Mediation in Japan - how seen from the outside?

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Forgive my inactivity on this forum for some time.

Lately, I've been reading a book, "Fathers' Rights" by U.S. fathers' rights attorney Jeffery M. Leving. There is an important chapter in this book called "An Honorable Peace" that mentions the value of mediation and the role it plays in divorce and custody litigation.

In this chapter, favorable mention is made of the mediation system in Japan, although the mention was brief. It'd be interesting to hear the opinions of others on this text, positive or negative:

Mediation has a long and honorable history. The Beth Din, a Jewish mediation council, is thousands of years old. In China and Japan, the mediation process is the cornerstone of their entire legal systems. Restoration of "peace and tranquility" is the goal of Japan's mediation-based judiciary. A quest for harmony is a Japanese court's primary function - not the deliverance of retribution. (Interestingly, Japan has one lawyer for every twelve thousand citiziens. In the United States there is a lawyer from every six hundred people.) [p. 93]

It is surprising how favorable the author's comments are about Japan's judicial system. If he had visited this site, or took a look at the divorce statistics, or observed the Japanese laws forbidding joint custody, he might have written differently.

However, I do agree with him about the value of mediation. If at all possible, it seems more effective to agree on things in family court rather than to take them to district court or high court in Japan. And in some cases, the father in Japan simply has no real clout or leverage to restore a meaningful relationship with his children. Family court will render a decision, but the decision will likely be visitation rights once per month. It would seem much better for the children for the father and mother to discuss and mediate their dispute until a fair agreement is resolved. Regrettably, however, the very lack of lawyers and the slowness of the family court process means that the mediation process could take a long time.

I'm not all the way through the book yet, but this chapter in particular came to my attention. The validity of the above text on Japan aside, reading this text has helped me feel a little more confidence and a little more relaxed about the tension I currently feel, of not being able to my kids but once per week for three hours... and not at all on the weeks that my wife deems fit. It'd be enlightening to hear how other mothers and fathers who have been through Japanese family court feel about the mediation issue.

- Jeff Chapman

Edited 21/06/2005 05:04:51
Posted By:
Harry (4 posts)
8/21/2004 7:26:42 AM
re: Mediation in Japan - how see...   profile
Hello Jeff,

It sounds to me like Jeffery M. Leving got that information from a Japanese government website or family court pamphlet or something. He should have taken your advice and checked the situation out.

Mediation is fine only so long as the mediators are impartial and any agreement is backed up with some kind of enforcement system. Times have changed too much to rely on the integrity of divorced parents to do what's best for their children under some flimsy agreement reached at the family court. I wonder if the author understands that in many cases "Restoration of peace and tranquility" + "A quest for harmony" = "one parent being ostracised and forced to walk away"?


Edited 21/08/2004 07:28:43
Andrew (51 posts)
8/21/2004 11:07:53 AM
re: Mediation in Japan - how see...   profile
Hello again Jeff......yes site has been quiet, but it's always here! :-)

As for Japanese mediation, the "peace and harmony" that is desired often involves an awful lot of pain shouldered by the children and non-custodial parent, and little or no justice. It's another case of tatemae and honne (only the appearance of harmony).

I wonder how many people would have children under such an uncompromising system, if they knew the full facts. I also wonder how many marriages are held together simply by fear of total separation. It makes sense to take care of all members of a family after a divorce. That way, the break-up of a marriage need not be a disaster, but could actually be a positive step.

FRIJ recommends you also visit crn japan, who are fighting international abduction to Japan and working to assure children in Japan of meaningful contact with both parents regardless of marital status