Help for those seeking left-behind parents in Japan

The Japan Times


Help for those seeking left-behind parents in Japan



Two adult daughters contacted Lifelines hoping to get help with issues related to their fathers. One is looking for information pertaining to a legal case over her late father’s health while he served in the U.S. armed forces in Okinawa.

First, however, is M.Z., the daughter of a foreign mother and Japanese father. She was taken from Japan as a young child and has not seen her father in 25 years, but she would now like to reestablish contact with him.

Japan formally joined the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction in 2014, which states that children under 16 should be returned to their country of “habitual residence” if taken across international borders by one parent. According to the Foreign Ministry, this move has helped reduce abductions to Japan, and has aided in the successful return of children both to and from Japan. However, the treaty is not retroactive, so it has no bearing on cases that occurred before it came into effect.

M.Z. writes: “My father instructed me to contact him but I was scared and confused, so I didn’t. Now I’m looking for my family in Japan so they can know my children. I have language limitations because I don’t speak or read Japanese. Are there any organizations that help children to contact their Japanese families?” M.Z. adds that she had tried contacting various groups on her own but had met with little support.

I contacted John Gomez at Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion (Kizuna CPR), a Japan-based NPO group that advocates for left-behind parents and their children.

“We are working to enable children in Japan to have loving relationships with both of their parents,” says Gomez. “To achieve this, we support changes in public policy, raise public awareness and help individual cases.”

Sadly, losing contact with a parent is all too common for children of divorce in Japan.

“Within Japan, the research that we have done indicates that since 1992 there have been an estimated 3 million children who have lost access to one of their parents after divorce,” says Gomez. “This is about 1 in 6 children. This figure was derived by looking at divorce statistics and surveys from the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare, showing what percentage of parents do not visit their children after divorce in Japan. Japanese government officials acknowledge this number when they cite about 150,000 children per year losing access to one of their parents after divorce.”

Gomez adds that in international cases of abduction from the U.S. to Japan alone, more than 400 children have been reported abducted between 1994 and 2015 and almost none of these U.S. children have ever been returned by a Japanese court order.

Gomez encourages M.Z. and others like her to reach out, as many parents have also been seeking their children over the years. He notes that social media and the internet are useful tools for enabling such reunions, and that he has personally witnessed some.

“Never lose hope, never give up,” he advises. “With effort and perseverance, amazing results can occur. As the social mind-set in Japan changes, more reunions will happen. It is a human right for children to have a relationship with both of their parents and among the most important things for any person to experience in their life. This is an important part of what makes us human. Recovering this relationship makes us whole again.”

In a follow-up email to Lifelines, M.Z. echoes this sentiment, explaining that she has developed a new perspective on her situation over time and after becoming a parent herself.

“I didn’t speak about what happened for 20 years,” she writes. “One day browsing on the internet, I found an article about children’s rights in Japan. Until this time I had always thought I grew up in a violent environment, but I have discovered it was so much more complex than that. I’m talking as a daughter, as a mother and as a part of a multicultural family.”

Lifelines wishes M.Z. success in her search for her father. Contact or visit for more information about Kizuna CPR. If anyone has any tips or personal experience in a case like M.Z.’s, please share your story.

American reader A.P. is looking for anyone who knew her father, Howard Grisso:

“My dad served as a weatherman at Naha and the Kadena Air Force Base (in Okinawa) from 1965 to 1966. Last year he passed away from angiosarcoma, which is caused by Agent Orange, according to his oncologist. He began the fight with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs prior to his death, but they have denied his case twice and now we are waiting on a hearing/appeal. We have been instructed to get buddy statements and do research on the base. We would like to hear from anyone who may have known Howard Grisso, or has any pictures of the base during that time or any other information.”

If you can help A.P., please contact Lifelines and we will put you in contact with her.

Send your queries and comments to

Source:  “Help for those seeking left behind parents in Japan”, The Japan Times, 26 April 2017

JT: ‘Second-Best Justice: The Virtues of Japanese Private Law’: Championing mediocrity in the courts

Although it comes as no surprise, this short book review speaks volumes about the inept approach of Japanese courts to civil matters:

The Japan Times

‘Second-Best Justice: The Virtues of Japanese Private Law’: Championing mediocrity in the courts



Ignore the irony of a tenured Harvard professor railing against the pursuit of excellence and employment security and J. Mark Ramseyer’s book is fun and enlightening.
Second-Best Justice: The Virtues of Japanese Private Law, by J. Mark Ramseyer.
352 pages


By essentially settling for mediocrity, he argues, Japan’s civil justice system works better than America’s which, in seeking to offer excellent individualized justice to every plaintiff, actually delivers dismal results for most litigants and is easily hijacked by unscrupulous tort lawyers and frivolous class actions. Unlike American juries, Japanese judges decide predictably enough that lawyers (and insurers) know where to settle.

