Australia’s ABC News – Interviews Parent RYOMA TAKAHASHI

From: Australia’s ABC News - Foreign Correspondent’s Lastest Episode – Sayonara Baby (May 22, 2012)

WILLACY (Narrator): This custom of sole custody has torn apart parents and children from all corners of the world. But while local awareness of the issue is limited, Japanese do figure prominently among the victims. Every year 150,000 divorced Japanese parents join the ranks of the dispossessed.

WILLACY (Narrator): Ryoma Takahashi is one such parent and because of his profile, the recent abduction of his children has sparked media interest. His wife took their sons for a short break but never returned and the renowned local artist has now been frozen out of their lives.

WILLACY (Narrator): He’s trying desperately to win back his children but his wife has countered with a claim of domestic violence. The abuse? That Takahashi suggested his wife should give up work because of the stress it was causing her.

PROFESSOR COLIN JONES

PROFESSOR COLIN JONES - Doshisha University Law School, Kyoto Japan

“Basically anything can be abuse [in the Japanese System]. Verbal abuse is covered…. financial abuse. I’ve seen literature which includes ignoring someone as a form of abuse” - PROFESSOR COLIN JONES – Doshisha University Law School, Kyoto Japan

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Is the State Department violating U.S. law and covering up of severity of International Kidnapping issue?

For over a decade the Department of State has largely ignored the issue of international parental kidnapping.

From State Department attorney Tom Johnson, also the parent of an internationally kidnapped child, “The (State) Department’s bad faith is especially evident with regard to this point, since Congress itself estimated there to be 10,000 abducted American children abroad when it passed the 1993 International Parental Kidnapping Crimes Act. Congress knows that even the State Department admits to 500 to 1000 new cases annually, and Congress knows that the National Center’s estimate is up to 17,000 per year. These numbers include both Hague and non-Hague cases, but nevertheless indicate the extent of the Department’s attempt to mislead Congress with a report of only 58 unresolved cases.”

SOURCE: Johnson, Thomas A. 2000. The Hague Child Abduction Convention: Diminishing returns and little to celebrate for Americans. New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 33 (1): 125-178.  http://goo.gl/mz3t8

The Department of State suffers from a severe conflict of interest – they view their primary role as maintaining relations with foreign countries, often referring to foreign governments as their “Clients”.  By its very nature, the child kidnapping issue is “disruptive” to the relations between the U.S. and countries which support abduction.

Through a series of sleights of hand, the State Department actively attempts to downplay, minimize and cover up the number of abductions and the true severity of their failure to address the issue.

As an example, for over a year the Department of State has neglected to update the number of children kidnapped to Japan http://goo.gl/Gxu48 - one of the top abduction countries in the world, and the only G7 country which has continually refused to join an international treaty on the prevention of International Child Abduction.   Not to mention that the official count provided by the Department of State is constantly called into question [ http://goo.gl/q234a AND http://goo.gl/YQ4uP ], and that the State Department continues to publicly manipulate the numbers [ http://goo.gl/fMxcI ].

Also, the Department of State continues to treat the issue of kidnapped children as a “custody” issue, despite the fact that it is both a crime [ custodial inference and/or kidnapping at the state-level  AND a violation of the IPKA at the federal-level ]  and a human-rights abuse [ per Congress, per the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child http://goo.gl/wbGKf, and even per then First Lady, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  http://goo.gl/a0TRg ]

The State Department completely refuses to call out major offense countries, such as Japan, for violating the human rights of children, attacking U.S. sovereignty, and abdicating their responsibility  to the International community.

The State department is also stopping approval for *any* attempts to extradite parental kidnappers from certain “allied” countries – Japan being the most prominent example.  This is a direct violation of federal code:

SOURCE: EXTRADITION TREATIES INTERPRETATION ACT of 1998 (Note 18 USC 3181)

“SEC. 203. INTERPRETATION OF EXTRADITION TREATIES.

