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Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009

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Child support: The forthcoming documentary film "From the Shadows" focuses on the problem of parental child abduction in Japan. See the trailer and donate to the project at www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Betting your family on Japan: readers respond

Life is long, should be long

Mr. Cory, I truly sympathize with your comments and experiences. Your comment about mixed feelings toward your wife really struck home with me as well. Indeed, I too am a Richard Cory, living a farcical life with all of the appearances of the enviable.

Despair and hopelessness often consume me as well, for my son was taken from me by my beloved wife and I have not seen either of them for nearly a year. I am working through the Japanese system, but as has been written many times before, it is a joke quite unfunny.

Almost nobody in my professional circles or otherwise knows of what has happened to me in the past year. I meet new people at cafes, the gym, all around — they assume that I am single, and I encourage this misunderstanding, if only to start the makings of a new life.

So, I live the farce of the old life as a "happy" family man for some old acquaintances alongside this new life as a pseudo-bachelor for my new friends. It is hard to be put in the middle of two non-realities, deceiving nearly everyone to keep up appearances, and in an attempt to avoid the very painful mess that is reality. The poem makes no description, but perhaps this is the implication in the "Richard Cory" poem as well.

If I can offer any consolation at all to the writer, it is that life is long, and it should be long. Richard Cory was wrong. If anything is true, it is that great men are measured by the strength of their character and their ability to endure. Most any author or poet of repute has said that nearly every "great man" has fallen, has failed miserably. His greatness is in his ability to rise again, to stand up, to endure.

I too don't know if I will ever be able to see my cherished son again anytime soon, and am tortured by that thought daily. But despite false appearances, I will not allow myself to be a victim who shrinks into a meek man on the inside.

Life is long, and there is a great deal of hope for us, sir. Endure.

NAME WITHHELD
Tokyo

Make joint custody the law

I have been living in Nagoya with my wife for the past 13 years (we've been married for 16 years). We have two beautiful elementary school-age girls. We also have a bad marriage. After I discovered my wife's romantic e-mails to U.S. service members, I went into survival mode, trying as best as I could to save our marriage. Naively, I did it "for the kids."

It's been 2 1/2 years since I discovered my wife's secret Internet liaison. It's been terrible on our kids. My wife has abused me both verbally and physically (take that one, mainstream Japanese press, and stop portraying Japanese wives as the only victims!). I've taken it. Basically, I have been gaman-ing (persevering) because I know that all it takes is one outburst by me, one closed-fist punch after she claws me with sharp-edged fingernails across my arms and neck, and she'll be on the phone to the police and I will end up arrested, unemployed, and never see my kids again.

Needless to say, my wife has undiagnosed mental health problems. I couldn't even suggest that she see a doctor. On top of that, she has problems with alcohol.

About a month and a half ago, she actually talked to me calmly for a couple hours. We both agreed that we need to divorce and that it should be done smoothly. Most importantly, we agreed that I would be able to see my kids for a significant amount of time each month. After a few days had passed, my wife was back to her old, ornery self. I live upstairs, she lives downstairs. She controls every aspect of the kids' lives. She does her best to keep them away from me, but my girls always find a way to see me and communicate with me. It's just sad that they have had to play referee and also witness so much violence between their parents.

Since I pay for our house, nobody can kick me out. Right now, staying put here in my home is my only hope of being able to see my kids. I have consulted a lawyer team many times. They suggest we do a rikon kyogisho (divorce agreement) and put in the agreement all the things we desire in detail (custody, property division, alimony, etc.). I would jump at the opportunity to actually do this if the agreement was actually enforceable. It's not. Once a divorce took place, my wife could ignore any agreement and I could be denied access to my kids.

Although I know that my lawyers and my friends are trying hard to give me good advice, it's sometimes troubling. On the one hand, I have good friends who say, "Do whatever it takes for your kids," but they lack understanding of Japan and Japanese legal workings. On the other hand, there are those that say, "This needs to stop. Get out (and give her custody if need be) before your wife does something bad to you, herself or your kids." The way the family court system is set up here in Japan makes it so that the spouse (most often the father) has to disappear from the children's lives. In effect, to just "die."

To all who say, "Hey, this is Japan. When in Japan, do as the Japanese do," I say that kids need both parents. I don't think of this as an "American" or "Western" concept, but one that is pretty much intact in all cultures.

So, for now, the only thing that I can think of to do is sit tight. The solution to my problem is not so difficult: Make joint custody, and at the very least guaranteed, significant visitation time the law and make it enforceable.

NAME WITHHELD
Nagoya

Will Japan ever change?

I am also a parent, and my Japanese ex-wife abducted my son. He was born in the USA, and she broke the court order to return him and has broken off contact.

How can Japan allow this? Why do they not help parents from other countries? Why have they not signed the Hague (Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction)?

