Most of us have the impression that Japanese families are close-knit and stable due to their tradition of respect for elders and the importance they place on family. However, the ugly reality of child abuse cases in Japan has surfaced and in fact, has reportedly been increasing since 1997.
What’s more, last year, police dealt with a record 335 cases of child abuse, 28 of them involving the deaths of young children. So far this year, there have been at least nine reported cases of young children who died at the hands of their abusive parents, many of whom were still in their early 20s.
Studies show that physical cruelty was the most common kind of abuse, accounting for 44.5% of cases, followed by neglect (36.7%) and mental cruelty (15.6%). There were 1,048 reported instances of sexual abuse, comprising 3.1% of the total. Those most at risk were children under six years old, with 15,255 pre-schoolers being the target of abuse.
In one case last month, a couple were arrested in Nara prefecture, western Japan, over suspicions of starving their five-year-old son to death. This month, another couple were arrested in Osaka prefecture for violently shaking their one-year-old baby girl, ultimately killing the child.
Experts believe that the increasing nuclearisation of the Japanese family is a major cause in the increase of child abuse. The shift away from households in which three generations would cohabit means grandparents are no longer able to assist with childcare chores. Other reasons given for the worsening situation are the lack of community in the country, with people feeling less connected to their local neighbourhoods, the rising cost of bringing up children, and the increase in single-parent families.