“For purposes of any extradition treaty to which the United States is a party, Congress authorizes the interpretation of the terms ‘kidnaping’ and ‘kidnapping’ to include parental kidnapping.”

Using the example of Japan, the Department of State repeats Japan’s claim that parental abduction is “not a crime”.  However, Japan has arrested numerous parents for attempted “child abduction” – most famously Christopher Savoie in 2009.  This is something that is admitted on the State Department’s own website:  http://goo.gl/JJkYa

Since the State Department acknowledges that Japan has arrested parents for “kidnapping”, how can they continue to repeat the farcical claim that such an act is not illegal in Japan?!

In addition, Japan ratified the UN CRC in 1994.  This UN human rights treaty states in article 11 that international kidnapping (specifically including Parental Kidnapping) is a crime.  Further, Japan’s constitution clearly states in article 98 that “the treaties concluded by Japan and established laws of nations shall be faithfully observed” [ http://goo.gl/OeauR ].  So the State Department is simply choosing the path of least conflict by refusing to call Japan out; and doing so at the expense of U.S. parents and U.S. children.

Finally, as stated above, congress has already addressed this issue of disparity in the EXTRADITION TREATIES INTERPRETATION ACT of 1998: http://goo.gl/vHNlY

So why is the Department of State violating federal law and continuing to block any attempts at extradition from the country of Japan? Why is the Department of State refusing to publicly condemn these human rights abuses against U.S. citizens and attacks on U.S. sovereignty?

These are precisely the type of actions needed to bring this issue of protecting U.S. children to head, and force a resolution between the two countries. The disfunction of foreign courts should not impede attempts to take appropriate legal actions consistant with U.S. federal code that would highlight these issues.  Nor should the Department of State cower from its duty to protect U.S. children by publicly calling out countries which are guilty of this human rights offense.

The State Department publicly meets with, and offers assistance to, Japanese nationals with family members abducted to North Korea – yet turns its back on U.S. parents.  STATE also publicly condemns North Korea for the human rights violations the the North Korean abductions represent – Yet refuses to condemn Japan for supporting the abductions of the thousands of children taken to, or held in, Japan.  Japan in turn, uses this contradiction by the Department of State to justify its hypocrisy: http://bit.ly/JAcowX

Why does the State Department seem to have such woefully misplaced loyalties?  And why are they being allowed to violate U.S. Federal Law?

And what are the members of Congress going to do about it?  Because right now, Congress is sitting on their hands as the Department of State sells out U.S. children.

 

*I recommend that you also read my post: Child Abduction in Japan… The REAL Numbers

 

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A Look at the Social-Marital Issues in Japan

 

Having had my own personal experience with the Japanese concept of “marriage”, finding that other parents (both males and females) had virtually identical experiences with their Japanese spouses, and having spent many long hours in talks with Japanese business associates that seemed to all have a similar form of martial woes – had led me down a path of thought.

Below are some articles adding numbers and statements which seem to support my own anecdotal experiences:

From the Mainichi Daily News — Nov. 26, 2011:

  • “Record 61% of unmarried Japanese men 18-34 have no girlfriend”
  • “The percentage of unmarried women with no boyfriend in the same age group also hit a record high of 49.5 percent, up 4.8 percentage points”
  • “13.5 percent of men and 11.6 percent of women aged between 25 and 34 said they do not know how to be in a relationship
  • “11.9 percent of men and 7.0 percent of women aged between 18 and 24 gave the same answer

From the JapanTimes Online — Sep. 6, 2011: 

  • In 2005, Durex, the world’s largest condom maker, conducted a Global Sex Survey (see www.durex.com/en-jp/sexualwellbeingsurvey/documents/gss2005result.pdf) involving 317,000 respondents in 41 countries.
  • The survey found that Japanese had the least sex in the world, at 45 times a year — far less than second-from-bottom Singapore (73 times a year), and even farther from the world average (103 times a year, meaning twice a week)
  • Moreover, less than a quarter (24 percent) of Japanese surveyed said they were “happy” with their sex lives, significantly lower than the global average of 44 percent.
  • Durex’s more recent Sexual Wellbeing Survey, involving 26,000 interviews from 26 countries, found Japan at the bottom again with even lower results (15 percent satisfied).

