2013 January – March

Ready for a laugh? JP Mama-chari day:

Happy NEW YEAR Miss Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice! 2013… let us hope… let us stay positive, and let us dream. XoXo…

Thursday, January 3rd 2013

So, Phi, Dad returns from Australia, hoping that the Japanese Family Court will come to its senses in 2013. Two weeks to refresh and to recall the wonderful times we shared together in Australia. Perhaps I should have escaped the trap your mother set in motion when she took you from my arms on that August night in 2008. I could have avoided the heartache of fighting a battle in the courts that had already been decided, from the moment your mother decided she wanted sole custody. I could have spared C all this mess, and all the nights she works through to prepare documents for court.

Each time I spy an Ophelia-like child, or even a gesture, a book, or a single word that reminds me of you, I still take a deep breath, and a wave of emptiness washes over me. It still blind-sides me, and brings a sudden unbearable longing to hold you in my arms and comfort you.

So, let’s continue my story, so that one day, you’ll know your Dad never gave up on you…

Your Aussie family

Your Aussie family

G’day Missy Higgins! Happy NY! How are you on this cold clear day in Tokyo? I’m flying high, on my way back to Japan from Australia. The pilot said it’s only 6 degrees Celsius in Tokyo. I wonder if you’re happy planning ways to spend all the otoshidama you received for the Japanese NY. C and Dad left Melbourne at 12.50am this morning, a little disappointed ‘cause silly Dad left all the cheese we purchased in Sean’s fridge… BAKA ne! We had a lovely last night all the same, surrounded by your Australian family, all your cousins, aunts & uncles. We met at Sean’s around 5.30pm and quickly headed across to the enormous park directly opposite for a game of basketball… Dads versus cousins; the cousins could have done with your teamwork & leadership, not to mention height. In the end though, I think the cousins won 3 – 2.

Cousins Chris & Luca

Cousins Chris & Luca

For dinner we went to a lovely authentic pizza restaurant, just a short walk from Sean’s. It would have been complete, had you been there running through the park with your Aussie cousins. Your cousins, Luca & Billie, Allie & Chriso ate a few pieces of pizza, then quickly set to work on their art. Later they decided to sell their pictures, 4 small pieces for 40 cents, or 1 large artwork for 40 cents.

We said our farewells to my brothers and their lovely families, and then Deirdre & Kerry took us out to the airport.

Uncle Rich &Aunty Rach

Uncle Rich & Aunty Rach

On Tuesday January 1st, I welcomed the New Year with a 30 minute run, 40 chin-ups & 100 push-ups. Gotta stay strong, and can’t let this beat me. Gotta stay positive, and do what is right… so while the rest of Australia slept off a hang-over, I took the opportunity to exercise and think of you. Just before lunch we went to Doncaster again to see if C’s handbag was on sale… NY sales! But no such luck…

Then later, we dropped into Robert Munro’s to say “thank you” for the two reports he’d written on our case for the Family Court of Japan. Robert is the Australian child psychologist who also worked as a mediator for the Australian Family Court. When he heard about our case through his daughter (my high school friend), Jenny Munro, he kindly penned his first of two reports. He’s an amazing man, and I so hope some day you get a chance to meet him.

Tad exhausted after the early start to NY’s day, so we took a quick nap, then we went up to Belgrave to watch Les Miserables, and much later, a late bbq with Nandee & Pa.

Monday C and Dad visited Mick at Saint Kilda (he promised he’d visit us in Japan later this year), then a spot of shopping on Brunswick Road, and onwards to Cate’s and a tour of Billy’s magical kingdom. You would have loved the imaginary play area Billie has carved into a part of the backyard. Your cousin, Billie was like a delightful pixie telling us what everything was. I am not sure I’ve yet told you that Sean & Cate broke up… it was about 3 years ago. Cate’s still very much part of our life, and there’s no doubt she’ll always be your aunt. She’s always very generous and warm, welcoming C & Dad into her home. She even gave us smashing Chrissy gifts, Bran Nu Life, it’s an Aussie movie, and it came with the soundtrack that your cousin Billy loves to sing along to. And can she sing! Billie, or as I call her Bill-Star can really hold a tune and has an amazingly strong voice for a child of her age. Together we looked at photos of their trip to Western Australia, 6 weeks in a small campervan… imagine that Bella Phi, C you & me driving off into the sunset each evening across Australia. Before we took our leave, there was still time for a game of snap and 2 puzzles with Billie, then some shopping in the nearby Northcote shops and some fish n chips too.

Arrived back at Nandee and Pa’s and there was an invitation to join Diana & Ralph for a glass of wine. Did you know that Ralph & Dad have known each other since we were 12 months old… that’s 44 years! Ralph and I were enjoying a good chat and of course sampling some of his wine collection, when the music from the living room threatened to wake Japan! Diana, C & the kids were going gangbusters! Oh, Phi, you would have loved the dancing, and Ralph has this amazing laser system, so it feels like a disco. So we finished the evening dancing at Ralph’s.

Wish you could have joined us… You know you could have, if only your mother had kept her word. When she took custody, she signed off on a visitation contract from The Family Court that included trips to Australia to see your family… only she denied you that right too.

Love Dad… XoXo

CRAZY QUESTIONS

How did your Dad ever get mixed up with Dem Crazy Baldheads from Saint Maur:

 

Or this one… There really couldn’t be a finer example of Algorithm Taiso than this…. http://vimeo.com/38611105

 

Sunday, January 6th 2013

G’day Phi. A bit cold jogging this morning, what did you think Skinny Morice? Below, I’m going to attach a few links you might like to browse:

 

Geoffrey Morehouse posted this in Bring Back Our Children:

http://www.bachome.org/wordpress/2013/01/parents-speak-out-in-japan/

 

Anatomy of Kidnapping from ABC Australia:

http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2012/s3656198.htm

 

And this one from Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion (CPR), which was set up by friends of ours (John Gomez). You might even spot a photo of Dad, and perhaps another pic of C holding up a photo of you and me:

http://kizuna-cpr.org/chronology

It’s a lot to take in, so I might just leave you with your thoughts… XoX…

AMAZING TRUTHS

  • January 4th and the world’s most expensive tuna was sold for 1.7 million Australia dollars at Tsukiji Fish Market!
  • It was 41 degrees Celsius a few days ago in Melbourne!

