Hiroshima landslide – 3 years on

The article that appeared below yesterday about the third anniversary of the Hiroshima landslide – I posted a series of posts about it in August 2014 (which still holds the record for the largest number of posts in any one month) – was a reminder that it has been almost 3 years since I received any real news about my son.  It is preposterous that this is so and that the UK government shows no tangible interest in the issue of ongoing and historical international parental child abduction in Japan.

Hiroshima remembers victims of deadly landslides on third anniversary of the disaster

KYODO

A memorial service was held Sunday in Hiroshima to commemorate the third anniversary of the landslides that claimed the lives of 77 people.

“I don’t want anyone else to become a victim or a person feeling like us,” said 77-year-old Takako Miyamoto, one of the speakers at the event. She lost her husband after torrential rain triggered landslides in residential areas close to mountains in the city early on Aug. 20, 2014.

“It is really painful and sad. Our lives were ruined after losing everything dear to us, homes destroyed,” said Miyamoto, who was seriously injured in the landslide.

Touching on recent natural disasters including the torrential rain in Kyushu last month, she said she “sincerely hopes that no one else dies in a disaster.”

Three years ago, about 400 houses were either washed away or damaged by the landslides that struck Hiroshima.

“Residents are providing mutual support and the work to protect each other has progressed,” Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said at the ceremony. “We’d like to support these efforts.”

Jointly hosted by the Hiroshima municipal and prefectural governments, the event was held in Asakita Ward, one of the hardest-hit areas.

Families and residents visited the devastated sites early Sunday to offer flowers and pray for those who died. Some touched the names of victims listed on a monument, while others tearfully clasped hands.

Hina Sawamoto, a 16-year-old high school student in the city of Hiroshima, lost her grandmother after a mudslide smashed into her house that day. She sometimes recalls the mudslide when it rains heavily and becomes worried that disaster may strike again.

The teenager said she wants to give a helping hand to those affected by the downpours in Kyushu, just as she was helped by volunteers after the disaster in Hiroshima.

She went to Oita Prefecture last month with her father, Yasuhiro, 46, and helped a family whose house had been swept away by a mudslide. “I was supported by many people. So I wanted to show my gratitude,” she said.

Although she was helping out, Sawamoto said she did not really get to talk with the victims. “Sometimes people want to be left alone. I know how they were feeling.” At the time of the disaster, residents in the devastated area had not been informed of the landslide risk, as many of the sites were not designated within the warning zone in accordance with the law on prevention of landslide disasters.

Afterward, the state revised the law and obliged prefectural governments to swiftly make public the results of basic investigations of terrain and geological conditions. The revised law took effect in January 2015.

According to the Hiroshima Prefectural Government, emergency work since the disaster to make 57 locations more resistant to landslides was completed in May this year.

The prefecture is expected to designate around 50,000 locations as landslide warning zones, but only about 40 percent of the areas had been so designated as of Aug. 10.

Source:  “Hiroshima remembers victims of deadly landslides on third anniversary of disaster”, The Japan Times, 20 August 2017

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Embassy hosts Hague Convention mediation training

News article

Embassy hosts Hague Convention mediation training

Expertise sharing continues one year on from Japan’s enactment of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

Today marks one year since the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction came into force in Japan. British Embassy Tokyo and Consulate-General Osaka continue to work with local experts and the Japanese authorities to support its implementation.

As part of this work, British Embassy Tokyo hosted 3 days of mediation training from 28-30 March, delivered by leading UK charity Reunite International Child Abduction Centre. The training sessions were attended by local practitioners as well as officials from Japan’s Hague Central Authority and provided a forum in which experts were able to share experiences of mediation.

Reunite’s Joanne Orton (Mediator and Advice Line Caseworker) and Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE (Chair of the Board of Trustees) said:

This has been a great opportunity for us to learn from the Japanese experience of Hague child abductions cases from lawyers, mediators, counsellors and the Central Authority for Japan. The insight that we have gained will be invaluable to parents and other stakeholders in the UK. We are excited to be able to share it.

Alison Shalaby, Chief Executive of Reunite, commented:

In cases of international parental child abduction it is so important that parents have an alternative to the court process. Mediation allows parents the opportunity to step outside of the courtroom and focus on the best interests of their children and their family and we are delighted to have this opportunity to share our knowledge and practice with our Japanese colleagues so we can work together to better assist families.

The embassy has produced an information sheet [a copy of this PDF has also been placed on the Materials Page of this blog under “Miscellaneous”] on legal issues relating to parental child abduction in Japan. We urge any parent considering abducting their child to think through the devastating consequences for all involved.

Source:  “Embassy hosts Hague Convention mediation training”, News, British Embassy Tokyo, 1 April 2015

Two years on from consular visit

It has been 2 years since I had any significant information about my son:  the occasion of the visit by British consular officials on him on Saturday 16 March 2013.  It is now 16 March 2015.  The report can be read here – and a slightly earlier post concerning the scope of the visit can be read here.

In the weeks and months immediately following receipt of the report, I read it over and over again.  I pored over every word, and attempted to read between the lines, to mine as much information as I could about my son’s life in Japan.  A couple of discoveries, though neither were in truth particularly surprising, were that he attended a nursery and that he did not seem to understand much English, although he was said to be learning a little.  It was also implied that he lived at his grandparents’ home with his mother, although again that did not come as a surprise.  It was reassuring to learn in an email from an official that gifts mailed to him there would be passed on to him.

After about 6 months or so I stopped reading the report as it became hard to do so and because I almost knew it by heart.  The report mentioned a couple of my son’s friends and, whilst I was pleased that he was well settled, it made me bitter that they (just friends) saw more of my son than I did.  It was by then also clear to me that, whilst Hugo’s mother had consented to the visit taking place, it was not going to be the first step towards a greater level of information about my son’s life in Japan, whether through the conduit of the Embassy or otherwise.

