Here is an interesting case on parental kidnapping,  “US dad sues Japan Airlines after ex-wife left with son,” that will be closely watched.

A US man has sued Japan Airlines, claiming it wrongfully helped his Japanese ex-wife leave the United States with their son, despite court orders that the child remain in California.

Scott Sawyer alleges the airline and a US travel agency agency knowingly assisted his ex-wife, Japanese national Kyoko Sawyer, take their son Wayne to Japan in December 2008 when the boy was two years old.

“There is a long list of red flags that existed in this case that should have caused the airline and travel agency to do something,” lawyer Mark Meuser told AFP on Saturday.

The companies were “deliberately turning blind eyes to the known parental kidnapping problem endemic to Japan and the warning signals surrounding this case,” Meuser added in a statement.

From a previous BT post[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, pg. 35 (full), dated November 18, 2009] :

By the way, here is what one lawyer in Japan thinks about the parental kidnapping issue when it involves a Japanese woman and a non-Japanese husband.

“A Japanese woman gets married to a foreigner and has a child. However, wife and husband don’t get along and she brings the child with her back to Japan. We, Japanese, react with a mere “Uhm”.

Here stories such as the ‘evil’ husband one day comes back home after work and finds no one at home because she went back to her parents` house are ordinary and don’t become a reason for a divorce lawsuit.

However, abroad this is called ‘child abduction’ and is considered a crime. In particular, in case of Japanese women, there are often cases in which they won’t listen [to their ex-husband], they ignore his letters and don’t even let him know where they live. […] For this reason, U.S., U.K. and France are urging Japan to join the Hague convention.

However, here such cases do not apply to International law but to household law and it’s not good to globalize everything in every case. Every country should be free to deal with the matter according to its own culture and it’s not that easy to say without any hesitation whether one should or should not sign the treaty.”

In 2010, it was reported:

[Via  The Economist] : “In effect, the country (Japan) allows a Japanese parent to breach custodial arrangements for a child being brought up abroad and abduct her back to Japan. There the courts invariably rule against the foreign parent’s claims. The instances of Japanese marrying a foreigner have been climbing fast, and in Japan now represent 5.6% of all marriages. International divorces represent a relatively higher proportion, meaning more children who are vulnerable.

Some 200 cases have been recorded of children of overseas nationalities abducted to Japan. The figure may be much higher if cases of marriages involving other Asians rather than Westerners are included. Britain has tracked 38 cases since 2003, usually involving a Japanese mother bringing her child to Japan. No case, says the British embassy in Tokyo, has been resolved to the satisfaction of the British parent. Click here for more.

[Via Japan Today’s repost of Japan Inc.’s Terrie Lloyd’s article]

Currently, Japan is known as a haven for disaffected Japanese spouses who, in getting divorced, abscond with their kids back to Japan. Once in Japan, they can dare their foreign spouses to try getting the kids back—something that despite around 13,000 international divorces a year in Japan and more overseas, has NEVER happened.

The reason for this astounding statistic, that of zero repatriations of abducted children from international marriages after the kids have been abducted to Japan, is entirely to do with the attitudes of the Japanese judiciary and their wish to maintain 19th century customs in the face of international pressure. Japan has ratified many parts of the Hague Convention treaties over the years, but in terms of repatriation of kids, they have been claiming for 20 years now to be “studying” the issue. That’s Japan-speak for “we’re not interested in making any changes.” Click here for more on this article.

You can read the rest of the JAL / H.I.S. – Sawyer story here. Previous BT stories on parental kidnapping and custody issues in Japan can be found here and here.

For additional information on international parental kidnapping relating to Japan, you may visit United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs at