Single parents in Japan have it tough, but these hardships seem to disproportionately affect single mothers more. This week, filmmaker Rionne McAvoy joins us to discuss the hidden poverty present in one of the world’s richest nations.

Hosted by Mara Budgen and produced by Dave Cortez.

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Mara Budgen 00:44

Welcome to Deep Dive from The Japan Times, I'm Mara Budgen. What you just heard were clips from “The Ones Left Behind: The Plight of Single Mothers in Japan,” a documentary by Rionne McAvoy. Rionne was featured in The Japan Times recently in an article by Louise George Kittaka, and I took a keen interest in the piece since back in 2021 I wrote something for the paper about how women in this country are disproportionately shouldering the burden of housework and childcare and how this affects their employment prospects, and I was keen to explore the issue from the point of view of single mothers as well. So I asked Shaun McKenna, Deep Dive’s resident host, whether I could take over hosting duties this week, and he kindly agreed. Rionne, the filmmaker, joins us on the show to talk about the documentary and why single mothers and their children are some of the people who are most likely to be living in poverty in Japan.

Hi, Rionne, welcome to Deep Dive.

Rionne McAvoy 01:51

Hey, thank you for having me.

Mara Budgen 01:52

Before diving into the issue, could you just tell us a bit about who you are and about your latest film?

Rionne McAvoy 01:59

Right, well, I'm an Australian. I've been living in Japan for about 20 years. I moonlight as a professional wrestler, whilst being a full time documentary filmmaker. This is my first feature documentary. It is a documentary on single mothers in Japan. It's a passion project of mine. Took two years to make. It's been a long road. But we've been very fortunate. We've been in a lot of film festivals. It's a really serious documentary. But if you watch it, you'll realize at the end that there's hope. And that's the message I give.

Mara Budgen 02:33

And the film is called “The Ones Left Behind: The Plight of Single Mothers in Japan.” I've seen the film, and it's fantastic. So tell us, Rionne. What is the plight of single mothers in Japan?

Rionne McAvoy 02:46

Well, from my filmmaker perspective, Japanese mothers are severely overworked. They are working poorly paid. non-regular jobs with little benefits. They're very much isolated from the community. They really are some of the poorest people in Japan. And it's really just a group of people that their plight is known to society. And I hope this film will be the start of change, the start of people being more aware that there are people who are really struggling.

Mara Budgen 03:19

So your documentary opens with a story of a woman who actually chose to hide her identity. And she says that she divorced her abusive husband, and that her children are now at university. But then she also says that she thought things would get easier once they grew up. But she's still working all day, and struggling to make ends meet. How did you become interested in the story of this woman and other women like her?

Rionne McAvoy 03:49

Well, this woman in particular, she had refused to be in the film for a year. The hurdle that I got over was, well, if I blur at your face, and if I change your voice, how about that? And she said, “As long as my kids never find out.” And they still don't know that she's been in it. Because her story is actually the basis for everything. Not only domestic violence that she had to put up with, but also the financial domestic violence, I guess you would call it. Her husband basically refused to give her any more than she basically barely needed, which was about ¥30,000 a month, and basically locked her in her home. She wasn't allowed out. But in the end, I had a version of the film without her, and I just knew when I watched that first draft, I needed her in it, because she tells the numbers, just how hard it is.

Mara Budgen 04:40

Yeah, she really encapsulates all the issues that the documentary deals with. In The Japan Times article about the documentary it says that you actually struggled to get some of the women to talk to you, right? Why do you think that so many women were reluctant to share their story on camera with you?

Rionne McAvoy 05:02

Probably many reasons. I think the biggest would be that, well, single mothers are busy. They're raising their kids. They're battling everyday. Like I always say, we shouldn't feel sorry for them. They're warriors. They're battling. But they have so much to do and so little time to do it. It was hard to even, “OK, where do I even begin? Where do I go?” So you know, the obvious thing was, “OK, let's look at single mother support groups.” So I reached out to, I would say at least 11 or 12 support groups. “I want to do a film on single mothers, can you help me?” Most of them didn't reply, I would say of the 11 or 12, it would have been I’d say three replayed. Two of them said no straightaway. And the only one who said, “This is an amazing thing. Let's do it,” was Heartfull Family. And that's Maiyumi Nishida, who's in the film, and she was on board from the beginning and she was the only one. That was my first red flag. It was like, “Why don't more people want to get involved? What's going on here?”

