Kensuke Ohunki, Specialist in the Japanese International Abduction of Children
While there is reason to be optimistic that Japan will eventually sign on to the Hague Convention, skepticism of it created by the fear-inducing spread of fabricated domestic violence claims has become a strategic consensus breaker that is being used to drive Japanese officials away from supporting a responsible, positive improvement in the protection of the rights of children and their parents. This article in Yomiuri Shimbun for example, while seeming to support the Convention, nonetheless uncritically presents international abduction of children as if it were a reasoned alternative to an equitable court settlement of parental rights in the country where the couple was residing together with their children. The newspaper vaguely and anonymously states that fear of domestic violence and intimidation “is often cited” by “more than a few people” who claim that this terrifying and bizarre sociopathic practice of kidnapping kids and offering asylum in Japan to the abductors lessens rather than raises the likelihood of abuse. It’s not an overstatement to respond that the newspaper is engaging in specious parroting of political chicanery, in a double-cross aimed at Japanese women. In a culture in which deeply rigid gender roles still define divorce as a stain on a (woman’s) reputation, particularly when coupled with having committed the ethnic in-group sin of having married non-Japanese partners and then found them incompatible, the myth of the abusive foreign spouse provides a sanctioned means by which she can salvage her stigmatized standing by adopting a well-worn trope of Japanese identity. While we know that courts are lumbering beasts that are difficult to tame, if domestic violence is charged or believed to have taken place, a hearing to establish that fact in US court is far preferable to a pair of airplane tickets and a life lived in hiding from abduction charges. It is far more difficult to expect justice, particularly for non-Japanese, in the bureaucratically stymied Japanese family court system, where its wilier defenders and practitioners will state off the record that chauvinism and racist bias are dug in so deep as to be insuperable. This is a deep issue for the Japanese, who really must root out the perpetrators of this mythology and expose their motives. But, that would require standing up for equal justice under the law and sacrificing the legal advantages of ethnic, national, and racial preference. The principle of equal justice seems to cause few individuals any strain; but practice is in another dimension. In the US, there is still a frustrating level of injustice in our courts over this principle – the prisons are full of African-American victims of racial injustice, added to the major part of Americans who cannot afford the best legal protective counsel. But in Japan, foreign spouses are Haku-jin (white boys), hisabetsu buraku (outside -lesser people), , kokonotsu, (nine), not ten), which makes them imperfect, something less than human. This myth-making underlies the dubious consensus that sanctions the epidemic of kidnappings of children, a spiraling social pathology of the era of global travel and communications. The cost to the children’s psychological well-being is incalculable.
As a parent reeling from the impact of this nightmare, my imagining of what has happened to the soft-cheeked 5-year-old son I love is a nightly fever dream.
To assert that the practice of using ill-begotten domestic abuse claims runs profoundly counter to the real interests of all women, children, and parents must unfortunately be among the lynch pins of any ongoing discussion of parental abduction. We now very much need the support of feminists, Japanese and American women, to counter the argument that the Hague convention, and authentic measures against abduction would bring endangerment to women in domestic violence disputes. It has got to be forthrightly and straightforwardly said that women (and men for that matter) who would make false domestic abuse charges threaten the hard-fought protections that women have struggled to gain. To abuse the abuse protections with fabrications imperils the credibility and reliability of the protections themselves. And that is a social and psychological affront – primarily to women.
Women who knowingly do this truly do not care about other women, which fits the profile of an alienating, self-absorbed abducting parent. Their intention is to use the law courts in a manner that undermines the cause of bruised, frightened, bone-broken, heart-sick women everywhere who have fled from real danger and who desperately need legal protection. To siphon from the pool of trust such women depend on is ignoble and mendacious. It’s hard to find words to convey the sordid meanness of this mode of legal maneuvering. And yet the practice is spreading, and presents itself as part of a packaged solution for Japanese people who have decided that they want to return to Japan with their kids, abandoning and damning the children’s other key parent-child relationship.
The paragraph below brings together some of the phrases used in the tweets of Kensuki Ohunki’s Satsuki Law, a law firm of crooks that engages in this Hydra-headed, profiteering practice of opposing the treaty, publicly working to break the developing consensus for joint custody and against parental kidnapping within Japan, and then markets itself to Japanese women, offering counsel and assistance in constructing fabrications or “creative” constructions to assist willing clients to establish grounds that kidnapping and hiding children can be justified as a form of legal or extra-legal self-defense. The firm proffers strategy and provides support, particularly if the opposite number – nearly always a husband – is not Japanese.
