Weekend Tangent: “Foreigners Looking to Adopt Japanese Earthquake Orphans Need Not Apply”


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. As a Weekend Tangent, let’s take a look at this oldie but a weirdie article from Fox News, about child adoption in Japan Post-3/11. Even if we can overlook the as usual careless sourcing (shall we scan the nation’s juuminhyou for an “Ogaway”, anyone?), it’s hard to take at face value the assertion that, “Osborne said a dwindling population, as well as strong family ties in the country, makes adoption fairly unnecessary, because children who can’t be cared for by their parents are usually taken in by other relatives…”, and that Japan’s “extended family system is going to consider that child their child.” Tell that to the kids in orphanages across Japan (which I have had brief contact with) who generally stay there for their childhood (there is an odd antipathy towards adoption in general in Japan; the common feeling I’ve heard is, “It’s not my kid, so I can’t trust what I would get. What if I adopt somebody who turns out to be a murderer? I’d have to take responsibility!” But anyway, this is nothing more than a throwaway article (under the category of the “Three E’s” that are a staple of Western reporting on Japan — Economics, Exotica, and Erotica) from a generally US/domestic-agenda-only news source. FYI. Arudou Debito

Foreigners Looking to Adopt Japanese Earthquake Orphans Need Not Apply
By Diane Macedo
Published March 22, 2011
FoxNews.com, courtesy of A.

Foreigners looking to adopt a Japanese child orphaned by the recent earthquake may be surprised to know their help, in that respect, is not wanted at the moment.

“I have been receiving many strange emails, from mostly U.S., and was asked, ‘I want girl, less than 6 months old, healthy child,’ Tazuru Ogaway, director of the Japanese adoption agency Across Japan, told FoxNews.com. “I honestly tell you such a kind of emails makes Japanese people very uncomfortable, because for us, sound like someone who are looking for ‘what I want’ from our terrible disaster.”

In the wake of the massive January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, countries around the world almost immediately began fast-tracking adoptions from the troubled country. The United States alone took in 1,090 Haitian children as part of a Special Humanitarian Parole granted immediately following the disaster, according to the State Department’s 2010 Annual Report in Intercountry Adoptions.

But Martha Osborne, spokeswoman for the adoption advocacy website RainbowKids.com, said Japan and Haiti couldn’t be more different when it comes to adoption.

“You see that in developing nations, there’s no outlet for these children and the people left in the wake of the disaster are completely impoverished and unable to care for them, and in that case even extended relatives often say that the best case for the child is to be adopted because there are no resources,” Osborne told FoxNews.com. “But in Japan that’s just not the case, it’s a fully developed nation that’s capable of caring for its own children.”

Osborne said a dwindling population, as well as strong family ties in the country, makes adoption fairly unnecessary, because children who can’t be cared for by their parents are usually taken in by other relatives.

“I don’t believe there’s going to be a true orphan situation in Japan in the wake of this disaster. I do not believe that there are going to be children without any ties to relatives…that extended family system is going to consider that child their child,” she said.

Tom Defilipo, president of Joint Council on International Children Services, said that stress on lineage also makes the Japanese society “very averse to adoptions.”

“Very few adoptions take place in Japan domestically and only about 30-34 last year internationally” despite having “about 400 children’s homes in the country and about 25,000 children approximately in those homes,” Defilipo told FoxNews.com. “Bloodlines are exceptionally important, so the whole idea of adopting or raising a child that’s not your own or isn’t part of your extended family is relatively unheard of.”

Still, Ogaway, Osborne, and Defilipo all agree that the children whose parents died in the earthquake will likely be absorbed into extended families. It is, they say, far too early for any of the children to be considered for adoption because Japanese authorities are still searching to find which children’s parents are just missing, which are confirmed dead and which of those children have other family to care for them.

“We can’t just place children without [verifying] she or he is a complete orphan,” Ogaway said.
Those looking to help Japan are instead directed to donate to organizations that are providing direct emergency relief there.

“We all want to help in whatever way we can,” Osborne said. “But Japan is very capable, unlike many undeveloped nations, of caring for its own.”

