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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mixed Marriages, Divorces And Kidnapping - A Guest Blog By Imogen Reed

Here's another blockbuster by guest blogger Imogen Reed, who seemingly likes to write for this blog. I don't ask why, and am instead simply grateful. In this article, Imogen tackles mixed marriages, mixed divorces, and the troubles that can ensue when their kids are involved in a divorce with a Japanese national for a parent. 

The stereotypical image of an international marriage in Japan is that of an American man (an English teacher or soldier) and a Japanese bride.

Of course, in reality, the American man can be substituted for any Caucasian male, but the picture holds. The Japanese media often presents the pair as being a hopeless love match between individuals who cannot attract someone of their own kind.

This image is strong, but data proves it to be utterly false. 

In Japan, of the 49,000 international marriages in 2006, some 40,000 of them involved a foreign bride and a Japanese man. Only 9,000 were actually one step closer to fitting the model. 

The vast majority of the 40,000 marriages involving a Japanese male and non-Japanese (NJ) females were mail-order brides from the Philippines and China (24,000).

The data does not include any Japanese national who married outside of Japan, as these foreign weddings/marriages involving Japanese nationals are not currently recognized by the Japanese government. Basically Japan only recognizes a marriage between a Japanese person and any nationality (including Japanese) if marriage is done in the Land of the Rising Sun.  

Most of the discussion in the media concerns whether the marriage is a love match or not, or whether it is an arrangement whereby someone who cannot find someone of their own kind marries the first stranger they can find. 

While there is a social stigma placed on the Japanese woman for marrying outside her race, more often than not, according to the data above, it is the men who get mail-order brides to look after the house and to raise the kids. 

What also gets discussed is the number of divorces and why they occur.

In a number of cases in the Japanese media, but also on a more personal level among Japanese friends of the international marriage, the blame for the failure of a marriage is due to cultural differences. 

Yes, there are many international marriages that fail, but a good many Japanese-Japanese marriages also fail, a higher percentage in fact, and the causes can be the same. 

Parental pressure is a common cause of separation and divorce. As Arudou Debito’s fictional novel In Appropriate shows, parents often pressure their daughters out of an unfavorable marriage.

Of course, in many marriages that dissolve, there are children involved. In Japan, this can lead to an unfair advantage for one parent over another.
Since the bubble era of the 1980s, many thousands of children have been born to mixed parents, and a minority of these have suffered the pain and heartbreak of an international divorce. 

In many western countries, if not an amicable break, there is a legal recourse for deciding the fate of children whose parents split up. For the most part, custody decisions are respected by the parents, but sometimes a parent without custody will take a child away - this is considered a form of kidnapping under the Hague Convention.

There's only one problem... Japan, is not party to the Hague Convention. 

Japan's decision not to join the Hague Convention has allowed the parents of Japanese children (apparently in most cases it is the Japanese mother) to take the child to Japan--kidnap in other words--and to then be protected by Japanese law against the legal custodian of the child in the child’s home country. 

Basically, what this means is that if a Japanese parent takes their from America to Japan, the Japanese government will protect their right to have/keep the child, and not the rights of the other parent. This is the case even if the non-Japanese parent is awarded custody of the child in a foreign country.

Japanese nationals kidnapping their own children are definitely protected. In fact, Japan will not extradite any Japanese National for any reason. 

Right now, in theory, there are no sanctions for those who do not abide by custody decisions.

In fact, because of Japan's refusal to take part in the Hague Convention, theoretically any kidnapping can be ignored.

In Japan, the separation between parents is often total and a child rarely sees the parent who loses the custody battle. Getting rights to see a child after losing custody is an impossible challenge, much like biking to the top of a mountain. In fact, it is often easier to find quality motorcycle insurance and to drive the bike to the top of Mt. Everest than for a losing parent to gain access. 

As such, for over two decades, non-Japanese parents - mostly men - have been denied the right to visit or see the children they have the rightful custody of after the child has been kidnapped.

Thus far Japan has resisted all attempts to allow the non-Japanese parents to see their children. Any attempt to see the child, even if the child runs away to the non-Japanese parent, has been treated as kidnapping and some non-Japanese have ended up in jail over it.

As an aside, 99 per cent of the time, whomever actually has custody of the child or children at the time of the custody decision wins the right to have them full-time.   

As mentioned, Japan has yet to sign on to the Hague Convention, but moves are slowly underway, as it makes its way through Japan's National Diet ((国会 Kokkai) - its legislature.

Unfortunately, current wording in the Convention appears to give judges the right to block attempts for the rightful custodian to get a kidnapped child back, so there may not be much change in the way Japan handles kidnapping even if it does sign onto the Hague Convention.

But... fret not. In 2011, there was one bright moment.

In 2008 Moises Garcia, a Nicaraguan-born American, his Japanese wife, and their daughter Karina were all living in the U.S. when the parents decided to divorce. Moises won custody of his daughter - a rare event in western countries, as the mother usually wins custody except in dire circumstances, such as mental health issues, and even then it is no sure thing.

One day when the child's mother was visiting her daughter in the U.S., she kidnapped Karina and took her back to Japan. 

Moises traveled to Japan to try and get her back, but to no avail. In fact, aside from three brief visits, Moises was unable to see his daughter as the Japanese government refused to give him access to his daughter let alone let him take her back to the U.S.

However, a break occurred when the mother took her daughter to the U.S. (Hawaii) to renew her visa.

Since Moises had originally reported to U.S. authorities that Karina had been kidnapped, the mother was arrested when she set foot in Hawaii and was only released and sent back to Japan after Karina was with her father.
The path towards rightful action on kidnapped children in Japan is far from over.

It is unlikely to be settled so long as Japan’s domestic laws allow one parent to shield their child from the other and where the possession of a child counts as 9/10ths of the law.


  1. Yeah. True, but possession counts for 9/10s of the law in almost every country of the world.... I have been divorced and through the court systems.... It is VERY difficult for a unemployed mother to defeat an employed father in court in this country.... The problems could be that many foreign fathers are such F'ups that they shy away from the legal rigaramole.... They can win if they "play the game." I mean, if you consider fighting in court to be "winning" or that young children should be away from their mother.... I didn't and wanted to surrender custody to the mom but couldn't.... In 95% of the time, the law is pretty much common sense.

    1. I agree with you, that it's usually the father that is the screw up. It was why I added the caveat that mental illness (in the mother) could and perhaps be a consideration in awarding custody... but even then... it's a battle.
      Obviously the contentious part revealed in the story is the kidnapping. It is what it is, unfortunately.
      Cheers, Mike.

  2. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

  3. This is the interesting one.Thanks for sharing.

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