From September to December I visited 41 prefectural offices. In general all most all prefectures did their best to accommodate my needs. Since my Japanese ability is not very good, I would first go to the International Affairs Division and ask for translation help. Then someone from International Affairs would accompany me to the Child Welfare Department or in some cases Child Welfare would come to the International Affairs Division. Ibaraki-ken was the most friendly prefectural office I visited. The people in the International Affairs Department and the Child Welfare Department were both great. Mie-ken was the most unfriendly prefectural office. They turned me away and told me to make an appointment if I decided to come back. They were the only prefecture that turned me away. Other unfriendly prefectures included Saitama, Oita, and Fukuoka. Some of the better prefectures were Iwate, Yamanashi, and Ibaraki, with the remaining prefectures falling in the middle. Sometimes I met with as many as 4 members from Child Welfare. Many times the people I met with would take notes as I spoke. All most every prefecture said they would share the information I gave them with others in their department. They all said they would have a meeting to discuss what they could do for me (for children who can’t meet one of their parents). But they said it was difficult for them to do anything significant. Of course I said they were limited in what they could do but I also suggested some simple things they could do, such as ask the governor to send a request to the Diet in Tokyo requesting Japan adopt “Joint Custody”. Japan is the only G-7 country that does not have some form of joint custody. I met some good people along the way. Left behind parents supported me in Fukuoka, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Gifu, Shiga, Aichi, Yokohama, Tokyo, and Nagano. I am grateful of their help and generosity. I was definitely able to raise awareness at the prefectural level but the general public still is largely unaware of this problem. More work needs to be done. I told all of the prefectural offices that the family court was the problem. The ruling the family courts make go against the message contained in the DVD Supreme Court video and the UNCRC. The family courts do nothing to ensure children have contact with both parents. The government encourages fathers to take a more active role in child rearing and has established policies for workers to take more time off when their kids are born. But the family courts/government seem to ignore this fact when couples divorce. After divorce one parent somehow becomes unimportant. Ten’s of thousands of loving parents, maybe more, are being denied access to one parent. You can make a difference by getting involved. Oyakonet and K-net are 2 of the biggest LBP groups in Japan. There are many other smaller groups too, most of whom support each other and work toward the same goal “spending more time with their children”. Contact Children First if you are interested in helping out.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
I was doing some research and found 2 US divorce lawyers had written about my trip from Kumamoto to Tokyo. Essentially it is their perspective of what I was trying to accomplish. I included the links if you would like to read their stories.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
On October 16th, 2011 there was a demo in Tokyo for joint custody and the Hague. Kevin Brown, the co-founder of Children First (www.childrenfirst.jp), cycled from Kumamoto to Tokyo to raise awareness about child rights. It took him 31 days to reach Tokyo. Along the way he recieved help from other left behind parents. He stayed one to three days with fellow left behind parents in Fukuoka, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Okazaki, Hamamatsu, and Tokyo. Kevin, like most left behind parents has little access to his child. Like all left behind parents, he wants to see his child more than once a month for 4 hours, the average time awarded by Japanese Family Court Judges. Kevin would like to see Japan adopt a joint custody system similar to that in most western countries. Japan is the only G-7 country without joint custody. And Japan is the only G-8 country not to sign the Hague. Kevin stopped at 15 prefectural offices during his cycling tour. He spoke about joint custody and other issues affecting the well being of children. You can see about 1 minute of the demo if you click on the link: October 16th demo in Shibuya
The Japan Times published Kevin’s story: Dad seeks visitation reform
as did the Asahi Shimbu (nihongo): asahi shimbunRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Here is a summary of my 30 day cycling tour. My goal was to raise awareness about child rights, especially the right for children to see both parents after divorce/separation.
Kilometers cycled, 1500
Diet members met, 2
Times in the paper, 3 (Asahi Shimbun and Kobe Shimbun and Japan Times via Kyodo News)
Times on TV, 1 (NHK Oct. 31st)
Left Behind Parents I stayed with, 9
Left behind parents I met before reaching Tokyo, 14
Left behind parents I met in Tokyo, numerous
Child Welfare division that I spoke to (prefectural offices), 15
Questionnaires given to Child Welfare Offices, 15
Parades/Demonstrations attended, 1 (with a big welcome in Shibuya)
Everything on behalf of Childrenfirst
TOKYO, Oct. 15 — (Kyodo) _ (EDS: ONE PHOTO AVAILABLE)
An American who has been separated from his 6-year-old son due to his divorce from his Japanese wife completed a month-long 1,500-kilometer bike ride from Kyushu to Tokyo this week to raise awareness on the issue of child custody. Along the way, he stopped at local government offices to lobby for children’s rights to have access to both parents.