The Child Abduction Unit at the Foreign Office made clear that the visit was unlikely to be repeated and I have received no significant ongoing assistance from them or the Embassy in Japan at all since the visit. I hope that it might be possible for an exception to be made, and a further visit conducted, a couple of years down the line from now as by then, unlike the situation that existed in March 2013, my son would understand what the visit was about and would be able to ask questions of his visitors. On reflection, perhaps it was this that was the reason why my son’s mother agreed to the visit occurring when it did, i.e. when my son was so little, safe in the knowledge that the visit was unlikely to be repeated when he was older, able to understand what such a visit was about and capable of asking questions of independent visitors about his past life.

The report did tell me a little about my son’s interests – he likes dogs and “mechanical things”. I have done my best in the last two years to use that limited information to help inform what gifts I send to him and what I write on this website; the previous post but one, for example, would at first seem to have little to do with child abduction – it was posted because my son likes mechanical things so I hope that the post would interest him one day.  I recall that he was always fascinated by aircraft, trains, buses and so on of which there was never any shortage to see in London.

Re-reading the report 2 years on, I am left wondering why, during an hour spent in my son’s presence, more information was not obtained and why, for example, the officials did not ask for copies of school (nursery) reports, nor for details of that nursery nor for details of where/how he is said to be learning a little English.  It seems from the report that the question was not asked, not that the information was refused.  Why not give the name of the TV programme that he enjoyed so I could view it too?  In hindsight, I wish that I had sent a list of questions in advance of the visit.  In addition, my son’s mother was not directly asked to explain her conduct in taking such a young boy, unable to understand what was happening to him or to make decisions for himself, despite the fact that Hugo is a British citizen and the Embassy exists to safeguard the interests of all British citizens; it must be the case that such duties are heightened, not diminished, when it comes to children.  Although I welcomed the information that I did glean from the visit, I cannot help but think that more could have been achieved from it.

Hiroshima landslide: update (3)

The situation on the ground remains a distressing one. Today it has been reported in the Japan Times that the number of deaths has reached 58 with 28 still missing.  A landslide of this magnitude has not been seen in Hiroshima-ken since 1999. Given that 5 days have now passed since these events originally unfolded, it is difficult to see how there will be any survivors amongst those who remain missing.

After I posted on Friday, the Japan Times reported that the situation has turned political as these events, wherever they occur, have a habit of doing. On Sunday the same publication drew attention to ill-preparedness on the part of 32 prefectures in relation to the threat of landslides.

There is no news at all from the Consulate General about my son so it has also been 5 days without any information about his welfare in the light of events in his city (I almost typed ‘home town’, as the Japanese are fond of saying, but, even if now undeniably true, it didn’t seem right to put it that way). It is a bank (i.e. national) holiday in the UK today but the Consul I am in contact with indicated that she would again attempt to call my son’s mother in the course of today, suggesting that the Consulate in Osaka is open for business as usual: just to make sure I checked online and the Consulate there seems to recognize only the Japanese national holidays, of which there are a great many. Hopefully there will be some news tomorrow or Wednesday.  As it is the early hours of Tuesday in Japan now, I am resigned to a further night without any news.

Hiroshima landslide: update (2)

Further to the posts yesterday and the day before I have received a further (holding) email from the Consulate General and, again, reproduce it below.  In addition to seeking further clarification about the precise location of the landslide, I raised a question about the renewal of my son’s passport which is something that I have been meaning to raise for some months now as the original one, used to remove him in 2011, expired a few months back.

Before receiving today’s email, I had draft-prepared a post along the lines of wishing that my country’s mission in Japan would do more to push the boat out as regards obtaining some direct information, in the light of recent events in Hiroshima, given the day-to-day news blackout that I have to put up with as regards my son.  I had resigned myself to the Consulate General not trying to telephone to find out whether Hugo is alright, but they in fact did (there was no answer) and will try again next week.  I might therefore obtain a snippet of information about my son.  It is always a difficult balance to strike as regards the local mission:  I am, of course, very grateful for even the smallest things that they can do to help but, as a taxpayer who finds himself in this intolerable situation, I suppose that I would like to see the UK authorities in Japan doing more to keep up to speed with my son – he is, after all, a British citizen, not to mention a young child and the mission is there for his benefit as much as mine.

As regards the situation on the ground, the BBC now reports that ‘at least’ 39 people have been confirmed as having died and the number of missing has ‘jumped’ to 51. Rain is said to be hampering rescue efforts and further landslides are expected.  Coverage in The Japan Times indicates that it has been accepted by the municipal authorities that a late warning was given; the prefecture is the most landslide-prone in Japan.  The same publication confirms that the original landslide centred on Asaminami-ku which, as indicated before, is very close to where I believe my son to be living.

 

**********

 

From:  [email address removed]
Sent: ‎22/‎08/‎2014 08:59
To: [email address removed]
Subject: RE: Hugo Oliver Daisuke Young (dob 28 Nov 2008)

Dear [name removed]

 

Thank you for your reply.

 

I have called her today but she was not available, I am afraid.

I will call her again on Monday.

 

And I will reply to you separately regarding your passport inquiry.

 

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

 

 

[name removed] | Pro-Consul | British Consulate-General Osaka | Epson Osaka Building 19F | 3-5-1 Bakuro-machi | Chuo-ku | Osaka 541-0059 | Japan |

Tel: + 81 (0)6 6120 5600 |  FTN 8461 5603 | Fax: + 81 (0)6 6281 1731 |   www.gov.uk/world/japan

 

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