Saturday, January 12th 2013

Hello Ophelia. While C & Dad were in Australia we met with the Australian Family Court psychologist Robert Munro. He informed us that Japan’s refusal to sign the Hague Convention on Child Rights, and its discriminatory sole-custody system was receiving considerable attention in both the media and diplomatic sector. He suggested we tune into a Current Affairs Special – Anatomy of an Abduction. If you’re interested, the link is: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/currentaffairsspecials/radio-current-affairs-documentary3a-anatomy-of-a-kidnapping/4431870

I can forgive your mother, after all, what she did, was out of a warped sense of love, but I’ll never forget…

WONDERFUL WISDOM

The ultimate source of a happy life is warm-heartedness. This means extending to others the kind of concern we have for ourselves. On a simple level we find that if we have a compassionate heart we naturally have more friends. And scientists today are discovering that while anger and hatred eat into our immune system, warm-heartedness and compassion are good for our health. – Dalai Lama

 

Tuesday, January 15th 2013

G’day Phi, this past weekend C & Dad went to Chiba to visit C’s family. Dad left Mrs. O’s present from Australia on the train heading into Shibuya! Baka ne! We changed at Naka-Meguro and, again, I just foolishly forgot the gift… baka ne! I’m hopeless like that Phi; I’ve forgotten my red bag aboard buses & trains about 4 times now, once on our way to Haneda with my passport, camera, etc., inside!

Anyway, when we eventually arrived, and Mrs. O had a lovely dinner prepared; karage, sushi, miso soup and of course I had a couple of beers with Mr. O. Sunday morning, I braved the cold Chiba morning and went for a run with Ponta. He’s a bit like Riku, fast as a Ferrari over the first 3 or 4 km, then he falls in a heap and has to be dragged home.

On another note, I’ve been following the case of Yasuyuki Watanabe ever since we saw him speak at The Diet. As a lawmaker, he has clout and power, so his fight against the Family Court and its archaic laws grabs attention. Here’s an article I read recently:

Child custody injustices hard to fix. Joining Hague may curb parental abductions if legal mindset evolves.

 

By MASAMI ITO, Staff writer

 

Playing catchup: Yasuyuki Watanabe, deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, speaks during an interview at a Tokyo hotel on Dec. 11. SATOKO KAWASAKI

 

On May 6, 2010, Yasuyuki Watanabe, an internal affairs ministry bureaucrat, came home to find his wife and 2-year old daughter gone, along with their clothes. His wife had spirited away their daughter near the end of Golden Week, just days after he was enjoying the holidays taking her on hikes and to local festivals, recalled Watanabe, 40, now deputy mayor of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture. He recounted how he carried his daughter on his back and how they sang songs together until she fell asleep, snuggling against him.

            His world was turned upside down that fateful day. Last month she turned 5.

“It is so important for children to feel loved by both parents, especially when they are growing up, and I think that my daughter feels abandoned by me, that I left her because I didn’t love her anymore,” Watanabe told The Japan Times during a recent interview in Tokyo. “The most painful thing about my situation is when I think about how my daughter must be feeling.”

            Watanabe is one of many parents in Japan who have been torn away from their children after a falling-out with their spouse in a nation that grants only sole custody, usually to the mother, and where it is customary for parents not living with their offspring, to have little, if any, contact with them.

This has also been a widely reported harsh reality for foreign parents, including those living overseas whose children have been taken to Japan by estranged Japanese spouses.

            These so-called parental child abductions are behind growing calls for Japan to join the international Hague treaty to prevent such cross-border kidnappings.

“These two problems are actually closely related because the domestic and international situation is the same — your children are abducted one day out of the blue and you are forbidden from seeing them,” Watanabe said.

For Watanabe, what followed was a long legal battle with his wife, and divorce proceedings, which continue.

            Initially his wife let him see their daughter a few times, but that stopped abruptly when he was slapped with domestic violence charges — which he branded a lie. His wife alleged he had threatened her with a large pair of scissors while she was pregnant and told her he knew yakuza who would be willing to help him out with the situation by pushing her off a station platform in front of a train. The violence charges were later dropped. “There is nothing more terrifying than receiving an order to appear before the court over ‘DV’ allegations. I was completely distraught. The judge, however, recognized that much of her claims were questionable and warned she could be charged with false accusations, so she dropped the charges the day before the ruling was to be made,” Watanabe said. But his wife then filed a lawsuit, demanding custody of their child and, again, adding allegations of abuse.

            Last February, presiding Judge Tatsushige Wakabayashi at the Chiba Family Court granted Watanabe’s ex-wife custody of their daughter from the viewpoint of “continuity,” ruled that Watanabe had committed domestic violence and rejected his demand that his daughter be returned. The Supreme Court finalized the ruling in September.

            While his legal battles dragged on, Watanabe asked lawmakers to address the issue and his case was deliberated on in the Diet.

            Given his public profile, Watanabe originally wished to remain anonymous. But to garner public support for his situation, he recently came forward to tell his story to the press. “I’ve been labeled a DV husband, and the judge completely ignored the facts and the law in my case. I had no choice but to stand up and fight,” he said.

            Watanabe has solicited the help of a special group of lawmakers who are trying to get Judge Wakabayashi fired from the bench. Among the so-called left-behind parents in Japan, Wakabayashi has spurred widespread ire, especially when in 2011, he criticized then-Justice Minister Satsuki Eda for telling the Diet that priority should be placed on the welfare of the child rather than the “principle of continuity.”

