Every Child

Has Two Parents


Japanese Father, Tsugunari Yamada Takes Daughter from Cuba and Denies Contact to Mother Yamila


Then he divorces her in Japan by allegedly forging her signature on documents.

September 24, 2005

My name is Yamila Castellanos, and I am a Chilean (recently obtained my Chilean Nationality after residing for 8 years in Chile) from Cuban origin. I married Tsugunari Yamada, Japanese citizen who resides in Japan with whom I had a daughter, Emiri, who was born in December 2000.

Within this context, I am taking the liberty to present you a dramatic case of parental abduction in which my daughter, Emiri, has been removed and is illegitimately retained by her father in Japan, based on what is established in The Hague Convention of 25 October1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of which Chile is a signatory country.

As you will see from the lines that follow, it is clear that both my baby daughter Emiri and I have been treated with the most extreme cruelty and in the most inhumane way by Tsugunari Yamada, who has violated not only the Japanese Laws, but also international conventions such as the International Convention of the Rights of the Child or the International Convention of Women’s Rights.

My Story

Since her birth, I have been taking care of Emiri, even after ending the relationship with my husband, who psychologically mistreated me, and who decided to go back to Japan (transferred by the company he works for) when Emiri was only 1 year old. I have been separated from Tsugunari Yamada, father of my daughter, since October 2001.

The relationship that was already very difficult between us deteriorated even more, and a growing coldness from the father to my daughter occurred as he kept himself apart more and more; he started to significantly cut down the financial help he used to send us, and I agreed to my husband’s request to move to the United States of America, because according to him I would have better job opportunities there, and it would be easier for him to help us and see our daughter more often.

As a condition for this help, he asked me to leave Emiri with my parents in Cuba so I could quietly look on how to settle ourselves in the USA. Thinking in the baby’s safety during this process, and through a spoken agreement with Mr. Tsugunari Yamada, my baby girl stayed under the temporary legal custody of her grandparents in Havana, Cuba, until she could reunite with me once I was legally in the USA.

I traveled to Havana on November 9, 2002, with Emiri, leaving an official document written by the Consultoría Jurídica Internacional (International Judiciary Consultancy in Havana) granting my parents this temporary custody (maximum of 3 months) of my child where it was clearly specified that they were the only ones allowed to leave the country with her.

On January 3 of this year, my husband, Mr. Tsugunari Yamada, who had not cared to see his own daughter in over a year, betrayed the confidence, broke his word and, taking advantage of my impossibility to enter Cuba on an immediate manner (Cubans who live out of Cuba need a special entry permit that takes weeks and even months to get) surprisingly traveled to Cuba, managed to obtain a judicial authorization to take the child out of the country and took her to Japan; all of what was done on my parents back who trusted him to the point of letting him stay in their home so he could be close to Emiri.

In spite of all my efforts in the distance so that he wouldn’t be allowed to leave Cuba with Emiri, and all the measures taken in Chilean and Cuban consulates in Miami, as well as in the Chilean consulate in Cuba, Tsugunari Yamada managed to take Emiri out of Cuba on January 18, 2003 via Mexico.

It is important to mention that the child was in hospital with pneumonia symptoms at the time, and regardless of that, Emiri was literally ripped off her grandmother’s arms.

I only managed to fly to Cuba on January 19, 2003 after uselessly waiting for the Cuban consulate to grant me an authorization to enter my country. Despite not obtaining that authorization, I decided to travel to Cuba anyway so as to personally try and stop my husband from taking Emiri with him, but I was detained and retained for 3 days in Havana’s airport. Once I was freed, I found out that my husband had left Cuba the day before my arrival.

After my unauthorized trip to Cuba I was deported to Chile, my country of residence, where for several months I have been doing several formalities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Minors Service, trying to obtain the collaboration of the Chilean government so as to recover my daughter.

At the same time, Tsugunari Yamada continued with his illicit behavior and among other things, divorced me without my presence, knowledge or consent by means of forging my signature in official Japanese documentation, granting himself full custody and rights over the baby, in clear violation of national Japanese laws and regulations.

Through a lot of effort and a public appearance in Chilean National TV (in a live show exposing my case), a businessman kindly paid for my plane fare to fly to Japan so as to face the Japanese legal system and as a first step go to a family court. Needless to say, no agreement or negotiation will from my husband exists. This family court meeting happened on August 11 this year.

It is worth mentioning, that since my husband arrived to Japan with my daughter, I phoned countless times asking him to let me talk to Emiri, but he objected avoiding any contact of my daughter and I.  After a lot of pressure, and 8 months after the abduction, I was able to spend one hour with her (under supervision) in court the day we and the attorneys met there. (The picture above was taken during this time.)  This has been all the contact with my baby daughter that has been allowed to me so far.

