More media on the Savoie Case (CNN, CBS, Stars&Stripes, AP, BBC, Japan Times, local TV). What a mess.


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Hi Blog.  As more information comes to light about the Savoie Case, I will admit for the record, in all intellectual honesty, that there are a number of circumstances that, as commenters point out, detract from supporting husband Christopher as a “poster child” for the push to get Japan to sign the Hague Convention.  But unfortunately divorces are messy things.  I’ll probably write an apologia (not an apology, look up the word) tomorrow on the case.  However, I’ve got to write a different article for the Japan Times tonight on Tokyo’s Olympic Bid (depending on which way it goes), so I’ll be diverting my attention from this issue shortly.

Meanwhile, here is more media, courtesy of the Children’s Rights Network Japan ( and lots and lots of friends.  Thank you all very much.  Feel free to add more in the Comments section.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

CNN’s Kyung Lah reports on her fifteen-minute interview with Christopher in jail (or, rather, the police incarceration center during investigation, of course).

Other video links on CNN, all visible from

  1. Kidnapping your own kids? 11:45’s Blogger Bunch discusses the dad who was arrested in Japan for kidnapping his own kids.
  2. Savoie Custody Battle 2:09  An American dad is jailed in Japan for trying to reclaim his children. CNN’s Kyung Lah reports. 2:09
  3. Dad Jailed in Japan.  5:37  Amy Savoie, whose husband is jailed in Japan over a custody dispute, speaks to CNN’s Kiran Chetry.
  4. Dad wants custody, gets jail 1:48 American Christopher Savoie is in jail in Japan because he tried to get his children back. CNN’s Kyung Lah reports.

CBS News weighs in, citing CNN:
October 1, 2009 11:33 AM
Christopher Savoie, Dad Jailed in Japan for Child Rescue, Speaks from Prison


It looks as though Christopher was ready to take a stand on this issue a priori, with a previous interview before he went to Japan and got arrested:

Nashville Tenn TV station NC5 Investigates:

Abducted to Japan, Oct 1, 2009

(excerpt) “If [Japan joins] the Hague Treaty, then it would also be good for Japanese people in this situation because we could come up with an amicable — or even unamicable — arrangement where legally both parents could be guaranteed some time with their kids,” Savoie said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department renewed its calls for Japan to sign the agreement after Savoie found himself locked up in a Japanese jail, accused of snatching his own children and making a run to the nearest U.S. Consulate.

“On this particular issue, the issue of abduction, we have different points of view,” said Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley.

It’s a plight shared by non-Japanese fathers around the globe.

“There are a lot of Japanese fathers who need the same treatment,” Savoie said, adding that it highlights how — in Japan — men in general are cut out of the parenting process in the case of divorce.

“I happen to have been brought up in this country and I can speak English and I can live here, but that’s not an option for all the other Japanese Dads — and they are in the same shoes as me,” he added. “They have no rights in their own country.”

Ironically, Savoie also holds Japanese citizenship — so he spoke as fellow countryman when he asked Japan to join the world in protecting families and signing the Hague Convention.

Plus video interview at


Hostile article to Christopher reports a friend saying that Noriko felt abused by courts (even though the court transcript indicates to me that the judge acted civilly towards her, and gave her the benefit of the doubt when dissolving the restraining order against her) and financially dependent on Christopher, even though it also reports that she received more than three-quarters of a million dollars from him for the divorce:

AP:  Friend: Japanese woman who took kids felt trapped
By TRAVIS LOLLER and ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press Writers
October 1, 2009
FRANKLIN, Tenn. – A friend says Noriko Savoie felt trapped — she was a Japanese citizen new to the U.S. whose American husband had just served her divorce papers (snip)

Noriko Savoie did not have court permission to bring the children to the country where they had spent most of their lives, and Christopher Savoie says he didn’t do anything wrong when he tried to get them back.

Court records and conversations with a friend, Miiko Crafton, make it clear that Noriko Savoie was hurt and angry from the divorce and chafing at the cultural differences.

She had no income when she moved to the U.S. in June 2008, divorce court filings show, and appears to have been totally dependent on Christopher Savoie, who was still legally her husband but was involved with another woman.

Crafton, a native of Japan who befriended Noriko Savoie during her short time in Tennessee, said her friend tried to get a divorce while the couple still lived in Japan, but her husband had refused and later persuaded her to move to the U.S. with the children.

“Everything was provided so she could begin a new lifestyle, but right after that he gave her divorce papers,” Crafton said. “So basically she was trapped.”

Although financially stable — she was awarded close to $800,000 in cash as well as other support in the divorce — Noriko Savoie was not free to return to Japan. She was given primary custody of the children, but her ex-husband was also awarded time with them.

She felt mistreated by the courts and emotionally abused by her ex-husband, Crafton said…


However: From the U.S State Department note on International Child Abduction-Japan:

… U.S. consular officers are prohibited by law from providing legal advice, taking custody of a child, forcing a child to be returned to the United States, providing assistance or refuge to parents attempting to violate local law…

Full document at:


CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper have each separately done programs on the arrest and the Japan abduction issue. Their videos have apparently not been posted yet (links welcome).