“There are many people in similar situations. I cannot give up for their sake. It is not just about me and my daughter. This is a battle for all children and their parents,” Watanabe said.

            According to data compiled by family courts, there were 409 parents seeking the return of their offspring from an estranged spouse in 2001, whereas by 2011, there were 1,985 parents seeking to get their kids back. The numbers, however, reflect only the legal cases filed by left-behind parents that were officially accepted by the nation’s family courts. Experts speculate they constitute only the tip of the iceberg.

            Masayuki Tanamura, a professor of family law at Waseda University, said various factors are behind the increase in parental child abductions, including Japan’s sole custody principle and the current legal framework that generally grants that right to mothers. “Times have changed — fathers are more involved in child-rearing, and the legal system — including the principle of sole custody — makes battles over children more likely to happen. I think this part of Japan’s legal system is outdated,” Tanamura said.

            One major difference that makes Japan’s legal system peculiar is that when an estranged spouse initially takes a child, it isn’t considered a crime. This is because it is common for an estranged parent, generally the mother, to take the children to her parents’ domicile if a divorce is being contemplated.

            But if the left-behind parent then subsequently tries to retrieve the offspring spirited away from their home, the action is considered kidnapping. Tanamura claimed there are many cases in which parents who spirit offspring away are unaware such action could be construed as abduction. From their point of view, they are merely considering a divorce or fleeing an abusive environment. “It is hard to label all parental kidnappings as illegal . . . but at the same time, there are many cases that could constitute a double standard. It’s OK for mothers to first take the children away, but when the fathers try to get them back, this is illegal,” Tanamura said. “This is based on the longtime concept that children belong with their mothers.”

            To prevent children from losing access to both parents after a separation, Article 766 of the Civil Law was revised in 2011 to specify that visitation rights, child-support payments and other matters be determined during nonlitigated divorce proceedings, and that the welfare of the child be considered first. But even this change can’t help people like Watanabe because his case was ruled on after the amendment. “The aim of the revision is to promote forming agreements (over child care) when getting a divorce. But there is nothing that guarantees compliance,” Tanamura said.

            Tanamura and other experts thus agree that if and when Japan signs the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it must at the same time institute fundamental changes in the legal system, and the public mindset must also be overhauled, or joining the convention will lead to naught.

            John Gomez, chairman of the recently founded Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion, a group of Japanese and non-Japanese parents, friends and supporters advocating the right of children to have access to both parents, emphasized the need for left-behinds to cooperate because simply joining the Hague Convention will not solve anything in Japan if it continues to take a one-sided approach to domestic custodial rights. “The problem of international cases and in-country cases has the same root cause — Japanese family law and the courts,” Gomez said.

            “The abduction issue affects all people in Japan — mothers as well as fathers, Japanese as well as non-Japanese.”

            The Hague treaty aims for the swift return of children wrongfully taken out of the country of their “habitual residence” by a parent to prevent cross-border parental kidnappings. Of the Group of Eight countries, Japan is the only nation yet to sign the convention.

            Japan has been under pressure from member states, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, to join the convention, but it has been reluctant, given strong domestic opposition, especially from Japanese mothers who claim they fled to Japan with their children to protect themselves from abusive ex-spouses.

            Facing severe criticism from the international community, however, Japan finally reached the point of submitting a bid to sign the treaty and Hague-related legislation to the Diet during the last session presided over by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan. But the politicians instead spent most of their time bickering over internal power struggles related to other domestic issues, pushing the Hague Convention to the sidelines once again.

            And it remains unclear whether the issue will move forward under the new government led by the Liberal Democratic Party.

            Government officials have expressed confidence that once deliberations begin, the Hague bid will be approved by the Diet. But parents, including Gomez, a longtime Japan resident who himself is separated from his Japanese wife and is having difficulty seeing his daughter, say joining the Hague treaty is only a step in the right direction, not a silver bullet.

            Gomez explained that on the legal front, parental kidnappings must be stopped, visitation rights made enforceable and the idea of joint custody introduced. But he added that public awareness must also be raised at the same time so the public understands the benefits of the changes to ensure the rules are followed.

            “The Hague is only one tool. The ultimate goal for us is a social and legal transformation of Japan . . . a complete transformation in terms of mindset and practice,” Gomez said. “We firmly believe, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, that the social and legal transformation is for the betterment of Japanese society and children and improvement in the quality of life.”

 

Wednesday, January 16th 2013

            Hey Phi, sorry I haven’t been able to write to you recently. In actual fact, I’ve been thinking of you a great deal… I’ve been working on a rebuttal to your mother’s latest accusations. Here are a few snippets (if you want to read the document in full, let’s wait a while):

 

“What is honored in a country will be cultivated there.” Plato

 

“The highest law is conscience” Les Miserables, Victor Hugo.

