Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

Insults fly back and forth online over baby carriages

42 Comments

Consider the baby carriage. It seems an odd notion, given the rock-bottom birth rate, and odder still in view of the seeming innocence of the item in question, but freelancer Shuntaro Fukagawa, writing in Sapio (March), has his eye on a heated, if not quite raging, controversy – just the sort of thing to work chronic Internet posters into a lather.

Baby carriages take up a lot of space. Trains and buses are crowded enough without them. When the occupant is a baby, that’s one thing. When it’s an elderly person using it in lieu of a seat, maybe it’s another. And when it’s an 11-year-old kid? That happens too, apparently, though the example given pertains to a shrine rather than to public transportation, frustration and fatigue can get the better of one.

Here, says Fukagawa, symbolized and compressed, are all the divisive forces of modern society: left vs right, men vs women, old vs young and so on. Insults fly back and forth. Carriage users parry accusations of gross inconsiderateness with cries of “Discrimination! Misogynist! Narrow-minded! No wonder people don’t have babies anymore!” And when tempers really flare: “You’re just like Donald Trump!”

If ever a crowd should come together in the spirit of peace and conciliation, it’s on the occasion of "hatsumode," the year’s first visit to a Shinto shrine. Enter the baby carriage, and harmony cracks and shatters.

The episode Fukagawa recounts occurred at a suburban Tokyo shrine on Jan 1. Signs posted on shrine grounds read, “Please refrain from using baby carriages.” What was this? Until recently this particular shrine had made available a special lane for carriages and wheelchairs. Had society taken the forward step of recognizing and facilitating universal access only to retreat to the bad old days of “discrimination” against the weak and infirm?

Yes and no. Yes, the retreat was a fact, the shrine explained - but only for the reason that there had been abuses. Large family groups clustered around a single baby carriage in order to beat the crowds created bottlenecks that discommoded the elderly and people in wheelchairs. Unseemly melees had broken out. There were reports of injuries – adding insult to which was the spectacle of an 11-year-old in a baby carriage pushed by family members who no doubt thought what they were doing was very clever. Outrage went viral on the Internet.

The shrine (which Sapio’s article does not name) said it withdrew the carriage lane at the request of police. The intention was not to discriminate against the weak but on the contrary, to protect them.

Fukagawa uses this particular incident to make a general point. He divides humanity into two types: sly people and honest people. The latter must be constantly on guard against the former, who will do anything they can get away with, if it’s to their advantage. As at shrines, so at supermarket check-outs and train station platforms. There’s always someone poised to slip in ahead of you if your attention seems elsewhere.

At the height of the 11-year-old-in-the-baby-carriage incident someone posted: “Baby carriages are not for school kids!” Fukagawa foresees that becoming a proverb expressing more than one kind of outrage.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


42 Comments
Login to comment

Interesting what happened at the shrine. Terrible how this article is written.

19 ( +20 / -1 )

I was at a shopping mall in Yokohama the other day, and my friends and I were commenting on all the young mothers with baby carriages--some of them with one baby strapped to their front, another in a carriage, all weighed down by additional baggage,purchases, etc. While there may be some insensitive or even downright abusive use of carriages, we all agreed that it must be a struggle even to get out of the house and onto public transportation with all that--many of the women looked downright exhausted--and none of us understood, really, all the animosity directed at mothers, most of whom are just trying to get their business done. Small-minded selfishness seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days...

17 ( +20 / -3 )

That issue was heavily covered on the TV just after New Year.

Both sides got valid points.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I will repeat what I said before. The declining birth rate has created an environment where children have become aliens.

Now on to baby carriages. There are minimalist baby carriages that take up little space and can be folded quickly. Then there are baby carriages that are huge and should be called personnel carriers, or, in some cases, assault vehicles. There is apparently some prestige attached to the latter, which can be problematic in elevators or in narrow supermarket aisles.

The minimalist baby carriage is seldom if ever a public problem. Families ought to enouraged to buy these over the large, cumbersome and expensive carriages.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

Children can't walk at the same speed. I really enjoy finding the mom walking with her child at the childs pace. Something that's rare in the US.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

A few months ago I babysat my infant goddaughter and took her out for the afternoon in her stroller. Did that get really tiring, really quickly! I resolved never, ever criticize a mother lugging one of those things about. I also resolved never to have a baby.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

There are minimalist baby carriages that take up little space and can be folded quickly. Then there are baby carriages that are huge and should be called personnel carriers

We had one of each when Sense Jr was a baby: the full-spec model that doesn't fit in most (European or Japanese) cars, but was great for for the very green, footpath/sidewalk-rich environment we lived in, and a folder for public transport and trips to Japan, which could be stashed away almost anywhere.

