This may be a first, actually. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the story.
If you have been following the issue, international child abduction is a big issue between Japan and America at the moment–Japan and several countries, actually. Japan’s lobbyists in Washington were unable to shut down congressional inquiry into the topic, and Representative Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) made it a big issue. There are estimated to be about 170 American children being held in Japan–usually by the other, Japanese, parent, but sometimes by a more distant member of the child’s Japanese-side family.
The whole trouble really is that Japan does not recognize joint custody. So what happens is the Japanese parent, who is either non-custodial or joint custodial, decides to make off with the child back to Japan. This is kidnapping. The Japanese government knows that we consider it to be kidnapping, but the runners of that country have played their usual games when it comes to the rights of foreign people.
Some readers and other commenters want me to point out that the problem of child custody also affects parents inside Japan–who may or may not be Japanese. They feel that the focus on this issue has been too much on the international aspect, and not the simple fact that sole custody is arguably a rule of law that should have been pushed away long ago, instead of pushing one of the two parents away. They feel that efforts should be made to persuade the runners of Japan to put in place a more enlightened, 21st century rule.
This whole debate has been long and drawn out, much like World War II was after Midway. I think both the group advocating for international standards has a point, and those within Japan seeking internal reform also make valid points. I know that the two groups have experienced some tension, and fortunately I didn’t get caught in the cyber-crossfire as tends to happen with people who blog on Japan-side expat topics. I also know that it’s really apples and oranges, even though it’s kids at the heart of it. Domestic Japan could still reform its laws, and then simply give them lax application when it comes to foreigners. I think anyone knowing how the people who run Japan can be, know that that is quite a possibility. (Not a certainty, but a strong possibility.)
So the pressure from America should really continue until all the kidnapped children can come home for the holidays . . .
[Update 12/24/11: From what I read on Tony DelVecchio's site, the girl coming back to Wisconsin is the first American child released by Japan-- since 1945, I would gather.]
[Update 12/24/11 Number #2: The Harper's article that is a link above was the one about efforts to get the U.S. Congress to support justice for the "Comfort Women" during 2006. A lobbying firm basically shut that effort down. The key paragraph you need to know is this one:
Japan has always been able to block attempts to pass a congressional resolution on the exploitation of comfort women, partly because it runs a lavishly-funded Beltway lobbying operation. The Bush Administration has quietly assisted in attempts to block a resolution on comfort women. According to Mindy Kotler, the director of Asia Policy Point, a research center on Japan and northeast Asia, the Administration views Japan as the key regional bulwark against an emerging Chinese regime that may be hostile to the United States in the future. “The administration wants Japan to be a central part of America's Asian security architecture—above Australia, India, and the British Navy,” she said. “Any issue that the Japanese have defined as disturbing has been shunted aside to ensure that nothing upsets the alliance with Japan—and I mean nothing, whether it's a trade dispute or taking responsibility for the comfort women.”
[Update 1/2/12: Among those 100+ comments below, which are, at first, pot shots among the various Left Behind Parent faction activists, and, then, maybe some more serious and worthwhile comments, someone asked me if I had, basically, just come to observe this issue last week. Well, no. In fact, I had commentary about it in late 2009, here:
That one was already my fourth post on Savoie v. Savoie. And, as you can see, I am 80%-20% on that one. I am basically saying the same thing then as I do now, in 2012.]
[Update 1/2/12 #2: By the way, that part about not being the crossfire of the back and forth between the two factions is obviously a stale comment at this point.]