Child Abduction and Denial of Access Are Masked as Custody Determination in Japan

If, in a science fiction tale that takes place in a surreality full of excessive, ominous foreboding and half-visible appearances, 4000 jumping, running, frolicking children suddenly vanished from the playgrounds in your city’s neighborhood parks,  leaving startlingly empty desks in school classrooms, bunk beds instantly voided of their giggling inhabitants, PJ flannels dangling unused over the backs of chairs, and the warm presence of the sound of children’s laughter and voices abruptly ceased, leaving the air violently empty, toys clatter to the ground, and no sound but the wind blowing the pebbles, brushing the leaves and grass, swaying the slow squeak of empty swing-sets, what would the expected plot turn be?

You can easily envision the scene. The police and national guard race haphazardly through the streets, sirens blaring; the President and Secretary of State stand before cameras speculating on the latest source of the terrorist threat to national security. Attorney General Holder is called before the kleig lights to order urgent emergency investigations. And the TV screens, well you can just imagine! The flag graphics are unfurled; news teams fan out to make doorstep living room couch interviews with shocked, hysterical parents who wring their hands and handkerchiefs and plead for mercy for their disappeared children. Anxieties would flow back into the audience to meet the terrifying facts on screen.

Facts, it seems, do not entirely speak for themselves. If they did, it would be widely evident that a tremendous and geometrically growing number of children have been caught up in what is not a cinematic fantasy, but a matter of diplomatic avoidance and delusion leading to a colossal, unacknowledged human rights abuse: an internal and international hot war on parents and children that has a long and dreary history in Japan, the U.S.’ key Asian geopolitical partner. Children, property of one apparently sovereign Japanese parent, are routinely swept over borders and hidden from their parents — with the weapons of the police, courts and prisons of Japan aimed squarely at any Dad or Mom that dares to challenge this exceptional sovereignty of the Japanese National Parent, regardless of the child’s home origins.  Yet despite the bureaucratic extravagance of the practices that separate millions of children from their parents, the Japanese have until now led a relatively charmed life in which the consequences of this practice have remained largely unacknowledged and unchallenged. Damaged children pass their damage onto the next damaged generations,  leaving a suffocating and brutal reality. With the cause absent, the effect thrives.

Child abduction and denial of parental access are masked as ‘custody determinations” in Japan

There are many facets that combine to enable the Japanese’ systematic elimination of children’s and parents’ fundamental rights. The vast majority of people in Japan and around the world do not know that a child abduction problem of great magnitude exists in Japan, because through the agency of government institutions, the problem is masked in significant ways.

What do we mean by this?

Child abductions are masked within Japan as custody disputes — a reality that brings horrible consequences.

Here I focus only on the numerical elaboration of the abduction problem within Japan and try to estimate the number of cases. Without the acknowledgment of this understanding of  the numbers, human rights organizations and national governments have  successfully avoided open conflict with the Japanese State over this extraordinary extension of Japanese sovereignty beyond its borders into the cradles, playpens, strollers and  bedrooms of the world. But this is not to go on forever; and the first step is to count!

Parental abduction, it is said, is not illegal in Japan, so abductions are not counted. The first assertion is, has been, and will continue to be challenged. Parental abduction is a crime requiring a cohort of malicious and unscrupulous judges and lawyers, and legal trickery which counts on the cooperation and feigned ignorance of the law by Japan’s partners. Therefore, it is difficult to know how many there have been.  Maintaining this circumstance creates a virtuous haze; a grossly distorted misrecognition of the nature of the problem that keeps it under the radar of human rights organizations, governments that ought to be concerned, and most importantly, the general public. Masking is a powerful ideological mechanism, which keeps ugly and violent human rights abuses invisible behind an appearance of order, and fair, rational international governance.
Let us attempt to estimate the numbers, on the basis of the “known knowns”; those things which social agencies in Japan can reveal to us.

First, we know that after divorce in Japan only one parent retains custody, and there is no enforceable visitation. This is the zero-level fact of the national and international issue of child abduction and deprivation of children’s rights in Japan.

How many children in Japan are affected by this?