Don't they have people abducted from Japan? What about North Korea?

Will this backward-thinking country ever change?

RICHARD NIELSEN
Soquel, Calif.

U.S. needs to take action

I read the recent articles by Colin P. A. Jones, and I suffer from the same problem as the people he mentioned. I have no idea where my ex-wife is in Japan and desperately desire to speak with my kids. Here is a letter I wrote my congressman:

"On Dec. 14, 1998, my wife and I were married in Virginia Beach, Va. Our children, Gunnar and Kianna Berg, were born in Portsmouth, Va., and Annapolis, Md., respectively.

"We agreed to a divorce that was finalized on April 18, 2009, with a shared custody order in Fairfax County courthouse. On Aug. 6, my wife and our children left for a family vacation to Japan. Since that time I have spoken with them only once, on Aug 22. They were due back in Virginia on Aug. 27, but did not return as scheduled. I filed a missing persons report through the local police department when they did not return.

"I have tried several times to contact my kids to let them know that I miss them very much and that I love them. However, no one will answer the phone at my kids' maternal grandmother's house in Kanagawa Prefecture. All communications have been cut off. I don't know where they are living or what they are doing. Their mother has decided to violate the court order and not allow me the see my kids.

"My kids are both Japanese and American citizens and have lived in the United States their entire lives. They have friends and family permanently established here in Virginia.

"Gunnar Berg (10) and Kianna Berg (9) have both a mother and father who love them very much and both have a responsibility to raise their kids and teach them about the joys and challenges of life. However, that right has been taken away from them by their mother. I utilized the courts on Sept. 18 to resolve my issue in Fairfax County, where I was awarded "temporary sole custody" instead of shared custody after their apparent abduction and removal to Japan. I am still ordered by the district court judge to continue to pay child and spousal support for another three months, at which time another hearing will take place. However, the right for my children to see me, and my right to see my kids, has not been resolved.

"I would greatly appreciate any help you can offer to pressure Japan to recognize previously established court orders and jurisdiction here in America. My ex-wife has violated these valid U.S. orders and committed a class-6 felony in Virginia. However, the state does not have the resources or expertise to deal with this matter and it seems the U.S. government has been unable to work out this issue as well. Incidents such as these desperately need the attention of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government to bring such injustices to a proper resolution. I am heartbroken that I am unable to contact my kids and have no way of knowing what has happened to them.

I would appreciate your assistance in this matter.

DOUGLASS BERG
Reston, Va.

Send her the divorce papers

My sympathies go out to you, Mr. Cory.

I too went through the same thing that is happening to you. I had to deal with the same bull day in and day out. I too was told my case was hopeless in getting custody of the children. I finally asked for a divorce anyway, because I could not live in that situation anymore. My ex-wife (now) finally agreed to the divorce and gave me custody. She was not free to meet her friend if she had to baby-sit.

I recommend sending your wife the divorce papers and letting her figure out for herself that she cannot have her cake and eat it too. Just wishing for a bus will not do it. I know.

I've now remarried and have a new baby with my new wife, and the two boys from before. Life is good (if you accept that it can be unfair at times).

NAME WITHHELD
Kanagawa Pref.

Destroy the other man

It was very sad reading Richard Cory's story about his broken marriage.

While I am not sure what could be done about he and his wife, he could at least try to "destroy" the other man. As he has written, he is a public servant in the school system, so why not try informing other teachers, parents and also the local board of education (kyoiku iinkai) about his gambling habit and debts?

That may not bring him his wife back, but at least it would make life very uncomfortable for the other man. Being a teacher in Japan is a very highly regarded position, and the public and parents do not like a teacher behaving like he does. Try informing them about this other man, maybe not in person, but via some good friends.

KIM

Rose-tinted view of Japan

While I have nothing but sympathy for the writer of this piece on the Richard Corys of Japan, I wonder sometimes if they are so blinded by the stereotypes of dutiful, placid and nurturing Japanese women that they don't see who they are really marrying.

The writer says that he loves the woman he married, but not the woman she has become. They are the same woman. The seeds of one's character are already planted when a marriage takes place. They simply do not bloom right away.

The main difference between marrying in one's own culture and marrying in another is that cross-cultural differences in character often obfuscate the picture such that one can't see the warning signs so clearly. This applies to both sides of the equation. Japanese people who marry foreigners are just as likely to be bitterly disappointed in their foreign spouses as vice versa.

The situation with many foreigners from Western cultures is exacerbated by the fact that many seem intent on elevating Japanese people and culture above all others. Their expectations are unrealistic and they tend to view everything through rose-colored glasses until something goes horribly wrong. Foreign men with Japanese wives love nothing more than to talk about how they are so much better than a woman from their own culture, and to deny that anything could go wrong with their marriage until something does.