10 comments on “Weekend Tangent: “Foreigners Looking to Adopt Japanese Earthquake Orphans Need Not Apply”

  • Hey Debito,

    Just thought I’d point out that Across Japan and Tazuru Ogaway are listed on the US embassy website for adoption agencies in Japan (http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-adopt.html). I am not sure that equals careless sourcing.


    Across the World Adoption
    “Across JAPAN” Office:
    #403, C-19-2 Shimana Gaiku, Tsukuba-shi, Ibaraki-ken 300-2655
    (Ms. Tazuru OGAWA, Director of Across Japan)

    U.S. Office:
    395 Taylor Blvd, Suite 116
    Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
    Tel: (U.S.) (+1) 925-356-6260
    Fax: (U.S.) (+1) 925-827-9396

    Or maybe all you meant to point out was the fact that Fox spelled her name wrong. In that case, they were indeed careless.

    — Yep.

  • Yes I agree fully about with this article, I guess someone wants to be a hero always in these situations. BUT, as I agree I dont agree Japanese parents etc. are any better in caring for their children than anyone else eg. hitting them in their not fully devoloped heads for punishment and calling them “Baka” at the same time, most children not buckled in or even sitting for that matter in a moving vehicle, leaving kids in idling cars that could catch fire or jump into gear somehow and leaving kids home alone or go to school from 6 years on to wander the mean street alone.

    Thank you always debito for all your hard work.

    — Welcome. But let’s not veer off into a tangent about comparative child rearing styles. That’s not the point of this blog entry.

  • I dodgy sounding article all round.

    Couple of points anyway:

    1. I doubt it would be any child’s interests following the crisis to be adopted by those outside Japan, being up rooted from the fairly modern, relativity wealthy, largely child friendly culture that modern Japan offers and being taken abroad for life would seem to represent an unnecessary addition shock.

    2. My understanding is however that care of orphaned children in Japan is not perfect, although they are looked after quite well materially and educationally, restrictions on adoption even within Japan alongside difficult relatives who while not willing to adopt the children themselves and at the same time are unwilling to allow anyone else to do so mean that many children grow up without any feeling of being loved or wanted, a problem which has now been shown to have potentially serious consequences for those children leading to physical differences in brain development and potentially life long psychological or personalty disorders.

    Therefore, yes Japan should be able to look after its own orphans, but there is no room for complacency and some fundamental changes are long over due.

  • If orphans are so well-cared for here, then how to explain the Tiger Mask phenomenon?

    — Unpack this a little more for our readership, please.

  • “I honestly tell you such a kind of emails makes Japanese people very uncomfortable, because for us, sound like someone who are looking for ‘what I want’ from our terrible disaster.”

    The guy isn’t getting the point. Its not “Oh yay, a disaster. Now I can go kid shopping!”. These people wanting to adopt are lovers, not looters. Also, what if the child doesn’t have relatives to go to? What if they died in the quake too? Also, I wonder if foreigners living IN Japan would be turned down too…?

  • Notdelusional says:

    I don’t see anything wrong in that article, other than the inaccurate title. Foreigners can of course sign up for adoption in Japan, as long as they are residents of Japan. Adoption rules, quite rightly, are stringent against removing adoptees from their culture in Japan.

    I am a foster parent, and we got a call soon after the earthquake to see if we were available for placement in the case of earthquake orphans who needed a temporary place. They didn’t take my foreign status into account, just the fact that I live far from the disaster. They try to keep fostered kids as close to their old life as possible. This is most certainly a good thing.

    Chris B is correct in that relatives who offer no help to children still have the power to keep them from loving families and in institutions. It is a disgrace, really.

    — I personally have been the beneficiary of an experience of a family who adopted a child from Vietnam back in the early 1970’s. She is now a successful businesswoman making six figures on the U.S. West Coast, with American family ties that are the healthiest I’ve ever seen. I say that children who have the opportunity to be adopted into a suitably loving, caring family will probably do better than those languishing as a number in an orphanage. I don’t care what country the adopting family lives in. Foreignness should not be an issue. If they can provide a good home and a loving, caring environment, then bravo. Not everyone can have children. Let them adopt if they want to, and the child consents to living in a different society.

