Masako Akeo Suzuki has died. She championed the fight against Japanese Parental Child Abduction.


Masako Akeo Suzuki has died, at only 61 years of age.
Masako spent her adult life engaged in organizing parents in Japan in solidarity, to overturn its brutal, archaic, cruel family law order, to restore to children and parents alike their right to one another.

Masako, from Clive France’s Left Behind Parent photograph series

Masako also spent her entire adult life trying to rejoin her son. She was unable to do so, prohibited even from seeing him by the Japanese family court/ family law, which gives children like chattel to one and only one custodial parent, and provides NO protection of the children’s right, nor the parent’s whom the court there designates to no longer be “custodial.”

Japanese family law condones and rewards, encourages and creates incentives that favor the abduction of children.

Masako had done no one wrong. She turned her pain into a life dedicated to ending this ruthless, sadistic structure.
She never got the prizes she wanted:
To tell the son she bore that she loved him.
To see the Japanese family law structure destroyed.

Masako
Masako Akeo Suzuki holds a photograph of her son

Masako’s memory should be honored.

“She died of a broken heart I’m sure” – Louise Gomez

            


6 thoughts on “Masako Akeo Suzuki has died. She championed the fight against Japanese Parental Child Abduction.

  1. Here is more of Masako’s story, including information about her case, and her activities as an activist who created a parent support group and offered to assist in mediating custody in order to circumvent the legal incentives to abduct children that prevail in Japanese law governing divorce.
    http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/japan+black+hole+abducted+children+daphne+bramham/8799583/story.html?fbclid=IwAR0ne417Y0i8E5rCtXROsL7ND3Aeiqugs-a7MRdMF-c8TEGf94I-uuVP1nw

