May 31, 2013

    Little love for antics of kids as Japan ages

    AS JAPAN'S population declines, intolerance of children and the noise they make is increasing in a society getting less accustomed to hearing them, childcare experts say.

    In a nation where convenience stores blare electronic greetings and political candidates shout through megaphones at train stations, day-care centres are putting up sound barriers to muffle the din that toddlers make.

    Childcare experts and politicians have voiced concern that this creates a self-perpetuating problem in a country with a falling birth rate, where it is seen as less acceptable for parents to expect non-parents to put up with inconveniences caused by their offspring.

    When it comes to complaints, "it's now happening daily", said population specialist Masako Madea of Japan's Konan University.

    "As society has fewer and fewer children, people get less used to hearing them."

    She said that when she was involved in a project to build day-care centres in Yokohama - a sprawling city that melds with Tokyo - she faced a lot of opposition from those living nearby.

    "We were once told not to take the children for a walk" because they make too much noise, she said.

    Mr Nobuto Hosaka, mayor of Tokyo's Setagaya ward, who has built up a sizeable following on Twitter for his comments on the issue, said he fears for the future of a country that cannot tolerate the noise from children.

    Outdoor playtime at one day-care centre is limited to 45 minutes a day, whatever the weather, while a traditional festival in another town has to be held indoors now.

    Mr Hosaka said people who complain don't grasp the connection between the noisy youngsters and their own future.

    "It is astounding that those people who worry about their pensions and how society is going to pay for social security won't tolerate" the people who are going to grow up to become the taxpayers who have to foot the bill, he said.