The conflict in a materialist society is learning (or relearning) to make do with a limited amount of things (stuff if it's yours, crap if it's other people's), when sharing public space. What do you really need, and what's just nice to have?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Try getting into small shops in malls like Kaldi and there's a mother w/carriage blocking every aisle, merely there for the free coffee, making no purchases, just bored young mums with time on their hands making life miserable for the rest of us .

-1 ( +10 / -11 )

I don't mind baby carriages, but if people are allowed to bring them into public transport stations, I should be able to walk or carry my bicycle through the station, instead of being stuck at all the lights and no-entry streets around the station.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

An 11-year old in a baby carriage... It's rather representative of the mentality in Japan at times.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My eyes hurt from reading that...what's the damn point? Don't use them? Whatever, it's bullshit.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Having lugged 2 little ones around I can relate. Nessie, I have a hard time equating your bike with a stroller with a baby in it. Maybe I am missing something.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

@Tokyo-Engr. I will attempt to help you understand Nessie's position (or at least what I think is Nessie's position). A bicycle blocks fewer (if any) people in comparison to the "assault vehicle" (great line!) sized baby carriages moms often use. Bicycles can turn and weave-in-and-out while baby carriages often have the dexterity of a tank. Despite this, cyclists are often not allowed to bring bikes on buses or trains without extraordinary measures and sometimes not even allowed to enter stations. By contrast, some moms are pushing prams that hold a baby and several shopping bags. I don't know you obviously but many of the moms who use these monstrosity-sized carriages are the same moms who expect half the bus to jump up and give up their seats when they get in and take their babies on long air flights knowing it will be an unpleasant experience for the rest of the passengers and take up whole aisles while they stand their and chat with their friends. To these ladies I would like to say that while your baby is the most important thing in your life, it is NOT in mine.

I think---but I could be wrong---that kind of double standard is what Nessie was referring to.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Last time I went to the UK, we went to one of Europe's largest shopping malls and I was the only one walking around with my eighteen month old in a Baby Ergo type carrier. Everyone else, which was hundreds of people, had buggies, mostly big three-wheeler types. We live in inaka and actually have one ourselves with built-in suspension, but only ever used it on walks. For shopping, we'd use a lightweight four-wheeler which folds down much smaller.

As with SUVs, the big carriers are just a fashion and are actually impractical a lot of the time.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

We used a stroller until the kid turned 2 then got rid of it and made her walk everywhere. Using one in urban Japan is a constant pain in the arse. Was a glorious feeling to get rid of it.

Not that Kuchikomi is to be trusted, but this reminds me of those who resist new daycare facilities being built near their homes. B/C they're too noisy. Like, hello, you childless fools and old farts, but who do you think is going to fund your pension?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

typical. selfish mothers thinking they own the place. leaving their prams in the middle of the walkway or aisle, not a care in the world. they think that just because they are able to give birth they think they can inconvenience others! these rude mothers need to show respect

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

Many, yes, many mothers use strollers like urban assault vehicles. Can't count how many times I have been nearly run over by women pushing carriages with looks on their faces like '' Get out of the way! Can't you see I have a young precious child in this stroller?'' I always want to ask them if they really care about the child or if it's just that important to get in front of me.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Where are all the naysayers stating that Japanese don't use prams?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

sam watters & Tokyo Engr: Actually, what Nessie said was "walk or carry her bike through the station", she didn't say take it on trains or buses, in order to avoid waiting at the crossing for obscene amounts of time. There are elevators and stairwells that often go under crossings but to my knowledge bikes aren't allowed. Not being allowed to RIDE through them, I can understand, but otherwise why not (especially if you pick up the bike and carry it).

"The shrine (which Sapio’s article does not name) said it withdrew the carriage lane at the request of police."

