Japanese people don’t know about their own family law

Yesterday I has an enlightening conversation with my neighbor, Mrs. Ichikawa. She’s a very nice rather handsome woman in her late fifties or early sixties. She lives in a two dwelling home. She lives downstairs with her husband, and her daughter lives upstairs with her husband and their two children, a six year old boy and a two-month old baby girl.

Anyway,  I announced to Mrs. Ichikawa that I was leaving Japan, I explained my situation: no work for four years following the Lehman Shock, my divorce, and the fact that I would not be able to see my daughter for many years. I explained to her about Japanese family law and everything I said seemed new to her.

Now she is not a silly old woman. She’s a solid middle class housewife, she swims at the local pool twice a week, she takes good care of her plants, she’s a friendly neighbor, she does some community work. She and her husband own the house, a nice SUV and the whole family goes on weekend trips once in a while.

And yet she has no knowledge about family law. I illustrated what happened to me by telling her to imagine what would happen if her son-in-law took his two children to visit his parents one day and suddenly announced he wasn’t coming back. I was careful not to worry about this, but I explained that in 10% of the cases, it is the husband who abducts the children first, and in 90% of the cases it is the wife. I also insisted that this is not an international problem, it’s a domestic Japanese problem.

How can she not know?

I don’t like expounding gratuitous theories about the Japanese but there must be a reason why this solid middle-class woman knows nothing about the problem. I doubt she is alone; in fact I’m convinced she is typical.

There is probably no debate about it, fathers who lose there children are told to just get on with their lives and concentrate on work, while mothers who lose their children are probably thought of as bad mothers.

I have seen a report on the local news about “New Dads”. Fathers that spend a lot of time with their kids, fathers who play with them, change diapers, carry them when the whole family goes shopping, etc. This is new in Japan. It’s not that Japanese fathers were macho, it’s that they spend 80 hours a week at the office. Many younger fathers actually make a decision to come home early for the kids.

Since divorce is on the rise what will happen to those New Dads who get divorced?

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