As the writer said, he didn't believe such a bad experience would happen to him. Armies of readers with Japanese spouses and children are reiterating that very thought as they read this article.

Of course, marriages go wrong all around the world. The main difference is in how a country handles the rights of the native citizen as compared to the foreigner. Rather than accept that Japan often deals with foreigners quite unfairly, the vast majority of foreigners living here will deny such things are a problem, rationalize, or apologize for them rather than consider them a possible part of their future.

Any warnings offered by foreigners who have had bad experiences either fall on deaf ears, or are greeted with hostile dismissiveness by foreign people who blame the foreigner, not the system in Japan or the Japanese people involved.

SHARI CUSTER
Tokyo

Foreign women in same boat

Richard, I found your piece in The Japan Times of Nov. 3 both heartbreaking and horrifying. I hope you have people in your life who you can turn to for support in the face of such emotional abuse.

But please don't confuse this with a gender issue. Foreign women married to Japanese men are in the same boat, with children invariably awarded to the Japanese partner. What needs to change is our legal standing internationally, with Japan signing the Hague Convention, and for Japan to embrace the idea of joint custody and shared care after a divorce. With these things in place, children would no longer be forced to divorce one of their parents.

RACHEL GREENWOOD
Oita Pref.

Brought tears to my eyes

Mr. Cory, I just read your article in The Japan Times. It brought tears to my eyes. I'm so sorry you're going through such hell.

I wish I had a practical solution for your problem, but unfortunately I don't. What I do have is deep compassion and sympathy for you. I can offer that.

Please, please do not kill yourself. For the sake of all the other fathers in the world who are also going though this hell, have gone through it, or will go through it in the future, please stay with us. Maybe you can keep updating us so we all can understand this type of problem better.

I recently saw the movie "Fear and Trembling" for the first time. I should say I tried to watch it — it was too close to some of my own experiences and I found it terribly painful. I found myself forwarding through some of the scenes. Yes, we will always be outsiders here. And, yet, as I'm sure you know, there are also some pretty wonderful things about Japan, some deeply kind people, and all those tiny strangenesses we find so endearing.

Please take good care of yourself.

TENKU RUFF
Oregon/Nagano

Gambling with her life

Mr. Cory, your foolish wife's paramour is using her and gambling with her life. Such addicts are addicted to the high, so their debt deepens.

The guy will eventually borrow money from a yakuza loan shark. Expect her repentant 3 a.m. phone call one day when she has a black eye from a hit man and asks, "Can we talk?"

Tell her to talk while you return to sleep. She is shoving you off the SS Titanic of her life as she sails into the iceberg. If you show your decency and self-respect to a good woman, you will be happy and wise.

VICTOR FIC
Seoul

Refrain from scare tactics

Why are you publishing such stories? I think all you are doing is instilling fear into people who are married/considering marriage here.

I would ask that you do more actual reports rather than these opinion pieces. What is the wife's side of the story? Anyway, I agree that this issue should be looked into, but I think you should refrain from publishing scare-tactic opinion pieces.

RICARDO
Osaka

Look out for 'poison arrows'

I am saddened to hear of your married plight, Mr. Cory. It seems that you have been cornered in almost all angles. Let's not waste time analyzing the Japanese vs. gaijin way of thinking about marriage. Your problem seems to be a universal one. At times logical thinking just does not seem to work, and there is no harm in seeking other alternatives.

Try looking out for "poison arrows" in your own home. It could be that some corner or parts of your home is not properly aligned with the good qi, therefore causing unnecessary disturbances in your family. The ancient remedy of feng shui might just help you.

I hope you will not dismiss this as some "rubbish" or hocus pocus, as some have found this study to be quite useful.

ASIAN WOMAN
Singapore

A pain that never goes away

Mr. Cory, everything you wrote applies to me to a T. I hope and expect you to receive a flood of responses from other unlucky "left behind" gaijin fathers. I am not doing so well even though three years have passed since my divorce, having been stripped of all rights to have any part in my two sons' lives.

I never thought I would see the day when I would hate Japan with every bone in my body. I am so sorry you and the countless other fathers have unjustly been given this god-awful plight.

You need to be in touch with CRN Japan (www.crnjapan.net/The_Japan_Childrens_Rights_Network/Welcome.html). You still may have a chance. Don't divorce her — if you do you'll end up like me, with little hope of seeing your children again.

It's a hard road being stripped of your identity. A pain that never goes away. Way to go with your article.

NAME WITHHELD

Japan Times sleazy tabloid?

Do we have to read trash like this from "Richard Cory"? Is The Japan Times a sleazy tabloid?

There are plenty of mixed marriages that do just fine — I have several hundred friends like that.

So why print this guy's sad story? I do not think this is news, or in any way illuminating for the international community in Japan. The gentleman in this article should grow up.

MAX VON SCHULER
Tokyo

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