently, even though it had refused to let her seek promotion because of her South Korean nationality.

A second-generation Korean resident of this country, Chong sued the metropolitan government in 1994, demanding she be allowed to take a promotion exam for a managerial post. The trial went on for 10 years of Chong’s 22-year career with the metropolitan government.

Ultimately, Chong was not able to be promoted because the Supreme Court overturned her victory in a lower court. Upon her retirement, however, she smiled and said, “I have no regrets.”

Chong officially retired Wednesday, as she had reached her mandatory retirement age of 60.

Chong was born in Iwate Prefecture. In 1988, she was hired as the first non-Japanese public health nurse to work for the metropolitan government.

Her application to take the internal exam to become a manager was refused, however, because of the metropolitan government’s “nationality clause,” which prohibits the appointment of non-Japanese employees to managerial posts.

The Tokyo District Court decided against her in 1996, ruling that the metropolitan government’s action was constitutional.

In 1997, the Tokyo High Court ruled that the metropolitan government’s decision violated the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom to choose one’s occupation, and ordered the Tokyo government to pay compensation to Chong.

The metropolitan government appealed this decision and in 2005, the Supreme Court nullified the high court ruling and rejected Chong’s demand.

After Chong openly expressed her disappointment at a press conference about the Supreme Court ruling, she received critical e-mails and other messages. Chong also said she sometimes felt it was hard to stay in her workplace.

However, a sizable number of her colleagues and area residents understood her feelings.

“I was supported by many people. I enjoyed my job,” Chong said.

For two years from 2006, Chong worked on Miyakejima island, helping residents deal with difficulties resulting from their prolonged evacuation.

Just before her retirement, Chong visited health care centers in Tokyo and other related facilities as chief of a section for preventing infectious diseases and caring for mentally handicapped people.

She was rehired from April as a nonregular employee at her workplace’s request, but she will work fewer days.

“I’ve been tense ever since filing the lawsuit, trying not to make any mistakes in other areas. Now I can finally relax,” Chong said.

Chong recently has been interested in supporting Indonesian nurse candidates in Japan. During the New Year holidays, she held a gathering to introduce them to Japanese culture.

“Now that a greater number of foreigners are in Japan, society as a whole should think about how to assimilate them,” Chong said.

She said she believed her lawsuit has helped raise those kind of questions.

(2010年3月28日20時29分 読売新聞)










(2010年3月28日20時29分 読売新聞)

Mainichi: Supreme Court defamation ruling sounds warning bell over online responsibility


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Hi Blog.  Here’s something that adds up to another brick in the wall against internet bullies and defamers in Japan (who play a significant role in the debate, surprisingly).  The Supreme Court rules that the defense often utilized by proponents of bullying and slandering BBS 2-Channel, that people can discern for themselves what is fact or fiction, therefore issues such as defamation are irrelevant to a free-speech-loving society, simply won’t wash anymore.  Sorry it has to come to this, but freedom of speech does not mean freedom to lie and willfully, maliciously hurt people.  Or get away with not paying up after successful libel lawsuits like the one I had four years ago.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo


Supreme Court defamation ruling sounds warning bell over online responsibility
(Mainichi Japan) March 19, 2010 Courtesy of MS

Just because a piece of information is published on the Internet, viewers do not necessarily deem it to be of low credibility. So ruled the Supreme Court recently in a defamation suit in which a man was accused of slandering a restaurant operator on his own Web site, saying that the company was affiliated with a cult.

The top’s court’s ruling secures a guilty verdict that ordered the man to pay 300,000 yen in compensation. It was the first ruling to confirm that the conditions for establishing defamation were not relaxed on the Internet.

Considering that people are often slandered, have their privacy violated, and sometimes even suffer human rights violations on the Internet — where users can post comments anonymously — the Supreme Court’s decision can be deemed appropriate.

In 2008 there were more than 500 online cases involving human rights violations in which the Ministry of Justice initiated relief measures. The figure was 2.5 times higher than in 2004. And in 2008 there were over 11,000 cases in which people approached police saying that they had been slandered. The figures indicate that there are many potential victims.

In what kind of situations do people not face defamation charges? One instance involves reports on information of public benefit, when the purpose of reporting the information is for public benefit and the information is true, or there are sufficient grounds to believe it is true. This has been established through judicial precedents.

In a district court ruling in the defamation case, the court found the man not guilty on the grounds that information on the Internet was of lower credibility and other users were able to rebut inappropriate claims. The court applied a more relaxed standard than the standard applied to newspaper and television reporting.

But in the latest ruling, the Supreme Court declared, “Online information is available to the general public very quickly, and it can cause serious damage in some cases. There is no guarantee that rebuttal of the information will restore a person’s reputation.” It judged that the standard should not be altered just for the Internet.

Internet users must keep in mind that if they post one-sided claims without backing up the information with evidence, or violate the privacy of others without confirming any of the facts with the person concerned, they may be accused of a crime.

Irresponsible and excessive words and deeds must not be permitted, regardless of whether they appear on the Internet or elsewhere. In the field of education, efforts are being made to provide instruction with teachers on hand to ensure that children do not get caught up in Internet crimes or engage in harassment online. As more people express themselves on blogs and other online forums, we want teachers to inform children that expression goes hand in hand with responsibility.

Under the limitation liability law for Internet providers, victims whose rights are violated can ask providers to delete posts or provide information on the ID of the person who posted the data. However, the decision on whether to comply with the request is left up to the provider.

Responding to the current situation in which child pornography or illegal information on drugs is being left unchecked on the Internet, the National Police Agency is reportedly preparing to actively pursue the criminal responsibility of site administrations who ignore requests to delete the information. Malicious cases of defamation are likely to be included as a matter of course.

We want everyone to come together to consider the appropriate form of a healthy Internet society.


社説:ネット中傷有罪 「無責任さ」への警鐘だ
毎日新聞 2010年3月19日 2時46分












Japan Times: UN Rep Bustamante meets Calderon Noriko, comments on GOJ harsh visa system that separates families


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Hi Blog . The Japan Times reported UN Special Rapporteur Bustamante’s interim comments during his current-two-week fact-finding mission to Japan, particularly as pertains to the GOJ visa system that deports people even if it means splitting apart families (cf. the Calderon Noriko Case).

Dr Bustamante takes a very dim view of this below. He will also be giving a press conference this Wednesday, March 31. I hope the information we at FRANCA provided him last week will also be factored into his statements and advice. Arudou Debito in Tokyo


The Japan Times, Sunday, March 28, 2010
Deportation rule troubles U.N. official (excerpt)
By MASAMI ITO, Staff writer
, Courtesy of John in Yokohama

A recent government decision to deport only the parents of families without residency status, thus separating children from their mothers and fathers, flies in the face of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Jorge Bustamante, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said Saturday in Tokyo.

Fact-finding: Jorge Bustamante, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, greets Noriko Calderon, the daughter of a deported Filipino couple, in Tokyo Saturday. Lawyer Shogo Watanabe, who represents her family, also attended the meeting. KYODO PHOTO

Bustamante, who is on his first official fact-finding mission to Japan, is meeting with government officials, nongovernmental organizations, legal experts and foreign residents, and is expected to submit a report on Japan to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

On Saturday, he met with residents caught in the deportation dilemma — among them Noriko Calderon, a 14-year-old girl who was born in Japan to an undocumented Filipino couple. Calderon’s case drew media attention when her parents were deported last spring.

“It is very difficult to live separated from my parents, and I miss them very much,” Calderon said. “But I hope that one day, all three of us can live in Japan together and I plan to do my best” to realize that goal.

Bustamante expressed concern over the separation of families and said he would cite the situation in his report.

“It’s going to be made public,” Bustamante told the gathering. “And this, of course, might result in an embarrassment for the government of Japan and therefore certain pressure (will be) put on the government of Japan.”

Rest of the article at


Table of Contents of FRANCA information folder to UN Spec. Rapporteur Bustamante, Mar 23. Last call for submissions from Readers.


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Hi Blog.  What follows is the Table of Contents for an information packet I will be presenting Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants Jorge A. Bustamante, who will be visiting Japan and holding hearings on the state of discrimination in Japan.  Presented on behalf of our NGO FRANCA (Sendai and Tokyo meetings on Sun Mar 21 and Sat Mar 27 respectively).

It’s a hefty packet of about 500 pages printed off or so, but I will keep a couple of pockets at the back for Readers who would like to submit something about discrimination in Japan they think the UN should hear.  It can be anonymous, but better would be people who provide contact details about themselves.

Last call for that.  Two pages A4 front and back, max (play with the fonts and margins if you like).  Please send to by NOON JST Thursday March 18, so I can print it on my laser printer and slip it in the back.

Here’s what I’ll be giving as part of an information pack.  I haven’t written my 20-minute presentation for March 23 yet, but thanks for all your feedback on that last week, everyone.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



To Mr. Jorge Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants:

Date: March 23, 2010  Tokyo, Japan

Thank you for coming to Japan and hearing our side of the story.  We have a lot to say and few domestic forums that will listen to us.  –ARUDOU Debito, Chair, FRANCA Japan (,


Referential documents and articles appear in the following order:

I. On Government-sponsored Xenophobia and Official-level Resistance to Immigration

This section will seek to demonstrate that discrimination is not just a societal issue.  It is something promoted by the Japanese government as part of official policy.

  1. OVERVIEW:  Japan Times article:  “THE MYOPIC STATE WE’RE IN:  Fingerprint scheme exposes xenophobic, short-sighted trend in government” (December 18, 2007).  Point:  How government policy is hard-wiring the Japanese public into fearing and blaming Non-Japanese for Japan’s social ills.
  2. Japan Times article, “Beware the Foreigner as Guinea Pig“, on how denying rights to one segment of the population (NJ) affects everyone badly, as policies that damage civil liberties, once tested on Non-Japanese residents, eventually get applied to citizens too (July 8, 2008).
  3. Japan Times article:  “THE BLAME GAME:  Convenience, creativity seen in efforts to scapegoat Japan’s foreign community” (August 28, 2007), depicting foreigners as criminal invaders, and thwarting their ability to assimilate properly.
  4. Japan Times article: “VISA VILLAINS: Japan’s new Immigration law overdoes enforcement and penalties” (June 29, 2004)
  5. Japan Times article, “Demography vs. Demagoguery“, on how politics has pervaded Japanese demographic science, making “immigration” a taboo for discussion as a possible solution to Japan’s aging society. (November 3, 2009)
  6. Japan Times article: “HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY STINKS:  Government effort riddled with bias, bad science” (October 23, 2007), talking about how official government surveys render human rights “optional” for Non-Japanese, and downplays the discrimination against them.
  7. Japan Times article: “WATCHING THE DETECTIVES: Japan’s human rights bureau falls woefully short of meeting its own job specifications” (July 8, 2003), on how the oft-touted Ministry of Justice’s “Jinken Yōgobu” is in fact a Potemkin System, doing little to assist those with human rights issues in Japan.
  8. Japan Times article, “Unlike Humans, Swine Flu is Indiscriminate“, on the lessons to be learned from Japan’s public panic from the Swine Flu Pandemic, and how to avoid discrimination once again from arising (August 4, 2009).
  9. Japan Times article, “Golden parachutes for Nikkei only mark failure of race-based policy“, on the downfall of Japan’s labor visa policies, e.g., the “April 2009 repatriation bribe” for the Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians, sending them “home” with a pittance instead of treating them like laborers who made investments and contributions to Japan’s welfare and pension systems.

II. On Abuses of Police Power and Racial Profiling vis-à-vis Non-Japanese

This section will seek to demonstrate that one arm of the government, the National Police Agency, has had a free hand in generating a fictitious “Foreign Crime Wave of the 2000s”, by characterizing Non-Japanese in the media as criminals, exaggerating or falsifying foreign crime reportage, bending laws to target them, engaging in flagrant racial profiling of minorities, and otherwise “making Japan the world’s safest country again” by portraying the foreign element as unsafe.

  1. Japan Times article: “DOWNLOADABLE DISCRIMINATION: The Immigration Bureau’s new “snitching” Web site is both short-sighted and wide open to all manner of abuses.” (March 30, 2004), on how online submission sites (which still exist) run by the government are open to the general public, for anonymous reporting of anyone who “looks foreign and suspicious” to the police.
  2. Japan Times article: “FORENSIC SCIENCE FICTION: Bad science and racism underpin police policy” (January 13, 2004), how the National Research Institute for Police Science has received government grants to study “foreign DNA” (somehow seen as genetically different from all Japanese DNA) for crime scene investigation.
  3. 3. Japan Times article:  “FOREIGN CRIME STATS COVER UP A REAL COP OUT:  Published figures are half the story” (Oct 4, 2002), indicating how the National Police Agency is falsifying and exaggerating foreign crime statistics to create the image of Non-Japanese residents as criminals.
  4. Japan Times article: “HERE COMES THE FEAR: Antiterrorist law creates legal conundrums for foreign residents” (May 24, 2005), showing nascent anti-terrorist policy introduced by the Koizumi Administration specifically targeting Non-Japanese as terrorists.
  5. Website:  “Ibaraki Prefectural Police put up new and improved public posters portraying Non-Japanese as coastal invaders” (November 20, 2008), and “Ibaraki Police’s third new NJ-scare poster” (July 29, 2009), showing how the Japanese police are putting up public posters portraying the issue as defending Japanese shores from foreign invasion, complete with images of beach storming, riot gear and machine guns. and
  6. Japan Times article: “UPPING THE FEAR FACTOR:  There is a disturbing gap between actual crime in Japan and public worry over it” (February 20, 2007), showing the Koizumi policy in full bloom, plus the media’s complicity in abetting the National Police Agency’s generation of a “foreign crime wave”.
  7. Japan Times article: “MINISTRY MISSIVE WRECKS RECEPTION: MHLW asks hotels to enforce nonexistent law” (October 18, 2005), and
  8. Japan Times article: “CREATING LAWS OUT OF THIN AIR: Revisions to hotel laws stretched by police to target foreigners” (March 8, 2005), both articles showing how the Japanese police use legal sleight-of-hand to convince hotels to target foreigners for visa and ID checks.
  9. Japan Times article: “‘GAIJIN CARD’ CHECKS SPREAD AS POLICE DEPUTIZE THE NATION” (November 13, 2007), showing how extralegal means are being used to expand the “visa dragnets” to people who are not Immigration Officers, or even police officers.
  10. Japan Times article, “IC You:  Bugging the Alien“, on the new IC Chip Gaijin Cards and national protests (May 19, 2009), how RFID-chipped ID cards (of which 24/7 carrying for Non-Japanese only is mandatory under criminal law) can be converted into remote tracking devices, for even better racial profiling as technology improves.
  11. Japan Times article, “Summit Wicked This Way Comes“, on the Japanese Government’s bad habits brought out by the Hokkaido Toyako 2008 G8 Summit (April 22, 2008) – namely, a clampdown on the peaceful activities of Japan’s civil society, with a focus on targeting people who “look foreign”.
  12. Japan Times article, “Forecast:  Rough with ID checks mainly to the north“, focusing on a protest against Hokkaido Police’s egregious racial profiling during the G8 Summit, and how the police dodged media scrutiny and public accountability (July 1, 2008).
  13. Japan Times article, “Cops Crack Down with ‘I Pee’ Checks“, on the Japanese police stretching their authority to demand urine samples from Non-Japanese on the street without warrants (July 7, 2009).
  14. Japan Times article, “PEDAL PUSHERS COP A LOAD ON YASUKUNI DORI: Japan’s low crime rate has many advantages, although harassment by bored cops certainly isn’t one of them” (June 20, 2002), demonstrating how arbitrarily Tokyo police will nab people at night ostensibly for “bicycle ownership checks”, but really for visa checks – if they are riding while “looking foreign”.

III. On Racism and Hate Speech in Japan

This section talks about other activities that are not state-sponsored or encouraged, but tolerated in society as “rational” or “reasonable” discrimination, or natural ascriptive social ordering.  These unfettered acts of discrimination towards minorities, decried by previous Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene as “deep and profound”, are examples of why we need a law against racial discrimination and hate speech in Japan.

1. OVERVIEWNGO Report Regarding the Rights of Non-Japanese Nationals, Minorities of Foreign Origins, and Refugees in Japan (33 pages).  Prepared for the 76th United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Japan, submitted to UNCERD February 2010.  Compiled by Solidarity with Migrants Japan.  Particularly germane to this information packet is Chapter 2 by Arudou Debito, entitled “Race and Nationality-Based Entrance Refusals at Private and Quasi-Public Establishments” (3 pages).

2. Japan Focus paper (14 pages):  “GAIJIN HANZAI MAGAZINE AND HATE SPEECH IN JAPAN:  The newfound power of Japan’s international residents” (March 20, 2007).  This academic paper talks about how a “Foreign Crime Magazine” deliberately distorted data (to the point of accusing Non-Japanese of criminal acts that were not actually crimes), and portrayed Chinese and other minorities as having criminality as part of their innate nature.

3. Japan Times article, “NJ Suffrage and the Racist Element” (February 2, 2010), on xenophobic Japan Dietmember Hiranuma’s racist statements towards fellow Dietmember Renho (who has Taiwanese roots), and how it lays bare the lie of the xenophobic Rightists demanding people take Japanese citizenship if they want the right to vote in local elections – when it clearly makes no difference to them if they do.

4. Japan Times article, “The Issue that dares not speak its name“, on the suppressed debate on racial discrimination in Japan (June 2, 2009), where the term “racial discrimination” itself is not part of the Japanese media’s vocabulary to describe even situations adjudged “racial discrimination” by Japanese courts.

5. Japan Times article:  “HOW TO KILL A BILL:  Tottori’s Human Rights Ordinance is a case study in alarmism” (May 2, 2006), on how Japan’s first prefectural-level ordinance against discrimination was actually unpassed months later, due to a hue and cry over the apparent dangers of giving foreigners too many rights.

6. Academic Paper (Linguapax Asia, forthcoming) (14 pages):  “Propaganda in Japan’s Media:  Manufacturing Consent for National Goals at the Expense of Non-Japanese Residents”, on how government policy, political opportunism, and the Japanese media fomented a fictitious “Foreign Crime Wave” in the 2000s, and how that caused quantifiable social damage to Non-Japanese residents.

7. Japan Focus paper (2 pages): “JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hotspring Case and Discrimination Against ‘Foreigners’ in Japan” (November 2005), a very brief summary explaining Japan’s first case of racial discrimination that made to the Supreme Court (where it was rejected for consideration), and what it means in terms of Japan’s blind-eying of discrimination.

8. Website:  “Tokyo Edogawa-ku Liberal Democratic Party flyer, likens granting Permanent Residents the right to vote in local elections to an alien invasion”.  (February 24, 2010)  Seventeen local politicians of the formerly-ruling LDP lend their names against the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s liberalizing policy, illustrated with a UFO targeting the Japanese archipelago.

9. Website:  “More anti-foreigner scare posters and publications, linking Permanent Resident suffrage bill to foreign crime and Chinese invasion”. (March 15, 2010)  Anonymous internet billeters are putting propaganda in home post boxes in Nagoya and Narita, and bookstores are selling books capitalizing on the fear by saying that granting NJ the vote will make Japan “disappear” by turning into a foreign country.

10. Website:  Anti-foreign suffrage protests in Shibuya Nov 28 2009. The invective in flyers and banners: “Japan is in danger!” (December 4, 2009).  An overview and summary translation of the invective and arguments being put forth by the xenophobic Far-Right in public demonstrations.

IV. On the Disenfranchisement of the Non-Japanese communities in Japan

This section touches upon how Non-Japanese minorities are shut out of Japan’s debate arenas, public events, even court rooms, making them largely unable to stand up for themselves and assimilate on their own terms.

1. Trans Pacific Radio:  “RUMBLE AT THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS – A hearing on human rights is disrupted by right wingers” (September 10, 2007), demonstrating how the government will not stop hate speech from Right-wingers even when it willfully disrupts their official fact-finding meetings.