To answer this question, we can consider this research obtained from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s  divorce vital statistics, and visitation rulings obtained from the Supreme Court of Japan.

Numbers summary

Here, we have vital statistics on divorce and dependent children reported by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) in Japan.

From 1992 to 2009, the following numbers are reported in this  public record.

There have been:

4,358,276 divorces in total, including Japanese-Japanese divorces; that is, divorces in which both husband and wife were Japanese nationals.
    divorces where one spouse is a foreigner (non-Japanese)
7,449        divorces where one spouse is American

There are about 250,000 divorces per year in Japan.

There is, on average, one child per divorce in all categories.

We all know and have known for decades, perhaps a century, how vital close relationships with their parents are to children in order for them to develop the vast capacities that are their right and human inheritance. How much contact between parents and children exists today in Japan after divorce?

Half of the children of divorce in Japan cannot see their parent even as little as once every month. This is seen by considering Supreme Court of Japan rulings that show that the frequency of visitation, post-divorce in Japan, is less than once a month for them. This means that many divorced parents in Japan see their children less than 24 hours per year.

Below is a  line graph of data obtained from the Supreme Court of Japan. This data shows how much visitation the highest court in Japan thinks children should have.

The pie chart below appeared on NHK’s Close Up Gendai on September 8, 2010. It shows a survey in which 58% of respondents stated that they do not have visitation with their children after divorce in Japan.

If we multiply the number of divorces or children by about 50%, (those who have less than once a month visitation), then we can see the estimated number of children who do not have regular visitation with their parent. Under these conditions, parents and children cannot maintain their relationship with each other. This is a human rights violation that in effect is an abduction that has been institutionalized by the court and law and called a “divorce and custody determination.

Let us continue to consider the magnitude of this deprivation of children of their parents:

From 1992 to 2009 this has affected an estimated:

2.2 million total children in Japan
115,000 children of dual nationality
3,825 children with dual American nationality

The US State Department also reports 374 American children have been abducted from the US to Japan since 1994.
3,825 + 374 makes  an estimated more than 4,000 children who have lost a meaningful relationship with their American parent.

Of course, the numbers within Japan are staggering. It seems there are about 2.2 million Japanese children or more  who have lost meaningful contact with their fathers or mothers under Japanese law and court practice. All of these are children who cannot spend Japan’s Children’s Day with both parents; who cannot benefit from the richness of their parent’s love and experience; and who ultimately must of necessity be developmentally crippled by the loss of their primary attachment. In the context of a nation that is capable of educating itself and its people, and of deriving the full benefit of its wealth and social stability for the public good, this is a remarkably violent, one might say sadistic way to treat parents and children.

It is vitally important to note that the U.S. State Department knows about  this, all of it and more, very well;  the State Department has known of this in fact for years. If the State Department and allied agencies and governments had addressed this issue head on with the knowledge and influence they have possessed over the years, if long ago it had proclaimed directly with conviction that this was an intolerable illegal and abusive practice, the abduction of my son Rui and the children of perhaps millions of lost and despairing parents in and outside Japan might not have been allowed to occur. Instead, a regime of childcare, co-parenting,  respect for family rights, children’s needs and the sovereignty of  the states with whom Japan shares the world might have been allowed to develop, be respected, and be preserved.  Instead we now have a conflict that is traumatic indeed for the Japanese and the rest of us. Let us not forget to whom we owe our protection and under what principles.

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And looking past the cold, long sea I cannot bear to wonder

Carnival in Astoria Park B 07-2011

Carnival lights in Astoria,NY

My thoughts will pause, my throat will swell
When her name is spoken
And looking past the cold, long sea
I cannot bear to wonder now
If the cascading soft lights
Are glowing for us in Moorestown

Rui -Don’t let poisoned hatred that penetrates and lays on us
Poison your heart. Even though it may be all around us,
Don’t let hatred and fear of hatred bury love.

I followed her across the Earth
Through parks in London, coasts of Perth
Newport, Kentucky and New Orleans
We shared a million lives it seems


Fresh Snowfall in Astoria, 2009

Holidays, a little fever. Loving father and son anyway.


