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Japanese song on motherhood attracts online criticism, sparks alternative lyrics

This image shows the promotional poster for the Hulu original program that featured the song "Atashi Okasan Dakara" (Image courtesy of Hulu)

A song about a new mother that was streamed online in a kids' program in early February has suffered a backlash for portraying motherhood as self-victimizing, but has also sparked alternative lyrics defending the diversity of parenthood

    The song, "Atashi Okasan Dakara" (Because I am a mother), is sung by Daisuke Yokoyama, who served as "Uta no Onisan" (singing big brother) for a popular children's program on NHK. Its lyrics were penned by children's picture book author "Nobumi." The song compares a woman's lifestyle shift from one focusing on herself when she did not have a child to sacrificing everything for her child, repeating the line "because I am a mother" 14 times.

    The song was released on a streaming service on Feb. 2, but quickly spread all over the web, attracting criticism such as "The implied message that mothers must give up everything is just too cruel" and "Don't lump all mothers together!"

    After the song was flamed online, Nobumi took to Twitter and other mediums to try to explain himself several times before ending up apologizing. Yokoyama also posted an apology saying "I hurt all of you" on his official blog.

    Along with the flaming, however, alternate versions of the song and hashtags to go along with them have also spread over social media, aiming to show another real side of childrearing. One such hashtag is "Okasan Dakedo" (I am a mother, but ...). While the original tells of the woman giving up her work, hobbies and fashion to learn to cook and wake up at 5 a.m. to tend to her child's needs, the alternate lyrics say, "I am a mother, but my ears are pierced, my hair is dyed and I sleep in, too. I go to concerts and buy the things that I want. I'm serious when I fight over snacks (with my child) and I cut corners by buying prepared food at the grocery store."

    Along with defending mothers everywhere, another variation "Ore Otosan Dakara" (Because I am a father) also rose to popularity. "Because I'm a father, since my child has a fever, I took a day off work today," the lyrics say. "I am a father, but my fried chicken is mine to eat and I buy toys for my child as well as for me."

    "There are many examples of songs that have come under fire for attempting to cheer mothers on by painting truthful pictures of raising children," journalist Renge Jibu said of the online phenomenon. She points out that presenting only a single model as positive was the issue that the online community had with these songs, and that lyricists are now expected to raise questions over such a one-sided picture of motherhood.

    "Instead of immediately retracting the song after it came under fire, the composer did the right thing trying to explain his intentions several times," Jibu said. "Because of the spread of the alternate versions of the song, people in a variety of circumstances could participate and deepen the discussion."

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