2. Japan Times article, McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr James” campaign:  Why these stereotyping advertisements should be discontinued. (September 1, 2009), showing how McDonald’s, an otherwise racially-tolerant multinational corporation overseas, is able thanks to lax attitudes in Japan to stoop to racial stereotyping to sell product, moreover not engage in constructive public debate about the issues.

3. Japan Times article: “ABUSE, RACISM, LOST EVIDENCE DENY JUSTICE IN VALENTINE CASE: Nigerian’s ordeal shows that different judicial standards apply for foreigners in court” (August 14, 2007), where even foreigners’ testimony is overtly dismissed in court expressly because it is foreign.

4. Japan Times article: “TWISTED LEGAL LOGIC DEALS RIGHTS BLOW TO FOREIGNERS:  McGowan ruling has set a very dangerous precedent” (February 7, 2006), in that a store manager who barred an African-American customer entry, expressly because he dislikes black people, was exonerated in court on a semantic technicality.

5. Japan Times article: “SCHOOLS SINGLE OUT FOREIGN ROOTS: International kids suffer under archaic rules” (July 17, 2007). An article about the “Hair Police” in Japan’s schools, who force Non-Japanese and ethnically-diverse Japanese to dye their natural hair color black.

6. Japan Times article: “A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?: National Sports Festival bars gaijin, and amateur leagues follow suit” (Sept 30, 2003), on Japan’s National Sports Meets (kokutai), and how Japan’s amateur sports leagues refuse Non-Japanese residents’ participation:

7. Asahi Shimbun English-language POINT OF VIEW column, “IF CARTOON KIDS HAVE IT, WHY NOT FOREIGNERS?” (Dec 29, 2003).  A translation of my Nov 8 2003 Asahi Watashi no Shiten column, wondering why cartoon characters and wild sealions (see #9 below) are allowed to be registered as “residents” in Japan under the government’s jūminhyō Residency Certificate system, but not Non-Japanese.

8. Japan Times article, “FREEDOM OF SPEECH: ‘Tainted blood’ sees ‘foreign’ students barred from English contests” (Jan 6, 2004), with several odd, blood-based rules indicating a belief that foreign ancestry gives people an advantage in terms of language ability – even if the foreign ethnicity is not Anglophone!

9. Japan Times article on “SEALING THE DEAL ON PUBLIC MEETINGS: Outdoor gatherings are wrapped in red tape.” (March 4, 2003), on the sealion “Tama-chan” issue and demonstrations over the issue of family registry exclusionism (see #7 above).  Why is it so difficult to raise public awareness about minority issues in Japan?  Because police grant permission to public gatherings.

V. On What Japan should do to face its multicultural future

This section offers suggestions on what Japan ought to be doing:  Engaging immigration, instead of retreating further into a fortress mentality and defaming those who wish to emigrate here.

1. Japan Focus paper:  “JAPAN’S COMING INTERNATIONALIZATION:  Can Japan assimilate its immigrants?” (January 12, 2006)

2. Japan Times article, “A Level Playing Field for Immigrants” (December 1, 2009), offering policy proposals to the new DPJ ruling party on how to make Japan a more attractive place for immigration.

3. Japan Focus paper:  “JAPAN’S FUTURE AS AN INTERNATIONAL, MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY: From Migrants to Immigrants” (October 29, 2007)

4. “Medical Care for Non-Japanese Residents of Japan: Let’s look at Japanese Society’s General ‘Bedside Manner’ First“, Journal of International Health Vol.23, No.1 2008, pgs 19-21.

VI. Japan and the United Nations

1. Academic paper (forthcoming, draft, 21 pages):  “Racial Discrimination in Japan:  Arguments made by the Japanese government to justify the status quo in defiance of United Nations Treaty”.  This paper points out the blind spot in both United Nations and the Japanese government, which continues to overlook the plight of immigrants (viewing them more as temporary migrant workers), and their ethnically-diverse Japanese children, even in their February 2010 UNCERD Review of Japan (please skip to pages 18-19 in the paper).

2. Japan Times article: “PULLING THE WOOL:  Japan’s pitch for the UN Human Rights Council was disingenuous at best” (November 7, 2006), talking about the disinformation the government was giving the UN in its successful bid to have a leadership post on the newfound HRC.

3. Japan Times article: “RIGHTING A WRONG: United Nations representative Doudou Diene’s trip to Japan has caused a stir” (June 27, 2006).


Topics:  Daycare center teaching “Little Black Sambo” to preschoolers despite requests from international parents to desist, Anonymous statement regarding professional working conditions in Japan for professional and expatriate women (issues of CEDAW), Discriminatory hiring practices at English-language schools (2 cases), Racial profiling at Narita Airport, Harassment of foreign customers by Japanese credit agencies, Hunger strikers at Ibaraki Detention Center, Politician scaremongering regarding a hypothetical  “foreign Arab prince with 50 kids claiming child tax allowance”


NPR interview with Jake Adelstein, author “Tokyo Vice”, on how police and laws do not stop NJ human trafficking in Japan


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Hi Blog. Jake Adelstein, whose new book TOKYO VICE just came out, was interviewed on America’s National Public Radio program “FRESH AIR” on November 10, 2009. What follows is an excerpt from their podcast, minute 23:45 onwards, which talks about how domestic laws hamstring the NPA from actually cracking down on human trafficking and exploiting NJ for Japan’s sex trades. Jake’s work in part enabled the US State Department to list Japan as a Tier-Two Human Trafficker, and got Japan to pass more effective domestic laws against it.

Read on to see how the process works in particular against NJ, given their especially weak position (both legally and languagewise). If NJ go to the police to report their exploitation, it’s the NJ who get arrested (and deported), not the trafficker. And then the trafficker goes after the NJ’s family overseas.  Glad people like Jake are out there exposing this sort of thing.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


DAVE DAVIES: On a more serious note, you became aware of some women who were working in the sex industry, who appear not to be there of their own free will. There was human trafficking going on. How did it work in the cases that you found?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: Japan is much better than it was than the time I started writing about this. But essentially it works like this: You bring foreign women into the country, often under false pretences — that they would be working as hostesses, or working as waitresses in a restaurant. You take away their passports. You put them in a room. You monitor their activities so that they can’t leave. And then you take them to the clubs where they have sexual relations with the customers. And, aren’t paid. The women have no freedom of movement. They’re told, after they’ve slept with a customer, or been forced to sleep with a customer — sometimes they were raped first, so they’d get used to the job — that if they go to the police, since they’re in Japan illegally, that they would be deported and they would still owe money for their travel expenses to Japan. And very often these traffickers would have agents within the countries where they were recruiting these women, often Eastern Europe, and contact the families of the women under various pretexts, to let them know that if they disobeyed, or did something in Japan or ran away, that their families back home would be menaced or killed.

DAVE DAVIES: You worked really hard to develop sources, and get enough on the record to write a story about this going on, and identify some of the people who were operating these human trafficking sex joints. What was the reaction among the police and other authorities when you exposed this?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: The reaction was that they asked me to introduce them to some of the women who were victims, so that they could *arrest* them, and have a pretext to raid these clubs. An officer there I really liked a lot named Iida-san said, “I’d love to put these places out of business. But you have to understand that these women, while they are victims, that we can’t protect them. We have to prosecute them under Japanese law. There is no provision in the law that allows us to keep them in the country while we do the investigation. So, I *could* do the investigation, and I could put these people out of business, but in order to do that, I’m going to have to have you put me in contact with some of the women, and I’m not going to be able to take a statement from them without arresting them.” And I couldn’t do that.

I went to another division of the police department and asked them, “Can you do anything about that?” And they said, “We can do something about it, but first of all, we don’t have enough people who speak foreign languages to do a very competent investigation right now. And we’ve got a lot of other things on our plate. While your article is good, it is not something that is immediately actionable for us.”

DAVE DAVIES: Which was enormously frustrating for you.

JAKE ADELSTEIN: It was *enormously* frustrating. And when I realized of course was that, while the cops have problems with this and would like to do the investigations and put these people out of business, that essentially the law wouldn’t let them do it. That’s why I began writing about the flaws in the law, the whole legal system, and I also began taking studies and information and stories that I had written up as a reporter to the US State Department representative at the Embassy in Tokyo.

DAVE DAVIES: In effect, by embarrassing the government, you were able to get some reform?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: Yes. I can’t take total credit, but I would like to take some credit for supplying the US Government with enough information that they could embarrass Japan enough so that Japan felt compelled to actually put some laws on the books that trafficking harder to do. One of the things I was most proud of was, the International Labor Organization did a very scathing study of human trafficking problems in Japan — pointing out the victims weren’t protected, the traffickers were lightly punished, fined, and rarely did jail time. Which the Japanese Government, which sponsored this study, told them “never release”. I was able to get a copy of that report and put it on the front page of our newspaper as a scoop, while the Japanese Government was still getting ready to announce their plan of action. And I think that had a very positive effect of making them put together a plan that was actually effective.

AOL on Child Abductions and child retriever Gus Zamora, letter to from Gus


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Hi Blog.  More on how far people are willing to go to get their abducted kids back after divorce.  They don’t send in the SWAT team.  They hire Gus.  Gus himself comments to below.  Arudou Debito


Gustavo Zamora helps parents find their abducted kids.

A globe-trotting vigilante to retrieves children from foreign countries? Why would you need one?

Say you marry someone and you have children. You get divorced. There’s a custody battle. You win. Your ex-spouse refuses to accept the decision. He or she takes the children and flees overseas to a country that doesn’t recognize your custody rights.

What do you do?

This is not a hypothetical question for thousands of parents who go through this exact scenario every year. Their options are limited.

One option, however, is Gus Zamora.

He goes to other countries and gets kids back — one way or another. “There are lots of ways to recover a child,” he said in an interview with ParentDish. “There’s no one way.”

The Tampa Bay, Fla., resident and former Army Ranger prefers to do things nice and legal. If he can work through a foreign court system, fine. Failing that, he might try to bully foreign officials with threats — or at least bluffs — of crushing media attention.

As a last resort, Zamora said, he will grab the child and run. “That’s when you’ve run out of other options,” he said.

Rest of the article at



In response to a recent post on the Internet regarding “Snatchback” in The Atlantic Monthly I felt it was important for people to know what I do and what my real success rate is. The world of International Parental Abduction is a place I have spent the last Eighteen years. I have assisted parents in over 200 cases. Fifty-five children have been returned to their custodial parent with my guidance. Three of which were successful recoveries from Japan.

In addition to the fifty-five recoveries, I have also worked on twenty to twenty five cases that were resolved through mediation, Hague convention applications, media involvement, international law enforcement involvement and negotiations directly with the abductors. Zamora and Associates is presently involved in several cases in Japan, both in and out of Japanese courts.

Over the years I have spoken at numerous International Parental Abduction conferences. Through the years I have gotten to know the victims of parental abduction both children and their left behind parent. I have met with high-powered world leaders, activists who protest against hypocrisy and that Virginia woman who attempts to manage her local 501 c3 non-profit. I will never really understand what it’s like to lose a child. I am one of the few people who fight in this arena that doesn’t belong to the left behind parents club.

Parents come to me year after year with the same story. They are spent from their losing fight in unjust courts trying to regain their flesh and blood. They have met with politicians some of whom are empathetic and some who will shut their door in your face. These parents are tired and vulnerable, and near wits end.

Organizations like the Children’s Rights Council do good work in most circumstances. Some of their offshoots however do just the opposite. Making statements such as “I know of another case Gus worked on in Japan a few years ago, which also was unsuccessful. I don’t think he’s ever gotten a child out of Japan” are counterproductive and in fact limiting to a parent who should be able to care for their child. Why would a national organization bound by the laws of the United States choose to stymie what could be the last hope a parent has.

There are a number of parents out there who are adversely affected by the way these groups operate. Over the years some parents have come to me in confidence after being told that if they did not continue to support these organizations by following their instructions, attending their conferences and assisting as a volunteer they would be shut out of the group and would be on their own.

I have supported many non-profit organizations and groups from the early evolution of my child recovery career, but very quickly withdrew my support and speaking engagements at their conferences. In the end I decided it was best to withdraw any association with them altogether because of their unproductive nature and dictatorial style. I chose however to associate myself The Children’s Rights Network due to the fact that CRN does nothing other than assists parents.

The Children’s Rights Network doesn’t ask for donations. The Japan Chapter of the Children’s Rights Network website states “We are currently funded by a private organization and do not require donations. Thank you for your support and wish to help…” The information The Children’s Rights Network supplies to parents, attorneys, politicians, and the general public is free of charge. The Children’s Rights Network is there for the families being affected by International Parental Abduction to Japan.

CRN receives up to 20 inquiries per day through requesting assistance, or just a general push in the right direction. The Children’s Rights Network supplies answers and assistance to those in need. CRN doesn’t ask for donations from a needy parent. Even when a parent makes it as high as the Supreme Court and needs assistance writing a writ. The Children’s Rights network is an organization that has been called “The closest thing I have found to a support group.” I appreciate being associated with a support group as opposed to an organization that on their website sells “items” and requests you become a paid “member.”

No two cases are alike. No two parents are the same. There are never any guarantees made to anyone on any case, at any time. When a case reaches the point that Zamora And Associates needs to be involved we are upfront with the client as to what the risks and costs are. We do the best we can and rarely do parents expect more.

The Japanese case mentioned in the Atlantic Monthly was a successful recovery until it became obvious that the parent had misrepresented their relationship with their child. The parent that hired Zamora And Associates failed to disclose that the child and the parent did not have a close, loving relationship. The child was 100% against a further relationship with said parent.

We had been told over and over again by distraught parents that their child begged for reunification and return. After working hard on plans for a recovery however, on numerous occasions we only find out once the child is in our possession that this is not the case. We will never take an unwilling child from one parent and give that child to the other. Recovery is a last resort for children in dire situations and not something that should ever be based on ego or handled by a commando.

If there is information about any case where Zamora And Associates has misrepresented ourselves or failed to perform our job professionally for a client then please speak up rather than make false claims that we have never been successful in the land of the rising sun.

Zamora and Associates will not participate in any online character assassinations or unproductive bickering when we should all be fighting the evil of International Parental Abduction together. We challenge anyone to prove that they have a track record equal to ours in International child recovery. Do not believe in the self-promoting experts but rather investigate everyone, believe in no one and remember that time is not on your side when there is a child in the balance. No one is an “expert” at something that they cannot do themselves!

I have deep and sincere respect for all those left behind parents who have lost a child or children to another country where our laws and their legal systems refuse to intervene. Over the years I have learned to understand and feel the grief and pain that left behind parents feel everyday that their children are gone. You all have my full support.

Gus Zamora
Zamora & Associates – International Security Consultants
Children’s Rights Network board member

1 – 877 – KID CATCHER


Global Post’s Justin McCurry on Savoie Child Abduction Case. Issue isn’t passe yet.


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Savoie’s choice: abduct or fight?
An American father wants his children back. Japan says no.
By Justin McCurry –

Published: October 27, 2009
Courtesy of the author

TOKYO, Japan — Under normal circumstances it would be impossible to summon any sympathy for a man who snatches two young children as they walk to school with their mother.
But what if the “abductor” is the children’s father, and the mother, his former wife, herself the subject of an arrest warrant?

When Christopher Savoie, an American, went to these extraordinary lengths to regain custody of his children from his Japanese ex-wife last month, he not only landed himself in a police cell for more than two weeks, he also placed the spotlight firmly on Japan’s complicity in international parental child abduction — turning it from a minor irritant into a potential source of genuine tension between Washington and Tokyo.

Savoie was arrested after attempting to take his children, aged 9 and 6, to the U.S. consulate general in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, in September.

The 38-year-old from Tennessee, and his former wife, Noriko, lived in Japan for several years before moving to the U.S. in 2008. When they divorced in the U.S. in January this year, Noriko was granted primary custody of the children.

Despite giving assurances that she would remain with the children in the U.S., in August she took them to Japan, without Savoie’s knowledge and in defiance of a court order. The U.S. authorities awarded Savoie full custody in Noriko’s absence and issued a warrant for her arrest on suspicion of “custodial interference.”

Yet Savoie has no legal right to see his children for as long as they remain in Japan, which refuses to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

The treaty, with 81 signatories including every other member of the G7, states that a “child whose parents reside in different countries shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis … personal relations and direct contacts with both parents.”

Savoie’s is one of about 80 cases of international parental child abduction involving U.S. citizens, while France and Britain are dealing with 35 each.

The unofficial number is much higher, particularly when failed marriages between Japanese and people from other Asian countries are included. The Assembly for French Overseas Nationals for Japan estimates that 10,000 children with dual citizenship in Japan are prevented from seeing their foreign parent after separation or divorce.

Japanese courts habitually award custody of children to the mother. In many cases, they say they are simply trying to protect the rights of women fleeing abusive former husbands, a claim vigorously disputed by campaigners.

The country’s courts will be tested again later this week when Shane Clarke appeals in a custody battle with Japanese ex-wife.

The 39-year-old Briton has not seen his two young daughters since May 2008 after his ex-wife took them to Japan to visit their “ill” grandmother and never returned.

Though Britain’s media has taken an interest in his plight, Clarke says he has received little support from the authorities, despite a court order naming the U.K. as his children’s country of habitual residence.

“I have been writing repeatedly to more than a dozen government ministers, and not a single one has had the common decency to reply,” he told GlobalPost.

Legal precedent indicates that Clarke, who was denied custody at a hearing in Japan last year, will again return home without his daughters.

“We are talking about two British citizens, and no one will help me. The message our government is sending out to foreign nationals is that it’s perfectly all right for them to commit a crime on British soil, and as long as they leave the country quickly enough, they’ll get away scot-free.”

Left-alone parents in the U.S. have fared better. Chris Smith, a New Jersey congressman, recently urged the Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, to use the Savoie arrest as a “catalyst” to end Japan’s tacit approval of international parental child abduction.

Smith has drawn up legislation that would enable the U.S. to “more aggressively” pursue the rights of American parents, including imposing sanctions against countries that habitually refuse to cooperate on international child abductions.

Pressure is also mounting in Japan, where the ambassadors of eight countries, including the U.S., have urged the justice minister, Keiko Chiba, to sign the Hague treaty.

The foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, indicated he would speed up a study into the agreement’s pros and cons, although ratifying it will require changes to domestic laws that could take years to implement.

Savoie, meanwhile, says he is struggling to come to terms with the possibility that he will not see his children again until they are adults.

“If loving my kids so much that I really want to be with them is a crime, then, well, I’m guilty,” he told CBS News after returning to the U.S. “I’m guilty of loving my kids.”

Source URL (retrieved on October 28, 2009 01:16 ):

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


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Hi Blog.  People have asked what the Savoie Child Abduction Case actually brought to light.  I’ll let lawyer Colin Jones explain that below.  Again, whichever side of the custody battle you support, you have to give Christopher credit for bringing the international spotlight on one of Japan’s dirty little secrets.  Excerpt follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009
Signing Hague treaty no cure-all for parental abduction scourge
‘Best interests of the bureaucracy’ standard applies in Japan
Excerpt follows:

…Thus, the fact that police have recently started to arrest parents like Mr. Savoie despite the Japanese penal code remaining unchanged may simply reflect the police having decided that parental abduction is a problem they should do something about either in general, or in specific cases. Having made this decision, what the law actually says or is intended to address doesn’t really matter, so long as there is a vaguely drafted statute they can point to as justification.

A similar dynamic plays out in Japanese courts. In custody disputes, courts purport to apply a “best interests of the child” standard. Fortunately for the courts, this standard remains undefined by either statute or clearly announced judicial rules, meaning that judges are free to resolve cases in whatever way is most convenient for the court — which more often than not is the status quo, which they have little power to change. Thus, the real standard being applied is probably what is in the best interests of the court.

