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Posted by on Apr 28, 2007 in Media, Politics | 13 comments

Rabble rousing and Japanese racism

The First Amendment guarantees:

“…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I just witnessed this first-hand in Washington, DC. In fact, I spent the entire day with the protesters and rolled cameras before, during and after the protest.

These were normal, cogent people with real lives and careers: a publisher, a military officer, an art dealer… All gathering to facilitate change.

You see, the government of Japan harbors and protects kidnappers, and these American parents are fighting back. They’ve asked me to document their efforts.

Japan is one of very few industrialized nations that denies visitation rights to non-Japanese parents. Whether the parent is a mother or father, they are protected from prosecution by the Japanese courts if they kidnap a child to Japan. To illustrate:

A Japanese man, working in the US on a Visa, marries an American woman and they have a child together. The marriage falls apart, and the husband returns to Japan in the middle of the night and takes the child with him, without the mother’s consent. He immediately petitions the Japanese courts for full custody and receives it; in Japan, ‘possession’ of the child is 100% of the law.

Back in the US, the mother files a report with the local authorities, the FBI and State Department. The husband is charged with felony kidnapping and a warrant is issued. The mother then spends four years and one hundred thousands dollars of her savings to force the father to allow ONE visit with the child. The father hires a Japanese lawyer that specializes in hiding children, and the Japanese government shrugs its collective shoulders and says “Divorce and custody issues are personal matters. There’s nothing we can do.” The State Department makes a few feeble attempts at mediation, but the Japanese courts circle the wagons and protect the father with double talk, legalese and cultural mumbo-jumbo. Japan is an openly racist country and its people are instilled from birth with a sense of cultural superiority. It’s an ancient and repulsive custom, and their courts are skewed to favor Japanese citizens in all matters. Say what you will about the US Courts. At least all persons, citizens or not, are afforded due process under the Constitution. Incidentally, the kidnapping warrant is all but ignored by the Japanese, since their law considers this a private, civil matter.

So the mother is then forced to take time off from her job and travel to Washington, DC to protest at the Japanese Embassy. The Japanese are obsessed with ‘saving face’ and social embarrassment is traumatic and devastating. Considering all legal channels have been exhausted, this last-ditch effort may prove to be the most effective.

It’s an absolute travesty that these parents, who only want to see their children, are forced to use embarrassment at the diplomatic level to enforce justice.

More to come…

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  1. What were they protesting?

  2. [Thread updated at 2:30 EST.]

  3. Please see our website ( for more background on this problem. Basically the laws and customs in Japan regarding divorce and custody are totally different from other countries. When there is a divorce or separation or child born out of wedlock, the odds are really against you if you don’t have physical custody of the child. The net effect is that the Japanese system rewards child abductors and has become an international sancturary for government sanctioned international parental kidnapping. My two U.S. citizen daughers were abducted by their Japanese mother almost 12 years ago. I have fought for visitation to the Japanese Supreme Court level two times now, and have yet to get one scheduled meeting with my daughters in all this time. I want to thank Scott for all he is doing to help us alert the public about this situation in Japan. It’s a dirty little secret that the Japanese don’t want to acknowledge, and the U.S. State Department is reluctant to take strong actions on.

  4. While there may be several cases in which the courts of Japan have ruled in favor of custody for Japanese parents, the degree of vitriol you have reserved and the extent of your generalizations regarding an entire nation of peoples in misleading and, in itself, a racist generalization that does not reflect that Japan in which I lived for eight years.

    Having worked in various jobs including media, government and education in Japan and lived in both the most populous, Tokyo, and among the most rural, northern Gifu, areas (not to mention travel throughout the nation and working with Japanese in the U.S.), it is obvious that your experiences as it relates to this issue have created an unfair bias against some of the most giving and thoughtful people I have ever encountered throughout travels far and wide in this world.

    It is far easier to play into others’ preconceived notions and fall prey to stereotyped generalizations than to describe unfairness and injustice with accuracy and precision. In this increasingly xenophobic America in which we live, it is not only lazy to document and report negative generalizations about a foreign land and foreign peoples but also promotes that which you have accused millions of Japanese, racism and nationalism.