From JapanToday Online — FEB. 26, 2010:

  • The survey polled 1,077 men, 17.8% of whom say they’ve suffered some form of abuse—physical, psychological or sexual—at the hands of their wives.
  • One husband in a thousand, the survey found, has felt his wife was ready to kill him

—— My Analysis ——

The Japanese “traditional” view of clear separation of wife and husband duties, essentially cause them to lead largely separate and independent lives. Over time, instead of growing together, they grow apart. To the point where the wife resents the husband’s presence and any attempt by the husband to participate in the home life (especially if children are present in the marriage).

The Japanese children of yesterday grew up in this environment, leaving them ill-equipped to participate in healthy relationships themselves. This problem is continuing to perpetuate itself at ever increasing rates.  This problem has been compounded by the modern, technological world.

When you add to that that fact the Japanese legal system is structured in such a way that divorce with children means the complete destruction of the parental relationship between the child and one parent AND that the court uses abduction to determine custody, instead of more meaningful factors that would actually looks at which parent might be healthier for the child, you are a downward spiral that is only going to continue to get worse.

So what is the benefit of marriage in Japan?

  • You enter into a relationship of “apartness”
  • There exist no laws to ensure parental rights
  • A failed marriage means the abduction and abuse of any children
  • There is no social structure to encourage that couple act maturely to resolve issues; for example, couples in trouble seeking marriage counseling is viewed negatively.

So, again, what is the benefit of marriage in Japan?

Japan continues to lament its social issues, but uses tatemae to allow itself to not look inward; to not be introspective regarding the need for value changes in its society. Japan repeatedly denies the need to create laws to protect even basic human-rights.

As noted in a UN PRESS RELEASE 2008 – HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONSIDERS REPORT OF JAPAN:

  • “…it was repeatedly regretted that observations from several earlier country reviews of Japan had not had any effect and that Experts were making the same recommendations again. Sometimes, [discussing human rights with Japan] seemed to be a dialogue of the deaf.”
  • “There was no use in simply telling the Committee in what way they were doing things and then going back to their country and continuing to do things as before instead of discussing the implementation of the provisions of the Covenant.”
  • “An Expert was concerned about a lack of understanding of the Covenant by the Japanese delegation…. It was all about justifying the national legislation.”

Basically, the UN Experts questioned whether Japan even had an understanding of what “human rights” actually were.

According to the UN, in the ten years since the previous human rights review, Japan had done little meaningful to address any of the human-rights issues discussed in the past.

I have personally lived, worked and traveled to over 15 countries. Japan seemed to have *the* most fundamentally flawed sense of what a healthy marriage should be. Other countries, the US included, struggle to achieve the ideal… but Japan is stuck still trying to figure out what that ideal is — too mired in the blind belief of the “uniqueness of Japan” to be willing to take a closer look at their values; Psychology having long since determined that heathy marriages involve togetherness, maturity and compromise — which seems to be the opposite of the day to day reality in Japan.

Posted in Child Abduction in Japan, Human Rights, Marriage | Tagged | 3 Comments

For my sons during the holidays

Hello my sons…

It is the holiday season.  A time for families to be together.  I am sorry that your mother refuses to soften her heart.  We should all be together.  We should all be a family.

I miss you all.  I miss you my sons.

With love,

Your Father

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6 months and counting…

Hello Sons,

I know that I haven’t written for you much recently.  But know that I think of you everyday, and the reason for my silence is because I am busy fighting to be with you again.

It has been over 6 months since we last spoke; when you asked to be able to see me again.  I am thinking about you everyday.  I am doing everything that I can to change things so that we can be reunited.