Kevin Brown, a 45-year-old English teacher and the founding director of civic group “Children First” in central Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, said that during his visits to more than 10 prefectural and municipal government offices he explained that children’s steady access to both parents should be guaranteed in line with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Brown, a native of Illinois, was parted from his son four years ago when his wife moved from Nagoya to southwestern Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture. Every six weeks he travels by overnight bus to the prefecture in the Kyushu region to see the boy for five hours — the maximum amount of time agreed upon during the divorce settlement.
“When I started research, I was really disappointed in what I found — the sole custody system. Usually, the winner is the person who abducts the kids first,” Brown said in an interview with Kyodo News. “I want a kind of unlimited access to my son. Once every six weeks is not enough.”
The father said he learned of the Japanese child-custody system in the middle of the divorce proceedings, which were finalized in September. “I would like the kind of American system where, you know, every other weekend, overnight visits, birthdays, holidays you get to see the kids,” he said.
The English teacher said that since his son was only 2 when they were parted, the boy only speaks Japanese and has difficulty communicating with his father, who does not speak much Japanese.
Family courts in Japan tend to give mothers sole custody after divorce and it is not unusual for children to stop seeing their fathers after their parents break up. Brown pointed out that the average visitation awarded by the courts to parents without custody is four hours a month.
Brown said he underlined during his meetings with local government officials that Japan, which ratified the U.N. convention in 1994, has not implemented policies to secure children’s access to both parents and that the country is the only Group of Seven member to adopt the sole custody system upon divorce.
Article 9 of the U.N. pact says state parties “shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.”
The other G-7 countries are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United States.
The campaigner said some local government officials in charge of child welfare were not well aware of the issue related to visitations as they focused on protecting children from abuse and were “not too familiar with good parents not being able to see their kids.”
Although some workers told Brown that what local governments can do is limited as the matter should be handled by the central government, he said the awareness-raising tour was meaningful as “the first step in making change.”
Japan recently launched preparations for joining the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which establishes procedures for settling international child custody disputes.
However, Brown’s case will not be covered by the pact because it is not retroactive, only applying to cases that occur after its entry into force in Japan, and also because it deals with cross-border parental child abductions.
In late September, U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Tokyo’s decision to enter into the Hague Convention but asked Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda during their summit talks in New York that the Japanese government also “focus on the preexisting cases,” according to the U.S. State Department.
Noda said he was aware of the 123 active cases involving children who have been abducted from the United States to Japan, and vowed to “take special care to focus on these particular issues,” the state department said.
(c) 2011 Kyodo News International, Inc.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
As some of my blog readers know, I am cycling from Kumamoto to Tokyo to raise awareness about children’s rights. As a result I have been unable to keep my blog up to date. I am now in Okayama. I guess it is about the halfway point. I will hopefully end my awareness tour in Tokyo on the 17th of October. If you would like to follow my awareness tour please check out the Children First Japan Facebook page and the Joint Custody Facebook page.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I have made some modifications to my cycling trip. I have decided to start in Kumamoto on the 13th of September. I picked this day because the judge will rule on my case on the 13th. I was expecting the ruling much earlier. As a result I thought it would be best to delay my start. It seems kind of symbolic to start in Kumamoto. I have a had to make numerous trips to Kumamoto for court. I can pick up my ruling on the 13th and then start cycling. It would be nice if I could get press or left behind parents to see me off on the 13th. If you don’t have plans feel free to meet me at the Kumamoto Family Court on the 13th of September.