    I was so very impressed with your documentary about breast cancer (I am a friend of Krista’s); however, the picture you have painted is not even close to truthful as it relates to Japan (and I don’t think the folks at Guantanamo would agree with you on the due process bit).

    While industrialized nations tend to have far more advanced and fair legal systems than less the less advantaged nations of this world, there are undoubtedly countless examples of flaws in the U.S., Japan, Great Britain, France, etc…that are appalling travesties of justice. Please be more cautious as you continue to document this genuine tragedy.

  5. Hello, Katrina, and thanks for the comments.

    So let’s jump right , shall we?

    – “Several cases?”

    Try hundreds, or perhaps thousands. Walter can clarify.

    – “Vitriol.”

    Interesting word choice there. Shall I soften my stance, so that feelings aren’t hurt? Sorry, ‘racism’ and ‘kidnapping’ are at play here, and I’m calling them on it. Is it ‘vitriol’ when you call me a lazy, xenophobic racist? Just want to clarify here.

    – “Lazy”.

    Hmm. No, I’m actually working rather hard to expose their criminal practices.

    – “…most giving and thoughtful people I have ever encountered throughout travels far and wide in this world.”

    I’m sure many (most?) of them are lovely people. But your kid isn’t being held hostage by these giving and thoughtful people, and if he/she were, your song would change in a minute.

    – “Others preconceived notion”.

    Actually, I formed my own opinions based on interviews and research, and because it doesn’t mesh with your sycophantic love of the Japaneses, it’s therefore ‘xenophobic.’ Incidentally, you may want to have a look at this:

    Apparently, the BBC, the UN and many other world agencies recognize Japan’s little racism problem.

    – “…the picture you have painted is not even close to truthful.”

    Tell you what. I’ll present my documentation, and you present yours, and we’ll see wherein the truth lies.

    – “…(and I don’t think the folks at Guantanamo would agree with you on the due process bit).”

    I was stationed in Gitmo. Nice weather, but the beer selection is limited.

    – “…countless examples of flaws in the U.S., Japan, Great Britain, France, etc…that are appalling travesties of justice”

    Absolutely. And in fact, one of my next projects is taking on a major flaw in the U.S. system. But for now, I’m drilling down on the Japanese government and its felonious policies.

    This blog entry was composed after studying the facts and interviewing the affected parents. I’ve never lived in Japan and don’t plan to. But I don’t have to live in a fish market to tell you that it stinks.

    So the ball’s in your court, Katrina. I can prove that this little kidnapping/racism problem exists, and I’m going to do it. You get back to me with proof that it doesn’t exist, and I’ll include it in the film.

    By ‘proof’ I mean hard evidence, not some warm-fuzzy ‘feeling’.

    And finally, since you’re our expert on all things Japan, perhaps you can explain why Japan is the only G-7 industrialized country that is not a party to The Hague abduction convention. Quite a list of countries, there Katrina. Call me a racist, xenophobe or lazy idiot if you will. But you can’t deny the evidence, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  6. Dear Katrina,

    Having assisted on the “front line” in this issue, I have to say that honestly the Japanese government is working together with their citizens to exclude the “other parent” from the lives of these half Japanese kids. This is the kind of racism that is so deeply imbedded that it’s not recognized for what it is.

    Maybe some of of the terms used by Mactavish are not PC enough, but the facts are there. There has only been one Japanese Supreme Court ruling to return a kid to his father in the USA (case of Lui), and guess what, that kid is still in Japan, because there is no mechanism by which the child can be forcibly removed from the mother’s domicile. No sheriff with papers, nothing. If the father goes to get the kid, she can seek and get the protection of the local police, no matter that the SUPREME COURT has “OKd” it.

    It’s notable becaus it is a rich country with a modern facade. To boot, Japan received a huge aid package after WWII which is certainly responsible together with the diligence of the Japanese people in re-building that country. There is this appearance of being in the 21st century which is so mis-leading, because the legal code and the inner-workings of the government are simply not.