A similarly bureaucratic approach may also explain the apparent willingness of Japanese courts to cooperate with other bureaucracies such as police and prosecutors by ratifying seemingly novel applications of criminal law arrests and prosecutions that seem to stretch the law. In another parental abduction case earlier this decade a Dutch man was arrested for trying to leave Japan with his daughter. He was prosecuted for violating an obscure human trafficking statute and duly convicted. In rejecting his appeal, Japan’s Supreme Court noted that there is a high degree of unlawfulness in taking a child whose life is established in one country to another country, even if the person doing so is one of that child’s parents. Apparently, neither this statute nor this logic has ever been applied to any of the scores of cases of abduction to Japan.

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…

Full article at:

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


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Hi Blog. I received this comment early this morning from “Joseph” regarding the Savoie Case, piecing together with a minimum of speculation (shame on all you online rumormongers) a probable 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 childrens’ 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.

Read on. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Hello, This is a very confusing case due to all of the “facts” that are flying around. I have read everything that I can find, including the court transcripts ( and and I’m wondering whether anyone can add to any of this:

It has been reported that Noriko has either US citizenship or US permanent residency status. Some have suggested that this is false because she only just came here this year, and could not have gotten either in such a short amount of time. However, in the transcripts I mentioned above, Noriko states that she and Christopher have known each other for 18 years, and have been married for 14 years (See page 79

This would mean that they met sometime in or around 1991, and married sometime in or around 1995. From reading around, it seems that they had lived in Japan from 2001 through 2008. That would mean that they met outside of Japan? This seems to corroborate the information relayed on this message board by Amy Savoie ( Specifically, she stated that Noriko had been working in Silicon Valley, and that Isaac was born at Stanford University, in California. This suggests that the claims of Noriko’s US citizenship / permanet residency status might have some truth after all.

Combining those dates, with the other significant dates, allows one to contruct a possible timeline:

– 1991: Noriko and Christopher met in California, where Noriko was working? (Partial Speculation)

[correction from Joseph: -1995 ~ ? Christopher begins work at Kyushu University]
– 1996: Noriko and Christopher were married in California? (Partial Speculation)
– 2001: Issac was born at Stanford University, in California? (Partial Speculation)
– 2001: Noriko, Christopher, and Issac moved to Japan after Issac’s birth (Confirmed)
– 2003: Rebecca is born in Japan (Confirmed)
– 2005: Noriko and Christopher were separated. (Confirmed)
– 2005-2008?: Noriko asks for a divorce in Japan (Confirmed)
– January 2009: Noriko comes to Tennessee for the divorce (Confirmed)
– September 2009: Noriko takes children, and returns to Japan (Confirmed)

I will state outright that this timeline is partial speculation, but it fits the facts, and it does seem to paint a somewhat more sympathetic picture of Christopher.

He meets a Japanese woman in California in 1991. They are married, in California, in 1996. Their first child, Isaac, is born at Stanford University, in California, in 2001. Shortly after Issac’s birth, Noriko convinces Christopher to move to Japan. What the reasoning for that move was, only those two can know for sure, but knowing what I know of Japanese families (I am married to a Japanese national. My wife’s sister is a happily married Japanese woman, married to a Japanese man, and she and the children spend 75% of their time at her mother’s house. This is common over there), I am going to assume the reason was so that she could have lots of help raising Isaac (and eventually Rebecca) from her mother and extended family. Again, whatever the reason, the three of them move to Japan. Rebecca is born there three years later. Sometime between Rebecca’s birth and 2005, things fall apart, and he and Noriko are separated.

Once again, the reasons for the divorce are known only to Noriko and Christopher. People can speculate that it was because of Amy, but we do not yet know if the relationship with Amy started before or after the separation. Additionally, I have also read speculation or accusations that it was becasue Christopher was abusive, but the facts do not support this. Noriko was divorced here, and had her day in court. If he was abusive, she easily could have brought that up, received sole custody of the children, alimony, and carte blanche to return to Japan with the children permanently. She made no such claims, and Christopher was awared substantial visitation rights.

Either way, during this separation, Noriko asks Christopher for a divorce in Japan. Christopher knows that if he divorces in Japan, he will, with almost absolute certainty, have no contact whatsoever with his children, and refuses. He then talks Noriko into coming to Tennessee for the divorce, where he will receive the visitation rights he would never get in a Japanese court, and where she would recieve a large monetary settlement that she would never receive in a Japanese court.

She accepts this arrangement, comes to the US specifically for the divorce, and receives: (1) $800,000 in a lump sum; (2) $30,000 in an account for Isaac; (3) $30,000 in an account for Rebecca; (4) an unspecified (in the transcript) amount money for Noriko’s education; (5) unspecified (in the transcript) monthly alimony payments; (6) primary custody of the children (7) The right to take the children to Japan for 6 weeks every summer, with Christopher paying for all airfare (please see page 95-96

While staying here, the two of them continuously spar via email, culminating in an email from Noriko in which she basically threatens to take the children to Japan, and cut off all contact with him. This causes Christopher to file for a restraining order preventing Noriko from taking the Children to Japan for the six week vacation awarded in the marriage dissolution agreement, out of fear that she will not return, and that he will never see his children again.

It is at that hearing (again, the transcripts can be found at and, that Noriko repeatedly lies to the court:

Pg 77————————————————————–

Q: And do you think it’s important for the children to visit their father?

A: Yes, of course.

Q: Do you have plans to move permanently to Japan since we signed the – since you signed the permanent parenting plan and the final decree was enacted?

A. No, I haven’t.

PG 88————————————————————–

Q. Ms. Savoie, you know that one of Dr. Savoie’s biggest fears is that you will take the children to Japan, and he will never see them again –

A. Right

Q. — you know that correct?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. And he’s expressed that to you many, many times?

A. Yes, he did.

Q. But even knowing that, you put in writing to him, february 12th that “it is very hard to watch the kids become American and losing their Japanese identity. I have tremendous fear for my children and myself. I’m overwhelmed without a problem. Therefore, please cooperate with me in order for us to stay here”?

A. Correct.

Q. The only way I can read that is that was a threat to him; that if you don’t do what I want you to do, I’m going to take your children away and you will never see them again. You understand the fear?

A. I do understand his fear, however –

Q. Well, what can you do today to alleviate that fear; what can you do, what can you say to Judge Martin, what can you say to their father that assures us that when you get to Japan –

A. Yes

Q. — you will not let your parents and your friends and your — as you said, all the people that came to the airport, influence you to just stay there, what assurance do we have?

A. Yes, actually that’s why I brought this here. First of all, I have never thought about taking children away from their father, never. And — but based on that –

Q. Well, let me ask you this — and I’ll ask the questions, if you would — do you have plans to take your children and move to Japan?

A. No, I don’t.

Q. And are your plans to take the children for a vacation and return home?

A. Return home means –

Q. To Tennessee.

A. Yes.

p 100————————————————————–

Q How can we know that when you go, that you won’t let your family persuade you to stay there;

A. Because I won’t; I mean, because I won’t stay there.

In the end, it is that lying, and that dishonesty, that I have a real problem with. That, and the fact that the Japanese courts, with regards to this sort of thing, are a complete and total mess.

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 childrens’ 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.

Terrie’s Take offers the best piece yet on the Savoie Child Abduction Case


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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Just received this.  It’s good enough to quote in full.  It’s the best, most thorough, most balanced opinion yet on the case, in my view.  Let’s see if I can do better tomorrow in my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column.  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, October 4, 2009 Issue No. 536


On September 28th this last week, news starting emerging on CNN and several other media about an American dad who was arrested in Fukuoka for trying to abduct his kids back, after his Japanese ex-wife had first abducted them from him in the USA. The Dad, 38-year old Chris Savoie, is now in jail in Fukuoka for some indeterminate period, while the police try to extract a confession from him.

Well… at least we think this is what is going on, because as many readers will know, the police can keep a suspect in detention for months for questioning, with very limited access to a lawyer, until they think the case is ready to send to the courts. This process is partly the reason why Japan has a successful conviction rate (versus a relatively low prosecution rate) in the 99%+ range.

Chris Savoie is not a wet-behind-the-ears foreigner who knows nothing about Japan and its customs. Indeed, he has led a highly successful business career here, and amongst other things built a pharmaceutical business called GNI in Fukuoka that went on to do an IPO on the Mothers market in September 2007. He is a strong Japanese speaker, has a PhD, and according to press reports naturalized as a Japanese national several years ago. So his being in jail is both a surprise and then again it isn’t.

No one other than Savoie himself knows what was going through his mind when he had a friend drive a car along side his ex-wife and two children, aged 6 and 8, while they were walking to school. However, according to reports he jumped out of the vehicle, bundled the kids into the car and raced to the U.S. Consul’s compound in Fukuoka. This was a big mistake, because at the compound he was not allowed entry by the guards, and since his ex-wife had already alerted the police, they soon arrived on the scene and nabbed both him and the kids.

While we don’t know what Savoie was thinking, we do know the facts surrounding his decision to try to get his kids back:

1. His wife is on record in a U.S. divorce court as stating that she would not abduct the kids, despite Savoie’s fears that this might happen.

2. She did abduct the kids and she clearly didn’t expect to return them to the U.S. Indeed, she was taking them to school, meaning that they weren’t just on holiday.

3. As readers will know from our previous commentary on this subject (, there are NO recorded cases of U.S.-Japanese kids abducted from the U.S. being returned to the custodial parent in the U.S. by court action, and only 3 that were mutually resolved between the parties. This among 102 open cases of abduction known to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and possibly several thousand unreported cases which have probably happened over the last ten years.

4. Previous cases we have heard of indicate that it is not a crime for a spouse to take the kids into hiding in Japan. The idea being that the abductor waits until the kids acclimate to them, before resurfacing. If the kids have been with that abducting spouse for more than a year, then typically judges will award that spouse custody on the basis that the kids should have a “stable home life” and better to have them not experience another major change. Until now that’s been the pattern of rulings, anyway.

5. While joint custody may be legally allowed in Japan, there has been no tradition nor legal enforcement of joint custody arrangements. So if a spouse, almost always the Japanese spouse, has possession of the kids and doesn’t want the other parent to see them, then the left-behind spouse can’t.

Given that Savoie has probably been aware of the legal situation, it is not so surprising that he attempted to get his kids back by taking preemptive action. He will have realized that the Family courts in Japan would pay no heed to his U.S. custodial rights (he has sole custody) and that Japan is well known globally as a destination for child abductors, not all of whom are Japanese. If he wanted to see his kids again, kidnapping them back again was about all he really could do. Otherwise he would have joined the ranks of hundreds of other left-behind parents who desperately miss their kids and can’t do anything about it. They are powerless in the face of a 19th century judicial values system.

But what is surprising is that he chose to get his kids back in a way that exposed him to many untested theories. One of these theories has been that it is OK to abduct your kids back. Indeed the police often do turn a blind eye to home disputes and will allow “mini-abductions” to happen. There was a case some years ago where Chinese American Samuel Lui tried, like Savoie, to abduct his child back on the streets of Osaka. Like Savoie, he also had sole custody rights awarded in the USA. Lui failed in his attempt, subsequently turning himself in to the Osaka police, who after questioning him for a day, rapped his knuckles and effectively said, “Don’t do it again.”

But in trying to regain possession of your kids, once trespass and violence or threat of violence are used, that is where a person steps over the line. Savoie must have known that the police here can pretty much arrest people whenever they want. If we’d been him, and were committed to such a drastic action, we would have used our local contacts to hide out for a while and figured out how to get the kids out of the country. As a Japanese, if he’d successfully kept off the police radar for more than 6 months, he might have even been able to apply to the courts for sole custody in Japan and have gotten away with it.

In the last couple of days, details surrounding Savoie’s divorce have emerged that paint him in a less than flattering light. In particular he seems to have been engaged in an affair with a person who has since become his new wife, and that this probably occurred around the same time he brought his ex-wife and kids to the USA. Comments of disgust about his possible manipulation of the ex-wife abound on U.S. comment boards of major news sites carrying stories about the case.

HOWEVER, again, we can only speculate about what really happened, and until the facts are made public, we can probably assume that Savoie was acting logically throughout — in that he was trying to get his soon-to-be ex-wife and kids into a jurisdiction (the U.S.) where the law protects BOTH parents rights and upholds the concept of joint custody. Whether his behavior is cruel or is manipulative is beside the point. Savoie would have known that if his divorce was contested in Japan, he would have been 100% guaranteed to have lost his kids, and would have been at the whim of his wife whether or not he would be able to see them ever again as children.

This situation is caused by the Japanese judiciary’s refusal to accept that divorced parents should have equal access to their children. The view of most judges (based on interviews with judges that we have done in the past) is that kids need to be insulated from the hurt between divorcing parents by giving them just one care-giver. But this is a traditional view and has no basis in fact. Child psychologists outside Japan generally agree that kids need the love and attention of both parents, even if they are divorced. Splitting the kids from one parent naturally causes them to side with the other (Parental Alienation Syndrome: PAS), which causes them to have complexes about the missing parent later in life.

PAS also works in reverse, because as the left-behind parent gets alienated, they simply stop paying child support, causing poverty and depression for the (typically) single-mother family. The fact is that if the Dads are not encouraged to feel a connection to their kids, and given that Japanese family law courts have little or no power to enforce child support judgments, then why would ex-Dads feel like paying for offspring who won’t even acknowledge them as a parent? Yes, the law says they should pay, but given the lack of legal enforcement, building a feeling of responsibility by the Dads is the only other way to get the money flowing again.

This situation is wrong and needs fixing.

Since there appears to be little will by the judiciary to change their ways or values, any change in the status quo needs to be a political one — using outside political pressure (“Gaiatsu”). This is a long-term project unfortunately, but it does give us a possible motive why an otherwise intelligent individual such as Savoie may have been driven to try kidnap his kids when such an undertaking would have such a high possibility for failure.

Finally, our take is that what he did is not right, but under the current legal system, it is understandable. We think similar incidents will happen again until things change.


SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie’s Take at:


Valentine Court Case re police brutality next hearing Tues Oct 6 2:30PM, Tokyo High Court Kasumigaseki


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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  I heard word from Plaintiff Valentine last week that the latest hearing on his lawsuit against the Japanese police (which has lasted four years now) for police brutality will be happening next Tuesday.  Do attend if you can.  Here’s why:

You may not remember, but I wrote about the Valentine Case for the Japan Times:

ABUSE, RACISM, LOST EVIDENCE DENY JUSTICE IN VALENTINE CASE: Nigerian’s ordeal shows that different standards apply for foreigners in court” (Japan Times Zeit Gist August 14, 2007).

where I did a bit of sleuthing and described how the police’s claim that Nigerian citizen Valentine smashed his knee on a sign while running from them is pretty much impossible.  Then their denying him medical treatment during interrogation has left him crippled for life.  This is one major case of how a man (who has not been convicted to this day of any crime) can be abused due to the lack of accountability in the police system of criminal investigation, and have it covered up by negligent Japanese courts.  The outcome of this case will speak volumes.

More background from his supporters group follows.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


WHO MAY BE THE NEXT VICTIM?   Mr. Valentine   who was beaten up  with a broken knee by the uncovered police officers  4 years ago,  is calling on the foreign  community living in Japan to  attend his next  high  court  trial on 6th. tuesday 2009.  By  2:30pm.  Venue: Tokyo  High court. Kasumigaseki.   8th  floor. Room   808.

Why?  This  Case is very  important   to attend is because some  thing strange is  going on with this case.  On 6th. tuesday,  a  DNA professor.   Prof  Ishiyama.  is coming to  give  his expert opinion   about   the  cause of the broken knee. on behalf of the  Tokyo Govt.

We need  Justice  to be done.   Your presence is highly needed.  This  matter has  being going on for 4 years  now.


1st appeal hearing (July 17th,2007) A statement of reasons for appeal. Requests the court to provide order to submit a document(s) ( the Shinjuku ward police would have some inhouse documents that recorded how his injury was). Also requested a record(s) of monitoring video camera at the scene at Shinjuku.

2nd appeal hearing(Sep.25th,2007) Metropolitan Government (the Police) says these two evidences that he requested have never existed. Conversely, they asked the appellant to submit a ground(s) why he asks so. Also asked to order to let a new doctor(s) give an expert opinion.(This was to withdraw by the appellant himself after that and re-submit a doctor’s expert opinion).

3rd appeal hearing(Nov.20th,2007) The court requests more detailed statement of eyewitness and the appellant to be prepared again. Also the court asked the appellant to appeal against his original doctor’s expert opinion(already submitted)

4th appeal hearing(Feb.12th, 2008) Every orders to submit documents sorted out. Reply of Metropolitan Gov.:1)Detention name list->exist, but no need to submit 2) A report(s) from a chief investigator to a chief of detention-> no exist 3) a detentions’ medical report->exist, but no need to submit. For 3), the chief judge urged the Metropolitan Gov. to submit “with painting in black at the non related ”, and Gov. under examination.

5th appeal hearing(May.22nd, 2008)The court didn’t make any approval or decision for testimony of new eyewitness & 2nd doctor. A detention name list and a detentions’ medical report have submitted before this time. The appellant pursuited to release internal regulations to the court, that concerning a report(s) when the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department arrested him. However, Metropolitan Gov. refused it and requested “in-camera” proceeding*1).
*1)”In-Camera” proceeding:”It is not submitted to court where opens to the public, and no chance to read it is given even to the person concerned, only the judge receives the presentation of the document. “

6th appeal hearing(Jul.8th, 2008)The chief justice instruct to conclude the appeal. The most point is the reason of his injury whether it is advantageous accident or others disadvantageous accident. This time an inhouse documents has submitted by the Shinjuku police station that might concern about it. The court wait for counterarguement from Tokyo gov. side (if any), then the chief justice to judge.

7th appeal hearing(Oct.28th, 2008)At last hearing, Mr.Tsuzuki instructed to conclude new proofs and new states during last 6 hearings, and the appallant submitted concerned documents, then Tokyo Gov. side submitted counterarguements following after that. This time the court confirmed these documents again, and also no other request has confirmed. Also the court confirmed no other documents to be submitted, and a witness and a docter witness accepted after consultation at the backyard of the court. Two witness to be stand at next hearing.

8th appeal hearing(Jan.27th, 2009)From appalent side, a witness who stayed close at scene of the accident and, a doctor who declare the cause of his fracture and also explained 10 day detention affection, stood for the court.

9th appeal hearing(Apr.21st, 2009)Most of people believed that conclusion of the hearings to be announced. However, Tokyo Gov. side submit a “Ishiyama Opinion” more than after one week of the closing date. Appallent side pursuit not to accept it because it is clealy expired, however the chief justice Mr Tsuzuki accepted it (as document No. Otsu-18) by the reason he want to compete the expert opinions, and also he called Prof.Ishiyama to the witness stand.

10th appeal hearing(Jul.21st, 2009)The plaintiff side submit Ishiyama’s second opinion and pre-documents, and the chief justice decided to call Prof.Ishiyama as a witness. FYI: Mr.Ikuo ISHIYAMA, a honorary professor to the Teikyo University, is a famous expert opinion. The 6th professor to a legal medicine class of the Tokyo University. He is a suceeder of Professor Furuhata who generate a lot of false charge by his attempt judge. Mr.Ishiyama also close to Police side.

Copyright (c) Valentine Trial Support Group/バレンタイン裁判支援会 All Rights Reserved.

Again, background on the case at

Court Transcripts of Christopher vs. Noriko Savoie re child abduction


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UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Obviously since yesterday the Savoie Child Abduction Case has gotten a lot more complicated.  So let’s go to the primary source information:  the sworn testimonies of the parties to the case.

Now, divorces are generally nasty messy affairs with both sides at fault and deserving of criticism. But the fact is that wife Noriko Savoie negotiated in bad faith, broke her promises, abducted the children, and committed a criminal offense, and she should not be allowed to get away with it. Or else it just encourages other Japanese to take the kids and run (or threaten to) whenever there’s a domestic dispute. This situation as it stands will also remain a deterrent to people marrying Japanese, and is ultimately defeating of Japan’s intent to stem the demographic juggernaut that is Japan’s falling population.

Courtesy of David in yesterday’s comments (thanks), here are the last seventy pages of testimony in Tennessee court.


There was a restraining order against Noriko Savoie filed due to various threats from Noriko to abduct the children (page 94).

