Japanese policy

Press Release from Global Future, The Parents’ Council on International Children’s Policy

Posted on February 23, 2013. Filed under: Child Abduction, Child Custody and Visitation, Hague Convention, Japanese policy | Tags: , , , , , |

February 22, 2013
Japan PM Abe Promises Hague Accession, but Leaves Kidnapped U.S. Children Held in Japan

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has arrived in Washington
for a four-day summit with President Obama, bearing yet another promise that Japan will
accede to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. For 30 years,
Japanese officials have said they have been “studying the Hague”. While Japan
studied, one FBI agent estimated in 2009 that 20,000 American children have been
kidnapped from U.S. soil and taken to Japan. Even if Japan finally fulfills its public
promises to sign the Hague, the Treaty will only represent a prevention framework for
future cases. There has been no mention of remedy for, and the Hague will not apply
retroactively to existing cases. In spite of intensely negative press, Congressional
legislation, and several joint demarches in recent years by 10 or more countries
condemning Japan’s apparent policy of state-sanctioned kidnapping, Japan has not yet
acted to remedy any of the long record of existing criminal abductions, or prevent future
abductions of children by its nationals.
Per capita and in real numbers, Japan, a G7 nation, owns the ignominious ranking of #2
in the world in the crime of international child kidnapping, behind Mexico and ahead of
India. Unlike the developing countries of Somalia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, Japan has
never returned a kidnapped child to the U.S. or any other country, through direct legal
or diplomatic means. Over the same 30 years, the only American child ever returned
from an illegal kidnapping to Japan, is Wisconsin native Karina Garcia. Today, Japan’s
Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues efforts to subvert the U.S. law and jurisdiction
governing Karina’s custody. Both U.S. and Japanese courts had previously awarded full
custody to her father, Dr. Moises Garcia.
American parents of children kidnapped from the U.S. to Japan believe there is much
Japan must rectify. In U.S.-to-Japan child kidnappings, Japanese nationals intentionally
broke the law in America and directly defied, with pre-meditation and malice, U.S. court
custody and passport surrender orders, issued under proper U.S. jurisdiction. The
abductors frequently enlisted the assistance of organized crime elements in the
planning and execution of the crimes. Worse, MOFA officials in Japan’s U.S.
Consulates encourage law breaking on their own websites and assist in the crimes
through dubious and unilateral issuance of Japanese passports for U.S. citizen children,
who at the time of their kidnappings were not also citizens of Japan. Upon the
kidnappers’ arrival in Japan at the conclusion of the crimes, the Japanese government
unlawfully claims jurisdiction over the children. When American parents fight back by
seeking the help of the U.S. government, Japan’s government counters by employing
well-paid American lobbyists, lawyers, and agents to lobby Congress and work against
legislation intended to assist the kidnapped American children and U.S. law
enforcement. Routinely, and with no supporting evidence, Japanese officials or
affiliated spokespersons falsely claim that Japanese parents kidnapped the children to
flee abuse, a charge that U.S. parents find deeply offensive, libelous, and damaging to
the children. Global Future condemns all perpetrators of violence and abuse in the
home, regardless of their gender, nationality, or race.
The Japanese government’s apparent endorsement of this set of belligerent actions
reflects poorly on Japan’s image worldwide. Abe, by visiting the U.S., is now in
position to answer for it. Japan’s record of stripping defenseless American children of
their U.S. Constitutional rights raises serious questions about Japan’s true intentions
and worthiness as an ally. When one of our best allies subverts our sovereignty, aids
and abets in the criminal kidnapping and illegal retention of defenseless American
children, outrageously claims jurisdiction over the children after the unlawful acts,
causes lifelong damage to the children and then alienates them by smearing their
parents with false accusations, and employs paid agents to run interference against the
American children and their parents, how much can this supposed ally really be trusted
in any subject of mutual interest? Where is the reciprocity, shared values, and mutual
respect for the rule of law?
Time is the enemy of all of these children. Wrongfully held children in Japan just grow
older and more alienated from their American families, society, culture, and their US civil
and constitutional rights. These mixed race children represent the future of the U.S.-
Japan alliance. They represent the best bridges between our two countries, societies,
and cultures. They need to be protected, cherished, and allowed to thrive. Forcibly
separated from one half of their families, restricted from one parent’s love, care,
guidance, and protection, and brainwashed against them, these children are destined to
Recent events in the China Sea, and in North Korea call us to consider how we will fulfill
our obligations in the alliance on behalf of Japan. Should we really send our service men
and women into harm’s way to protect Japan from Chinese or North Korean threats, if
we can’t trust Japan to rectify the kidnappings of American children for which it is
Through his work on the issue of the abduction of Japanese by North Korea while a
cabinet official under then-Prime Minister Koizumi, Abe knows very well the
devastating effects of abduction. He also knows that North Korea returned surviving
abduction victims to Japan. Abe could likewise rectify the criminal and destructive
behavior of Japanese nationals by returning the kidnapped children to the U.S. and
allowing them to have both parents again, as both parents originally agreed to before
U.S. judges, in U.S. courts of law. We hope Abe will see the long-term benefit to the
alliance of returning the kidnapped children to U.S. He can make a concrete offer to
Obama now regarding open abduction cases, while staying on course to accede to the
Hague. By doing so, he will deepen the alliance, on a basis of mutual respect, trust,
shared values, and family connections.