    There is no concept of “children’s rights” as we define them in the USA/Canada. Kids are still divided up in a divorce the way a house, car, and other “Property” is allocated.

    Come on over, and see for yourself. See the frustration, the tears, the attempted suicides, the complete inhumanity of the family court system in Japan.

    You’ll want to check out for the most exhaustive information available on the internet (and it’s only the tip of the iceberg). Most parents wait until it’s all over before going public, because they are afraid that publicity will influence their cases negatively. What they don’t understand is that publicity is their __only__ weapon in the Japanese culture. But the Japanese media does not pick up on it AT ALL It’s a total NON-ISSUE as far as they are concerned.

  7. Here is the corrected link for the Yamila page.

  8. Thanks Cornelia.

    You know, I went back and re-read my post, wondering if I did indeed come off like a cross-burning hooligan, when in fact, I’ve spent most of my life building bridges with people of all races, cultures and religions. And here’s how a little university by the name of “Princeton” defines ‘racism.’

    # S: (n) racism (the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races)
    # S: (n) racism, racialism, racial discrimination (discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race)

    And upon closer inspection, I said exactly what I meant, and my comments were in no way racist. But then again, I understand the allegation. Those that have no basis for argument will often damn those with whom they’re arguing as a red-herring tactic.

    My exploration of Japanese racism actually started over twenty years ago, when Uncle Sam offered a slot at the Yokosuka chapter of his Haze Gray Canoe Club. I spoke with many sailors who had been stationed there, and most, if not all, found the country to be beautiful, culturally rich and fascinating. And while the citizenry was largely welcoming and polite, these sailors found themselves often excluded from arbitrary restaurants and businesses, and in extreme cases, treated with open hostility and contempt.

    You see, racism is not limited to rednecks with bourbon-breath and white pointy hoods, or goose-stepping Aryans with freaky mustaches and black MC-Hammer parachute pants.

    It can simmer just below the surface and manifest itself in subtle ways, such as ignoring kidnapping policies that are adopted by the rest of the civilized world.

    And a quick Google search results in over 14,000 entries devoted to the subject, and this tells me the whole smoke/fire scenario is in play.

    Finally, as I stated, I did my research, to the point of exhaustion. I’ll bet a thousand bucks our friend Katrina has never broken bread, or even spoken with, a non-Japanese parent whose child is being hidden in the shadows of Mt. Fuji.

  9. Japan is a lovely country, and lovely people, and yes, laws do differ from country to country, and as I have written before, nothing quite like the US to come home to after living abroad…

    As a wife to a former member of the Haze Gray Canoe Club, while he was Yokuska, he did find it easier to blend in a bit (he is Korean-born), I hesitate to write it, but yes, ethnocentrism exists, it does, and it does need to be recognized…

    I can very well believe that this is happening in Japan, not just because of Scott’s writing, but also because of the fact that it exists with other countries, Israel, Palestine, Egypt…

    Even the good Ol’US has laws regarding its Native Peoples and children, Indian Child Welfare Act.

  10. Thanks Summer.

    Let’s say, for the sake of the argument, that I’m a jabbering, hare-brained kook. (There are many that would certainly agree, but I digress.)

    The facts are on the table, and it matters not if anyone buys into my rants. That’s why I provide links to sources deemed (reasonably) credible.

    And to be clear, this isn’t an Asian/Caucasian thing. I’d like to hear the opinions of Africans, Filipinos and Brazilians working in Japan.

  11. Scott, I re-examined my words and have looked more closely at your article. Allow me to be more specific. The sentence which concerns me most, that is not only a disservice to this legitimate cause but also fosters the kind of racism that you are speaking out against is, “Japan is an openly racist country and its people are instilled from birth with a sense of cultural superiority.” I am aware of numerous articles and publications about Japan’s racism, it’s old hat and not special. Whether it was some college professor or Japanese college sociology student or government official or BBC journalist or whomever who has pondered about Japan’s sense of superiority, it’s a subject that’s been around for quite some time.