 

…The truth is in the 76 letters of support. They speak of the truth of my relationship with Ophelia, a beautiful relationship where Ophelia often spoke of marrying her Dad, because he was her prince…

 

In regards to the Sports Festival & School Bazaar, my family and friends could all write letters to outline… the truth… But to what avail? Would the letters be read? No. Would their signed letters be taken seriously? No. The voices of the 76 people who have already written letters to the Family Court of Japan have been ignored. The Family Court is not interested in truth, merit & equity… its only interest is protecting its archaic sole-custody system…

 

… Ms. I…a still claims that there was no agreement that Ophelia would attend Saint Maur International, and yet a letter signed by the entire administration of the oldest and most respected international school in Japan states that Ophelia was in fact enrolled; conveniently ignored by the court…

 

 

… It was a dark period in her life. Depression is a sickness that can be treated. While we were living in Australia, together, we visited Doctor Winnie in Montrose, Victoria on a regular basis to better enable her to cope. At the time of our divorce, Ms. I…a acted responsibly by acknowledging that she wasn’t mentally or physically well enough to care for Ophelia. She acted with integrity and respect by granting me custody, and by doing so I began to trust her again…

 

… In regard to Ophelia’s photo being on my blog, there is nothing I will do. Ophelia deserves the right to contact her father. My blog represents letters to my daughter over the past 4 years. My audience is Ophelia, and Ophelia alone. The letters don’t blame Ms. I…a, in fact she is barely mentioned at all. In actual fact, the letters thus far posted to my blog represent but a small percentage of the letters I have written to my daughter. Because the court and Ms. I…a deny me any contact with my daughter, they are my way of sharing my life with her, so that one day she will have a window into my heart…

 

… Further, Ophelia’s photo is in the bedrooms of her cousins, on the fridges of her aunts & uncles and in photo frames in so many households. She is cherished by family & friends who constantly ask how she is doing in Japan. For every photo I post on social media, another 9 photos are posted by family & friends in her remembrance. She will never be forgotten and my family will continue to visit Japan in the hope of this court discovering the truth, so that they may see her again.

 

Regards,

 

Gerard Morice.

 

FAST FACT

Worked until 12.45am on my final rebuttal with C.

 

Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013

Phi, here’s some good news: Hague pact on fast track, Abe to tell Obama – Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will tell U.S. President Barack Obama when they meet, probably in February, that he wants to speed up the procedure for Japan to join the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, sources said Wednesday.

            The previous administration led by former Democratic Party of Japan leader Yoshihiko Noda had already made participation in the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction an international commitment.

            The Abe team is aiming to submit a bill to the Diet early this year to endorse the convention, which sets rules for the prompt return of children under 16, taken or retained by one parent following the failure of international marriages, to the country of their habitual residence.

            Domestic legislation is necessary to join the convention, but a related bill was scrapped when the Lower House was dissolved in November.

            Among the Group of Eight nations, Japan is the only one yet to join the convention and has been facing calls from the United States and European countries to get on board soon.

 

Let us hope Phi… Love Dad… XoXo…

Monday, January 21st

How’s my horse-loving daughter… friend to all things great and small. I wonder if you were horse riding up in the snows of Nagano over the weekend…

Dad had a good weekend that kicked off early Saturday morning. Dad left the apartment in Myorenji in the dark at 5.30am, and rode to meet the lads at Honmoku, Yokohama. Evan, Jamie, Bayser and David were all gloved up and ready. It’s a great feeling riding with a group, and although the lads aren’t too trusting to enable a proper peleton to power along, at times we ticked along at about 33kph. Once again, your Dad, the grandpa of the group, took out the King of the Mountain title. Each time I ride, I ride that hill for you, with you in mind, you my angel are my inspiration & power… unbeatable we are… we’ve always won the battle of the hill!

We arrived in Zushi just on 8am, but our favorite pancake place wasn’t open, so we ended up at a family restaurant… not bad though, because it has a great view of the ocean and Enoshima in the distance.

The same evening, Saturday, C & Dad watched Saint Maur’s performance of Amadeus. Later Dad joined a party of 8 at Green, a very cool tapas restaurant, to celebrate Nicholas’s success as director of the play.

I wish you were sitting alongside C & Dad… I would have loved to introduce you to some of the members of the play, who also ran x-country… Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACT

Climate scientists swear there’s nowhere drier than Chile’s little-known Atacama Desert. Funny I always thought it was Dry Valley in Antarctica

 

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/travel/activity/great-outdoors/driest-place-on-the-planet-a-nice-spot-for-a-drink-20121002-26wh9.html#ixzz2H3vIvSWZ

 

 

Friday, January 25th 2013

King of the mountain

King of the mountain

Good evening Phi. Did you know it was Nandee’s 70th birthday on the 22nd!? She’s doing alright too. Nandee teaches yoga, does quite a bit of gardening, walks everywhere, and even joins Pa on his 35km cycling tours. I woke up a little earlier than usual, and called her before school. It would have been nice to sing her happy birthday alongside you… maybe next year. I also made a digital card using imovie, you can check out the link:

We also sent her a lovely top that of course C found for her.

Today, your old man ran to & from school, 18km in total, but I was rather tired jogging home as I went considerably harder in the evening. It took me 40 minutes 29 seconds to get home, but almost 43 minutes in the morning. I’ve been running to/from school at least once a week recently, in fact I ran on Nandee’s birthday and set a personal best of 39 minutes exactly on the homeward leg. Fancy joining me next time?

Tyson, my former student

Tyson, my former student

On Wednesday, Dad’s former student from his days at teaching at Templestowe Park Primary School arrived. I used to teach Tyson when he was in grade 6… he was tall then, quite a good high jumper, but now he’s an enormous 193cm! He was and probably still is a great athlete. He was also an awesome kid. He’s now 23, and traveling around Japan. I met him at the Oguchi Station and we waltzed up the hill to home. C posted a message that she’d be a tad late, so Tyson & Dad went up to the OK supermarket and bought a few things for a seafood nabe. It was a great evening of banter, and C was just charming. On Thursday morning Tyson popped into Saint Maur at about 11am to meet my class, before heading off to Kamakura. The kids were rapped to see him.

When are you going to pop into my classroom? The door is always open… Love Dad… XoXo…

 

SCARY FACT

We were both in the world’s 4th biggest earthquake on March 11th 2011! It measured 9 on the Richter Scale

 

Tuesday, January 29th 2013

How are you feeling kiddo? There’s something being passed around at school this week. I hope you’re genki and healthy, running, skipping, climbing, playing hard! Today I had a few more kiddos absent in G3 with colds and viruses. At the moment we’re in the midst of the closing stages of paper work on our home purchase in Tokyo. C needs a big hug from you my Princess. I’m a big believer in your hugs curing all manner of ills.

