back to top

Everything You Need To Know About The "Controversial" Japanese Politician Who Brought Her Son To Work

The Kumamoto Prefecture assembly waited 40 minutes before Japanese politician Yuka Ogata left the chamber with her son.

Posted on

A local politician's decision to take her seven-month-old son to a city council meeting in Japan's Kumamoto Prefecture has sparked a nationwide discussion on the rights of parents in professional settings.

Yuka Ogata, a Kumamoto Muni assembly member, attended a meeting last Wednesday and brought along her seven-month-old son.

Kyodo Kyodo / Reuters

Before the session started, Ogata was told to leave the floor.

After 40 minutes of waiting, Ogata relented and decided to exit the meeting and leave her son in the care of a friend. She later returned and the meeting began.

The assembly's regulations state that anyone who is not a staff member will not be allowed to enter the assembly floor during a meeting.

From the time Ogata first learned she was pregnant in 2016 she had requested the assembly allow her to bring her child onto the floor, and create a day care centre in the assembly building. In return she was told to "hire a babysitter".

Asahi Shinbum / Getty Images

After the session, Ogata told media she "wanted the Kumamoto Municipal Assembly to be a place where women who are raising children can do a great job."

The controversial moment made headlines in Japan and prompted a social media movement encouraging parents to bring their children to work. Japanese citizens started tweeting out their support for Ogata with the hashtag "#子連れ会議OK" (It's OK to bring children to meetings).

SmartHR社は #子連れ会議OK です👶 先週も子連れの来客ありましたし、なんなら私自身も子連れで取材を受けたことがあります。写真はそのときのもの。 熊本県は地元なのでなんとも言えない気持ちになりました。「別に子供がいても会… https://t.co/EjlUp4kkCX

"You can bring children to our company," reads this tweet. "We had a visitor who brought their child last week; I, myself, have brought my child to interviews. The photo is from the time I brought my child to work.

"Kumamoto Prefecture is my hometown, so I felt speechless [when I heard the news]. I hope [society’s] atmosphere will become something like, ‘it’s not a big deal, we can do meetings and negotiations even if there’s a child around'.

Advertisement

"Our church has a kids room on the second floor. To parents with children, please don’t worry and come visit us."

#子連れ会議OK 上馬教会の2階にはキッズルームがあります🚼 お子さんと一緒の方も安心してお越しください🍼🚗

Japanese movie director Kazuaki Kiriya spurred on the movement, tweeting out that anyone who works with him could feel free to bring their children to meetings, interviews, and shoots: "I don't mind at all, so feel free to bring them with you."

この際だから言っときます。紀里谷と仕事をされる方はどなたでも子供連れてきてもらって結構です。打ち合わせ、インタビュー、撮影、全く気にしませんので、お気軽に^_^

Kiriya was joined by Japanese writer Hirotada Ototake and prominent manga artist Yukari Takinami. "This is not about fearing that the idea of something like allowing children at meetings will become uncontrollable or that society will not be able to maintain itself!" tweeted Takinami. "Instead, I hope the society will be able to think with hopes that 'if it’s something that will clearly not harm anyone or make anyone miserable, then let’s try it. We’ll certainly learn something by giving it a try'.”

「子連れで会議OKとかそういうことが横行したら社会が立ちゆかなくなる!」って不安ベースで考えるんじゃなくて「それが明らかにだれかを傷付けたり不幸にするわけじゃないならやってみよう。やることでわかることが必ずある」って希望ベースで考える世の中になっていくといいな

And Hiroki Komazaki, the director of Japanese non-profit Florence – which provides day care centres for working mothers and for children with disabilities– defended Ogata by comparing her actions to American civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Komazaki told BuzzFeed that a Japanese social movement would not spread without people such as Ogata pushing the boundaries.

“Just like how Ms. Rosa’s defiance shone a light on structure of discrimination against black people,” Komazaki said. “There’s a necessity to shine a light on an oppression that is considered a matter of course, and say ‘well, actually that might be wrong’.”

Advertisement

However, some criticised Ogata for bringing her child to work, claiming it was an "inappropriate" performance that created a scene.

#子連れ会議OK 今までの常識を打ち破ればいいってもんじゃない。自己主張とワガママは違う。 ルールを変えてほしい、が自己主張。 ルールを無視するのはワガママ。 #子連れ会議NG

“It’s not about breaking common sense. There’s a difference between self-assertion and selfishness. Wanting the rules to be changed, that’s self-assertion. Ignoring the rules, that’s just being selfish.”

Some even countered the #子連れ会議OK hashtag movement, starting their own: "#子連れ会議NG" (It's not good to bring children to meetings).

#子連れ会議NG え、普通に子供にもいい環境だとは思えない。子育て大変なのは分かるけど、子育てしてる人のことしか考えてないし、最初がいきなり勝手に会議に連れてきた時点で他への配慮がなくおかしい。子育てしてる人でたまに自分達は配慮されて当然!て人いるけどそれに見えちゃったよ。

“What, I just can’t agree that [bringing your children to work] will be a good environment for children as well," tweeted one person. "I understand that raising children is tough, but people are only thinking about those who have children.

"When [Ogata] selfishly brought her child to a meeting session, she had no considerations for others, and that’s not right. There are some parents who think, ‘It’s quite natural that we have to be treated with consideration’, and I saw [Ogata] that way.”

The Kumamoto Municipal chamber chairman will carry a decision this week about Ogata's penalty for delaying the assembly last Wednesday.

Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Brad Esposito at bradley.esposito@buzzfeed.com.

バズフィード・ジャパン ニュース記者

Contact Eimi Yamamitsu at Eimi.Yamamitsu@buzzfeed.com.

バズフィード・ジャパン ニュース記者

Contact Kensuke Seya at kensuke.seya@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.