    My eight years in Japan plus working in the U.S. with Japanese for 10 years, has given me a pretty broad range of experience. I also spent two years and a lot of hard work documenting and lecturing on the murder of a 16-year old Japanese boy in Louisiana, and can tell you unequivocally that racism combined with quirks in state and federal law were at play in the “not guilty” verdict and that racism was alive and well in the hundreds of hate-filled letters that piled up at the Embassy of Japan in the fall of 1992(there is no website that these can be found on…I was given them in 1993 for my thesis).

    Concurrently, I can assure that my view of Japan is not simply a warm-fuzzy feeling or “sycophantic love.” I have had terribly negative experiences in Japan and with many Japanese people; however, I have not assigned blame to the nation for individual acts of ignorance, sexism, racism and depravity…these are traits that can be found the world over.

    The value in your current endeavor is evident. “Soften your stance” as it applies to those people who uphold a flawed law and racist individuals stuck in soupy bureaucracy –– no way…I didn’t say that or imply that; however, to impugn an entire culture is a very dangerous and destructive means of achieving an end.

    I did not call you a “lazy, xenophobic racist” and instead pointed out that it would be “lazy” to fall prey to generalizations that serve to broaden a divide. You may be right, that my song would change if I were being personally impacted by this; however, I would hope not…I think I’ve had enough rotten life experiences under my belt and still have managed to refrain from judging an entire nation based on the actions of some. This research you are doing is special and important and valuable and unknown to many and undoubtedly incredibly time-consuming but calling millions of people racist is unjust to the millions of Japanese who are not and is a disservice to the potential viewers of your documentary who may not have had the opportunities some have had to know a broader picture of the world.

    Find those people in Japan who are working against this system be they government bureaucrats, Japanese journalists or people on the street and make it a point to bring them into this fold as opposed to lumping them in with the rest of “racist Japan.” And if you need help finding someone, I may just be someone who can help you.

    Best regards, Katrina

  12. First I would like to say a huge thank you to Scott , for being brave enough , and for being willing to take the time to bring light to this tragic injustice that is being perpetuated by the Japanese govt … on the children of international parents .

    It is the Japanese government doing this, by (amongst other things) allowing its citizens to have an opportunity to ignore and violate US laws and pre-existing court orders with impunity . Actually it is not only US laws and court orders , it is ANY countries laws and courts orders . Japan will not even enforce its own court orders regarding custody or family laws within its own borders as Cornelia mentioned. This is one part of how they keep the foundation to justify the rulings they want to give their own citizens in Japanese courts, in spite of foreign arrest warrents for kidnapping and etc… The Japanese mechanisms of courts process are intended to alienate one parent from the abducted child unfairly . But again , It is the children who turn up the losers in this clear violation of human dignity , human rights , and basic freedom . There is no debate and no dispute that children need both parents. Social science studies the world over, have proven the negative effects that divorce , parental alienation , single-parent households , and especially traumatic events like child abductions do have on children . These effects last beyond that childs adulthood into future generations . Japan must recognize the value and developmental contributions of both parents, to Every Single Child . To me this shows that Japan has NOT evolved from a human rights perspective. This is not because of lack of opportunity . Japan has refused to sign the Hague for over 27 years now , despite worldwide pressure.

    I am glad that you are willing to acknowledge that you are aware of numerous articles and publications about Japans racism Katrina . I am a little suprised by your comment “its old hat and not special ” though . Does that mean that the issue is no longer worthy of attention from your point of view ? I wonder how that comment would play out if said to someone like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson . Try it out next time you are in Louisiana researching that murder case . I do also agree Katrina , you may be someone who can help . Please give Scott permission to send your email address to me and I will contact you directly .

    I dont think any of us would try to negatively generalize about the entire Japanese population in one way or another . There is an intersting fact regarding our issue and Japanese values that I would like to point out here though. The overwhelming Japanese response to the North Korean abductions demonstrates clearly that Japanese people do not believe that kidnapping is acceptable in a civilized society . And, virtually every single Japanese politician and official has gone on the record saying that kidnapping is wrong , abduction is a terrible human rights violation . Just this last week , Prime Minister Abe has decided that kidnapping is now to be considered an act of terrorism .
    UNLESS ,of course, the kidnapper happens to be a Japanese citizen .