Japan Times article Oct 1, 2009:

Stars & Stripes, the US military’s daily newspaper:
notable excerpt:

“[Savoie] took the step that none of us have taken, but one that we’ve all thought about,” Navy Cmdr. Paul Toland said Tuesday from his home in Bethesda, Md.

Toland’s wife absconded with his daughter, Erika, from their home in Yokohama, Japan, in 2003 while he was stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base. She was not charged with child abduction and was able to prevent Toland from even visiting his daughter.

The U.S. and the international community for years have lobbied the Japanese government to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980. The treaty, which includes 81 countries as signatories, prevents parents from fleeing with their children to or within those countries to circumvent standing custody orders or before a court can determine custody.

“The problem has gotten so big that Japan is becoming known as a destination country for international parental kidnapping, even when no one in the family is of Japanese descent,” Smith wrote in a Sept. 24 letter to Hatoyama obtained by Stars and Stripes.

The Savoie case demonstrates not only the desperate measures parents can resort to, but also the hypocrisy of Japanese law, contend Toland and Paul Wong, an American attorney based in Tokyo who continues to fight for access to his daughter, Kaya.

“Japanese law says that parental [child] abduction is not a crime,” said Toland, whose daughter was taken by his in-laws after his Japanese wife died in 2005. “So it’s asinine that he’s being charged because he’s the biological father and his rights have not been terminated by a Japanese court.” (snip)

A spokesman for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said it is aware of the Savoie case and had not been asked by the U.S. to release Savoie.

Embassy officials in Tokyo and Fukuoka would not comment on whether those discussions would take place.

As of August, the State Department had identified 118 Japanese-American children who are living in Japan and cut off from their American parents.

UK’s BBC about Shane Clarke’s abduction case,
which coincides with Christopher’s arrest arrest:

All for now. Updates in real time at

And lots more stories on the Children’s Rights Network Japan website to show you why Savoie’s case is hardly unusual, although the actions leading to his arrest might be deemed to be:


45 comments on “More media on the Savoie Case (CNN, CBS, Stars&Stripes, AP, BBC, Japan Times, local TV). What a mess.

  • I have to admit I’m sympathetic to the father on this one.

    He doesn’t sound like a perfect man but he seemed to follow the law and his ex-wife consented to moving to the States. Once she had the freedom to leave she abducted the children. I wonder if she was able to keep or transfer the $800,000 cash settlement.

    Either way, it’s a real travesty that this whole thing is one sided. It’s sickening that in Japan divorces often result in children never getting to see one parent when that parent isn’t abusive. I hope there is something in this case that creates change because this has to stop.

    If Japan wants to be seen as a member of the international community, it’s going to have to concede a little here.

  • Another John says:

    For my part, I am livid with the State Department’s “hands-off” policy on this. As much as we strong-arm Japan on a multitude of issues, the US takes no stand here? The embassy and consulates are worthless. My level of respect for the US Foreign Service has dropped precipitously since this case broke.

  • NY Times / AP:

    Father Arrested in Japan Had Asked for Court Help
    Published: September 30, 2009

    FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) — An American father arrested in Japan for snatching his children had tried for a year to persuade a judge in Tennessee that his ex-wife was likely to flee the U.S. with them, divorce records said.

    The documents obtained Wednesday outline Christopher Savoie’s attempts to restrict his ex-wife’s ability to travel with their 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, and her unhappiness with living in this Nashville suburb.

    Savoie, 38, was arrested Monday as he tried to enter the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka with his children, the latest twist in a case that underscores long-standing disputes over Japan’s traditional favoritism toward mothers in custody battles. Police said he had grabbed the kids as they walked with their mother to their new school in the southern Japanese city.

    In a February e-mail, his ex-wife, Noriko, expressed her struggles in the U.S. He offered it to the court as proof that she was threatening to leave:

    ”It’s very difficult to watch kids becoming American and losing Japanese identity,” she wrote. ”I am at the edge of the cliff. I cannot hold it anymore if you keep bothering me.”

    On Aug. 13, Savoie learned that his children were gone when their school called to tell him they were absent.

    Divorced fathers in Japan typically don’t get much access to their children because of widespread cultural beliefs that small children should be with their mothers.

    The country has also declined to sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the appropriate courts and that the rights of access of both parents are protected.

    Tokyo has argued that the Hague Convention could hinder its ability to shield Japanese women and their children fleeing abusive foreign husbands.

    That stance has begun to raise concern abroad, following a recent spate of incidents involving Japanese mothers taking their children back to the country and refusing to let their foreign ex-husbands visit them. The United States, Canada, Britain and France issued a joint statement in May urging Japan to address the problem.

    ”Japan is an important partner and friend of the U.S., but on this issue we have quite different points of view,” said David Marks, U.S. Embassy spokesman in Tokyo.

    Phil Williams, chief investigative reporter for WTVF, said he spoke with Savoie after his arrest and while he was detained.

    ”I was on the phone and suddenly he said ‘I’ve got to hang up, they’re coming to put the handcuffs on me,”’ Williams said. ”He did speak to the hypocrisy, as he saw it, with him in jail and ex-wife free with the kids.”

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

    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. He turned over the February e-mail from his ex-wife as evidence that she might leave the country with them.