Global Future
P.O. Box 861892 Los Angeles, CA 90086 Phone: (213) 392-5872
Global Future advocates for every child’s right to two loving parents.

Contact: Patrick Braden, (213) 392-5872 Global.Future@yahoo.com
Scott Sawyer, (323) 877-9185 returnourchildren@gmail.com

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Single fathers unite to voice their concerns about benefits in Japan

Posted on June 19, 2012. Filed under: Japanese policy, single fathers, Uplifting Stories | Tags: , , , , |

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Special to The Japan Times

A group of dads and their small kids gathered around for a step-by-step demonstration of how to make perfect French toast. Then they got busy cracking eggs and beating them, cutting the bread into small squares that they dipped in the egg and then dropped into a hot skillet to watch sizzle as a buttery scent wafted through the room. Finally, they sliced up some banana and strawberry and topped the whole thing off with whipped cream. Voila!

“In ‘Kramer versus Kramer,’ (a film about a man who is suddenly thrust into single fatherhood) Dustin Hoffman can’t make French toast,” said Tomoyuki Katayama, the event’s organizer. “But then he learns how and does it beautifully at the end.”

That little anecdote sheds light on the events that led 41-year-old Katayama to the Gender Equality Center in Nishinomiya city in Hyogo Prefecture on a Saturday morning in mid-January. He was there to help local dads bond with their kids over French toast, to give a talk on the state of single fatherhood in Japan and offer his thoughts on the way forward, as he recently had in a bunch of other cities.

Since late 2009, when he founded Single Father Japan, a Niigata-based NPO that advocates the interests of single fathers, Katayama has been raising awareness of low-income single dads and petitioning the government to get them the same benefits as single mothers. The plight of such men is quite a twist in a patriarchal culture where the short end of the stick is typically reserved for women. But with an increase in divorce and rising female independence, the number of single fathers in Japan rose from roughly 166,000 in 2005 to 204,000 in 2010, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Over a bento (packed lunch) before his lecture, Katayama, who grew up in Niigata Prefecture, shared his story. He confessed that when he got married in 1993 he never imagined he would become a single parent, much less that he would spearhead a movement to fight for single fathers’ equal rights.

When his marriage officially ended in 2005, he gained custody of his two kids — a 10-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. At the time, he said he had little sympathy for struggling single dads because, like many people in Japan, he thought it a man’s duty to support his family on his own.

Over the next few years, he was active in an online community of single parents where he dispensed legal advice about divorce. One day in 2008, a man contacted him for guidance. He said he was unable to juggle child-rearing and his demanding job, so he quit. But he couldn’t find another job because prospective employers didn’t think a single dad with a toddler was a safe bet. When he contacted Katayama, he had used up his savings and was getting evicted from his apartment.

His dilemma: Should he kill only himself? Or would it make more sense to take his child along with him?

Katayama stayed up all night on the phone talking him out of suicide and explaining how to get help. He was outraged that this man had not been given a break and felt that not only were the unsympathetic companies to blame but also that society itself had let him down.

“That was the trigger,” he said. “It made me realize that we need support for single fathers in Japan.”

