• Chunichi Shimbun

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A Japanese student has been traveling the world wearing a pregnancy simulator and inviting men to put on the 10 kg vest to feel the struggles faced by expectant women.

“I want my project to give men a chance to raise awareness of pregnancy and life,” said Kota Hakoyama, a senior at Hokkaido University School of Medicine.

A native of Nagoya’s Nakamura Ward, 22-year-old Hakoyama embarked on his journey in February last year. He visited China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America before returning to Japan in May, using buses and trains to travel inland and staying in budget accommodation.

Since the end of June, he has continued his project by traveling around Japan on a bicycle.

He visited 39 countries in total, including China, India and Egypt, approaching men on the streets to take part in the project. He explained to them that he is traveling the world to raise awareness and help men experience some of what pregnant women go through.

After getting them to understand his purpose, he asked them to put on the pregnancy simulator and perform tasks such as climbing up and down stairs and picking up a key on the ground while wearing the vest.

When they were done, he would tell them to take good care of their wives and children.

When he was in Morocco, he met a man around his age who told him that Muslims valued pregnant women and asked him to tell others that Islam was not a scary religion.

In Iran, a girlfriend of a man who tried on the vest praised Hakoyama’s project, saying she really loved such a peaceful way of thinking by Japanese people.

Hakoyama learned about pregnancy simulators at a university festival in his freshman year. When he put on the vest, he felt its heaviness and realized how tough it can be for women during pregnancy.

Hakoyama’s parents divorced when he was still in elementary school and he said he has a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude for his mother, who raised three children by herself and gave them the opportunity to focus on their studies.

The experience of wearing a pregnancy simulator made him curious about how the rest of the world valued mothers and pregnancy, so he decided to go abroad.

However, the project was not always well received.

One time, while staying at budget accommodation in Turkey, he had just removed his vest with a sigh of relief. A female owner approached him and said pregnant women can’t take off the heavy weight like he did, leaving him speechless.

“I may not understand the feelings of pregnant women, but I’m sure there is a purpose in approaching and educating other men,” he told himself and continued his journey.

As he traveled and met more people, he began to realize that every person is born of a woman, and that thinking about pregnancy is to think about life itself.

Through his travels, Hakoyama also began to think about Japan’s declining birthrate and ways to make the country more friendly to women hoping to have children.

“By making men put on the vest and think about pregnant women, I believe they can deepen their understanding (toward child-rearing),” he said.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on July 14.

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