Sunday, July 1st 2012
Some days a cold and hostile part of me is furious with your mother. I can’t help but think how differently our lives would have been if I had taken you back to Australia when I had custody of you. Why did I stay in Japan with no network of support? I would have been free of all this misery and frustration, but would you have ever forgiven me for taking you away from your mother? Perhaps then I would have slept like I used to. I would have woken like I used to, safe in the knowledge that you were about to burst into my room like the bundle of joy you are. I would have never have shared in your mother’s pain if I had taken you and fled. I could have blocked out your mother, and been none the wiser. This chapter that is mine, would have been hers. I would never have known this heavy brick in my stomach. Misery and melancholy and terror and depression would just be words I knew. But it’s futile to think like that.
I expect that you have been poisoned by the lie, and more lies. Planted and fertilized by those who love you… No, it doesn’t make sense, none at all. And yet there are others who love you equally, who wish to invite you in, to give you the truth, to scratch the truth in the air for all to see and behold. Sometimes I feel your mother is trapped in her own gutter because she knows, she knows the truth. At night she must see the sharks in the dark corners of her dreams nipping away at her untruths. If I’ve learned anything from the Family Court of Japan, it’s that for some, it’s easier to condemn another, than it is to have the strength to right one’s own wrongs. But for every act of treachery, there are 100 others with selfless integrity who will fight for what’s right. Nobody is truly virtuous, but it’s clear to me that sorry is a good word used by good people, of goodwill, kindness & empathy. Good people can tell the difference, and they feel it deep in their gut when they know they’ve crossed the line. It’s hard and it’s humbling and it’s brave to say sorry.
I’m sorry because I feel the pulse of your pain. I’m sorry our story together will never truly be set right. In many ways it’s already too late to rekindle that perfect bond that we shared. I hope for your mother’s soul she whispers sorry to you each night… hopefully she doesn’t think it’s just the refuge of the weak, a hollow box.
I curse myself for my lack of courage in all this, knowing I’m just lucky to have the strength of C and my family alongside me. The taste of your absence sometimes invites self-pity, sometimes anger. All I know is the beginning, but the rest of the story is smudged or fading, whole chapters torn out. All those precious moments, and weeks, and now years slipping by us. My stomach has a knot not knowing what happens, so helpless and hopeless. Is there real light at the end, or does the dark tunnel continue? I think the knot of not knowing is the worst.
Sometimes I worry about your mother. Sometimes she looks so haggard and full of rage. But why? She tells the court some of our story, but she knows deep down that it is not all the story. Sometimes because of events we can’t control, we don’t know the whole story. But your mother knows the truth. The truth is held tightly in her fist, and somewhere in her chest. There is a lot more to know. There’s always more to know. Always. The questions you have that keep you awake at night have answers. You’re not alone Phi. Though you’re now 9 years old as I write this, 10 in just two months time, it might be 2019 when you read this letter. You’ll be 17, and no matter what you have heard about me, I want you to know I love you, I miss you, and not a day goes by when I don’t think of you.
You know when your mother left our home when you were just 17 months old, she returned to Noribaba & Yutajiji’s. Initially, they were angered by her actions, but it wasn’t long until she was cosseted by her family. She was back to being the spoiled oldest daughter. They bought her a car. They gave her a house all to herself. She didn’t work, she never has, so your overly generous grandparents gave her enough money to buy pretty trinkets for herself, new cars, overseas trips, her house and enough for your mother to spoil you with sweets. Your Dad also gave her half of everything I had, $124,000… I thought it was only fair… at the time.
Maybe she felt liberated at being set free. She no longer had to feel ashamed… nor did she have to care for you. But from that point on, she lost all her integrity, as she began to spin her web of lies. She knows the sad truth. It’s buried deep, but it’s there, unmistakably so. She knows everything. One day it will all come to light… let’s hope she has your support when that day comes. She’ll need you more than ever.
You my dear, are such a serious soul. You’re so mature and caring, sometimes I wonder if you don’t already know a big part of the truth. Do you know your mother once said to me, that sometimes she felt as if the mother-daughter roles were reversed. I.e., you took the nurturing role of the mother, your mother the role of the child. It was a low point in your mother’s life; she had just crashed her motorbike and had called me in tears. I remember you on the carpet in our home at Numazu looking up at me as I spoke with your mother on the phone. It was almost as if you sensed something was amiss. Even as a young child, you were looking out for your mother. In the future, I hope you will still graciously care for her. Dad… XoXo…
- How did the earwig get its name?
Sunday, July 8th 2012
Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice, how are you today? Dad’s been on a march through the streets of Tokyo… I wonder if one day soon you’ll join me to help this country grow, and to bring families together.
