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.

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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

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Hiroshima landslide: update (5)

The situation in Hiroshima as at today is that the total number of dead now still stands at just over 70, as indicated in my previous post; there does not seem to have been any update on this. Amidst all the suffering, there are some signs of hope, even normalcy. There are reports in The Japan Times that the municipal authorities, criticized for not pre-empting this night-time disaster with timely warnings, have started to provide emergency housing and even psychiatric assistance (this from a country notoriously hesitant in recognising mental health issues) to those in need.  There was also an editorial today calling on the authorities to face up to the need for disaster prevention and damage limitation in a timely manner; it seems that lessons still need learning.

More encouraging still is this article about the opportunity to volunteer on the ground by helping with the clean-up effort to get the community back on its feet.  The article, which is worth reading in full, made me think that this sort of commendable thing would never be allowed to get off the ground in the UK because, despite all the talk of David Cameron’s Big Society, it would be deemed too much of a public liability risk. The straight-forward idea of ‘blowing a whistle’ to give warning of any further landslides would leave the health and safety jobsworths in the UK incredulous.  What has happened in Hiroshima, and the reaction of these volunteers and their encouragement by the authorities, is an example to us all.  At least my son lives amongst some good people.

‘Encouraged’ as I was the day before yesterday by the Consulate-General in Osaka, I received this update on my son from his mother at the time (UK) and on the date indicated below:

**********

Subject: Re: Hugo
From: [email address removed]
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2014 06:40:00 +0900
To: [email address removed]

Richard
Hugo was not affected and he is safe and well.
Masako
**********
That was the long and short of it and the above has not been abridged in any way save for the removal of the direct email addresses.  But at least I now have the absolute confirmation that I have sought in this series of posts.
I will post again on this issue when there is further local news.

 

Consular report on Hugo

The consular visit, about which I have posted previously, took place on Saturday 16th March 2013 at a park in Hiroshima. Hugo’s mother would not agree to any photograph of Hugo being taken.  The report can be read here: Hugo report March 2013.  Below is a photograph of the location of the visit as taken by Hugo’s visitors – one western and one Japanese – after Hugo had departed.

Consular Visit Location - Hugo Young