TT-411 -- divorce surge

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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, March 4, 2007 Issue No. 411


- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
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It's been a while since we wrote about divorce in Japan.
However, an article in the Daily Yomiuri several weeks
back reminded us that this is one big black hole in Japan
and the law has not caught up with the changing social
realities. The article was the so-called "Troubleshooter"
column, in which a woman says that her 11-year old
daughter is reluctant to see her divorced Dad. The woman
said that she was concerned that if the child didn't see
her father (he wants to see her -- unusual for a Japanese
divorcee), she was worried that he might be inclined to
stop paying child maintenance.

To our surprise, the responding lawyer, a Ms. Doi, told the
woman that she needn't worry. She said that even if the Dad
couldn't see his kid, he'd still have to pay the child
maintenance and education costs. Does she really think he
can be made to pay? Also, her comment that the child
doesn't need to see her Dad if "she has started to become
emotionally unstable because of the burden [of seeing
him]" reveals one of the major reasons why he probably
never will pay. Because he's been marginalized.

Let's look at some of the real-life issues involved in
divorce in Japan when it involves kids.

1. The lawyer, Ms. Doi, is being naiive in thinking the
husband can be made to continue paying child maintenance.
According to some statistics we've seen, only 20% of
Japanese divorced Dads actually pay maintenance. One
reason for such a low rate of court compliance is that
Japan has no concept of shared custody, and so there is no
sense for the father of sharing responsibility for his
off-spring. Indeed, the prevailing view by lawyers and
counsellors is that it is emotionally damaging for children
to see a divorced parent, since it makes them confused and
upset. Talk about a diametrically opposed view to the joint
custody approach of most other nations!

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

2. Another big reason why Dads don't pay is that the Family
Law Courts are toothless and have no power to enforce
civil judgements, other than to allow the spouse to try to
attach assets or salary. But she has to find the Dad first,
and neither the court nor the police will help in this process.
The simple fact of the matter is that a determined Dad can
easily shift cities and jobs, and his salary stays intact.
Alternatively, he can form a company with one other
shareholder and place the assets in that company,
preventing her from attaching them since they are no longer
just his.

3. A third reason why Dads cut themselves off is "PAS":
Parental Alienation Syndrome -- something which is totally
unknown here in Japan. Perhaps this isn't surprising, since
PAS is only just starting to gain acceptance in the USA and
elsewhere. In the theory behind PAS, a child instinctivly
latches on to its caregiver and if it senses that the
caregiver hates the divorced parent, then the child will
take on the same values even if he/she really loves that
parent deep down. We note that this is very similar to the
Stockholm Syndrome experienced by kidnap victims.

The problem of getting deadbeat Dads to pay up is not
unique to Japan. But in considering just why there are so
many deadbeats in this country, it is clear that the legal
system offers no opportunity for Dads to experience an
on-going emotional bond and thus support his children --
kids who unfortunately have been encouraged to hate his
guts anyway. Shared custody, with guaranteed access by
both parents would go a long way to solving the problem of
emotional detachment and subsequent non-payment. But
then that requires some social re-engineering -- something
we probably won't see in our lifetime.

The divorce rate in Japan is quite high, at about 40% of
the number of marriages. The peak for divorce was 290,000
people in 2002. However, this dropped to 260,000 in 2005
and 235,000 in 2006 (annualized figure drawn from Nov 2006
stats). Despite what you may think, the reason for the
falling divorce rate isn't an improvement in marital
relations nor an improved economy. Rather, it's due to a new
divorce law which comes into effect in April this year and
which allows women to claim up to 50% of their husband's
pension in the event of a split.

Until now, older women getting divorced have only been able
to get a share of the pension if the hubby approved. If he
didn't, as has often been the case, then the best she could
expect was a much smaller hardship pension. The divorce
statistics imply that there is a huge number of stored up
divorces waiting to be registered after April --
potentially as many as 55,000 more than normal. It should
be interesting to see the effects of both this surge AND
the one that will inevitably come from the mass retirement
of the Dankai Sedai (Baby boomers) generation over the next
5 years.

Then of course there is the thorny issue of legal child
abduction by Japanese escaping an international marriage.
While the domestic media focus on the abduction of Japanese
nationals to North Korea, they make little noise about the
many abductions of kids of international marriages by
fleeing Japanese spouses. There are numerous documented
cases, so numerous in fact that some countries such as the
USA consider Japan the second worst haven for international
child abduction.

The problem is that Japan is not a signatory to the Hague
Convention in respect to the Civil Aspects of International
Child Abduction, although it has adopted some of the other
Hague Convention laws. Clearly this has been a conscious
choice by the government and our guess is that it is
probably an effort by the judiciary and political
conservatives to maintain the current status quo on
societal attitudes and family law.

If you'd like to know more about the ugly side of
international divorce, especially where kids are involved,
check out the Child Rights Network at If you're wondering why the
focus seems to be on fathers at that page, it's most likely
because a foreign father is the party least likely to be
allowed to keep seeing the children of a divorced marriage.
Yes, there have been cases of foreign mothers being
separated from their kids, but these are much rarer.

