Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Kianna and Gunnar Berg

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is actually two cases, the missing siblings Kianna Joanna Berg and Gunnar David Berg.

The children, who are half white, half Japanese, were abducted by their mother, Naoko Numakami, from their Fairfax, Virginia home and taken to her native Japan. They were eight and nine years old at the time.

Naoko told Kianna and Gunnar’s father that she was just taking the kids to Japan for a vacation, but once in that country she refused to return them. He hasn’t seen them since.

Unfortunately for the kids’ father, it’s probably going to stay that way. I don’t know if there are ANY cases where the Japanese government actually agreed to return an internationally abducted child. I don’t think family courts, as such, really exist there.

Both kids are now over eighteen and could choose to go back to the US on their own if they like, but my guess is that like many family abduction victims, they’ve been alienated against their left-behind father.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Ai Adams

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am profiling one Asian or Pacific Islander MP for every day of the month of May. Today’s case is Ai Adams, a 38-year-old Japanese-American woman who disappeared from Beaver, Alaska on May 20, 2017.

Her fate is known: she, her husband Clifford, and another person were on the Yukon River when their boat capsized. Ai and Clifford never made it to shore, but their friend was wearing a life jacket and she survived. Clifford’s body didn’t turn up for a month. Ai’s was never found.

I actually have a friend who has a friend who knew the Adamses. In addition, Ai was photographed and quoted for this New York Times article which came out just months before her death. She sounds like a very brave person, to have taken the enormous leap from the megalopolis of Tokyo to living off the land in northern Alaska.

“Life is just once,” she told the New York Times reporter.

Time Magazine article about evaporated people

Last fall I blogged about a book I read about people in Japan who walk out of their lives and never come back. It’s called “evaporating.” It’s very common, said the book, common enough that there are businesses specifically made for these people, to help them flee.

The story did strike me as kind of surreal and TIME Magazine has published an article about it saying the same:

It was captivating. But early inquiries revealed that many in Japan doubted the veracity of Mauger’s reporting. “Most of us who saw [the story] found it unbelievable,” says Charles McJilton, a longtime expatriate resident of Japan… Parts of Mauger’s book are “fantasy at best,” McJilton tells TIME.

Later on:

A cultural prevalence of vanishing…is not reflected in the country’s official statistics. Japan’s National Police Agency registered around 82,000 missing persons in 2015 and noted that some 80,000 had been found by the end of the year. Only 23,000 of them had remained missing for more than a week and about 4,100 of them turned out to be dead. In Britain, which has about half the population of Japan, more than 300,000 calls were made to police in 2015 to report a missing person.

The Missing Persons Search Support Association of Japan (MPS), a non-profit set up to provide support to the families of the evaporated, argues that official numbers reflect under-reporting and are way too low. “The actual, unregistered number is estimated at several times 100,000,” claims the organization’s website.

The aforementioned businesses actually do exist, and are described in the article. TIME interviewed the owner of one such business. She charges

between ¥50,000 ($450) and ¥300,000 ($2,600) depending on the amount of possessions somebody wants to flee with, how far they’re going, and whether the move needs to happen under the cover of darkness. Taking along children, or evading debt collectors, can push prices higher.

Anyway, check out the article. It’s really cool.

Vanished: The Evaporated People of Japan

Yesterday I read a book, translated from the French, by journalists Lena Mauger and Stephane Remael, called Vanished: The “Evaporated People” of Japan in Stories and Photographs.

I don’t know much about Japan and I had never heard anything about this, but apparently it’s a pretty normal thing for people to leave and never come back, and according to the authors over half of these disappearances are never reported to the police. There were a lot of them in the nineties especially when Japan’s economy was on the rocks.

There’s a name for it: evaporating. Sometimes it’ll be just one person from the family — a breadwinner who lost his job, a college student son who failed an important exam — and sometimes the entire family will go. Many of the evaporated people wind up committing suicide within a few days of leaving, but many more will just pop up somewhere else in the country and start over. There’s an entire neighborhood in Tokyo full of these people.

In fact, there are even entire companies whose job it is to help people evaporate. Mauger and Remael talked about a company called something like “Midnight Movers.” By day they moved furniture; by night they moved people. They didn’t have to advertise the people part; the “midnight” in their company name was a hidden indication that they were willing to move more than just your stuff. The price was the equivalent of like $5,000, around three times the cost of an ordinary move. The whole “midnight movers” concept sounds like it could become a movie or even a TV show here in the States.

Anyway. Check out the book if you’re interested.

Opinions?

I’ve got someone writing to me asking if I can add an MP who vanished from a military base in Okinawa, Japan. I’ve never encountered this issue before.

I’ve put an unofficial moratorium on posting cases of Americans who go missing abroad, but I realize that US military bases, as well as embassies, count as American soil wherever they’re at. But, regardless of what international law says, wherever this young woman is, it’s likely to be somewhere in Japan. And given the very, very long list of US cases I’ve got waiting to be posted, I just…don’t want to do this one.

What do y’all think?

Make-a-List Monday: Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese people

MPs who are originally from China, Japan and Vietnam. I decided it was sufficient if the person was just raised there, even if I don’t know for sure they were born there. Needless to say, there’s probably quite a few people I missed, since I rarely find out an MP’s national origin.

China
Lian Fan Feng
Jie Zhao Li
Qingping Ouyang
Xiang Sun
Yim Yeung Tsui
Yuan Xia Wang
Sifeng Wu
Wengsheng Zheng
Yinzhou Zheng

Japan
James P. Higham III
Keisuke Koizumi
Masuko Makoto
Hiroko Nemoto
Masumi Watanabe
Frederic Hiro Yamamoto

Vietnam
Hiep T. Luu
Van Thay Nguyen
Ducong Trinh
Khoi Dang Vu