Japan: Parental child abduction

Given the rise in cases [en] where children born to a Japanese mother and a foreign father are abducted by the Japanese mothers and brought to Japan without the father's consent, U.S., France, Canada and the U.K. have recently urged Japan to sign the Hague Convention. The treaty, covering international child abduction, came into force in 1983 to provide specific legal means for promptly returning the child to their original state of residence.

By flickr user id: ajari.

By flickr user id: ajari.

So far Japan is the only one in the Group of Seven Nations who hasn't signed the treaty, which means that the government is not required to give any information regarding the child or the mother who returned to Japan or even ask the parent to return the child.

Also, awareness about the question is very low among the citizens and major media don't help to raise knowledge of the problem. Blogger and activist Debito comments and criticizes [en] the coverage of the child abduction question by the NHK (Japan national broadcasting organization), where the cases and information provided were biased against the foreign fathers.

I watched the NHK report this morning, and was, frankly, gravely disappointed. After giving some stats on international divorce (around 20,000 cases last year, about double that ten years ago), NHK gave three case studies in brief: […]
It even concluded with the typical relativities (i.e. how everyone’s doing it, therefore Japanese can too), mentioning in passing alleged cases of how NJ mothers were abducting Japanese kids overseas (meaning that now suddenly Japanese fathers were kawaisou [poor thing]; the bottom line was that Japanese are being kawaisoued). The MOFA was quoted as not being able to comment on whether Japan would be able to sign Hague.
No mention at all was made by NHK that there has not been a single case of children being returned to the NJ parent by Japanese courts (the converse is untrue), that Japanese are committing crimes (and not honoring overseas court custody rulings, such as the Murray Wood Case), or that (and I speak from experience of not seeing my kids for about five years now) the Koseki system [Japanese family registration system] will deny all title and access to Japanese parents too after divorce.
NHK tried too hard to be sympathetic to either abducting Japanese mothers, or the position of Japanese in general (not the kids and how they’re affected by not having both parents in their lives). What a crock.

Lawyer Kawahara calls for more proactive and responsible action and participation by the politicians irrespective of which party they belong to.


Many are the cases of Japanese women who divorce from their foreign husbands and come back to Japan bringing their children with them and the failure to sign the treaty by Japan gives to countries such as Canada and U.S. grounds for criticism of such actions.[…]
After the election of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, there has been no further discussion in the Diet about the treaty. but surely the job of the members of Parliament should be to legislate to improve the functioning of our laws and treaties?
Even if the Upper House passed a censure motion against Prime Minister Aso, it's absolutely irresponsible for members of the Diet to leave the discussion as it is, with the excuse that the elections are close. A lot of bills will probably be discarded.
And this is foolish for Japan will be sooner or later left behind by the international community.
Though the possibility of attaining Government seems high for the present opposition party, the DPJ, they should collaborate with the governing party for the sake of national politics, and act with dignity.

Also another lawyer, Mori, expresses his opinion about the child abduction issue but he is more doubtful about the ‘internationality’ of the problem itself.


A Japanese woman gets married to a foreigner and has a child. However, wife and husband don't get along and she brings the child with her back to Japan. We, Japanese, react with a mere “Uhm”.
Here stories such as the ‘evil’ husband one day comes back home after work and finds no one at home because she went back to her parents` house are ordinary and don’t become a reason for a divorce lawsuit.


However, abroad this is called ‘child abduction’ and is considered a crime.
In particular, in case of Japanese women, there are often cases in which they won't listen [to their ex-husband], they ignore his letters and don't even let him know where they live.
[…] For this reason, U.S., U.K. and France are urging Japan to join the Hague convention.
However, here such cases do not apply to International law but to household law and it's not good to globalize everything in every case. Every country should be free to deal with the matter according to its own culture and it's not that easy to say without any hesitation whether one should or should not sign the treaty.

But the child abduction issue does not impact only on Western parents, as the manager of a blog/agency that arranges international marriage points out.


About 80 western countries have already ratified the Hague Convention but Japan, Korea, China, Philippines and other Asian countries haven't as yet.
I heard that the Japanese Foreign Ministry had a lot of cases of Japanese men married to Chinese women complaining and saying things like “My wife went back to China taking the child with her without notice. I want my child back!”
On the other hand there are also cases where a Japanese man married to a Chinese woman divorces in Japan and when they contest custody in the court, it's often the Chinese mother who ends up being denied access to her child.
In any case it is the innocent children who suffer most in these situations.
I feel that Japan should arrange a national law to fix this situation as soon as possible.


  • RMilner

    I appreciate that Japan has a different culture in respect to family law than many other countries.

    Even so, fathers are human beings too and consideration should be made of their human rights to contact with their children.

    The current situation is asymmetric. Japanese fathers can get redress in foreign courts, while it seems that foreign fathers can’t get redress in Japanese courts.

