Tokyo Shinbun and Mainichi weigh in on Savoie Abduction Case


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Hi Blog. Domestic press is beginning to weigh in on this case. (It’s getting too big to ignore.)

I have the feeling the wagons are circling, and the “Japanese as perpetual victim no matter what” style of reporting is starting to emerge. Like we’ve seen before. Debito in Sapporo

Here are some domestic articles sent to me by KY. Interpretation is KY’s. (Feel free to send in more in the Comments section. Please be sure to include full text with the links.)


The Japanese news’s take on things, at least as represented online:

Tokyo Shinbun presents a pretty matter-of-fact, if unsymathetic view

わが子『奪還』の米人元夫 略取容疑、日本で逮捕
2009年9月30日 夕刊



Mainichi Shinbun basically condemns the father:
連れ去り:離婚した元妻から、通学の2人 容疑者逮捕‐‐福岡・柳川
毎日新聞 2009年9月29日 西部朝刊




The second article is absolutely horrible, it says that custody was with the mother
(which doesn’t seem true if all of the other articles are correct) and that Savoie
forced his kids into his car…. which may or may not be true, but doesn’t seem to
come from any real source. I’ve seen nothing so far that indicates whether or not
the kids wanted to go with their father or stay with their mother, and taking such a

biased article’s word for it doesn’t seem like a good idea.
And those are the only two official news stories I’ve been able to find in Japanese.


24 comments on “Tokyo Shinbun and Mainichi weigh in on Savoie Abduction Case

  • If there were only some way to get some unbiased reporting froma credible media outlet on this case. This really is the time to get this issue on the table. If not now when? Will Japan continue to ignore these kinds of stories and sweep everything under the carpet? Why is the media here always so afraid to criticize it’s own laws? I am sure there a lot of good journalists here in Japan that are brave enough to see this story for what it is and use this as an opportunity to attempt to instigate positive change in regard to these contemptible laws.

    On a side note, When Japanese fathers are put in the same situation in cases of divorce and the children going to the mother, do they not feel the same kind of helplessness and desire to be with their own children? Do they just shrug it off and start a new family? Seems pretty soulless to me to just be like “Well, kids are gone. Best to just get on with life”

    I wish there were something I could do to help

  • debito ,
    you are claiming that only he has been hard done by but
    imho,she got shafted.
    they were having apparently marital probs,he takes her to usa after many yrs in japan,divorces her almost straight away,remarries then gets custody of kids and she is stuck there..
    anyone would feel cheated like that.
    equally though i can understand that he knew that was his only chance to ever see the kids with the laws in japan..
    horrible all round.
    again though i cant understand what grounds they have for arresting him,if hes japanese,and not divorced from his wife in japan,and father of the kids..
    how they will sort this out who knows but its obvious these kids will never leave japan

  • I agree that the Mainichi article is terrible, but these stories are already too old to be useful. Now that we know that Savoie is a naturalized Japanese citizen AND still married to his ‘ex-wife’ in Japan, the implications of this incident are pretty crazy. This really should be treated as a domestic issue based on these facts alone, but with the news gaining popularity overseas, it’s hard to put a damper on it now.

    I still want to know how he managed to gain Japanese citizenship and live in the US. Does that mean he still holds his US Passport?

    — Where is the confirmation from the Savoie camp (as in his lawyer) that he has J citizenship? Still awaiting, don’t fall for rumor yet.

  • crustpunker – from what i know of friends` experiences and readings – that is pretty much it. whoever does not get custody is left out in the cold and/so they get on with life for the most part. sad, isn`t it?

  • With news cycles being what they are, I hope this catches. If not, it’ll fizzle out and be a nonstarter by the time the news picks up again after the weekend.

    I think it might be a good idea for American readers to write and contact their consulates/embassy and Department of Foreign Affairs back in the States to complain not only of the abduction issue but also of the level of service/protection afforded to American nationals abroad. Also maybe try to keep the press back in the States keyed up to pursue this by emailing them (abduction issue as well as consulate actions/inactions), tweeting them, and by posting on their bulletin boards, or they may move on to the next new topic as well.

  • It is interesting that both articles above seem to stress Christopher Savoie is an American and that they are divorced – disputing other reports that the Japanese police have said they all hold Japanese citizenship, they are not divorced, and it is a looking like a case of kidnapping by a father within wedlock (from the CNNJ article in Japanese that Mumei posted).

    — Yes, what a hash is being made of this story.

  • Mainichi reports the details.

    “Court records in Tennessee indicate the Savoies lived in Japan from 2001 to 2008, and that Savoie obtained Japanese citizenship.”

    “Savoie moved back to the United States in January 2008 and Noriko Savoie and the children moved here in June of that year. Divorce proceedings began soon after.”

    “He first asked a court in Tennessee to block a possible abduction in October 2008 during divorce proceedings, and a Williamson County judge ordered Noriko Savoie to turn the children’s passports over to the court clerk.”