Phi, do you know how frustrating it is living so close to you, but not being able to see you? I don’t understand why the Family Court cannot understand that this is my adopted country… I love this country and what it has given me, but at the same time, there are days when I feel like cursing this country… as much as I adore it. Too many questions left unanswered… When will I find the answers to losing my only child? And if I stay in this wonderful country, are there ever going to be answers or real change if Japan signs the Hague Convention on Child Rights?
Today C & I marched through the streets of Ginza in an organized protest. It was hot, hot, hot, but I thought it best to iron a shirt for the occasion. Milton, god bless him joined us, and Dad was even interviewed by a TV station from Fukuoka.
Joining The Hague Convention should be a positive step towards ending the scourge of child abduction to Japan. But if the treaty is not honored, then Japan will continue to be known as a “black hole” for child abduction for years to come.
Here’s an article about our march:
Thanx for reading this far Phi… give me a sign… you can mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org… LOVE Dad… XoXo.
- Why are sumo wrestlers so fat?
- If I ate 1kg of chocolate a day, how fat would I get?
Sunday, July 15th 2012
G’day, g’day, good day! How’s trix my little soldier?
Summer School is all finished for me. That was three weeks, and instead of starting at 8am, we started at 8:45am, and we even finished early at 3pm. I’ve been thinking a lot about a student in my class who wrote such a powerful piece of writing. She’s just like you, and my heart reaches out to her, especially after she shared this piece of writing with me:
I remember me as a little girl… I was born February 19th 2002 at 12.31am in Aliston General Hospital, Canada. When I was 4 or 5 I hated going to bed because I would always hear my Mum and Dad fight. I was always afraid my Mum would throw away her wedding ring to the floor. One day one of my worst nightmares happened. My Dad told me my Dad and Mum were divorcing. One week later my Dad moved away. I tried not to cry but halfway out on the road my Dad stopped his car and came running back to me and gave me a hug. I hated hearing him cry next to me. Behind me my Mother was crying. I couldn’t stop crying. That night I got up from my bed and dialed my Dad to hear his voice. By Julia.
Isn’t she amazing? I so respect her openness, honesty & love. I also respect her parents a great deal. Over the past 12 months Julia’s parents, though divorced have both attended our parent-teacher interviews and numerous other events. They came to the Sports’ Festival and cheered Julia on, and I spied them having a coffee at the Food Fair. Each time they sit side by side, and engage their daughter in conversation. It makes me teary just watching them, and at one point during the year, I told Julia’s parents as such. It can’t be easy, but they know that communication, respect and honesty are the keys to their daughter’s happiness. They also know as responsible parents, despite the fact that their relationship didn’t work, they owe it to their daughter to communicate on her behalf. They know there is no denying the truth…
Love you now and forever… XoXo… Dad… XoXo… Oh, by the way, tonight I’m off on a bus to Tohoku!
“Tell the truth, or someone will tell it for you.”
― Stephanie Klein, Straight Up and Dirty: A Memoir
Sunday, July 22nd 2012
Howdy Phi. You’ll never guess where Dad has just returned from, five nights in Tohoku! Well 7 actually, if you include the two nights I spent on buses. I took the night bus from Ikebukuro last Sunday (15th) evening, and jumped off the bus again this morning. I went to a place north of Sendai called Rikuzentakada, in Iwate. It was near a smaller village that Owada San had grown up in. Owada San is the gentleman I met when I volunteered for the clean-up in northern Chiba for four days last year in late March. We met in an area stricken by the tsunami just south of Choshi.
Anyway, I climbed down from the night bus at 6am last Monday morning and Owada San was there waiting. He took me straight out to a small abandoned primary school in the mountains about 30 minutes out of Rikuzentakada. The primary school had been turned into a shelter for the volunteers. Some nights there might have been 20 of us, and some nights half that number. We slept on the old assembly floorboards, and ate our meals outside beneath the verandah.
After we dropped off my bags, Owada San introduced me to his friends, many of whom are semi-retired and have been working as volunteers in their home village for months. By 8am we were down assembled at the Volunteer Center. This would become my routine for the next 5 mornings. The Volunteer Center (VC) had shovels, wheelbarrows, saws, etc., but no power tools or any heavy machinery. One morning 3 buses of HS students arrived to help out. It was great to see their enthusiasm. At the VC, we’d check in and receive our designated area to clean-up, or help the local population get back on their feet.
Most days Owada San and our team (usually the same 5, but some days a sixth chap joined us) worked on building a shelter for a group of farmers. It was very rewarding work, and pleasantly cool compared to the heat of the Kanto area. One day we ran out of wood, so me and a young fella from Hiroshima went into the mountains and cut down these huge bamboo trees. The farmer whose land it was, drove us there and showed us the bamboo he no longer needed. We sliced the bamboo down the middle, and with a little bit of jiggling, this became the roof. It was a great humbling experience, but I also learned a trick or two. One day we ran out of nails and screws, so one of the carpenters showed us how to make bamboo nails!
