Tadakatsu “Chris” Takaishi

Poignant Washington Post story about an (initially undiagnosed) autistic Japanese boy, sent to the US at 15, who is returning to Japan at age 31 because his student visa has run out. Chris managed to control his autism to the point where he was able to live on his own, but being thrown back into Japan, without Japanese language skills, I think will be really challenging for an autistic person.

Tadakatsu Takaishi, as he was known then, came to the United States from Japan in 1989, a 15-year-old boy sent to military school by parents who thought he simply lacked discipline. In fact, those who know him say now, he had autism. Takaishi proved a survivor, learning English, eventually earning a college degree and finding a job in Bethesda.

He built a life, and at its center was Herb Stutts, a longtime American University dean who treated Takaishi like a son. Then this year, Takaishi’s student visa ran out, and though everyone who knew him tried, he was not allowed to stay. So came his toughest lesson: Sometimes, hard work doesn’t change things.

Tomorrow, after one last holiday with the Stutts family, Takaishi plans to leave his American life as it began, aboard a plane, bound for an uncertain future.

Then later in the article:

Takaishi’s parents, who live outside Tokyo, did not attend his graduation from Montgomery College, nor from the University of Maryland system. Takaishi’s father and sister traveled to the United States in 2000, but Stutts did not meet them. The family does not speak English and communicates with Stutts through a neighbor in Japan whom Chris recommended, Jimmy Abe.

With Abe acting as interpreter, Chris’s father, Matafumi Takaishi, said yesterday that he now realizes Chris has had a developmental disability since childhood. “Now [Chris] is an adult, and we are leaving up to him to make his own decisions,” he said.

The Takaishi family, Abe explained, is well-known in Japan, and as their only son, “Chris has to be a success.” He was sent away, Abe said, “to become strong and to break up his so-called shyness.” To support him, the family has spent the equivalent of $40,000 a year.

There’s a lot of sadness in this story. It’s sad that his parents didn’t diagnose the autism as a child. It’s sad that they sent him away to the US in order that they did not have to deal with him. It’s sad that he has to return to a Japan that he doesn’t know or understand because his visa ran out. It’s sad that the parents only think about how much they have spent on him, not the quality of the parenting. It’s sad that his “adopted” American parents were much better parents to him than his Japanese parents.

Good luck Chris.

Farewell to a Life: After 15 Years, Autistic Man Must Return to an Unfamiliar Homeland

3 comments on “Tadakatsu “Chris” Takaishi
  1. That article appeared in the Japan Times today. A very sad story. I hope Chris will be able to settle in Tokyo. Given his IT background, maybe he can get to work at one of the many english-speaking companies here.

  2. Shintan says:

    I knew Chris in a real life when he was in D.C. and this story is totally exagerrated. He knows how to read and speak Japan as I’ve always spoken Japan with him when I saw him. His Japanese skill is probably not as good as it should be for his age, but I am sure he will have no problem living in Japan. This is another example of how BS most articles are on newspapers!

  3. Shintan says:

    I was a friend of Chris when he was in D.C. This article is totally exageratted. Yeah, sure he is an autistic, but he sure knows how to read and write Japanese, though it is probably not as good as it should be for his age, but so what? most of us would be if you stayed in the other country for more than 15 years.