It’s funny how certain memories stick. You weren’t often sick, but you did have vomiting spells that are ingrained in my mind. As morbid as it sounds, I sometimes think of these days and nights, because we were so close. You were so strong and stoic. Your smile weak, but clearly visible, your hug barely noticeable, but the way you snuggled into me melted my heart. You are truly something very special Phi. No matter what the courts take from me, they’ll never erase the most vivid and beautiful memories we have shared.

Fortunately C wasn’t unwell over the weekend. She was ready and willing to exercise… besides she’s keen on saving money. So Sunday & Saturday we cycled all over Yokohama & Shin-Yokohama looking at kitchen showrooms for our new home. It would be good to know what the existing kitchen looks like, at least the dimensions… but I guess we’ll have to wait. I’m sure I’ve mentioned the fact that the present owners of the house we’re purchasing, won’t allow a soul on the property… so it’s all going to be one big whopping surprise! We even cycled out to Ikea! Amazing huh?! Most impressed with my C’s cycling and determination; all up, I figure we probably cycled around 25km, and C on the mama-chari. We didn’t buy much because we knew we had to cart it back to Myorenji by bicycle. Still, it was nice to be out in the sun, cold as it was later in the afternoon… glad I remembered the gloves!

Saturday evening C made her best okonomiyaki yet! It was superb and Matt Wyman came over for din-din and ended up sleeping over. Matt’s another left-behind parent I’m sure I’ve mentioned in my letters to you. Sometimes, I can’t help but think, he doesn’t realize how lucky he is to see his two boys as often as he does. Yes, it’s not fair that his visitations with his boys are cut short, or even cancelled sometimes, but at least he gets to breathe the same space as his sons pretty much monthly. He’s a funny man Matt, makes me laugh, but it’s a one-way street when it comes to talking about the injustices of the Family Court in Japan.

Then Sunday evening after all our cycling, we were invited to Yuki & Sonia’s for a lovely Japanese seafood theme meal, smashing! It was the first time C had been back in our old neighborhood near Honmoku. Sonia has found a new job in Vietnam, so Yuki is thinking she’ll try and get her Japanese teaching license.

Love you more than from here to Sonia & Yuki’s station, Yamate Station! Dad… XoXo…

WICKED QOUTES

Only passions, great passions elevate the soul to great things (Denis Diderot)

 

Sunday, February 3rd 2013

Morning my beautiful, beautiful Bella! What are you sipping this cold Winter morning, hot chocola? It’s a lovely sunny Sunday morning in our Sky Lounge at Myorenji. The sun is streaming in, so we don’t even need the heater on. Dad’s just finished his second cup of coffee, checked a few school emails, and had a quick read of The Age, Dad’s favorite Aussie newspaper.

Remember...

Remember…

I’ve been looking for meaningful Wicked Quotes to include in my letters to you. Trouble is, it’s so interesting reading entire passages, I haven’t copied down too many, but those I have, are truly wicked (wicked in an awesome sense). Some quotes are inspirational, others reflective, and others just plain wise. Each quote in some minor or major way brings me a connection to you. I hope you enjoy them. When I started this journal to you, I only included FAST FACTS, because there were so many bits & pieces, knowledge &

I love your Kathmandu jacket

I love your Kathmandu jacket

skills, memories & reflections I wanted to share with you. I wanted you to somehow relive, rekindle the bond we once shared. Now my closing lines include these WICKED QUOTES and even HANDY HINTS for you to take or leave… it’s all from me to you, because I always have you in mind when I’m writing to you.

Yesterday was a pretty tough day for your Dad. I spent hours and hours sorting through your clothes and toys… again. I know I shouldn’t give up on the court system here. I know I should believe in the fact that only the truth can win. But I’ve somewhat resigned myself to the fact that the judge will side with your mother and officially prevent me from seeing you. It was a very emotional few hours but in some ways a cleansing experience. Some of your clothes were from Grace or Nicola, your old mates from Numazu; some of your toys too, including several cherished

Some of your videos

Some of your videos

boxes of Sylvanian Families. There were loads of clothes and toys from Nandee, other pieces from Aunty Rach & Cate, and plenty of things you and I bought together. Such wonderful memories, such wonderful times, such laughter, such joy… your spirit is alive and everywhere my dear Phi. The clothes and toys, puzzles, shoes are too good to throw away. A few I have kept as mementos, many I took photos of to one day show you, and many we’ll pass onto loving families with daughters like Craig & Akiko; their daughter, Aya, has already written me a thank you card for some cuddly teddy bears we passed onto her just before Xmas. So, I’m passing on Aya’s thanx to you, Phi, because they were your toys and clothes… I hope you don’t mind… Love Dad… XoXo…

FAST FACTS

The only thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience… I really like this quote, but I don’t know who first said it.

Aya was very, very happy to receive your old toys today!

Wednesday, February 6th 2013

Hey Phi. How’s your book on this chilly February evening? Still a bit of snow scattered about in Iruma I guess.

I’ve just read the following blog:

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/03/japanese-man-vacations-on-syrian-front-lines/

It’s quite disturbing, and I really worry about this guy’s sanity, but at the same time I kind of understand this guy. He’s holidaying in Syria and deliberately risking his life, perhaps hoping he’ll be killed and then his 3 daughters will receive his life insurance money. As you read further, you discover that Fujimoto is divorced, and says: “I have no family, no friends, no girl friend. I am alone in life.”

But he does have three daughters, whom he hasn’t seen for five years, “not even on Facebook or the Internet, nothing. And that saddens me deeply,” he said as he wiped away a tear. I can relate with him, empathize with his plight, but I wish he’d join us in our fight against the system in Japan.