Mark Kozelek’s song, from April, by Sun Kil Moon –

Her window looked out on North Church Street
An attic space overgrown
A photo-book of smiling friends
Road maps, New York, Los Angeles
Her walls are Mediterranean blue
Her baby sister picked the hue
Saltwater taffy, Jersey shore
Blue like the fingernails she wore

Her house is not far from the school
Her mom taught on the Hudson
Her dad’s guitar sings open tunes
Reverberates up through the floor
Our love grew more one summer there
We’d spend our days just driving round
Old parking lots and neighborhoods
Are framed and charmed in Moorestown

I followed her across the Earth
Through parks in London, coasts of Perth
Newport, Kentucky and New Orleans
We shared a million lives it seems
I slept with her so many nights
We moved together heavenly
So close the North Pacific slept
You too were once beside me

She moved away to Williamsburg
Her eyes sad as a raven
My thoughts will pause, my throat will swell
When her name is spoken
And looking past the cold, long sea
I cannot bear to wonder now
If the cascading soft lights
Are glowing for us in Moorestown
Are glowing for us in Moorestown

Rui at home, 2009, in cascading soft light

Posted in Japan Child Abduction | Leave a comment

Japanese Accession – Under International Pressure – to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction is Still a Sham

In 2018, child abduction is still the principal means by which any Japanese national can obtain custody of a child in Japan. It is the only foolproof method, in fact, by which custody can be secured. Any attempt by a parent, Japanese or non-Japanese, to act collaboratively with a Japanese parent, spouse, or former spouse in order to safeguard a child’s well-being and assure that the child maintains relations with both parents can be betrayed easily and readily undermined by means of the so-called “family court”, an institution with judicial powers only capable of rendering families broken in Japanese law. (By judicial powers I mean the power to adjudicate a case; that is to say, the power to issue a decision that can subsequently bind the parties in the case to the court’s decision. The family court in Japan is, in effect, not a court in any real sense. It holds meetings with the parties, and goes through the motions of hearing their views; it issues statements and judgements in family cases. But the law has no binding power on the decisions it issues. If a custody decision is ignored by a parent in possession of a child, there is no legal recourse or remedy. The child remains with the parent who decides he or she has the force to prevent the other parent from assuming parental rights. Once a minimal amount of time has passed, the original decision can then be overturned in order to prevail on other institutions (such as schools and state registries) to recognize parental authority of the abductor.)

Japanese accession to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of the International Abduction of Children in 2014 took place under a modest level of diplomatic pressure from an international group of states, including the United States. All the same, this accession is a sham, carried out by the Japanese state in order to appease the demands of the group of states which brought the pressure to bear in the guise of joint letters and a handful of soft-pedaled meetings among officials – employees of what might otherwise be considered the appropriate agencies of the government. The legal regime under which Japan adapted this convention to proclaim it to be “law” in Japan in all cases of international child abduction is entirely self-contradictory and therefore legally, entirely ineffective. It is impossible for any institution in Japan to resolve an international child abduction case; no such power has been ceded to anyone within the Japanese state to restore jurisdiction to the state from which the child abduction took place. Since this is the mission to which accession to the Hague Convention is in name dedicated -the restoration of the proper jurisdiction of child custody cases in order to prevent states like Japan from carrying on the practice of custody-by-abduction – the situation in Japan remains identical to that which existed prior to accession to the Convention. The main difference is that Japanese diplomats no longer have to listen to or receive letters of “complaint” that it is a gross violator of children and parents’ rights, since it can now point to a thick document in its records that claims that Japan is a member in good standing of a community of national states that recognize those rights. It closely parallels many other states in this regard in which supposed liberal legal regimes claim the existence of systemic rights while violating those rights at every turn. It also resembles many other aspirational aspects of Japanese law- such as its laws concerning labor rights and gender equality- which exist in documents and are routinely ignored or circumvented by practices that completely undermine the stated intentions of the law in question. (Such undermining of labor laws and hiring practices are described in detail in Heidi Gottfried’s The Reproductive Bargain, a text that, with great finesse, rounds out the understanding of how practices in Japan routinely override the law’s stated aims and unmake the work of activists and lawmakers with intentions to create a social order capable of recognition, and of offering an alternative to despair.)