She promised in court under oath that she would not do that.

She obviously lied.

She came to the US willingly, knowing how things would turn out (i.e. divorce, not reconciliation):

(pg 121)
THE COURT: And she clearly understood that when she was
coming to the United States, she wasn’t coming
here to reconcile . And it was clear she came here knowing that
her husband was involved with another woman, and
she came here knowing that he wanted a divorce.

and a social worker testified that she was in fact acclimatizing to the US and would probably stay (pg 109).

Noriko even tried to use the allegation of husband Christopher’s Japanese citizenship (which looks like it may be true, although given the relatively amount of time Christopher was in Japan it was gleaned awfully quickly) against him to say that he had the same rights as a Japanese. Which he technically would (but not positively, when Japanese have so few rights between them regarding child custody and visitation following divorce anyway), but then again probably not (as the court admits, see below).

Court testimony excerpts follow, then further commentary from me:

I don’t have any plans to
return to Japan or move to Japan, I haven’t had
any plans to move to Japan since I entered the
final decree
. (page 80)

(page 88-89)
… you put in writing to him
February 12th that “it is very hard to watch the kids
become American and losing their Japanese identity . I
have tremendous fear for my children and myself . I’m
overwhelmed without a problem . Therefore, please
cooperate with me in order for us to stay here”?

A. Correct.

Q. The only way I can read that is that was a threat
to him ; that if you don’t do what I want you to do, I’m
going to take your children and you will never see them
again . You understand his fear?

A I do understand his fear; however —

Q. Well, what can you do today to alleviate that
fear ; what can you do, what can you say to Judge Martin,
what can you say to their father that assures us that
when you get to Japan —

A. Yes.

Q. — you will not let your parents and your friends
and your — as you said, all the people that came to the
airport, influence you to just stay there ; what
assurance do we have?

A. Yes, actually that’s why I brought this here .
First of all, I have never thought about taking children
away from their father, never . And — but based on
that —

Q. Well, let me ask you this — and I’ll ask the
questions, if you would — do you have plans to take
your children and move to Japan?

A . No, I don’t .

(pg 96-97)
NORIKO: Yes, I actually want to say because if you
talking about based on he has no authority in Japan,
however, he is Japanese citizen ; he is not — Hague
Convention has nothing to do with him, because that is
between American citizen and Japanese citizen .

THE COURT : Ms . Savoie, let me just say that
this kind of discussion concerns the Court . I
really don’t care what his rights are in Japan .
What I care about is ensuring that you don’t take
these children permanently to Japan .


THE COURT : You’ll never convince this Court
that this gentleman has the same rights that you
have in Japan to freely enforce the terms of this
order, because every bit of the law that I’ve
ever seen as mediator — and this case was
presented – and this case, by the way, was
discussed in mediation, so that’s not anything
new either .So for you to try to convince the Court now
that Dr . Savoie has the full ability to enforce a
foreign decree in Japan, is not going to be very
productive . That causes me concern that you
might have some intent to move that you said you
do not have . See what I’m saying?

THE WITNESS : Yes, Sir, I understand .

THE COURT: They’re inconsistent positions .
On the one hand you say, “I’m not moving, I’ve
made no plans to move, I intend to go on vacation
and return here and bring the children back
here”; on the other hand you’re saying, “but he
has full rights to enforce the decree in Japan .”
Well, if you have no intent to move, why do you —

THE WITNESS : Yes, Sir .

THE COURT: — try to convince the Court
that he has the full rights to enforce a foreign
decree in Japan . There’s no reason to try to go
there . You see what I’m saying?

(skip to page 100)

THE WITNESS : Yes . However, he won’t see
them again that — that part is that concern
before me that from a long time ago, like I said
I’ve never split children and father . I know how
important father is for children, and I am not
going to do that . I keep telling him I’m not
going to do that .

(skip to page 119-120)
I think Ms . Savoie understands that if she
elects to go to Japan and not return, she’s going
to lose her alimony, because the Court’s going to
pay it into court ; she’s going to have problems
with her child support ; she’s going to have
problems with her education fund ; she’s going to
be fighting her husband in the courts of Japan ;
and it just — it’s going to be a terrible mess
for her and the children if she pursues that, and
the Court has no reason to believe that she
doesn’t understand that or that she intends to
pursue that .

But on the other hand, obviously Dr . Savoie
is not convinced that his former wife is acting
with him in good faith . Frankly, I don’t know
that he will ever be convinced until time passes
and she’s made trips to Japan and she’s returned
from Japan, and the children seem to be
acclimating to the notion that they have two
cultures that form them ; one is a Japanese
culture and the other is an American culture, and
they’re part Japanese, they’re part American,
they have part Japanese heritage, they have part
American heritage, and they’re entitled to know
both heritages, they’re entitled to know
grandparents from their Japanese heritage .

And what she will do when she gets to Japan
and she’s under the pressure of her family and
friends to stay there and not return, remains to
be seen.

(pg 121)
THE COURT: And she clearly understood that when she was
coming to the United States, she wasn’t coming
here to reconcile . And it was clear she came here knowing that
her husband was involved with another woman, and
she came here knowing that he wanted a divorce .
(snip, pg 122)
And it’s clear to this Court that it’s in
the best interest of these children that these
children–and I’ll say it again–have a
relationship with their father, and that they
also understand their Japanese culture and
heritage, and it’s part of their makeup, and that
they unde, and their American culture and
heritage as part of their makeup .
So based on the limited issue that’s before
me, the Court’s going to dissolve the restraining

COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  So the retraining order gets dissolved and Noriko breaks her sworn promises.  That is the background to the case.  Her current extraterritoriality notwithstanding, she broke the law, and now there’s an arrest warrant out on her.  That’s what occasioned Christopher taking the drastic actions that he did.

Now, speaking as a left-behind parent myself might be coloring my attitude towards this issue. But divorces are nearly always messy and fault can be found with both sides in mediations. And the fact remains that Noriko did what so many Japanese will do in these situations — abduct the children and claim Japan as a safe haven. Then the children are NEVER returned, and usually contact is completely broken off with the left-behind parent for the remainder of the childhood.

This is an untenable situation. And it must stop. For the sake of the children. This in my mind is undisputable. The children must be returned to Dr Savoie in order to discourage this sort of thing happening again. Anything else is just more encouragement for Japanese to abduct their children.

More media up on the case later today.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Candlelight vigil re Christopher Savoie arrest Sat Oct 3 2PM outside Japanese Embassy to US in Wash DC (corrected)


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
twitter: arudoudebito
FYI: (sorry, corrected)

“Rally and Candelight Vigil to Free Christopher Savoie” on Saturday, October 3 at 2:00pm.

Event: Rally and Candelight Vigil to Free Christopher Savoie
What: Rally
Start Time: Saturday, October 3 at 2:00pm
End Time: Saturday, October 3 at 5:00pm
Where: In front of the Japanese Embassy to the United States

More information:


CNN and NBC TODAY Show: American attempts to recover his abducted kids, is turned away from Fukuoka Consulate, arrested for “kidnapping”


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. This has been big news all of yesterday. (I’m pretty strict about only doing one major blog post per day — otherwise I’d have floods and famines of news instead of dribs and drabs — so sorry for the delay on reporting this. And thanks to the dozens of people who sent articles.  Here goes:)

An American named Christopher Savoie faced a case of child abduction when his Japanese ex-wife Noriko did something that is increasingly coming to light (and has been featured prominently on in the past):  abducted their children to Japan.

Japan has now become truly infamous as a haven for international child abductions, due not only to its non-signatory status vis-a-vis the Hague Treaty on International Child Abductions, but also because its problematic koseki Family Registry system enables one parent sole custody of the kids (and no visitation rights — I know:  I’m divorced, and despite Japanese citizenship, I’ve seen one of my daughters all of *once* over the past close to five years): abduction and lack of contact in Japan happens regardless of nationality, but it’s particularly disadvantageous for NJ because they don’t even have a koseki to put their children on (not to mention the difficulty of conducting an intercontinental custody battle).

This issue has been brought up numerous times internationally over the years, to a lot of handwringing (and some biased domestic media coverage) on the part of Japan. Consequently, no abducted child to Japan, according to a number of embassies and and the upcoming documentary FROM THE SHADOWS, has EVER been returned. Even though, in Mr Savoie’s case, he was awarded custody of his children by a Tennessee court, and there is an arrest warrant out for his wife in the US.

So Mr Savoie did something I consider very brave.  He came to Japan and tried to retrieve his children.  He put them in his car and did a runner for the Fukuoka US Consulate.  However, according to online and word-of-mouth sources familiar with this case, the American Consulate would not open the gate for him.  One left-behind father commented to a mailing list thusly:

It does not surprise me one bit. I met with the U.S. Embassy in Okinawa shortly after my daughter was abducted and I found her there [in Okinawa]. They told me flat out that is what they would do if I tried to bring her [to the Consulate], in spite of the U.S. Warrants for her mother’s arrest and the U.S. Court papers showing that I had full unconditional custody of my daughter.

I’ve known for quite some time that the USG is quite unhelpful towards its citizens, but this is getting ridiculous.  Especially since the children are also US citizens.

Mr Savoie was then arrested by Japanese police and charged with kidnapping — a charge that may incarcerate him for up to five years, and his outcome at this writing remains uncertain.

But it’s about time somebody took a stand like this, if you ask me, since no other channels are working (witness what happened in the very similar Murray Wood Case), and nothing short of this is probably going to draw the attention this situation needs.  Bravo Mr Savoie!

CNN has been the leader on reporting this case, and anchor Campbell Brown did an excellent report at 10:40 AM JST (I watched it intercontinentally over skype with a friend), with CNN’s legal counsel commenting agape at how Japan’s courts ignore overseas rulings and allow one family to capture the kids after divorce.  They also had an interview with Paul Toland, a commander in the US Navy, who similarly lost his child 6 years ago — and when his ex-wife died two years ago, the Japanese courts awarded custody to his Japanese mother-in-law!  Very, very sobering.

See that report here:

Download that report in mp4 format here:

Anderson Cooper also took it up, guest-starring Christopher’s current wife Amy Savoie and international lawyer Jeremy Morley:

NBC’s TODAY Show took this up this morning US time, with special guests Jeremy Morley, FROM THE SHADOWS director Matt Antell, and Amy again (can’t embed, so click):

CNNj’s Kyung Lah, however, did some pretty lackluster reporting, where they ended the show with relativities and how Noriko too is legally permitted the kids in Japan.  Aw shucks.  Don’t it just sting when people do these things to each other, don’tcha know?  Why can’t we just all get along?

Local TV in Nashville, Tennessee did a much better job, reporting surprising negligence on the part of the local judge who granted Noriko the right to leave the country in the first place with the kids, despite advance evidence in writing that Noriko was threatening to abduct them (the judge declined to comment for the report).  Text and TV here:

Finally, some more media courtesy of the assiduous coverage of Mark at the Children’s Rights Network Japan (CRN), your one-stop shopping for all information relating to international child abduction cases involving Japanese.  Recent news stories up at CRN about the issue here.  And just go here for the latest in real time:

The latest: CNN reports the GOJ claiming Savoie is a naturalized Japanese citizen!  See article at very bottom as this story keeps mushrooming…

Arudou Debito in Sapporo



A Story that CRN Japan reported on just last week has taken a sorry turn!

TOKYO, Japan (CNN September 29, 2009) — Had this parental abduction drama played out in the United States, Christopher Savoie might be considered a hero — snatching his two little children back from an ex-wife who defied the law and ran off with them.

A Tennessee court awarded Christopher Savoie custody of his son, Isaac, and daughter, Rebecca.

But this story unfolds 7,000 miles away in the Japanese city of Fukuoka, where the U.S. legal system holds no sway.

And here, Savoie sits in jail, charged with the abduction of minors. And his Japanese ex-wife — a fugitive in the United States for taking his children from Tennessee — is considered the victim.

“Japan is an important partner and friend of the U.S., but on this issue, our points of view differ,” the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said Tuesday. “Our two nations approach divorce and child-rearing differently. Parental child abduction is not considered a crime in Japan.”

The story begins in Franklin, Tennessee, with the divorce of Savoie from his first wife, Noriko, a Japanese native.

The ex-wife had agreed to live in Franklin to be close to the children, taking them to Japan for summer vacations.

But in August — on the first day of classes for 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca — the school called to say they hadn’t arrived.

Worried, Savoie called his ex-wife’s father in Japan, who told him not to worry.

“I said, ‘What do you mean — don’t worry? They weren’t at school.’ ‘Oh, don’t worry, they are here,’ ” Savoie recounted the conversation to CNN affiliate WTVF earlier this month. “I said, ‘They are what, they are what, they are in Japan?’ ”

After the abduction, a court in Williamson County, Tennessee, granted Savoie full custody of the children. And Franklin police issued an arrest warrant for his ex-wife, the television station reported.

But there was a major hitch: Japan is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction.

The international agreement standardizes laws, but only among participating countries.

So while Japanese civil law stresses that courts resolve custody issues based on the best interest of the children without regard to the parent’s nationality, foreign parents have had little success in regaining custody.

Japanese family law follows a tradition of sole custody divorces. When a couple splits, one parent typically makes a complete and lifelong break from the children.

The International Association for Parent-Child Reunion, formed in Japan this year, claims to know of more than 100 cases of children abducted by noncustodial Japanese parents.

And the U.S. State Department says it is not aware of a single case in which a child taken from the United States to Japan has been ordered returned by Japanese courts — even when the left-behind parent has a U.S. custody decree.

Saddled with such statistics and the possibility of never seeing his kids again, Savoie took matters into his own hands.

He flew to Fukuoka. And as his ex-wife walked the two children to school Monday morning, Savoie drove alongside them.

He grabbed them, forced them into his car, and drove off, said police in Fukuoka.

He headed for the U.S. consulate in Fukuoka to try to obtain passports for Isaac and Rebecca.

But Japanese police, alerted by Savoie’s ex-wife, were waiting.

Consulate spokeswoman Tracy Taylor said she heard a scuffle outside the doors of the consulate. She ran up and saw a little girl and a man, whom police were trying to talk to.

Eventually, police took Savoie away, charging him with the abduction of minors — a crime that upon conviction carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

The consulate met with Savoie on Monday and Tuesday, Taylor said. It has provided him with a list of local lawyers and said it will continue to assist.

Meanwhile, the international diplomacy continues. During the first official talks between the United States and Japan’s new government, the issue of parental abductions was raised.

But it is anybody’s guess what happens next to Savoie, who sits in a jail cell.



Father, kids in custody case Japanese citizens, officials say

TOKYO, Japan (CNN September 30, 2009) — The case of a Tennessee man jailed in Japan for trying to snatch back his children from his estranged wife is not as clear-cut as it’s been made out to be, authorities here said Wednesday.

The father, Christopher Savoie, apparently became a naturalized Japanese citizen four years ago, listing a permanent address in Tokyo, they said.

And while he and Noriko Savoie, a Japanese native, divorced in Tennessee, the two never annulled their marriage in Japan, Japanese officials said.

Also, the two children at the center of the case hold Japanese passports, they said.

“His chances of getting his children back home to the States, I think, are pretty slim right now,” Jeremy Morley, Savoie’s lawyer in the United States, told CNN’s “AC 360” on Tuesday night. Watch how dad landed in Japanese jail »

“We’re getting this in the hands of Interpol. We’re putting the pressure,” he added. “We want diplomatic pressure. We want the United States government to act strongly.”

Savoie was arrested Monday when he snatched his two children — 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca — as Noriko Savoie was walking them to school in Fukuoka, about 680 miles (1,100 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Tokyo.

He headed for the U.S. consulate in that city to try to obtain passports for them, authorities said. But Japanese police, alerted by Noriko Savoie, arrested him.

Japanese authorities said Wednesday that Savoie was eating well and was staying in a jail cell by himself.

He will be held for 10 days while prosecutors sort out the details of the case. Watch a discussion of U.S.-Japan custody cases »

“I know he had to go to the hospital for blood pressure issues,” said Amy Savoie, whom Savoie married after divorcing Noriko Savoie in Tennessee in January. “The gentleman from the consulate was able to contact me this morning, and he confirmed that Christopher had gone to the hospital. The first night he needed medication for his high blood pressure.”

After their Tennessee divorce, Noriko Savoie agreed to live in Franklin, Tennessee, to be close to the children, taking them to Japan for summer vacations.

In March, Savoie requested a restraining order to prevent his wife from taking the children to Japan, fearing she would not return.

“I was on a speaker phone telephone call once when she proclaimed to him, ‘You have no idea what I’m capable of,” said Amy Savoie. “So, yes, he had the idea.”

Noriko Savoie could not be reached by CNN for comment.

On the day that the two children were to begin school in August, Savoie learned Noriko Savoie had fled with them to Japan.

After that, Savoie filed for and was granted full custody of the children by a Tennessee court. And Franklin police issued an arrest warrant for Noriko Savoie.

But Japan is not a party to a 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction.

Foreign parents have had little luck in regaining custody, the U.S. State Department said.

“She has committed a felony, the mother,” Morley said. “It’s a very serious felony. She would go to jail for serious time if she were here.

“But Japan has a different legal system and a different set of customs and ideas about custody. And their idea is that somebody who is Japanese and the mother should be entitled to have the kids and have the kids alone. The fact that they were living here is kind of irrelevant, and the fact that there’s a court order here is irrelevant.”

So, Savoie flew to Fukuoka to try to get back his children — and landed himself in jail.

“These kids are the ones that are suffering,” Morley said. “These kids are without their father, and their father needs to be a part of their life. It’s not fair that he’s been taken away from them.”

General Union: City govt seizes assets of NJ worker whose employer refused to pay for Shakai Hoken (Terrie’s Take and Japan Times articles too)


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Here we have a case of how NJ can be hurt by careless Immigration decisions. The upcoming requirement for all NJ to be enrolled in health insurance (shakai hoken), or else no visa granted, has been created without necessarily requiring negligent employers to pony up themselves. As usual it’s punishing the powerless. As I wrote on last August:

Here’s a good article in the Japan Times describing issues of health insurance and pensions, and how recent revisions clarifying that every resident in Japan (including NJ) must be enrolled may expose the graft that employers have been indulging in (”opting out” of paying mandatory social security fees, encouraging NJ not to pay them, or just preying on their ignorance by not telling them at all) to save money. The problem is, instead of granting an amnesty for those employees who unwittingly did not pay into the system, they’re requiring back payments (for however many years) to enroll or else they get no visa renewal! Once again, it’s the NJ employee who gets punished for the vices of the employer.

Now, according to the FGU, we have a case where the GOJ is seizing a NJ’s assets (not the negligent employer’s) for non-back-payments that the employer should have handled. Read on.  A Japan Times article also substantiates this practice of employers fudging working hours to escape paying into NJ health insurance (click here).

A recent Terrie’s Take is also included below for more background information.

And yet another Japan Times Zeit Gist column came out on this only yesterday — describing how half-baked the policy process and probable implementation has been! (click here)

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


City seizes bank account to pay health insurance premiums
General, Undated, Downloaded early September 2009

An ALT, after having received a letter from city hall demanding two years of back payments forKokumin Kenko Hoken (National Health Insurance), contacted the Fukuoka General Union (FGU).

What was troubling about this case was that until now, the teacher had never had any problems with insurance. His ex-employer, following the law, had enrolled him in Shakai Hoken (Employees Health and Pension Insurance).

The problem started with his new employer, who would not enroll him onto Shakai Hoken. Even though the teacher was required to be at work from 8:30 to 5:00 every day, the company told him that he did not work thirty hours per week and therefore was ineligible for Shakai Hoken. Now the story gets worse.

Not only was the city demanding back payments, but it seized 50,000yen from the teacher’s bank account. Why? Very simple. In Japan, all residents are required to be enrolled in health insurance. Since the employer failed to enroll in Shakai Hoken, the city’s position was that the teacher should be in the city run Kokumin Kenko Hoken system and therefore deducted the money that was owed to them.

