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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Five Years of Separation – Message to Hugo

Hello Hugo

I hope that you are keeping well in Japan.  You left the UK exactly 5 years ago today, about exactly an hour ago; I type this message to you at an internet cafe in the airport about 10 metres from the spot that I last set eyes on you.  This is the first time that 20 November has fallen on a Sunday since that date.

In every waking hour since then I have kept you in my thoughts.  Yet the reality is that the price I (we) pay is that we are strangers to one another.  As one of my closest colleagues in the legal world says whenever faced with something he disagrees with, that cannot be right.

These past five years I have done what I can from afar to support and love you.  I hope that the money, clothes, food, cards, gifts etc that I have sent you on your birthday, at Christmas, at Easter, on Children’s Day in Japan and (to bridge the gap between then and your birthday) each summer made it to you and made a difference to you and, too, that you knew it was all from me.  I have no way of knowing even that.

It’ll be Christmas soon.  I shall be visiting Hamley’s on Regent Street, London – last visited by me aged about the same age as you in 1986 – to get you something. I spent the Christmas in the year immediately after you left in Japan in what turned out to be a futile (but agreed) attempt to visit you.  I took a few photographs (of Japan) on that visit and will share them here next month.  What I want to share with you today, immediately below, are some photographs that I took of your exactly 5 years ago; I was allowed to see you a few times immediately before you left.  I have not placed them on this blog before now.  They are not the greatest photos but when taking them immediately before, as I said, your departure to Japan I did not anticipate not seeing you again.

When I started this blog 4 years ago, I said that I would say more about the circumstances of your removal.  Had I known what I know now I would have obtained an injunction to stop your removal – it would have been granted as at the time Japan was not signed up to the Hague Convention; I did consider doing so up until the early hours before you left but trusted that I would be permitted to see you.  I did what I thought was best for you but it turned out that I made a bad call.  I have to live with that decision everyday, the upshot of which is that we are as I said, for the time being at any rate, strangers.

None of anything that has happened dents my love for you.  Keep well in Japan and make the most of the great opportunities there; below are the photographs of you, 5 years on:

hugo-2011-3

hugo-2011-4

hugo-2011-1

hugo-2011-6

hugo-2011-7

hugo-2011-5

Above:  photographs of you, taken in November 2011

lhr-20-nov-2016

lhr-20-nov-2016-2

Above:  drafting this blog post; I last saw you just beyond the pillars to the right of the photograph (added 23 November 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G7/G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Hiroshima, Japan, 10-11 April 2016

Text of my email to the Rt. Hon. Philip Hammond, MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

From:  Richard
Sent: 03 April 2016 21:53:51
To: fcocorrespondence@fco.gov.uk (fcocorrespondence@fco.gov.uk)

Dear Mr Hammond

I understand that you will be attending the G7/G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima in a week’s time.  The last time that Japan hosted this meeting, and the summit that it is the precursor of, was in 2008.  That was the year in which my son, a British and Japanese citizen, was born in Bromley.  As documented on this blog – https://hugojapan.wordpress.com/ – I have not seen my son since 20 November 2011 because his mother took him to Japan and now fails to provide access to him.  That, in itself, is wholly unacceptable, but the situation is exacerbated by the approach, or more accurately the lack thereof, of the UK government to cases of international child abduction that concern Japan prior to the coming into force of the Hague Convention.

Whilst in Japan I ask that you raise the issue of my son, and others like him about which your department must be aware, with your Japanese counterpart.  I can think of no better venue as my son lives in Saeki-ku, a ward of Hiroshima city.  Despite having been there, despite having sent him money, food, cards, presents and so on, I have not seen the little boy since the date he was taken there in 2011.  I can make no decisions about his future, am not allowed to be his father and he is growing up without any contact with his family in the UK and without any appreciation of his cultural background and native language.  All of that is as profoundly shocking as it is true.

The Hague Convention, which came into force in Japan two years ago last Friday, does not have retrospective effect in terms of its summary return procedures.  Therefore I have had no effective legal remedy in terms of bringing my son home.  Whilst there are procedures contained within the Convention that provide for the grant of access rights – even in pre-1 April 2014 cases – the Japanese courts simply maintain the status quo; they are, at best, incapable of recognising the concept, let alone the importance for any child, of dual parenting and are, sadly but frankly and for whatever reason that may be, hostile to foreign parents.

From what I can see, the UK government has not done anything meaningful since the coming into force of the Hague Convention to resolve the pre-Convention cases of international parental child abduction in Japan.  It seems, without more, that the attitude of the Foreign Office is that the issue has simply gone away by virtue of Japan enacting the Convention.  That is a wholly misguided approach.  The meeting next week offers an opportunity to do something to put this right.  That is why I am asking you to raise my son’s case.  The Foreign Office is very quick to condemn Japan for its use of the death penalty even though that, a sovereign matter for Japan to decide about, is none of the UK’s business (unless of course it concerned a UK resident).  Yet the UK falls wholly silent when it comes to the welfare and rights of my son, a British national, and no doubt others like him.  That cannot be right.  International parental child abduction manifestly does raise issues of British national interest as it concerns British children and that is why I send this email in the hope that you can offer some help.

I have been in contact with the Child Abduction Unit in the past but I would be happy to provide any further information that is required to facilitate my request.

 

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.

Happy New Year

Happy new year, Hugo – and readers of this blog.

Twenty-fourteen was a better year for abducted children in Japan.  It was the year in which the Hague Convention finally came into force in Japan.  It also saw the first actual (albeit voluntary) return of an abducted child from Japan in mid-October and the first court order for the return of a child on 19 November, the day before the third anniversary of your abduction to Japan.  I was pleased to get a letter about the issue published in the Japan Times in June.  Most importantly, I received one piece of news about you in late August.  The year 2014 also saw the 100th post on this blog, coinciding by date with your 6th birthday in November; roughly-speaking that equates to a post just over every week since the blog was set up in November 2012.

As I did around this time last year, here are some photographs of the places visited by me in the year 2014 so that you can see for yourself.  The photographs were all taken by me so please excuse the lack of skill in taking them.

All my best wishes for 2015.

Further (New Year 2015) Reading:

“In Pictures: New Year’s Eve Celebrations”, BBC News, 1 January 2015

“New Year Celebrations:  Revellers Gather in London and Across UK”, BBC News, 1 January 2015

Photographs (2014): 

Oxenholme/Kendal – December 2014

Kendal 1

Kendal 2

Kendal 3

Kendal 4

Kendal 5

Birmingham – November 2014

Birmingham Nov 2014 (3)

Birmingham Nov 2014 (2)

Birmingham Nov 2014 (1)

Venice, Italy – October 2014

Venice 1

Venice 2

Venice 3

Venice 4

Venice 5

Venice 6

Venice 7

Venice 8

Venice 9

Venice 10

Venice 11

Venice 12

Sheffield – August 2014

Sheffield 15

Sheffield 14

Sheffield 13

Sheffield 12

Sheffield 10

Sheffield 11

Sheffield 7

Sheffield 6

Sheffield 8

Sheffield 9

Sheffield 3

Sheffield 5

Sheffield 4

Sheffield 2

Sheffield 1

Durham – July 2014

Durham 2014 1

Durham 2014 2

Durham 2014 4

Durham 2014 7

Durham 2014 5

Durham 2014 8

Durham 2014 9

Durham 2014 3

Durham 2014 6

Durham 2014 10

Buxton – May 2014

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