I have reached a stage where I really don’t know what else to do, who to ask for help, advice and guidance in this process. I am now living on welfare in Japan hosted by a  religious congregation I contacted while in Chile; managed to get my plane fares (US-Chile, Chile-Cuba, Chile-Japan) through friends who had some money saved and were able to support me with that, as well as from the kind donation of the businessman who happened to be seeing the show with his wife on TV. 

My tourist visa will expire soon, and possibilities to be granted a working visa here are scarce. It is very sad, but I have absolutely no financial support from my family, and the few friends that have not abandoned me during this process are mostly people who cannot afford to help me financially. I really feel  very frustrated and impotent thinking that perhaps some real opportunities to recover my baby are being lost, but it is the sad truth.

What is mentioned here is just a glimpse of all events, and  all this information and a lot more supporting my case has been stated in governmental offices, consulates, and legal instances, and documentation exists to verify my side of  this tragic story.

I strongly believe that all the components exist to build a solid case that could turn into one of the few existing examples of parental abduction being addressed through the Japanese judiciary system, supported by NGO's and Chilean agencies with a potential outcome of the child being restituted to the mother, and the abductor being punished at least for his illegal acts according to Japanese laws. Of course, this should involve  the support and involvement (that me, as an individual have not been able to get)  from the existing conventions such as The Hague, Child, Woman and Human Right Conventions, as well as international bodies such as UNICEF.

After reading, researching and talking a lot with many people on the subject and that have gone through similar painful experiences, I personally believe that successful "flagship" cases of parental abduction (as this could be, if a miracle happens) are strongly needed so as to highlight the issue, the legal gaps and loopholes, and in some case the inefficiency or disinterest of attorneys,  governments, international conventions, and instruments.

October 2003 Update

I have traveled to Japan on a 3 month tourist visa.  I want to obtain a visa for at least for 1 year so I can keep going to Family Court and be near my daughter.  This is a huge problem if I have to leave because I cannot afford to travel back and forth.  But my daughter is in Japan and I cannot legally work in Japan.  I am in despair, and feel like I'm going through living hell trying to recover my daughter and fighting for my rights and my child’s right to live with her mother. Then if I fail, I will not be allowed to stay and work in Japan.  How can I get a visa even to just visit my daughter?

[Editor's Note: Further details here have been deleted because the mother fears that if the father knows too much, he will try to stop her from obtaining a visa and get her deported.  This is a good example of the need for a "Parent of Japanese Child" visa category.]

February 2004 Update

This web page was removed from the web from mid December to mid January, in compliance with a request from Yamila. This was part of a negotiation at Family Court where her husband demanded that she take down all internet references in exchange for the opportunity to see her daughter. The visit was scheduled on 22 December. The bargaining resulted in a visit of merely 30 minutes. Thus Yamila has met her daughter a total of 2 times since the alleged kidnapping, in other words, two times in one year for a total of one hour and a half.  Prior to the alleged kidnapping the child was reportedly energetic, confident in herself and in her mother. Now the child is quiet, reticent, afraid of repercussions for accidents, and possibly confused as to the identity of her own mother.

Further, Tsugunari Yamada has submitted paperwork and according to his Family Registration is now married to another woman who had came to the courthouse for the visit.  If Yamila's allegations of forgery are correct, this would make him guilty of bigamy.  Finally, Yamila's lawyer, Genichiro Yamaguchi quit the case, leaving Yamila without a lawyer.

June 2005 Update

Yamila was back in court in Japan on May 31.  She was prosecuting Yamada for forgery.  He is accused of signing her name on a Japanese divorce by mutual consent document and submitting it to the government.  Of course the document gave him custody of their child. There was a big presence at court on Yamila's side.  About 10 people showed up for her (several foreign lawyers and a couple Japanese lawyers as well as a few friends) but no one for Yamada.  Yamada and his lawyer seemed visibly shaken. Suganuma-san, Yamila's lawyer, called both Yamila and her husband up as witnesses.  She did an excellent job of questioning the witnesses.  They had an excellent translator for Yamila.  On the other hand, the husband and his lawyer seemed to be so totally unprepared, they looked like they thought it might be an in and out in 20 minutes.  In fact it went past 5 pm.  The husband presented very poorly, and Yamila was very cool and calm.   The next court date is set for 26 July.  Contact CRN Japan if you want to attend and show support.

Yamila is being hosted in a private home, and most of her lawyer's bills on the Japanese side are covered by a generous sponsor.  However, she is still scrounging for daily personal expense within Japan and phone calls back to her lawyers in Chile.  Donations would be deeply appreciated and will help her keep on fighting for the return of her daughter.  (Details on how to donate are here.)  The opposition is counting on her to run out of resources and drop the case.  She and her support team are determined to see that it does not happen that way!

