Bonne année Emilie!

Posted 31 December 2012 by vfp15
Categories: Lettres à Emilie

Bonne année Emilie!

Même si ta mère t’a prise et qu’elle nous garde loin l’un de l’autre, je pense tout le temps à toi.

Ton papa qui t’aime!

Another victim…

Posted 3 November 2012 by vfp15
Categories: Uncategorized

Yumi Cossio was caught at Montreal’s Pierre-Elliot Trudeau Airport trying to leave Canada with her daughter (story in French). She was formally accused of attempted child abduction.

I know nothing about Yumi, nor do I know why she suddenly left the father of her child. She might have had good reasons, but then again she might not have any more reason that a whimsical change of heart.

What I do know is this. In Japan, the first parent to snatch the child gets custody. In 90% of divorces, the woman leaves her husband and takes the children. Japan doesn’t recognize shared custody, nor does it enforce visitation rights of any kind.

This is bad for every one: it’s bad for the child obviously, it’s of course bad for the left-behind-parent, but it is also bad for the abducting parent. By legitimizing this behavior, Japanese family courts send the wrong message to parents thinking of divorce. They give moral sanction to immoral acts.

Japanese courts have basically told Yumi that it was OK for her to kidnap her daughter. The meaner side of me hopes she rots in jail. The better side of me, the one I want to cultivate, hopes she realizes her mistake, is let off with a suspended sentence, is permitted to stay in Canada.

I also urge her husband to never let her daughter travel to Japan, at least not until their daughter is seventeen or eighteen. If he’s got the money, then I strongly recommend that the father seeks out legal advice in Japan in order to secure his parental rights there. That will mean depriving Yumi of all parental rights in Japan.

Once he is safe, I would urge the father to be generous and considerate with regards to the relationship between his daughter and her mother.

I consider Yumi another victim of Japan’s regressive family laws. Fortunately, things turned out well and Yumi will be forced to deal with her problems. I hope this case is widely publicized in Japan: that would send the correct message.


Op/Ed piece on Majirox news

Posted 11 October 2012 by vfp15
Categories: Uncategorized

I wrote my story as an opinion/editorial piece and it was published on Majirox News, an English language news site on Japan.

Chère Emilie

Posted 8 October 2012 by vfp15
Categories: Lettres à Emilie

Chère Emilie

C’est aujourd’hui l’Action-de-Grâce, c’est à dire le jour pour exprimer notre reconnaissance pour les bonnes choses de la vie. Même quand nous subissons des malheurs et des misères, la vie reste remplie de choses extraordinaires et elle vaut la peine d’être vécue.

Toi et moi sommes vivants et même si ta mère nous empêche de nous rencontrer, un jour nous pourrons nous retrouver. J’espère que tu seras prête à réclamer ton patrimoine.

En attendant, je te demande de ne pas porter trop d’attention à ce que ta mère te dira à mon sujet. Sache que sans être la meilleure personne du monde, je t’ai aimé et je t’ai protégé, et je crois être un père bienveillant.

Je pars en expédition la semaine prochaine pour quelques mois.


Ton papa.


Posted 27 September 2012 by vfp15
Categories: Uncategorized

Since the 1970s, several Japanese citizens have been kidnapped by North Korea in a bizarre attempt to help North Korean secret agents learn the Japanese language from native speakers. (Much about North Korea sounds absurd, but tragically this is true.)

Japan wants these citizens repatriated of course and it wants diplomatic support from other countries for this. I’m sure the issue is somewhere on the agenda whenever there is a six-country round of talks involving North Korea.

But Japanese people kidnap each other’s children all the time when divorcing because shared custody rights don’t exist in Japan. Worse, when a Japanese has children with a non-Japanese and joint custody is awarded abroad (or even when sole custody is awarded to the non-Japanese parent) and the Japanese parent abducts the children and brings them to Japan, Japanese authorities will never enforce the non-Japanese parent’s custody rights.

I won’t be so obtuse as to say both situations are identical: Japanese abductors of their children after all start with some parental rights.  Nevertheless, the North Korean and Japanese abduction issues are sufficiently similar to warrant us accusing Japan of outright hypocrisy when it asks other countries to support its position vis-à-vis North Korea.