I know that you need me there.  You need your father in your life.  There are many things that I need to teach you and many things that we need to do together.

Kai, you should be learning to ride a bike by now, hopefully that is happening.

Koh, I worry that be the time I next get to see you, that you will be too big to sit on my shoulders.

I am sorry that you are going through this right now.  Hopefully, we can change the system in Japan.  Hopefully, we can get Japan to start protecting your rights.  Always remember that you are loved.  I want to see you.  I want to be with you.  Do not let anyone convince you otherwise.

But do not worry, we will have a future together someday.  I will always be here, waiting to be with you – fighting to be with you.

- Your Father

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WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO….

 

There is a petition on the White House Petitions site, We the People.

Will YOU sign it? http://wh.gov/gKV And then, Will YOU Share it?

THIS PETITION IS 100% ONLINE – AND SHOULD TAKE LESS THAN 2m TO COMPLETE.

—–

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:

PUBLICLY press Japan for the return of Abducted US Children and provide transparent dialogs with Japan on this issue

Hundreds, if not thousands (Child Abduction in Japan… The REAL Numbers –http://bit.ly/pteCAe ), of US Citizen Children have been abducted to, or retained in, the country of Japan.

Japan has never returned a single child, has no legal concept of “joint-custody”, no enforcement of visitation, no requirement for rules of evidence on claims of DV.

The US Congress, in HR1326, has publicly condemned Japan and demanded the immediate return of this children.

However, the Executive Branch has only held back-room discussions. Additionally, there are persuasive claims the DoS is significantly downplaying the number of actual cases.

There needs to be complete transparency into this process, and public condemnation of Japan. These are our country’s children. We the people deserve to know if they are being traded for bases or other government goals.

Will you sign it? http://wh.gov/gKV  And then Share it?

—–

Please take just a few moments of your time to sign this digital petition, and then forward it on to all those you know.  Help press the White House to do the right thing, and press for the return of abducted US citizens.  As a side effect of this, you will also be helping to force Japan to change it’s current laws and policies regarding divorce and child custody, thereby enabling the estimated 250,000 children who annually lose permanent access to one parent due to Japan’s outdated and inadequate family laws and court system.

 

 

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ABC-AU – Brand New Story on Japan and Child Abductions

Screen capture from ABC AU story on the epidemic of child abductions to Japan - click to watch.

Screen capture ABC AU story – Japan is a safe haven for parental child abduction. Both Japanese and non-Japanese parents alike are using abduction to Japan to settle custody disputes or escape an already established court order, as Japan’s defunct and outdated legal system provides no mechanism to retrieve the children or provide for visitation. Fundamentally, the Government of Japan’s constant refusal to address the issues for over a decade demonstrates, if not complete moral acceptance, a definitive willingness to allow emotional child abuse at the hands of an abducting parent, who is obviously emotionally unstable. Especially once you understand that functionally this is also the method by which custody is determined within Japan. The parent which abducts the child, is all but guaranteed to have their actions “condoned” by the Japanese Courts – in the form of a Sole Custody Award

Japan proves safe haven for abducted kids

Japan has not signed the Hague convention so it’s becoming notorious as a safe haven for parents who abduct their own children after a relationship has broken down.

See the entire story here

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Child Abduction in Japan… The REAL Numbers – part 1.

Unfortunately, child abduction in Japan is a major epidemic. Equally unfortunate is the fact that so few people are aware if it. Part of the reason for this could be the fact that the “official numbers” reported by the US Department of State are so wrong – and they know it.

According to the US Department of State [DoS], the current number of cases are as follows [UPDATE: MAY 2012, please note that the "official" numbers are actually much higher, but that DoS has neglected to update the count on their website for over a year]

  • Since  1994, the Office of Children’s Issues has opened  230 cases involving 321 children abducted to or wrongfully retained in Japan.
  • As of January 7, 2011, the Office of Children’s Issues has  100 active cases involving 140 children.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo reports an additional 31 cases in which both parents and the child(ren) reside  in Japan but one parent has been denied access to the child(ren).

