For the past four years, I have served as a pro bono adviser to a women's rights organization based in Okinawa Prefecture, where I lived for eight years. The nonprofit organization was established in 2007 to provide counseling to women in matters of marriage, divorce, domestic violence and child support. It received 11 consultation requests in its first year, but the numbers have quadrupled in recent years, including several in mainland Japan.

In those involving pregnancy or children, the consultations include ninchi, the recognition of paternity (and the cooperation in determining it through DNA tests when paternity is initially denied); kokuseki, the acquisition of citizenship so the child has those inherent rights; and yoikuhi, financial support to raise the child. Tracking down the fugitive father or deadbeat dad is necessary, too, and requires a lot of time. I sometimes feel as if we have become paternity policemen.

These latter issues not only involve Japanese men and foreign men, but also especially those in the U.S. military assigned to Japan. This is the dark side of some exchanges — an ignored, unwanted or abused child, forgotten responsibilities, a shattered mother and a hole left not only in their lives but in the Japan-U.S. relationship.