Park Closure and Strollers Highlight Hurdles of Raising Kids in Japan

Park Closure and Strollers Highlight Hurdles of Raising Kids in Japan

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Old park
Picture: ケイーゴ・K / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
A park in Japan will close thanks partly to one resident - and it has some up in arms about the country's hostility towards parents.

As Japan’s population dwindles, its politicians exhort people to have more kids. But many parents complain that while the country likes them having children, it’s not too keen on actually raising them. A pair of recent news stories seem to drive that point home.

Park closed because of a single complaint?

The first story comes from Aokijima in Nagano. The town constructed the Aokijima Park in 2004 to give kids a place to…well, be kids. The spot seemed like a natural location for a park, as it’s positioned between a daycare and the Aokijima Children’s Center.

However, the city announced this month they were shuttering the park for good.

The story hit social media that the park was closing shortly after a single elderly resident had filed a complaint that the kids there were “too noisy”. Netizens quickly assumed the park was closing thanks to this one grumpy old man.

It didn’t help matters when one newspaper discussed that the complainant was actually a former teacher. The man reportedly retired from a public university, where he was awarded professor emeritus status.

According to News Post Seven, the dude originally filed a complaint over the sound of the cars of parents who came to pick up their kids. In response, the Children’s Center distributed fliers asking parents not to idle their engines.


Apparently, that didn’t satisfy the man, who kept complaining about the noise kids made on the playground. News Post Seven says the center moved playground equipment and entrances around in an attempt to placate him. But that didn’t seem to satisfy the serial claimer[1].

Why did the park really shutter?

Father and son playing in park
Picture: つ~ / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

News Post Seven interviewed a neighbor about the retired teacher, who reported that he seems like an overall decent person. However, the neighbor couldn’t understand why he was getting so bent out of shape about the park.

Local politician Koizumi Kazuma accused the city of according the ex-teacher “special treatment” because of his position in society. However, the city insists that it did no such thing and that it wasn’t closing the park due to this single complaint.

City mayor Ogihara Kenji said the park would close as originally planned, despite some 350 complaints the city had received from around the country. He also pleaded with people not to leak the personal information of the complainant.

The mayor’s comments seem unlikely to quell the perception that closing the park is an overreaction. Indeed, one expert in environmental sound engineering told Yomiuri Shimbun that he found it “extreme” and wondered why the city couldn’t find another solution.

Double stroller backlash

Woman with stroller

It would be one thing if this were the first and only instance of Japan seemingly making life more difficult for parents. Sadly, it’s not.

The country is still struggling after years to supply enough daycare workers to support Japan’s working parents. And women routinely complain that they carry an unfair amount of the burden of childrearing – a claim borne out by statistics.

But there is perhaps no better concrete symbol of this tension than baby strollers. Parents who dare to take their kids out in strollers find that both passengers, as well as bus & train drivers, have little sympathy for parents with kids in tow. To the contrary, others tend to treat them as a nuisance.

This issue reared its head again recently thanks to former volleyball star Oyama Kana. A mom of twins, Oyama wrote recently on her blog about how a city bus saw her with her double stroller and passed her by. Thankfully, a second bus stopped. However, the driver didn’t lift a finger to help her into the bus. (Other passengers ended up giving her an assist.)[3]

Oyama received a lot of sympathy and support for her plight. However, she always received backlash from people saying she shouldn’t expect “special treatment” just because she has kids[4]. In a positive development, she says she’s had good discussions with the bus company that passed her by on how they can avoid such incidents in the future.

Oyama isn’t the only one to face issues with twins around town. YouTuber miyaco told Bunshun Online says the problem isn’t just with buses and elevators. “There are lots of stores and streets I can’t navigate with a double stroller so I end up using a single stroller and carrying one of my kids.”[5]

Miyaco says she wishes Japan would become, not just more kid-friendly, but “a more caring society in general. It’s more than just a problem with double strollers. If drivers and others cheerfully lent a hand to anyone they see in distress, we’d be a more tolerant society.”

I first wrote about the baby stroller story in 2020. Sadly, two years later, it seems little has changed. If politicians are serious about raising birth rates to combat depopulation, perhaps they should also spend some time ensuring society isn’t actively hostile to those who make such a major commitment.

Japan’s Perennial Baby Stroller War


[1] 【公園廃止】「子供の声がうるさい」と意見したのは国立大学名誉教授 市役所は忖度か. News Post Seven

[2] 「子どもの声うるさい」近隣苦情で公園廃止、荻原健司市長「個人攻撃の様相を危惧」. Yomiuri Shimbun

[3] 双子ベビーカー乗車拒否を問題提起の大山加奈氏 バス会社と意見交換会「素晴らしい時間」. Daily

[4] バレーボール元日本代表・大山加奈、双子ベビーカーのバス乗車拒否騒動が炎上、一件落着かと思いきやさらに批判が殺到した“危ない乗り方”. Shukan Josei Prime

[5] 双子ベビーカーバス乗車問題に「誰かに手伝ってもらおうとは思っていないけど…」ダブル双子を育てる母親(31)に聞いた、4人の育児のリアル. Bunshun Online

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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