The following year, through Fathering Japan, an organization he had joined, Katayama got involved in a new charity — the French Toast Fund, which provided money for needy single fathers. Then, after the 2009 election, Katayama decided the only way to bring about legislative change was to give the government a big push. To strengthen their voices, he brought together various regional groups that support single fathers to form a unified nationwide organization — Single Father Japan.

The organization’s first order of business was to get financially strapped single dads child-care allowance, something that single moms were entitled to, but fathers were not. Once Single Father Japan had aroused media interest in the cause, the government took notice and it passed a bill granting allowances to men, which went into effect in August 2010. After six months, 59,000 single-father families were receiving it.

The next battle was to fight for bereavement benefits for fathers who have lost their wives, which with the increase of widowers after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami has become a heightened concern. The bill is currently winding its way through the legislature.

Katayama said he is driven by the desire to remove the stigma from single fatherhood in Japan, to level the playing field for single dads of today and to make sure the next generation won’t have it as hard as his did.

“What we really need,” he said, “is a safety net that stops single fathers from falling into a bottomless pit.”
For more information on support for single fathers in Japan, visit: Single Father Japan at zenfushiren.jp and Fathering in Japan at http://www.fathering.jp. (both websites are in Japanese only).

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“Children First” Prime Minister NODA’s KEYWORDS November 18, 2011

Posted on March 22, 2012. Filed under: Japanese policy, Uplifting Stories | Tags: , , , , |

Children First
Prime Minister NODA’s KEYWORDS November 18 (Friday) 14:50

October 31, 2011, in response to a question from Representative Yuko Obuchi during the Plenary Session of the House of Representatives

“Measures to address the declining birthrate are a pressing matter of importance, in light of the arrival of a society whose decline in population is underway in earnest. For that reason, we must stand by the principle of ‘children first’ and strengthen our support for the child-raising generation both nationally and regionally in order to enhance social security more fully during the first half of people’s lives.”
Interactions between fathers and children are the starting point of education
October 14, 2011, during a visit to facilities providing child-rearing assistance
“There is a theory that the Japanese character used in the first half of the word ‘education’ kyouiku derives from first writing the character for ‘father’ and then the character for ‘child’ below it, and then the character for ‘interact’ alongside it to the right. Interactions between fathers and children are the starting point of education.”

A country that devotes attention to its children
October 14, 2011, during a visit to facilities providing child-rearing assistance
“Meiji-era Japan was viewed by other countries as a country in which parents doted greatly on their children.  Consequently, I consider it important for us to promote the principle of ‘children first.’”

Children’s smiling faces also bring smiles to the faces of their mothers and fathers
October 14, 2011, during a visit to facilities providing child-rearing assistance
“I have been moved by children’s smiling faces beyond the extent of this visit.  When children are smiling, their smiles spread to their mothers and fathers as well.  Thus, a society of ‘children first’ is a society that nurtures smiling faces in everyone.”


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Japanese Policy Orphans Children

Posted on February 27, 2012. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Japanese policy | Tags: , , , |

I am writing in response to a series of articles in the Japan Times about children being raised by relatives after the tsunami.  First, I would like to say that I feel for all of the people who  lost their lives in the tsunami disaster in March of 2011. It is was a tragedy for so many. Children, parents, grandparents, and relatives were left to cope with unprecedented loss. However, I am writing about the use of a particular word and that word is “orphan”.

In one story the father and mother both died in the tsunami (very tragic). In the other 2 stories it appears the fathers were never in the picture. One story mentions divorce and the second story never mentions the father at all.  Neither of these stories elaborate on why the father was out of the picture. Was it his choice to leave? Did the mother refuse to let her ex-husband see his son? If the latter is true then we could say the mother orphaned the boy because she cut off all contact with his father. (In my opinion one story implies that the loss of one parent makes you an orphan)

Perhaps the father chose to leave. He may or may not have wanted to contact his son any longer. If this is true then we could say the father orphaned his son.

In my personal opinion it is better to say that Japanese policy orphans children. When people divorce in Japan only one parent is given custody. Due to this policy thousands of children become orphaned every year. That is, thousands of children loose contact with one parent every year due to divorce.