    But in April, a judge held that Noriko Savoie could take the children to Japan for a vacation. In the order, the judge wrote that ”this court fully recognizes Father’s concerns regarding Japanese law and the protection of his rights. However, Mother has clearly testified that she intends to remain in Franklin, Tennessee, with the children.”

    Noriko Savoie was given the passports. She took the children on vacation and returned as scheduled. But two weeks later they were gone again. Williamson County Clerk and Master Elaine Beeler said there was no court order requiring the mother to return the children’s passports after the vacation.

    Savoie has remarried. His wife, Amy, said she understood that her husband could be facing serious charges.

    ”It’s terrible, it’s terrible,” she said. ”But thank you, thank you for everyone’s prayers and concerns.”

    Savoie is chief executive officer of Franklin-based Tazzle Inc., which makes data-sharing devices for BlackBerry mobile phones. The company has an office in Tokyo that oversees manufacturing in Asia, according to the company’s Web site.

    He previously founded and ran Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company GNI Ltd., according to court filings. 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.

    Tokyo is aware of the need to address the divorce issue and is considering joining the Hague convention, said Kosei Nomura, a Foreign Ministry official in charge of international law. He said at least 70 such cases are in dispute between Japan and the U.S., but the government does not have an exact number.

    Because of Japan’s stance, U.S. court rulings in the past have decided in favor of keeping children in that country, saying American parents would otherwise lose all their custody rights.

    After the abduction, a Williamson County court gave Christopher Savoie full custody of the children in his wife’s absence. The courts also issued an arrest warrant for Noriko Savoie.

    Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen’s office has not been contacted and has not become involved in the case, a spokeswoman said.

    Japan has had close ties to Tennessee since Nissan built its first U.S. manufacturing plant in suburban Nashville in the early 1980s. Nissan relocated its North American headquarters from California to Franklin in 2006, and the Japanese consulate for five southern states was moved from New Orleans to Nashville early last year.


  • Another John says:

    Sorry…no time translate, but here’s the Asahi’s domestic contribution.









     ■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。


  • I have to say, I`m a bit conflicted on this one. On one hand, as a foreign mom here in Japan, this type of case scares the crap outta me should anything happen in my marriage to my Japanese husband. On the other hand, I can understand, as a mom, in a different country, how alone and isolated you can feel and how much you can yearn for the familiar and for familial support. That is not to say what Noriko Savoie did was right, it is never right to isolate children from an (as far as we know) loving parent.

    I watched the Kyung Lah interview and found it, well lacking. She states the fathers point of view and then says that `all` Japanese are on the mother`s side, and backs this POV up by one short video clip of some harassed mom in a mall parking lot saying `I would want my kids with me`. Of COURSE any mom would say that.

    I don`t think this case would be an ideal `poster case` for the plight of abducted children in Japan either, and I can see a lot of pushback coming on this. However, anything that gets the issue into the cold light of day in Japan would be welcome.

    One last thing, I`m wondering why this particular issue is getting so much attention. Is it because of the fact that the father was arrested in front of the Consulate? Because he was American? Where`s the media spotlight on all of the other heartwrenching stories of child abduction back to Japan? Murray Wood anyone?

  • i dont think either of them are much good and the only ones i feel sorry for are the kids but what i cant get over is the double standard here.

    if she absconded and he was given sole custody then why is he being arrested for kidnapping.?
    if japanese police say that they dont have to follow american law then fine.
    if thats the case why are they arresting someone for “kidnapping” his own kids when hes not even registered as divorced from his wife in japan??what grounds is that based on..?

  • How is it kidnapping when they are HIS children. This thing is exploding. But I predict that Japanese and the Japanese media will circle the wagons and make excuses and lame defenses like their typical defense that the mothers flee with the children to avoid abuse. The mother in this case is terribly selfish. Yes, she would have had to stay in the US but she would still be able to see the children. Now she gets to see the children but the father doesn’t. How disgustingly selfish of the mother.

    — But then she would a prisoner of the USA. That’s how NHK handled a previous story like this.

  • … U.S. consular officers are prohibited by law from providing legal advice, taking custody of a child, forcing a child to be returned to the United States, providing assistance or refuge to parents attempting to violate local law…
    Then the law is wrong and must be changed. Human rights are UNIVERSAL; that’s why they’re called HUMAN rights. This is yet more sp-ineless bureaucrats running away from what they really should be doing in order to maintain their cushy lifestyles.

  • Fernando Ramos says:

    To be honest both sides here have lost all of my sympathy the more I read.

    There is so much selfishness going on both sides that it makes my head spin.
    The father decides to take his family, complete with a wife who knows that
    she is soon to be made into an ex, to a country foreign to them. He has already
    remarried so clearly things were on the rocks for quite some time. He apparently
    went to the US to I assume take custody of the children. However, when the
    mother wins the case after all that, the father asks the Judge to recuse himself
    because he was mediator before the case went to court DESPITE having said he
    had no problems with it before.

    On the mother’s side, she was unwilling to abide by the terms set to her by her
    (ex-)husband and then, after a trip to feign abiding by the agreement, decides
    to jump ship AGAIN and this time not go back to the US. What really irks me on this
    is that she pulls the “I’m afraid they’re losing their Japanese identity” card which
    just strikes me as a crock in any form. As such things go she cuts off the father
    from all communication after a phone call.

