National

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.”