Fathers and mothers starving their infants, grown children hiding the deaths of parents and living off their pensions, the elderly dying of heat stroke alone in their rooms — recently Japan has seen a wave of incidents casting doubt on the strength of family and community ties.

Particularly shocking was the discovery July 30 of the small bodies of a 3-year-old girl and 1-year-old boy abandoned by their mother in an Osaka apartment. Left with no food or drink from late June, the children were also neglected by local officials who, for reasons of bureaucratic procedure, did not enter the apartment in spite of reports from neighbors of crying children.

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