Months before a legal change to promote paternity leave takes effect, one local authority stunned the public by taking about two weeks off work in April to look after his newborn son.

The move by Hironobu Narisawa, the 44-year-old mayor of Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, was quite rare in Japan where few mayors, whether female or male, take parental leave.

In a recent interview, Narisawa said: "I wanted to devote all my love to my child, who is such a precious blessing. I also took leave because no male staff of Bunkyo had ever taken paternity. . . . I wanted to encourage them to do so through my gesture."