JAPAN’S KIDNAPPING PROBLEM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently wrote a blog about Japan’s strange (to us) cultural norms regarding women’s roles. The blog elicited a lot of interesting comments so I decided to follow up with another blog about a different cultural phenomenon in Japan that is even more appalling to Westerners.

Japan has a unique approach to child custody that differs from most of the rest of the developed world. Japan does not recognize the concept of ‘joint custody.’ Instead, courts give custody to one parent, applying what is called the ‘continuity principle.’ This states that if the child is settled in one household, the continuity of their care should not be disturbed. This, in turn, means that if one parent kidnaps a child, once the ‘new’ household is established, the court will consistently award custody to the kidnapper.

This bizarre system is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, where children are not viewed as having individual rights or even as ‘belonging’ to their parents. They are seen as the ‘property of the household’ where they live, so as soon as a child moves to a new household (say, with the kidnapping parent), the estranged parent automatically becomes an outsider with no right to ‘disturb’ the newly established household.

As a result (surprise, surprise), tens of thousands of Japanese children are kidnapped EACH YEAR, by one parent, usually the mother. And the other parent, usually the father, has no recourse to the authorities or the courts for help. Hundreds of these parents/fathers per year who are kept away from their children are foreigners who married Japanese citizens.

In one situation, an American man was married to a Japanese woman and they were living in Washington state. There was a divorce and the father was awarded custody. He dropped the six-year-old child off with his mother for a visit and she immediately took the child to Japan. The Japanese government refused to help him and, in fact, the Japanese embassy in Portland, Oregon actually helped the mother escape to Japan by getting her young child a passport in just one day.

Campaigns have been organized here, in other countries and even in Japan, to protect the rights of the outsider parents as well as the children. An American pressure group is called “Bring Abducted Children Home” and represents over 400 American parents whose kids have been abducted to Japan by a Japanese parent.

The Prime Minister of Italy and the President of France have raised this issue with Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, calling the situation ‘unacceptable.’ A formal complaint has also been filed with the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, arguing that Japan has violated the Convention on the Rights of Children and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

But this only deals with the plights of foreign parents who are deprived of access to their children. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese parents are in the same boat.

Apparently, momentum for change is building domestically and internationally. This past February, Prime Minister Abe acknowledged that children would want to see both their parents, which is a huge concession and opens the door to giving rights to ‘outsider’ parents.

 

Also, the U.S. State Department says that progress is being made regarding enforcement of the Hague Convention on abductions since 32 kidnapped children have been returned to the U.S. since 2014. That’s just a drop in the bucket and more abductions are happening every year. But it is a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, it seems that the best policy for foreigners is to avoid marrying and having kids with a Japanese citizen until Japan joins the rest of the developed world in their views on custody and parental kidnapping.

A WALK IN THE PARK – Marilyn Armstrong and Garry Armstrong

September 23, 2019 – Autumn Leaf

On one of the prettiest days of the month, we took our cameras and went to River Bend. We had hoped there would be some autumn foliage. There was a little bit. A few changing maple trees and hints of gold in the dark green leaves of late summer. But mostly, it was lovely but not especially autumnal.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

Today the leaves began to fall. They haven’t changed color. They just started falling like a storm of leaves. Maybe it was the wind or maybe it’s going to be another year when instead of autumn, the leaves just curl up and fall to the ground.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

At least the weather has been lovely. Bright and clear and cool and night, warm by day. It is the first really nice weather we’ve had all season. Just in time for putting up the bird feeders.

Amber light in early fall
Black-Eyed Susans

We do have birds. They are still very shy and mostly, very small. Lots of nuthatches and titmice. And a few others I have not yet identified. They are in different feathers than they were in breeding feathers over the summer. I’ll get them all right yet.

Garry at River Bend

WISHFULLY THINKING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Wishfully Thinking of Squirrels

The birds are back. Not as many as last year, but they have arrived. Woodpeckers and Titmice and something I haven’t identified yet, but it’s about the size of a Titmouse, but without the feather headdress. I’m pretty sure I saw a goldfinch and I’m sure there will be more.

So now is the time when I try to figure out what to do with the squirrels. My current state of mind is to set up a separate feeding station for them on the other side of the deck. As the add for some of the most amusing pieces of handmade, artistic stations for squirrels is “If you can’t fight’em, feed’em.”

Bird-proof-squirrel-feeder. If-you-can-t-beat-them,-feed-them

The problem is that squirrel feeing stations are expensive. They are handmade, usually of very hard cedar with a gallon glass jug on one end for peanuts of cracked corn and any number of weird places to stick corncobs. One farmer offered to sell me a ton (yes, a ton) of feeding corn for the squirrels. I passed. But we do have feed and grain stores around here because people do have chickens and other small farm critters — and some people enjoy the antics of the squirrels. I enjoy the antics of the squirrels. I just want them to play in their own garden and not try an take over the grain feeders for the birds.

The squirrel airplane!