Mara Budgen 06:00

And Heartfull Family is a single-parent support group. Right?

Rionne McAvoy 06:03

Yeah. Single parents support group. They do fantastic things. They’ve got a Christmas drive coming up where they give children of single parents Christmas presents. Santa comes along. That's coming up soon. Brilliant people. Maiyumi Nishida, she's the female representative, and there's a male representative, Tatsuya. And those two people were severely influenced by a couple of murders that had taken place. One was of a boy in Kawasaki, who had been beaten to death, stabbed 43 times by a gang. He was a child of 5. His mother was single. She was working nine-to-five and then doing a night job. And basically the kids were just left to be on their own and when things got bad, he had no one that he could talk to. That really influenced Mayumi-san, because her boy was the same age — her son was the same age — and she was a single parent and he was getting in trouble a lot with police. And she just thought “that could be me.” And then the other crime was in Choshi in Chiba, when a mother was left with about ¥160 in her purse, couldn't pay rent for 11 months, and they were kicked out of their apartment. And instead of facing society, she didn't know where to go, she didn't know what to do, and I guess the social part of it, you've been kicked out or shame on you, you're a terrible mother kind of thing, she took the ultimate sacrifice, tried to kill herself, but she murdered her daughter. So those two shocking incidents led to the creation of Heartfull Family.

Mara Budgen 07:42

So, in the film it’s quite interesting, because it shows many different types of single mothers who have, also, different types of jobs. Office workers, one of them is an actress and she does stunts in Japanese period drama. The documentary is just full of these very difficult but also extremely inspiring stories. We also have two Buddhist nuns, and not all the mothers are Japanese, of course. There's Harriet Ocharo. She's Kenyan. And many of these mothers are divorced, but also not all of them. Right? Some of them are single by choice. But what is it that all these women have in common? Like, what is it about being a single mother in Japan that these women are facing? Especially from the economic point of view?

Rionne McAvoy 08:25

It's the poorly paid jobs, the non-regular jobs. You know, from what they tell me, when your kid is sick, you have no choice, you just, you eat the money, and you got to go home and you got to take care of them. Whereas if you hadn't had a partner, you know, maybe you could ... there’d be more flexibility. You know, as part of my research, I was really surprised to find out that 85% of single parent households here are full time employees, hours wise, whether that be non-regular or regular, but over 50% of households are in poverty. So, you know, that sounds like OK, some kind of crazy stat. But what that basically means is, they're working an incredible amount of hours, but they're poor. And you know, at the beginning, I was like, “OK, what is poor? What is poverty?” Because when you think of poverty, you think of, you know, other undeveloped nations. Japan is an extremely rich country. The average salary is about ¥4.4 million, so anyone who earns under half of that, which is ¥2.2 million, it's like $18,000, or something per year. If you're under that, that's not much to raise a child on. You're in poverty. And I call it hidden poverty, because I might be sitting next to or across from someone on the train and he might look a million dollars. He might have a really nice T-shirt on, great pair of jeans and some shoes, but he may not have eaten breakfast. His mother may be struggling to put food on the table, but he looks good. It's hidden poverty. We don't see it. It's not in our face. And you know, so a lot of people will be really surprised to find out, I certainly was, that 1 in 7 children in Japan struggled to get meals, they're in poverty, and that ends up being about 14% to 15% of children. I put that stat in the film, that's an official OECD stat.

Mara Budgen 10:04

So the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Rionne McAvoy 10:08

Right, the OECD official statistic for children in poverty is 13.9% in 2019, which is 1 in 7 children. So for every seven children, one of them doesn't have a meal. That blew my mind. And so that's, that's why originally, when I wrote the treatment for the film, I focused only on single mothers, but you'll notice that there's a big thing about the kids cafeterias, the kodomo shokudo, that came about because I was trying to interview one of the nuns, Mai, a young mother with two children. And I kept trying to ask her, like, “OK, tell me about your struggles as a single mother,” and I'm going to interview her during one of her events, she runs a kodomo shokudo kids cafeteria in Fukui, and she wouldn't reply to anything. And she just kept saying, “Well, you know, the kids cafeteria,” and I was like, “No, I want to know about your struggle.” And I started researching, and I was like, “Oh, my God, the fact that we have these kids cafeterias is, you know, that's a problem in itself,” but then to find out about child poverty, so it kind of grew from her not wanting to be so open about her private life, it kind of grew into this, well, it's also about child poverty.

Mara Budgen 11:17

And this theme of the kodomo shokudo, obviously, highlights the food insecurity. But then, I've actually experienced kodomo shokudo, in Fukushima, actually. And from what I understand, it's also a safe space for children to be in whilst they're single parents often or their guardians are at work. In the film, there's a lot of talk of cycles of poverty, the kind of transmission of poverty from the family, the mother to the children. So this kind of intergenerational cycle is very hard to break out of. So how is poverty being transferred from others to children?

Rionne McAvoy 12:01

I think the biggest thing is probably a lack of chances in education. You know, right now there's a catchphrase it's, in Japan called risukiru, where they're trying to reskill the mothers. And they're basically trying to catch them up on the things that they missed out on. And like our wonderful professor, Yanfei Zhou-sensei, says, “The best job you get in Japan, is right after graduation.” In Japan, it all depends on what school you go to. If you go to Waseda, you're going to have a good job. If you don't get through high school, you're going to be a laborer, or a factory worker. And that just keeps going and going. And that's why it's a cycle.

Mara Budgen 12:41

The professor you mentioned is in the documentary, right?

Rionne McAvoy 12:44

Yeah, she’s Chinese professor. She wrote a lot of books on single parents, single mothers, especially. She's a big advocate. And she really was one of the first ones to point out to me the difference in poverty levels of single fathers versus single mothers. The film was originally going to be both, it was going to be a single parent film. But I slowly came to realize that single mothers doing it much tougher. Why? Mostly pay. The gender pay gap is massive, and so I think, you know, if mothers are in poverty, and they're struggling to be there for their children, because they're working full time, it's just generally very difficult to get out of that cycle in general.

Mara Budgen 13:21

Yeah, when it comes to the life choices that the sons and daughters of single mothers have, of course, because they might be struggling economically, they may not have in their mind the realm of possibilities as to what they can do with their lives. But you decided to call your film “The Ones Left Behind,” right? So in what way have single mothers in Japan been left behind?

Rionne McAvoy 13:50

They've been left behind because of, you know, government programs are not designed with single parents in mind. I'll give you an example. If you become a single parent, in any Western country, you immediately go and sign up for welfare, which is a government agency. In Japan there's nothing like that. You go to the saiban, you go to the family court. It costs about a ¥1 million minimum. You fight for the right to receive child support from the ex, mostly ex-father. By the way, 80% of fathers are not paying child support at all. It's probably more, it's probably about 85%. And a lot of people say to me, well, are Australian males so much better? Are American males so much better? And I think the answer is no. If a man doesn't want to pay, he won't, but the fact that he's forced to pay. And so if we just change this rule, which seemingly would be very easy to change, if you're someone in the government who has these kinds of powers make that change. You know, for example, if you earn more than ¥1.3 million, you get taxed differently. Mothers purposely don't want to earn more than that, and if you are receiving child support from the father, it's calculated as income, the mother's income. So if she works, and she's receiving child support, that's one total income. This is by household. So if she wants to earn a lot of money, she's going to pay a lot of tax. OK, that's great. That's what she should be doing, but this ¥1.3 million threshold with child support included, means that she can basically just do a baito (part-time job). Like I said, I'm no professional tax man or lawyer, or government person. This is just the stories that they've told me which I have backed up with evidence in the film with the statistics. But that just doesn't make any sense to me.

Mara Budgen 15:44

So the picture you're painting is that, you know, many single moms are single moms because they're divorced. And I think something else that is important to say is that out of single parent households, the vast, vast majority are single mother households, right. And basically, in Japan, joint custody of children also doesn't exist, right? After divorce custody is given to the primary caregiver, which more often than not, is the mother, of course.

Rionne McAvoy 16:17

You know, this whole topic of joint custody, it's very delicate. We've seen a lot of things in the news about, you know, especially foreign males who don't get to see their children. It's such a delicate topic, but there is no joint custody here. I believe it should be case by case, by the way, because I talked to many mothers who were beaten pillar to post by their ex-husbands and refuse to be on camera. By the way, I did interview a lot more. And they said the only thing keeping them from their ex husbands finding out where they live, and coming to get them is this joint custody thing.

Mara Budgen 16:47

So interestingly, though, there does seem to be some movement in this sense, because in late August, a justice ministry panel actually proposed to change the law and introduce a joint custody after divorce system. So we'll see how we'll see how that goes. But quite shockingly, though, some surveys have shown how the majority of single parents actually prefer the sole custody system. And you touched upon this before whereby some of these single mothers are coming out of abusive relationships, and they want to have nothing to do with their former husband or partner, whoever it may be. There's one story in particular in the documentary, which is absolutely shocking. And that's the story of Fumihino. Could you tell us a bit about Fumihino?

Rionne McAvoy 17:47

Well, she is another Buddhist priestess, her ex-husband is a priest. They come from a family of priests and very nice social standing. And according to her, I believe her, he would come home and beat her. And she's strongly for the family court system. It's a good system. She says, it works. But you got to see it through to the end, which is a massive struggle for the mothers. But she's kind of a little bit against the joint custody thing. For the very fact that she doesn't want anything to do with her ex-husband. I rightly, I understand.

Mara Budgen 18:22

Yeah. And I think with Fumihino’s story, you know, what is interesting as well is how she's been able to overcome her struggles and her trauma. And, you know, she's a Buddhist nun, she is a drummer in a rock band, which is super cool. And she really talks about her rebirth as a single mother. And so that message of hope definitely shines through. So, Rionne, in looking at the underlying causes of the plight of single mothers, your documentary actually takes quite a long-term view. And it traces how Japan developed after World War II, how it transformed and it grew economically. How did these transformations affect the role of women and of mothers in Japanese society?

Rionne McAvoy 19:21

Right, well, the reason I did it that way is because I wanted to know myself. Everything that you see in the film is my learning curve. I heard a lot of stories of “life is hard,” etc, etc. But like, why? I needed to know the concept of family, what is the Japanese family, the nuclear family. So I had to understand, I had to go back and research. So I found Professor Akihito Kato from Meiji university, he is probably the at the forefront of nuclear family research. So the nuclear family is a modern concept. It's an implant from the U.S. It's postwar. Up until 1945, it was very much a village society. Mothers basically left child rearing to the grandparents. They would breastfeed, but that was it. All the family businesses were at home. It's very much a community thing. And so Japan kind of transitioned to this salaryman society, and which is kind of the only Japan that I know. But until the end of World War II, that was not Japan. The rapid urbanization, the economic miracle and rapid change. It became a society of salaryman and their wives. Women didn't need to be educated, they were to stay at home, they were to raise their children. But as the economy slowly started to dip, where they were like, “Well, well, we need to go back to work.” And now there's this massive gap, you know, where they haven't worked for such a long time. Now they gotta go back. They've been left behind in that sense, with skills.

Mara Budgen 20:52

So the picture you're painting is Japan, postwar, develops into this very advanced economy. But in the meantime, this gender division of labor forms where the men are out working, and they're doing the office jobs, and the women are at home, taking care of children. And then, you know, fast forward to now, you have these single mothers who don't have another breadwinner in the family, and they have to be the breadwinner. And they have difficulty accessing the high paid jobs, basically, because they can mainly access non-regular work. So you mentioned the gender pay gap, which is massive in Japan, it's one of the highest out of developed nations. There's also issues related to the amount of time that single mothers can dedicate to these jobs, right, because regular employment here requires you to work very long hours.