The DoS further acknowledges on their website that, “To date, the Office of Children’s Issues does not have a record of any cases resolved through a favorable Japanese court order or through the assistance of the Japanese government.”

So question number 1 that arises: What is behind the missing 130 cases?

Wait, did you catch that?  DoS has admitted to opening 230 cases.  Has acknowledged that Japan has never returned any children.  But somehow only has 100 active cases.  We will get back to this…

 

Another interesting “official number” is 31.  The number of cases “acknowledged” by the Department of State, where the foreign parent is being denied access to their child after separation or divorce has occurred within Japan.  This number, frankly, is just completely shameful.

Based on research done by both Law Professors in Japan and by Left-Behind Parents, we know that these cases number into the thousands.

In the english translation (Translation by Matthew J. McCauley of University of Washington’s Law School) of a paper written by Professor Tanase in 2009  (who has also been used as a consultant by DoS) he states, using statistics provided by various Japanese sources, that:

“ Over 251,000 married couples separated in 2008, and if this number is divided by the 726,000 marriages in the same year, roughly one out of every 2.9 marriages will end in divorce. Out of all divorcing couples, 144,000 have children, equaling about 245,000 children in all. Seeing as roughly 1.09 million children were born this year, about one out of every 4.5 children will experience divorce before reaching adulthood. Even with the increase in visitation awards, only about 2.6% of the 245,000 children affected by divorce [in Japan] will be allowed visitation. “

To simplify it:  Out of 245,000 children who’s parent’s are divorced in Japan ONLY about 6300 children will be allowed to maintain some level of contact with their “non-custodial parent” (We’ll get back to how custody is determined).  The remaining 238,700 children have one parent ceremoniously cut completely and suddenly from their life – often being punished, either emotionally or physically, by the “custodial parent” if they ask to continue to see the removed parent.

In addition, based on statistics provided by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (and gathered by Left-Behind Parent: John Gomez):

  • From 1992 to 2009, there have been 7,449 divorces between an American and a Japanese in Japan.
  • Of those Americans, 6,208 were men, and 1,241 were women.
  • According to the statistics, there is, on average, one child per divorce in Japan

So when you take 7,449 divorces (each with an average of 1 child based on the above statistics) and use Professor Tanase’s 2.6% estimate (which should be expected to be higher than would actually apply to foreign parents), that leaves you with approximately 7,255 children of US citizens (just counting data up to 2009) that are being denied access to their US parent.

On top of that there are at least four “X-factors”:

  1. As the data above is only valid up to 2009, the number is higher.  Especially given that the numbers of International Marriages have been on the rise; as have been the number of abductions (Even the US Embassy in Tokyo acknowledges this, although, as will be argued, with inaccurate numbers.)
  2. That there is currently no available data on non-divorce separations.  There are many cases (how many is unclear), where although access to a child is being denied, there is no official divorce – the Japanese spouse just walked out the door one day with the children. For this situation, there is no way to track how large the numbers are.
  3. Given the fact that getting children added to the list is made extremely difficult by the hurdles of Department of State bureaucracy, and that one would generally have to do their own research to even discover the OCI exists and will, if pushed, take a report, there could be many more children abducted to Japan annually than are accounted for in the “official” counts.
  4. Children born out of wedlock or in marriages abroad that were never recorded in Japan. (thanks to Walter Benda  of http://www.crcjapan.com/ for this pointing out)

With these additional factors, it is extremely reasonable to assume that total number of US citizen children that have been abducted and are being denied access to their US heritage and familial ties is along the lines of 10,000+ children vs. the 352 acknowledged by the Department of State.

Does the US Department of State know these numbers and how bad it is?  You bet they do!  Additionally, Left Behind Parents have been discussing the vast discrepancy in numbers with DoS for years – never receiving a clear answer.

