Assemblyman’s rebuke of moms seeking day care draws outrage

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Mothers should remember that the responsibility of raising children lies first with each household before making “shameless” demands for more nursery schools, a Suginami Ward Assembly member wrote Feb. 21 in his blog, drawing hundreds of angry comments.

Yutaro Tanaka, a member of the local Liberal Democratic Party chapter, was criticizing a group of mothers who held a protest outside the Tokyo ward office earlier in February. Tanaka, 37, said in his entry that while “woman power” is necessary to revitalize the economy, he thought that the mothers’ attitudes “had no touch of reserve nor shame.”

“What I am saying is don’t force your child-rearing on society from the start. . . . (The mothers) should have the manners and etiquette to say ‘Please help us raise our children,’ ” Tanaka complained on his blog, adding he is not married and has no kids.

Hundreds of angry comments flooded the blog, with people expressing sentiments such as that they don’t want to raise their children in a district with a representative like Tanaka and that it is because of people like him that Japan has a low birthrate.

Tanaka was not immediately available for comment.

The massive number of children waiting to get into publicly certified nurseries is a nationwide problem, as more parents have to work in the stagnant economy.

Health ministry data show 24,825 kids nationwide were denied day care in 2012. Tokyo led by far with 7,257 such kids. The ministry has set up a special fund, currently totaling ¥550 billion, to provide support to municipal governments to ease the problem.

Like many wards in Tokyo, Suginami’s publicly certified nursery schools are far from adequate. According to a Suginami official, 2,968 new applications were filed for kids to get into a nursery in fiscal 2013, but 1,505 had to be rejected.

Last week, a few days after the mothers protested over the 1,505 rejections, Suginami Mayor Ryo Tanaka held a news conference to announce emergency steps to help the children left out, including raising the capacity in some nurseries and increasing and expanding the number of public and noncertified facilities.

“I think the mothers were placed in a situation where they felt they had no choice but to raise their voices to be heard,” a Suginami official told The Japan Times. “We must earnestly listen to the urgent concern raised by these mothers, who need to go back to work and also raise children.”

  • WithMalice

    “…adding he is not married and has no kids.”
    I hope he’s not looking for that to change any time soon!

    • JusenkyoGuide

      There’s no wondering WHY he isn’t married with a view like that.

  • Simon Foston

    Not so much a case of foot in mouth as brain in mouth.

  • Ururoa

    What they should do is get rid of the corruption in the system. So many of the spaces reserved for children of working parents in our local childcare are taken by mothers who don’t work at all. It’s just that they have the right connections to get their kids in.

  • Mark Garrett

    While there is no doubt that the public facilities are inadequate, it’s also high time companies started providing on-site daycare. Just take a look at what most of the top firms in the U.S. (and more than likely other countries) provide. Most of the employees I’ve met and talked with here don’t even know what the term ‘benefits’ means.

    Oh, and this guy is a complete idiot too. (as if it needs mentioning)

  • Earl Kinmonth

    Strictly speaking, a shortage of PUBLIC daycare places is not a “nationwide” problem. It is primarily a big city phenomenon and even within big cities there is considerable variation. Within Tokyo, some wards have near zero waiting lists while others have very long lists. It all depends on the demographics of the catchment areas for PUBLIC daycare places. Further, you will not read about this problem in the US, not because there is no problem, but because there is no national PUBLIC daycare system.

  • TokyoMommy

    Living in Japan, I have found the daycare here very affordable and fairly easy to get into. I live in suburb of Tokyo (Chiba) and there are so many hoikuen both public and private here, that most are not even half full. Kindergartens are offering after school care and are providing meals as well (if anything, just to stay in business). On the other hand, there is still a lot of stigma against working Mothers. Companies are usually not accommodating for working parents, forcing us to work long hours, longer hours than most hoikuen stay open and on days when hoikuen are not available. Men especially are forced to work such long hours and in great distances from families, thus making women shun getting married or having children. The crazy work ethic is far more damaging to the population than lack of child care.