Another day we helped the local fisherman find missing buoys. We then sorted them into piles… there must have been thousands of them. Work finished at 3pm, and sometimes Ogura San would take me around and show me the outrageous damage Mother Nature had meted out. Rikuzentakada, Iwate had basically been wiped off the map. The tsunami, due to the nature of the peninsula and the encasing surrounding mountains had actually increased in height as it invaded land. It hit the tsunami walls at 13m, but grew… The tsunami followed the valley floor 4km inland. Out of a population of 26,000 people, 10,000 people are still missing.
Owada San took me to the lone pine tree that still stands as a symbol of hope. Some day Phi, I’ll show you the pictures… perhaps we could pay them a visit. I would love to introduce my daughter to Owada San.
The evenings were special. When I arrived back at the shelter, I’d go for a run, following the river high into the mountains. Then we’d sit around and have a beer and pitch in to help with dinner. One of the volunteers had a skin condition and was quite overweight, so he instead made us all dinner every night. One evening upon our return, he had caught a bucket full of fresh fish from the river. He rubbed them down with salt, and we bbqed them as is… I even ate the head.
It was a very special experience Phi… one, I’d like to share with you some day. Go with care Angel… XoXo.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
Thursday August 2nd 2012
G’day Phi, how’s trix? Dad’s been a busy camper this summer thus far… last Saturday we left home at 9am, we went to the library (to make the most of the A/C) to study up on the Daily 5, a new reading/writing structure we’re bringing in at school. Then we met for a lovely Italian lunch by the canal and onwards to look at a house near where Bon & Phil lived (quite close to Jiyugaoka)… best yet out of perhaps 20 places we’ve looked at… been rather excited about it as we were going to take another squiz this Saturday, but heard today it had already sold… already… surely the real estate agent is pulling our leg.
So we’ve just come back from the Suzuka 8 Hour Moto Grand Prix, a 7 hour trip in the bus… worse than flying, but cheap, and we’ll be saving the extra cash for the house we intend to buy! We received our free Paddock Pass to the Grand Prix, the equivalent of a 30,000 yen pass!!! How do I know? It’s written on the ticket! It’s all from from Mr. BMW (BMW San, C used to work with him), and better still, we were invited into pit lane for the whole day, by one of the 3 BMW teams… thrilling! All the action was Sunday, July 29th … Loved it, having a good chat with all involved, venturing out on the main straight just before the race started, watching the riders strip off after their hour riding and slide straight into a pool of cold water to cool off. Really they did that! It was so hot, and they were geared up in their heavy & hot riding protective wear, so as soon as they’d finished a stint on the bike, they would slip into the toddlers’ pool! The race finishes at night and we were out there amongst it all, getting thrown in the pool by some of C’s former colleagues and his troopers, and then we got invited to the VIP BMW party, where C had to translate for the 3 French BMW team riders, only one of them, Damien, turns out to be an Aussie, and a bloody legend! Had a great chat with him and Kurt (German mechanic), both of whom had just had a chat with Mighty Mick Doohan (former world champion form Oz) who was also in attendance.
The Monday after the Grand Prix we headed to 2 grand temples in Mie Prefecture, hot but memorable. For dinner before our grueling bus trip back to Yokohama we dined at a steak restaurant, similar in kind to Kobe beef… it was sublime, and surprisingly affordable.
Hope all is well in your sunny part of the world.
Ged & C.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon
Monday, August 6th 2012
G’day, G’day Super Star! Well, what a day. Dad got to play with kids today, really play! Your lego was spread everywhere in the lounge, your train tracks meandered here, there and everywhere over the orange carpet in the tatami room, and the Syllvanian Family members were out & about too. Today Dad & C’s friend Airi brought her kids around. Asuka is a cheeky little second grader with a grand smile, while TK is a mature and serious fourth grader who is always looking out for his mum. Airi is a member of the Left Behind Parents – Japan group that C & I are members of. She’s from the Philippines, and despite the fact that her kids want to live with her, and her Japanese ex-husband has had a history of violence against her, the Family Court of Japan awarded him ex custody.
It was a hot, hot day, and with the extra bodies in Myorenji, C relented and let us have the air conditioning on. We’d bought watermelon and cake, and when the kids arrived, guess what they brought? Yep, watermelon. So all afternoon we munched away on sweet big pieces of watermelon… Mmm.