    “Soon after their divorce was final in January 2009, he again asked for help from the courts, seeking primary custody of the children or an assurance that his ex-wife would not flee with them.”

    Now he has a new wife.

    Things look very different. Why did not CNN report the fact that the family basically lived in Japan? I can see most Japanese will emotionally support the ex-wife in this case with good reason. Why should the kids stay in the US if the kids were raised in Japan? It is unfortunate that this particular case got too much media attention.

    — Er, because they were abducted back? Not because they moved back with the consent of both parents (like they did to the US), and she did it against American court rulings and international law?

    This is not what adults do to children. And Noriko is in the wrong for doing it at all.

  • to Adamw:

    They were living in the United States. That was the children’s legal residence at that time. The mother was not prohibited from traveling with the Children to Japan. She refused to return to the US with the children which was their legal residence. She took the children from the father and that is illegal. She is a criminal and that is why there is now a warrant for her arrest in the United States for child abduction or kidnapping.

  • The Hague convention on Child Abduction states that the kids should be in the country of ‘habitual residence’.

    I’m not an expert on international law here but could someone fill me in on how these children are not habitual residents of Japan. I’m not exactly too sure how to define habitual residence.

    The timeline creeps me out a little. In my opinion the husband was strong-arming the ex-wife to force her to stay in America.

    June 08 – Wife comes to America with kids.
    Before October 08 – Husband begins divorce proceedings. Fearing that the wife would return to Japan has a Tennessee court confiscate the passports of the two kids.
    January 09 – Divorce finalized. Custody agreement states that she must live and raise her children (who were born and raised to this point in Japan) in Franklin, Tennessee. (WTF?)
    February 09 – Wife begins citing difficulty adapting to life in America. Husband uses her complaints in effort to gain sole custody and is denied.
    April 09 – Passports returned to kids.
    Summer 09 – Japan vacation.
    August 09 – Wife comes back to America shortly and then skips back to Japan with kids.

    Am I missing anything?

  • If the court records aren’t sealed (usually they are in divorces), this would be one way to get a lot of facts.

    I posted in a blog note that some of the new information would tend to paint Noriko Savoie in a more favorable light. From her perspective, the family lived most of its time in Japan. When Chris Savoie decided to go back to the States, the family went in tow. (Did Savoie point out to his wife that he intended for the family to return to Tennessee so that he could get a divorce from her?)

    Christopher Savoie gets what he wants. He remarries, and then Noriko Savoie is stuck in Tennessee. Otherwise, she has to fly back from Japan to see her kids.

    So from Noriko’s point of view, take the kids back to the real home country and let Mr. Savoie and the new Mrs. Savoie do their thing. That’s obviously how she saw it.

    This human side to the story is going to get in the way of the issue of joint custody…

    I happen to believe that Japan should recognize other countries’ joint custody determinations. But as the story develops, this is starting to look like a very sophisticated maneuver by a guy who was arranging things in a way to get the advantage. Except he got one-upped by the ex.

  • It’s wrong that she took them away in the US.
    But isn’t also wrong that he took them away in Japan?
    Both parents seem to not know how to resolve things.

  • I had originally thought that the kids were raised here, but after finding out that they were in Japan until last year, I can see why the wife would feel wronged. She moved to America and divorced while he remarried. She probably felt trapped. I do not think what she did was right but it gives you a more complete image of the story that many news networks failed to report on. The poor kids… they have to deal with the effects of it all.

  • What Noriko the wife did (flying to Japan with the children) is exactly the same what Christopher the ex husband did (trying to fly back to the US with the children) the only difference is that he got caught before he took off. If the police cached her before she left to Japan, she would had been taken by authority just like the her ex-husband. she was just luckier than he was. same crime. If you are surprised that he was taken by police, you must surprised that Norko was under arrest in the states too.

    [paragraph of supposition not backed up by evidence deleted]

    — Not the same crime.

  • Asahi has picked it up:

    Tennesee local news report also claims Savoie has Japanese citizenship:

    The only people that deserve sympathy in this case are the children.
    Neither Noriko nor Christopher are completely blameless in this.

    子ども「連れ去り」事件 日米ルールの違いで解決難しく(1/2ページ)








     ■ハーグ条約 国際結婚が破局した場合、一方の親が勝手に子どもを国外に連れ出さないよう求めている。国境を超えた「面接権」を定め、米国やカナダなど80カ国以上が加入している。


