UK Foreign Secretary in Japan

Again, and as highlighted by me in the past, there has been a further high level visit by our Foreign Secretary to Japan and despite all the larking about, the issue of international parental child abduction continues to be off the Foreign Office’s agenda despite Japan’s continued failings.  There is hardly a better person in contemporary UK politics to ratchet up awareness of an issue of such importance and, yet again, Foreign Office officials have failed to brief a Foreign Secretary on it:

The Telegraph

From Maybot to robot: Boris Johnson meets face of state-of-the-art technology on visit to Japan

Boris Johnson has worked alongside the Maybot – the rather unflattering nickname given to the Prime Minister – so he seemed completely at ease trying out his oratory skills on a state-of-the-art robot on a diplomatic visit to Japan. The robot, however, looked hard to impress.

The Foreign Secretary touched down on Thursday for top-level cyber security, defence and trade talks.

He stopped for a photo opportunity with a humanoid robot at the Research Institute for Science and Engineering in Tokyo.

Boris Johnson interacted with a robot in Japan
Boris Johnson interacted with a robot in Japan CREDIT: AP PHOTO/EUGENE HOSHIKO, POOL

 He shook hands with the robot, named Wabian2, before striking a series of poses.

The robots he saw were developed to help in disaster situations and with healthcare.

The Foreign Secretary said: “I have come to Japan to build on our historic relationship, which is based on common values, support for democracy, human rights and free and open markets.

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool

“Japanese companies invest more than £40 billion in the UK and our commercial relationship is stronger than ever. We do great work together on everything from defence and security to education, research and innovation.

“As London Mayor I had the privilege and honour to see up close how dramatically the Olympic and Paralympic Games unified and lifted our great capital, and I am excited for the people of Tokyo that they will soon experience the magic that the Olympics brings.

REUTERS/Eugene Hoshiko

“I’m proud that our world-leading expertise in staging major events will help to forge an even stronger UK-Japan partnership ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games.”Source:  “From Maybot to robot:  Boris Johnson meets face of state-of-the-art technology on visit to Japan, The Telegraph, 20 July 2017 

When open minds fight closed courts in Japan

Open justice: Lawrence Repeta challenged court restrictions on note-taking and established a precedent studied by Japanese law students today.

When open minds fight closed courts in Japan
by Colin P.A. Jones
Special To The Japan Times


Jul 16, 2017


On Nov. 28, 2016, the Nagoya High Court overturned the acquittal of Hiroto Fujii, mayor of the Gifu city of Minokamo, sentencing him to 18 months imprisonment with labor, suspended for three years. Elected in 2013 at the age of 28, he remains Japan’s youngest mayor.
Fujii ran as an independent, defeating an candidate backed by the Liberal Democratic Party who was twice his age. He joined the LDP shortly after winning, but they expelled him the same day he was arrested for allegedly taking bribes from a businessman in connection with the installation of a school water system. It should be disheartening — but not surprising — that the party which rules the country apparently equates being arrested with being guilty.


The principal evidence against Fujii was testimony from the businessman who allegedly bribed him. Conveniently for prosecutors, he had already been arrested and convicted for the bribery and an unrelated fraud, a crime that literally involves lying to people. Finding the witness lacking in credibility and his account of sneaking cash to Fujii implausible, the Nagoya District Court acquitted the young mayor.
On appeal by prosecutors, the high court managed to decide that the convicted fraudster was more credible than either the mayor or the witness whose testimony supported his innocence. Not only that, the esteemed high court judges supposedly made this evaluation based solely on the record of the lower court proceedings. They did hear testimony from the fraudster, but this turned out to have been tainted (and thus unusable) because he had inexplicably received a copy of the district court’s decision. This meant he and prosecutors had months to iron out discrepancies before testifying again to the high court, which, supposedly unaffected by this testimony, nonetheless found him credible based just on the record of the lower court proceedings. The high court never bothered to hear testimony from the mayor and his witness before essentially deciding both were lying.
The citizens of Minokamo apparently have a different view; Fujii was re-elected mayor in May. He ran unopposed, so popular despite his conviction that apparently no other parties thought it worth standing opposition candidates. Now on appeal before the Supreme Court, his case offers a cautionary tale for young people who challenge Japan’s wrinkly-faced establishment. It is also a sad reminder of how low one should set expectations of the nation’s criminal justice system. This is not just because of the result at the high court, but because the process started with a judge rubber-stamping a democratically elected sitting mayor’s arrest and prolonged detention, the latter on the farcical grounds that he was a flight risk. In just a few days an astounding 40 percent of Minokamo voters signed a petition calling for him to be released on bail.
Just as with all trials, Fujii’s was about competing narratives — his and the prosecutors’. Judges are supposed to balance the evidence and decide which is true. Yet apart from the testimony and other evidence submitted in the courtroom, at a higher level there is also a separate narrative playing out about whether trials themselves are being conducted fairly. Authoritarian institutions and marketing executives both appreciate that controlling narratives such as these is critical.
Judicial efforts to control the narrative played out in a shocking fashion in Fujii’s case. By law, the judgment of a court in a criminal case must be read to the defendant in open court, though it may take several days from being requested for a formal written judgment to be delivered to the defendant and his lawyers. In high-profile cases, however, courts have a practice of issuing a summary of the judgment to the media so they can report on it immediately.
In Fujii’s case, accredited media were given a 60-page “summary” of the high court’s decision the day it was rendered. At the same time, the same court refused to give Fujii’s counsel the same summary — that was for the media only. The defendant and his lawyers were supposed to wait until the official judgment was ready. This left them (and the government of Minokamo) to field questions from journalists who were better equipped with information about the judgment than they were. Control of information is a source of power — both to criticize and prevent criticism. Japanese courts — like all government institutions — know this very well.
Which brings me to why we should all be sorry to see Lawrence Repeta leaving Japan.


