Last January, the mayor of Chiba, Toshihito Kumagai, raised eyebrows when he called for increasing the number of male staff in the city's public day care program. Tending to children is still considered a woman's job in Japan, which is why pay remains criminally low. Over the years, however, men have entered the field, and with the current labor crunch exacerbating the day care shortage in larger Japanese cities, Kumagai wants to encourage more of them to apply for jobs.

However, as the Huffington Post pointed out on Jan. 23, Kumagai's statements, delivered via Twitter, didn't sit well with a lot of people because he made a point of saying that these male workers would do the same tasks that female workers do. In addition to pledging that he would build men's rest rooms and locker rooms in day care facilities (at present, toilets and changing rooms for staff are gender-neutral due to the assumption that only women will use them), he said that male workers would be charged with changing diapers and helping toddlers change their clothing, and assisting them in using the bathroom.

The backlash was quick. Parents said that they didn't want male staff to touch infants and children, particularly girls, and they felt that this demand was not at all discriminatory. Kumagai responded by asking: Did these parents not mind it when their sons were assisted in intimate tasks by female staff? It is discrimination, he asserted, to demand that some chores only be performed by women.