  • pptoland

    The attorney identified as “Mori” is very wrong in his thinking, and the rest of the world needs to force Japan to overcome this way of thinking. Mori states “such cases do not apply to International law but to household law,” and “every country should be free to deal with the matter according to its own culture”. This way of thinking is at the heart of the problem. The Japanese, in abducting children from foreign countries, many times against court orders, and sometimes using false passports, are committing FELONY CRIMES in the nation from which the abduction took place. Japan needs to stop hiding behind the statement that Parental Child Abduction is not a crime in Japan, because that is NOT an excuse.

    I’m sure when North Korea abducted Japanese citizens 30 years ago, those abductions were not considered crimes in North Korea, so does that make those acts therefore acceptable? Do those cases therefore “not apply to International law.” Should we just allow North Korea to “deal with the matter according to its own culture?” Of course not! The majority of the world recognizes that North Korea committed international crimes in abducting those citizens, and likewise the rest of the world recognizes that Japan has and still is committing international crimes by allowing international child abductions to occur.

  • The Japanee court system is biased and “Mori’s” comment shows the ignorance of the illegal acts that are being perpetrated against parents of non japanese heritage. Thousand of children are being taken to japan when court orders prohibiting the removal of a child from the county, state, or country. That is breaking federal laws, not family law. When court orers have already been established, the abducting parent has broken federal laws. Japan does not have the right to change jurisdiction of a court when orders have already been established. If each culture has the right to handle their own cases, as Mori has stated, why is Japan still up in arms regarding it citizens abducted by North Korea almost 30 years ago, and also engaging in the court systems in the US, Canada, UK, and France to get its children returned? I have heard Japan’s reason that it considers those abducted by North Korea as “Politcal” while the children they have sanctioned to be abducted as a “Family matter”. Those abducted are “People”. Thousands of them are “Children”. Abductions are abductions. Regardless of the reason behind it, it is just plain wrong. Japan should stop trying to make excuses for their behavior. Japan sanctions and financially rewards these parents to abduct these children. This is far worse than what North Korea had done. Japan’s continued hypocrisy is shamefull and the world needs to do whatever is necessary to hold Japan accountable for its appalling behavior

  • This story is a little one sided.

    It may not even be the wholes story. It might not be necessarily justice to call it abduction.

    I also wonder how these husbands might have treat their wives that had led to this divorce?

    Or perhaps the marriage was for the wrong reasons, expectations didn’t quite work out for both the foreign husbands and Japanese wife?

  • rethinkingjapan

    The Mori/Japan cultural relativity defense is tiresome. If all countries acted like Japan, the result would be anarchy, with the world’s children up for grabs and ping-ponging across the globe every day. For all its technological prowess and outward sophistication, Japan remains a culturally backward, international sociopath and rogue state. When Japan kidnaps children, it is a ‘cultural misunderstanding.’ When North Korea or other nations kidnap Japanese, it is an outrage to Japan.

    This is the mentality of an anti-social, adolescent street gangster. When Mori and the LDP grow up and grow out of this immature and primitive mentality, Japan will finally be ready to join the civilized nations of earth as a trusted associate. Until that day, all nations of the world should view Japan with maximum apprehension and distrust.

  • kevin

    I think crazy comments like the one Mori made speak to the issue of education or lack there of in Japan. I have worked in the school systems in Japan and I teach conversational English to Japanese clients. I have witnessed first hand how teachers in Japanese schools regurgitate information for the students to memorize. Never once have I seen any teacher discuss any topic. Students don’t know how to express themselves. Students have no understanding of cause and effect or the chain reaction that may be set off by doing or not doing something. Students might get the right answer on the test but they have no idea why it is the right answer. This is probably why you see so many politicians in Japan making stupid comments. They don’t understand that there are other people out there with different ideas and different ways of thinking. Mori is probably one of those guys who thinks most Japanese feel the same way he does but he has never stopped to asked. I’d like Mori to provide some evidence or documentation that a large number of Japanese feel the same way he does. I can show evidence that a large number of Japanese don’t agree with him including some lawyers and diet members.

  • This is far from anything new. We have been dealing with Japanese abductions for close to 50 years now. Instead of going into details on all of the cases pending in courts around the word I would invite anyone and everyone to examine the extensive amount of data on The Japan Children’s Rights Network website located at – http://www.crnjapan.net . CRN Japan has not only personal stories, but links to audio and video regarding parental abduction in Japan.


    CRN Japan has been protesting the hypocrisy Japan demonstrates in regards to the Megumi Yokota abductions since 2006.


    Japan must make changes to it’s policies if it ever wants to be considered a true player in world affairs.


  • rolfen

    Same stuff happens here in Lebanon all the time, Lebanese men marrying German women in Lebanon, bringing their family to Lebanon for a visit, then divorcing the wife on the spot and keeping custody of the child, local laws being biased towards men’s rights. Happens all the time, but here women are the victims, and of course the child.
    It is very difficult for women and some nervous breakdowns happen. I cannot think of anything more painful for a human being then being separated by their family in this matter.

  • today there’s an AP article about one of such cases involving a tennesse father, still in jail in japan

    here is relaunched by CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/01/japan.savoie.custody/index.html

    (no comments allowed, unfortunately)

  • saki

    Debito org から引用するなら、そのブログのヘイトサイトとしての性質についてなども一言すべきでしょう?


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