I had a lot of fun building castles, and train tracks running through tunnels, hoisting Asuka up on my shoulders… memories of you my little monkey climbing all over me flooded back. Wish you could have joined us… Love Dad… XoXo…
- As Aunty Rachel would say, Dad’s an extrovert, Uncle Richie’s an introvert, and Uncle Sean’s just plain alternative
- Dad’s been waking at 5.45am to do 60 minutes of x-training with Craig (former colleague from Saint Maur who is now teaching at Sacred Heart IS), 3 – 4 mornings each week; a few push-ups, a few sit-ups, and a few chin-ups included with our 30 minute jog
Thursday, August 16th 2012
Hey Bella, we’ve just arrived back from Kyushu. Day 01 we flew into Kagoshima Airport and picked up a rental car. From there we drove up into the mountains to a place called Kirishima Yama; literally it translates to island of mist. It’s a beautiful region with some great hikes, one of which we did into a lake, and yes, it was surrounded by mist! Our hotel was great, and we even had guest privileges to our own private onsen for an hour.
The next day we drove to C’s ancestors’ grave sites… ohaka maeri. It rained on and off most of the day, which didn’t make finding the graves too easy, but we managed to find them eventually. Then we headed back into the city of Kagoshima. We had a look around the castle, booked our boat out to Yakushima Island, dropped off the rental car, and then went to a special Kagoshima restaurant for dinner.
On our third day in Kyushu we boarded the boat for Yakushima. It was about a 3.5 hour trip and a beautiful sunny day. When we arrived, we picked up another rental car and headed for the campground. Again it took us a while to find the site, as it was poorly sign posted. We were the only ones staying at the campground, which was run by an eccentric German chap. He told us of a great snorkeling spot, “as long as you don’t tell the Japanese.” It was true, it was great, and Dad thinks he spied a groper, a huge fish, but C isn’t so sure. We also found a natural hot spring nestled into the rocks by the ocean. We ended up there two evenings in a row for our daily bath. The following morning we took the car up into the mountains and did some hiking.
The next morning we were up painfully early to drive up into the mountains to the bus pick-up area for the legendary Jomon Sugi hike. The buses departed at 6am, and took us further up the mountain. The hike itself is estimated to take 9-12 hours, but we did it in less than 8 hours with C storming like a marathon runner. The trees are hundreds of years old, with the most famous scientifically dated at around 2500 years old!
After three nights camping, it was time to drop the rental car off at the port, and take the boat back to Kagoshima. We dropped our bags off and then jumped on a ferry for Sakurajima. Once there we boarded a bus that took us to all the interesting sites. It was a pretty good tourist bus, as you could jump on and off pretty much whenever you liked. We had one more night in Kagoshima, and a yummy meal at a local Izakaya.
Finally it was back to the big smoke, and Haneda, Tokyo. Perhaps you can join us next time… what do you think? Dad… XoXo…
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Marin Buber
Sunday, August 19th 2012
Good evening Bella, how’s the homework going tonight? Hope it’s all finished and you’re relaxed and happy about school tomorrow.
Dad just finished reading Gilbert Tuhabonye’s This Voice in My Heart. It’s the inspirational tale of a survivor of one of the most devastating genocides in recent memory. He’s a great distant runner, but was for the first part of his life caught up in the centuries-old battle between the Tutsis and Hutus near Rwanda.
On Thursday C & Dad had dinner with Jean Phillip and his partner, C’s friend from Paris in Omotesando. We went to an interesting izakaya, and JP chain-smoked all night… it was awful, but he was plenty interesting. He’s an open & out anarchist, so the conversation was never dull.
Then yesterday we met Matt Wymann and his parents, Airi, Bruce and Takeuchi San. Airi had Asuka & TK with her. So it was nice to catch up and have a laugh with the kids… I bought them a special kids’ drink! We all went to a cool seafood type izakaya where we had to sit on these funny little stools, or beer crates. See you soon Bella… Dad.
DO YOU REMEMBER…
… sipping your baby-cinno (kids’ cappuccino) each time we went to a café in Australia? They’d always come with a little chocolate or marshmallow on the side…
Sunday, August 26th 2012
How’s my favourite foal? Still skipping around like a horse? I hope so! I pray you never lose your mighty imagination, and your initiative for independent play. It sets you apart Bella, you’re truly a gem, and one of a kind!
Guess what C and Dad did today… go on guess!? We put an offer on a house. Where? I hear you ask. Tokyo… yeah, wow! I know. It’s a decent walk from the station, 15-17 minutes in fact (we tested it), but it’s the Camberwell of Tokyo with beautiful oaks and cherry blossoms lining the streets. It’s also about a 20 minute walk to Tama Station, and it’s only about 300m from the Tama River. It’s also the worst house in a good street, something I heard my canny Uncle Leo (Fusinato) espouse when I was a kid. Nothing has happened yet, so let’s just wait and see.
Late in the afternoon we met C, C’s child psychologist friend. She’s terrific! I’m trying to get professional help for you. C is able to introduce us to a child psychologist in Yoyogi who comes with an excellent reputation. I think it would be good for you to talk to an independent expert, somebody who is compassionate, and a good listener, but also somebody with experience & expertise with bicultural children like you.
