Tells people with few children to put their hands over their hearts and regret their actions.

On Sunday, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party held its Gunma Prefectural Convention. Among those in attendance was Takashi Sasakawa, a former member of the House of Representatives who used to represent Gunma’s 2nd District in the Diet (Japan’s national parliament).

Sasakawa had something to say about a high-profile political issue. As to whether or not he had anything sensible to say, well, first let’s just quote the guy, who in his speech said:

“If you think we can increase the population [of Japan] by giving people money, you’re very wrong. There’s no way that can be the solution. ‘If it’s your baby, I definitely want to have it. I want to make a baby.’ We have to increase the number of husbands who feel that way. Right? Everyone, put your hand over your heart and regret your actions, those of you who have few children.

Of course, as human beings, there are people who are unable to have children. If those people, in their own way, work as hard as they can for the sake of the world, that’s fine. If the economy improves, you know? You know, to increase the population, if men have their act together, women will, without fail, have their children. Even without asking them to, they will think ‘I want to give birth to a baby for the sake of the husband I love.’ They’ll think that.”

▼ An audio recording of Sasakawa’s speech, though there’s a pretty good chance you can already imagine the exact tone of voice he delivered it in

Succinctness is often the mark of a well-crafted speech, and if we’re judging simply by economy of language, Sasakawa does an admirable job of foisting unreasonable responsibilities on both men and women in just a handful of sentences. By framing the solution to Japan’s low birth rate as being as simple as if guys “have their act together,” Sasakawa is essentially saying that the lack of babies is due to Japan’s men not having their act together. He then goes on to imply that if a husband does have his act together, his wife will, unilaterally, decide it’s time to put a bun in the oven, not as a product of mutual love or familial ideals, but “for the sake of the husband.”

▼ “Okay, dinner’s ready! Go ahead and eat first while I run over to the hospital to have your baby. I’ll pick up dessert on my way home.”

As an 88-year-old man who is himself the son of a powerful business/political magnate, it’s perhaps not surprising to hear Sasakawa voicing sentiments that are, to put it diplomatically, out of touch with the sentiments of the average currently child-bearing-age residents of present-day Japan. And as someone whose young/middle-adulthood years line up pretty solidly with the heady days of Japan’s postwar bubble economy, maybe it’s to be expected that Sasakawa has trouble comprehending how any problem could exist that can’t simply be solved with an increased application of good old-fashioned gumption.

But it’s telling that while he’s handing out blame for Japan’s low birth rate, he’s extremely quick to say that it’s not the government’s responsibility to address the economic factors at play. That’s an especially tone-deaf assertion in light of economic data showing that average real wages (i.e. wages adjusted for the cost of inflation) in Japan have been dropping for the last 26 months in a row, the longest such streak in more than 30 years.

Something that’s routinely overlooked in discussions about Japan’s low birth rate is that, culturally, most Japanese people are very cautious about having children unless they feel confident that they’ll be able to provide them with an economically stable home life. That sort of confidence is hard to build when people have spent the last two years-plus progressively tightening their belts, especially when the plummeting value of the yen means that hardly a week goes by without stores and companies that sell life necessities such as food, clothing, and toiletries announcing that they’re raising prices yet again and there’s little sign of government-initiated relief in sight. So maybe instead of telling Japanese men to shape up and assuming Japanese women will reward them with babies for doing so, maybe it’s Japan’s politicians who need to get their act together.

Source: Asahi Shimbun via Livedoor News, Kyodo, NHK News Web
Top image: Pakutaso
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