Our Mission is to disseminate information to help change attitudes and laws in Japan in order to assure all children of direct, meaningful and continuing contact with both parents, regardless of citizenship, marital status or gender.  We want to restore the rights of children in Japan with separated parents, such as in divorce, international parental abduction to Japan, parental kidnapping within Japan and birth out of wedlock. The Japan Children's
Rights Network has a large collection of English language information on Japanese Family Law which provides experienced-centric information on parental abduction, child custody, and visitation rights in Japan.  We also provide a web based service to help children contact left-behind parents and document cases of parental abduction, denied visitation rights, discrimination, child abuse and other such activities in Japan.

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

Accepted in courts world-wide, PAS is little known in Japan.  We now have information available in Japanese that could be submitted to Japanese courts to educate them on what appears to be a growing phenomenon in Japan.

Japanese Government Sanctions International Child Abduction

There are a growing number of world citizens who see Japan not as a highly educated harmonious society, but as a haven for international parental abductors.  A Japanese spouse living overseas knows that if he or she abducts their child and runs to Japan, they will have access to a court system that refuses to enforce foreign court orders for custody and will grant them custody of an abducted child.

Thus, it's no wonder that Japan will not ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child AbductionPerhaps not coincidentally, Japan is the only country which has signed the  International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, yet refuses to enact any non-discrimination lawsIn January 2004, the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations submitted a severely critical 218 page report to the United Nations concerning the Japanese government's disrespect for and dismal implementation of laws to support  the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Japan has signed and ratified.  Satisfying these treaties would require significant changes throughout Japan's Family Court system, as a coalition organized by CRN Japan points out in its recent report to the United Nations.

Even the United States, Japan's closest ally, sums up the situation frankly and accurately in several State Department web pages and in a letter to left-behind parents, although it does not get into the issues of visitation, retention and bias against non-Japanese in custody rulings, described below. We urge you to read these United States State Department statements carefully.

In Japan, Possession Equals Custody

It is common knowledge among family lawyers in Japan, that if a husband and wife are undergoing marital strife (since joint custody is illegal outside of marriage), one parent may suddenly grab the children from the family home, run and hide.  There are many documented cases of this among Japanese as well as international couples.  If this parent can hide the children long enough, the Japanese legal system and the family courts will soon support this "retention" on the basis that it has become a "stable environment" and is thus in the "best interests of the child."   Family courts even encourage this by not granting visitation while a divorce or custody case is in process, which often takes several years.   The court then issues its decision based on this new "stable environment" that excludes one parent, which the court helped to create in the first place. Thus, Japan effectively legalizes parental kidnapping.

Resolving custody of course requires using the Japanese Family Court system.  But when only one parent is Japanese, the Family Court virtually always awards custody to that Japanese parent.  If the child is listed on a Japanese Family Registration (koseki) a court will not remove it by awarding custody to a foreigner. Hence there are many claims of racial discrimination against the Japanese Family Court system.

Additionally, foreign parents are tremendously disadvantaged because of discrimination under Japan's immigration laws.  These laws do not provide a visa to non-custodial foreign parents with children in Japan so that they can continue to legally live and work in Japan. Foreign parents are thus denied the opportunity to live in the same country as their children, and face many additional barriers when seeking visitation with their children and/or pursuing legal actions in Japan.

A final danger is that Japanese Family Courts do not involve trained psychologists, nor do they adequately consider child abuse by a Japanese parent when making child custody decisions. These practices can discourage an abused wife or abused husband from trying to get help, out of fear that the abuser might run away with the children -- and keep them.  This endangers the welfare of both Japanese and non-Japanese parents alike.

Japan Visitation Rights Nearly Non-Existent; Non-Enforceable

Once custody is awarded to the Japanese parent, or in the case of unmarried parents where custody goes to the mother by default, the same biased Family Court gets to decide on visitation rights.  Court ordered visitation is typically a maximum of only several hours per month and usually does not allow the child to leave the country to see other relatives.  In one case, a foreign parent has full custody affirmed by the Supreme Court of Japan, but could not get the other parent to return the child, and was awarded only one visitation per year.

The only recourse is to return to the Family Courts.  But the court process takes years, still without visitation.  Even after a verdict, neither courts nor the police will enforce court ordered visitation and custody decisions.   So regardless of the decision, an uncooperative Japanese parent can effectively and permanently kidnap their child and then cut off all contact with the other parent. This is quite simply legalized parental abduction. It is in direct violation of Japan's responsibility to ensure regular visitation under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Japan ratified in its entirety on May 22nd 1994.

The poster child for this "uniquely Japanese" practice is none other than ex-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who as as reported by the Washington Post, LA Times, and elsewhere has denied his ex-wife any contact with their two children in his custody since their divorce many years ago.

This Japan Children's Rights Network Web Site

This web site gives background and explains the issues that make Japan a Haven for Parental Abduction.  You can read about the individual issues and the remedies we would like to see, including changes to many current practices in the Japanese Family Court system.   This web site is dedicated to helping those affected by the sad state of children's rights in Japan.  It provides a way for children to find and contact lost parents.  It also serves as a warning to others about what could happen, and how to prepare and fight back in case it does. As such,  it should be read by anyone considering marriage to or divorce from a Japanese citizen.

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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