I left C with C, and I went home to my book, a great gift from Uncle Sean. I’m reading Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones, a tale of a couple of lads in rural Australia in 1965. In the simmering summer of outback Australia, Charlie learns to discern the truth from myth, and with that, the white lies that creep like a curse. It’s a good read… I can hardly put it down… speaking of which, time for another chapter!
TRAVEL WITH ME SOMEDAY…
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux He’s a favorite travel writer of mine. He’s also written Riding the Iron Rooster and Mosquito Coast
Saturday, September 1st 2012
Morning Princess! How’s things this morning? First day of Spring… is it truly? It feels so hot and muggy still. It’s 8.30am and there are big dark heavy clouds out around Mount Fuji. We need some rain, it’s been so long since we’ve had any decent rain, any rain at all in fact. I’ve been watering our pot plants at least twice a week for the past month, and they still look thirsty.
Guess what happened at x-country training yesterday? I took the whole squad (23 High School boys and 8 HS girls) on a long run. In fact, I showed them over the pre-race Race Course I have planned for them next Wednesday. The boys’ course is about a kilometer longer than their official 5km race course at Tama Hills, while the girls’ course also measures a little longer than their official 3.2km course.
Anyway, after running over the course ensuring my top runners continually doubled back along the course, to encourage the stragglers, they thought they were done. But Coach Morice insisted on getting all important kilometers into their legs. So as a group, I gave them the option of running an extra lap, or two, or three laps around another loop course measuring just over a kilometer. Most students opted for one extra lap then struggled back up the hill, back to school and their icy water bottles. A few battlers opted for 2 laps, and my top 7 boy soldiers ran a third lap along with Mr. Yannick Crespy and myself. I was exhausted, and I had to ride my bicycle home too… a trip of just over 9km. Yannick is new to our school, a breath of fresh air and a keen runner. He’s a gem. He replaces Nathalie Chotard, our wonderful friend who has moved onto Istanbul, Turkey.
So, round and round we go, our group of 9 threatening to splinter, one or two lads keen to run ahead, another couple fading. We managed to keep them together to the bottom of the hill that winds back to school over about the final 800 metres. At the foot of the hill, I told them to give their all and go hard to the top. One rookie raced to the front, and the wise and fearful let him slip away, and then we started to bite into the hill. Your OLD man ran into third place willing his boys to come with him, daring them to pull around him, but as we hit the steepest part of the hill, up besides Motomachi-Chukagai Station I felt strong and surged. Before I knew it I had finished second. Exhilarated I doubled back and gave my team encouragement. And today, I feel great. A little tight in the Achilles perhaps, but buoyed and keen to push each of my runners to their personal best.
Tonight it’s Sonia’s birthday. She’s invited a small group to a jazz bar in Kannai. Should be fun. Would you like to join us… I’m sure I could find you a stool and a special drink! Love Dad… XoXo…
- Give your plants a decent water only once or twice a week. If you give them a little water every day, they quickly become dependent on you and soon shrivel and give up if you miss watering them for any length of time
- It’s Fathers’ Day tomorrow in Australia… happy Fathers’ Day Dad… Pa to you, and Bluey to his mates (Kerry Morice)
Friday, September 7th 2012
Phi today it’s Uncle Richie’s birthday. It would be nice to sit alongside him tonight and watch the footy… GO BLUES!
But actually, I’ve got other things on my mind… love to chat, but tonight I’m a bit of a mess… Love you, and need a hug… XoXo…
SOME WISDOM FOR US BOTH…
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost
Wednesday, September 12th 2012
Hello Phi. Here follows some letters I’ve written to you and the family court. I lost track of the dates, as I edited and revised, but they were all written in September. Here’s another letter I just wrote to you and sent in the mail… I wonder if it was ever in your precious hands…
How’s my favourite princess? Today I’ve come to see how you are doing in grade 4. I wonder if you will put your hand up to answer a question. I wonder if you’ll get a big surprise at seeing me in your classroom. I wonder if I’ll get a chance to have a chat with you today.
We used to have great chats together, but now nobody gives us that chance to truly talk. It must be very confusing for you, and you must have many things you want to talk to me about. I want to listen to you, and hear what’s in your heart.
I just want you to know I miss you, and I love you. Every day I think about you, and wish we could laugh, sing and play together again.
080 3177 5144 email@example.com
Sometimes when I’m in the family court I see images of you. I begin to shake, softly. I can hear my breathing, and not for the first time, I’m lost for words. But maybe the words are not necessary, because the panel had decided our fate as soon as they saw I was a foreign father. I seem destined never to have the right words in me. Maybe I don’t need to. Perhaps it’s better to stay calm and quiet, and just wait, and wait, and wait.