    Seven years ago, Canadian-born Kazuya David Suzuki was abducted by his father and taken to Japan. Since then, Kazuya’s mother has only seen her son a couple of times and spoken to him only once.
    That’s despite Masako Suzuki having spent close to $100,000 on lawyers both here and in Japan. And she continues to be denied access, even though courts in both countries have ordered that she be allowed to see her only child.
    The problem for her and for other parents of abducted, foreign-born children is that Japan is not one of the 90 signatories to the international Hague Convention, which requires member countries to respect the family court decisions of other signatory nations.
    Yet even if it were, Japan doesn’t recognize joint custody, which the B.C. court ordered in October 2006.
    It’s an appalling, inhumane situation that runs contrary to international conventions that Japan has signed including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
    Masako Suzuki’s life has been consumed with trying to gain access to her son — just as it has the lives of thousands of others whose children have been victims of parental abduction.
    One advocacy group — the Child Rights Council of Japan — estimates there are as many as 2,000 cases of parental abduction to Japan each year.
    As founder of Left Behind Parents Japan (http://lbpjapan.org/LBPJ_Organization/Joint_Policy_Statement.html), Masako is a leading advocate for change, urging Japan to sign the Hague Convention and to overhaul its 100-year-old family law system.
    Somehow, the textile designer soldiers on even though she tells me that it is now probably too late to ever have a meaningful relationship with her son, who turns 19 in November.
    She is convinced that Kazuya’s father has brainwashed him into believing that she doesn’t care about him. But if Kazuya does want to find her, Masako says the record of advocacy will prove that she’s never given up trying.
    Masako has led marches in Japan, has held news conferences and has done dozens of media interviews.
    This spring, she spoke at a symposium for Japanese government and spoke at a parliamentary committee in Ottawa that was looking into the issue of international child abductions.
    In October 2006, a B.C. judge ordered that Kazuya could not be taken out of Canada and that his parents would have “joint interim custody and guardianship” until a final custody order was made based on the recommendation of a child psychologist.
    But by then, Kazuya was already in Japan.
    Jotaro Suzuki was granted sole custody by a Tokyo family court in December 2006. Masako got visitation rights in June 2007. But she was only able to see her son once before he and his father disappeared.
    But what is more tragic than the separation from his mother is what’s happened since to the little boy, who was known as David at the West Vancouver school where he was diagnosed with a reading disability.
    That reading disability coupled with Japanese language skills acquired only at home and at an after-school language program meant that he didn’t score well when he was tested for school placement in Japan.
    As a result, Masako said, his father allowed him to be placed in a special class for the mentally disabled.
    “I was so shocked,” Masako told me recently when we met in Vancouver. “But my ex-husband has used that. In family court in Japan, he gained the judge’s sympathy by telling him how he is a poor father struggling to take care of a disabled son.”
    As far as Masako knows, Kazuya never went to high school.
    The last time she saw him was in October 2009 at his junior high school choir concert in Tokyo — he was singing with his classmates, all mentally handicapped.
    After the children finished singing, she said, she found him in a hallway. She called out to him and he raised his head. But before they had a chance to speak, the school’s principal came up to her demanding to know who she was.
    “I’m his mother,” she told the principal. He told her that she needed her ex-husband’s permission to be at the school. He then threatened to call the police unless she left.
    Kazuya never returned to that school. And, as far as Masako has been able to determine, he has never been registered at any other school in Japan.
    Since that last sighting, Masako has had no word of her son. Canadian embassy officials are powerless to help the young Canadian boy. Japanese police are unwilling to enforce either court order. And, her former in-laws refuse to say where Jotaro and Kazuya are.
    The Suzuki’s story has some unique twists — including the fact that neither parent is Canadian despite the family having owned a house and lived here for 13 years.
    Beyond that, it’s strikingly similar to hundreds of other cases including 36 others being tracked by the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, a similar number being watched by the French Embassy and more than 140 known to U.S. Embassy staff.
    Japan, along with a number of other countries, is seen as a haven for parental abductions and it’s enough of a problem that former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton told a congressional committee in 2011 that both she and President Barack Obama raised it at every meeting they had with Japanese officials. In February, 2013, after a meeting with Obama in Washington, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Japan intended to sign the Hague Convention.
    Canadian politicians have lobbied for Japan’s ratification and two of the highest profile Canadian advocates for changes in Japan are two Vancouver fathers whose children have been abducted by their Japanese wives.
    Murray Wood is the founder of the International Rights of Children Society(http://www.irocs.org/our-mission/) , which works to raise awareness of parental abductions. He has been featured in a 2013 documentary called From the Shadows(http://www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com/).
    Bruce Gherbetti, who lives in Japan, is executive director of Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion (http://kizuna-cpr.org/home), which a Japanese-registered non-profit that works toward restoring the human rights of children including the right to have relationships with both parents.
    Wood’s two children — then 10 and 7 — were abducted by their mother in November 2004. She had ostensibly taken them to visit their dying grandfather in Japan. She never brought them back even though Wood had sole custody of the children and a B.C. Supreme Court order saying that his ex-wife had to return on a certain date and another that gave him sole custody.
    In the past nine years, he has had very limited contact with his son and daughter. But this spring — with the help of Canadian Embassy staff — Wood’s 19-year-old son arrived in Vancouver and plans to start college here in the fall.
    It’s a happy middle part of the story. There will only be a happy ending if Wood is able to establish contact with his daughter, who is now 16.
    Gherbetti’s three daughters were abducted from Vancouver and taken to Japan in 2009.
    Like Masako Suzuki, Gherbetti is skeptical that Japan’s announced decision to sign the Hague Convention will solve the problems.
    He and his organization for “left-behind parents” are concerned that even if Japan does sign, it will not live up to the convention’s spirit and intent just as it has failed to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it signed two decades ago.
    In an email, Gherbetti said the root cause is Japan’s outdated laws and views about both divorce and child custody.
    Still, signing the convention is a step forward and Gherbetti’s group is trying to raise money for a post-Hague program that would provide resources and services to reuniting parents and children.
    But for now, Masako told me that when it comes to abducted children, the red sun on Japan’s national flag should be replaced by a large black hole.

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    1. Oh Eric. I know she was. I remember very well how much you loved and honored her, and the hopes you invested in her. We all have our faults; but her devotion never waned. I’m sad and sorry.

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  2. I was having a fairly enjoyable evening until a few hours ago when I learned of Masako’s passing. I never met her in person (merely chatted online a couple of times), but I felt a strong connection with her. She was an inspiration. A fighter to the end. So much stronger than I ever was or ever will be.

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    1. Ray, my friend, I feel exactly the same.
      I never met her in person but talked to her once or twice by means of primitive versions of internet phoning.
      And there were messages between us too, where she was going to try to get information for me from inside the Japanese family registries, which are only legally accessible to Japanese nationals.
      She was willingly ready to infiltrate the Japanese State security system for the sake of our kids.
      More than anything, I saw how people who were stricken as we were thought of her as their brave, forward-standing and speaking comrade.
      I owe her and have to respect her for providing that.
      We stood here and were astonished that Japan took our kids from us.
      She was there, testifying against them and providing some hope.

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  3. There were a number of parent events like this, with people doing all the Santa Claus Christmas routines to convey that we and our kids were denied spending a holiday with their parents. Here she gave her personal story at the rally, with an English section at 4 1/2 minutes.

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