Ridiculous. People who object to a barry carriage should themselves not be allowed to enter any public areas where they feel offended by them. If people are seen abusing such lines or what have you, THEN block them. Until then, in a society constantly demanding more babies be born (but the neighborhoods and parks kept quiet!), people with strollers should be given the benefit of the doubt. It amazes me how worried the nation is about the declining birth rate and panicked they might have to bring in foreign labor and people to fill the void, but they object to baby carriages, nursery schools, kindergartens, and everything else that would encourage people to have children.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I agree Smithinjaapn; cyclists should not be allowed to ride their bikes through a station but should be allowed to push/carry them in a safe manner---especially if strollers and carriages are allowed.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Sadly common sense isn't so common, if this shrine couldn't figure out how to deal with this & clearly they didn't, then all the Kami in the world wont be able to help them either.

At the shrine likely one of those that make a killing at New Years & have staff all over the place should have QUICKLY figured out mom/dad & baby in carriage in the special line, hangers on in the regular line, DONE!

Same with all the little scenarios posted above, some simple common sense SHOULD dictate things.

But common sense is lacking & stress levels all round skyrocket & seems to get worse rather than better

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I dont mind if a single mother takes the baby in public transportation ,elevators, or stores . but what I do mind a bunch of MAMA'S gangs(yes more than 2) take over lets say Starbucks, they cover all the places to walk, bring foods from their homes, ignore their kids running around ,just calling by name, and staying there for hours , gosh , it reminds me also of some people they use stroller for their pets, and they want everyone to treat those stroller with pets like real kids,,,,,Just shoot me!!

8 ( +12 / -4 )

So from the article am I to understand that baby buggies are causing battle royals with the elderly in buses, trains, and shrines?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

MAMA'S gangs(yes more than 2) take over lets say Starbucks, they cover all the places to walk, bring foods from their homes, ignore their kids running around ,just calling by name, and staying there for hours...

Terrible. Has anyone else seen this ? Especially bringing food from home ?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

sounds like the usual case where people in charge didn't have the courage to yell at or kick out a few bad apples, so everyone has to suffer instead.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Seen this in Asia. People with preteen kids run to the front of queue so they can board first.

It's also largely a lack of spatial awareness, a Japanese trait. Shopping carts in supermarkets are a case in point. The aisles in my old downtown supermarket in Canada is the same width as ones in suburban Japan. The difference is Canadians stop their carts to one side or another, instinctively, to let people pass. So, so many Japanese in my current place park their carts in the dead center, blocking everybody's access. Like, hello?

1 ( +5 / -4 )

The difference is Canadians stop their carts to one side or another, instinctively, to let people pass.

Part of the instinct comes from knowing that people will tell you to move out of the way when they come through. In Japan, people don't speak up. They just say shou ga nai and wait or go a different way, so nobody ever learns. That is my opinion anyway.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Jefflee

Haha too true! I go to COSTCO & its worse than Bangkok traffic LOL & COSTCO is VERY spacious. I think COSTCO should offer driving courses for their shopping courts, as you say many are oblivious to everything except what their eyes are immediately focused on LOL!!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The high tech carriages with pneumatic wheels are so easy to push and manoeuvre. You can run with them and I did, the children loved it. No need to take it in the shop, leave it outside. Many supermarkets provide trolleys with a space for a child. Still use ours to go to work and carry all the things I need avoiding the use of public transport up to 15 kilometres away.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Lets get this correct.... they are not BABY cars, they are strollers. No 11 year kid is going to fit into a BABY carriage so you can stop the argument there.... next kids get tired... I put it to you, do you want a winny kid screaming and kicking all over the place or one sitting in a STROLLER because they are tired? Guarantee you will choose the later.

Next strollers take up space no doubt, but when you have 5 bags to cover all the needs of the kids, including food and extra clothes, blankets, toys... you can't fold it up without taking up even more space with the bags... this is why parents DON'T fold them up, not because they are lazy, but because they would take up more space!

Kids are kids, they do what kids do.... we all try our best but you need to also deal with it as this is the real world and kids exist. You are being more of a baby complaining about this than anyone else. Until they "ban" kids, you have to expect kids could be anywhere doing "kids" things.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Do they really need to get on the train during the morning/evening rush hours though??

They should wait another hour in the morning or leave an hour early before the rush hours hits for everyone's safety including the child or at least take the slow train and not the express.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

@Triring: People need to go where they need to go, I'm sure if they had a choice they would. Its not the fault of the mothers the trains are overloaded. Alternatively you could also wait an hour so you are not inconvenienced :)

5 ( +5 / -0 )

At the height of the 11-year-old-in-the-baby-carriage incident someone posted: “Baby carriages are not for school kids!”