Here’s part of another document we presented to the family court:
Courtesy of Robert Munro’s (a child psychologist and mediator with the Family Court of Australia) report (attached) on the specifics of our case, one learns a great deal about PAS (Parent Alienation Syndrome). Clearly this is a model case of PAS, where one parent denies access with false accusations.
As a single parent and the main carer of Ophelia until the age of 6, I was both a mother and a father to our daughter. My experience as a teacher and head teacher have given me the patience and confidence to nurture children’s growth. I have always been fair but firm with my daughter, positively reinforcing good moral behavior. I am very proud of Ophelia, her manners and gentleness, and the way she offers to help with a smile. The 75+ letters of support confirm that I would never, have never, lost my temper with Ophelia.
The accusation that I shouted at Ms. I…a over the telephone is totally false. Being the now non-custodial parent, under Japanese Family Law, my visitation rights rest precariously on the goodwill of the parent “in possession” of the child. I would never jeopardize an opportunity to see my Ophelia. Therefore on the extremely rare occasions my phone calls were answered, though frustrated by Ms. I…a’s negativity, I was always civil and polite. My fiancée will attest to this.
Finally, apparently Ophelia has never said bad things about me in the presence of her mother, however peculiarly she has become very negative about Australia in the interim. Prior to living with her mother, Ophelia loved her many trips to Australia, but when she briefly met my parents in March 2009, at the innocent age of 6, she curiously told my mother (Ophelia’s paternal grandmother) she couldn’t go to Australia, but perhaps they could meet in Hawaii.
- During the time I had custody, every third week Ophelia went to stay with her mother. Ophelia & I returned from our holidays at Christmas in Australia so that she could be with her mother’s family over the New Year Period, a special time of year for Japanese families.
- In June 2012 I met with a Japanese child psychologist to gain a greater understanding of what may be tormenting Ophelia. She stated that what Ophelia’s mother says and thinks, may now in turn, be equal to what Ophelia herself thinks. She added, that Ophelia needs time to think and adjust, and to feel safe in knowing it is okay to not always agree with her mother.
- If I believed Ophelia was genuinely happy in her heart, and not troubled in her beautiful mind, I would walk away and not trouble this court. Furthermore, this custody situation would never arise in the reverse, because I would never deprive Ophelia of a mother, her extended family and friends. My daughter used to be fond of saying: “My Daddy is my prince, and I will get married with him.” As such, it is fundamental to this case that the judiciary understands the history of this case.
- The truth is, I feel miserable on behalf of my daughter for what we, her parents are collectively putting her through. Ophelia is a young, yet mature child who loves us both. She is a deep and caring thinker, who is keenly aware of the animosity between her parents. Regretfully it is partly because of my pitiful weakness. I have not found it in my heart to forgive my ex-wife’s … Ms. I…a reached out and wrote two letters of apology (attached) after she left our family home on March 7th 2004, but at the time, it seemed impossible for me to accept her actions. She also kindly wrote a letter to my parents trying to explain her behavior (attached). My own mother suggested we take counseling and that I learn to forgive her. I couldn’t change my mind about divorce, but I realised forgiveness is fundamental if I was to move forward in life. So as the days of agony and torment turned into weeks, then months, I tried to create a new relationship with my ex-wife.
- Shortly after my ex-wife’s confessions, we mutually agreed that I would be the primary carer of Ophelia. I created a “parenting plan/custody agreement” (attached) that put Ophelia’s best interests at the heart of the document; namely access and love from both her Australian & Japanese families. When I had custody, we cooperated as responsible parents. I was fortunate in that I…a and her own parents trusted and respected me as a more than competent father, for under no legal pressure, each of them signed their consent allowing me custody of Ophelia when she was just 17 months of age. During this time, I occasionally contemplated going back to Australia with my daughter, for it was difficult with no family support network of my own. I felt however, it was more important for Ophelia’s identity that she saw Ms. I…a and her Japanese grandparents. As such I committed myself to Japan because I did not want Ophelia’s Japanese heritage to be denied. At the same time I felt a bilingual, multicultural education would best serve the interests of my daughter; it was a belief that Ms. I…a & I shared when I had custody.
- In addition to the official Japanese documentation regarding custody, an English/Japanese custody agreement was entered into. Article 5 of that agreement states: “Gerard & A agree not to take any legal action against each other over the custody of Ophelia…”
- I took Ophelia to/from kindergarten by bicycle, I filled in the daily communication book with her teachers, I prepared her breakfast, her bento and her dinner. It was I who bathed her every night, toilet trained her, sang with her, read stories with her every night… mitsugo no tamashi 100 made (the spirit of a child of 3, lives until 100).
