Japan’s ‘silent tsunami’ severs parental ties, wrecks children’s lives

Posted on August 30, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese Family Law, United Nation Convention on the Rights of a Child | Tags: , , , , , , |

Japan Times    Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011

To the next Prime Minister,


News photo
Left behind: Parents who have lost contact with their children after divorce or separation from their Japanese spouses march through Tokyo with their supporters on Aug. 23. The demonstrators urged Japan to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and amend its current child custody laws. Left Behind Parents Japan planned the march to coincide with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Tokyo. SIMON SCOTT PHOTO

I am the cofounder of Children First (childrenfirst.jp), an NPO that focuses on children’s issues. Every three minutes another child loses all contact with one of their parents after divorce. Every seven minutes another child is a victim of school bullying. Every 12 minutes another case of child abuse is reported to protective services. Every week at least one child dies as the result of abuse.

Children First is working to overcome these issues and other problems affecting children. But we can’t do it alone. We need the help of Diet members and policymakers to change things so Japan is a better place for children.

Most people are aware of bullying and abuse. These two issues make the headlines often. But a problem I and many other parents find more alarming is that every three minutes a child loses contact with one parent due to divorce.

On March 11, more than 16,000 people died; about another 5,000 are still missing. Hundreds if not thousands of children lost at least one parent on that day. Since March 11, more than 82,000 children have lost contact with one parent due to divorce.

This is a silent tragedy that is spreading like a cancer throughout Japan. It is preventing children from reaching their full potential. It is destroying families and family values. It leaves children confused about the future and it reduces their chances of having a normal life. It leaves some parents and children to deal with unimaginable grief. It is a silent tsunami that many people don’t know about. The family courts and the Japanese legal system are allowing this tragedy to continue.

In 2006 the Supreme Court made a DVD titled “What Couples with Children Must Think About When They Live Apart.” Surprisingly, the family courts don’t show this video to parents. Quite the opposite: They hide the existence of this DVD and family court judges make rulings that go directly against the message contained in the DVD — that children need both parents to be happy. Some family court lawyers are unaware that this video exists.

Now, the average parent gets four hours of visitation per month with his/her child. This is hardly enough time to form a bond or make a difference in a child’s life. Some parents use parental alienation to destroy the relationship the child once had with the noncustodial parent.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), children are entitled to have a relationship with both parents. If for some reason the parent and child are separated, the state (Japan) must re-establish contact with the left-behind parent. Of course, this never happens. So, the family court has failed twice. They don’t follow the advice of the Supreme Court DVD and they ignore the UNCRC, which is equivalent to a law.

I think it is time to review the rulings of judges throughout Japan and get rid of the ones who make bad rulings. I have been told by lawyers that judges sometimes don’t even look at the case files and are unprepared for what takes place in court. Bad judges need to be removed from the bench.

Mr. Prime Minister, I am asking you to take the necessary steps to remove bad judges as well as pass laws that guarantee children will have a long and meaningful relationship with both parents. Furthermore, I would also like you to pass laws that do a better job of protecting children from abuse and bullying, as well as implement better policies for reporting abuse and bullying. Teachers and bureaucrats are the key to eliminating abuse and bullying. I hope you give them the necessary tools to make a difference.

Currently, I have an active court case but that should soon change. On Sept. 13, the judge will make a ruling on my case regarding divorce and custody. If history is any indication, there is a 100-percent chance that I will lose. I plan to ride my bicycle from Kumamoto, where my court case is, to the Supreme Court in Tokyo. I will demand that family law be changed. I will stop at prefectural offices along the way and garner support from governors. I have taken eight weeks off of work for this cause. You can follow my progress on the Children First Japan Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/pages/Children-First-Japan/115396388532379) or the Joint Custody in Japan Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/oyako) and you can also find more information about my trip on my blog Children First Japan (kwbrow2.wordpress.com).



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3 Responses to “Japan’s ‘silent tsunami’ severs parental ties, wrecks children’s lives”

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The most succinct well written statement on the issue I have read to date. Thank you! Best wishes for a positive ruling in September.

Hello Kevin,

First of all allow me to thank you for finding this link and I would want to be active jn supporting you with what you have just written above.
In a nut shell, let me state to you my problem with no further ado…my son and his wife are in a trial separation for three months. Meanwhile during all these process of them not being able to meet, the wife has made drastic rules as to not to have the chance to meet his own 5 month old daughter unless he, my son leave their home. In the first week of May around that time, it was the wife’s decision to live with her mom for a month, it has gotten this far making her reach another decision of she not coming back home while he was still living there., and he moving out by October or else all the more she was going to make it impossible for her to see his daughter.
What bothers me the most and find unfair and frustrating is that we us grandparents as well are not allowed to meet our very own grandchild while all these undecided issues is going on. She has told my son that she didn’t want to heat from us nor receive any emails from me at all with the same threatening words.
I am so frightened upon reading how the law works here on sole custody and would like to hear any suggestions and like I said be a part make a difference.
I really hope I can be of help as well as be helped by you who has more knowledge that j can imagine.

Thank you for your time.
God bless
Mari Fujisawa

Are you living in Japan? Are you and your son Japanese? Is your sons wife Japanese? How far does the wife’s mom live from your son’s house and your house. These 4 questions will slightly affect my advice. In general the parent that moves away (abducts) with the child first is the winner. The court and judges will rule in favor of the status quo. They will find a reason to keep things the way they are. They won’t make changes to the existing situation. Lawyers won’t really be able to help you. I don’t advise getting a lawyer unless your son’s wife is demanding unreasonable amounts of money to see your grandchild. The Japanese system is so messed up because if your son gets visits he could then re-abduct your son and then file for divorce. Then he would be the one with custody and his wife would never get to see her son unless it was approve by your son. Kevin

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