Christel Takigawa, a freelance TV newscaster and wife of Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, gave birth to a boy early Friday morning.
“I’m happy and reassured to say a healthy baby boy was born early today,” Koizumi told members of the press Friday morning. “Thankfully, both the mother and child are doing just fine.”
Though he declined to share his first son’s name, the minister said he was able to be with his wife during the birth, something that would have likely been impossible had the child been born next week with the ordinary Diet session starting on Monday.
“The feeling of fatherhood has only just started to sink in,” Koizumi said. “I want to raise him like my dad raised me,” he added, referring to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Earlier in the week, the younger Koizumi made headlines when he announced that he would take two weeks of paternity leave during the first three months following the child’s birth. It was a rare move, especially for a politician, in a country where men almost never take time off work to care for newborns.
The law grants both men and women up to one year of parental leave following the birth of a child. However, the dynamics of the Japanese workplace and larger societal pressures often make people hesitate to take advantage of this policy, Koizumi said.
The minister said he will manage his duties as a public official while he’s on paternal leave through teleworking, video conferencing and asking his deputy minister or other officials to perform work on his behalf when necessary. Following his announcement on Wednesday that he planned to take parental leave, the minister said he faced criticism from the media and other politicians claiming he was jeopardizing his duties as a public servant.
“I’m the first Cabinet minister in history to take paternity leave,” Koizumi said. “I’m doing something unprecedented that no one has done before. I knew there would be criticism.”
Just over 6 percent of working fathers applied for or took child care leave in fiscal 2018, according to data from the health ministry, a stark contrast from the 82 percent of working mothers who took maternity leave. Among the men, 36 percent took fewer than five days of leave while women took leave for 10 to 12 months.
“News of my paternity leave was taken up by foreign media, which I believe shows that Japan is seen by the international community as a country in which a politician taking paternity leave is, in fact, news,” the minister said. “By taking leave, I hope Japan will move closer to someday becoming a country in which this doesn’t make the news.”