Parents Fight Losing Custody Battle in Japan

"I lost my mind completely," said Miyara clenching a photo of her son. The 28 year old said she went to her then-husband's parents' house with a long kitchen knife threatening to slit her own throat if they didn't give her back her son.

Miyara was promptly arrested, one of two times that resulted in her spending three months in jail.

Japan is the only G-7 nation that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Convention seeks to protect children across international borders.

What counts here is who, under Japanese law, is the child's primary custodian. In many of these cases, the primary custodian is the parent in possession of the child when the case is first brought to court.

Rep. Chris Smith Heading to Japan to Help U.S. Dad

This is regardless of if that view differs in another country, as is now the case with Christopher Savoie.

In the U.S., Savoie's first wife, Noriko, violated a US court order by taking their children out of the country and to Japan where she has primary custody of them.

In turn, Savoie flew to Japan and tried to take them back.

Now he is said to be in violation of "Japanese penal code 244" for forcefully taking away underage children, according to one of his lawyers Tadashi Yoshino.

Savoie is currently enduring another 10 day extension of jail time. If charged, he faces three months to seven years in prison.

With Japan's newly elected leadership, some have vigilant hope that current circumstances could change.

"The new administration under Prime Minister Hatoyama," said Toland, "has hinted at an openness to discuss this situation so I'm hoping we collectively, the parents, the U.S. congress, the U.S. state department can take advantage of this window of opportunity right now and push this issue."

New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who this year introduced legislation on international abduction, is expected to arrive in Japan this weekend to help with Toland's case.

In the meantime, on the ground here these parents search for the slightest clue, any detail, they can learn about their own children.

Toland heard his first eyewitness account in years of what his daughter is like. "She's shy. She doesn't talk a lot, but she laughs a lot," Toland said he was told. "She plays well with the other children and she was sad after her mother died."

Erika, who lives with her mother's parents, turns 7 this weekend. Toland hopes to be able to deliver presents to her. "Gifts that I get in my travels wherever I go," he said. "I buy something for her from that area so she knows that she was with me in my spirit when I was there."

In cases where the sole surviving parent is the left-behind parent, such as with Paul Wong as ABC News reported last year or even when the abducting parent passes away, as in Toland's case, Japan's government has not returned the child to the left-behind parent.

"In fact," according to Smith's website, "there is no known case of Japan ever returning an abducted Japanese-American child to the left behind parent."

This group gathered here is not discouraged. Each faces the unique challenges of their individual cases. Each hoping their years of perseverance pays off.

"I was in the room when one parent was reunited with their children," Hearn recounts. "It's overwhelming to be there. You have such feelings that are just oozing out and my hands were shaking," he said. "It's a tremendous moment and something I'll never forget."

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