    But what really makes the father look bad in this situation is that he literally
    stalks his ex-wife and children on their way to school. Then, per the article,
    “forced” the children into the car. As far as anything in the article goes, the
    children don’t seem to stand up very much for whatever the father is doing. In any
    case, grabbing kids, even one’s one, forcing them into a car and running with them
    just doesn’t scream responsible parenting to me.

  • This is the key point, regardless of Mr Savoie’s actions:

    “Japanese law says that parental [child] abduction is not a crime,” said Toland, whose daughter was taken by his in-laws after his Japanese wife died in 2005. “So it’s asinine that he’s being charged because he’s the biological father and his rights have not been terminated by a Japanese court.”

    Savoie is not only the biological father – but he’s Japanese. Do Japanese get arrested for abducting their children – that is the issue.

  • the father is definately the victim in the case. and he should be released from jail at once. this man is not a criminal. what crime did he commit, he is the legal father of these children and under there divorce agreement he has the legal right to see them.

  • I think this case is a “poster child” for keeping things the same, and therefore muddies the correct and clear message this site. That is not a good thing, because Debito’s service of bringing knowledge of the Xenophobia and dangers that that entails to NJ who would otherwise not know is important, as is the advocacy.

    Children are often pawns in a situation like this.
    This time, the chess board spans 2 countries and both sides surely look equally(!) wrong.

  • “Savoie said she has become even more worried since talking to Kay Kephart, a grandmother from Atlanta who was arrested in Tokyo and jailed for 11 days in 2005 after making inquiries at a Japanese church on the whereabouts of her two grandchildren. Kephart said in an interview Friday that her interrogators denied her sleep for three days and took turns “yelling at me.” “They put sleeping powder in my soup and tried to humiliate me. They took my credit cards and asked me for my pin number. They sat me handcuffed on a wooden bench for six hours where they had me listen to the screams of other prisoners.” She said she received just one five-minute visit from an official from the U.S. Embassy, who “told me, ‘Do everything they tell you to do’ ”(from the Providence Journal

    Sorry if I am asking questions that have already been answered, but are their grounds to charge him with kidnapping? If not, I was the police could be taken to task. They would be the kidnappers, and perhaps torturers, in this case.

  • A couple of things:

    Mr Savoie’s former wife received a provisional green card upon arrival to the USA that was good for 2 years…In 2 years time she would need to renew it, except she wouldn’t be able to b/c she was no longer married. Hence she would have to leave with out her children. Not sure if this was Mr Savoie’s plan or not. If so it is cunningly evil.

    I think an argument can be made that the Tennessee court overstepped its jurisdiction and essentially abducted the children from their home state and habitual environment. This is the very harm the Hague Convention is designed to prevent. If the story was presented to the Japanese public in this way, they might actually sign it.

    [further speculations without evidence deleted]

  • What I’ve noticed is that a lot of Japanese people are not familiar with the fact that the Japanese government cannot legally enforce a naturalized citizen to abandon their original nationality. Most of the comments I’ve seen indicates that they believe that if he is a naturalized citizen of Japan then he is automatically not an American citizen, since you can’t nationalize unless you abandon that citizenship (thus, in their words, American jurisdiction means absolutely nothing, since nobody is a citizen of that country, in their minds). I wonder if there is a chance that this case would shed light to the nationality issue in Japan (for better or for worse, though).

  • Do you think after 23 days the court will try to give him 23 more days or how does that usually work. It would seem that Japanese judicial system wants to keep him as long as they can. This is a big catch for them, is it not? I am just curious if someone can please enlighten me on this. Also, I heard he tried to make a quick phone call at the time of arrest and that the police are not obliged to grant you that one call, if so, what avenue can you take, how can you contact next of kin??

    — If they want to reset the 23-day incarceration clock, they would have to re-arrest him and re-charge him. During that period, however, you have no contact with the outside world, except to your lawyer or to your consulate, and maybe visitors depending on the charge. One per day, 15 minutes max.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Not directly related, but maybe of interest to those who have an interest in legal affairs. A couple of nights ago on J T.V. a panel-type show asked if viewers were in favor of taped interrogations or not. I can’t recall the exact numbers but something like 65% were in favor of videotaping police interrogations. The main reason given was because of intimidation tactics commonly known to be in use. Viewers could vote by using telephone numbers supplied on the screen. There does seem to be somewhat of a groundswell of desire for more accountability in many Japanese institutions. I feel this is quite hopeful.

  • The lady and the kids should stay in Japan and he should be released and get enforceable access.
    Basically the Japanese authorities should enforce the visitation rights stipulated by the US courts, but not the requirement regarding where she lives because that would be a far bigger violation of her human rights (denial of freedom of movement by some crazy never-should-be-binding agreement) than the current arrangement is of his (denial of limited access to non-custodial parent, due to her doing a runner from said agreement).

    I don’t think it matters how much the divorce settlement was. There isn’t (shouldn’t be) one law for the rich. Some people seem to think he’s bought her off and she should just go along with whatever he wants because its 800 grand.

    For abductions to Japan, surely there are far more cases deserving of attention than this one. Savoie has only got the attention because he’s a rich businessman with the smarts and maybe connections and PR people to play the US media. There will doubtless be people who were principal custodians but had their children taken under much more tragic circumstances than the ones here. Perhaps it is those cases that will bring a needed change in the law, not this one where its pick sides, conniving husband or conniving wife.