Love Dad… XoXo…

AUSSIE FACT

What do we associate with Australia, FOOTBALL, meat pies, kangaroos and Toyota cars? After decades of sparring over their Holdens and Fords, Australian car buyers have embraced an unlikely local hero. Toyota has just celebrated a decade at the top of the new-car sales charts, outselling its nearest rival, Holden, by almost two to one, and leading the overall market to an all-time sales record of 1.1 million cars.

 

Monday, February 11th 2013

G’day Princess. How are things with you today? It’s Hot, hot, HOT in the Southern Hemisphere at the moment! Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the rest of our family are sweltering in Summer at the moment in Melbourne, but they are, while we enjoy hot, hot, hot baths before jumping into cold beds here in Japan.

Today I heard from Daniel Wass, a left-behind Australian father who rode his bicycle to Canberra to encourage our government to strongly persuade the Japanese government to sign The Hague Convention on Child Rights. And guess what, our dear friend Allen Hamer from Numazu rode out to Bowral with a page of signatures to meet Daniel and encourage our plight. What a gem hey! It gives me strength to know that beautiful people like Allen & Brenda Hamer are still fighting for our relationship. It would be so easy to forget the fact that we no longer see each other, but these wonderful, compassionate people remember the times you & I shared with them… thank you friends for keeping Ophelia & I in your hearts.

Here’s part of what Daniel Wass presented to the Australian Government:

“The physical harm caused to the child who is abducted by a stranger may be greater, the long term psychological harm caused to the child who has been abducted by a parent is greater. This is partly because the child has been taken by someone who is meant to protect them and who they trust. It destroys their sense of trust in the world around them. It is also because the child has been torn from everything and everyone the child knows. They are taken from a father or a mother, from grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. They are taken from their pets and toys, and from their school friends and many people who are highly significant in their lives.

Many of these children are forced to live as international fugitives. Their names are changed, they are sworn to secrecy, they are forced to lie, and they are told lies about the other parent in a way that often begins with, “Mummy or Daddy doesn’t want to live with us anymore.” It often ends some time later as the child grows older with a lie, “Mummy or Daddy is dead.” This is designed to prevent the child ever looking for the other parent.

Can anyone imagine the affect on the child or an adult when they eventually learn the truth. Is it any wonder that many of these children develop serious and in some cases lifelong psychiatric disorders. Once discovered, these children will often develop strong negative feelings towards both parents. They will resent one of them for abducting them and the other for not finding them quickly enough.

International child abduction is recognized as a form of violence towards a child. It is also recognized as one of the most extreme forms of emotional abuse a parent can inflict upon their own child. It is a gross violation of a child’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. The internationally recognized psychological profile of a parent who abducts their own child is cause for great concern. It includes the descriptors “paranoid delusional” and “sociopathic”. In the vast majority of cases the child is used a weapon by the abducting parent. They also use the child as a shield to hide behind to justify their own behavior to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately Japan and its judicial system still fails to recognize the serious mental and emotional affects that international parental child abduction has on the child.”

Anyway Phi, time for a hot bath. See you some day soon, hey?

Love always, Dad… XoXo…

 

WICKED QUOTES

I wonder if Einstein was referring to Japan’s Family Court when he said, “Insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

 

 

Wednesday, February 20th 2013

Hello Phi, and to any family or friend who may be reading along. Thanx for your thoughts one & all, we really appreciate your energy and positive goodwill. Needless to say, our case in the Family Court is strenuous and stressful, and at times demoralizing… but with C beside me, we won’t give in.

I’m a lucky Dad for so many reasons. I have Ophelia, and the memories I cherish safe inside my heart. I have my health, and an ability to see the best in people… my problem is, I don’t often see the worst in people.

In any case readers, thank you so much for your letters of support. It’s moments like these I often have a little listen to Tim Minchin’s White Wine at Xmas.

 

“…You my baby girl… you won’t understand

But you will learn someday

That where ever you are, and whatever you face

These are the people who make you feel safe in this world

My sweet [blue] eyed girl

And if my baby gal, when you’re 21 or 31

And Christmas comes around

And you find yourself 9000 miles from home

You will know whatever comes

[your cousins, your uncles, your aunts and your friends]

We will be waiting for you in the sun…”

 

A golden oldie, that always brings a tear, and definitely worth another listen or 2…

 

Tim Minchin’s White Wine at X’mas:

Thank YOU everybody… Luv & licks, Ged & C… & Ophelia… XoXo…

 

Tuesday March 5th 2013

G’day Phi, here’s an article on Parental Alienation you might be interested in:

Domestic Violence vs. Parental Alienation: Who’s right and who’s wrong

 

Ever since the term “Parental Alienation” was defined by Richard Gardner in the 80’s, and it began being used in child custody disputes, advocates for Domestic Violence and women’s groups and some family lawyers purport that Parental Alienation is junk science and is damaging to the family court cases.

 

Father’s rights groups on the other hand, advocate for its existence and claim that women are the majority of perpetrators. Who is right, and who is wrong?

 

According to Statistics, Canada it is currently estimated that the divorce rate is at almost 39% with 40% of children under the age of 18 residing in non-traditional family forms, such as, one parent, step parent, blended family homes, etc.

Also according with Statistics Canada, 47% of all family related homicides are committed by a spouse. Between 2000 and 2009, 26% of female victims and 11% of male victims were killed by a partner from whom they were separated.

 

Undoubtedly, research shows that Parental Alienation is as real as Domestic Violence and both-women and men’s groups-are right to a certain extent; despite their arguments they are in fact saying the same thing only expressing it in different ways. Courts wouldn’t hand an angry man a gun. Yet innocent children are taken from a loving parent and sent to an abuser on daily bases by our family courts, due to false accusations of Parental Alienation and Domestic Violence. Why is this happening in today’s society, where we have all sorts of technology and access to information on a variety of media sites?

