In Japan, gender roles are still fairly divided; the typical set up is that the men work and the women stay home with the kids, manage the house, and do the cooking and cleaning. While nobody really seems to mind this arrangement–except when the husbands leave random trash around the house or generally don’t make any effort at all to be helpful— it has some unintended consequences, not just for mothers, but for fathers as well.
Japanese dad, musician, manga artist, and Twitter user Mikito Tsurugi (@tsurugimikito) learned this the hard way, when his attempts at calming his hysterical daughter on the bullet train brought him some unwanted–and perhaps unwarranted–attention.
“I was on the bullet train on the way back from visiting my family in Nagano with my daughter, when she started wailing because she was sleepy. When I was trying to comfort her in the vestibule, a crowd of police officers got on board and started investigating me. Apparently, somebody had reported a serious possible kidnapping. There’s definitely prejudice against male parenting if a man alone with his children is considered strange.”
It seems that, in being alone with his crying two-year-old daughter, Tsurugi was mistaken for a kidnapper. It might be a little ridiculous, but you can’t really blame someone who was worried enough to call the police, especially when it comes to children’s safety. Even Tsurugi doesn’t blame them, as he says in a follow-up tweet. Still, he wonders why being a man alone with his children has to be such a big deal? “Judging from the way the police were behaving, I felt like it was a pretty serious situation. Did I really look that shady?”
Thankfully, the questioning ended without incident. Tsurugi’s daughter, miraculously, stopped crying when the police appeared, which probably helped to make him appear less suspicious. Tsurugi also calmly produced his ID card and his daughter’s insurance card as proof, and they called his wife, who explained about her husband and spoke to her daughter. After all that, Tsurugi was cleared of suspicion and allowed to go.
After the police left, a station attendant offered to throw away Tsurugi’s empty coffee can for him, which prompted his little girl to start crying again, saying, “That’s papa’s! Give it back!” Tsurugi began to worry that he was going to get in trouble again, but luckily, he and his daughter managed to get home safe and sound.
The whole story highlights a major problem for Japan: men are so rarely seen taking care of children that they are automatically suspicious if they do. Now, whether or not men should play a role in child rearing is a separate matter, but the fact that they generally don’t in Japan causes problems for single dads and fathers who do take care of their children.
In fact, other men on Twitter described similar situations of prejudice or discomfort they’ve experienced when parenting their children:
“When I go into the baby room in shopping malls to make my kid’s milk, sometimes the mothers glare at me from the second I go in to the second I leave. It makes me really uncomfortable. It’s almost like they don’t think men shouldn’t be raising their kids.”
“I’ve had to confirm the blood relationship between me and my daughter when we checked into a hotel on vacation. Can’t a father and daughter go on vacation together?”
“Ahaha, I’ve been in the same boat! They didn’t call the police on me, but my daughter was crying way louder than usual, and the environment around us got really uncomfortable. I walked really fast to catch up with my wife and handed her over. I felt like it would be bad if I tried to run.”
“I’ve also been questioned by the police, when my daughter burst into tears while we were walking back from city hall in the early afternoon. Kids cry for all sorts of reasons…why does a man have to be questioned by the police just because he’s walking with his kid during the day? I remember feeling pathetic, frustrated, all sorts of feelings.”
Kamiko Inuyama, Tsurugi’s wife, a columnist and radio personality, wrote a blog post about the incident, in which she explained that her daughter is currently in a stage where she is always crying and shouting “no”. She said she could understand why someone might be suspicious, and is even grateful for them taking quick action to protect her child. She is also thankful for the police, for being so thorough. “It’s our jobs as adults to protect the children,” she wrote.
She did have some concerns, however. “If it had been me alone with my daughter, no one would have reported it, would they?” she wrote. “The fact that my husband immediately thought he’d been reported for kidnapping is proof of the pressure that child-rearing men face…Since it’s important that both men and women raise children, I think we have to be aware that men face this kind of pressure.”
Twitter comments, on the other hand, were a pretty mixed bag:
“It might be prejudice, but you just have to deal with it. It was good to call the police, and good of the police to investigate. It’s possible that one of ten kidnapping cases investigated could be a real kidnapping. The other nine just have to deal with it.”
“I mean, you don’t need to hear this but, there’s the argument that if you were raising your kid well they wouldn’t cry in front of people or in public places. That’s probably why they called the cops, because their kids don’t act like that in public.”
“It’s not prejudice. It’s a fact that men are more likely to commit a crime against children.”
“Oh my gosh, what a disaster! But don’t blame the person who called the cops. Blame the society that marked men raising children as strange.”
“Now that I’ve read your story it sounds like any mother’s story anywhere. The human subconscious is scary.”
Whatever your opinion of the cause or the morality of the situation, it must have been quite a scare, and an embarrassment, for this dad, who was likely already sweating bullets because his daughter was causing a major disturbance on a crowded train. Hopefully he’s not too afraid to spend time with his daughter alone in public in the future; it would be a real shame if such a stressful event affected their father-daughter relationship.
Source: Twitter/@tsurugimikito via My Game News Flash, Kamiko Inuyama Blog
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