I wonder, did anyone bother to check whether that particular 11-year-old was disabled, or suffering from some temporary injury?

Do they really need to get on the train during the morning/evening rush hours though??

If they're doing the 'working mother' thing and their employer has inflexible working hours, or allows flexibility only once a day, then yes they probably do need to get on the train during rush hour. I can't think of a single reason why anyone who didn't have to, would do. Especially with a kiddie tagging along.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@samwaters "To these ladies I would like to say that while your baby is the most important thing in your life, it is NOT in mine.

I think---but I could be wrong---that kind of double standard is what Nessie was referring to."

Let me highlight another double standard for you Sam. As you are alive I have to assume that you were also once a child and hopefully, for your sake, also the most important thing in the world to your mother/father who probably also put countless people out who were annoyed by your actions. You may not like children or have children but you were at least one of them when you entered this world so you at least owe them and their parents than much reciprocal respect. I’ve seriously had it with people in this city who are irritated with kids or somehow think they should or even can be controlled and silenced like all of the uptight adults who think it is THEIR world to be respected. I’ve lugged kids around on public transport with and without strollers and while I am always aware of those around me and do my best not to make their rides an uncomfortable one be certain of one thing; my childrens’ safety and comfort is priority number one. As I would guess your own mother or father probably did.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

gogogo

Yes and mothers can also plan ahead so everyone is happy. Look mothers don't have to punch in and have more leniency with their own schedule.

I try to get a head's start leaving 30 minutes early before the rush hours. Mothers requires to do the same. If they can't manage their time schedule then they may require to seek another profession since clearly they are not handling it well.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

HA! Yes leaving 30 mins early by yourself is easy.............. so much wrong in this world where everyone thinks about themselves. As much as I hate how Japanese use buggies/shopping trolleys I do hate inconsiderate people more!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The word inconsiderate swings both way when a mother tries to forcefully ride a full packed train during the rush hours with a buggy!!!!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

"all the divisive forces of modern society: left vs right, men vs women, old vs young and so on."

In the case of the baby carriages on the trains and buses, it's just Japanese vs Japanese.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

what if the she has to work like you and uses her companies daycare center but doesnt open until 8:00am? If she leaves earlier, like 6:00am as most lickely the train is not so busy but takes a good 30-40mins to get to her location, what does she do for the remaining few hours? everyone has the right to be on the train/bus/plane/boat as you do unless you prucahse VIP tickets then you can have a whole section to yourself.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Simon Phillips

Search for a coffee shop and kill time there.Basically that is the mother's concern not mine. Another is there is a female only cart she can use but opts not to.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Wow you make sound like taking care of children is easy! I was going to agree with on the point that if there is no room then forcing yourself and buggy onto the train is a no no but with the attitude you have I’m more than happy to take your ankles out with the wheels if there is space.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As a mother of three, I can say with quite a bit of experience that it's not really possible to avoid traveling during rush hour. It may be easier for those with one child but that might not be the case. Mothers have to coordinate the schedules of their entire family and may have to be in certain places at specific times, just like those with no children. A mother may be exhausted or overburdened and unable to carry her baby for the length of time her trip requires, her child may need a nap, or she may be managing multiple children and using the stroller as a means to help maintain order and safety among her kids. Children feed off of each other's energy and it can cause dangerous situations in a train station. It would be nice if we could control our children all the time but even well behaved children struggle sometimes. Women may be carrying several shopping bags but that doesn't mean they are spendthrifts and lazy. Growing children need clothes and sometimes adults do too. When you are in charge of shopping for, say, five people it can pile up quickly. Now imagine carrying a huge shopping load while wearing a heavy baby in a wrap. The weight adds up quickly. Now imagine trying to keep one or two other hungry, tired children in order as you do this. A cafe may not be wise or practical in this situation. I am happy to say that my experience in Japan suggests that most people have been encouraging, helpful, kind, and understanding of my situation and I am deeply thankful for it. As for taking over cafes with other mommy friends, I confess that I have done it on occasion but have appreciated some of the helpful ideas to do so more thoughtfully. However, please realize that most moms aren't able to do this daily. It is a rare treat.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites