| 23 April 2024, Tuesday |

EU envoys back Frenchman on hunger strike over Japan child custody

On Friday, ten European ambassadors expressed support for a Frenchman who has been on a three-week hunger strike during the Tokyo Olympics to protest what he claims his Japanese wife’s legally sanctioned abduction of his two children.

Vincent Fichot, 39, is camped out at a train station near the National Stadium, which is a focal point of the ongoing Games, where temperatures often reach 30 degrees Celsius (85 degrees Fahrenheit) amid oppressive humidity.

Fichot’s dramatic protest is meant to bring attention to the predicament of divorced parents who are refused custody or visitation of their children. In Japan, unlike most other nations, joint custody is not recognized, and children frequently lose contact with the non-custodial parent.

“It’s a question of children’s rights,” EU Ambassador Patricia Flor explained, “because the convention on children’s rights clearly states that every child has the right to have contact with both parents.” “That’s why we support the parents and, of course, the French ambassador in this case.”

“It’s also a question of time for the children because they are growing up, so it’s urgent,” she told reporters. “It’s not a question on which we can wait for long. We would appreciate having a quick response from the Japanese authorities.”

An official at Japan’s Justice Ministry declined to comment on a specific case. He said a panel of experts was reviewing the nation’s divorce system as “we are aware that there are various views on the issue. Some people are saying they are not getting child support and others are saying they cannot meet” their children.

In 2019 Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said that generally Japan thinks it is “important for the children’s interest that both the father and mother can be involved in taking care of the children after divorce.”

Fichot’s estranged wife, Maiko Fichot, said through her lawyer: “As this is a divorce case between private individuals, I want my private information to be protected… I have no intention of fighting outside the courtroom or making further comment.”

The lawyer, who asked not to be named, declined to make her available for an interview.


Visibly thinner than a week ago and at one point having to sit while talking to reporters, Fichot said he has lost 14 kg (30 pounds) since he began his fast on July 10. His hand was bandaged because, he said, he fractured two fingers on Thursday when he fainted.

Nonetheless, he spoke energetically for 45 minutes with the diplomats from France, Germany, Spain, Italy and other governments, forearm-bumping several of them.

Fichot wants compensation for his children for what he says is a violation of their rights, or barring that, French sanctions against Japan.

After a number of EU citizens were denied access to their children by Japanese women, the European Parliament asked Japan to comply with international child protection regulations and to allow for joint parental custody.

Last weekend, at Fichot’s urging, French President Emmanuel Macron, visiting for the Olympics, raised the custody issue with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga “in confidence and in person,” said French Ambassador Philippe Setton.

In 2019, Macron did the same with Shinzo Abe, Suga’s predecessor.

“This is largely a Japanese society issue,” Setton stated. “Regardless of the dramatic and sad circumstances in which Mr Fichot finds himself, we do not wish to intervene in a Japanese debate.”

Fichot acknowledged that France could not intervene in the Japanese legal system. “I was looking for fines at the very least, but I’m sticking to my guns as far as my motivation is concerned.”

  • Reuters