Larry is a friend of mine and was, until recently, a law professor at Meiji University. Had you been sitting in the public seats at the Nagoya High Court when it reversed Fujii’s acquittal, you could have pulled out a memo pad and — like Fujii’s lawyers — frantically tried to take notes as the judgment was read out. If you had done so, you would owe a debt of gratitude to Larry Repeta.
When I first observed a Japanese criminal trial, courthouses had signs on the walls saying “Taking notes prohibited.” This didn’t apply to everyone, though: Journalists accredited to the court’s “press club” could do so, but other observers could not. Press clubs are an omnipresent narrative control device in Japan; journos who write anything too critical of the institution can have their accreditation revoked, losing access to precious information. Members of the general public are not subject to this sort of control.
Larry first came to Japan in the early 1980s as a young lawyer and researcher. He encountered the ban on note-taking when trying to observe the trial of a bubble-era stock promoter for tax fraud. Repeated requests to the presiding judge for permission were rejected without explanation. Aided by the Japan Civil Liberties Union, he brought suit on the grounds that the prohibition on note-taking violated the Japanese Constitution’s guarantee of open courts, freedom of expression and equal protection. To a young American-trained lawyer, it seemed so obvious.
As so often seems to be the case in Japanese constitutional litigation, Larry won by losing, with all but one of the Supreme Court’s 15 judges acknowledging that “note-taking by spectators in the courtroom is worth respecting and should not be hindered without due reasons,” although such behavior was nonetheless subject to “restrict(ions) or prohibit(ions) if it interferes even slightly with the administration of the fair and smooth trial proceedings in the courtroom.”
Declining to find any clear constitutional violation (and, in my view, fudging on equal protection by simply declaring it reasonable to give journalists special privileges), the court rejected his appeal while at the same time declaring that permitting note-taking should be the rule rather than the exception. This was driven home when the Supreme Court’s General Secretariat issued a directive to courts throughout the country to permit note-taking by spectators. That the court’s administrators are able to issue edicts to judges about how to conduct trials is one of the lesser-known but vaguely disturbing aspects of Japan’s judicial system.
Nonetheless, Larry’s case wrought change, though not through law but through narrative, by establishing a high-profile negative story about closed courts — Larry embarrassed the judiciary into submission. In this respect it probably helped that he was a conspicuous Westerner, though it would be nice if more Japanese people had been — still are — embarrassed that it took a foreigner to care enough to fight for this right.
Despite the technical result, Larry’s case was regarded as a great victory. It is one of the basic precedents studied by Japanese law students. Thanks to his efforts, research on trial practice and citizen monitoring of judicial behavior is easier, and an entire new genre of nonfiction exists — books based on watching trials, and more recently court-watching bloggers. Larry is rightfully a folk hero among progressives, civil libertarians and others who care about informational justice, a field he has devoted himself to since becoming an academic. He has also published countless articles on Japanese law (including a book chapter for which I was co-author).


Retired from his teaching position in Japan, Larry returns to Seattle, where he graduated from law school and once practiced as a lawyer. Before his departure we caught up over beer in Kyoto. Asked to reflect on what had changed in the 35 years since he first started asking questions about Japan’s criminal justice system, his response was: “The saiban’in (lay judge) system has been introduced and there have been some other changes, but the fundamental rules have not changed, and they are the rules of an authoritarian system where the presumption of innocence is denied.”
The defendant in the trial where he had tried to take notes was ultimately acquitted of the principal charge yet ended up being detained for over two years during the course of a trial that lasted four. Prolonged deprivations of freedom regardless of guilt or innocence remain a foundation of the criminal justice system.
We discussed the case of Okinawan anti-base activist Hiroji Yamashiro, recently released on bail after five months’ pre-trial detention for relatively minor charges. I asked about right-wing criticism about Yamashiro’s activities being too unruly and aggressive. Larry’s response was: “Without civil disobedience in America, where would African-Americans be today?” This may seem very American, but all too often in Japan the expectation — unspoken requirement — that people be polite and obedient can be the opening for all sorts of rights-infringement scenarios, whether involving government use of land or questioning by police.
In any case, at Yamashiro’s trial people will be able to watch, take notes and debate their own evaluations of the evidence against him. For that, thank you again, Larry Repeta.
Colin P.A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto. The views expressed are those of the author alone. Send your comments and story ideas to

