This book throws light on the social ill of child abuse through a close examination of three cases of murder that rocked the Japanese media between 2007 and 2014. The basic details of each case are gut-wrenching. In Kanagawa, a mother walked out on her child and his father; the child starved to death from neglect, and his skeletonized remains were discovered seven years later in an apartment room. In Shizuoka, a mother killed her newborn infant after giving birth in her own home; investigators found the remains of another newborn she had birthed the year before hidden in a closet. In Tokyo, a three-year-old boy died of suffocation after being kept in a rabbit cage for several months. While most of the media simplistically explained the cases as stemming from poverty or the abnormal personalities of the parents, author Kōta Ishii conducts in-depth interviews of the parents and others familiar with the families to discover what the three cases hold in common.
He highlights remarkable similarities among them. All three families lived on the edge of entertainment districts that had seen better days. Thanks to welfare benefits or jobs in the “water trade,” none of the families was financially destitute. But they all failed to budget their income in a way that provided for the present and future of their children, and money flowed out as rapidly as it came in. In the course of his reporting, Ishii discovered that all of the parents had experienced the same kind of parental neglect when they were growing up. In spite of being raised in dysfunctional homes, however, they all loved their parents and saw them as models to follow. They actually strove to reproduce the environment in which they grew up for their own children. None had any desire to do harm. All truly believed that they were doing their best to provide a warm and loving home for their children.
After uncovering this pattern of inherited abuse through his reporting, Ishii visited a nonprofit that provides support for mothers and adoptions. Among the numerous women who have had to turn their children over to foster parents due to their own inability to care for them, one strong voice offers the encouraging view that any woman should be able to care for her children properly if she has community support on which to draw. Child abuse is a problem not just in Japan but all around the world. Ishii sees the greatest hope not in centralized government programs that come up short in one way or another at the local level, but in reliable support systems closer to home.