The Rise of Baby Hotels: An Analysis of Japan’s Child Care Crisis

By Rebecca Bradley

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” –Nelson Mandela


 One of the most stressful situations a parent has to deal with is child care. It is important to any parent to find a place where their child will be safe and well taken care of. With both men and women being in the workforce, child care has become an even more important issue. In the United States, any person who works with children under the age of 18 and is employed by an agency of the federal government or is employed by a facility operated by the federal government, must undergo a criminal history background check.[1] Each state has various laws and licensing requirements along with regulations that a child care provider must comply with.[2] In addition, the federal government has resources available, including the Child Care Development Fund, to assist families in need with child care.[3] While not a perfect system, there are other countries who are in far worse shape when it comes to child care. Japan is one of those countries who is currently in a child care crisis.

Child Care in Japan

 In Japan, child care workers are struggling to maintain their jobs.[4] Many nursery teachers are quitting their jobs due to low wages.[5] These individuals have said that their pay barely covers their necessities and have high stress due to their jobs.[6] According to the Japan Times, approximately 760,000 qualified child care providers have quit their jobs.[7] They also cite the stringent rules and regulations as part of the issue.[8] One teacher stated she “struggled to focus on teaching because of all the paperwork.”[9] Because of the small number of qualified child care professionals, there are not enough day care spaces to meet the demand of working parents.[10]

In Japan, child care is based on a points system.[11] Families are prioritized by criteria including work, health, income and marital status.[12] Those who are considered more desperate and in need receive more points.[13] Due to the small number of child care facilities, children are placed on a waiting list.[14] There are approximately 72,000 children on the waiting list.[15]

“Baby Hotels”

 The shortage in facilities has forced parents to look for other options for child care. Parents are forced with two options- quit their job or pay for a private day care center.[16] In 2000, the Japan government began to privatize and deregulate childcare.[17] This led to the rise of dangerous and uncertified daycare centers.[18] These facilities have been termed “baby hotels” and are largely unregulated and staffed by individuals who do not possess any child care qualifications.[19] Left with no other option but to quit their careers, parents are forced to leave their children at these facilities.[20] These private daycares cost a lot more than the public child care facilities.[21] Some of them can be upwards of $700 per week.[22] Not only are these centers expensive, but they also fail to provide proper care for children.[23] One worker has described her workplace as “filthy” and has said to provide proper nutrition for children.[24] Many of these places advertise “continuous presence of medical nurse, contract with doctor, and nutritionist support meals.”[25] However, these are lies.[26] Likewise, many of these facilities are understaffed with a ratio of 23 babies to 1 staff member.[27] Most shockingly, children have died and been hospitalized while they were in the care of these centers.[28] 14 children died in these childcare facilities in 2015 alone and 2/3 were in unofficial nurseries.[29] 34-year-old Yusuke Tsunoda was arrested on suspicion of injuring 4-month-old Rinto Idenawa who later died of brain damage while staying at a 24-hour baby hotel.[30] One center had even been reported for violations 6 times since 2008.[31] However, the government has taken little action to intervene.[32] Desperate parents even return their children to these baby hotels after their children were placed in the hospital because of injuries they sustained at the center.[33]


 To solve their child care crisis, Japan needs to make broad changes in their system. The first step that needs to be taken by the Japanese government is to increase the wages of qualified child care workers. A large part of the issue is there are not enough qualified staff members for facilities. This would hopefully allow for more facilities to open up with more spaces for children. Secondly, Japan needs to pass laws that require background checks and licensing requirements for child care providers. They also need to closely regulate the facilities themselves and require periodic checks. These two changes have the potential to solve a lot of the problems with the child care system by taking many children off of the waitlist. Japan’s Prime Minister has pledged to fix the day care problem.[34] He stated “we will do our utmost to cut waiting lists to zero so that people can both work and raise children.”[35] Hopefully Japan will implement these changes to their law and policy soon.

* * * * *

[1] 42 U.S.C. § 13041 (1991).

[2] See, e.g., Welcome to the California Child Care Licensing Program, California dept. of social services (2007),; Child Care Regulations, Pennsylvania Dept. of Human Services (2017),

[3] Office of Child Care, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services (2017),

[4] Tomohiro Osaki, Day Care Crisis Stuck In Vicious Cycle, Japan Times (Apr. 17, 2016),

[5] Id.

[6] Yoshiaki Nohara, Low Pay Haunts Tokyo’s Nurseries Despite Massive Demand For Places, Japan Times (Aug. 16, 2016),

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Bria John, Japan Economy: Daycare Crisis Is Forcing Moms To Stay At Home, The Huffington Post Canada (Apr. 7, 2016, 1:54 PM),

[11] Osaki, supra note 4.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] John, supra note 10.

[15] Id.

[16] Osaki, supra note 4.

[17] Charlotte Jansen, Inside Japan’s Dangerous, Unregulated ‘Baby Hotel’ Childcare Industry, Broadly (Dec. 13, 2016, 3:33 PM),

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Marie Claire, Fears Over Illegal Japanese “Baby Hotels”, Marie Claire (Dec. 21, 2016),

[22] Id.

[23] Jansen, supra note 17.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Claire, supra note 21.

[28] Id.

[29] Id.

[30] Jansen, supra note 17.

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Id.

[34] Sarah Begley, Japan’s Prime Minister Pledges to Fix Country’s Daycare Problem, TIME (Mar. 14, 2016),

[35] Id.