I am still planning to handout flyers along the way. I am still planning on stopping at governors offices, court houses, and international schools. Due to my late start I may not have time to cycle all the way to Hokkaido. I will play it by ear. There are numerous left behind parents who can support me from Kumamoto to Tokyo but much less support exists between Tokyo and Hokkaido. I am working with other left behind parents now to pin down the exact days I will be in Saga, Fukuoka, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Okayama, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Otsu, Gifu, Nagoya, Shizuoka, Yokohama, and Tokyo. I will be making updates on the Joint Custody in Japan Facebook page and the Children First Facebook page as well as my Facebook page. Please check one of these places every week or so.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Clive France has started a photo project. He intends to photograph as many left behind parents in Japan as possible. He just started this project but you can see his work in progress if you follow the link: Left-Behind-Parent Photo Project
Please contact Clive if you want to be part of the project. He can be reached through Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.orgRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Children First was one of many charities at the walkathon at Morikoro Park on May 22nd. Children First was selling shirts, magnets, coffee cups, buttons, and they also sold a wide variety of food. Many families attended. Children First was handing out free balloons with the help of kids from the Nagoya International School. The balloons were a big hit with the kids. The weather was good most of the day. Many left behind parents came to help with the event. All of the proceeds went to charity. We did not sell as much as we hoped to but it was an overall good experience. Next year we will be better prepared and more organized. To see some pictures of this event please visit the Children First Facebook Page. childrenfirstfacebook Children first is dedicated to protecting the rights of children. To learn more about Children First please visit our website www.childrenfirst.jpRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Sunday, May 22, 2011 at Moricoro Park (Nagoya)
2011 brings the ACCJ/ NIS Walkathon and International Charity Festival into its 20th year. Over the past years this event has been a huge success and has become the largest annual international event in Nagoya and Chubu area. And with the 20th Anniversary, we are taking it to a new location at the 2005 Expo Aichi Commemorative Park or Moricoro Park as it is now known.
This annual event brings together well over two thousand members of the International and Japanese communities to support the vital work being conducted by local NPOs and charitable organizations.
The Walkathon has also been successful in raising money for local charities and last year the Walkathon Committee was able to distribute over 7 million yen to 27 charities, which support children and those in need in the Chubu Area. This year we hope to improve on that success.
This year will see the event held at MoricoroPark for the firsttime and our goal is to raise well over 8million yen. This will get us back on track to the level of funds raised before the economic downturn 2 years ago and we need everyone’s help in reaching this goal, whether you are participating as an individual or as part of an association or company.
The Walkathon should prove to be a fun and memorable event and a super opportunity for international exchange between members of the Japanese and International communities. So invite your friends and family and join in the fun.
Children First will be one of the many groups (NPO’s) at this charity festival. Please come and support Children First or one of the many other charities. All of the money goes to helping children. For more information (sponsors, charity recipients, access, purpose, etc.) about the event please visit the website below.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
CNN and several other new agencies covered the Left Behind Parents demo in Tokyo on January 16th, 2011. The following is part of an article written by CNN.
“Stop parental child abduction,” the parents cried. “Sign the Hague Convention.”
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction is a multilateral treaty that dates to 1983. It often comes into play when parents divorce, and one parent takes the child back to his or her home country, keeping the child away from the other parent who may have partial or full custody. The treaty effectively forces signatory nations to recognize that custody.
Dozens of countries have signed onto it — the official website lists 84 “contracting states” to the convention — but Japan is not among them.
Calls for Japan to sign the convention have increased as heartbreaking stories have come to light.
But some critics say Japan joining the convention would not solve cases of international parental abductions. They argue Japan’s domestic legal system needs to be improved and prepared for the increasing numbers of marriages between Japanese people and foreign nationals. To read the full article or watch the video click on the link(s) below.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Three part video on reforming family law in Japan. Currently many parents are working to change the law so joint custody will be possible in Japan. You will learn about joint custody in America and how custody differs in Japan. You will learn about the common problems with the family law system in Japan too. Please click on the links to watch the videos (all videos are in English).
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Two articles concerning a secret Supreme Court Video were posted in the April 20th, 2011 edition of the Japan Times. What kind of video does the Supreme Court want to keep secret? Well, this video is about divorce and what parents must consider when they live apart. How are the children affected? Kevin’s article talks about how the courts fail, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and the recent pressure from 8 nations asking Japan to sign the Hague. Link for Kevin’s article.
Colin’s article is longer and covers several different things. First he talks about how separation is hard on the kids. Second, his extensive online research for the DVD turned up almost nothing. Third, he considered the DVD to be well made with a good message. Fourth, he talks a little about divorce statistics. And finally, he gives his opinion on why the DVD is not shown. Link for Colin’s article:
by Colin P.A. Jones (Lawyer at prominent University in Kyoto)