 

It is a very fine line between Domestic Violence and Parental Alienation; in fact in divorced and separating families, the bridge between Domestic Violence and Parental Alienation, is Hostile-Aggressive Parenting and it can be easily crossed either way.

Abusive husbands obsessively pursue control over their partner by alienating the children from their ex-wife. Angry, vindictive mothers who act out on their abandonment rage, are systematically alienating their children from a father with no history of poor parenting. Both will bend and twist facts, to avoid accountability and shift blame. Accordingly, claims of Parental Alienation and Domestic Abuse become high powered weapons for them in family courts. What can we, as a society do to prevent this from happening?

 

An old saying “It takes a village to raise a child” applies to these cases. Professionals in the field and in the legal department have to be trained to recognize and differentiate between the story of a friendly parent who has suffered years of domestic violence and is now trying to protect herself/himself and the children from an extension of control and abuse from her/his former partner, and the story of a parent who screams Parental Alienation to cover up his/her violent behavior. In contrast false claims of Domestic Violence could cast a shadow over a genuine Parental Alienation case. The only way of preventing children from being hurt by an angry parent is if everyone gets involved and sends a strong message of disapproval to such hostile parents.

 

Hostile parents try hard to keep their behavior from being noticed by friends, family, and others in the community. Deep down they know that their behavior is wrong, but they want to be seen as the better parent. Members of the community can play an important role in eliminating the harm done by hostile parents to their children, by learning to identify the behavior and refusing to participate in the hostile parent’s campaign against the other parent.

 

Schools and child care agencies are on the front line when dealing with issues associated with families, divorce and chronic conflict. Many teachers, daycare providers and other officials will undoubtedly have to deal with children coming from broken homes, where chronic conflict is noticeable. They most likely have to deal with a hostile parent who attempts to drag the school in the midst of his campaign against the other parent. The most common situation is when the hostile parent attempts to restrict the other parent from participating in their child’s school activities. They should also make parents aware that hostile behavior is not accepted and that there will be no discrimination against the other parent unless a court order states otherwise.

 

For, extended family and friends to support a loved one through divorce, is a natural thing to do. Unfortunately far too often, many families and friends support an unfriendly parent. Most often they offer their support without ever questioning how their support may affect the children involved. Hostile parents are typically good at hiding the truth, therefore they are often mistaken for a “caring and concerned parent “. One sure sign of hostile parenting is when a parent who never before complained about the other’s parenting during marriage, but after separation he/she doesn’t seem to agree or like anything that the other parent do.

 

Doctors and nurses, social workers and police officers, are also in the front line when it comes to hostile parenting and chronic conflict. They should be careful that they don’t get involved in the hostilities between parents. Hostile parents present themselves quite well before authority figures such as doctors, police officers, nurses, parenting coordinators, etc. Hostile parents will often feed these front-liners misleading, one sided stories with the sole purpose to extract information, opinion, and recommendation, which will be later used to block the friendly parent’s access time. Failure by police officers and child protective workers to identify the signs of hostile parenting, could have devastating consequences for the children involved. The most common tool used by the hostile parent is to claim abuse on the child, as well as various unfounded allegations against the other parent.

 

High degrees of conflict during custody settlements and litigation are also sure signs in these affected families. Another red flag should be raised when a parent with no history of bad parenting is accused left and right of bad parenting, abuse, etc., soon after separation.

 

One thing proven by various experts is that Hostile-Aggressive Parents are unable to separate their acrimonious feelings for their former spouses from their parental responsibilities and they will not appreciate the needs of their child.

Chilling hey… love Dad… XoXo…

 

Monday, March 11th 2013

Evening my dear Ophelia. March 11th… etched in our memories forever. Two years to the day. How did you and your family, your community, your school commemorate March 11th?

Today at school (Saint Maur International School) we had a minute’s silence at 2.46pm; the moment the earthquake hit Tohoku triggering 3 catastrophes: the earthquake itself, the subsequent tsunami and the resulting nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. I’ll never forget that moment and the Monday following. I was in a meeting at school on March 14th and my phone went off. Surprised because no one ever really called me except my colleagues or C, I checked and found it was your mother. It was nice of her to finally return my many calls and to hear that you and your family were all well.

Anyway, back to present day… We got the committee back together a few weeks ago and organized a few reflective commemorations. We all wore our Pray for Japan t-shirts and posted poems (mostly haiku) up around the school. One of my students, Noa, who is from Switzerland found a beautiful song that reflected on the events of that tragic day 2 years ago. She uploaded it to our class wiki and we watched, hummed and swayed to the moving video on our class smartboard. I sat there and took it all in… 17 kids from all corners of the world sitting quietly on the carpet, side by side, reflecting, discussing, empathizing… just beautiful… only wish you could benefit from such diverse friendships, and an open-ended, multicultural and evolving education…

All the work, we as a committee did organizing our community to help out in Tohoku still brings a smile. In the end, there was over 7.5 million yen raised, 3 trips to help out in Tohoku, over 220 Pray for Japan t-shirts sold, 100s of community-building events to reflect and raise funds. We even appeared in a Jasmine Richards international video clip. Here’s a memorable video:

Here’s the FB link:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Saint-Maur-Earthquake-Tsunami-Relief/118227604924250

and the blog:

http://stmaurrelief.blogspot.com

 

and here’s a BBC link:

Big Tim Smith lending a hand

Big Tim Smith lending a hand

Back to the renovations… got your tool kit and a safety helmet Phi? Yesterday I knocked down the wall between the small tatami room and what will become the main bedroom for C & Dad upstairs. At first I was a little hesitant, fearing there might be some supports for the ceiling, but when I determined it wasn’t a weight-bearing wall, I had a bit of bash & crash fun, tearing it all down. Now it’s down, it seems so much more open and of course larger. I could have done with you there cracking the hammer too, and then helping carry the leftovers down to the dump site (beside the granny-flat). I think I’ll build a walk-in closet for C, what do you think about that idea? I think she’ll be pretty happy! A good hiding spot for you and your mates when you want to play hid and seek.

