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Readers reach out to lost friends and family in Japan

by Louise George Kittaka

Contributing Writer

Here is another of our occasional “in search of” columns featuring people hoping for a blast from their pasts, along with an update on efforts to help children and parents in international abduction cases.

Briton Alan Saxton is looking for Misako Mori, whom he met in Komatsushima, Tokushima Prefecture, back in 1965 during his time with the Royal Navy. They became penpals and had a mutual friend called Margaret Faulkner. Alan believes Misako is now in her 60s and has since married, but he has no further information.

Also searching for former penpals is fellow Briton Maura Clark. She would like to get in touch with Akemi Yoshida of Yokohama and Mayumi Kasa of Fukuoka Prefecture, both of whom she corresponded with as a teenager in the 1970s. Maura lived in South Benfleet in Essex at the time.

Next is a father looking for his daughter. Michael Spangler lost touch when his Japanese girlfriend — and the mother of his child — married someone else. His daughter was born on Dec. 16, 1996, christened Tina, and later renamed Mina. He notes that his former girlfriend chose to end contact at that time but assured him that she would support their daughter if, upon reaching adulthood, she wanted to get back in touch with her father. As Mina is now 21, Michael hopes this will be possible. “I am not trying to interfere in their lives in any way. I only would like to find a way to have some type of connection and relationship with my daughter,” he writes.

Susan Lane wonders if she has a half sister or brother out there somewhere in Japan. “My dad Raymond F. Slay was stationed in Japan in the late 1950s at the end of the Korean War. He had a relationship with a Japanese woman and before he returned home, she told him she was pregnant,” Susan writes. “That’s all I know. I would like to find out if I have a sibling or if someone is searching for him.”

Meetai Liao is also seeking a long-lost family member. In this case it is his Japanese cousin, Kazuhiko Tanaka, of Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture. Their fathers were brothers from Taiwan, but Kazuhiko’s father settled in Japan and Meetai’s family are now based in the United States. Meetai accompanied his father on a visit to Japan some 20 years ago and recalls meeting his uncle and cousin, but they lost touch over the ensuing years.

American Kevin Peets would like to get in touch with his friend Masami Tomizawa of Kyoto. The two men met in Boston in the early 1970s when Masami was a trainee at a Japanese restaurant and Kevin was a college student studying music.

Finally, while it is very much a long shot, Lupko Meijer from the Netherlands is wondering how life turned out for a young woman called Hiroko whom he met in the Bleu Gardenia bar in Yokohama in 1966 or 1967. (Her last name is unclear but may possibly have been Sakuma or Satoma.)

On parental child abduction

Also helping to connect loved ones is Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion (Kizuna CPR), a Japan-based NPO that has been mentioned before in Lifelines. Kizuna CPR advocates for international families torn apart through divorce or child abduction, with the aim of enabling children to have stable relationships with both parents under such circumstances. Representative John Gomez talked to Lifelines about the NPO’s latest news.

“We launched the G-7 Kidnapped to Japan Reunification Project with the objective of putting the parental child-abduction problem on the agenda of the G-7 Summit, to be held in Canada on June 8 and 9. Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion has entered into a working relationship with International Alliance Partners to achieve this objective. These partners are parents in member countries of the G-7 with abduction cases to Japan, and are from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S.”

In 2014 Japan formally joined the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which states that children under 16 should be returned to their country of “habitual residence” if abducted across international borders by one parent. The treaty is not retroactive, however. According to Gomez, Japan is not complying with the Hague Convention and two other international treaties on children’s rights, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) and the Vienna Convention.

“If applicable, these can be used as a legal premise in cases to petition for access to children if they were taken prior to when the Hague Convention took effect in Japan. In the Hague Convention, rights of access could be applied for in cases that occurred before the Hague took effect, if the child was living outside of Japan prior to being taken,” Gomez explains. “The UNCRC is applicable in all cases. The Vienna Convention should enable consular officials to access the children in Japan.”

For more information about Kizuna CPR, visit www.kizuna-cpr.org/g7-kidnapped-to-japan. For comments and questions, or if you have any information that might assist the readers searching for family and friends, please contact lifelines@japantimes.co.jp