- Ophelia was on my health insurance card, and it was I who took her to the doctor, the dentist, and fulfilled all her regular health checks and infant inoculations. I trusted Ms. I…a and welcomed her to all of Ophelia’s kindergarten events. She was invited into our home, and we even went camping together, and I helped her with things such as a fence for her dog… when I had custody. Conversation was almost daily, and I encouraged Ophelia to speak with her mother on the telephone.
- From May, 2004 to March 2006 Ophelia attended Ooka Public Kindergarten in Numazu. Then from April 2006 to July 2008 Ophelia attended Katoh Immersion (English/Japanese) Kindergarten.
- Even when my parents came to Numazu to see their first grandchild, I allowed Ophelia to continue her regular visits to Tokorozawa. Naturally, sometimes she didn’t want to go to her mother’s because she would miss her Australian grandparents, or one of her kindergarten friend’s birthday parties, a picnic, a day at Shimoda Beach with family friends, or a kindergarten excursion.
- I was starting a new position at Saint Maur International School in August 2008. I knew I would be busy, so I reluctantly made a verbal agreement with Ms. I…a that would enable her to look after Ophelia from September to December 2008; at which time Ophelia & I planned to go to Australia for the Christmas break. Ophelia was enrolled (evidence attached) to start in the Montessori program at Saint Maur International School from January 2009.
- To this point, Ms. I…a and I communicated on an almost daily basis. For the most part we communicated in English, for especially in the Japanese written form, I am a very poor student of kanji. I forwarded kindergarten calendars and Ophelia’s reports, and Ms. I…a always kindly replied in her excellent English. During this time Ophelia was a strong, healthy and happy child, secure in the love of both her families. Life became extremely difficult however, when my ex-wife abducted my daughter and started court proceedings regarding custody of my daughter; access to my daughter went from bad to worse. Of great concern, simultaneously my daughter’s health deteriorated drastically, and communication between her parents reached a standstill.
- Robert Munro’s report (attached) suggests that Ophelia becomes ill only in the presence of her mother because she’s unable to express openly and honestly what’s going on in her heart. On Sunday February 28th 2010, Ophelia enjoyed a lovely few hours with her old friends from Numazu at a children’s party in Jiyugaoka. Please see photos attached. The children ate a hearty lunch together, and when it was time for Ophelia to rendezvous with her mother, Ophelia pleaded to stay longer. She had resumed her old friendships like it was yesterday, and was reluctant to leave the fun (see photos). So you can well comprehend my shock and concern when I later heard Ophelia had been taken to hospital that very evening in an ambulance.
- On Friday, August 15th 2008, at Shibuya Station, my daughter was abducted. My first mistake was trusting my ex-wife. Her preparation for the August 15th abduction began much earlier. A few weeks prior, I had signed Japanese documents that Ms. I…a said were necessary for her to properly care for Ophelia in case of sickness. It meant Ophelia was removed from my health care card. My second mistake was handing over Ophelia’s Japanese passport after a request from Ms. I…a on the very evening of the 15th. After a caring cautionary word from my new school, I had become uneasy about the health care card signing and requested the return of Ophelia to my health card. Ms. I…a reacted violently and Ophelia was pulled from my arms on the platform of Shibuya Station. To this day I am positive Ophelia is affected by the trauma of the moment. I did little to resist because I could see the fear in my daughter’s tearful eyes and I didn’t want to exasperate the situation. I just calmly repeated over and over that everything would be okay as she was dragged away from me. In the weeks following the abduction, I tried to reach out to my ex-wife through letters (attached).
- From this point on, I feel as if my daughter has been abducted from me and it has been a battle for me to see my daughter ever since. Several times I spoke with Ms. I…a on the phone trying to find an amicable solution through to December 2008; all along she hinted that Ophelia could still attend Saint Maur International School from January 2009. I should have sought the services of a lawyer, but our initial agreement (article 5 – attached) and the thought that we as parents are responsible to Ophelia, kept me hoping that together we could communicate & overcome. The open, positive and honest letters I wrote to Ms. I…a and her family went unanswered. Instead she sought the Family Court’s service of mediation despite the fact she was unwilling to communicate.
- Early in 2009 I was summoned to appear in the Family Court, and on November 26th of the same year, custody was taken from me. I lost custody, however in the eyes of the Family Court a substantial visitation contract was signed by both parties. Though I felt severely depressed and discriminated against, I at least felt the court would protect my visitation rights… sadly this has proved not the case. Since I relinquished custody however, the summary of visitations (attached) overtly contradicts the Court’s guidelines.
- I find it curious that Ms. I…a and her lawyer are now referring to a nameless international convention to strengthen their argument of one parent being best. Perhaps she should read in detail the Hague Convention on Child Rights, or the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Sadly Ms. I…a seems to be abusing the Japanese Family Court, by seeking to dismiss the common theme of these international conventions, namely, that child abuse is denying access to a loving parent, and that both parents share common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child.
- I think my daughter is confused and isolated regarding the conflict of her parents. In August 2011, Ophelia offered me a beautiful occasion; like every other child she wanted to enjoy lunch with her parents, like we used to when I invited Ms. I…a camping and into our home post-divorce… again when I had custody. She wanted to imagine the two most important people in her life as a happy unit, but both her mother and I didn’t help her realize this wish. I asked news of both her mother and Ophelia, expecting a constructive conversation and hoping for an independent follow-up visitation. I hinted that she could perhaps come to Yokohama for longer than the 60 minute visitations that had become the norm. But all of our expectations were shattered. I wondered what my daughter felt as she suddenly left after just 30-40 minutes. The situation we put her in no doubt led to her feeling emotionally and physically sick.
- For Ophelia I am prepared to forgive, and to find a path to reconciliation with her mother. In my home country, this is what the Family Court strongly encourage, and indeed my own mother sent me a book titled, “Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love” by Stephanie Dowrick.
- I had hoped we could manage a new relationship with the support of Ms. I…a’s parents. I hoped that the wise and calm minds of grandparents could positively guide, so I penned several letters to Ms. I….a’s parents (attached). My own parents have flown from Australia twice to lend their support since Ophelia was abducted; sadly Ms. I….a declined their request to voice their heartache during the December 2011 mediation session. She kindly informed the mediators that she would pen a letter of explanation; sadly my parents are still awaiting Ms. I…a’s explanation and promised letter.
- Parents can be wise and selfless. I will never forget the early morning when her parents came to Numazu in March 2008. Her mother on her knees, bowed low and apologized for her daughter’s behavior. I was touched when her father requested I accompany him on a walk where he asked me to give his daughter another chance. Unfortunately I was speechless. It was a bitter time for me. Though I couldn’t reply to them in the affirmative, I tried hard to be a supportive husband, though as I loved her, my heart was broken.
- Fortunately when Ophelia’s mother left the family home, my daughter helped me find happiness and a new path in life. I understood that my new goal in life was to be the best possible father to Ophelia. I wanted my daughter to know that even though the love between her parents had gone, both parents would love her forever.
- I know in my heart that the words that apparently come from Ophelia via this court process, are actually not from her innocent heart. There are reasons why she says what she says. She has always been bright, polite and gentle in her speech and manners. It is incomprehensible that she might come out with this negativity regarding her Australian identity by herself. Ophelia loves animals and as such, she naturally respects the harmony and equilibrium of nature, shying away from the bitterness and nastiness that some people resort to. For example, Ophelia evidently used disparaging remarks about my fiancée, but I clearly remember the day when she met my fiancée for the first time. It was hot in the kitchen as my fiancée prepared our evening meal, so Ophelia used her caring initiative to place the fan in such a way that my fiancée would benefit most. Then after the dinner Ophelia said she’d like to watch Mulan, a favourite movie of hers. I suggested, “What about watching it together after [name removed] has finished cleaning up?” Ophelia immediately agreed and went to the kitchen and talked with my fiancée. I was touched and so very proud of my daughter. Later we all watched the movie together; Ophelia on the beanbag, my fiancée next to her on the carpet. I wondered to myself if her step-father appreciates Ophelia’s amazing gift for making people feel comfortable.
- Perhaps I should wait until my daughter is old enough to mentally explain her own views. Until then I will spend hours each day thinking about her and writing to her in English. Though I live in Japan, in reality however, I am so far away having not experienced a visitation in almost a year. Ms. I…a declines my phone calls, ignores my emails and never replies to my letters. I think of Australia and the co-custody system that my country and 88 other countries have adopted under the Hague Convention on Child Rights, and I wonder if only I’d been more selfish and taken Ophelia there, when I had custody, could we have been happier? I could teach her as a father many things, like how to pitch a tent, swim in the beautiful ocean, make a tree-house together, and celebrate birthdays and Christmas with her four cousins; unfortunately, my daughter and I are bound by the Japanese system that operates independently of the rest of the world.
- Most unfortunately Ophelia’s mother has suffered a long history of mental illness. I tried to help her through her … Now she has the custody of our beautiful daughter, I pray she learns to manage this gift responsibly, and realize the happiness she has been seeking.
- I have one wish. While I wait for my daughter to mature enough to speak her heart and mind, please do not obliterate our bond. My daughter has does nothing wrong, and deserves the love of those who love her dearly. My hope is that Ophelia learns the love of all her family, just as children of divorced couples in Australia do, where co-custody is recognized. Ophelia needs to feel comfortable with her identity as bilingual & bicultural. She needs to see that Ms. I…a and I can communicate openly, responsibly and fairly on her behalf. Constructive co-parenting can only assist Ophelia… it’s a gift we are yet to give to Ophelia.