Heidi Gottfried’s book treats the role of gendered employment in undermining workers’ security in the Japanese economy, well beyond gender lines.

The Diet testimony of Watanabe Yasuyuki below attests to the effect that these factors have on the decisions that family court judges thereby decide to make. The judge in a Japanese family court as it now stands, finds it far less contentious and far more in its own interests (the court’s interests) to ignore the law (no matter how tepid its demands) and issue decisions made on the basis of conserving systemic child abuse and a hammer’s approach to parental equality and children’s rights. These inheritances of authority are enjoyed by judges who can thus act in accordance with their biases and received notions about masculinity, femininity, ahistorical misunderstandings of contemporary work and familial roles, and can successfully ignore such scandalously modern, “liberal” legal principles as equality before the law, or attunement to the psychological interests of children-in-development. Contemporary structures in the parental social context in which it may now be far more desirable to raise children collaboratively can be ignored, imposing and re-imposing the forms of patriarchal order which broke into the family form in late 19th and 20th century Japan, and facilitated the growth of a strict-to-rigid regime of gendered employment, providing an easily-revived downward pressure on wages. While these habitual practices serve no affirmative purpose in the 21st century economy and often have devastating effects on children and family security, they do allow rigid walls to be maintained around a very limited, ever-falling percentage of “regular” employment for a select class of males, and the vast growth of insecure, precarious work and private life for an ever-growing percentage of Japanese people of all genders.

Abduction becomes custody in Japan

Here (with English subtitles!) is Watanabe’s testimony before the Diet Judicial Affairs Committee at a hearing in 2013, immediately prior to Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention, detailing the abuses to which he was subjected as a father by family court Judge Wakabayashi who, like so many others, could not bring himself to respect or act with decent regard for the lives of parents and children, preferring instead to assert his very real autonomy from the constraints of the law, to jealously guard his authority and his hereditary right to play Lord of the Manor to a father who came to his court to plead for his daughter’s protection from Japan’s machinery of abduction.

Watanabe’s testimony should make you weep hard and bitterly, as it did me. His story is my story, and all of our stories.

Despite the U.S. State Department and Japanese Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs protestations to the contrary, nothing has altered these practices in Japan today. As a result, well over three million children remain victims of Japanese child abduction-masked-as-custody-determination today, in 2018.

Posted in Japan Child Abduction | 2 Comments

Japanese Corporation Kodansha Ltd. Puts Take-Down Notice on ForRuiBoy.Com

My blog was just slapped with a DMCA takedown claim from a Japanese corporation known for publishing Manga and related refuse, Kodansha Ltd.
I will have to figure out how to re-do what is objected to in order to get the take-down order removed.


The story that I posted was also posted in Japanese. It reproduced a story that had been on the website Yahoo! Japan, and had been removed from there. I presumed that that removal was due to objections to the content, critical of the Japanese family court’s practice of condoning and enforcing child abduction, because of the suppression of critical writing in the press for which Japan is justly famous.

My blog post also added some comments of my own: including naming the name of a leading child abducting attorney in Japan who has had his license suspended several times for misrepresentations he made in court: lies and distortions manufactured to “win” cases and enhance his reputation and income.

He is also the attorney responsible for the abduction of my son.

I don’t know whether his being named there in conjunction with the copyrighted material, which was “objectionable” in some way (for telling unpleasant truths about Japanese breaching of international standards, and gross abuses and violations of children’s rights) had something to do with the attention that was brought to it. But it might have. I suspect strongly that it did, given his history of unscrupulous conduct and disrespect for truth.
Perhaps I may be made to know more about this aspect in the near future. I hope so.

It’s also interesting that it was one of the most visited pages in the 7-year history of this (my) site, having hundreds of hits in just a few days.

Having just received word of the DMCA takedown notice, I am currently seeking to find out how I can legally make “fair use” of whatever necessary portion (or permissible wording) of the content of the Yahoo News article I referenced here, in order that the topic it is about remains discussed here. *I have no desire to, nor interest in infringing anyone’s rights to copyright*; instead I am only interested in keeping the subject matter that was reported on in circulation and available for my community to know of and learn about. I presume that since the material in question was published on the Internet (and then, notably, withdrawn by Yahoo! Japan) that the main point of the story, if not the exact words of the Yahoo article of course, can be legally circulated and discussed.

