Dear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,
As a boy growing up in America, my mother and father would have frequent arguments. It was a stressful time for everyone, and eventually they got divorced when I was in 2nd grade in elementary school.
During the divorce proceedings all of my family members went through an especially difficult time, and it was very hard for me to understand what was happening at that age.
Eventually, though, my father moved to a new apartment and my sister and I visited him on Fridays and Saturdays as well as holidays. When I saw him, I remember eating frozen pizzas on paper plates and McDonalds for every other meal. His apartment was dirty and smelt like old fruit or stale coffee. Birthdays would be remembered two months late, and he never gave us enough ice cream. His face would often turn beet red and he would grumble dire warnings while my sister and I battled it out for who gets to sit in the shotgun seat.
I also remember going on camping trips and runs in the park. On Saturday mornings, we would watch cartoons at his house and then he would take me to soccer games. We would go hiking and canoeing. He never cared if I jumped on his bed or woke him up at 5:00 a.m. for a glass of water.
When I got older, I talked to him about girlfriends, school and future plans. We had arguments and sometimes I would say, “I hate you!” as most typical teenagers do. He gave me money for university and graduate school. Sometimes he told me that he was proud of me, other times he told me I was an idiot.
He wasn’t the perfect father, but he was my father and I loved him and respected him. I am grateful that I had a father to support me and give me these memories.
Now, years later, I have two children of my own. I am going through a divorce with my Japanese wife and face the very real possibility that I will never see my children again because the Japanese legal system does not have provisions for child visitation rights.
Perhaps some people will say at this point that I should have worked harder to make my marriage work, and then I would still be able to see my children. But the marriage didn’t work. It’s unfortunate, but it didn’t. I am not ashamed to say that.
Other people may say that I am just whining about an unfair system or that I should just “give up” and accept that in Japan, fathers don’t usually see their children after divorce.
However, I am not ashamed to say that I still want to be a father to my children. I want to provide them with the same good or bad memories that my father gave me. I’m sure I won’t be the best father, but I do want to try.
I want to take them to sports events, go camping or play in the park. I want to help them study for school and watch them learn. I want to help them when they are having difficult times and support them no matter what choices they make in their lives. I want to see them grow up, become adults and have children of their own. I just want to be a father to my children. Please don’t take that chance away from me or them.
A CONCERNED AND LOVING FATHER