Even when judges get it wrong — Ramseyer cites overprotection of tenants and employees as examples — they do so predictably, meaning employers and landlords can plan accordingly. Some conclusions surprise: Japan has few medical malpractice trials because the public health insurance system is also mediocre, giving most doctors incentives to perform well-established routine procedures rather than try new treatments, a source of much U.S. medical malpractice litigation. At times his assumptions — seemingly based on the “law and economics” orthodoxy that informs much of his work — can distract: whether doctors are “good” is a function of how much income tax they pay, for example. That aside, it’s a useful overview of some key features of Japan’s legal system.

Read archived reviews of Japanese classics at

Source:  “‘Second best justice:  the virtues of Japanese private law’:  championing mediocrity in the courts”, Colin P A Jones, The Japan Times, 22 April 2017 

Happy Easter 2017

Maundy Thursday 

Hello Hugo

This is just a short note to wish you a very happy Easter in Japan; I sent you some items (below) on Tuesday 4 April so I hope that you have them by now.  These included a commemorative coin marking the Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee, about which I posted here earlier in the year.

Easter 2017 2

Easter 2017 1

Easter 2017 3

Your Easter card and presents 

Easter 2017 4 - receipt

Mailing receipt 

JT: Japan’s foreign residents offer up insights in unprecedented survey on discrimination

The Japan Times

Japan’s foreign residents offer up insights in unprecedented survey on discrimination



Rent application denials, Japanese-only recruitment and racist taunts are among the most rampant forms of discrimination faced by foreign residents in Japan, according to the results of the country’s first nationwide survey on the issue, released Friday.

The unprecedented survey of 18,500 expats of varying nationalities at the end of last year paints a comprehensive picture of deeply rooted discrimination in Japan as the nation struggles to acclimate to a recent surge in foreign residents and braces for an even greater surge in tourists in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

It also represents the latest in a series of fledgling steps taken by Japan to curb racism, following last year’s first-ever video analysis by the Justice Ministry of anti-Korea demonstrations and the enactment of a law to eradicate hate speech.

In carrying out the survey, the Justice Ministry commissioned the Center for Human Rights Education and Training, a public foundation, to mail questionnaires to non-Japanese residents in 37 municipalities nationwide. Of the 18,500, 4,252 men and women, or 23.0 percent, provided valid responses. Nationalities included Chinese, South Koreans, Filipinos, Brazilians, Vietnamese and Americans.

The study found that 39.3 percent of 2,044 respondents who applied to rent apartments over the past five years got dismissed because they are not Japanese.

In addition, 41.2 percent said they were turned down because they couldn’t secure a Japanese guarantor, while 26.8 percent said they quit their pursuit of a new domicile after being discouraged by a “Japanese-only” prerequisite.

Workplace discrimination appears rife, too.

Of the 4,252 respondents, 2,788 said they had either worked or sought employment in Japan over the past five years. Of them, 25.0 percent said they had experienced being brushed off by potential employers because they are non-Japanese, while 19.6 percent said they were paid lower than their Japanese co-workers.

In a separate question, 29.8 percent of those who responded to the survey said they either “frequently” or “occasionally” heard race-based insults being hurled at them, mostly from strangers (53.3 percent), bosses, co-workers and business partners (38.0 percent) and neighbors (19.3 percent).

Among other examples of unpleasantness mentioned by respondents were “getting weird stares from strangers (31.7 percent),” “being harassed because of poor Japanese-language proficiency (25.1 percent)” and “being avoided in public spaces such as buses, trains and shopping malls (14.9 percent).”

“We believe this survey will serve as key basic data for us to implement policies to protect human rights of foreign nationals in the future,” Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda told reporters Friday.

The implementation of the survey is the latest sign that Japan, after years of inaction, is inching toward tackling the problem of racism as the nation becomes increasingly diverse.

A Justice Ministry statistic released last September showed that the number of permanent as well as middle- and long-term foreign residents in the country hit a record 2.307 million in June, up about 135,000 from a year earlier.

Adding to this is the advent in recent years of jingoistic rallies staged by ultraconservative civic groups on the streets of ethnic Korean neighborhoods, such as Shin-Okubo in Tokyo and Kawasaki, calling for the “massacre” of Koreans they branded as “cockroaches.”

The Justice Ministry’s first probe into hate speech concluded in March last year that 1,152 such demonstrations took place from April 2012 to September 2015 across the nation.

In a related move, an unprecedented hate speech law was enacted last year, highlighting efforts by the central government and municipalities to take steps to eliminate such vitriolic language.

Still, despite being a signatory to the U.N.-designated International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Japan has for years shied away from enacting a comprehensive law banning racism, based on the position that discrimination here is “not serious enough to legalize punitive measures against the dissemination of racist ideology and risk having a chilling effect on proper speech,” as stated by the Foreign Ministry.

