It was through a Microsoft Teams screen that Elisabeth Sato, 35, from São Paulo, ended her marriage at the end of March in Japan.
At a distance of more than 17,000 km from a Brazilian forum, Sato and her ex-husband managed to formalize the divorce during a virtual hearing held by the Cejusc (Judicial Center for Conflict Resolution and Citizenship) of the Jundiaí Court of Justice, inside Sao Paulo.
Sato and his ex, also from São Paulo, dated and met in Japan in 2009, then registered their marriage during a visit to Brazil in 2013. They have two children, an 8-year-old boy and a 5 year old boy. girl.
“The marriage didn’t work out, but the friendship stuck,” she says, who works as a translator and assistant for Brazilian children at a kindergarten in the Japanese town of Fukuroi, in Shizuoka province.
Since 2020, they were determined to break up. Without the virtual alternative, they would have to send proxies to two friends or lawyers to represent them in the registration process or return to Brazil to sign everything in person. “During the pandemic, none of this was possible.”
Indeed, it was already possible to carry out mediations via the Internet, in accordance with article 46 of law 13 140 and article 236 of the Code of Civil Procedure. “However, it was not very common. During the pandemic, the opening of virtual sessions, including international ones, has accelerated, “said judge Valeria Ferioli Lagrasta, who ratified the agreement of the former couple, drafted by mediator Fernando Nishiyama. The document counts. like a court decision.
With the implementation of virtual audiences from April 2020, a window has opened for the inclusion of those who reside in other countries.
One of the first online sessions chaired by Judge Mônica Tucunduva of Assis Family Court inside São Paulo was international: a conciliation hearing between a family in Brazil and a father in Japan.
Living abroad for almost 20 years, the father, a Brazilian, last saw his son when he was still a baby – today he is already a young student. In the end, they reached an agreement regarding the payment of pensions.
“It was very remarkable: the father was happy to be heard for the first time, because before that he was only represented by proxy. He insisted on being present at the session at 2 a.m. in Japan, “said the judge, recalling the 12-hour difference between the two countries due to the time zone.” We can see the scope of technology to bring them closer together. worlds so far away. “
Sato was also surprised by the agility of the audience. “I was lucky. Everything was sorted out in an hour. It was a quiet conversation just to confirm what we had already discussed about custody, boarding, division of property, etc.”, recalls -he.
Other families were not so lucky and, to this day, they live in a sort of legal and emotional vacuum between Brazil and Japan.
“Doting i’s in unresolved situations is what many families who have fragmented between the two countries in recent decades want,” said São Paulo lawyer Etsuo Ishikawa, who advised the former couple. “It is important to provide access to simple means of resolving conflicts in the pre-procedural setting, such as mediation and conciliation.”
Based in Japan for 30 years, Ishikawa is a consultant for several institutions. Of the 700 or so consultations she offered to Brazilians between 2018 and 2019 at the Hamamatsu Iwata Shinkin Bank and at the Hamamatsu (Shizuoka) and Nagoia (Aichi) consulates, most were family matters: 26.5% referred in divorce, 12.2% in police custody. , 11.6% alimony and 11% the right to visit their children.
With the Decassegui movement, the flow of Japanese descendants who went to work (first) temporarily in Japan from the 1990s onwards, what happened is that, on several occasions, one of the spouses remained in the Brazil while the other final on the other side of the world.
Over the following decades, many lost contact and left everything behind. “One reason that borders on the obvious is perhaps the main one: the immense geographical distance between Japan and Brazil,” said sociologist Angelo Ishi, professor at Musashi University in Tokyo.
Considering the mileage, the price of plane tickets was and is high. “This distance leads to two attitudes: first, the tendency to return little to Brazil; second, the possibility of “disappearing” in Japan. “
Between 1995 and 2020, 7,613 letters rogatory were sent from Brazil to Japan (legal instrument of communication between the courts of two countries); of these, 3,376 concerned child support and 1,829 separation and divorce, according to data collected by Ishikawa from consulates. Not even half of the letters rogatory were executed – in total, only 2,826 reached their final destination.
“If someone wants to locate a family member in Japan, for example, it’s a long way, but a long way: the letter is written and translated, goes through a court in Brazil, goes to Brasilia, goes through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, goes to Tokyo, goes through a court in Japan, it is then sent by mail to the domicile of the addressee who, in the end, sometimes ignores the correspondence, which is listed as “not executed”. In this, more than a year has passed, ”illustrates Ishikawa.
In the 1990s and 2000s, many Brazilians sought to locate the “lost” loves in Japan by other means: they wrote letters to the press aimed at immigrants in the archipelago. For a long time, there was a column called “In search of the missing” in the newspaper Tudo Bem, published in Portuguese, in Tokyo.
“At the time, I noticed that people’s motivations for ‘losing’ contact were varied,” says Ishi, who was the newspaper’s editor.
“A boy said he could no longer take orders from his parents, who wanted more and more money to be sent. Another said he never had the courage to tell his parents he was gay and managed to find a partner with whom he built a house in Japan. And, of course, the most common cases were those of “double life”, of people who created a new home in Japan, but he did not have the decency to sort out his situation with those who remained in Brazil.
In the international press, also aimed at Brazilians, the column was “Desaparecidos”. They were also messages from mothers, women, homesick children. Most of the missing were men.
In times of economic crisis, requests for searches have multiplied “and the ‘disappeared’ began to ‘appear’ just for us, uttering threats,” explains journalist Fátima Kamata, who ran the newspaper between 1995 and 2004.
The “wanted” began calling the newsroom, asking for the ad to be removed as they did not want any contact with the person looking for them.
The letters, the editor recalls, mainly concerned child support, divorce petitions and loans (from friends making the decassegui pay for the money).
After the session ended, the newspaper continued to receive search requests, but continued to forward them to consulates depending on the jurisdiction.
One would imagine that with the spread of the internet it would be easier to locate family members these days. However, for many, only the platform has changed: instead of letters rogatory and letters to the press, there are now posts on Facebook.
One of them was recently posted by Marcia Viana, 39, from Ceará, who has not heard from her partner for around 16 years.
Viana says she met her partner in Belém, where they lived together and had a child, in 2003. They didn’t get married on paper, but sometimes she still calls him “my husband”. He went to work as a laborer in Japan; she lived “in favor”, in his words, with her parents in Brazil.
“After my husband left, I waited six months to receive his first call. He said he was going to work and save some money to take the whole family there. I waited and never heard his voice again, my boy never heard his father’s voice again.
Around 2006, her in-laws asked her to leave the house. “They said I had my eye on the money, but what money? I lived in the countryside and had no idea what the yen was. I just wanted my husband to come back. I live from the past, I wonder what I did wrong, because it never came back.
Viana settled in Castanhal do Pará (PA) and later in Tabuleiro do Norte (CE). She says she managed to find his profile on Facebook twice, but the accounts were disabled after trying to contact him. “He’s the one who should be looking for me, right?” Not my mother who tries to remember me, ”explains her son, Masayoshi Viana Yano, 18 years old.
“I worked from sunrise to sunset to raise my son on my own. I don’t want any money from him. I want him to call his son on his birthday, October 26, on vacation, at Christmas, “she confides, who doesn’t know if her ex is still in Japan or if he’s returned to Brazil. “If he ever wants to call, we wait.