The story was and is a report on a contemporary, urgent court case. The news story included a series of interviews with one or more participants in the case, and with persons who are affiliated with them, and with people who are, like myself, concerned about the high incidence of child abduction and infringement of children’s and parents’ rights in Japan. It was published, publicly, in the press. I simply reproduced it on this website. But it appears that the originators of the take-down notice did not want it reproduced or known publicly. More than likely they determined that their economic and ideological interests were presented unfavorably by the story.

Therefore I will seek to learn what is possible to do to maintain my website here without interference from “copyright” claims, and without infringement on the rights of others.

Brian Prager

More Thoughts:
The bummer actually is that the story was unusually revealing of the outrageous things that “family courts” in Japan do, and that it corroborated that claim of outrageousness with journalist-conducted interviews with several people, including some in government. So the piece as written has value.

Plus, it was in Japanese (making it more important to keep in circulation). The sum total of what I did here was to post it with a machine-assisted English translation (in which I did my best to fix some erroneous grammar, but not much more), with some comments of mine.

In other words, without the original story as it appeared in Japanese, there’s not much I can do. It’s very hard to get anything into print IN JAPANESE about Japan’s child abduction sub-industry.

For anyone interested, if you click onto and scroll down this page, it describes the high incidence of take down requests coming directly from governments, increasing in the last years.
Notably, certain right wing governments appear to be among those with the highest rate of such requests. It may be that they do this directly,  via the state, rather than do it more discretely by hiring a private company to issue the requests for them. More research in this area may reveal a bit of neo-liberal trickery there.

Notably the piece states this:
Government Demands

We receive a steadily increasing number of takedown demands from governments around the world, with a 61% increase this reporting period compared to last’s.” (This is in reference to six months of 2017). 

Posted in Japan Child Abduction | 2 Comments

Following up on “DV“certified: “I can never meet my 9 year old daughter again…”

Custody Order Rui 3

(From the order of custody of Rui, petitioned in October 2010, granted on March 24, 2011, a full year before Japanese family court heard the case, ignoring the existence of the U.S. court decision entirely)

This news piece (included in the previous post yesterday) was posted on Japanese “Yahoo News” site and then pulled within a few hours. No explanation for that is readily available, but I’m pleased to be able say I’d posted it on my blog before it was lost entirely to the ether around the internet. I am suspicious that the reason it was pulled has to do with the fact that it tells a critical truth about Japan’s family courts and substantiates claims against the legitimacy of those courts effectively. Needless to say, I won’t pull it down.

Yahoo logo

It details an unconscionable fact about Japan’s regime of child abduction and state-supported, institutionally-induced child abuse under cover of a profoundly disturbing and destructive outward appearance:
That is, the significant use in Japan of “fake claims of domestic violence” to break off family ties from children and permanently eliminate their relationships with their parent.
The extraordinary thing I want to emphasize here is that this is NOT a case of zealously angry, vengeful men’s rights advocates refuting the legitimate claims of women in need of protection from violence in domestic relationships. If that were the case, I would not dream of supporting or spreading vile rumors.
Rather it is the case that Japan has a *horrendously* bad record of failure to protect women, children, and the elderly from violence, and an enormous juridical apparatus, buffered by legislative laxity and complicit-to-the-point-of-absurdity policing, all enabling the abuses, and minimizing the capacity and effectiveness of authentic support for victims.
It is therefore doubly, triply galling to see that rather than addressing its high incidence of domestic violence, public violence against women, violence against children in schools and homes, the family court makes this a practice that it appears to believe is useful to its reputation; that it attempts to bum rush parents out of their families- permanently – while turning a blind eye to the numerous silences and abuses that surround this system. This allows them to reinforce a creaking, broken family form, while doing nothing to save children from an abusive exercise of dominating power.

If it could happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
150,000 Japanese state-sanctioned abductions, every year.

visit Japanlogo D

Read the original story, here.

Posted in Japan Child Abduction | 4 Comments