In America, kids are typically on their own at age 18 or at the very least after they have graduated from college. A parents responsibility for their deeds good or bad tends to stop there. We don’t hear a lot from the parents of grown criminals. They typically don’t get a mention.
The situation is a little different in Japan. Parent’s responsibility, specifically a mother’s responsibility for their child’s actions extends past graduating college. Even for minor things in school, mother’s are held responsible. Although this is changing a little with the increase in “Monster Moms”, essentially whiny helicopter parents that don’t want to expose their kids to any hardship.
A mother’s responsibility is a tough one. They are expected to do more and more every day. And the old systems that were in place before that protected them have started to crumble away. This is one of the main reasons the birthrate has gone down over the years. It is simply becoming too difficult of a job.
The case of Takahata
Takahata is a mid-level actor who has only just recently been escorted into the business by his mother, got into some trouble. He was staying at a hotel while shooting on location. In the middle of the night, he made a request for a toothbrush. When a female member of the hotel staff delivered the toothbrush, he “couldn’t control” his desires and raped her.
His mother, a much more famous actress Atsuko Takahata, who pulled him into the craft held a press conference. She preceded to apologize for her sons actions through tears. It’s something that, to me, seemed very cultural. I don’t think any Hollywood family would do the same. If anything the parents would hide behind “no comment” and try to distance themselves from an incident like this.
Yuta has since resolved the incident with the victim. Prosecutors dropped charges against him, and he has managed to get off scotfree. Surprising as this is, this can sometimes be a part of the process. If a criminal case can be sorted out between the perpetrator and the victim, charges might not make it to court.
Even if a case like this makes it to court, family members can be called in only to belittle the defendant and ridicule them for letting them down. It is a very different system compared to the States where everyone bands together and defends themselves to the last.
Mother’s Traditional Role
Traditionally mothers in Japan have served as the person that helps raise the children. They are responsible for everything from disciplining them to making sure they get to school on time. One of the most important and tiring responsibilities is to make their bento every day. One of my 20 something co-workers brings a bento to work every day that was made by her mother. And chances are pretty good that her mother has been making bento for her since she was 4. So that is 20 years of getting up early and making bento.
It is also not uncommon for children to share the same bed as their parents until about age 5, but it can continue until they are 12. Personally, we’ve been trying to work out some sort of system where our daughter spends the night in her bed a few nights a week. That system tends to break down a lot though.
Needless to say, mothers and children get very close while they are children and that bond remains fairly close as they grow older. So, they are often linked to their child’s good and bad deeds. That’s why it is not rare for them to be called out for something heinous they have done.
This among other difficulties has led some women to not even consider marriage or kids. The job of mother has become increasingly difficult recently. It can be a lot of hard work. Mothers end up having about 4 or 5 jobs they have to spread their time across.
Even some people in the public spotlight have openly declared they don’t want kids. Something that has caused a bit of a stir. The male-dominated political system is slowly dragging its feet to try to open things up for women. They don’t seem to want to move too fast, being too afraid of scaring off their conservative base.
Even if women did want the traditional stay at home homemaker position, salaries aren’t strong enough to support that situation. I know from personal experience that if you want to have children, both parents will probably have to work. There are still some exceptions to this of course, but looking around my neighborhood, there are a lot of “dual-income” households.
So are mothers or even parents in general to blame for their grown child’s crimes? Maybe in some situations I can see that being true. But, in general, I think being a parent is difficult enough. Tack on this added responsibility so that public has more to get shocked about isn’t really benefiting Japan in anyway. I’m more shocked that he isn’t serving any jail time.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
Photo by mrhayato