On the Twitter feed for this firm, the strategies are suggested in phrases that read like an instruction book:
In making a charge against a spouse, the verisimilitude or authenticity of the criminal record can be creative. Negotiating or adjudicating the size of a hostile voice, facial expressions, use of non-verbal communication, is very important. Note unacceptable conditions when presented with hostile negotiations. Be aware of when your spouse “emphatically” refuses. You might want to show some concessions; the goal is to induce a hostile condition. It is important to look into the eyes of the hostile party when he talks, and it is better not to contort the eyes. It is so easy to get emotional eyes; you need to control your emotions. Sometimes, just looking through your eyes in silence, the other party yields voluntarily.
Here the firm counsels the prospective client not to worry that something as drastic as an authentic record is really necessary. You only have to assert that in disagreements your spouse has been “emphatic,” record the incident in a diary, and not betray emotion yourself. Having saved up provocations in this manner, one can then come to the firm which offers its expertise in reading the level of bigotry and chauvinism you can count on in the Japanese courtroom:
As for judges’ prejudice, prejudice has an impact on their decisions. As you press on, a prejudiced argument is persuasive. If the prejudice is adverse, it will be difficult to accept. But if you know the judge’s prejudice, it is easy to stand in court.
These serve as examples of how the firm markets itself to women with advice on how to game the system and manufacture an accusation of intimidation against a husband by provocation, exaggeration, or dirty tricks. The end is to use the claim of intimidation to deny Daddy the right to be with his child altogether and seek a grant of 100% custodial right or possession of a child both parents love. Once this advice has been followed for a period, the child can then be abducted and a Japanese court will issue rubber stamp rulings on the client’s behalf. This is the threat that presumes guilt in men who have never intimidated or struck anyone in their lives. It is fearsome and sad to contemplate having to fend for oneself against legally sanctioned unethical conduct of this type.
Elsewhere on the Internet in a public forum run by a Tokyo-based online newspaper, a fellow left behind parent exposed the ideological underbelly of these practitioners of the law by publishing mail he received from the same firm I’ve been referencing here. I haven’t included names, but I will gladly swear to its accuracy if asked and will post them here if requested. This father’s message reads as follows:
Here is another quote from him that he (Ohnuki) sent to me by email. I still have the original email.
(The lawyer) stated: “As you point out, we are challenged by racism and discrimination of Japanese court every day since we usually represent foreigners. But I know judges become furious if I point out his [sic] racism or discrimination. Racism is firmly rooted in Japanese society and even intelligent people refuse to see their own racism. Almost all Japanese believe foreigners are deteriorating the security of Japanese society, which is wrong according to crime statistics.” He (Ohnuki) concluded his e-mail by stating “Please understand your case is not a piece of cake because of the racism and irrationalism of Japan. It might be something like defending the Taliban in US.”
This is a declaration of what kind of justice is available to a non-Japanese, a Westerner, Haku-jin, in a Japanese court, according to a Japanese family lawyer who otherwise gleefully uses it to his advantage. It comes from one man who has most publicly identified himself as the leading lawyer in the cause against Japanese accession to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; a man whose law firm proffers trumped-up domestic abuse charges and victimization claims in support of parental kidnappers, cheapening and undermining the use of statutes defending women who have suffered from real physical, emotional or psychological abuse and most need the protection that those statutes provide. The law firm’s name has been removed from the US Embassy’s list of recommended attorneys made available to non-Japanese seeking legal support in Japan, due to its support of Japanese abductors. He is rightly regarded as aiding and abetting the kidnapping of children. He knowingly exploits a pseudo-populist perception of foreigners as strangers, abusers, dangerous outsiders. So doing, he harms Japanese women and reinforces the revanchism, resentment, chauvinism and racism that represent the worst in Japanese society, just as it would anywhere.
This is what my wife, Machico, has wished upon my son, Rui, by refusing to return him to the Daddy who loves him. This is the alliance she has chosen And this is the poison ideology that my sweet boy will be forced to drink, in hiding, not knowing how longingly his Daddy thinks of him.
For me to feel at ease with the politics of the conflict over child abduction between Japan and the rest of the world, feminists, left-behind parents and human rights groups must recognize where we occupy common ground. We do not have to all agree on every issue; only that kids need and deserve both of their parents. To do right by our kids, the way to protect them and heal can only be through ending the kidnappings and reaching accommodation on parent’s rights. Sometimes a mother who loves her child, who appears incapable of violence or abuse, is jolted into violence when her inner bad objects have been activated. I’ve seen this in action. Violence and intimidation in marriage have no entirely exclusive gender.
I want to see justice overwhelm those who aid, abet and give comfort to child abductors.
I’m frightened and stunned at being separated from my son. I know his ways, and I know he needs to be reunited with his Daddy. And for that to happen, a mountain of evil has to be undone.
Bring him home, and we can heal and live.