Rionne McAvoy 21:47

They're expected to stay in too late. These mothers, they need to get home. You know, if they'd been in the countryside, in the earlier days, well, there’d be someone there to help out. But because they're in Tokyo and Osaka, these big cities, they have to be the ones to go pick up their kid from kindergarten. Tomiko-san, she was one of the first mothers in the film, she talks about running in her high heels, running from station to station just to be there on time.

Mara Budgen 22:11

And another story that Tomiko talks about is, you know, this really stuck out to me, she said that she was working so much such long hours that she couldn't always attend some of her daughter's events at school, to the point where her daughter stopped telling her about them. And so she says, I was heartbroken about disappointing my daughter. So you mentioned the fact that women and single mothers may be judged differently in the workplace, right? And so how much of their struggles do you think are due to social pressures and even social stigma that is attached to to women, but especially to single mothers in Japan,

Rionne McAvoy 22:54

We just had a film screening at an international school the other day, and a mother came down. And she had talked about in her workplace, always wanting to keep her voice quiet, not trying to, you know, stick out. There's a massive stigma here. There are stories of mothers who still wear their wedding rings, even though they're divorced. They don't want anyone to know that they've been divorced. Like Tomiko-san told me off camera about her child initially being bullied. Why didn't your mother come?

Mara Budgen 23:24

Yeah, this topic of the mothers putting a lot of pressure on themselves, and then not wanting to talk about their struggles, you know, is very interesting. And in the documentary, it almost seemed to imply that this problem has only become worse with time. As in, in our modern contemporary era, these kinds of psychological mechanisms, and the social isolation has become worse. So for example, one of the people in the film, his name is Tetsuya Fujisawa, and he's a man. He's a grown man at this point.

Rionne McAvoy 24:00

He runs Heartfull Family. He's one of the directors.

Mara Budgen 24:03

Exactly. And he was raised by a single mom, right? And he said something that was to me quite shocking, because he says, “Tragedies that would not have happened in the past are happening today.” And so he tells the story of how when he was a child, and his mom was, you know, working nights in Cabaret clubs, the neighbors would step in. So he would still have adults around him who would take care of him. So there was a sense of community. But then fast forward to today, and the documentary suggests a very different picture of social isolation.

Rionne McAvoy 24:39

Yeah, totally. It's up until even, I would say, the late ’70s, their village would be raising the child. And so when you had all these people move to Tokyo, they find themselves in these mansions, these high-rise apartments, they're severely isolated and there's really no one, no one to talk to. A lot of women you'd be surprised to find out that they call a lot of these job consultation centers, initially talking about jobs, but it ends up being well actually, this domestic violence, if they're still married, or well, I can't feed my child, I don't have enough rice. You know, the lack of consultation centers really contributes to this isolation. Lack of someone to talk to, stigma, the pride of not wanting to ... to keep it all inside, not wanting to talk, that is also a contributing factor. And so you know, like Tetsuya Fujisawa-san, the director of Heartfull Family, he really brought up a great point about the lack of community these days, especially through the internet. Realizing people's cries for help, and their SOS that the calling out for SOS, but we don't really realize it, because we're so stuck in our internet, our smartphones. This can translate over to not just single parents, but you know, perhaps people who are contemplating suicide or who have depression, or something's going wrong at home, or their work, nothing's going right at work. Just, you know, trying to be that person who might say, like, “Hey, it's gonna be OK.” So this kind of consultation, talking to people, I feel it's kind of lost.

Mara Budgen 26:10

Right. But I think it's interesting, you know, as a filmmaker, you describe how making this film changed you as well and changed your behaviors, which I think shows the power of documentary filmmaking and filmmaking in general. And the fact that now you're noticing or trying to notice more the ones left behind.

Rionne McAvoy 26:31

Yeah, exactly. Just trying to realize people's calls for SOS, you know, their people's cries for help.