Source:  “When open minds fight closed courts in Japan”, Colin Jones in The Japan Times, 16 July 2017

Senate confirms Hagerty as new U.S. ambassador to Japan

The Japan Times


Senate confirms Hagerty as new U.S. ambassador to Japan


The Senate has confirmed Tennessee businessman William Hagerty as President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Japan.

Senators voted 86-12 Thursday to approve Hagerty’s nomination.

Hagerty, 57, is expected to take up the post in August, according to a source familiar with Japan-U.S. relations.

He will serve in Tokyo at a time when the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region has become increasingly severe amid China’s military buildup and territorial ambitions in the East and South China seas, as well as North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles that could strike as far as the United States.

In light of Trump’s calls for “fair” trade, Hagerty, who served as a key member of the Trump transition team, is expected to call for greater market access for U.S. products in Japan as part of an effort to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with the country.

“We sincerely welcome the confirmation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference, pointing out that Trump has great trust in Hagerty.

“We hope to strengthen bilateral ties to ensure that the Japan-U.S. alliance, which is a cornerstone for Japan’s foreign and security policies, is unwavering,” the top government spokesman said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also welcomed the Senate vote, saying, “We’re looking forward to having him join Japan as our next U.S. ambassador.”

“He spent a good deal of time over there. I know he’s steeped in the issues,” Nauert told a news briefing.

In a Senate confirmation hearing on May 18, Hagerty reaffirmed Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to its alliance with Tokyo, calling it “the cornerstone of regional peace and security” and “a platform for global cooperation.”

The ambassador-in-waiting underlined the United States’ “unwavering” commitment to the defense of the Senkaku Islands, a group of islets administered by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan, in accordance with the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

Hagerty stressed the need for close coordination with Japan and trilaterally with South Korea in pressing North Korea “to abandon its unlawful nuclear, ballistic missile and proliferation programs.”

On the economic front, Hagerty pledged to help increase U.S. exports to Japan in areas such as agriculture, defense and manufacturing including automobiles.

He added that U.S. exports of energy such as liquid natural gas to Japan could significantly cut into the trade deficit.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee gave its OK to Hagerty last month after he satisfied Democrats that he had no role in the screening of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.

Flynn is a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Congressional committees also are examining Moscow’s election meddling.

Hagerty was director of presidential appointments for Trump’s transition team. But he told Democrats he focused on Cabinet picks and not White House staff aides.

Hagerty is a founder and managing director of Hagerty Peterson & Co., a private equity investment firm in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hagerty built ties with Japan through a three-year posting to Tokyo from the late 1980s to early 1990s while working for the Boston Consulting Group, and in his work as commissioner of economic development for Tennessee from 2011 to 2015.

Meanwhile, Joseph Young, who has served as director for Japanese affairs at the State Department, is also slated to arrive in Japan next month to assume the post of deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Source:  “Senate confirms Hagerty as new US ambassador to Japan”, The Japan Times, 14 July 2017

Ignacio Goicoechea, representative for the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Permanent Bureau of Hague Conference on Private International Law, speaking with the Jamaica Observer last week. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)

JAMAICA is now better placed to register cases of parental child abductions each year, as the country is now party to the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

“I have heard from the authorities that they know about cases, [but] as far as I know there are no statistics. The Child Development Agency (CDA) will start registering the cases from now on, so by the end of the year you’ll have the first data of cases tried under the convention,” said Ignacio Goicoechea, representative for the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Permanent Bureau of Hague Conference on Private International Law.

He was speaking last week in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

According to Goicoechea, there are cases in existence but it will take a while for people to realise that they have a place to go now in order to resolve their cases in a swift and efficient manner.

“In a population like Jamaica, it can be estimated that you’ll have a couple of tens every year (including both incoming and outgoing), but most probably less than 100. The tendency in the world is that these cases will be increasing slowly. However, the mere awareness that the convention is in place should also have a deterrent effect for many cases,” he added.

Regionally, Goicoechea said the parental child abductions are quite common but as it relates to numbers, they are not massive.

“The Latin American and Caribbean region is characterised because many of the nationals here move to other jurisdictions to work or study. It is quite common that the region would have cases, mostly ongoing cases, to get these children back from other jurisdictions. These are not massive cases in terms of number, but are very delicate and difficult cases to address.