Lastly, while on the topic of kidnappings and North Korea,
an interesting human rights initiative has appeared here in
Japan, called The organization was started
in Niigata by Kasper Jon Larsen and a group of other
international students. The group aims to involve
ordinary people in lobbying governments to protect human
rights and humanitarian law. The first campaign focuses on
the threats faced by people in North Korea. Apparently
one in ten citizens of that country go hungry and entire
families are imprisoned as collective punishment for
political crimes. We've signed up already and encourage
you to do so as well.

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+++ NEWS

- Yahoo supports Yubari charity auction
- 2007 budget approved
- Funds pile into Nikko Cordial
- Analyst warns about Softbank accounting
- New dioxin cleaning device

-> Yahoo supports Yubari charity auction

Japanese firms are not renowned for their charitable side,
but Yahoo has decided to help out the debt-stricken
Hokkaido town of Yubari by conducting an online auction of
popular cartoonists' work. The 5-week auction will feature
the work of 40 cartoonists put together by Shogakukan, and
all the proceeds will go to the Yubari municipality. ***Ed:
We thought this was newsworthy because we can see great
scope for web charity auctions in this country. We're sure
that other organizations are watching the results of this
auction with interest.** (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 2, 2007)

-> 2007 budget approved

While the experts are all telling the government to stay
the course on cutting spending, especially since government
debt is now 150% of GDP and is likely to swell
significantly as interest rates rise, PM Shinzo Abe has
decided that the military needs more money. As a result,
instead of decreasing, the budget is rising 4% over last
year's number, to JPY82.9trn (US$705bn). The government
railroaded through the new budget in the Lower House this
week. (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 2,

-> Funds pile into Nikko Cordial

The foreign private equity and hedge funds have all learned
from the Livedoor experience that while skittish Japanese
investors make for the sidelines, distressed companies
provide an excellent window of opportunity to invest in
major assets which can be sold off later. Apparently foreign
shareholders now own more than 60% of Nikko Cordial, up
5% from December, 2006. They include Southeastern
Asset Management (6.08%), Harris Associates,
Mackenzie Financial, and some others. ***Ed: No
doubt these funds are expecting a pick-up of share value
with a Citigroup acquisition. The risk is that Citi doesn't
bite, in which case the funds will be on the hook to get
involved in the operations of Nikko Cordial -- something
that most funds are loathe to do.** (Source: TT commentary
from, Mar 3, 2007)

-> Analyst warns about Softbank accounting

In an ominous development, Hong Kong-based investment bank
CLSA had an analyst warn investors in a recent research
report that he found some serious "red flags" in Softbank's
accounts. The analyst said that the main problem is
Softbank's subsidiaries and frequent changes in accounting
policies. the analyst implied that the SESC, Japan's
securities watchdog is probably interested in knowing more
about these. Softbank's shares have tumbled around 10% in
the last couple of days and were a major contributor to the
drop in the Nikkei index. Softbank now has JPY2.38trn
(US$20bn) of long-term debt. (Source: TT commentary from, Mar 1, 2007)

-> New dioxin cleaning device

A Kyushu-based energy start-up called Hydrogen Energy
Laboratory Project Co., has invented a low-cost device for
reducing dioxins in incinerator fumes and ash. The device
uses both heat and a special ceramic that gives off
far-infrared rays to break down the dioxin molecules to a
level about 1/3 of the safety standard set by the
government (1 part per billion of incinerator ash). The
residue is then baked into pellets and could be used for
building material. The device can process about 50 tons of
incinerator ash per day at a cost of JPY1bn. This is about
1/6 the cost of normal gasification furnaces. (Source: TT
commentary from, Mar 2, 2007)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.


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Correction. We wish to apologize to the ICA and
Entrepreneur Association of Tokyo for any confusion caused
by placing the ICA name at the top of an EA event in TT410.

------------ Entrepreneur Association of Tokyo ------------

Tuesday, March 6th event

Speaker: Bruce Livingstone, Founder and CEO of iStockphoto
and Sean Mooney, Representative Director of Getty Images

Presentation: 'Creating Opportunities for Crowdsourcing'

Don't miss this opportunity to hear from Canadian serial
entrepreneur, Bruce Livingstone, who last year sold his
company, iStockphoto to Getty Images for $50 million US.
Bruce will be joined by local advertising expert, author
and representative director of Getty Images (Japan),
Seam Mooney.

Date/Time: Tuesday, March 6, 7:00 pm
Location: City Club of Tokyo - Maple Room
(Canadian Embassy Complex)
Language: English

------------------- ICA Event - Mar 22 --------------------

Speaker: Masakatsu Kojima,
Director of Product and Engineering, HTC

Topic: Global Trends in Mobile Technology

Details: Complete event details at
(RSVP Required)
Date: Thursday, March 22, 2007
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner and Open Bar included
Cost: 3,000 yen (members), 5,500 yen (non-members)
Open to all- NEW LOCATION- Ristorante Conca d'Oro

IT events announcements are priced at JPY50,000 per week.
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