The union’s position on payment was different because the union believes that the employer has a duty to enrol in Shakai Hoken. The union officer from FGU told the teacher to make sure that he cleared his bank account immediately after being paid each month. This should have prevented the seizure of more money from the account. But the story’s not over yet.

Finally, the teacher was called into his company’s head office and told that the city would be seizing 130,000yen from his pay. Sorry, the company couldn’t do anything to prevent it; the city has a right to the money. The employer couldn’t see that this could have been prevented if they had honoured the teacher’s right to Shakai Hokenenrolment.

The teacher now still has to pay all his back payments, and for the first time that the union has ever seen, the teacher will not be allowed Kokumin Kenko Hoken coverage until all his back payments are made.

A sign of things to come? Maybe. We wouldn’t recommend that you stick around to see if it’ll happen to you. Talk to your coworkers, join a union, and make sure that you get covered by Shakai Hoken.



More on the issue from Terrie Lloyd:

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E ‘S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, September 20, 2009 Issue No. 534


A revision to the immigration law passed in the Diet earlier this year has caused the Ministry of Justice to instruct the Immigration Bureau to start checking that foreigner residents in Japan are enrolled in one of the nation’s health insurance programs. Although not stated explicitly, the implication is that those without such enrollment may be denied a visa renewal. This will start happening from April 1st, 2010 and has a lot of foreigners concerned.

The reason for this concern is that although all residents of Japan, including foreigners, are supposed to be enrolled in one of the health insurance programs, and indeed, in one of the overall social insurance programs, the reality is that many people are not. Most such people are typically either self-employed, contractors, students, part-timers, unemployed people between jobs, or housewives (i.e., all outside the regular employee situation).

We have been following the various media and chat boards about the topic, and the conversations seem to follow three main threads: that the Japanese insurance program is unwanted and unfair to foreigners, that it is discriminatory vis-a-vis Japanese non-payers, and that come April 1st, what can people do about it?

We try to answer some of these questions below.

Most of us know the health insurance program through a collective social insurance package that most private companies are enrolled in, called Shakai Hoken. This refers to health (kenko hoken), pension (kosei nenkin), unemployment (koyo hoken), and nursing (kaigo hoken — for those over 40) insurances. Effectively for most of us, these insurances function as a 16% tax, and result in us getting that much less in our take-home pay packets every month. Our employers also pay out the same 16% to the government as their contribution.

Thus, for those of us on lower-to-medium salaries (say, JPY300,000 a month), while you may think you’re only paying out 20% or so for your payroll taxes (being 10%-12% average for national tax and 10% or so for your local inhabitance tax), in actual fact the real number is more like 38%. If you’re in the higher tax brackets, then this number goes much higher — into the 45%+ range.

As many readers will know, there are four main social insurance programs of which health insurance is part: the Shakai Hoken program which most private companies are subscribed to, the Kokumin Hoken program, which is for people not in regular employment or who are self-employed, private insurance programs which are run by a few major Japanese conglomerates, and a government employee program. For most of us, getting a visa renewal will mean being enrolled in either the Shakai Hoken or Kokumin Hoken programs.

Come April 1st next year, what can you do if you are not currently a contributor to social insurance? We contacted the Immigration Bureau to ask this question, and from what we can tell, they themselves have not yet settled on a policy of how to handle non-compliant people. They did say that they will only be checking for health insurance certificates, not pension and other insurances. So we suppose that the simplest answer is to go get yourself enrolled now in the Kokumin Kenko Hoken program. However, since there are a number of exemption categories for kenko hoken (working in a company of less than 5 people, for example), we suppose it might be possible to present yourself as being an exempt person, with, we think, some chance of being able to convince the interviewing officer that your visa should be renewed.

But is it really worth all the risk and hassle?

So how is it that people have been allowed to get away with not paying in health and other social welfare taxes until now? There doesn’t seem to be an official reason, however, we believe it is because the government for the longest time held that the social insurance package was NOT a tax but rather a benefit, which is why it has not been administrated by the National Tax Agency. This duality of positioning caused the Social Insurance Agency (SIA) to be run differently, and unlike the Tax Agency, has for many decades decided for itself whether to make people pay or not. As we all know, this has changed over the last 5 years, as it came to light that the SIA not only let people off having to pay, but also themselves lost 50MM or so contributor records.

It seems that the new government position is that the SIA once it has been reorganized into a new agency next year, will function more like the National Tax Agency. Indeed, we think that within 5-10 years, the two will be merged, and then the Japanese public will be faced with the reality that Social Insurance really is a tax, not just a pretend one.

So you’re stuck with having to pay at least something. The good news is that if you’re self-employed, a contractor, or a student, you can pay directly to the government, and the rates are not all that unreasonable — certainly the overall cost of social insurance is significantly cheaper than if you’re a regular salaryperson. As a general guide:

* Kokumin Nenkin (National Pension) — JPY14,660/month currently

* Kokumin Kenko Hoken (National Health Insurance) — roughly about 9%. Actual premium is based on your previous year’s taxable income and number of dependents. Annual premiums range up to JPY530,000/year (JPY44,166/month)

* Kaigo Hoken — only paid by those over 40. Levied as portion of previous year’s taxable income, up to JPY90,000/year

Lastly, is the threat of withholding a foreigner’s visa renewal if they don’t pay their social insurance fair? Our guess is that this point may eventually be taken to court by someone caught by the new rule. It is clear that Social Insurance is NOT a tax yet, and in June this year the Nikkei ran an article saying that the Social Insurance Agency had a contributor compliance rate for Japanese citizens for National Pension of just 62.1% (no word on the health rate) — so obviously there are plenty of Japanese not paying in to the system. Yet, we don’t hear of anyone being punished for that. In fact, just the opposite, the Agency allows people who are on low wages to only pay a portion of their obligations, and so the real non-full compliance rate for social insurance is just 45.6%!

Bad luck if you’re a foreigner… you don’t get to choose.

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THE OTARU ONSENS LAWSUIT, TEN YEARS ON: Article for Japonesia Review


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Today is the tenth anniversary of our visit, on September 19, 1999,  to “Japanese Only” Yunohana Onsen et al in Otaru, a life-changing event that to this day has not been fully resolved — mainly because we still don’t have a law against racial discrimination in Japan.  This situation remains more than 13 years after Japan effecting of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, where it promised to take “all measures, including legislation” to effectively eliminate all forms of RD.  And it deserves comment and reflection after years of protests, two books, countless articles, and successful lawsuits against the onsen (albeit not against the negligent City of Otaru).

I wrote this article by invitation for the Japonesia Review last January and submitted it in February.  After more than seven months’ wait, I see no reason not to publish it here in advance on on this auspicious occasion.  Written in a simpler style for a non-native audience, there are some anachronisms within (such as regarding FRANCA’s founding).  Enjoy.

My thoughts on this day are bittersweet.  I know we did the right thing (as Olaf noted, when I called him today, people are still talking about the case), and we had a good outcome in court.  But I judge things like this based upon whether or not they could ever happen again.  The answer is, unfortunately, yes.  After all, all Yunohana Onsen has to do is put up another “Japanese Only” sign and we’d have to take them to court all over again just to get it down.  There is no law to stop it, nothing for authorities to enforce.  Ten years later, it feels more overdue now than in 1999.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo




What has and has not changed regarding human rights for Non-Japanese in Japan.



Photo Caption:  The author in front of Yunohana Onsen, Otaru.

(Photo courtesy Shouya Grigg of

For publication in Japonesia Review 2009, Submitted February 3, 2009 and still not published.



On September 19, 1999, a group of seventeen people went to take a bath at a “super sento” (public bathhouse) named Yunohana Onsen ( in Otaru, Hokkaido.  All seventeen were Japanese, except for three Caucasian males (including the author) from America and Germany, and one Chinese woman from Shanghai.  She, like the non-Japanese (NJ) men, was married to a Japanese and came to Yunohana as an international family.  We had heard over the Internet that Yunohana, Otaru’s largest bathhouse, was not only refusing entry to NJ, they were even openly displaying a “JAPANESE ONLY” sign on their front door in three languages (Japanese, English, and Russian).


Caption:  Yunohana Onsen’s exclusionary sign, 1999

As soon as everyone had entered and bought tickets, we were told that the three Caucasian males in our group (your author included) were not allowed inside.

Consulting with the manager on duty, we heard Yunohana’s justification:  Russian sailors (who at the time were frequent visitors to and traders with Otaru) had a history of not following bathhouse rules, therefore were not allowed in because they might cause trouble and inconvenience Japanese customers.  When we made it clear that we were neither Russian sailors nor troublemakers, Yunohana said it did not matter:  “Refusing only Russians would be discrimination.  So we refuse all foreigners equally.”

All foreigners?  All.  “How about our Chinese friend you allowed in?”  As soon as they realized their mistake, management showed her the door.  We asked them further about their criteria for determining who was “Japanese”, since it was clear by this example that it was whether somebody looked “Asian” enough.  So my wife at the time asked about our daughters, both of whom were born and raised in Japan, spoke Japanese as their first language, and have Japanese citizenship.


One looks more Asian, with black hair and brown eyes, while one looks more Western, with brown hair and bluish eyes.  How would they be treated under Yunohana’s rules?

“The Japanese-looking one can come in.  But the younger one who looks like a gaijin will be refused entry.”

This made it clear to everyone, nationwide, that “Japanese Only” signs and rules would affect Japanese citizens too.


If you want to know more about what happened next in the Otaru Case, please read (in English or Japanese) Arudou Debito, “JAPANESE ONLY” — The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan[1] (Akashi Shoten Inc, 2003 and 2004, both books revised 2006).  The books describe the worldwide debate on the issue; the months of extralegal efforts made to get “Japanese Only” signs down at Yunohana, at other onsens, in other business sectors, and in other cities around Japan; and the successful lawsuit filed against Yunohana Onsen and the City of Otaru that went all the way up to the Supreme Court.

September 19, 2009 marks ten years since we visited Yunohana.  Here is a survey of how things have changed, or not changed, in the past decade regarding human rights for NJ in Japan:

1) A spread of “Japanese Only” signs and rules around Japan.[2]

A website devoted to businesses with exclusionary signs and rules called “The Rogues’ Gallery” (, coordinated by the author, has collected photographic evidence on over 150 places, in 29 cities and towns across Japan, with “Japanese Only” signs and rules.  Some places (such as Yuransen bathhouse in Wakkanai, Hokkaido, and bars in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture) directly copied the very substance and style of Otaru’s “Japanese Only” signs.


Bathhouse “Osupa”, Otaru, 2000.   Hands holding up newspaper substantiating the date are the author’s.


Bar “Globe”, Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, 2002.  Note capital “J”, small “o”, font style of “a”, and “y” with a tail.

The language of “Japanese Only” has clearly become established as a “meme” (learned cultural behavior), as a concise and comprehensive way of saying “stay out” to undesirable customers — who just happen to lack (or look like they lack) Japanese citizenship.[AD1]


Hotel “Tsubakuro”, Hyakunincho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 2003.


Internet café “Dragon BOZ”, Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, 2006.


B-Ball billiards hall, Uruma, Okinawa, 2006


Bar “Santa Monica”, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture 2004.  Manager confirming author’s Japanese passport before telling him to leave the premises, as the bar is “Japanese Only”.

Cause:  Despite signing the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1995 (effected 1996), and despite Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution banning discrimination by “race, creed, sex, social status, or family origin”, Japan still has no law against discrimination by race.  This means that if a “Japanese Only” sign goes up, there is no law in the Civil or Criminal Code for police or authorities to enforce, demanding that signs come down and rules change.  To the present day, as in 1999, there are no legal means, outside of a courtroom, for people who are discriminated against to stop it.

Effect:  If there are no means to stop this kind of discrimination, it spreads, because it is a “quick fix”.  It is convenient for vigilantes (who dislike, fear, or do not want to be bothered with NJ) to put a sign barring them.  A “Japanese Only” sign up in public lends legitimacy to the exclusion, and encourages copycatting.  Numerous interviews carried out by the author of exclusionary establishments have demonstrated a theme of, “We’re not the only ones with the sign up, so why pick on us?”  Like any “tipping point”, enough occurrences can lead to a threshold where isolated instances become legitimized by numbers and precedent, leading to an established practice.  That is how discrimination spreads:  strength in numbers.

2) The rubric of “Japanese Only” is still based upon physical appearance.

The author of this essay is a naturalized Japanese citizen.  However, as the reader can see from his photo at the very beginning, a change of passport has not led to a change from Caucasian to Asian.  In the majority of interviews I have had with exclusionary businesses, they have said that even after seeing proof of my Japanese citizenship (my passport or driver license), I would still be excluded from the premises.  “You don’t look Japanese.  It’ll cause misunderstandings,” was the standard reason.

Cause:  Japan still makes a strong association with face/race and nationality, i.e. Japanese people look “Japanese”.  Indubitably part of the reason is that Japanese society and media have had limited exposure to “non-Asian Japanese”, such as soccer star Ramos Rui, tarento Konda Bobbi (ne Bobby Ologun), and Dietmember Tsurunen Marutei, to name but a few.  There has, however, been copious exposure to international Japanese children Miyazawa Rie, Umemiya Anna, Rebecca Eri RayVaughan (aka “Bekkii”), and also to naturalized citizens with more Asian faces like sumo wrestlers Konishiki and Akebono.  However, it is unclear that the public eye has done a complete connect between “Japanese citizenship through roots” and “Japanese citizenship by legal application”, which would mean that “Japaneseness is a legal status”, not a blood status.  Reinforcing this disconnect are Japan’s nationality laws, currently under consideration for revision, which explicitly say that Japanese status is something inherited.  The laws are jus sanguinis, meaning you must have a Japanese blood relative in order to automatically get Japanese citizenship.

Effect:  Many Japanese citizens who do not “look Japanese” will be treated as NJ — not only this author, but also many hundreds of thousands of children of international marriages.  Japan’s international marriages are currently about 40,000 per year, up substantially from about 30,000 in 2000, and the number of “mixed children” born annually to be about 21,000[3].  Like the “tipping point” mentioned above that encourages the spread of “Japanese Only” signs, I anticipate that there will be a similar “tipping point” where people realize that racial admixtures are still Japanese.  “Conditional Japanese” (as in “half”, “quarter”, “double”, “mix”) have been in the lexicon for quite some time.  I think the qualifiers will fade as the numbers increase.  Accepting naturalized “non-blood Japanese” will take longer.  However, without laws against racial discrimination, one’s face will still not save many “people of mixture” from capricious or ignorant treatment as apparent NJ.

3) “Monocultural, monoethnic Japan” is officially no longer.

Japan’s public policy is also surprisingly exclusionary.  Postwar Japan has had public speech at the highest levels (most famously former Prime Minister Nakasone in 1986) extolling “ethnic homogeneity” and “racial purity” as a strength.  The Japanese government has repeatedly reported to the UN that the CERD treaty was not applicable to Japan.  Japan apparently has no racial minorities (moreover that all people who were in fact racially different were not citizens, therefore also not covered)[4].  This is reinforced in public policymaking.  When one reads white papers and laws, the rubric is that the policy is for the benefit of “citizens” (kokumin)[5], as opposed to “taxpayers” (nouzeisha) or “residents” (juumin).  Thanks to the vagaries of the Residency Certificate (juuminhyou) system[6], NJ are still not officially listed or counted as “juumin“.  Local governments (such as Tokyo Nerima-ku[7]) also do not include NJ in their tally of “residents”.  Nor does the National Census (kokusei chousa) survey residents for ethnicity (minzoku) — only nationality (kokuseki).  Nor does the Ministry of Health always include NJ (or even newly-naturalized citizens) in its tally of population growth or shrinkage:  preferring to use a simple calculation of “births minus deaths”[8].

That said, in June 6, 2008, the Diet for the first time unanimously passed a resolution stating that the Ainu aboriginal people of Hokkaido were a “indigenous people with a distinct language, religion, and culture”.  For the first time, Japan’s government did not ignore an ethnic minority in its public policy, and in fact had set up a government panel to study remedial actions.

Cause:  It was good timing.  As was discussed in this forum (Ota Masakuni, Japonesia Review No. 5, 2008), both the confluence of a UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review on Japan in May, and the Hokkaido G8 Summit (where Hokkaido minority issues were gaining attention and traction) in July that same year, contributed to a push the Fukuda Administration to offer this showcase for human rights.  A multi-partisan “Concerned Diet Members’ Group for the Rights of the Ainu” spearheaded the drive.

Effect:  On September 28, 2008, new Transport Minister Nakayama Nariaki resigned over various gaffes (including calling Nikkyouso schoolteacher union “a cancer”) that reflected older-school thinking:  Speaking on behalf of Japan’s new tourism agency, he mentioned that Japan was “ethnically homogeneous” and in general “Japanese don’t like foreigners”.  He was roundly criticized, notably by Social Democratic Party leader Fukushima Mizuho, who said, “Is he ignorant of a Diet resolution which all the members (of both houses of the Diet) supported?”[9] Thus began an ignominious start to the 2008 Aso Cabinet, which helped set the tone for the rest of his unpopular administration.  This is the first time a resignation has resulted from a “homogeneous” remark, a far cry from the days of Nakasone.

That said, Ota notes that without a supplemental change in historical perspective in the Japanese public, the consequences for Ainu and other (unrecognized) minority rights may be “inconclusive” (the abovementioned government panel, after all, only has one Ainu member).  Similarly, it is probably too early to draw conclusions or show undue pessimism at this time.  Wait and see.

4) Japan’s economics and demographics are making immigration inevitable.

Japan is still the second-largest economy by GDP and by most measures larger than all other Asian economies combined.  The current worldwide economic downturn notwithstanding, Japan has for three decades had a labor shortage.  The government recognized this in 1990 and, at the behest of the industrial lobby, inaugurated a backdoor “Trainee”, “Researcher”, and “Returnee” (teijuusha for overseas Nikkei) working visa program.  This regime brought over millions of cheap Asian and South American laborers, more than doubled the NJ population of 1990 from one million to two, and fundamentally shifted the top three NJ ethnicities from 1) Korea (North and South), 2) China, and 3) The Philippines[10] to 1) China, 2) Korea, and 3) Brazil.  Industrial towns in Shizuoka, Gifu, and Aichi Prefectures showed NJ population percentages in the double digits, and for the first time mayors of these towns were demanding the national government secure equal rights and enhanced access to social services for their NJ residents[11].  NJ were coming to Japan, being welcomed, and put to work.

They were filling a gap.  Thanks to the low birthrate and long life expectancies of the Japanese public, the UN and the Obuchi Administration in 2000 jointly recognized that the Japanese population was aging, and would decrease by the late 2000s if Japan did not import 600,000 NJ per annum[12].  Japan has, on average this decade, imported a net total of 50,000 NJ per annum.  Sure enough, by 2007, Japan’s population was first officially announced as dropping.  If trends continue, by 2050, according to Shuukan Ekonomisuto (January 15, 2008, pg 16), the percentage of Japanese over retirement age (65) is projected to be more than half of the entire population.  Who will man the factories, pay in taxes, and maintain social security pension payments?  NJ keep Japanese society young and the birthrate from falling further.  The government is currently deliberating scrapping the current backdoor-labor visa regime, and establishing an official immigration policy.


The author and two other plaintiffs sued both Yunohana Onsen and the City of Otaru for racial discrimination and negligence under the CERD.  Yunohana lost both in Sapporo District and High Court, and was ordered to pay plaintiffs one million yen each for “unrational discrimination”.  The City of Otaru won in Sapporo District Court, High Court, and the Supreme Court; the District and High Courts grounded their arguments in “separation of powers” arguments (as in, the judiciary cannot force a government body to pass laws against discrimination, and cannot hold one accountable for not doing so).  The Supreme Court ruled that this contravention of Article 14 was “not a Constitutional issue”[13].

Yunohana Onsen took their “Japanese Only” sign down shortly before the lawsuit began, but never apologized for its action.  It took advantage of the publicity from the lawsuit to open new branches.  Yunohana is now a chain with outlets in Otaru Temiya, Otaru Asari, Sapporo Jozankei, and Ebetsu.  Other places and business sectors around Hokkaido and Japan still have their “Japanese Only” signs up.