    — Oh yes, there are lots of cases far more deserving of attention than this (ex. Murray Wood and Paul Wong). Now if only they’d try something dramatic and media-attention grabbing. 🙂 In this case, like it or not, Savoie really succeeded where others hitherto couldn’t.

  • A couple of things about this story are very strange.

    First- I read where Savoie moved back to Tenn. and started a company there, as a naturalized citizen of Japan. How is that even possible? Under what status was he allowed to do that? I once knew a consulate officer at the embassy and he told me that if you give up your citizenship, you loose the right to go back to the U.S. You must apply for a visa or marry somebody who is an American. Its seems this guy just came and went as he pleased. I knew of a retired Army colonel who relinqueshed his citizenship, then one day stopped receiving his retirement pay from the Army. Their reason; your no longer a citizen of the US so your not recallable in time of war. Different case but it just goes to show that the US can play hard ball towards some and let others off.
    Second issue; If there is an arrest warrant for this guys wife Noriko, why isnt the Japanese police going after here and bringing her in to the consulate? If I committed a crime in Japan and fled to the US, marshals would be on my ass like there was no tommorow. Seems like another double standard being played out.

  • *What I’ve noticed is that a lot of Japanese people are not familiar with the fact that the Japanese government cannot legally enforce a naturalized citizen to abandon their original nationality. Most of the comments I’ve seen indicates that they believe that if he is a naturalized citizen of Japan then he is automatically not an American citizen, since you can’t nationalize unless you abandon that citizenship (thus, in their words, American jurisdiction means absolutely nothing, since nobody is a citizen of that country, in their minds). I wonder if there is a chance that this case would shed light to the nationality issue in Japan (for better or for worse, though).**

    Another post that makes no sense. The Japanese dont force you to relinquish your citizenship, you do that on your own, your choice When you do that, you loose your American citizenship, its the consequence of having voluntered to give up your citizenship. In order to gain one, you must give up the other. Read pages 4 and 5 inside your passport. I dont understand what you mean by the the Japanese government cannot legally enforce a naturalized citizen to abandon their original nationality. An affirmative expatriating act with the specific intention of relinquishing US citizenship is the requirment in order to loose it for people born in the US. If I become a Japanese, I must give up my US citizenship, this is a US law, not a Japanese one.

  • You’ve got it backwards, Mike. US law permits dual citizenship; Japanese law does not.

    When one becomes a naturalized Japanese citizen, one is required by Japanese law to relinquish any/all other nationalities. There is a two-year window for doing this.

    Conversely, the US government does not care how many additional nationalities one has … so long as they continue to pay US income tax.

    I hope that clears up your misconception.

  • My first reaction to this was sadness for the father — as in other cases in the media right now. However, now that more details are coming out I would have to question:
    1. Doesn’t it at all seem planned and unfair to move to the U.S. and then promptly divorce? (And re-marry all within what seems to be a year) If she asked for divorce in Japan and he did not do that but instead convinced her to move to the States and then divorce, doesn’t that all seem pre-planned? By doing that he would trap her to a life in the states. Unfair to her and ultimately the kids.
    2. I don’t see how this can be viewed as kidnapping since they are considered married in Japan.
    3. Seems a rather drastic move on his part — but then again he has her penned in. In the States she would be seen as the kidnapper and the kids would go to him — not a lot of room for compromise anymore. Which all goes back to number 1 — his intentions were trickier — should have worked a better compromise from the start.
    He is not a poster child for the rights of children and Japan — there are others that would be. It would be nice if one of those could be highlighted right now. The good thing about this case is it brings to light the need for change to the family law in Japan, some kind of change that would allow for a divorce here and give rights still for the father to have them for part of the year.

  • On a side note to the discussion of citizenship. Becoming a Japanese citizen does not mean you must give up U.S. citizenship. This is an important point for all international living U.S. citizens. I cut and paste the following from the US Govt site:

    Dual Nationality

    The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy.Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.

    A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth.U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

    Intent can be shown by the person’s statements or conduct.The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizens abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.

    However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there.Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship.Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose citizenship.

    Information on losing foreign citizenship can be obtained from the foreign country’s embassy and consulates in the United States. Americans can renounce U.S. citizenship in the proper form at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

    — Thanks.

  • Stephanie said: “Becoming a Japanese citizen does not mean you must give up U.S. citizenship. This is an important point for all international living U.S. citizens.”

    Sorry, but becoming a Japanese citizen does in fact mean that one forfeits US citizenship.

    During the application phase of the naturalization process, one must sign a document that states that the applicant is aware that Japanese law does not permit dual citizenship and will therefore relinquish all other citizenships if Japanese citizenship is granted.

    After citizenship is granted, paperwork is filed at the ward office. The newly-minted Japanese citizen is handed a small pamphlet reminding them that they must discard all other citizenships within a two-year period. If that is not done, Japanese citizenship is rescinded. In fact, the local government publishes the list of people who have lost their Japanese citizenship in this manner each month in the gazette.

