In Sendagaya station, where part of the Olympic Games will be held and where President Emmanuel Macron is expected in two weeks, a Frenchman, Vincent Fichot, is currently on a hunger strike, which began on July 10. The reason ? Following the divorce from his Japanese wife, he was never able to see their children again. By the media coverage of his fight, all the more with the approach of the Olympics, he hopes to finally make the Japanese authorities of notoriety complacent with this type of business react.

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It is not far from the new Olympic stadium that we meet Vincent. He agreed to tell us his story, a family drama of which he is unfortunately not the first victim. Like him, many fathers are deprived of their children following a divorce, Japanese law giving exclusive parental authority to the Japanese parent, or the mother in the majority of cases.

However, Japanese law provides for child custody negotiations, but the procedure is so slow that in fact the second parent has no other recourse than an amicable agreement with his ex-spouse. There are no official figures, but associations, such as the NGO Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion, estimate that each year more than 150,000 minors are victims of parental abduction in the archipelago.

Photography: Mr Japanization

French living in Japan for 15 years, working in finance, Vincent married in 2009 to a Japanese woman. The couple had two children: a little boy who is about to turn 6 and a little girl who is almost 4 years old. The couple fell apart to the point that Vincent offered an out-of-court divorce petition, which his wife refused. At the time, he was completely ignorant of the issue of abducted children.

He tells us : “I tried to invite her to see a lawyer to find a solution, which she will also refuse. Two weeks later, I came home from work, my children had been abducted and the house was emptied. It was August 2018. Within minutes of the kidnapping, I immediately called my lawyer. He made it clear to me that my children had been taken away and that I would not see them again. I said you had to call the police, he told me the police wouldn’t care ! And indeed. I went to the police who rejected my complaints four times. The prosecutor also twice rejected my complaints. On the other hand, in retaliation, the police threatened me with arrest if I approached my own children when they had just been removed, while I am not under any legal restriction of any kind! “

Photography: Mr Japanization

From then on, Vincent would never see his children again. It has been three years now. He doesn’t even know where these are physically located: “I don’t even know if they’re still alive. “

“This is the Japanese method. It is the first parent who takes the children away who has de facto custody of them. It is against the law, but in practice it is usually done. The children are taken away and then it’s over, there is nothing more to do. “

This type of family kidnapping also occurs on the side of fathers (Japanese or foreigners) but much more rarely. “In the majority of cases, it is the mothers who abduct the children. Between 10 and 20% of cases concern the father. “

Vincent’s Japanese friend came to visit him. He himself is worried about his own children, as this type of event can happen to anyone. In fact, joint custody does not legally exist in Japan. Traditionally, it is the mother who once looked after the children in the event of separation. Society has evolved, but practices haven’t. The “right” to keep them falls to the first parent to leave the marital home with the children. In fact, parental abduction is a common practice and tolerated by local authorities turning a blind eye on those cases deemed private.

“We feel downright helpless! I met President Macron in 2019 to explain this situation to him. He spoke about it in person to then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe! But the latter replied that he could do nothing on the subject. Imagine: you have a French head of state talking to a Japanese head of state, and the latter replies that he has no power, while this is a flagrant violation of children’s rights and human rights, it’s really demoralizing. “

But when asked if he still has any hope of seeing things evolve, Vincent answers “Yes” without hesitation. “Otherwise, if I no longer believed in it, I would have made a much stronger and more immediate decision. I’m on a hunger strike because my determination is the same: I will not leave here without my children. “

Photography: Mr Japanization

What about the mom’s version in this story? Impossible to know : it categorically refuses any dialogue, as is generally the case in this type of business. Kidnapping mothers disappear from civilian life with their children in a fraction of a second and hardly ever come back.

Vincent, alas, is no exception and faces a wall despite his good will: “However, it is not for lack of trying to dialogue! For years I have tried to negotiate with her through the courts, but she insists on saying that I must never see my own children again, but at the same time she claims: half the house, bank accounts and money. my retirement which I will receive at 65, etc. The question of money is not problematic. These are children who find themselves at the heart of adult conflicts. But it should not be called a simple parental conflict: it is an abduction! Your children are taken away from you overnight and the authorities contribute directly by doing nothingor even threatening to retaliate. What I want is that the children do not suffer from this situation. Everything I do is for the benefit of my children. “

Photography: Mr Japanization

In three years, Vincent has tried everything: “I have made several attempts to complaints filed in Japan, I filed a complaint in criminal proceedings at the tribunal de grande instance of Paris (the investigation has been opened), I filed – with other parents and the help of my lawyer – a collective action with the UN Human Rights Council, I presented the case with other parents to the European Parliament. A resolution was passed calling on Japan to stop abducting European children in Japan, but the Japanese foreign minister Denied outright the accusations and the reality of the phenomenon which he considered unfounded. I have been in Japanese courts for three years and nothing is happening. This action is not a cry of despair, it is a logical and thoughtful action that follows up on all past actions that have given absolutely nothing. I don’t know what else to do. There is nothing more to do ! Except that. I will go all the way. This will probably be my last action, but it has to be done. “

Vincent Fichot is determined not to give up his hunger strike until he sees his children again, even if it means allowing himself to waste away. Benevolent supporters bring him water bottles, recharge his devices and watch over him, even at night. Japan is two weeks before the opening of the Olympic Games involving the visit of Emmanuel Macron not far from the place where Vincent continues his hunger strike. Now is more than ever a good time to draw the world’s attention to this issue.

Photography: Mr Japanization

Interview by Mr Japanization

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