So, given all the data, how can they claim only 31 cases of denial of access in Japan? Excellent question that a bunch of people, including the US Congress, have been asking for a very long time.

We’ll go over some possibilites when we continue in part 2… to come

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The Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal – Articles on Japan’s Dysfunction

The Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal is published three times a year by students of the University of Washington School of Law

DIVORCE AND THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD: DISPUTES OVER VISITATION AND THE JAPANESE FAMILY COURTS

Written by Takao Tanase, Translated by Matthew J. McCauley
20 Pac. Rim L. & Pol’y J. 563
June 2011
The following is a translation of an article written by Professor Takao Tanase for the December 2009 edition of Jiyū to Seigi, a Japanese legal periodical. Divorce and familial breakdown has become a major problem in modern Japanese society, yet the law does not provide any meaningful protection for the noncustodial parent. Professor Tanase analyzes this issue from a comparative and theoretical perspective, looking at the current Japanese visitation laws in place today, while contrasting those with the system in the United States. He also looks at how those laws affect actual families, and how the courts have implemented and enforced visitation agreements and orders. This article concludes that not only are the rights of the noncustodial parent insufficient to maintain a meaningful relation with their children following divorce, but that they hardly exist at all.

Japanese Version should be here:

DIVORCE AND THE WELFARE OF THE CHILD IN JAPAN

Matthew J. McCauley
20 Pac. Rim L. & Pol’y J. 589
June 2011
Current Japanese legal institutions are ill-equipped to resolve the complicated issues surrounding visitation, custody, and divorce. Japanese views toward family and society have changed greatly since the post-World War II family law was enacted in the 1950s, but the law has not evolved accordingly. This is especially clear in the methods used to determine custody and visitation, as well as the kyōgi rikon, or divorce by mutual consent system. Policy makers and activists are both working to resolve this problem, but their ongoing struggle has yet to produce any tangible results. This comment argues that the Japanese legal system must be reformed to allow for joint custody and to create a presumption for reasonable visitation, and the kyōgi rikon system must be changed to grant greater protections to all parties, including requiring a detailed parenting plan to provide for the children’s welfare and continued relationship with both parents.

—–
Excerpt from the article:
—–

…Even with the increase in visitation awards, only about 2.6% of the 245,000 children [annually] affected by divorce [in Japan] will be allowed visitation.

This raises the question of whether the remaining 97% of children of divorced couples will be able to have smooth visitation with the noncustodial parent. A lack of reliable studies prevents knowing the absolute truth, but considering that judicial cases epitomize the adversarial nature of parties in a divorce, and that their decisions can be seen as legal norms, the most likely result in these types of cases is that noncustodial parents will no longer be able to meet with their children following divorce. Even if they are able to meet, once a month is an abysmal state for visitation rights.

——

Comments:

Basically the articles discuss how the Japanese Family Court has traditionally prioritized the desires of the abducting parent over the true best interests of the child.

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Japan, Child Abduction and Hypocrisy…

An apt little article on BacHome.org  – a site to raise awareness of the plight of 300 U.S. citizen children kidnapped to (and wrongfully retained) in Japan.

Contrasting and demonstrating the hypocrisy of Japan vis-a-vis North Korea and Child abductions.  Read the article herehttp://bit.ly/pLGwD9

Returned Child Scoreboard comparing Japan and North Korea

Returned Child Scoreboard comparing Japan and North Korea

And while Japan continues to refuse the return of abducted US children or even to provide access to the children for the left behind parents… The Japanese government still asks the US for assistance in dealing with the handful of abducted Japanese children remaining in North Korea - Japan lawmakers urge no US food aid to N.Korea – Yahoo! News http://yhoo.it/nCpJe7  Have they no shame?

 

Japan is horrendous with regard to their record on child abduction: http://japan2.usembassy.gov/e/p/tp-20100122-85.html 

 

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