Mara Budgen 26:45

One of the big themes is that there seems to be a lack of government support for single mothers, whether it's, you know, income support, food security, childcare. So, you know, you looked into this topic, what kind of support actually exists? I mean, there is support out there, right. So what support exists, and why is it inadequate?

Rionne McAvoy 27:10

Well, I mean, there are food programs, there is rent assistance. But the thing is, a lot of the mothers, they don't know how to access that. A lot of the home pages that you look at, it's almost in gibberish. It's so technical. And a lot of the homepages in Japan are still from like the early ’90s. If you’ve ever been on one, especially when you try to look at it from your phone, you know, like the pages are like massive on your phone? You can't read the writing, because it's so small. The information is not clear. It's just not clear enough. “This is what we have. This is how to get it,” would be enough. There's a story in the film from Mai, who says, “Even if they were adequate programs, we don't know how to get them.” You know there’s the case of Miharu, the actress, who said that she struggled to get her child in childcare for so long. It just was such a struggle. They made her fill out all these papers, she did not understand a lot of it. She suddenly found out she was pregnant overnight. So what she did was she put her child in temporary childcare, and paid a lot for it. But the problem even with that was not enough staff at the childcare center, she couldn't couldn't cover all the hours, she could only drop her off at this time on this day. And it took her about, I think she said six months, to get her child under proper childcare, which she still has to pay for, of course, I think really, basically the government just needs to be doing better.

Mara Budgen 28:30

Did you actually try to talk to any government officials?

Rionne McAvoy 28:34

I reached out to probably 100 politicians, and I didn't get any replies. Basically, zero luck with politicians. Well, in my experience talking to the women, they all feel that the government is not doing enough. I know that it is on the minds of some politicians, it comes up in conversation daily, you know, especially when I get my Japan Times daily mail, daily newsletter, there's always something about families. You know, they’re always talking about the low birth rate, aging population. And I know that it comes up in parliament a lot. I can't speak as a professional on that topic, because I'm not, but what I can tell you from interviewing the mothers from behind the lens, documentary filmmaker perspective, is that people feel not enough it's being done.

Mara Budgen 29:21

And one thing that you show in the documentary is how citizens, people are kind of picking up where the government isn't doing enough. So you show in the documentary, we have nonprofit organizations and citizens support groups, these citizen-led initiatives. Have you seen them working well, do people, you know, access them?

Rionne McAvoy 29:47

Kodomo shokudo is twice a month, and spaces are severely limited. You have to register. Most times there's way too many children and not enough spaces. I think it's about 30 kids twice a month

Mara Budgen 30:00

For one of these?

Rionne McAvoy 30:03

For one cafeteria. Well, that's Setagaya, that is in the film, and there's about four or five, kodomo shokudo in Setagaya. And they're all run by basically retirees, all volunteers. I mean, these programs are working, but twice a month is not really enough. And I guess they're trying to fill a gap, where, before we had a community, we had societies that would help each other out. That's not here. But we can do this. I think if there's more awareness and a little bit more towards, OK, let's support the people who are supporting the people. That would definitely do a lot. But I think in general, they are helpful, these community initiatives, they are helpful to the mothers, I just don't think it's, I don't know from talking to them. It doesn't seem to be enough.

Mara Budgen 30:50

The demand is just too high. So there's actually 7,300 kodomo shokudo across Japan. And the highest concentration is in Tokyo, where there's about 840 of them. But as you said, it's still not enough, right, there's still a huge need. But interestingly, the kodomo shokudo, you highlight in the documentary, one of them is run by a single mom, right? The Buddhist nun, I believe her name is Mai Yahata. And then you also mentioned Heartfull Family, which is directed and which was founded by a single mother as well, Mayumi Nishida. So this aspect really breaks the narrative that single mothers are only victims, right? It shows that these, in this particular case, these two mothers, you know, they have agency, and so much so that they are not only helping themselves and their family, but they're helping other families like them.

