Rie, a single mom in her late thirties, has been struggling to provide for her two children ever since Covid hit Japan. She works at a hot spring resort hotel and her salary has been reduced, which meant she could no longer afford to pay for her children to take important tuition classes. Rie is stressed and concerned for her children. She’s also isolated and has no one who really knows what goes on in her life.
Maya is also in her thirties. During the Covid pandemic, her husband’s tendency to become violent toward her escalated. Maya wants to escape; yet she is financially dependent on him. She feels trapped and hopeless.
Rie and Maya are among many women in Japan who have been seriously affected by Covid. According to Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office, 700,000 women lost their job in Japan in 2020. This is twice the number of men who lost their job. In the same year, there were 190,030 reported cases of domestic violence—1.6 times more than the previous year. And 90% of the victims were female.
For over a decade overall suicide rates have been falling, but, according to National Police Agency and Ministry of Health, there was 4.5% increase in the reported cases of suicide in 2020. Suicide rates only increased for women; sadly rates continued to increase in 2021 when 7,068 women took their lives.
Although good policies and well-organized care systems are necessary, they are not enough to respond to the growing needs of people in Japan, especially the many women who are in socially disadvantaged positions. The government is keenly aware of this reality; while the government and professionals do their part to care for people in need, the government also encourages the residents in each community to reach out to each other. The door is wide open for Christians around the world to come and live in Japan, befriending people in the community, and reaching out to people with the love of Christ.
Rie was befriended by a missionary in her community, who helped connect her with a local church. Now she is receiving spiritual and practical support from the people of the church. A friend of Maya referred her to me for counseling. I helped her get connected with a regional mental health center, a mental health clinic, and Christians in her town. Rie and Maya continue to have many challenges. But the Lord is working in their lives, developing a community of care—one not simply based on government policies, but on the love of Christ who loves them and gave his life for them. Would you consider being part of Christ’s growing network of care so that, together, we could reach many more vulnerable women in Japan?
*All names changed in this article.
By an OMF missionary who is a counsellor