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Here, let me give you one as a present! As a result of her husband being transferred, one of Mrs Katô’s clients, a 29-year-old woman with a child of 3, had recently been precipitated into a shataku (accommodation provided by the husband’s company). She knew no one and had no contact with the neighbours, not even her mother-in-law who happened to live in the same town. Twice a month she called upon the services of a regular (a baby-sitter who comes on a set date). ‘During the three hours I am there, she seldom goes out, not even for an hour.

For the first three months of his life she did not dare go out, in case the people from her neighbourhood noticed his handicap. The only time she went out was to take the rubbish down; her husband did the shopping on a Sunday. She described how she spent her days staring at her son’s harelip and admitted that she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. 17 Her husband advised her to force herself to go out, but she did not think she was brave enough. Her dream was to buy a house ‘so that they could get out of their unlucky council flat as quickly as possible’.

This is also why crèche-children but not children who go to nursery school are stigmatized, for the latter are sent there with the (praiseworthy) aim of being socialized. It is significant that nursery schools come under the Ministry of Education whereas crèches are the responsibility of the Ministry of Health. If some women are horrified by the restrictions this archaic vision evokes, the majority force themselves to adapt to what is on offer, and, having got over the initial feelings of depression, resign themselves to applying the very Japanese principle according to which you will be rewarded as long as you apply yourself wholeheartedly, as the section which follows the preceding account shows: Fortunately, however nerve-racking the initial stages of raising children might be, they do grow up and however tiresome they might seem it doesn’t last forever.

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