    The proof of renunciation consists of either a renunciation certificate issued by the government of the previous nationality, or submitting an affidavit swearing that one has renounced the previous nationality. I believe that the latter option exists to address situations where it is difficult or impossible to formally renounce — Iran, for example, and arguably the US as well.

    Therefore, from a Japanese legal standpoint, one cannot simultaneously be a citizen of Japan as well as a citizen of another country. During the naturalization process the applicant states understanding of this, and to keep Japanese citizenship the applicant must swear that s/he has done so.

    It does not matter what the US state department says about the subject; this is Japanese law, not US law, and the opinion of the US state department is irrelevant in this case.

    Please take it from someone who has been through this process. A naturalized Japanese citizen has sworn to obey Japanese law. The law states that foreign citizenship must be relinquished. QED.

    (sorry about the long post … this particular subject is a personal pet peeve)

  • The male part of this equation spoke to me about 20 months ago and again about 8 months ago unprovoked. He said after his company went public in Japan, his wife told him that she hadn’t loved him for years and wanted a divorce and threatened to take this kids (His was in Japan at this time and commuting to or spending a lot of time in the US); so then according to him she waited until he hit the IPO jackpot and he seemed to be saying she did a “pay for play” which means if you want to see them you will give me a significant settlement. Since settlements with multiple custody can be done only in the US (not like in Japan where the foreigner automatically loses) they agreed to move to the US and specifically Tennessee as there is a Japanese population there. THen they worked it out. 8 months ago he shared some of the financial terms (needless to say she did WELL) but as in most US divorces the kids have to stay in the State of residence unless the other parent gives permission. The point here is she came to the US KNOWING they would divorce but it seems she wanted some of his recent gains. It really doesn’t seem like he talked her into coming to the US and then dumped her right away. Of course this was only part of his side of the story.

  • Stephanie’s Number 1 question can be answered by Number 3…
    Savoie is not trickier at all than current japanese family law. a simple question is what if we all in his shoes, what would we do to the divorce? To listen to his wife to have divorce done in japan? what are the consequences? can we all shrug our shoulders and walk away not seeing your kids in the rest of the life? If answer is no, then i dont see the point we conclude Savoie is trickier.

    All in all, japan need to play fair by coming up with an updated/fair/justice family law, and sigh Hague to protect both japanese and foreign parents right, or Human rights.

  • I have read the link that Stephanie posted before. That is dangerous information to take at face value without professional legal advice. I understand your points about the fact that some countries allow you to be a citizen of their country without giving up your country of birth citizenship, however Japan isnt one of them. Also, if my wife applies for a green card and lives in the US, eventually, if she wants to be a US citizen, she must meet the requirements of residency and then apply. During that process, Im quite sure she will no longer be a Japanese citizen, as a matter of fact, I know so, I met a lady back in the US who did this. So I guess the point is it depends on the country your from, if they require you to give up your citizenship in order to gain theirs. It also might depend on US laws when you naturalize. These are very important and serious issues to consider.

    — You don’t know what you’re talking about. There are hundreds of thousands of people who quietly have dual J-NJ citizenship in (and outside) Japan (I’m of course not one of them, although the media has reported that BOTH Noriko and Christopher Savoie are), what with international marriage, abroad-born Japanese, and immigrant Japanese. Japan does not enforce all that thoroughly its citizenship law to weed out duals (the Fujimori Debacle is but one, particularly infamous, example). The Americans don’t care if you have another (even if that other country might; it’s none of the USG’s business what nationality laws other countries have). Those naturalizing into, say, the US, in the example you give above, will NOT have to give up her J before she gets her US, or else she would be stateless!

  • Stephanie said: “Becoming a Japanese citizen does not mean you must give up U.S. citizenship. This is an important point for all international living U.S. citizens.”

    Chris K said: “Sorry, but becoming a Japanese citizen does in fact mean that one forfeits US citizenship…Please take it from someone who has been through this process.”

    I say: Sorry, but becoming a Japanese citizen does in fact mean that one does NOT necessarily forfeit US citizenship. Please take it from someone else who has been through this process. I as all other naturalized citizens did sign an oath (宣誓書), the exact words of which are different depending on when and where you naturalized as the local Houmukyoku has control of these things.
    However, they generally all say something to the effect of「私は、日本の法律を遵守し、善良な国民となることを誓います。」
    Is this oath legally binding? It has never been challenged in court, so I cannot give a definite answer from legal precendent, however seeing that “promising to uphold Japanese law” is very broad, it seems to be just a sign of one’s willingness to become a Japanese citizen rather than a reason to strip you of citizenship.
    Chris K says: “The newly-minted Japanese citizen is handed a small pamphlet reminding them that they must discard all other citizenships within a two-year period. If that is not done, Japanese citizenship is rescinded. In fact, the local government publishes the list of people who have lost their Japanese citizenship in this manner each month in the gazette.”
    This is also not true. Japanese citizenship is not automatically rescinded. Please read 国籍法 articles 15 and 16.
    In the case of a naturalized citizen who has not selected Japanese citizenship (選択の宣言) by 国籍選択届 within two years of naturalizing, the local government can inform the Houmukyoku and the Minister of Justice who can then send a 催告書 to the person and force him or her to choose. (By the way, the Minister of Justice has never once done this, please research it if you don’t believe me) Even if the person does select Japanese citizenship, the law clearly states 選択の宣言をした日本国民は、外国の国籍の離脱に努めなければならない in other words it is a matter of making efforts to give up your other citizenship rather than actually doing it. The people listed under 国籍喪失 in the 官報 are people who have relinquished their citizenship willingly.