  • #9 Hs

    It is NOT the same crime. Remember, this all started in the U.S. where he was awarded custody of the children. Again, this was presented, the case looked over by the family courts, the Judge made a decision and that decision should stand. Noriko had no right to just take it upon herself to overrule the Judges authority and to basically say, “Screw the system” I get so tired to see when it is the woman(often in these kind of situations)claiming to be the victim and yet, why is that these women hardly come on TV to present their case or to prove their innocence. I live in Fukuoka and I work ironically in Yanagawa(where she lives allegedly)she vanished from radar and is nowhere to be found, not wanting to give any interviews.
    This idea of the child should always be with the mother mentality needs to change and change quickly. The child needs both parents, but a father is just as capable of caring and nurturing for a child as any woman can. What makes a woman a better parent. Why is it that Japan can claim unsubstantially and unequivocally without a shadow of a doubt that these women’s accusations are true? Is it because, we men/foreigners are unsophisticated, illogical, ill-rational, violent Troglodytes?
    I don’t think it was the smartest thing for him to take the kids like that. But as I stated in another post, from my own experience I was witness to. My best friend went through the same thing, this did not get ANY media attention at all, but he felt that there was no other recourse, the Japanese judicial system did nothing for him, just wasted close to ¥700.000 on basically legal advice. Was lectured by his so called lawyer to be a good boy, pay until his daughter was grown, work hard, show good effort and maybe when she is 18 try again. That was when he decided to take manners in his own hands. He never felt good about taking his child, but he felt she will always block him, which she did. I heard quite a few women tell me that a father is never as important as having a mother. Huh??? What’s that supposed to mean. He always tried to have a logical conversation with his ex, but she always declined, turned off the phone, never answered the door, hardly left the house, her family always lying and covering for her. So what else was he supposed to do. I remember his lawyer asking him. “Why don’t you just start a new family? You are young and handsome, you can easily have more children.” My jaw dropped when I heard him say that and he was so calm and soft spoken, sincere and serious about it! Seeing this guy go through this or any man(sometimes women too)go through this is so disturbing and heart-wrenching, you really have to be a parent to understand that kind of intense pain and to not knowing when or if you will see your kids again is the absolute worse, but it’s the kids that will ultimately pay the full price as a child that went through a very, brutal and nasty divorce, I assure you, it will leave scars and alter them for sure without a doubt. Who speaks on their behalf? What do they want? Aren’t their feelings important? Are they not individuals with their own thoughts and feelings.
    Think about this deeply people.

  • There are many things we don’t yet know. Is Savoie a citizen of Japan, of the US, or both? Is the couple still technically married in some jurisdictions? What are the circumstances surrounding the move, the divorce, the marriage to another woman? How did his wife get the children out of the country? How well-adjusted are the children to each country, and what do they want? The rumors we are being fed concerning these issues absolutely affect public perception of the incident, and it is important to find the truth behind them to make a truly just decision.

    There are a few things we do know, though, and these are enough to hold some opinion on the issue. These children have a mother and a father. In America, the parents would typically end up with some kind of shared custody, or at the least, visitation rights. In Japan, Savoie will almost certainly get nothing. I have seen no contention on this statement.

    I’m sure many see the situation with the American Embassy as being absolutely typical of America’s disregard for its citizens abroad; still, for a country that claims to lead the world, one would think they could return a few children.


    CBS in reporting on this issue apparently conducted an interview with Savoie. What struck me was the requirement that Savoie was required to “speak in Japanese” during the interview, per jailhouse rules. I wonder to what extent this rule extends. For example, if he, or anyone else, were unable to speak Japanese, would he/they not be allowed to have visitors, or to speak with anybody? Is this only applicable to media interviews, or does it apply to any discussions held from the jailhouse with anybody for any reason? What is this jailhouse rule?

    — That is the rule. The police attending the proceedings must be able to understand what is being said between the apprehended and the visitor.

  • Jib Halyard says:

    enough with the moral equivalency already. There is none.
    The US has a fair, open and transparent system that allows both parties to have their say in court. Japan does not. She had the benefit of a fair hearing, he did not.
    it really is that simple.

  • David, the divorce was filed June 16, 2008, which would have been very soon after she arrived. The judge says in the hearing transcript at page 121-122 that she knew there would be a divorce. Maybe, but the landlord says she still wanted the marriage to work but the husband soon left.

    Dissatisfaction with the Japanese system, however well-grounded, is not a justification for a Tennessee court to assert jurisdiction over child custody issues under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

    I wonder how Tennessee could be the home state for child custody issues under that law, based on the facts that have been reported. It seems the home state would be Japan.

  • The American courts gave primary custody of the children to Noriko and only AFTER Noriko kidnapped the children fleeing to Japan did the courts award full custody to Chris at which time a warrant was issued for Noriko’s arrest. At the time she flew back to Japan with the children, she did have the prime custody and living with the children. Please see the mother side story too.

    US media is forgetting to mention that the family was living in Japan for nearly a decade then moved to the states and 6 months later Christopher divorced Noriko and married an American woman with the condition that Noriko and her children must live in Tennessee for his visitation rights.

  • read the mainichi article. it’s hardly an article, just a brief footnote not even going any deeper on the case. and it doesn’t affirm that the mother had the custody, just a nebulous “it seems to be” (あるという)which is pretty normal a language here (eg そういう風に考えていいと認識しているところだと思います。)


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