Kim Myungsoo, a professor of sociology at Kwansei Gakuin University, hailed the ministry’s latest survey, saying it shed light on the reality of racism inherent to Japan that effectively discredits this government stance.

“The survey publicly confirmed the reality of victimization caused by racism in Japan, which would prevent the government from sticking to its conventional assertion,” said Kim, who himself is an ethnic Korean resident. “I believe the government is ready to change its position.”

Hiroshi Tanaka, a professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University, said the government has much to learn from the results of this survey, noting an overwhelming 85.3 percent of the respondents said they were not aware of human rights consultation services made available by regional branches of the Justice Ministry.

But a sad irony, he pointed out, plagues these services in the first place, with foreign nationals effectively disqualified from becoming counselors there due to a law that makes having Japanese nationality a prerequisite for the post.

Source:  “Japan’s foreign residents offer up insights in unprecedented survey on discrimination”, The Japan Times, 31 March 2017 

Hiring a lawyer in Japan, and what to do if it all goes wrong

The Japan Times


Hiring a lawyer in Japan, and what to do if it all goes wrong



One of our readers wrote in about the negative experience he had with a lawyer in Japan:

Last year I contacted a lawyer at a foreign resident center in Osaka. My wife had signed a divorce paper and forced me from the house.

The lawyer said he would handle the case until the end for ¥100,000. I went to his office and he copied some papers and called my wife.

A year later he quit my case without notice and changed his firm. I went months without any communication from him and he didn’t accomplish anything.

Now my wife is trying to get me to go to arbitration because she says I left and needs help with my daughter.

What should the reader have done in this case?

Unfortunately, not all lawyers handle their cases responsibly. However, our reader also shouldn’t have waited for a matter of months before attempting to contact the lawyer. If a client doesn’t hear from their lawyer about their case for a certain period (for example, more than a month), they should contact the lawyer to find out what is going on.

It’s possible that a lawyer might not contact the client for a while if there are no notable developments in the case, but at the very least, it is important for the client to know what their lawyer is doing for them right now. If the lawyer does not respond to the inquiry satisfactorily, the client had better think about canceling their contract with the lawyer.

What can a client do if they have a disagreement with their lawyer?

When a client wants to cancel a contract with a lawyer, it is possible that the two sides won’t be able to reach an agreement on the terms of the cancelation — particularly on the issue of money.

Every local bar association has a grievance mediation committee (fungi chōtei iinkai) that clients can use to resolve issues involving lawyers. Of course, to prevent any trouble happening in the first place, it’s best to check any retaining contract thoroughly before signing it.

Regulations on remuneration of lawyers issued by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren) stipulate that when a lawyer accepts legal affairs, he must prepare a retaining agreement that includes matters relating to lawyers’ remuneration. So, if your lawyer did not prepare a contract for you initially, you can request that they do after the fact.

What are the details of a lawyer’s remuneration? What is it based on?

Until 2004, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations set the level of lawyers’ fees. Nowadays, lawyers can decide their fees freely. However, a lot of lawyers still refer to the remuneration levels issued by Nichibenren previously. Checking these figures is one way to find out whether your lawyer’s fee is relatively expensive or not. (The old fees are in Japanese here:

As for how lawyers are paid, usually they receive an initial sum when they start the case (the retainer fee) and another if they win the case (the success fee). Retainer fees are fixed according to the type of case, whereas the size of the success fee often depends on the result of the case. Other lawyers, however, calculate their fees by the hour. Before you sign a retaining contract, it’s important to check which system of payment applies in your lawyer’s case.

If you are looking for legal advice or want to retain a new lawyer, where should you go?

Local bar associations have legal counseling centers where you can book sessions with lawyers. The average counseling fee is ¥5,400 per 30 minutes.

Some local bar associations provide counseling for free or at cheaper prices. Sometimes free counseling is only available for those who have zero or low incomes. If you are in debt and wish to discuss your financial predicament, local bar associations will also offer you a session for free.

Also, if you would like to talk about a traffic accident, you can get legal advice at the Nichibenren Traffic Accident Consultation Center (Nichibenren Kotsujiko Sodan Senta) for free (for the first five sessions only).

If you meet certain financial conditions, you also can use the civil legal aid system provided by Hoterasu (the Japan Legal Support Center). The system was specifically set up for those who lack the financial resources to pay for a case.

In the event that you do qualify for free legal advice, these are limited to three sessions per case, after which you would have to pay. You also can ask for a loan to retain a lawyer for negotiation, litigation or any other court procedures. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that civil legal aid will only be granted for court proceedings if Hoterasu is convinced there is a possibility of winning the case.

Natsumi Fujii is an attorney with the Foreign nationals and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, which handles a wide range of cases involving foreigners in the Tokyo area (03-5979-2880; FISS lawyers address readers’ queries once a month. Your questions and other comments:

Source:  “Hiring a lawyer in Japan, and what to do if it all goes wrong”, The Japan Times, 19 March 2017