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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


The Japanese Culture of Kidnapping Children

The case of Christopher Savoie is as painful as they come. On the face of it, afaik the gentleman married a Japanese lady, had children, relocated to Tenessee, divorced remarried, and hoped that his x-wife would continue to allow him to have dual custody of their children, as is usual under US law. As things became embittered, and Noriko his x-wife homesick, Mr. Savoie attempted to get a restraining order placed on his wife since he was scared that she might take their children back to Japan where, he may never see them again. This is what happed. One morning after a period of custody with the mother, the children did not arrive at school. They were in Japan.
Mr. Savoie went to the courts who immediately declared Noriko in breach of their divorce agreement and guilty of abduction, granted Mr. Savoie sole custody and issued a warrant for Noriko's arrest. Mr. Savoie weeps. He finds silence unbearable because he hears the voices of his children.

This sort of case happens a lot. There are many other crying fathers and one can read their tragic stories here and here. Since, such is Japanese law, it is legal for Japanese mothers to "abduct" their own children, bring them to Japan and deny access to the other foreign parent. Japan is not a signatory to the Hague convention, which upholds "the rights of the child to see both parents" and allows for the repatriation of children abducted in this way. Japan is thinking about becoming a member of the Hague treaty at last one day in the next few years, but until then, it is Goodbye daddy. Can you image? I mean, really?

I want to make it clear that the father's side the story makes me cry. However this post is in, in brief and attempt to explain why the Japanese do it. Are they not men? They are. They care.

Under Japanese law, there is no dual custody. When a couple divorces, the law believes that rather than be a ping pong ball between two often warring households, the child should be with one parent, the parent most able to meet the needs of the child. In the past that was often the father. These days, it is usually the mother. If the father pays alimony then mothers may allow the father parental rights. But if he is flaky, hateful, or if one or ther party remarries, then the father is often cut out of the children's lives. Many Japanese fathers, and some mothers, are also crying themselves to sleep at night. This is quite commonplace. Even the immensely popular Ex Prime Minister Koizumi was divorced from his wife. He took custody of one child and the mother the other. Essentially, afaik, each of the children never saw the other parent again.

Is a child happier seeing bother parents? Knowing that a parent is gone, knowing that one of ones parents is not ones own, but not meeting two people who do not love each other anymore, that present, even if unsaid, a criticism of each other. Dual custody says, "here is my father that could not be with that woman". "Here is a Mother that could not be with that man." I think that that most Westerners would say "yes, the child is happier knowing the truth about mummy and daddy". It is not essential that they have a parent to idolise.

In the West marriage centeres on the bond between the parents. Families remain together, at least in theory, due to the strength of this bond. The love of the parents makes or breaks the marriage. Even though the parents love their children, they may get divorced if they no longer love their spouse because they believe it is in the child's interests to see a loving relationship, have a loving relationship to idolise, and model their future relationships upon.

In Japan people are realistic about man-woman love. They know that man-woman love comes from the nether regions and that it does not last, or it burns off and on, and that it is no basis upon which to build a family. On the other hand they deem the bond between parents and childred as sacred, and ignore any physical elements in that relationship. Should the parents not get on with each other they will usually remain together in what is known as "divorce within the home" because they value the happiness of their children. Divorce rates are fairly high prior to the birth of children but very low afterwards.

Indeed in Japan, historically, there was NO SUCH THING AS MARRIAGE. People lived with each other, had sex with each other, and seperated from each other until the birth of a child. The birth of the child signalled the entry of religion. The child would be brought to meet the ancestors and ancestral gods and an inviable bond would be formed.

Now in the latter society, what would happen if there were dual custody?

First of all it would be going against the religious tradition of people having only one set of ancestors. One or other party to the marriage (and not always the woman but that is far more commone) goes to join the lineage of the other spouse.

Secondly, since there are ideals placed upon and few efforts made to preserver and renew the marital bond, then if it were possible to leave ones spouse and still maintain ones all important bond with ones children, then the divorce rate would sky rocket.

In the west, sex is taboo. Horror (generally male monsters) is related to the sexual (don't take a shower in a horror film), coitus and the penis, especially erect ones are most unholy and unsavoury. Since the garden of Eden, and that fig leaf, the penis is banished. But love, the most pure and everlasting love, remains. In Japan the womb is taboo. In horror monsters are women, who often have some motherly desire either towards their victims (who they drag into their womb) or the babies that they wanted to have. Since Izanagi escaped from Izanami and created a partrition hut (a hut on the hillside where Japanese women gave birth) the womb has been banished. And its place remains an idealised bond between parents and their children. It is because the Japanese idealise parent child love so much that they could not have it sullied in dual custody. It would be like suggesting to a westerner that they put up with a "divorce within the home." Since the bond between man and woman is ideal, it must be there, or seperate. There is no half way house of love. No limp bisket marriages for Westerners, no dual custody for the Japanese.

Divorce is damaging to the future prospects of the offspring of marriages that end in divorce, and it has a profound affect upon society. Westerners step on certain relationships and idolise others. The act of making ones baby sleep in another room from the (sacred) marital bed, from the age of a few months is something that Japanes find difficult to see in any way but brutal. As we have seen in this issue, the Japanese step on adults in order to maintain an idealised bond with parents.

When ideals and dreams collide, something has to be sacrificed. In order to confirm with Western culture, should the Japanese destroy theire own?

The Hague convention requires that a child be given the right to see both parents subsequent to a divorce, but I guess that the Japanese will reach some sort of compromise wherein dual custody will be recognised in international marriages but not in domestic ones. But then the fathers in Japan will have a ligitimate reason to complain (how come that gut gets to see his children whereas I do not?).

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.