In good faith, my ex-wife and I made a custody and visitation arrangement. Unbeknownst to me, their residency in Tokyo made it convenient for her to keep me from seeing our daughter.
My ex-wife, Tomoko, and I met in 1991 in Tokyo, where I was working as an engineer. We married in 1995 in Portland, Oregon. Anna was born in January 1999 in San Diego. Anna was a happy, joyful baby. She was also very smart for her age, but most parents say that!
Tomoko and I agreed to legal joint custody and worked out a shared visitation agreement, however, my ex-wife started denying me access to Anna almost immediately. By summer 2007, she told Anna she didn’t have to visit me, and although that Christmas she did let Anna stay for four of our pre-agreed ten days, she hasn’t allowed Anna to visit me again. Japan doesn’t recognize parental rights of non-Japanese nationals or enforce joint-custody agreements. Therefore, despite attempts to get our agreement enforced, it is apparent I have no recourse outside of US intervention.
I am fortunate to be able to talk to Anna on the phone, but I haven’t seen Anna in over three years. She is now 12 years old and is no longer able to speak English. Because she hasn’t been able to visit, our contact has been limited, and our talks are strained. In talking with Anna, I have learned she perceives the United States as a dangerous, foreign place.
Anna has a birthright. It is her right to enjoy both parents, to learn about her American heritage and to know her relatives. I feel providing those opportunities to Anna is my role in her life. When will the rule of law prevail in Japan? When can I expect our government to demand the legal rights of Anna and the rest of its citizens like her?