Adoption in Japan

John

It is amazing to me that adoption in Japan is so rare, even though there are plenty of very young Japanese children needing adoptive parents, and plenty of young to middle-aged couples without children. My Japanese wife and I adopted our Japanese daughter in 1973.

During the early 1970s I was on U.S. Navy sea duty incessantly, spending at least two-thirds of the time away from our Yokosuka Navy Base, Japan homeport. My wife felt like the opportunity to have children was slipping away, because of her age. So we decided to pursue adoption.

I contacted the Chaplain’s Office at the Navy Base, and they referred us to a non-profit social services organization located in Tokyo near Tokyo Tower. That organization, after completing our screening for qualifying as adoptive parents, then worked closely with the Japanese Government’s Child Welfare Agency. After further screening by the Child Welfare Agency and the passage of time, we were introduced to a two-year old Japanese baby girl who was living at and being cared for by the Nursery of the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center in Hiro, Tokyo.

We began regular visits to the Nursery to see the little girl. In fact my wife travelled every day for months from Yokosuka to Tokyo to see the little girl. I was only the second man the little girl had ever had interaction with; the other man was the Japanese doctor in charge of the Nursery.

The Head Nurse at the Nursery eventually registered the opinion that I was not a good choice to become the little girl’s father, based, she said, on the little girl’s shyness toward me. No one else supported the Head Nurse’s opinion. Finally the Child Welfare Agency and the Head Doctor at the Nursery suggested my wife and I might take the little girl home for a trial period. Reluctantly, the Head Nurse agreed. The little girl never went back to the Nursery…

To my pleasant surprise, my Mother, who still lived in my native state Texas in the USA, announced she would visit us in Japan for the little girl’s home coming! It was her first and only international trip. In my ignorance I did not realize how important the grandmother is in the arrival of a new child in the family. Technically, the adoption would not be complete and legal until a full year passed, but to us the little girl had become our daughter!

We continued to live at Yokosuka Naval Base for four more years, during which our daughter became bilingual and started going to school. I was still on sea duty, but the war in Vietnam was over, so I spent more time making ship visits to Japanese ports and working with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF). My wife and daughter regularly “sea-gulled” (traveled to Japan ports where my ship was visiting). We particularly enjoyed Bepu on Kyushu and Otaru on Hokkaido.  

 

At the end of my sea duty as ship’s company, we moved to the USA. In San Diego our daughter started a long “career” as a soccer (football) player. In Fairfax County, Virginia (on the south bank of the Potomac River opposite to Washington, DC) she added being in her High School Marching Band. At Pearl Harbor, Hawaii our daughter flourished in band and soccer, made many Japanese-American friends, and became a naturalized U.S. Citizen. On the other hand, my wife remained a Japanese citizen forever (I am very sad to say she recently died).

Our daughter attended college in Austin, Texas, as I had done years ago. She majored in Computer Science and took a job as Computer Programmer for IBM upon graduation. She has since moved to Vancouver, BC, Canada where she still plays soccer and works as a Software Engineer.

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