The national news has recently reported a number of stories about young children dying at the hands of their parents or guardians, either from neglect or direct physical violence. It's hard to say if these tragedies constitute a trend since detailed child abuse statistics weren't really available until 2005, when the welfare ministry starting compiling them in earnest.

On Sept. 17, the Asahi Shimbun ran an article reporting that 71 children died of abuse nationwide in 2014, including those who died in so-called family suicides. When murder-suicides are not counted, more than 60 percent of children killed by parents are less than 1 year old. In 2014, 15 died within 24 hours of being born.

Asahi's research found that 90 percent of children who die of abuse are younger than 3 years old, and in 28 of the 39 cases it studied in 2014, the perpetrator was the biological mother. In 24 cases the reason given for the crime was that the child was the result of an unexpected pregnancy. Eighteen of these women said they did not seek medical care and many gave birth alone. Thirteen were not living with the father of the child and five didn't know who the father was.