Milts & Erick helping out

Milts & Erick helping out

We’re still living in Myorenji, as the house in Tokyo has a long, long way to go before we can live there… but, the clock is ticking… I’ve only got to the end of March to make something of it, because that’s when the Myorenji contract expires… wish us luck… or better still, bring all your friends and come and HELP!

Love Dad… see you soon… XoXo…

WICKED QUOTE

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

 

Sunday, March 17th 2013

G’day, g’day, good day… my precious daughter.

Ripping up the tiles

Ripping up the tiles

Well, well, well, things are getting exciting. Today C & Dad rented a K-truck to haul 2 loads of belongings to the bomb site in Tokyo. It was a dull, grey day, but not too cold, and we were lucky it didn’t rain. I’m certainly excited and C is putting on a brave face. I say brave face because the house is freezing, has no heating, kitchen is pretty much inoperable, and we can’t take a hot shower either.

Pulling down the ceiling... wanna help?

Pulling down the ceiling… wanna help?

On the way back to Myorenji we stopped by a second hand store and bought a bread maker for only 2000 yen! The chap said it had been a wedding gift that was never used. I wonder though, because in Japan we don’t normally give gifts at a wedding. I also wonder if it still works???

Tad exhausted Phi, so I’m going to have to jump into bed… another busy week at school. But for you, it must be, or almost your Spring Vacation… end of Grade 4 and ready to start Grade 5, WOW! I’m not too tired to read you a story however, what would you like to read together this evening? What about a chapter classic? We could start Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist… I just love doing the voices in Oliver, there’s so much wonderful expression to wrap your lips around. There’s the villain Fegin, and the rascal, the Artful Dodger, and there’s the violent Sykes with his thundering voice too.

Milton & Dad getting dirty!

Milton & Dad getting dirty!

Love Dad & Chinami… XoXo…

FAST FACT

Dad put his foot through the floor at the new house today… not a good sign! Hope all the floorboards aren’t rotting!

 

Monday, March 25th 2013

The granny-flat we'll demolish

The granny-flat we’ll demolish. Can you picture a garden here???

Hey Phi, you’ll never guess who arrived this evening?! Kerry & Deirdre, your dear Pa & Nandee! I picked them up at the YCAT terminal at Yokohama Station. Would have been grand standing with you in my arms as the bus pulled in… it would have melted their hearts. I guess you’re not as light as you used to be, and Dad’s muscles aren’t as strong and young either. In any case, they look well. We went straight back to Myorenji where it’s a good deal warmer than Tokyo; besides there is nothing to sleep on and the hot water doesn’t work… yet! Chinami had prepared a yummy stew and there was a cold beer to share. We’ll stay at Myorenji until this weekend.

The old kitchen. The wall on the left will be demolished

The old kitchen. The wall on the left will be demolished

Tomorrow the reform company starts… it’s all happening! Our goal is for me and C & my mates (and you) to renovate all of upstairs, and all of outside (driveway, downpipes, plumbing & garden), and the reform company will do the kitchen, bathroom and living area. Hopefully I’ll find time somewhere to finish off the entrance and tatami room downstairs too… but we’ll see. It’s a tight schedule and the pyramids are on the horizon… Egypt here we come!

We missed you tonight, and I know there’ll be moments every day over the next 3 weeks while your Australian grandparents are here, when we’re all going to wish you were beside us laughing, smiling & sparkling… I love you Phi, and miss you ever so much… XoXo…

MEMORABLE MOMENT

Walking out of immigration at Melbourne airport with you in my arms when we first went back to Australia without your mother. You hugged me sleepily. You were wearing your bright blue knitted jumper, and you smiled shyly at seeing Pa & Nandee excitedly waiting to embrace us both.

 

Thursday, March 28th 2013

Phi, Phi, Phi… something happened this evening. I was sitting on the couch with Nandee and Pa and suddenly C left her computer and came and embraced & kissed me. It was beautiful, memorable and comforting. She then told me/us that most of your mother’s demands had been rejected by the Family Court in a document sent to my lawyers today, and that the court, could not see any reason for visitation not to continue. Great news, hey? But I don’t think anything is going to change in your mother’s mind. I have 10 days to appeal the decision, but for me, it’s unexpected good will and common sense finally being directed by the Family Court. I kind of expected the court to once again ignore joint custody rights, international research & conventions on child rights, and to side with your mother’s blind logic… but they didn’t… can you believe it! I can’t…

Demolition site

Demolition site

I’m not too sure how I feel because nothing has really changed. I still won’t be able to see you, nor will Nandee & Pa, even though they’re here in Japan, hoping to see their first grandchild. The court’s decision won’t pave the way for you to receive counseling, or enable you to contact your cousins, or bake a cake with Nandee, walk to the park with Pa and visit the 100 yen shop with C. You and I won’t be able to share stories, books and songs together. How can it be, that we have been denied a visitation since September 2011???

Even so, the result brings a certain calm because one day you’ll be able to read the court’s findings.

Almost done. Look who's driving!

Almost done. Look who’s driving!

At the same time, all the work that C did as my true legal counsel has paid dividends. The 100s of hours translating over 75+ letters (I’ve lost count), translating court documents, my statements, Bob Munro’s reports, etc., has proved fruitful and purposeful. In a way the court’s decision gives me strength and a certain conviction that a loving Dad and his cherished daughter are entitled to see each other.

I love you…

WICKED QUOTE

Look who's here! Nandee & Pa!

Look who’s here! Nandee & Pa!

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” Louise Erdich

That's your Pa

That’s your Pa checking out the kitchen!

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