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Japan's Change Generation

Letter from Tokyo

Japanese college students during a job-hunting rally in Tokyo, January 2014. Yuya Shino / Courtesy Reuters

Four years ago, Hiroki Komazaki came up with a novel way of making up for Japan’s striking lack of child day care centers, which has long been an obstacle to Japanese women pursuing careers. His innovation was to turn vacant space in Tokyo’s apartment buildings into small-scale nurseries. But Komazaki’s plan violated government regulations that protected existing providers from new competition -- a familiar problem in Japan. Instead of giving up, however, he did something uncharacteristically Japanese: he did it anyway. 

In setting up his first “home care” nursery, Komazaki demonstrated that his idea could work, and ultimately found a political ally in Atsuko Muraki, the vice minister of Japan’s health ministry and the second woman to hold the position. With Muraki’s support, Komazaki persuaded the government to pass a revised national child care law that will go into effect in 2015, allowing entrepreneurs to establish

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