They want the feeders to be at least 15 feet apart from each other. If our deck wasn’t a squire 12X12 feet, it would be easier. In theory, I could put the feeder for the furry ones off by the trees in the woods … but once it snows, I can’t get through the backyard, so they get would only get fed until the first snow and after that, the yards are socked in for the winter.

Owen and I finally decided to bring up the big glass and metal table and put (for now) the big flat feeder on it and throw ears of corn around the rest of the table. As long as we don’t get an invasion of raccoons and chipmunks, that is. Raccoons can do some serious damage and they have hands, too. Chipmunks are noisy and not shy about letting you know when they feel it’s feeding time again. They feel that it should always be feeding time.

Uncle Dunkels Backyard Squirrel Feeder One Gallon Glass Jar Entertaining Squirrel Feeder

So far, we haven’t seen any raccoons. We used to have a yard full of chipmunks, but the bobcats ate them, so we rarely see them anymore.

Anyone with serious experience in feeding squirrels? I’m assuming unhulled, raw peanuts and corn are the foods of choice? What can one use as a feed bin that they won’t chew to pieces? Something very hard in the way of wood (hard cedar?) or metal? I have an old, useless (as a yard tool) wheelbarrow, but I’m afraid it would get too full of water to be useful and become a squirrel-sized skating rink the rest of the winter.

It’s a BIG one!

Just when I think I’m making my life easier, I find some special new way to make it more difficult. On the other hand, I always did love a yard full of creatures, as long as they keep their legs fewer than six.

Also, the question is, will they finish off their food then try to take over the bird feeders too? I want them to guard their own feeder and not the bird feeder. By spring of last year, they were constantly guarding the feeders. I didn’t know you could have guard squirrels.

THE JOY OF MEDICARE – Marilyn Armstrong

I belong to Blue Cross Blue Shield Advantage Value Added PPO group, which is a Medicare plan that offers extras but costs just a tiny bit more than basic Medicare.

Last night, in a moment of mindless stupidity, I decided to register for my medical plan. Usually, I just call them, but it was after hours and I just wanted to look up the price of a  medication. Which I could do online. If I registered.

This is the cutest little Tufted Titmouse I think I’ve ever seen.

No big deal, right? Fill in the form and voila, registered. Medicare was even easier. You could just call them and do it all by phone. I think it took me all of 10 minutes to register for Medicare in the five years I had straight Medicare before I switched to the BCBS Value Advantage plan.

I entered most of the registration information at which point I was told that I had “timed out” and would have to do it again. So I tried to do it again BUT it would not let me because it already had my ID and password — basically everything except my Medicare number.

The gallant Tufted Titmouse – He’s blue and yellow!

I have a week coming up of major medical exams — heart and head and back and more about my eyes.

I was going to die as a result of software glitches. I could cope with being eaten by an alligator or a Gila monster … but SOFTWARE? Seriously?

I tried to call them to fix it but got the “closed for the weekend” message. Starting October 1, they are open 24/7, but this isn’t October. Close, but no cookie. I ultimately discovered that the databank is closed all weekend because they are setting up for the incoming members for 2020, but I didn’t know that until later.

Finally, I finally managed to connect with someone who informed me that my membership had expired.

What?

Expired?

I pay my Medicare/BCBS advantage plan straight out of Social Security. When I was told I belonged to Aetna, not BCBS, I gurgled. I’ve never worked with Aetna AND. I had the BCBS card in my hand. It was blue, blue, and blue. A Blue Cross. A Blue Shield. A blue card. All the ink was blue. \

I had the wrong department and the person I was talking to didn’t have any idea what was going on. I’m not even sure she knew was software is. The right department was closed until Monday and I have a doctor’s appointment early in the day.

By now, after 2 am. I was tired. I knew I’d be even more tired by morning. At this point, all I now wanted was an assurance I was signed up and hadn’t somehow inadvertently or via glitchily cancelled my medical plan.

Forget the price of medications. I was too tired to keep on keeping on, so this morning I got up and called the number that was supposed to work, but it was closed until Monday. Of course.

I also got transferred a lot, but at least not disconnected. Everyone was enormously polite, friendly, and unable to help me. At all.  Of course, no one mentioned that the databank was down, too. That was the guy at Medicare who told me. How come HE knew but the people at BlueCross didn’t know?

One Titmouse and a Chickadee. They will share the feeder … but from opposite sides and they never touch.

I was getting increasingly frustrated. So after I had coffee in hand, I tried calling in a prescription. I figured if I wasn’t signed up, they’d tell me because my card wouldn’t go through. Nope. It went through fine, no problem. Not only did it go through fine, but it went through for a medication that had no refills left. I have to call back and make sure she has the right number. Regardless, it was the first good news of the day.

Having tried every single number for BlueCross and getting nothing but people who didn’t seem able to access my type of BCBS care, I chanced upon the 24/7 number for Medicare. Even though I have an Advantage plan, it’s still a version of Medicare, so one way or the other, I had nothing to lose by trying.

