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A little girl lost in Japan

Dear Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama,

I am a grandmother. When I walk through my family room I see all the smiling faces of my dear family members. One little girl smiles back at me from her many photos on the shelf above the fireplace.

She is my darling little Mine. I have only seen her three times in her lifetime, even though she is now 8 years old.

My husband and I saw her the first time in Japan. She was a beautiful little girl with brown eyes like her father, a quick smile, and at three months so bright.

The second time we visited her in Japan when she was 17 months. We loved her so much. Mine was a perfect child.

The last time we saw Mine she was 21 months old. Her father and mother, a Japanese national, came to Los Angeles to visit us. We all loved Mine’s mother as a member of our family.

Mine was a wonderful part of our lives. What joy she brought to her father’s American family. They were never pressured to move to America. We only wanted them to be happy.

Our son was a devoted husband and father. He adored his family. However, within a few months of that visit Mine’s Japanese grandmother decided that her daughter no longer needed to be married to our son, and Mine’s father was no longer needed. Mine was taken from her father, and us, by his wife’s family.

Our son went the prescribed route through family courts. He did not see his child for 2 1/2 years. During that time the child was told he was dead.

After a lengthy court battle, in which our son sued Mine’s mother and won, he was granted monthly visits with his child.

In the beginning the visits were a joy. But over time the family attempted to turn the child against her father. He continues to see her but always with her mother present, and for only a few hours a month.

On his monthly visit on March 21, her mother finally forced little crying Mine to tell her father, “I don’t want to see you anymore, Daddy.”

Her mother would not agree to go to a private place to talk; she insisted Mine tell her father in a busy train station. The child sobbed, my son sobbed, as Mine’s mother sunk her fingers into the child’s shoulder, saying, “Tell your father, Mine, you don’t want to see him anymore.”

Our son has an order from a Japanese court that states he must be allowed to see Mine once a month or her mother will be forced to pay him a large sum of money every day until he does. Mine’s mother has obviously decided to ignore this court order.

Who knows what the future will hold? Our son continues to live in Japan to be near his child. He has always paid child support. Even when he was not allowed to see his child he continued to pay her mother monthly child support.

As a grandmother, I love my darling little Mine. She is the hole in my heart. I can never hold her as grandmothers do, never tell her, “I love you, Mine,” never give her a little doll or special hug.

The Japanese government’s stance on foreign parents is horrid. Not allowing foreign parents access to their children is inhumane for the children as well as their parents, who are not allowed to interact with their child.

I am a child psychologist as well as a grandmother. I understand how very important it is for a child to never have to feel conflicted about loving their parents.

The very fact that this precious little one is caught up in this situation is in itself appalling. Children are so vulnerable and trusting. She deserves to feel loved by her father and his extended family. Unless Japan can change its stance on the “children’s right” to know their own parents, children such as Mine can never really develop a stable personal identity.

She is a part of each of our family and deeply loved by us, if only from a distance. Our blood courses through her veins. No government can change that. However, the Japanese government could preserve Mine’s right to know who she is and understand her heritage.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has appealed to the Japanese government to sign the Hague Convention (on international child abduction) and for Japan’s intervention in cases like Mine’s. Some children are equally citizens of other countries as well as Japan.

Japan can no longer ignore these children as a “dirty little secret.” The rest of the world is watching, waiting for the Japanese government to finally do what is right for all of these little ones and their non-Japanese parents.

Please reform Japan’s parental custody laws, for the sake of Mine, her father, her family here and other families left heartbroken around the world.

Submissions to Hotline to Nagatacho should address issues that affect your life in Japan or be in response to government policies. Please imagine you are actually writing to a government official — be it a local school board head or the prime minister himself — to bring attention to an important matter. Send submissions for Hotline to Nagatacho of between 500 and 600 words to community@japantimes.co.jp