The Japanese government made it clear to the UN again in March 2008 that it has no intention of creating a law against racial discrimination, reiterating that it has an active judiciary for grievances, therefore no laws are necessary.  It stressed in the indicatively-named “Third, fourth, fifth, and sixth combined periodic report to the UN HRC”[14] that it had taken “every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination” (begging the question why passing a law is “inconceivable”).  Several draft bills have been submitted to the Diet and to the Otaru City Government, but all have died in deliberation.

Author and plaintiff Arudou Debito still works as a university educator at Hokkaido Information University in Ebetsu.  Author of two books on the Otaru Onsens Case, Arudou, 44, has recently co-authored another book to help NJ make more secure lives in Japan:  Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan (Akashi Shoten Inc. 2008, English and Japanese).  He also is setting up an NPO called FRANCA[15] to better lobby for rights of NJ in the political sphere.  He sees the Ebetsu branch of Yunohana every day on his drive to work.


2600 WORDS


[2] More information on this in Japanese in「『外国人』入店禁止という人種差別」(有道 出人 著)、単行本『日本の民族差別 人種差別撤廃条約からみた課題)』p218ー229、岡本雅享先生監修・編著、明石書店(株)2005年6月出版

[3] “Japanese youth help compatriots embrace diversity”, Christian Science Monitor, January 18, 2008,

[4] The text of the debate between Japan and the United Nations may be found at

[5] See example at “Forensic Science Fiction:  Bad science and racism underpin police policy.”  Japan Times, January 13, 2004, at, particularly sidebar at bottom.



[8] “Japan sees biggest population fall”, Associated Press, printed in the Manchester Guardian, January 2, 2009,



[11] See for example the Hamamatsu Sengen at

[12] Arudou, Debito, “The Coming Internationalization:  Can Japan assimilate its immigrants”.  Japan Focus, January 12, 2006,




[AD1]To Hikaru:  Play with the layout and put these signs around the article as you like.  More at

Eikaiwa NOVA embezzler and former boss Saruhashi gets his: 3.5 years


Hi Blog.  Sorry to be so late in reporting this, but some good news a couple of weeks ago:  Eikaiwa NOVA embezzler and former boss Saruhashi gets his:  sentenced to 3.5 years in the clink.  No word if the employees are going to get their money back, however.

More background details on this case here (plug in the word “sahashi”) into search engine.  More on here.

Arudou Debito in Nagoya


Nova boss handed 3 1/2 years
Staff writer
The Japan Times Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009

OSAKA — Former Nova President Nozomu Sahashi was sentenced Wednesday to 3 1/2 years in prison by the Osaka District Court for his role in skimming off employee funds in 2007, just before the foreign language school giant’s bankruptcy that October.

Presiding Judge Hiroaki Higuchi’s severe sentence took some in the courtroom by surprise. Prosecutors had sought five years for the former president of what was once the country’s largest foreign language school chain and employer of foreign nationals. Sahashi is expected to appeal the sentence.

Sahashi was charged with funneling nearly ¥320 million from employee benefit funds to a bank account belonging to a Nova affiliate in July 2007. He denied embezzling the funds, telling the court he used the money on behalf of his employees.

He tried to portray himself as only one of a group of senior Nova executives responsible for the decision. But the judge said that given the amount of money and his authority, Sahashi bore a heavy responsibility for the crime.

Rest of the article at

Naturalized J citizen Jiei stopped by Osaka cops for Gaijin Card check. Shitsukoidom ensues


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 JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Here’s an important bellwether essay from Jiei, a fellow naturalized Japanese citizen who was singled out for a Gaijin Card Check by Osaka Cops last night. He tells the story of how he stood up for himself despite being explicitly suspected of being drunk or on drugs, and for sitting on a swingset while white when taking a break from jogging in a park. He cites the law back to the cops chapter and verse, but they undeterredly continue the questioning and racial profiling. I won’t give away the ending.

The point is, this is going to happen more and more often as more people naturalize, and more Japanese of international marriages come of age and get hassled for not looking “Japanese” enough to allay cops’ suspicion. This is not legally sanctioned, in any case. Which means people must learn about their rights and assert them, because there are no other checks and balances here.  Read on.

Thanks to Jiei for bringing this up to government-registered human rights group FRANCA.  Join us if you like.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Like Debito, I am a former American naturalized Japanese citizen. While I don’t look Japanese, I also had to jump over many hurdles for my naturalization application to be accepted by the government a year ago, and now I’m proud to call myself a Japanese and be recognized as a fully contributing member of this country.

Living here has had its ups and downs; I’ve been stopped at least 10 times by the police when I was a foreigner (once when I was leaving my apartment in the morning to go shopping because I “just looked suspicious”!), yet I never tried to exercise my full rights as Debito did, partly because of ignorance and partly because of fear.

However, tonight (09/7/25) I just had my first experience being stopped by the police as a Japanese citizen, and the situation was different. This time, I was going jogging around the park near my house in Osaka prefecture around midnight (something I always do since I work late and cannot go jogging during the daytime.) The park is a popular spot for teenagers to hang out at night, so I was not alone that night.

I took a short rest on the swings and then tried to leave the park from the main entrance to continue my run, when two “around 30” police officers on bicycles approached me from behind and suddenly stopped me with a loud “Konbanwa! Doko ikun’ desuka?” I removed my headphones and took a deep breath since I knew exactly where this was heading, and tried to prepare myself for the coming debate.

The two officers “greeted” me again and the proceeded to surround me on both sides as if to stop me from escaping easily. I was looking down at my cell phone the time, so the officer on the left asked if I was drunk or on drugs. Slightly amused, I closed my eyes and touched my nose with my index fingers to show that I wasn’t drunk. The one on the right looked at my face and simply said “Torokusho!” I asked him what he was talking about, and he repeated “Gaikokujin torokusho!” while making a rectangular symbol with his hands.

I stared at him for a moment and replied, “I am a Japanese citizen, I don’t have any alien registration card.” He looked genuinely shocked and asked me again twice if I was indeed Japanese. I simply responded,”I am Japanese.” When asked to show my driver’s license to prove it, I replied, “I refuse!”

The officer on the left then ordered me to empty my pockets and show my identification, so I said “Sure, I have my identification right here!” and pulled a copy of the “Keisatsukan Shokumu Shikkou Hou” that I always keep in my wallet, and showed the officer on the right the letter of the law concerning voluntary questioning by police officers.

Surprised, he asked, “What is this? Why did you pull something like this out?” I told them it’s the law concerning police activity and asked them if my actions (kyodou) seemed strange (fushin) to them and if they had probable cause (soutou na riyuu) to stop me.

When they both responded with a strong and clear “yes,” I asked if going for a jog is a crime in Japan. They both responded no, and then asked if I lived near the park. I deflected the question and said that it was quite rude of them to approach me and assume I was a foreigner and treat me like this.

The officer on the right laughingly apologized but then continued to ask if I was “haafu” or where I was born. I told them I refuse to answer any questions because police questioning is voluntary. They asked me “Why do you keep a copy of the law in your pocket? Are you trying to hide anything?” I spread my palms out to show I had nothing hidden, and replied that I was studying law and asked them if they were aware of the constitution or the code of criminal procedure.

The officer on the left said, “then you must know that voluntary questioning by police officers is a legally sanctioned activity (keisatsu katsudou.) I replied “That’s true, and it is also voluntary, so I have the legal right to refuse your questioning.” The officer on the right then repeated, “but we have the right to stop and ask you.” I repeated, “I have the right to not answer.”

This was repeated many times and after calmly debating with them for five minutes about what the meaning of “voluntary” (nin’i) is, and after repeated requests to show my license, the officer on the right asked if this was my first time getting stopped by the police, to which I said, “What do you think? With a face like this I’ve been stopped many many times in my life.”

The officer on the left finally changed his attitude and said, “Well then, at least tell us your name, job, family member’s names and where you live!” Naturally, I refused this also and said, “if you want to search me or see my license, you first need to arrest me or have a warrant. I am not on drugs, nor am I a criminal. I have been singled out for looking different many times now and I refuse to put up with it any longer. I know the law, so I honestly want to be arrested and take this to court; I’m sure I’ll win in the end even if I have to take this to the Supreme Court!”

After asking if they had their handcuffs ready and if they were going to arrest me, they both laughed and the officer on the left said, “Who’s talking about arresting you, we just want to see your identification! Don’t you have anything?” I then pulled out my wallet and waved it around. “My identification is in this wallet but I refuse to show it and if you want to see it, arrest me here and now.”

After more repetitive requests to identify myself and prove I am Japanese, they received a police report on their walkie-talkies, and finally sped off on their bicycles without saying anything or even looking back at me.

All in all, they were actually very calm about the whole thing; they seemed half amused to debate the meaning of the law with a “suspicious foreigner looking type” like me. To tell the truth, I was surprised at how easily they gave up without ask me to go to a police station with them, trying to search my pockets, or even actually see my driver’s license.

While it may sound that I was fearless, I was actually quite nervous and my legs and hands were trembling, so I forgot to ask to see their badges and note their information or try to walk away during the questioning.

Yet when I returned home and told my native Japanese friends about this, they were not so supportive of me. They all simply asked why I didn’t show my license first and not go through any hassle. I told them that this was a bigger issue about legal rights. I am definitely not the fighting type, and I basically keep to myself and try not to make any waves. However, I refuse to be treated as a second-class citizen in my own country, and if need be, I am absolutely willing to risk being arrested for standing up for what I believe in.

I’m sure that I will be stopped again in the future many times, along with all other non-Asian looking people in Japan, but I plan to stand up for my rights every time. While confronting the police and asserting your rights so clearly like this is not for everyone, I hope that my experience proves that calmly using the law to assert your rights does work in Japan, and can make a difference!



By the way, concerning the legality of photographing police officers’ badges…unfortunately Japan has no clear law concerning image rights (shozoken) and the leading supreme court decision in the Hayashi Masumi case found that while people generally have the right to not have their images taken and published without reason, image rights still have to be considered specially in each case based on the situation…leaving things still unclear.

However, considering that they were public servants on duty and I needed to confirm their identity since I didn’t have a pen to write it doen, I think that I would have a case if it went to court. However, it would take a clear Supreme Court verdict to give a definitive answer. In any case, as seen from the many shokumu shitsumon videos uploaded on YouTube, the police aren’t actively pursuing fighting this.


IHT/Asahi on Japan’s reticence to sign Hague Treaty on Child Abduction


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatartwitter: arudoudebito

Hi Blog. Follow-up to the biased coverage by NHK two days ago on this issue of international divorces, we have the Japanese media once again quoting crank lawyer Ohnuki, depicting Japanese divorcees as refugees of violent NJ spouses. “Abductions”, of course, gets rendered in tentative “quotes”, and also you see how Japanese spouses have their cake and eat it too, with an example of the British legal system returning a child to the J side. Japan hasn’t signed the Hague Convention on Child Abductions yet, and why should it increase expectations of international cooperation by doing so?

I’ll say it:

The GOJ doesn’t want to cooperate with these international treaties because we have enough trouble getting Japanese to have babies. We don’t want to surrender them to NJ overseas. I have heard that theory off the record from an international lawyer quoting somebody in the ministries.

And I bet that even if Japan signs the Hague, it won’t enforce it (similar in the ways it will not enforce the CCPR or the CERD treaties). Why would the GOJ ever give more power over custody to NJ than it would its own citizens, who can already abduct and shut out one parent after divorce thanks in part to the koseki system? Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Tokyo in bind over treaty on child abduction
Courtesy of Paul Wong

Broken international marriages involving Japanese in which one parent takes offspring overseas without the other’s consent are on the rise, putting the government in a bind about how to deal with such cases.

The question is whether Japan should be a party to an international treaty aimed at settling such parental “abduction” disputes across national borders.

Tokyo is under pressure–from within and from outside–to join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980, which now has 81 parties.

The rise in cases involving Japanese parents as “abductors” has led to stepped-up calls from countries in North America and Europe for Tokyo’s accession.

Some divorced parents say their children would not have been taken overseas by their ex-spouses had Japan ratified the treaty; or it would have been much easier to have them returned.

Opponents, however, say Japan’s ratification would make it difficult for victims of domestic violence to flee with children.

There are also cultural and systematic factors to consider, given that under Japanese law only one parent is granted custody of offspring after a divorce.

The convention, which went into force in 1983, requires a child to be promptly returned to the country of their habitual residence.

It also requests contracting parties to take “all appropriate measures” to expedite the return of a child.

Senior officials and diplomats of the United States, Britain, France and Canada held a news conference in Tokyo in May to press Japan to join the treaty.

They said if children of broken marriages are taken to Japan, a non-party nation, there is “little realistic hope” of having them returned.

According to embassies here, there have been 73 child abductions by Japanese parents from the United States, 36 from Britain and 33 each from Canada and France. [NB: Time period not indicated.]

Kurt Campbell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs who is visiting Japan from today, told a Senate committee in June that he would raise this issue in his first meeting with Japanese officials.

As it stands, the Foreign Ministry can only serve as “liaison” when it receives an inquiry from other countries.

The government has said it “is seriously considering” accession as it would help Japanese parents retrieve children from their ex-spouses.

A 40-year-old self-employed Japanese woman who faced difficulty regaining custody of her children said Japan should join. In 2007, her British husband went on a “trip” to Britain with the children, aged 5 and 9, and then told her they would never return. Communications were severed.

It took a month and a British lawyer’s services before she located the children at a school near London.

She finally got them back after a divorce mediation in Britain. She said lawyer fees alone cost 7 million yen to 8 million yen.

“Had Japan been a party to the treaty, their whereabouts would have been known right away,” she said. “It should have been much easier, too, to get them back.”

Another self-employed woman, 51, was cautious, however. She had long been a victim of domestic violence by her American husband.

The family moved from the United States to Chiba Prefecture in 1992, and she fled with two children to Tokyo in 1995.

She is now on an international wanted list on suspicion of abduction because the husband, saying the mother and children’s legal abode is in the United States, brought the matter before U.S. authorities.

The woman, who says “all I could do was flee,” thinks the treaty would make such escape difficult.

Lawyer Kensuke Ohnuki, who handles about 200 divorces among international matches a year, says most child “abductions” by Japanese women are a result of spousal violence.

The treaty does not take a parent’s reason for fleeing into consideration, he said.(IHT/Asahi: July 16,2009)

Japan Times, NHK, Terrie’s Take & Mainichi on Japan’s child abductions from broken marriages, and Hague Treaty developments


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Hi Blog. I received word from Paul Wong yesterday that NHK would be doing a segment this morning on child abductions after divorce, and Japan’s negligence towards signing the Hague Convention on this.






As the Japan Times reports:
Japan’s allies urge government to sign Hague convention on child abduction
Friday, May 22, 2009
Full article at

The United States, Canada, France and the U.K. jointly urged the Japanese government Thursday to sign the Hague Convention on international child abduction, which is aimed at preventing parents from wrongfully keeping or taking their children to their countries before and after they divorce.

“Our joint statement demonstrates that very clearly Japan’s allies are united in their concern regarding this tragic issue of international child abduction,” said Michele Bond, a deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs for overseas citizen services at the U.S. Department of State, at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. “We are acting together at this point to ensure that our concern for the children is heard.”

Diplomats from the U.S., Canadian, French and British embassies attended the press conference.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty that entered into force between signatory members on Dec. 1, 1983.

The convention states that children who are abducted from their country of residence, or retained in a state that is not their country of normal residence, must be returned promptly to their original country of residence.

More than 80 countries have signed the convention, but Japan is the only nonsignatory state among the Group of Seven nations.

Among abductions involving Japanese whose parents have wrongfully taken or kept their children, Britain has reported 36 cases since 2003, with none of them resolved. There are currently 11 active cases, said David Fitton, deputy head of mission to the British Embassy in Japan. France has had 26 cases, half of which are still active, and the U.S has 73 active cases.
Full article at

I watched the NHK report this morning, and was, frankly, gravely disappointed. After giving some stats on international divorce (around 20,000 cases last year, about double that ten years ago), NHK gave three case studies in brief:

1) One of an an American father in America who had lost his child to his abducting Japanese ex-wife. Point: How he loves his child and would like to be part of her life.

2) One of a Japanese mother with custody of kids trapped in America working waitress jobs because her Japanese passport has been impounded by an American court ruling (which is bullshit, as she can go to any Japanese consulate in the US and get new passports without the permission of both parents; the converse is not true), with bonus time devoted to how much she and her daughters would like to return home, see relatives, and eat Japanese food.

3) One of a Japanese mother from an international divorce who abducted her kids to Japan; she opposes Japan signing the Hague Convention because of her violent American husband (which she somehow blamed on differing cultures), and wouldn’t want to give up custody to him.

Then we had a Hitotsubashi prof who said Japan must sign because child abduction was unjust. And a lawyer named Onuki (who has represented these cases before, and claimed in the international media that somehow 90% of these abductions are due to NJ domestic violence.)

It even concluded with the typical relativities (i.e. how everyone’s doing it, therefore Japanese can too), mentioning in passing alleged cases of how NJ mothers were abducting Japanese kids overseas (meaning that now suddenly Japanese fathers were kawaisou; the bottom line was that Japanese are being kawaisoued). The MOFA was quoted as not being able to comment on whether Japan would be able to sign Hague.

No mention at all was made by NHK that there has not been a single case of children being returned to the NJ parent by Japanese courts (the converse is untrue), that Japanese are committing crimes (and not honoring overseas court custody rulings, such as the Murray Wood Case), or that (and I speak from experience of not seeing my kids for about five years now) the Koseki system will deny all title and access to Japanese parents too after divorce.

NHK tried too hard to be sympathetic to either abducting Japanese mothers, or the position of Japanese in general (not the kids and how they’re affected by not having both parents in their lives). What a crock.

Consider that biased coverage in light of the following articles. If you find the NHK report online, please feel free to send a link to the Comments section.

Other links on
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 24, 2009 Issue No. 518

After the U.S. presidential election, the first foreign trip by his new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was to Japan. This was presumably to send a symbol to the Japanese that the U.S. values their relationship and not to cash in all those U.S. Treasuries that they are holding! Then in a symbolic action within a symbolic trip, Clinton visited with the Japanese families whose children and relatives were abducted by the North Koreans over a 30-year period since the 1970’s.

Clinton told reporters, “On a very personal and, you know, human basis, I don’t know that I’ll be meeting as a secretary of state any more than I will be meeting with them as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister.” This was the right thing to say in response to a situation that has the Japanese public outraged.

But there was one segment of the population in Japan that felt Clinton’s words were more like daggers than bandages. That segment is the foreign parents of children from international marriages, who have had their children kidnapped by the Japanese parent back to Japan, never to see them again. For these people the North Korean abductions of possibly 70 or 80 people pales into insignificance when compared to the hundreds (yes, that’s the number the CRC-Japan people are stating) of kids abducted to Japan.

And while there have been a handful of those North Korean abductees returned to Japan, there has NEVER been a successful return of a mixed nationality child to the foreign parent through diplomacy or court action. Further, U.S. officials say they only know of 3 cases where mutually agreed returns have occurred. And yet many court actions have been brought against Japanese abductors over the years.

This unbelievable state of affairs has started to cause major headaches for both legal and diplomatic agencies of Japan’s allies, and the U.S. in particular appears to be looking for ways to pressure Japan to mend its ways and to institute the necessary legal changes needed so as to support and enforce an eventual signing of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven not to have signed this important treaty.

The pressure ratcheted up several weeks ago when the embassies of the U.S., Canada, Britain, and France, along with various representatives from other nations and foreign parents trying to get their kids back, participated in a joint conference to discuss the issue and taking action that will precipitate change. While similar conferences have happened in previous years without much more than a bout of hand-wringing, this time, the U.S. and the other Japanese allies held a rare press conference to urge Japan to sign the treaty. Furthermore, they provided information on cases where foreign parents have been cut off from their kids.

The U.S. said it has been informed of 73 abduction cases of 104 kids with a U.S. parent but where that parent is not resident in Japan, and another 29 cases where the U.S. parent is here. The other allied nations reported an additional 95 cases. As this writer can testify, these cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Most foreign parents give up after going through the farcical proceedings of the Japanese Family Courts — realizing that there is no justice when there is no law to even enact justice in the first place.

For, above all, we need to remember that Japan has no concept of joint child custody and that abduction by one parent is not a crime. The judiciary in its wisdom still follows the feudal “Iie system” (House system) whereby it believes that the child should belong to one house only. Certainly, having a child undergo emotional surgery by cutting off one of the parents is a lot cleaner than the bickering and fighting that many western parents go through in their shared custody divorces. But for those parents adult enough to share their kids civilly, the law offers only heartbreak and no compromise. Officially, of the 166,000 children involved in divorces in Japan every year, less than 20% of them wind up with the father, and of course in the case of foreign fathers, the number is zero. One particularly poignant case of child abduction does not even include the Japanese parent absconding with the child, but rather her parents — who were able to convince a Japanese judge to give the child to them based on trumped up charges, rather than return her to her foreign father.

The story of Paul Wong is a story that epitomizes the problem — that of the judiciary and their slanted views on untrustworthy foreigners versus nice decent Japanese. Wong was happily married in the U.S. to a Japanese women, Akemi, and after many years of partnership, they finally had a daughter, Kaya. Unfortunately, his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor before the birth in 2004 and this got much worse following the birth. Akemi and daughter Kaya went to stay with the grandparents in Japan one last time before she died in 2005. Akemi on her death bed asked Wong to leave Kaya in Japan with her parents for a while, so that Kaya could learn something about her heritage. Wong kept his promise, and after his wife died he made the decision to settle down in Japan so that Kaya could continue seeing her grandparents. He left Kaya with the grandparents while working his lawyer job in Hong Kong and looking for a transfer to Japan. He commuted back and forth for a year and eventually found a position in Japan.

After returning to Japan, he found that the grandparents wouldn’t let Kaya return to him, and they eventually claimed to the police that Wong had sexually molested Kaya during a visit — something which has since been disproven after a medical exam. Wong took the case to court, and despite evidence that contradicted the grandparents claims, the Judge decided that “The grandparents would have no reason to not make such claims,” so he sided with them and awarded custody to them, despite them being in their 70’s. After they die, Kaya will become a ward of the state.

And thus Wong was arbitrarily banned from access to his own daughter. He knows where she lives and where she goes to school, but thanks to trespass laws, he is unable to visit her. Wong reckons one of the grandparents’ motives for taking Kaya is the monthly government stipend they get for her, given that they are desperately poor themselves — and of course now they have a small piece of their dead daughter, so the emotional ties must be strong as well. So what to do? Wong has since spent millions of yen trying to work with the Japanese legal system, but has been stymied at every step. As other foreign parents quickly find out, there is no pre-trial disclosure of evidence and no cross-examination rights. Further, there is no ability to bring in outside counselors and child psychology experts to testify for either side. In the end, the judge makes their own decision, based on serial presentations, with little apparent interest in whether each side is telling the truth. Indeed, several years ago, this writer interviewed a retired Family Court judge who intimated that he expected both sides in a child custody dispute to be lying, so “evidence” didn’t really mean much.

So there really isn’t much that Wong can do, except hope that the recent pressure for Japan to sign the Hague convention will start a legal review of the current family law system. There are over 15 domestic NPO groups who are hoping for the same changes — since these outmoded laws also affect Japanese parents as much as foreign ones. But we think change will be unlikely. So perhaps Wong should take the advice of an old friend of this writer, who had a single piece of advice to counter the Japanese condition…

“…Get yourself another family, and next time don’t get divorced in Japan!”

For more on this subject, go to

Japan urged to sign treaty against parental child abductions
(Mainichi Japan) June 2, 2009, Courtesy of Jeff K.
Diplomats from the U.S., France, Canada and the U.K. are pressing Japan to sign an international treaty against parental child abductions.

The number of cases of parental child abduction being committed by Japanese is rising sharply. Officials from the four embassies say there have been 168 reported cases to date involving 214 children, and that there could be many more.

As a result, they are urging Japan to sign the Hague Convention, which came into force in 1983 and provides a legal means for returning abducted children. The country’s refusal to sign means that the government is not legally required to release any information in such cases and prevents it from soliciting help in repatriating children to Japan.

“If the well-being of the child is given top priority, he or she should be brought up with links to both parents. For a situation to not be addressed at all is a big problem,” said the officials during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on May 21.

The U.S. Embassy reported one case of a Japanese woman divorcing her American husband, taking their child back to Japan with her and preventing her former husband from seeing the child. In another case, letters sent by a foreign father living abroad were returned, and all contact was effectively severed.

In the U.S., such parental abductions are considered a crime, with suspects placed on international watch lists by the FBI in some cases.

However, critics say that signing the convention will prevent Japan from protecting its citizens fully.

“The attitude of the government is non-involvement in civil affairs,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ International Legal Affairs Bureau.

“However, with the number of international marriages and divorces rising, the possibility of signing is under consideration.”


毎日新聞 2009年5月31日 22時59分











Anonymous re Scott Tucker, killed in a Tokyo bar by a man who got a suspended sentence.


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. I wrote here about Scott Tucker, a man who was killed in a bar by a DJ in 2008 who got off lightly in Japanese court.

Background article here:

And my Japan Times article last March about the emerging double standards of justice (a suspended sentence for a murder? Hard to envision happening for many NJ if the situations were reversed):

Here’s some background from the victim from a friend of his. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


About Scott Tucker…
By Anonymous, June 16, 2009

Hello Debito,

I have many friends who are permanent residents of Japan, and I suppose I came very close to being one of them myself, as I have a long and endearing relationship with the country–and like most permanent residents, had an emotional relationship with a Japanese National which was stronger, shall we say, than international bonds… I lived in Japan from infancy until I was six, and returned after college to work for many years in Tokyo. I applaud your site and your efforts, and wish you the very best in your ongoing pursuits.

I am writing about the unfortunate incident involving “Scott” Tucker, the American businessman who was killed in the Azabu club “Bull Ett” (Bullet) last year. I have read the many comments, and the attached links, and somehow I feel compelled to say a bit more on the subject–though certainly I do not claim to be an expert regarding what exactly took place at the club that night. What follows is my “read-between-the-lines” take on what likely happened, with regrets…

Scott Tucker was a multimillionaire. This simple fact doesn’t seem to percolate through the many official accounts of the incident; Scotty is portrayed as some disaffected gaijin who was inebriated and belligerent, wandered into some club, and accidentally received a fatal choke-hold from the concerned and threatened disk-jockey on duty at the time–hence the probationary sentence for murder… A few articles mention that Scotty owned the building next door to the club where the incident took place; they do not mention Tokyo city ordinances regarding noise, or the operation of commercial businesses, or discos, which create noise, after midnight in that particular neighborhood: that club was in Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo, the most expensive real estate, per square meter, in the world. If he had chosen, Scott could have lived on Park Avenue, New York, or along the Champs Elysees, in Paris. He could have lived anywhere he chose, but he chose Tokyo, because of the low crime rate and his affinity for Japan and its culture. His wife was one of the most famous jewelry designers in Japan. He spoke beautifully fluent Japanese–another fact not found in most accounts–and he was a great fan of music, with an exceptional singing voice and rather discerning, and eclectic, musical tastes. He was not some angry foreign English teacher who wandered into a club and got past the security bouncers; he was a property owner who had had enough of the club operating illegally next door to his property. This is a crucial detail: Tokyo city ordinance prohibits loud music and club function in that residential section of Azabu after midnight, as it is a residential neighborhood. The club was functioning “After Hours” in blatant violation of city ordinance–an ordinance which was neither enforced nor cited. Again, Scotty OWNED the building next door; he was not some yahoo foreigner wandering into a club looking for a fight. Take a moment to reflect on that, as most of you do not own anything in Japan, not to mention a building in Azabu; if you are lucky enough to own some crap mansion in Chiba, and the Takoyaki shop beneath you insists on entertaining drunk patrons headed for the first train, you have probably gone downstairs–at your wife’s behest–and said “Hey, fuck! It’s three o’clock in the morning! Close it down and shut up!”

On a classier, more expensive scale, Scotty was doing the same thing…

So, Scott comes home, after a night of Japanese-style drinking with his friends. His building is shaking from the sounds of a club operating illegally after-hours next door to him. He has a history with that club, and with the DJ (per written accounts), having asked, on several occasions, that they keep it down, as city ordinances dictated. So, he goes next door, feeling justified–which, quite frankly, he is (and I don’t suppose you’ll ever read that in any official account). He wants the people out of there, wants the music shut down, and wants some peace and quiet in his own building next door (again, which he OWNS). The DJ, who is on his midnight roll, sees Scott scattering the crowd and insisting people go home, gets pissed (and, by his own admission, having seen a tv program on choke-holds and special forces moves), leaves his Disk Jockey box, comes up behind Scott, kicks him in the groin (there is no clear account of him actually facing off with Scott, meaning it is likely he kicked him in the “Groin” from behind, got him in the chokehold from behind–the choke hold he recently he saw on tv–and accidentally broke Scott’s windpipe, or snapped his neck? (the original account said Scott’s neck was broken). I have been to so many Tokyo clubs it is not worth trying to recount; I am 6’1 and 240 pounds, and fit: I have ejected American marines and military personnel from clubs I like for behaving in a manner I didn’t like, clubs I considered my local favourites, where other foreigners were ruining my good time, or embarrassing me in front of my Japanese friends. I never, ever, in my wildest youthful belligerence, saw the wimpy disk jockey come out of his booth and take a personal stake in the ejection of a patron. Quite the contrary, frankly.

Now, this is why I’m writing this addendum. Clearly, I knew Scott Tucker. I knew him very well. I drank with him, Japanese-style, at least a hundred times. We drank beer, we ate very good sushi and drank sake; we drank expensive whiskey most foreigners couldn’t, or wouldn’t afford–in keep bottles at very nice, exclusive clubs and snacks in central Tokyo. I never, ever, ever, saw Scott Tucker get belligerent. I never saw him get argumentative, even after polishing off a full bottle, with my help, of pricey Japanese whiskey. The implication that somehow, because of his drunkenness, he was threatening enough to pose a danger to a 154-pound disk jockey is so absurd that it leaves me livid. If I were there, and I were tanked up, and the disk jockey decided to come down and take charge of things, it would make sense. I am not a diplomat: when I’m drunk and unhappy and things are waxing ridiculous, I will throw a few people around. But Scotty, no. No, I’m sorry. Whatever the official account, he was a diplomat. Again, I never saw him belligerent, ever, and I knew him for many, many, years. This is what bothers me about the whole “Official” account; it is simply not accurate, and is stilted towards character assassination and implication that is wholly unjustified and clearly driven by agenda. To think that someone can get a probationary sentence for what amounts to ‘sucker-punching’ a neighbor to death just rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t surprise me–as I say, I spent the better part of my life in Japan, and I never assumed for a moment that justice would err in my favour were I to be caught out for an indiscretion–but I feel compelled to to say something on Scotty’s behalf.

I feel compelled for this reason: were a wealthy Japanese property owner from Azabu, with a famous, elegant wife, to go into a club next door, a club operating in violation of city ordinance, and get into a row with the owners, or the disk jockey, and be killed–and were that disk jockey to be a non-Japanese–the media would have a field day with it. And were the non-Japanese disk jockey–an American, or a Brit, or an African– to claim he had asphyxiated the wealthy Japanese neighbor out of fear or his own life–he would be hung from the highest tree in Japan, on national tv, as a murderer, and a fiend, and a crazed violent foreign interloper. But if it’s just a guy who blindsided Scotty, by all means, give him a suspended probationary sentence. A simple self-defense accident. The whole thing is kawaii-soo. And, in fact, as I sit here in California, thinking about Scott Tucker, my old friend, the whole incident is indeed Kawaii soo.

When you click on a Quicktime video and watch it in Japan, you are clicking on Scott Tucker; he pioneered that app. in Japan. If you have a serious internal medical problem, and must receive surgery for it in Japan, it is possible your life will be saved by Scott Tucker–he developed distance software for medical applications, so that a qualified surgeon–rather than the hereditary fool with lax training who is cutting you open in Saitama–can supervise in real-time from abroad, and oversee the procedure with modern surgical techniques. Please do not forget that a 154-pound disk jockey, with a baddass attitude and a few Chimpira behind him, skirting the local and ineffectual police, put an end to any other innovations my talented and gentle friend, who loved Japan, might ever develop. That is who Scott Tucker was, that is what was lost when Mr. disk jockey got his suspended sentence. Hell, it’s almost a Bob Dylan song, and no one would laugh louder at the absurdity of it all than Richard Scott Tucker. He had a good sense of humor, most of all. And I will miss him.

Zannen na kotodeshita, Scotty San, kawaii soo to omoo… Ma, shoganaii, yo ne? Shoganaii…


Sugaya Case: M-J on policing and Japanese jurisprudence


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog.  Happy Monday.  Big news last week was Sugaya Toshikazu’s acquittal after nearly two decades in prison (see articles below).  It describes well what’s really awry about Japan’s judicial system (primer on that here), which you had better pay attention to because as NJ you’re more likely to be stopped, prosecuted, and convicted in Japan (primer on that here) by the police forces.  

Here’s what the Mainichi had to say last week about the Sugaya Case, followed by an appraisal of the situation by reader M-J.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Man falsely convicted of child murder: ‘I want my own life back’

Toshikazu Sugaya meets reporters at a hotel in Chiba after his release from prison on Thursday afternoon. (Mainichi)     

Toshikazu Sugaya meets reporters at a hotel in Chiba after his release from prison on Thursday afternoon. (Mainichi Shinbun, June 5, 2009)

CHIBA — A man released after 17 1/2 years in detention after recent DNA tests overturned the evidence that convicted him of murder has told reporters that he wants to take his life back.

“I can never forgive the detectives and prosecutors at that time. I want them to apologize to me, and bring my life back to me,” said Toshikazu Sugaya, 62, at a press conference in Chiba on Thursday evening.

Sugaya was arrested in December 1991 and later sentenced to life imprisonment over the killing of a 4-year-old girl in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, in a ruling that became fixed in 2000. However, recent DNA tests found that Sugaya’s DNA did not match that of bodily fluid on the victim’s clothing, leading prosecutors to conclude that there was a high possibility the new tests proved his innocence.

After being released from Chiba Prison on Thursday afternoon, Sugaya met reporters at a hotel in the city of Chiba shortly before 5 p.m. after spending 17 1/2 years behind bars.

“I am overjoyed (at being released). I am innocent and not the perpetrator,” he said.

Toshikazu Sugaya, right, smiles as he holds a bouquet during a press conference at a hotel in Chiba on Thursday afternoon. (Mainichi)     

Toshikazu Sugaya, right, smiles as he holds a bouquet during a press conference at a hotel in Chiba on Thursday afternoon. (Mainichi)

“I was falsely labeled as the perpetrator, and I have endured it for all these years. I want the detectives and prosecutors at that time to apologize to me,” Sugaya said. “Just saying that they were wrong can’t pay for this. I can never forgive them. I want my own life back.”

He also demanded an apology from the judges that convicted him.

Sugaya recalled how intensively he was grilled by investigators when they visited his home on the morning shortly before his arrest. “You killed the girl, didn’t you?” one of the investigators told him, according to Sugaya.

After his arrest, he underwent a grueling interrogation. “The detectives pulled my hair and kicked me, saying, ‘Confess right away and you’ll feel better.'”

“I told them all day long that I didn’t commit the crime but they didn’t accept my claim. Finally, I ended up being forced to make a confession,” Sugaya said.

When the trial began, Sugaya was so scared at the thought of the detectives who interrogated him might be sitting in the court’s gallery that he was unable to plead not guilty, he said.

Asked about his thoughts about the perpetrator, Sugaya said he cannot forgive the person though the 15-year statute of limitations has expired. “I would like to support those who are suffering from false accusations like me,” he added.

During the press conference, he smiled when he received bouquets from his supporters. Sugaya also expressed his gratitude to his defense lawyers for their support.

“I want to sing karaoke and eat sushi,” he said.

He said he was surprised when he was told by a prison official on Thursday that he was going to be released that day: “I had thought that my release would take some more time.”

Sugaya said he wanted to go back to his hometown of Ashikaga to see his brothers and tell the victim that he was not the culprit. After his arrest, Sugaya’s father died from shock, and his mother passed away two years ago.

When he visits his parents’ graves, he wants to tell them: “Please don’t worry any more, as I am not the perpetrator.”

Commenting on the case on Thursday, Prime Minister Taro Aso said at the Prime Minister’s Office: “He served for 17 years over a crime that he was not guilty of. This kind of thing shouldn’t have happened.”

However, Aso was cautious about the move to introduce the recording and filming of interrogation processes.

“I don’t think making (interrogations) visible would immediately lead to reducing false accusations,” he said.

The Tokyo High Court is highly likely to decide to open a retrial after conferring with both prosecutors and defense lawyers on June 12. If the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office does not file an objection, the retrial will then begin at the Utsunomiya District Court.



Commentary from M-J follows, with his permission:


MJ:  I’ve read comments here and there on the blog from people who don’t believe that the police coerce confessions and use intimidation and strong-arm tactics. However, if Sugaya is telling the truth, it would seem the investigators of his case did exactly that. I suppose it could be argued that police tactics may have changed since the early 90’s, but I highly doubt it.

Man falsely convicted of child murder: ‘I want my own life back’

New DNA evidence wins release for man after 17 years of life term for murder

Aso pleased with improved DNA testing but against recording questioning of suspects

Man jailed for life over 1990 murder of 4-yr-old girl freed after DNA test

The most interesting part for me was Aso’s view of filming interrogations and his quote, “I don’t think making (interrogations) visible would immediately lead to reducing false accusations.” Wow! I’ve never read an article regarding Aso’s reasoning leading to reluctance to film interrogations but I can’t logically come to the same conclusion. Japan obviously has no problem using video technology to deter crime (like the 363 cameras the NPA already operates as well as the 375 cameras they plan to install around elementary schools to prevent crimes against children ) so why not tape something as important as suspect interrogations?

And a side note on the new lay jury B.S.:

Supreme Court says no promise to keep sex crime victims’ names from
jury candidates

It would be humiliating enough for a rape victim in Japan to come forward to press charges and have to deal with the lackadaisical attitude towards rape, but to potentially have your neighbours find out about it may deter more than a few victims i.e. this recent gang rape victim:

Yours, M-J



TIME Mag, Asahi, NY Times: “Japan to Immigrants: Thanks, but go home”


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog. Three articles that echo much of the sentiment I expressed in my April 7, 2009 Japan Times article on the Nikkei repatriation bribe. First TIME Magazine, then a blurb (that’s all) from the Asahi on how returned Nikkei are faring overseas, and than finally the New York Times with some good quotes from the architect of this policy, the LDP’s Kawasaki Jiro (who amazingly calls US immigration policy “a failure”, and uses it to justify kicking out Japan’s immigrants). Arudou Debito in Sapporo

PS:  Here’s a political comic based upon the NY Times photo accompanying the article below.  Courtesy of creator RDV:


TIME Magazine, Monday, Apr. 20, 2009
Japan to Immigrants: Thanks, But You Can Go Home Now
By Coco Masters / Tokyo,
Courtesy Matt Dioguardi and KG,8599,1892469,00.html

When union leader Francisco Freitas has something to say, Japan’s Brazilian community listens. The 49-year old director of the Japan Metal and Information Machinery Workers called up the Brazilian Embassy in Tokyo April 14, fuming over a form being passed out at employment offices in Hamamatsu City, southwest of Tokyo. Double-sided and printed on large sheets of paper, the form enables unemployed workers of Japanese descent — and their family members — to secure government money for tickets home. It sounded like a good deal to the Brazilians for whom it was intended. The fine print in Portuguese, however, revealed a catch that soured the deal: it’s a one-way ticket with an agreement not to return.

