KUMAMOTO – With many day care centers in central Kyushu either damaged or being used to house evacuees, many people are caught between trying to make a living and caring for their children.
As many as 89 day care facilities in 17 municipalities in Kumamoto Prefecture alone remain closed as aftershocks continue to shake the region, it was learned Wednesday.
Amid the crisis, the city of Kumamoto has set up a temporary nursery to support working parents.
However, working mothers, in particular, have expressed concern over how they will make a living with no place to leave their children. Many have also said they are worried about separating from their children amid the continuing aftershocks.
According to the Kumamoto prefectural and municipal governments, out of 651 public and private day care centers in the prefecture, 39 in the city of Kumamoto, nine each in the town of Mashiki and the city of Yatsushiro, five in the town of Ozu and four in the city of Uto, remained closed as of Tuesday.
Other day care centers resumed operations, but some have been forced to shorten their hours or ask parents to bring meals for their children.
“Some buildings have cracks. We will work on resuming operations as soon as possible while ensuring the safety of the facilities,” said Hironori Nishimura, the mayor of Mashiki, where nine out of 11 day care centers are closed.
The city of Kumamoto opened its temporary day care center at a children’s recreational facility in Nishibaru Park in Chuo Ward for preschool children aged 3 or older.
“It really helps. I hope more of such day care centers will be set up,” said Yoshiko Matsuura, a 34-year-old college staffer who brought her 3-year-old daughter to the center. She said she took her daughter to work once but could not concentrate on her job.
Yuka Maeda, a 36-year-old single mother from Kumamoto’s Nishi Ward, who works as a licensed cook, has been living inside a car with her 9- and 3-year-old sons after the major quake that struck Kumamoto on April 14. Her elder son’s elementary school will not resume until after the Golden Week holidays, and her younger son’s nursery school remains closed.
Maeda decided not to go to an evacuation center because her children are frightened of staying inside buildings due to the aftershocks.
She says she also has financial issues since she spent a lot of her money on food and gasoline before relief goods started arriving. Still, she is torn between the need to work and the wish to stay with her children.
“I’m worried about large aftershocks, which can take place any time,” she said. “I don’t want to be separated from my children.”
Part-time office worker Yuko Hashimoto, 40, whose house in Mashiki was severely damaged by the quake, evacuated to Misato, Kumamoto, with her husband, 7-year-old son and two 4-year-old twin boys. The elementary school and day care center are closed, and Hashimoto said she received an email from the day care center saying they do not know when they can reopen.
Begged by her office to come in, even for an hour, Hashimoto only decided to go to work after the company gave her approval to bring her three children.
Junko Tanoue, 31, whose house was completely destroyed, works as a nurse at a hospital in Mashiki. She is currently living in an evacuation center with her family, including her 4 year-old son and her grandmother.
“I must work, because we will need many things if we move into temporary housing,” she said.