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The employee was in the throes of desperation as her maternity leave drew to a close in mid-March.

The Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, resident had just two weeks left before returning to work, but after applying to enroll in one day care center after another, she still hadn’t nailed any. An impossible choice then loomed: either quit her job or shell out for a private international day care center that costs a whopping ¥240,000 a month.

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