Rionne McAvoy 31:58

That's why I think Mayumi-san agreed to do it with me is I've always been of the perception that these women are not victims. I never saw them as victims. And what I came to finally see them as absolute warriors, like absolute battlers. You know, they won’t let anything get them down. And it's like Mayumi-san says at the end of the film, they could be the strength of Japan. You know, we need to educate them, help them out, teach them how to earn more money or show them that these various government systems are available, take advantage of it. But if we can get them on the right track, I really think, just as Mayumi said, they can be a very powerful part of Japanese society.

Mara Budgen 32:39

Well, Rionne, it's been a massive pleasure. Thank you so much for coming to Deep Dive.

Rionne McAvoy 32:44

Yeah, thank you so much for having me, I’ve had an absolute blast talking to you. You know, it's not a happy topic, but it's one that I hope will give hope to people and help raise awareness.

Mara Budgen 33:00

My thanks to Rionne for coming on the show. And with me now is Deep Dive host, Shaun McKenna. Hi, Shaun.

Shaun McKenna 33:06

Hey, Mara, that was an interesting chat. What is RIonne hoping the impact of the film will be?

Mara Budgen 33:11

So his main goal is to raise awareness on the plight of single mothers in Japan, but he also wants to give the mothers hope. So he actually said that he wanted the documentary to have a happy ending. And some people didn't respond very well to this choice. Because you know, it is a heavy and often unhappy topic. But Rionne really wanted the film to have a hopeful message.

Shaun McKenna 33:37

OK, well, where can people watch the film?

Mara Budgen 33:41

So it's being screened at film festivals all over the world. And it has actually won multiple awards. And in Japan, Rionne has been holding screenings in schools and also in companies. So what he's trying to do is to raise awareness kind of at the grassroots level. But interestingly, he also tried to get it screened in the Diet, which is Japan's parliament of course, but he hasn't been successful there yet. Though, he said he's going to keep trying.

Shaun McKenna 34:09

Gotta tempt them with popcorn, I guess. Where can our listeners see a copy of the film?

Mara Budgen 34:15

So it's being shown this weekend as part of Kyushu’s Rising Sun International Film Festival, that's on Nov. 5, and it will also be at the Japan Indies Film Festival in Tokyo on Nov. 28. And if anybody wants to organize a charity screening, the proceeds of which would go to single mothers support groups, or if you just want information about upcoming screenings, you can visit the documentaries website, which we'll put in the show notes.

Shaun McKenna 34:43

That's good to know. Shall we do the Elsewhere in The Japan Times?

Mara Budgen 34:47

Sure. You're making me do it. Elsewhere in The Japan Times, the Immigration Services Agency is considering easing the requirements for foreign entrepreneurs to obtain residency in Japan, according to government sources. The move is aimed at revitalizing the domestic economy by making it easier for foreign nationals to set up businesses in Japan. Specifically, the agency plans to allow foreign nationals to stay in Japan for two years as a preparation period for starting a business if they have certified plans and meet other conditions.

Shaun McKenna 35:19

Thanks, Mara. And I just wanted to say that last week, I made a somewhat flippant remark on being a Karen. This was in regard to the security guards hired to patrol Shibuya during Halloween. I received some feedback from listeners. And Mara, I gotta say, I wasn't aware how hurtful this usage of the name has become. And someone mentioned this, at one point, it was kind of a jokey thing. But overseas, it's just taken on this darker meaning as like Karen is being used as a substitute for the word racist.

Mara Budgen 35:50

And obviously, just because you're named Karen doesn't mean you're racist.

Shaun McKenna 35:54

Exactly. So apologies for the joke. I had a lovely conversation with one person who wrote in and I don't know if they want to be named, but I came out of it with a new understanding of things. So thanks again for the feedback.

Mara Budgen 36:05

Speaking of feedback, you can contact us on X, there are links to our other socials and email in the show notes, or you can head to And thanks a lot to producer Dave Cortez for helping me out with this episode.

Shaun McKenna 36:19

And thanks to Oscar Boyd for our ending theme and the artist LLLL for theme music. I'm Shaun McKenna.

Mara Budgen 36:25

I'm Maura Budgen.

Shaun McKenna 36:27

Mara, can you do the honors?

Mara Budgen 36:28


Shaun McKenna 36:29