Two kidnappers, each supported by the laws of his country.

I will not minimize the tragedy suffered by victims such as Megumi Yokota and her parents. The parents have every right to petition their government for support and the Japanese government has a duty to give them that support. But the government of Japan should see the similarities and work towards fixing its own kidnapping problem as well.

This is difficult when lawmakers such as Jun’ichiro Koizumi, the former and unusually popular prime-minister pictured at left above, took sole custody of his two elder children when he divorced his wife in the 1980s. It’s ironical that he was the one who broke through the diplomatic impasse and negotiated the return of some Japanese directly with the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (at right). But I’m sure the irony is lost on him…

Get a prenup!

Posted 22 September 2012 by vfp15
Categories: Uncategorized

OK, you might actually like your Japanese boyfriend or girlfriend and you might not want to dump them.

But given that divorce is on the rise in Japan and elsewhere, it’s common sense to protect yourself. Never mind assets and what not. What’s a few bucks here and there? If that were all that was at stake, the protection of a pre-nuptial agreement would not make up for the ill-will it would cause.

But sometimes there’s more than money involved, sometimes there are children. In that case, before you get married, you should prepare for a divorce. Why? Because custody law in Japan is not reasonable. In fact it’s insane, so a pre-nuptial agreement is essential to ensure that in the event of  a divorce, both parents have access to the children. But there is a serious snag: Japanese law does not recognize agreements mentioning child custody, therefore the agreement must be about other aspects, e.g. assets, and contingent on other situations (e.g. who moved out first).

In the case of a Japanese/non Japanese couple, you absolutely need expert help in drafting a pre-nup. Foreign law offices in Japan, such as Langley Esquire, have exactly the expertise required. I don’t want to appear to be endorsing any particular lawyer or law office, so you should ask your embassy for a list of lawyers.

I do have a few caveats however. Make sure you are comfortable with your lawyer. The first lawyer I saw was terrible. She was Japanese and very experienced but she kept telling me what to do, she was being patronizing, and the feeling I got was that she sided with my ex-wife! Without over-generalizing, Japanese lawyers (and doctors and teachers) all assume the mantle of authority and they tell their clients what to do. In the Western world, our attitude is that doctors and lawyers are expensive expert consultants who explain what options are available and what their consequences are, and who then leave the actual decision up to their clients. Either get a foreign lawyer working in Japan, or a Japanese lawyer working in your home country. But get a lawyer who understands Japanese family law.

It’ll be expensive. Each case is different, each pre-nup must be custom tailored for each couple, and there are no one-size-fits-all templates. But it’s worth it.

Dump your Japanese girlfriend or boyfriend now!

Posted 14 September 2012 by vfp15
Categories: Uncategorized

I really feel bad about posting something like this. I’ve lived 23 years in Japan and I love the place. I have many Japanese friends, male and female. How could I tell my friends Jane and Peter to dump Takeshi and Kyoko? (Not anyone’s real name.) But I am telling them this, and I am NOT being racist. The considerations are purely legal.

Let me be clear: if your girlfriend or boyfriend is a Japanese citizen and you are in a heterosexual relationship with them, and you are of child bearing age, then think seriously about dumping them right away.

As a Japanese citizen, your partner has the legal right to kidnap your child if the relationship between the two of you sours.  Their Japanese family will almost always support them and do everything to keep you from seeing your child again.

The above does not apply to non-Japanese citizens of Japanese descent. You are fine with an American or Canadian or Peruvian partner whose grandparents or greatparents were Japanese.

If you do decide to hitch up, then insist on signing a prenup. Consult a foreign lawyer practicing in Japan. Ask your embassy for a list.  Take care though: the prenup cannot in any way mention custody. A good lawyer will be clever.