Japan’s offer to minority communities in need has spawned the ire of those whom it intends to help. It is one thing to be laid off in an economic crisis. It is quite another to be unemployed and to feel unwanted by the country where you’ve settled. That’s how Freitas and other Brazilians feel since the Japanese government started the program to pay $3,000 to each jobless foreigner of Japanese descent (called Nikkei) and $2,000 to each family member to return to their country of origin. The money isn’t the problem, the Brazilians say; it’s the fact that they will not be allowed to return until economic and employment conditions improve — whenever that may be. “When Nikkei go back and can’t return, for us that’s discrimination,” says Freitas, who has lived in Japan with his family for 12 years.

With Japan’s unemployment rate on the rise — it reached a three-year high of 4.4% in February — the government is frantic to find solutions to stanch the flow of job losses and to help the unemployed. The virtual collapse of Japan’s export-driven economy, in which exports have nearly halved compared to the first two months of last year, has forced manufacturers to cut production. Temporary and contract workers at automotive and electronics companies have been hit especially hard. Hamamatsu has 18,000 Brazilian residents, about 5% of the total in Japan, and is home to the nation’s largest Brazilian community. After immigration laws relaxed in 1990, making it easier for foreigners to live and work in Japan, Brazilians have grown to be the country’s third largest minority, after Koreans and Chinese. But as jobs grow scarce and money runs out, some Nikkei ironically now face the same tough decision their Japanese relatives did 100 years ago, when they migrated to Brazil.

Japan can scarcely afford to lose part of its labor force, or close itself off further to foreigners. Japan, with its aging population that is projected to shrink by one-third over the next 50 years, needs all the workers it can get. The U.N. has projected that the nation will need 17 million immigrants by 2050 to maintain a productive economy. But immigration laws remain strict, and foreign-born workers make up only 1.7% of the total population. Brazilians feel particularly hard done by. “The reaction from the Brazilian community is very hot,” says a Brazilian Embassy official. The embassy has asked Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to “ease the conditions” of reentry for Brazilians who accept the money. (Paradoxically, the Japanese government had recently stepped up efforts to help Brazilian residents, with programs such as Japanese-language training and job-counseling.) This particular solution to unemployment, however, is perceived as a misguided gift. “Maybe there were good intentions, but the offer was presented in the worst way possible,” says the Brazilian official. The program applies to Brazilians who have long-term Nikkei visas, but restricts their right — and that of their family members — to reentry until jobs are available in Japan. The terms are vague and will probably stay that way. Tatsushi Nagasawa, a Japanese health ministry official says it’s not possible to know when those who accept the money will be allowed back into Japan, though the conditions for reentry for highly skilled positions might be relaxed.

The Brazilian community plainly needs some help. The Brazilian embassy normally pays for between 10 and 15 repatriations each year, but in the last few months it has already paid for about 40. Since last September, Carlos Zaha has seen many in his Hamamatsu community lose their jobs. In December, he helped start Brasil Fureai, or “Contact Brazil,” an association to help unemployed Brazilian residents find jobs. He’s thankful to the Japanese government for the offer of assisted repatriation, but says the decision will be a rough one for workers. “I don’t think [the government] thought this through well,” Zaha says. “If someone is over 50 years old and is already thinking of returning to Brazil then it might work. But there are many people in their 20s and 30s, and after two or three years they’re going to want to come back to Japan — and they won’t be able to.”

Lenine Freitas, 23, the son of the union leader, lost his job at Asmo, a small motor manufacturer, one month ago, but says he plans to stay in Japan and work. Freitas says that there would be no problem if the Japanese government set a term of, say, three years, after which Brazilians who took the money could return. But after nine years working at Suzuki Motor Corp., he thinks that the government should continue to take responsibility for foreigners in Japan. “They have to help people to continue working in Japan,” he says. “If Brazilians go home, what will they do there?”

And if Nikkei Brazilians, Peruvians and others who have lost their jobs go home, what will Japan do? Last week, Prime Minister Taro Aso unveiled a long-term growth strategy to create millions of jobs and add $1.2 trillion to GDP by 2020. But the discussion of immigration reform is notoriously absent in Japan, and reaching a sensible policy for foreign workers has hardly got under way. Encouraging those foreigners who would actually like to stay in Japan to leave seems a funny place to start.



Returnees to Brazil finding it tough


2009/4/17, courtesy of KG
SAO PAULO–Many Brazilians of Japanese ancestry returning here from recession-struck Japan are struggling to find work, according to Grupo Nikkei, an NGO set up to support the job-seekers.

The group said the number of returnees seeking help had more than doubled from 70 a month last year to 150 a month this year.

Some returnees who performed unskilled labor in Japan have found it difficult to return to old jobs that require specific expertise, according to Leda Shimabukuro, 57, who heads the group. Some youths also lack Portuguese literacy skills, Shimabukuro said.(IHT/Asahi: April 17,2009)

ENDS (yes, that’s all the space this merits in the Asahi)


New York Times April 23, 2009

Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Go Home

The government will pay thousands of dollars to fly Mrs. Yamaoka; her husband, who is a Brazilian citizen of Japanese descent; and their family back to Brazil. But in exchange, Mrs. Yamaoka and her husband must agree never to seek to work in Japan again.

“I feel immense stress. I’ve been crying very often,” Mrs. Yamaoka, 38, said after a meeting where local officials detailed the offer in this industrial town in central Japan.

“I tell my husband that we should take the money and go back,” she said, her eyes teary. “We can’t afford to stay here much longer.”

Japan’s offer, extended to hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Latin American immigrants, is part of a new drive to encourage them to leave this recession-racked country. So far, at least 100 workers and their families have agreed to leave, Japanese officials said.

But critics denounce the program as shortsighted, inhumane and a threat to what little progress Japan has made in opening its economy to foreign workers.

“It’s a disgrace. It’s cold-hearted,” said Hidenori Sakanaka, director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, an independent research organization.

“And Japan is kicking itself in the foot,” he added. “We might be in a recession now, but it’s clear it doesn’t have a future without workers from overseas.”

The program is limited to the country’s Latin American guest workers, whose Japanese parents and grandparents emigrated to Brazil and neighboring countries a century ago to work on coffee plantations.

In 1990, Japan — facing a growing industrial labor shortage — started issuing thousands of special work visas to descendants of these emigrants. An estimated 366,000 Brazilians and Peruvians now live in Japan.

The guest workers quickly became the largest group of foreign blue-collar workers in an otherwise immigration-averse country, filling the so-called three-K jobs (kitsui, kitanai, kiken — hard, dirty and dangerous).

But the nation’s manufacturing sector has slumped as demand for Japanese goods evaporated, pushing unemployment to a three-year high of 4.4 percent. Japan’s exports plunged 45.6 percent in March from a year earlier, and industrial production is at its lowest level in 25 years.

New data from the Japanese trade ministry suggested manufacturing output could rise in March and April, as manufacturers start to ease production cuts. But the numbers could have more to do with inventories falling so low that they need to be replenished than with any increase in demand.

While Japan waits for that to happen, it has been keen to help foreign workers leave, which could ease pressure on domestic labor markets and the unemployment rolls.

“There won’t be good employment opportunities for a while, so that’s why we’re suggesting that the Nikkei Brazilians go home,” said Jiro Kawasaki, a former health minister and senior lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“Nikkei” visas are special visas granted because of Japanese ancestry or association.

Mr. Kawasaki led the ruling party task force that devised the repatriation plan, part of a wider emergency strategy to combat rising unemployment.

Under the emergency program, introduced this month, the country’s Brazilian and other Latin American guest workers are offered $3,000 toward air fare, plus $2,000 for each dependent — attractive lump sums for many immigrants here. Workers who leave have been told they can pocket any amount left over.

But those who travel home on Japan’s dime will not be allowed to reapply for a work visa. Stripped of that status, most would find it all but impossible to return. They could come back on three-month tourist visas. Or, if they became doctors or bankers or held certain other positions, and had a company sponsor, they could apply for professional visas.

Spain, with a unemployment rate of 15.5 percent, has adopted a similar program, but immigrants are allowed to reclaim their residency and work visas after three years.

Japan is under pressure to allow returns. Officials have said they will consider such a modification, but have not committed to it.

“Naturally, we don’t want those same people back in Japan after a couple of months,” Mr. Kawasaki said. “Japanese taxpayers would ask, ‘What kind of ridiculous policy is this?’ ”

The plan came as a shock to many, especially after the government introduced a number of measures in recent months to help jobless foreigners, including free Japanese-language courses, vocational training and job counseling. Guest workers are eligible for limited cash unemployment benefits, provided they have paid monthly premiums.

“It’s baffling,” said Angelo Ishi, an associate professor in sociology at Musashi University in Tokyo. “The Japanese government has previously made it clear that they welcome Japanese-Brazilians, but this is an insult to the community.”

It could also hurt Japan in the long run. The aging country faces an impending labor shortage. The population has been falling since 2005, and its working-age population could fall by a third by 2050. Though manufacturers have been laying off workers, sectors like farming and care for the elderly still face shortages.

But Mr. Kawasaki said the economic slump was a good opportunity to overhaul Japan’s immigration policy as a whole.

“We should stop letting unskilled laborers into Japan. We should make sure that even the three-K jobs are paid well, and that they are filled by Japanese,” he said. “I do not think that Japan should ever become a multi-ethnic society.”

He said the United States had been “a failure on the immigration front,” and cited extreme income inequalities between rich Americans and poor immigrants.

At the packed town hall meeting in Hamamatsu, immigrants voiced disbelief that they would be barred from returning. Angry members of the audience converged on officials. Others walked out of the meeting room.

“Are you saying even our children will not be able to come back?” one man shouted.

“That is correct, they will not be able to come back,” a local labor official, Masahiro Watai, answered calmly.

Claudio Nishimori, 30, said he was considering returning to Brazil because his shifts at a electronics parts factory were recently reduced. But he felt anxious about going back to a country he had left so long ago.

“I’ve lived in Japan for 13 years. I’m not sure what job I can find when I return to Brazil,” he said. But his wife has been unemployed since being laid off last year and he can no longer afford to support his family.

Mrs. Yamaoka and her husband, Sergio, who settled here three years ago at the height of the export boom, are undecided. But they have both lost jobs at auto factories. Others have made up their minds to leave. About 1,000 of Hamamatsu’s Brazilian inhabitants left the city before the aid was even announced. The city’s Brazilian elementary school closed last month.

“They put up with us as long as they needed the labor,” said Wellington Shibuya, who came six years ago and lost his job at a stove factory in October. “But now that the economy is bad, they throw us a bit of cash and say goodbye.”

He recently applied for the government repatriation aid and is set to leave in June.

“We worked hard; we tried to fit in. Yet they’re so quick to kick us out,” he said. “I’m happy to leave a country like this.”


Japan Times ZEIT GIST Mar 24, 2009: “Punishing Foreigners, Exonerating Japanese”


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 Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Growing evidence that Japan’s judiciary has double standards by nationality
By Arudou Debito
Column 47 for the Japan Times ZEIT GIST Community Page
March 24, 2009
Based upon Newsletter May 11, 2008 (
DRAFT SIXTEEN, as submitted to Japan Times editor, version with links to sources

Examine any justice system and patterns emerge.  For example, consider how Japan’s policing system treats non-Japanese.  ZEIT GIST has discussed numerous times (Jul. 8 2008, Feb. 20 and Nov. 13 2007, May 24 2005, Jan. 13 2004, Oct. 7 2003) how police target and racially profile foreigners under anti-crime and anti-terrorism campaigns.


But the bias goes beyond cops and into criminal prosecution, with Japanese courts treating suspects differently according to nationality.  We’ve already discussed how judges discount testimony from foreigners (ZG Aug. 14 2007), but here’s the emerging pattern:  If you are a Japanese committing a crime towards a non-Japanese, you tend to get off lightly.  Vice versa and you “haven’t a Chinaman’s chance,” as it were.’s_chance

For example, consider the Hiroshi Nozaki Case.  In 2000, Nozaki was caught flushing a Filipina’s body parts down a public toilet.  However, he was not charged with murder — only with “abandoning a corpse” (shitai iki).  That got him all of three-and-a-half years in jail.  By 2008 he was stowing another dismembered Filipina corpse, that of Honiefaith Ratila Kamiosawa, in a train station locker.

We’ve had plenty of cases where Japanese men kill and mutilate Japanese women (e.g.  Yoshio Kodaira, Kiyoshi Okubo), and they tend to get the hangman’s noose.  Not Nozaki.

Contrast this with the case of Nigerian Osayuwamen Idubor, convicted on appeal in 2008 of sexually assaulting a Japanese woman.  Sentenced to two years plus time served during trial, Idubor asserts that his confession was forced, that police destroyed crucial evidence, and most importantly that there was no material evidence.  Didn’t matter:  He got about as much jail time as Nozaki.  Which means, pardon the ghoulish tone, that if Idubor had been Japanese and the woman foreign, he could have chopped her up without adding much to his sentence.  If there was material evidence, that is.


Hyperbole?  Consider other crimes against non-Japanese women, like those by convicted serial rapist Joji Obara.  His connection with the Lucie Blackman murder has been well-reported, particularly the botched police investigation despite ample material evidence — even video tapes of his rapes.  Regardless, in 2007 Obara was acquitted of Blackman’s murder due to “lack of evidence”. 

Obara did get life imprisonment (not death), since he was only charged with “rape leading to death” of nine other women (one of them foreign).  But only after strenuous appeals from Blackman’s family was the acquittal overturned in 2008.  Obara became guilty of “dismembering and abandoning” her corpse.  Again, guilty of crimes to their dead bodies, not of making them dead.

Lousy investigation

Now triangulate that with the case of Lindsay Ann Hawker, who was allegedly murdered by Tatsuya Ichihashi in 2007.  The evidence here is damning too:  video evidence of her accompanying him to his apartment building, her beaten and strangled body found in a tub of sand on his apartment balcony, and his fleeing barefoot when police visited to investigate.  He’s still at large today.  You can see his mug shot on police posters for people wanted for “murder” (satsujin).  That is, except for Ichihashi.  He’s just accused of “abandonment of a corpse”, again.



Last week I called Chiba Police inquiring about Ichihashi’s charges.  An investigator entrusted with the case wouldn’t comment on specifics.  Asked about the process of determining murder or abandonment, he said if the suspect admits “homicidal intent” (satsu-i), it’s murder.  However, it’s unclear how at least one of the  crimes shown on the poster are significantly different from Ichihashi’s, or how some suspects indicated their homicidal intent before escaping.  Police did not respond to requests for further clarification.

Clearer is the exceptional treatment given Atsushi Watanabe, who in March 2008 choked to death an allegedly irate Scott Tucker at a Tokyo bar.  Generally, in these situations the survivor goes down for “too much self defense” (kajou bouei), regardless of intent.  That precedent was set in the 1980s by Steve Bellamy, a British martial artist, who intervened in a drunken altercation and killed someone.  Bellamy was acquitted of wrongdoing, then convicted on appeal, then acquitted again.

Although asphyxiating somebody is arguably overdoing it, media anticipated the case was “likely to draw leniency”.  They were right.  Last November Tucker’s killer got a “suspended sentence” of three years.  Moreover, public prosecutors, normally pit-bulls in these situations, unusually decided not to appeal.

Even less tenacious were the police prosecuting Peter Barakan’s case.  Barakan, a famous British commentator on Japanese TV, was assaulted with pepper spray by a masked assailant in 2007.  Police tracked down the getaway van, found the driver, and found mace cans in the back.  Yet no one was given that 23-day-maximum marathon of interrogations granted for investigating lesser crimes (such as foreigners who don’t cooperate with police ID checks).  Barakan tells me the police have since done “absolutely zilch” about his case.

Maybe police were too busy to pursue Barakan’s macing, but I doubt the relatives of American Matthew Lacey would sympathize.  As the Japan Times reported in 2007, Lacey was found dead in his apartment in a pool of blood in 2004.  Fukuoka Police declared the cause of death to be “dehydration”.  When his family insisted on an autopsy, the cause was updated to “cerebral hemorrhage”, apparently from an accidental fall.  The police, however, refused to issue Lacey’s full autopsy for independent inspection.  Public prosecutors and the US Embassy have not pursued the case.  It’s a busy world.

So does this mean that authorities have it in for foreigners?  You could make that case.  This is a land with a policing regime instead of an immigration policy, where under the Foreign Registry Law (Article 18) only foreigners can be arrested, fined up to 200,000 yen, and incarcerated for up to a year just for not carrying ID 24-7.  Severe criminal penalties for something as easy to misplace as a library card or car keys? (Article 18)

You could counterargue that this system affects everyone regardless of nationality.  Masayuki Suo’s excellent movie “I Just Didn’t Do It” depicts how the judicial process overwhelmingly favors the prosecution.  Don’t forget that 99.9% conviction rate. 

But you’d be wrong.  Non-Japanese are particularly disadvantaged because 1) there is no certified quality control for court and investigative language interpretation, 2) public prosecutors can have negative attitudes towards non-Japanese, and 3) non-Japanese cannot get bail (hoshaku).

Item 1 creates obvious communication problems for non-natives, especially given how heavily Japan’s judiciary relies on confessions, so let’s not dwell further.  The next item, attitudes of prosecutors, has received due attention from scholars.

Professor David T. Johnson writes in his  book “The Japanese Way of Justice” that prosecutors consider “crimes committed by foreigners” as “one of the three main challenges facing the procuracy”.  Tokyo University law professor Daniel H. Foote was cited saying that criminal justice officials “have stepped up their surveillance and prosecution of [foreign workers]”, and the foreign influx poses “the greatest external challenge” to Japan’s “benevolent paternalism” in criminal justice.  Thus foreigners, in Foote’s view, have “a separate track” for criminal prosecution.

CITES:  Johnson pp 137, 157, 181

As for bail, it’s not only difficult for Japanese to get — it’s impossible for non-Japanese to get.  Standard reasons for denial are fears that the suspect might flee or destroy evidence.  However, that didn’t stop twice-convicted-yet-bailed businessman Takafumi Horie or Diet member Muneo Suzuki (who even got reelected during his perpetual appeal).



Non-Japanese, however, face an extra legal layer:  status of residence.  Stuck in Japanese jug means you can’t renew your visa at Immigration.  Therefore, the logic goes, if a foreigner is bailed, even if they don’t flee, they might get deported before their trial is finished.  So they remain in custody for the duration of the case, no matter how many years it takes.  Then they can be released for deportation.

Released then deported:

And it will indeed take years.  For example, a Swiss woman, declared innocent twice in court of drug smuggling, has been incarcerated since October 2006.  Even though an acquitted Japanese would have been released during the appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the denial of her bail.  Same with Nepalese man Govinda Prasad Mainali, acquitted of murder in 2000, yet detained until his conviction in high court that same year.  Thus for foreign defendants, all a public prosecutor has to do is file an appeal and it will void any court acquittal.

CITES: Johnson 158

So let’s summarize.  If you’re a foreigner facing Japan’s criminal justice system, you can be questioned without probable cause on the street by police, apprehended for “voluntary questioning” in a foreign language, incarcerated perpetually while in litigation, and treated differently in jurisprudence than a Japanese.

Statistics bear this out:  According to Johnson, 10% of all trials in Japan had foreign defendants in 2000.  Considering that non-Japanese residents back then were 1.3% of the Japanese population, and foreign crime (depending on how you calculate it) ranged between <1% to 4% of the total, you have a disproportionate number of foreigners behind bars in Japan.

CITES:  Johnson page 181

Feeling paranoid?  Don’t.  Just don’t believe the bromide that Japanese are a “peaceful, law-abiding people by nature”.  They’re actually scared stiff of the police and the public prosecutor.  So should you be.  For until official government policy changes to make Japan more receptive to immigration, non-Japanese will be treated as a social problem and policed as such.

1528 WORDS

Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.”  A version of this essay with links to sources can be found at  Send comments to