In January, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi received worldwide attention after surprising the public with his plan to take parental leave shortly before the birth of his first child.

As the son of a former prime minister, Koizumi, 38, is a high-profile politician described as the frontrunner to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He announced he will take two weeks off, spread over the course of three months, but would not skip "important public activities" such as Diet and Cabinet meetings so as not to "disrupt public affairs." Koizumi intends to incorporate a flexible work schedule by corresponding via email and video conferencing from home.

In Japan, the child care leave law only covers employed "workers," which excludes Diet lawmakers from an official child care leave system. It's the first time a Cabinet minister has announced and followed through with paternity leave. With no precedents to follow, Koizumi admitted he was somewhat confused about how to go about taking paternity leave, but added that "the system will not change unless the number of male public servants taking leave increases."