Distressed moms and dads on Japanese trains getting help from child assistance volunteer badges

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

While Japan’s quick and punctual trains make getting around the country incredibly easy if you’re an adult, getting from Point A to Point B is a lot more difficult if you’ve got a baby who’s crying, fussy, or otherwise suddenly in need of extra attention. Trying to give a baby a bottle while balancing necessary shopping bags on your knees, pick up a shoe that a tyke pulled off and tossed onto the train floor as the carriage shakes and sways, or soothingly rock a panicking infant while also keeping a firm grip on a stroller so that it doesn’t roll away can all be nightmares, especially in a country like Japan where not causing problems for other people is a cornerstone of traditional etiquette.

But recently, some troubled moms and dads have been happy to spot other passengers displaying this emblem clipped to their bags or clothes.


Called the hoiku (child care) mark, they’re a sign that the bearer is ready and willing to help parents who’re having a hard time while riding the rails with small kids. The hoiku mark’s creators say they were inspired by seeing a mother on a train struggling to comfort her bawling baby, and wishing there were some way to automatically let parents in similar distress know that help was available. They settled on the idea of badges, similar to Japan’s pregnancy badges, which both indicate that the bearer is approaching the parent to offer help, not chastise them for their unruly child, and also to get around Japanese people’s society-wide reluctance to ask strangers for help, for fear of bothering them.

We spoke with Saya Takemoto, a childcare worker in Toyama Prefecture who’s part of the effort to increase the awareness, and use, of the hoiku mark and the thoughtful initiative.

Saya Takemoto

Initially, Takemoto informs us, the badges were only available to people currently and directly employed in the childcare industry, such as day care staff or preschool teachers. However, this stance was eventually softened, since you don’t necessarily need professional-grade training to lend a quick helping hand to a parent in distress.

The organization doesn’t just go handing the badges out willy-nilly to anyone who wants one, though. Under the new system, the organization periodically holds interviews for applicants, and the badges are given to those who demonstrate a genuine willingness to help others and make society a better place.

Takemoto says that at first the demand for badges was higher in the countryside, where the interpersonal sense of community tends to be stronger, even between strangers, than in the big city. The badges’ use is slowly spreading in Tokyo, though, and now they can be seen in Niigata, Aichi, Toyama, Saga, and Hyogo prefectures as well.

But while the group is obviously happy to see more people displaying the badges Takemoto says that they eventually hope for them to disappear, after having helped create a society where being willing to help, and parents not feeling reluctant to accept such help, is just a matter of course. Until that day comes, though, the hoiku mark is here to help.

Related: Hoiku mark official website

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- What’s the real meaning of Japan’s “burning tofu” emoji?

-- Show off your badge collection and plushies in this wacky customisable sweater from Japan

-- 6 surprising things about having a baby in Japan

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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This is a nice idea.

My town made a sticker for cars, it's calling PICKUP. I can pickup people from a to b for free. I am not a taxi. It's mostly for old people.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Never seen a parent with a problem child in Japan - I'd be interested as to why this service would be needed.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

@Andrew Crisp

Never seen a parent with a problem child in Japan - I'd be interested as to why this service would be needed.

You're joking right? Or have you not been in Japan longer than a month?

In the real world, sorry, I don't trust strangers to deal with my child, especially on public transport. Too many weird people around. If my child was being especially unruly, I just get off the train until they calm down. Luckily I was blessed with a child that loves riding trains. I can see being overwhelmed by like, your baby crying on a train but in that situation do you really want to involve a stranger?

People need to just be more tolerant of children. The most frustrating thing about being a parent is the judgement, the comments, the looks and the aggression from the public just from children being children. No, not children acting insane, but just BEING CHILDREN. A few years ago I saw a mom get scolded on a train for making her baby laugh while the baby was in her carrier. She was like touching her nose and it kept making the baby giggle or something and some old woman scolded her for making noise on the train. Like ffs just get over yourselves already.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I mostly travel with the kids by car, but from my experiences with trains in Japan, it is sad that such service is necessary, as nicely put in the last paragraph of the article. Why is it so hard for people to be nice?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why don’t we just learn to speak with another human being and ask for help, say excuse me, etc.

Its not like that will be hurting Japan to do it more.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Great idea.

It does seem the screening process for handing these out is flimsy and they might end up in the wrong hands. I'd suggest going back to limiting them to approved groups of people like teachers, nurses, medical staff etc.

Japan needs more of this community spirit. Well done.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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