September 2005 Update

Yamila had a court date on Aug 24, but neither the father nor the lawyer showed show up.  Instead, they sent a letter to the judge saying they would not be there because Yamila's visa was going to expire a couple weeks later.  Of course she was able to extend it, because you can extend Japanese visa's when you are in court.

Although Yamila was not even in Japan when the allegedly forged document was submitted, and a handwriting expert has submitted a report, we are worried that the judge will find some way to support the status quo and ignore the evidence.  Please see the instructions on how to show up at the next court date to lend support.

February 2006 Update

As of late December, 2005 Yamila has seen her daughter twice since the kidnapping for a total of 90 minutes.  See JapanWithKids.com for some additional observations on Emiri's health.  In late 2005, Yamila was denied a visa extension to continue her court case. She had to fly out of Japan and back. Thankfully, she was let back in, but it was a needless waste of money. Although the details are unclear, it appears that a judge has indeed ruled against Yamila's forgery claim, and thus her attempt to regain custody of her daughter from Tsugunari Yamada.

Basic Summary of Events

  1. Yamila Castellanos, Emiri’s mother, is Cuban and obtained Chilean Nationality after residing for 8 years in Chile. This happened after the abduction of Emiri.

  2. Yamila took care of Emiri since birth, and testimonies as well as documentation exists that she is a capable and responsible mother

  3. Yamila suffered a very bad relationship with Emiri's father and could be defined as having been psychologically abused (there is documentation to prove this)

  4. While under her care Emiri was in perfect condition (there is documentation to prove this)

  5. Emiri's father left Chile when Emiri was 1 year old, and never cared to see her again until the abduction a year later. Emiri is 2 years 8 months old at the moment.

  6. Emiri stayed in Cuba with her grandparents with a legal document obtained in a Cuban governmental Agency were she  granted them the legal temporary custody of Emiri.  Emiri was in Cuba with a Chilean passport under tourist status.

  7. Nevertheless, Emiri's father accused the grandparents of kidnapping Emiri and managed to get the Cuban police to literally rip the child off her grandmother arms and take her away.

  8. Emiri was in a hospital at the moment because she had some respiratory problems.

  9. At the same time, Yamila was trying all possible channels to stop Emiri from being taken out off Cuba, and was also trying to get there.

  10. Before going to Cuba, and thinking in the safety of the child, Yamila signed a document granting Emiri's father or Emiri's grandparents to be able to leave Cuba with Emiri in case of need.  This document was revoked while she was in the US and while Emiri was still in Cuba.

  11. Going through an ordeal, Yamila managed to land in Cuba (Havana) trying to stop her husband, Tsugunari Yamada, from taking the child with him. Unfortunately, she got there 24 hours late, was put on detention (because she had landed in Cuba with no valid permit, which she had asked for giving the urgency of the situation, but was told that it could take at least 3 months which is what it usually takes). She was deported to Chile next week.

  12. This all happened during the first couple of weeks in January. Since then, she has gone through all imaginable channels, authorities and governmental agencies in Chile and Cuba, as well as contacting NGO's and international instruments (i.e. UNICEF) trying to get help through the media in Chile, etc. and has had different responses, from surprising negatives (UNICEF) to help or give advice to drastic "nos" and a few "let's see if we can do something for you", and many others.

  13. At the same time, Yamila's husband forged Yamila's signature to get the divorce, without her knowledge or approval, granted himself full custody and rights over Emiri, and registered her as Japanese. All of this based on a forged signature and violating Japanese laws!!!

  14. Since the abduction, he has avoided any type of contact between mother and child (even though he created false expectations a few times with the consequent harm to the mother when at the last minute he "changed his mind".

  15. After a lot of pressure, and 8 months since the abduction, Yamila managed to spend 1 hour while in court and under supervision with Emiri.

  16. The father actually told Yamila's lawyer once that he was willing to negotiate, but this hasn't happened yet.

  17. No agreement occurred in this first court event, nor any agreement of any further contact of Yamila with her baby

  18. December 22.  30 minute visitation with Emiri.

  19. Early February 2004, Genichiro Yamaguchi stops acting as Yamila's lawyer.

Additional Information

Yamada Tsugunari works at the following company:

Janome Sewing Machine Co., Ltd.   President Mr. Sumikazu Kato
Janome Bldg.
3-1-1 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-8311
http://www.janome.co.jp   http://www.janome.com

The information on this website concerns a matter of public interest, and is provided for educational and informational purposes only in order to raise public awareness of issues concerning left-behind parents. Unless otherwise indicated, the writers and translators of this website are not lawyers nor professional translators, so be sure to confirm anything important with your own lawyer.

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