    I am openly living as a dual Japanese/American citizen. This is not because I love America, but because I believe that stripping a person of Japanese citizenship is against the constitution and after consulting with my lawyers, I am prepared to fight this in court if necessary, and will become the first legal case to do so (although under the current government dual nationality may be recognized soon so it may not matter).
    As far as the Savoie case is concerned, as many of the facts are still unclear, I cannot give an informed opinion so I will remain silent. However, I find it disturbing that Mr. Savoie has been treated by the media and police as a foreign suspect when he is in fact a Japanese citizen; this is a dangerous precedent for naturalized citizens in Japan.

  • It will be interesting to see what, if any, action Japan takes with regard to Christopher and/or Noriko Savoie having dual citizenship when they are not “supposed to.” Technically, Noriko at least would probably be considered to have willingly given up her Japanese citizenship the moment she aquired US citizenship (and the reverse could be said about her husband)…. however I can’t imagine that Japan will strip HER of her rights as a citizen…. as that would probably make things more difficult for her to keep the children here. Obviously there are lots of people who keep both passports, although I’ve read a couple of accounts online in which the MOJ required someone naturalizing in Japan to present proof that they had given up their former citizenship within a certain time frame? (Not anyone I know personally, though, so I’m taking a stranger’s word for it and obviously only knowing the elements of their particular case that they want to put on the internet)

    When I turned in my paperwork for naturalization in June, I had to sign a piece of paper promising to A)be a law-abiding citizen and B)give up citizenship in any other country if and when I am approved. They made sure that I SIGNED it as well, no hanko thank you (perhaps to make it legally binding in the US? although I signed it in kanji and the signature on my US passport is in English so… if I ever did decide to contest it, which I probably won’t being an insignificant housewife and all, I’m sure it would be a royal mess)

    The more we hear about this case, the LESS sorry I feel for both parties… but at least this issue HAS been brought to the media’s attention thanks to Christopher Savoie’s actions. It will be interesting at least to see how this unfolds.

  • Jay says: “Is this oath legally binding?”

    The government seems to think that it is. If this were challenged in court, I daresay the ruling would be in favor of the government.

    Jay says: “This is also not true. Japanese citizenship is not automatically rescinded.”

    *shrug* I don’t know what to tell you here. The names of people who have lost their Japanese citizenship are published in the gazette along with the names of those who have gained Japanese citizenship. It may be that every single one of those people were expatriated for different reasons, but that’s not how the kid who was handling my case explained it when I asked.

    I admire that you are brave enough to openly live as a dual citizen, but I have no desire to emulate you. We naturalized with the clear understanding that we were not allowed to retain any other citizenship. We signed an oath to that effect. Even if the oath is not legally binding, this clearly violates the spirit of the agreement.

  • I am quite fascinated with the above discussion on duel citizenship. I have wanted to naturalize for more than a decade–it is perhaps my highest goal in life–but have not solely due to the requirement to give up my existing US citizenship. Besides family, I have no strong ties to the US anymore, but I do not think that it is worth it to replace one visa system (Japan) with another (USA). Right or wrong, I am aware that many do hold duel citizenship, and I rather respect such people; however, I am not willing to risk it. I dream of the day when Japan will recognize duel citizenship. Until then I suppose that I will have to continue waiting.

    — Can’t resist the pun, but I think “duel” citizenship is what the Savoies have been engaging in.

  • Okay, this has very little to do with the Savoies anymore, but with all new passports being issued with IC chips in them, how does Japan NOT know who is using a second passport? I know that if there’s a problem with a Suica card, the JR staff can check its history to make sure the station you’re claiming to have come from is at least in the same general vicinity as the last one you got off the train at. Can they not see in a similar way that the passport LEFT Japan, but did not appear to have entered any other country in the meantime? Or do they see that, know what it probably means, and just not care?

    I’m undecided about the issue of giving up US citizenship. I have no intention to ever be there for longer than the 90 days any Japanese citizen can visit on the visa waiver program, and I’m a housewife with almost no assets in my name, so the US has no tax-related reason to want ME either. But US immigration officers are nasty to me as is, asking why my family lives in Japan. I don’t want my kids not to be able to see their grandparents because mom gets turned away at the border. Don’t really like the idea of breaking the law in Japan after swearing not to either.

    Maybe Japan can join us in the 21st century on that issue when it signed the Hague Convention… or at least we can dream.

    — Look, quietly keep your US. Use both. Fuck those small-minded countries that don’t allow dual nationality. Okay?

  • jay,

    good on you.
    japan needs more people like you-ive been considering doing the same thing..
    btw,what did your lawyers say about it???/

  • The Savoie case has brought to light a number of difficult legal problems, all of which demand serious attention. While the problem over child abductions is the most obvious, the topic of naturalization and multiple citizenship has been brought out, which is why I speak out now. Recently I find myself engrossed in researching the Nationality Act everyday as it is obviously a serious issue for me personally. (Although since I have a law test coming up soon, I should actually be studying the Civil Code and the Companies Act more.)

