Japanese dads are coming under scrutiny — again. Ever since Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi officially made ikumen (men who take an active role in child-rearing) fashionable by publicly taking two weeks off for paternity leave, fathers who let their spouses shoulder all the burden of child care have become very unpopular figures — both in terms of social media and in real life. Intriguingly, however, the discussion has shifted from whether employers should encourage their male employees to take time off after childbirth to how much fathers are actually contributing when they do stay home.
"I worked myself to near-death in my 20s and 30s but, now that I've become a father, I devote at least six hours a day to cooking, cleaning and dropping off and picking up my child from day care,” 45-year-old author and university lecturer Yohei Tsunemi tells the Asahi Shimbun in an interview. “While spending time with my family is very nice, there's always an anxious feeling at the back of my mind that maybe I won't be able to return to my career path, and will be left behind. This is probably a feeling that women have had for decades, but they've weathered the storm and worked really hard to maintain households and keep their jobs. We fathers don't have the same examples. I wish that we, as men, had similar role models to look up to."
Tsunemi describes his angst as “moya moya,” which indicates a vague sense of foreboding that he can't quite put a finger on.