According to these articles if one parent dies then you are an orphan. I feel an orphan is a child who has experienced the death of both biological parents. (This is true in 1 of these 3 stories).  Two of these children presumably have  biological fathers out there and perhaps extended family that would like to help out. When I began to write this article my intention was not to undermine the loss/death of a parent, child, or relative. My intention was to underscore the importance of family. Japanese policy does not encourage nor allow children to remain in contact with extended family after divorce. Children are “orphaned” due to outdated laws and bureaucratic complacency. If Japanese policy allowed for joint custody, these children would still probably have a father and grandparents on the father’s side of the family that could help raise and support these children.  Children are the foundation of our future. The more love children receive from extended family the better.  I really hope bureaucrats and politicians wake up and draft laws that allow children to see both parents.  The future of Japan depends on it.

To read the articles, please click on the links.

 Tohoku teen feels guilt of being lone survivor

Divorcee raising orphaned nephew

Grandparents stifle grief to raise orphan

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Japan’s sexist labour market, not good for child care

Posted on August 6, 2011. Filed under: Japanese policy | Tags: , , , , , |

Aug 2nd 2011, 15:38 by K.N.C. | TOKYO    The Economist

“MY MOTHER died,” said the female boss of a Japanese software company, seemingly from out of nowhere, during an interview. “I’m sorry,” I said. What else can one say?

“No, no,” she rushed to explain, sensing that I hadn’t followed her point.

I was interviewing Fujiyo Ishiguro, the founder of Netyear, an online-marketing software firm. We were discussing Japan’s software sector, her company and her decision to go to America for business school. How did her mother fit in?

“It is hard to raise a child in Japan without one’s parents,” she said. “The infrastructure for child care is not well developed.” The grandparents tend to support the mothers during child-rearing, but Ms Ishiguro’s father had also passed away years earlier, she explained.

Then I understood her point—and almost fell out of my chair. I sat there stunned. Ms Ishiguro registered my reaction. For a moment, we both simply sat staring at one another.

“You mean to tell me…you felt it was easier to leave Japan…with a two-year-old son…to do an MBA at Stanford…because you couldn’t access child care in Japan?!,” I mustered, blinking in disbelief.

We continued to stare for another second, till she broke the silence.

“I am risk averse. It is much easier to go to the US than stay in Japan as a working mother,” she confirmed.

I returned to taking notes, as my pulse began to come back.

The story ends well for Ms Ishiguro—if not so well for Japan as a whole. After completing her MBA, she started a consulting firm in California in part because she could control her time more easily there and raise her son. She eventually returned to Japan and started Netyear, which helps companies manage their online marketing operations. Salesforce.com, a large Silicon Valley cloud-computing vendor, took a stake in the firm last year, which is seen in Japan as an important validation of its high quality. (This comes as Japan starts belatedly to overcome its bias for hardware over software, which we’ve written about in July.)

But there is a sinister side to the story, back in Japan. The lack of child care was at one point an intentional policy choice—made by the nearly all-male political, bureaucratic and business elite—based on the belief that keeping women at home would support traditional values, improve family life and spur women to produce more children, such as to reverse the declining birth rate.

Of course, evidence from places like Sweden, France and even South Korea shows the reverse: better child-care facilities encourage women to have more children, not fewer. Japan’s policy couldn’t have been worse. Since the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has been in government it has tried to establish better provisions for child care, but has been stymied by the dinosaurs in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who authored the policy of yore. They just block everything the government tries, hoping to discredit it and win power in the next election.

Ms Ishiguro has always been a pioneer in Japan. While she was a salaryman (so to speak) working in the Nagoya office of Brother, an office-equipment maker, she founded and captained the company’s women’s rugby team. Now she is one of the few female Japanese bosses of a publicly traded company. Another notable female business leader was Tomoko Namba, the founder and chairman of DeNA—who recently stepped down as chief executive.

As for Ms Ishiguro’s son? He graduates from Stanford’s computer science department next year. “I tried to raise him to be a geek. And Silicon Valley is for geeks. And now he’s a geek in geek school,” she says, beaming with pride. Though he is Japanese and was raised partly in Japan, she doubts that he’ll end up making his career in his native land, like his mum did. There’s more opportunity for an ambitious programmer in Silicon Valley, she sighs.

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