Members of the Liberal Democratic Party continue to make inappropriate and insulting comments. I’m especially speechless and dumbfounded by the comment recently made by the party’s secretary general Toshihiro Nikai.
According to Asahi Newspaper issued on Jun 27, in a speech he gave in Tokyo, he said:
“There are people who selfishly think not bearing children leads to a happier life” and
“For everyone to be happy, people should make a lot of children and this will lead to a prosperous nation.”
Here, I will not discuss whether making children or not makes one’s life happier. You cannot talk about what happiness is so easily. What I’m the most dumfounded about is the part where he states: “people should make a lot of children and this will lead to a prosperous nation.”
The Asahi Newspaper, as expected, wrote about this on June 29 in an editorial titled “A sin of the idea of the ‘bearing more children’ comment by Mr. Nikai.” I also think his comment is absolutely unforgivable but, here, I would like to discuss it from a slightly different point of view.
The idea of making more children leading to a prosperous nation is something we have heard before. Yes, during the Second World War, the country promoted a campaign of “more births, more people”. Women had to give birth to four,five, or sometimes even seven or eight children. Their children were taken away to battlefields and mothers earnestly waited for a return that never happened.
I once researched language used in a pre-war magazine called “Ie no Hikari (the Light of the House)”. Its readership was mainly farmers. This publication had a circulation of more than one million copies. In the August 1940 issue, I found an article on the first pages with a picture of parents in the center and 16 children surrounding them. The caption of the photo read “Hanjiro Shirato, a 46-year old government official in Nagasaki Prefecture, is blessed with 16 children, starting from a 19-year old daughter Toshiko. The family is marked as No. 1 in Japan. All of the children are well built and do well at school. This is a model family of the national policy.”
The photo with 16 children in one family is indeed amazing. Yes, this must be No. 1 in Japan. What is more surprising is the brevity of the period in which they had 16 babies, with the eldest being only 19 years old. They had babies almost every year, or at least once in two years. The mother had the next baby when she was still breastfeeding the current one and repeated this 16 times. And this was praised as “the model of the national policy.” In this picture, the mother is happily smiling, although there is no mention of her, although the father’s job, name, and age are clearly described.
This article denotes how women of that age were forcefully made into tools to have children. After she was forced to have so many children, I imagine that she was exhausted physically and spiritually, and could not enjoy her life anymore. It is easy to say that it was their own fault because they believed in such a “national policy,” but when the whole of Japanese society took on the war and the ideology of “make more children,” who could, except the exceptionally levelheaded, say “we will only have two children”?
Mr. Nikai’s comment about more children leading to a prosperous nation ignored the history of failure Japan experienced 75 years ago. People like the Shiratos, who had children almost every year to contribute to the national policy, were praised, but they ended up not contributing to a prosperous nation. Politicians must learn from that part of history and not say the same thing as 75 years ago.
In the background of Mr. Nikai’s brazen comment, there is, as expected, sexism. He considers women as child-making machines and not as valuable as men. If he could – even slightly – imagine how hard it is for women to bear children, he would never be able to say “have more children.” As long as this man, who lacks the ability to imagine this hardship and view women as the same human beings, governs the country as secretary general of the LDP, Japan will not be able to improve the shameful ranking of the 114th in the Gender Gap Index. And of course, women can never shine despite the prime minister’s campaign for “shining women.”
Translated and adapted by Naoko Hirose Original article in Japanese