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Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009


Parental child abduction and custody: readers respond

The following are a selection of readers' responses to the recent Zeit Gist articles on child custody and parental child abduction by Colin P. A. Jones (Oct. 20, Nov. 17) and "Richard Cory" (Nov. 3):

Missing our grandchildren

I am a grandmother of two handsome, intelligent Japanese-Canadian boys. Until this past April and May, when I visited my son and his new, beautiful and intelligent wife, I had not seen them for seven years. This was because my son's ex-wife had thrown him out.

Most relatives thought and expected that our son would forget about Japan and return home to Canada. I am so proud of him. John decided to stay because he refused to contemplate a world in which he would never again see his beautiful sons.

It is unjust that children should be forced to choose between their parents and different cultures. It is their birthright to keep both. It is abuse to try to deny them their birthright.

Japan must immediately reconsider its approach to this question when a marriage between their daughters and a foreign man (or a Japanese man and a foreign woman) fails. Children's rights must come first and prevail.

We love our grandsons and want to always keep them as an integral part of our families and our lives. The same is perhaps true of their Japanese families . . . we have no way to know because they have totally cut us off and tried to isolate our grandsons from us.


Hypocrisy of Fujimori case

I took my daughter back to Japan for a brief holiday recently, but my Japanese wife was unable to accompany us. Following the furor surrounding the Savoie case, I was sure that I would be grilled when trying to leave Japan with my daughter at the end of the holiday. (Especially as I am 100 percent Caucasian and she appears 100 percent Japanese.)

As a precaution, my wife wrote a letter — in both Japanese and English — confirming that she was in agreement with our visit and with our return to Australia. The letter included phone contact details and a copy of my wife's passport.

I was surprised, and pleased, to find that the letter was not needed. The immigration officer at Narita airport simply stamped our Aussie passports and waved us through. Was this a lack of vigilance on his part or a sign of reasonable tolerance and trust?

Maybe they only question "suspect" individuals — those who flash up on their computer screens as potential abductors. Surely the authorities would be forewarned of any dubious situations before sinister fathers could get as far as the passport control desk at a major airport!

This ludicrous abduction issue is just another case of Japanese bureaucratic hypocrisy at its best (i.e., worst). A semi-recent example that makes my blood boil is that of the fugitive Alberto Fujimori.

My daughter is a dual national but — unless the law is changed — she will be forced to pledge her allegiance to one country or the other at the age of 20 or 22. My understanding of Japan's Nationality Law is that a person cannot become a Japanese citizen if they have held "a senior position in the government of another country." Fujimori was the president of a sovereign country, for crying out loud, yet his Japanese political/bureaucratic cronies in high places ensured that he could become "Japanese" again when he was on the run and needed a safe place to hide.

It is reassuring to know that everyone is equal under the law in Japan — mind you, some are more equal than others.


Kids victims, need your help

I read the Richard Cory article and wanted to respond, but hesitated. It's so long and painful that sometimes I'd just prefer to forget. Now I am reading other readers' responses and I am deeply moved once more, this time to add my voice.

I have lived in Japan for almost 18 years. About seven years ago, my wife and I divorced and she took the kids. I didn't argue. In the beginning, I was seeing them about twice a week. She even let me take them with me alone to Canada for visits. I suppose in this sense I was lucky, compared to some of you others. But then I was paying her a fortune each month in alimony.

Then I met someone new and remarried, and she began to change. No one would answer the phone when I called. The kids didn't call me at all. When I eventually started seeing my oldest son again (in secret — he didn't want his mother to know), I learned how he and his brother were instructed by their mother not to answer the phone and were forbidden from calling me. I was characterized to them as a monster, and she said terrible things about my entire family to them, all the while collecting her monthly payments and, at times, demanding more.

When she began working full-time, I reduced her alimony and she took me to court. I won easily, but in the mediation sessions she made promises about allowing our children to make decisions about their own future by themselves — promises she has since broken as she attempts to confine them to living in Japan and prevent them from seeing their father.

I have little else to add; I just wanted to encourage other foreign parents to hang in there. One thing: If you can see your kids ever, at all, get them a mobile phone so you can make contact with them privately from anywhere at any time.

Don't forget: The kids are the victims and they need your help. One day they will be older and they will want to know you and their foreign heritage. Plan to be there when that day comes, or at least be sure they know where you are.


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