Working parents are turning to social media in dismay after learning that their children have not been accepted at day care centers as the results of application screening for April enrollment at authorized child care facilities across Japan have started arriving in the mail.
The collective anger among working parents who have not been able to find child care services could turn into a large movement as seen last year when an anonymous blog post declared, "My child wasn't accepted at day care. Die, Japan!" -- which became a topic of debate during Diet deliberations.
"This is not how I imagined things would be," "We're thinking of moving," said some of the 60-plus working parents who participated in a networking event of a citizens' group in the Tokyo suburban city of Musashino on Feb. 5 to push for more day care centers. The participating families talked about pressing issues they are facing due to the lack of child care services.
In Musashino, a plan to open a privately run day care center authorized by the Tokyo governor, which were to accept 81 children between the age of 0 and 5, has been dropped due to opposition from neighbors.
A 32-year-old mother who joined the Feb. 5 event with her husband and 10-month-old son said her child was not accepted at any authorized day care center where she applied. The only place the family has found is a non-authorized facility, which would cost 170,000 yen per month in fees.
"We want to start planning a second child, but...," the mother said, "We don't know what to do." The couple had just moved to the city while she was pregnant, but is now discussing whether they should move to other places where it would be easier to find a day care center.
In the meantime, voices of anger and distress are pouring in on social media.
"This isn't funny. Why did we not get in?" said one post from Osaka Prefecture. "No availability in the second-round application, either. Devastated," another commented from the city of Osaka, while a person from Shizuoka Prefecture lamented, "We're all going down. What can we do?" There was a post with a photo of a letter of notice showing that the person had not been accepted at a day care center, in which they commented, "I ain't working because I can't! (since there is no place for my child's day care service)."
Tae Amano, 41, who has been calling on the Musashino Municipal Government to open an authorized day care facility, and others have launched a social media campaign using the hashtag, "Hoikuen ni hairitai (I want to get into a day care center)." They have asked Twitter and Facebook users to share photos of the letters of day care rejection from their local governments and stories about their search for day care facilities.
Over the past few days, working parents have been posting comments on social media on their desperate attempts to secure day care center placement. Amano and the citizens' group members are planning a campaign event near the Diet building on March 7.
"We want to make this (day care shortage issue) a big wave of movement by making this issue visible and having those in similar situations across the country connect with each other," Amano told the Mainichi Shimbun.
The number of children on waiting lists for child care services in Japan totaled some 90,000 as of April 2016, including the so-called "hidden" waitlisted children whose parents were on child care leave.