And this is why I love Medicare. Not merely are they REALLY open 24/7 all year long, but they are consistently helpful, polite, and cooperative. If they don’t have the answer, they will find it, no matter how long it takes. And they never put me on hold.

I explained that I had had a software glitch with BlueCross and with an early doctor’s appointment Monday, I didn’t want to find myself dying due to a computer glitch. That would be too pathetic.

The guy at Medicare checked and said, “Don’t worry. There’s no problem. You are paid up and everything works.

So for all you people who are afraid of Medicare? Don’t be. It’s great. It really isn’t one of those messed up government agencies. In fact, I am convinced it is the ONLY government agency where everything actually works just like it is supposed to work.

Now at least I know I would not die from bad software and be buried in an Amazon box.

You all will LOVE Medicare. I promise.

To make things even better? The birds have already begun to return. There was a flock of Tufted Titmouses on the feeder this morning. Where there’s a Titmouse, can the American Goldfinch be far behind?

WHAT TIME IS IT? – Rich Paschall

Does Anybody Really Know? by Rich Paschall

What is the most valuable thing you have? Do you think it is your house? For most people, a house will be the most expensive thing they purchase in their lifetime. Personally, I do not own a house, so this definitely is not it for me. Considering the amount of rent I have paid over the decades, I may have paid for one, however.

Is it your automobile? Certainly the costliest possession I have is the car that takes me around town and to my “day job.” Many people spend quite a lot on an auto. I saw a Corvette at the Chevrolet showroom recently while I waited for my modest Malibu to be fixed. Even though I thought it might be interesting to drive the Corvette just once, I wondered who would spend almost 90 thousand dollars on a two seat auto? It is not your practical car for errands or camp trips.  It does show you have a lot of money.

How about jewelry? There are some pieces of jewelry that cost more than the house I am living in. I guess if you are a rock star or high paid athlete you may think you need some expensive “bling.” Odell Beckham Jr. made his Cleveland Browns debut wearing his 350,000 dollar watch. Yes, I did mean to put in that many zeros. That will surely let all of us know he has a BIG NFL contract.

None of the above, however, is the most valuable possession any of us can have. What is it? You may have guessed the answer already by the title above. It’s time. I don’t mean it is the ability to tell the time with a 350 thousand dollar Richard Mille luxury watch, or a cheap Timex for that matter. I mean the quality and quantity of time itself. We don’t know the time, because we don’t know how much each of us has. No watch will show us that.

And I was walking down the street one day
A pretty lady looked at me and said her diamond watch had stopped cold dead
And I said
Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)

My roomie likes to ask me why I never did this or that, and I usually respond that I never had the time to do it. Many of us put off trips and various experiences with the thought that we will do it another time. “I am too busy now,” you might think. But then later in life you discover that time has passed you by and you will never get to a certain restaurant, make a particular trip, observe a special event. Life has turned into a series of “Time Passages.”

Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
Time passages

Often I will parcel out my time in small increments, as if I am accomplishing a lot by doing many things. I will work all day and get home around 6:30. I will work outside until it is almost dark, weather permitting. I will come in and eat and do the dishes. After that I will check my computer for email or ebay sales. Then if I think I have the time, I will designate an hour for watching television. I am usually up each commercial to do something. Then I set up the coffee maker, count out my pills for the next day, organize for the morning and …uh, oh. It’s past my bedtime.

No matter what I am working on the clock on the wall or on my phone or on my computer always creeps in to tell me I am behind schedule.  You can not escape the clock, no matter how hard you try. By adulthood it is just part of us. It started when we were kids, I guess, because we had to be home by 5 or home by dark or home by curfew. In an era before cell phones, when we did not have watches, this time related deadline was tough. Now it seems tougher.

If you like to sit and relax and just clear your mind you may find it hard to do. If you are trying to meditate, let’s say, you may still find yourself peeking at the clock.  In fact you may find yourself some morning thinking you “Should have tried to do some more” but “Feeling like I ought to sleep.” Soon you could be sitting crossed legged on the floor, trying to see if it is 25 or (twenty) 6 to 4 (AM).

In the end what do all the minutes of your life add up to? What do all your experiences mean? Where do all the time passages go? Does anybody really know?

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?
Measure in love
Seasons of love

ONE WHEEL, TWO WHEELS, THREE WHEELS – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s B&W Photo Challenge: With 1, 2, or 3 Wheels
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Plymouth Prowler
Bicycle
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Pizza cutting wheel
Steam engine wheels

Cee's Black-White

THE EARLY GOLD OF AUTUMN – Marilyn Armstrong

The leaves have definitely begun to change! The aspens are bright yellow and there are edges of red on the maples. There is a hint of gold on al the leaves as if some painter was doing a watercolor and washed it with light golden amber.

And there were a bunch of Tufted Titmouses on the feeders this morning. Can the rest be far behind?