Japan’s government has made tackling its falling birth rate a top priority, but with few women involved in official debate on the issue, some are making themselves heard on social media.
Japan recorded fewer than 800,000 births last year, the lowest in the country of 125 million since records began.
The prime minister has warned the trend threatens “whether we can continue to function as a society,” and fresh focus on the issue has sparked countless articles.
But one in particular, noting Japan has the highest ratio in the OECD of women aged 50 who have never had children, triggered an outpouring of responses using the hashtag “life-long childlessness.”
Tomoko Okada had long felt “ashamed” about not having children and hesitated to click on the trending topic on Twitter initially, fearing the usual barrage of criticism.
Instead, she found mostly sympathetic and nuanced discussions, with women explaining why they had been unable to start a family or, in some cases, why they had chosen not to.
“I used to strongly believe that giving birth was the ‘normal’ thing to do,” the 47-year-old freelance writer told AFP.
She tried matchmaking services hoping to find a partner, with no luck, and was left feeling guilty when her dad asked for a grandchild for Father’s Day.
But posting her experiences and reading those of others helped her feel “my way of life is also OK.”