    Citizenship is a very personal topic and from the comments I’ve seen on this page, and from my experience talking to Zainichi, most people are not so willing to give up their original citizenship to gain another one. Personally it is no problem as I have no intention of ever using my American passport again. Even if I did lose my American citizenship, it would be no big loss for me. However, I plan on fighting this issue because I believe that the current policy of the government is harmful to Japan in the long run, as it deters many foreign residents from considering naturalizing and becoming real immigrants, which would make Japan a more international and more prosperous society.

    “The government seems to think that it is legally binding…Even if the oath is not legally binding, this clearly violates the spirit of the agreement.”

    Yes, the government said and done many things, but that doesn’t make them legally binding, let alone ethical. We live in a country ruled by law, not by kings and certainly not by the conservative philosophy of the LDP (at least that’s what I hope). Law is reality for all of us, so I am concerned with the legal consequences of carrying two passports, and not the ethical question of whether I should or I should not have them. Of course the law is not perfect. Sometimes the law works in our favor and sometimes works against what we consider to be moral/ethical; please look at Mr. Savoie’s case for an example.

    However, just because something is written in the law does not make it in line with our highest law, the Constitution of Japan. In our country we have the chance of challenging these unfair laws through the court system, and I believe the Nationality Act to be in violation of the constitution, so I will challenge it if necessary.

    While compared to America the number is still small, there are many examples of legal cases where laws have been found unconstitutional in Japan, most recently the famous 国籍法3条1項違憲訴訟 case. Please see違憲判決 for a complete list. My lawyers told me that in these types of cases nothing is certain, but if you don’t try, nothing will change, so I decided to take my chances by being open about it and see what happens. Even if I lost the case, it would bring a lot of negative media attention to the problem and force the government to seriously consider dual citizenship. (By the way, I’m still within my 2 year time limit to choose my citizenship, so no action will be taken by the government at this time, which gives me time to prepare a legal argument from the constitution.)

    In any case, if the police are going to continue to stop me in the park at night because I look like a foreigner, I don’t feel bad about keeping an extra passport in my drawer.

  • I feel that Japan should sign the Hague Convention and follow the rules laid down by the convention. Looking at it from a different point of view, some young Japanese were kidnapped, or let me say abducted and taken to North Korea. That was several years ago, and until this moment, they have never been returned. Starting with the former Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Koizumi tried very hard to get these Japanese back to Japan but never succeeded. Today, the parents of these kids still cry in pain.

    Hopefully, one day, the Japanese goverment will stop preaching water and drinking wine.

  • Hi Debito,

    can you please update blog with the following good news?
    7 countries are furious about Japanese Child Abduction… and this is the time Japan has to change!!! It is outrageous by neglecting international community voice for more than decades.

    Japan urged to join treaty on child abduction
    By Charlie Reed, Stars and Stripes
    Pacific edition, Sunday, October 18, 2009
    Navy officer travels to Japan in attempt to talk to daughter
    Filmmakers tackle custody issue

    YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The United States and seven other countries urged Japan on Friday to join an international treaty on child abduction — an issue that has reached fever pitch in recent weeks following the arrest of an American for attempting to take back his children brought here without his consent.

    U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos along with his counterparts from the United Kingdom, Canada, France, New Zealand, Italy, Spain and an embassy official from Australia delivered the joint request in a meeting with Japanese Minister of Justice Keiko Chiba. The diplomats urged Japan not only to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction but also to implement measures allowing foreign parents visitation rights to their children in the meantime.

    “Because parental child abduction involving Japan affects so many of our citizens, we … called on Justice Minister Chiba today to address our concerns,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy.

    It is the most aggressive plea to Japan from the international community in nearly 30 years of mostly behind-the-scenes lobbying. The treaty, which includes 81 countries as signatories, prevents parents from fleeing with their children to or within those countries to circumvent standing custody orders or before a court can determine custody.

    The Justice Ministry declined to comment Friday.

    Continues at:








    (2009年10月18日03時05分 読売新聞)

  • All Japanese language expert, help explain why Japanese media translate Abduction/Kidnapping as 「連れ去り」,not the word they used for NK abduction 拉致? any cunning or tricky or conceptional difference?

  • 「連れ去り」 means any form of “removal” from home.
    「拉致」 means “abduction by force against abductee’s will.”

    Japanese media are using 「連れ去り」 because, in Hague Convention, use of force or child’s will has nothing to do with the procedure. If a parent removes his child from the habitual residence and brings to another country at the request of the child without resorting to force, the child must be sent back to the habitual residence.

    It is interesting to compare how abductions are defined in law.

    Penal Code of Japan
    Article 224 A person who kidnaps a minor by force or enticement shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not less than 3 months but not more than 7 years.

    § 1204. International parental kidnapping
    (a) Whoever removes a child from the United States, or attempts to do so, or retains a child (who has been in the United States) outside the United States with intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both.—-000-.html#

    Use of force or enticement is the crime in Japanese law. Obstruction of parental rights is the crime in US law. If a parent brings his/her child to Japan without force or enticement without the other parent’s consent, Japanese law does not see it a crime, whereas US law sees it a crime.

    Can we tell one is better than the other?


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