A Father's Plea: Desperate Effort to Return American Children Abducted to Japan


By the time Erika was born in 2002, Toland and his wife Etsuko had been married for seven years. She became a U.S. citizen shortly after in preparation for the family's eventual move back to the United States.

But when Erika was less than a year old, Etsuko, who Toland said had became increasingly unhappy, took Erika from their Navy housing and cut off all contact.

"I was at work one day and I got a phone call from my neighbors saying 'Are you moving back to the States? … And I said what are you talking about,'" Toland said. "And they said 'Well, there's a moving van outside your house.' When I got home my wife and my daughter and all our stuff was gone."

Etsuko committed suicide four years later and her mother, Akiko Futagi immediately took guardianship of Erika. Toland, Erika's sole surviving parent, has never been allowed to spend time with his daughter


ABC News found Futagi and Erika in northern Tokyo. Futagi accused Toland of being a dead-beat father who has never paid her for raising his daughter.

"He doesn't pay anything to bring her up," Futagi said. When asked if she would let Toland see Erika, her response was quick. "No," she said.

Toland said he has tried to put money into a bank account for his daughter, but Futagi rejected his lawyer's offer.

"The State Department has tried to visit with my daughter a number of times and have been rejected," Toland said. "They even asked the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to try to visit with my daughter and they were rejected. And once again they came back and said, 'Sorry, we tried there's nothing we can do.'"

Scott Sawyer

Scott Sawyer never dreamed his once happy family would be destroyed, and that his only child would be thousands of miles out of reach.

But after he filed for divorce from his ex-wife in 2008, she took off for her native Japan, brining their then-2-year-old son, Wayne, with her. He hasn't seen his son since.

"My concern is for my son," Sawyer said. "What kind of life is he having in Japan right now? What has he been told about why he can't see his father?"

It was something he feared would happen. Before his wife left California with their son, he tried to convince a judge she was a flight risk. Court documents show his ex was ordered to turn over her passport.

"She had said repeatedly, 'I want to go to Japan. I want to take the baby to Japan,'" he said. "I knew if that happened they wouldn't come back."

Sawyer's ex, who spoke to ABC News under the condition that we not use her name or show her face, said she knows she is considered a kidnapper. It was something, she said, she felt she had to do. She did not think she could survive on her own in the United States.

"At the time, my choices was just two – kidnapper or die," she said. "I can't live in Los Angeles."

She told ABC News she fears Sawyer will kidnap their son and bring him back to the United States.

"If he promise me that he doesn't, he will not kidnap my son from Japan, he can see my son any time," she said. "I would really, no problem. I will support my ex in Japan."

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