    Should Americans trust Japan when they say there is one set of rules for us , and a different set of rules for everyone else in the world ?

    Those of us who have children kidnapped to , or who are being held in Japan in forced separation , can also be great advocates for Japan. We are people who love Japan and many aspects of Japanese culture . We are people who married Japanese spouses and made lifetime commitments to raise our children with them. We can be THE BEST advocates for Japans future relations here in the United States …. But being in that position , means that we had to find out in the hardest way that Japan is different and needs to change . Children of international marriages are the best bridges between 2 countries . These children of international marriages are truly the best examples of a modern global society .

    This is the future of our world…. and it is here today.

    Ensuring our children’s security and safety , is THE foundation for good bi-lateral , and global foreign relations . As socially responsible parents and globally responsible governments , we must insure that the world is a place where people of 2 different countries can marry , have children , and raise them with a sense of security .
    And all should be protected by the rule of law.
    Prime Minister Abe became a Japanese political hero for his work on the abduction issue . We would like to point out to him, the opportunity to be a worldwide human rights hero . All he has to do is walk the way he talks.

    For Cornelia , please be careful about the information on the other website you mentioned. It may appear informative , but most of what is there was web-jacked from the CRC website (and the CRC is a legitimate US non-profit organiation),and much of what is published there regarding the demonstrations I organized, is not credible. If you really are on the “front line” of this issue, get ahold of me . We need your help.

    Thanks ,
    Patrick Braden

  13. Katrina.


    “I am aware of numerous articles and publications about Japan’s racism, it’s old hat and not special. Whether it was some college professor or Japanese college sociology student or government official or BBC journalist or whomever who has pondered about Japan’s sense of superiority, it’s a subject that’s been around for quite some time.”

    So let’s just forget about the tens of thousands of articles dedicated to the subject and rely on your eight years in-country. To hell with the BBC; Katrina LIVED THERE, man.

    And blacks were never lynched in Arkansas and the Holocaust is a fabrication of those evil Zionists. Sure, there’s evidence in the press, on film and from personal testimony, but it’s *old hat.* Good God.

    I’ll let that statement speak for itself.

    Racism ranges from innate feelings of social superiority to outright acts of violence. My assessment skews toward the former, and I stick by it. If you’re looking for a back-pedal or apology, you won’t find it here. The Japanese as a whole consider themselves culturally superior, and they’ve been called on it, time and time again. They may not openly spit on foreigners (although some do), but their subtle and sustained nationalism speaks volumes. Does this mean every, single Japanese is a hater? Of course not. But by definition, racism need not be based on hate to exist.

    Interesting that a single word supports my thesis: ‘Gaijin’

    The Japanese are racists, by the Princeton definition, and the proof is exhaustive.

    And if my ‘generalization’ is ‘dangerous’, what exactly is your dismissal of the facts?

    Tell you what, Katrina. You find me ONE Japanese person that can explain why the Hague treaty hasn’t been signed, and I’ll eat a big ‘ol piece of humble pie. I notice that you side-stepped this issue. Why is that? That’s certainly not a fabrication of my ‘xenophobic’ imagination. The treaty has been presented to Abe and his minions, and it has gone ignored time and time again.

    I don’t know you, Katrina, but gather from your posts that you’re a very well-educated and passionate person, and I wish you well. You’ve been fixated on my opinion of the Japanese, and that’s your right to fixate. My opinions stand, and if that causes you grief, well, then grieve. I can’t imagine you’d actually waste one moment of your day worrying about me or my opinions.

    I promise you, that if this film comes to fruition, it will be thoroughly and thoughtfully produced, with every point considered to the point of exhaustion. The thesis of the film is the parenting issue, and that’s what I plan to focus on. The ‘racism’ issue is merely one small aspect of the story, and it’ll be in there. Otherwise, the real story is the pain suffered by the affected families, and the Japanese government’s indifference to it.

    With that: Thread closed.