 “They are delicate because the left behind parent is often in a deep crisis seeking for his or her child, and demands immediate attention. That’s what the convention provides — an urgent mechanism to get children back to allow the jurisdiction of the habitual residence of this child to address the case, and to decide in the best interest of the child whether he or she should stay with the mother or father or [be] brought up in Jamaica or the other country. It is very important to distinguish the custody case from the child abduction case, which is the situation which the convention addresses,” Goicoechea explained.

The convention, he said, is expected to ease the often long, expensive, and limited success process in Jamaica and elsewhere of seeking the return of these children.

“Jamaica in joining this convention on International Child Abduction, provides a powerful tool for those individuals that are dealing with child abduction situations and would have an easy way of getting their children back to Jamaica if they are taken out of the country — in breach of custody rights of the other parent,” he said.

Goicoechea added that individuals can go directly to the central authority — which in Jamaica’s case is the CDA — which would manage the case, provide the individual with a form to fill in, and send the application to the foreign central authority where the Jamaican resident has been taken, in order to have the case duly addressed.

He also pointed out that the Convention works both ways as it helps foreign residents whose children have been taken to Jamaica to file before the Jamaican court, through the CDA, after which a decision on the return of this child to residence in the foreign country would be determined.

The Hague Convention aims to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international borders by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.

Source:  “Jamaica now party to convention that allows registration of parental child abductions”, The Jamaica Observer, 10 July 2017 

Child Abduction in Japan and Parental Alienation Syndrome: Foreign Parents still Suffer

Child Abduction in Japan and Parental Alienation Syndrome: Foreign Parents still Suffer

Child Abduction in Japan and Parental Alienation Syndrome: Foreign Parents still Suffer

Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The issue of child abduction is international and based on the growing nature of mixed ethnic marriages, then it is an issue that needs addressing with immediate effect. This article is focused on Japan and how the ratification of the Hague Convention (Child Abduction) is still being restrained by domestic law, enforcement powers, individual cases dealt with differently, limitations of this convention, and the continuing dependence on the goodwill of the abductor for many aggrieved parents. Therefore, while some progress was made for a minority of international parents seeking their rights fulfilled, the majority still face enormous obstacles and feel betrayed and at a loss.

Of course, each case is different and the same applies to the varying degree of parental alienation syndrome. Yet, the feeling of desperation and becoming more distant is a sad reality. Equally important, forgotten grandparents, relatives, and friends suffer greatly when a child or children are taken away. Hence, while the obvious focus is on the alienated parent, the reality is that many individuals suffer from enormous stress and anxiety – and the same applies to putting internal stresses on relationships.

Turning back to Japan ratifying the Hague Convention, it is apparent that many problems remain. Given this reality, in the three years following the signature, it is known that only 18 cases have resulted in children being returned out of 68 legal requests. Alarmingly, while 19 of these cases are currently ongoing, 31 other cases have either been dismissed or settlements specify the non-return of abducted children. In other words, some parents now have little redress to law and know that cultural and linguistic alienation will increase parental alienation syndrome, to the point of permanent damage. After all, not only is child abduction being rewarded but equally disturbing all notions of basic custody rights are being ignored.

Of course, for some grandparents of abducted children and parents that may suffer from health issues, then the clock is ticking beyond any hope. The stress of this is unimaginable and how sad that lawful people are being denied the most basics of human rights – this is the right to see their own children and have legal documents honored to the full.

The National Post (Canada News) reported last year, “The Canadian father (Tim Terstege) is far from alone in trying to navigate a seemingly impenetrable and hostile Japanese system sometimes described as a black hole for children. Figures indicate dozens of Canadians — mostly fathers — are among thousands of foreigners faced with the gut-wrenching loss of their children in Japan. Some parents are reported to have killed themselves in despair. Others have ended up in jail after trying to snatch back their children.”

It is known that approximately 400 children from America were abducted by Japanese parents between 1994 and 2015, the result being virtually no address in Japanese law. Hence, it was hoped that ratification of the Hague Convention would herald a new beginning – even if bumps remained. Yet, not only is the number of cases low given the numbers of children abducted to Japan; but major stumbling blocks – and the end of the road for many failed cases, is also an ongoing reality for international parents caught up in this endless nightmare. Likewise, international parents married to Japanese spouses in this nation suffer from domestic courts based on issues outside of parenthood.

Parental alienation, cultural estrangement, linguistic issues, parental manipulation by the abductee, and other important areas, are all magnified by time and distance. Therefore, for many left behind parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends of children abducted, the ticking clock of injustice is relentless and permanent.


Modern Tokyo News is part of the Modern Tokyo Times group

Source:  “Child Abduction in Japan and Parental Alienation Syndrome:  Foreign Parents still Suffer”, Modern Tokyo Times, 5 July 2017