A former Bank of Japan official who once wore a “pregnancy belly” for two days was chosen to replace female minister Seiko Noda as the cabinet head in charge of tackling the country’s plummeting birth rate.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday in an effort to distance his administration from the conservative Unification Church and its ties to the assassination of former leader Shinzo Abe.
Masanobu Ogura, 41, was appointed to replace 61-year-old Noda, a ruling party veteran and mother of one, as minister for gender equality and children’s issues.
In an interview with the Associated Press last month, Noda blamed “indifference and ignorance” in the male-dominated Japanese parliament as the reason for the country’s declining population, an issue she described to be a national crisis.
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She added, “The politics of Japan will not move unless [the problems of children and women] are made visible.”
Ogura posted onto Twitter on April 9, 2021, that his intentions with the “simulated pregnancy experience” were to better understand the challenges of carrying a baby while living out day to day routines.
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— 小倉まさのぶ（衆議院議員） (@masanobu_ogura) April 9, 2021
He shared at the time that he would be wearing the 16-pound pregnancy belly to party meetings, parliamentary activities and to personal events.
Ogura acknowledged the shortcomings of his experiment, conceding that “There is no way you can understand a 10-month pregnancy period in just two days. Also, I hear that it starts with morning sickness, physical pain and mental anxiety as well as weight.”
After the first night, Ogura reported that he “couldn’t sleep well” because of the “pressure” on his stomach.
He also posted clips of him struggling to do normal household activities, such as cleaning the bathtub and cutting his toenails.
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“For me, it’s only one night, but if you’re pregnant, I’m sure this will last for months.”
Japan’s birth rates hit a record low in 2021 for the sixth year in a row with 811,604 births.
The number of people aged 65 and above made up more than 29 percent of the population as of September, and the death rate reached a post-war high of 1.44 million.
While Japan appears to be directly attacking the issue, the trend of a growing senior population and a shrinking working-age population has expanded to many places around the world, with experts anxious about how a shortage of workers might affect the global economy.
Featured Image via Masanobu Ogura