If you think that breaking up is hard to do, just imagine how much worse it is to go though the loss of a child…

My daughter’s family registry (her honseki) – 平澤えみりの本籍

Posted 6 September 2012 by vfp15
Categories: Uncategorized

There is a silly excuse the Japanese government gives all the time for not allowing or enforcing child visitation rights. Under current family law it is not possible to register a child on two  family registries. While married, the two spouses are on the same family registry of course, and so are their children. After a divorce, one spouse is removed from the registry (though records remain of having been on the registry) and enters a different family registry (his or her own). The children go on one and only one of the two registries, therefore only one parent has custody. It’s an all or nothing game.

This is the family registry of my daughter Emilie. It’s actually my ex-wife Shijima Hirasawa’s (平澤しじま) registry. It’s in Japanese but it contains details of her date and place birth, the date she registered her first marriage (to an American) , the date of her divorce from her first husband, the date of her marriage to me, and the date of our daughter’s birth. This copy was made before we divorced so the date of our divorce isn’t there.

Of course, I completely agree there are administrative headaches to creating a fair custody system where both parents have rights to raising their child. But who cares? Civil servants are there to serve! Let them serve and let there be headaches. The plain fact of the matter is the paternalistic family courts simply don’t want to change and would prefer people did what they told them to do.

Japanese bureaucrats are experts and dragging their feet.

An answer from the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Posted 29 August 2012 by vfp15
Categories: Uncategorized

Before leaving Japan in June, I sent an open letter to Canada’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable John Baird. In the letter, I asked that the Canadian ambassador to Japan be recalled, that the Japanese ambassador to Canada be asked to leave, and this until Japan signs the Hague convention. Of course, I did not expect the ministry to actually carry out my demands. I’m angry and distraught at having lost my daughter, but I’m realistic enough to understand the ins-and-outs of diplomacy.

But I received an answer from the ministry to my letter. It wasn’t signed by the minister but it was signed by the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), Diane Ablonczy. Not bad. The letter does not describe any action to be taken by the ministry on my behalf. Again, I didn’t really expect anything. They are basically telling me what they’ve been doing for many years now and they put me in contact with a ministry official in charge of international custody litigation. Useless for me in the short term but, I hope, leading at some point soon to Japan changing so that what happened to me and to many other parents doesn’t happen again.

However one phrase bothered me: “The Government of Canada is sensitive towards the situation of parents that have been separated from their child and continues to encourage other countries, such as Japan, to adhere to the Hague Convention…” (My translation from the French, and my italics.) They continue to encourage Japan… In other words, they do not condemn, they do not voice their displeasure, they do not call the Japanese ambassador in for a lecture on human rights. In other words, the government is more sensitive about not saying anything negative to Japan than about helping these abducted Canadian children.

That bothers me. When Canada sent a military mission to Hans Island, a disputed territory between Greenland and Canada, they returned the Danish flag captured on the island to the Danish embassy in Ottawa. Diplomats take more care to secure the rights to an obscure island of about one square kilometer than they do to take care of the children of their citizens.

It bothers me that our government is being so nice to Japan on this issue. The minister should order Canadian diplomats to use stronger and clearly shameful language. “We encourage Japan to…” doesn’t cut it. Japanese  society has many admirable traits, but they are stubborn when it comes to attacks on their interest. The thing to do is attack their honour. For example, we should put the Japanese flag alongside the flags of other countries like Iran and Morroco on milk cartons and  “Lost Child” posters. We should shame Japan.

Posted 25 August 2012 by vfp15
Categories: Uncategorized

For Rui Boy

Our first 800 days.

The Japanese State condones the international abduction of children upon marital breakdown or failure. By encouraging the practice of abduction, then masking parental kidnapping as  “custody determination”, Japan helps to induce Japanese families to bring about the permanent separation of children from the parents who have raised them, and upon whom they depend to share love and experience trust.  Therefore, child trafficking into Japan has become an industry of lawyers, embassy and consular employees, family court judges, families and friends. Disappointed Japanese spouses and grandparents are able to gain Japanese state protection and ignore previously ajudicated custody in the child’s country of origin easily, regardless of the child’s originary nationality or age. Rewarding  the whim of any Japanese national who can manage to bring a child across the international border – regardless of his or her state of mind or fitness to make unilateral decisions of…

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