  • “Tiger Mask” refers to the phenomenon of making anonymous donations to orphanages, usually in the form of schoolbags left outside the buildings along with cryptic notes. It seems to have started last year with one donor, spurned a few copycats, and made quite an impression on the Japanese populace because the custom of making charitable donations is not really big here (and possibly because so few people realised that there were so many orphans in Japan). I couldn’t really get on board the whole thing until I read an article about the severe financial restrictions facing many orphanages in Japan, which informed me that although the children are adequately fed, clothed, and sheltered, there’s little money left for anything else, even schoolbags. I’m sorry I can’t find the original article, I think it was published in a major Japanese news site.

    Tiger Mask seems to have been the name of some manga character who was an orphan. I don’t read manga, so I don’t know much about it.

    Schoolbags (called “randoseru”) are an extremely important part of childhood in Japan, along with anything else school-connected. A randoseru is almost like a friend that stays with you for the most formative years of your life, so to not have one is a very sad thing. Apparently some of the orphanages could barely afford to provide them to their charges.

    I know of two expat families (one American, one European) who successfully adopted Japanese infants . Tellingly they returned to their home countries soon after, determined not to raise their kids here.

    More on Tiger Mask here.

  • I was under the impression that foreign adoption was “in vogue” for children from undeveloped countries. You know, celebrities do it, so it’s cool. *sigh* The example of the email asking for an infant girl seems to me that they were assuming that since little girls are unwanted in China, they must be unwanted in Japan too. Because as we all know, the two countries are soooo much alike.

    In all seriousness though, I worked at an orphanage when I was in college, and I came to the decision that if I ever adopted a child, I would adopt from an undeveloped country. Where I was, the orphans had a room, clothes, books, movies to watch, a pool to swim in, a basketball court to play in, and most importantly: they had a school to go to. But I’ve studied and seen that in many places in the world, being an orphan is almost either a death sentence, or a slavery/human trafficking sentence. I don’t know anything at all about the foster/orphanage system in Japan, but I have a feeling that there are probably worse places to be an orphan. I don’t mean to make light of the plight of orphans in any situation, this is sensitive territory to be discussing. On the other hand, if a Japanese child lost every close family member, and didn’t have anyone willing to take them in, what’s so uncomfortable or wrong with being adopted by someone who obviously wants them? True, the “shopping list” example of the email is strange. It seems to me that if one truly wants to adopt a child, there shouldn’t be “conditions.”

  • The number of Japanese parents who would like to have children and can’t is FAR greater than the number of earthquake orphans. The tendency to wait until a later age to get married and then try for kids means there are a lot of couples with fertility issues. And yet they don’t adopt…why are there ANY children in orphanages here? First, yes, most kids get taken in by extended family. And whether that’s a positive thing or not obviously depends on the family and the person. I know an orphan (who is now an adult) who absolutely considers his biological aunt to be his mother and his cousins to be his brothers. I’m sure there are also cases where the adoptive families only do so because they feel obligated or bullied into doing it (no personal friends in this situation but human nature is what it is, you have to assume that there are SOME kids adopted by relatives who probably would be happier with a couple who desperately wants a child). Adoptions by relatives aside, there’s the universal desire to adopt a BABY, leaving older kids in the lurch. That’s not only in Japan. There also seems to be MUCH more of a cultural aversion to having a child who’s not your BLOOD here, especially if the child’s not even Japanese! (which has nothing to do with earthquakes, but the more or less REPULSED attitude of a fertility-challenged friend when I mentioned that there were many more orphans looking for homes in developing countries really shocked me. I’ve never known her to be at all racist about anything else.) The immigration laws don’t help THAT either, but again, that’s a different story.

    I don’t think uprooting kids who are mostly KIDS, not babies, who can speak Japanese and only Japanese and who only know Japan as their home, is anywhere close to a good answer. They don’t need to be shipping them off to orphanages either. There are so many couples undergoing infertility treatment, some of whom will never conceive…who could raise these kids near their former communities, in the language and culture that they know. I’d like to see some domestic families stepping up to the plate.

  • I’m curious more about the reverse situation: How interested are the Japanese in adopting, as compared with parents in other countries? Are there cultural differences in what children adopters chose?


Leave a Reply

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

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