'Non-existent children' fall through cracks because they've never been registered
At a dorm for women in the “fuzoku” (ero-entertainment) industry, “I saw something really terrible,” Spa! (July 17) hears from a young woman it calls R-san. The story involves a small child and got Spa! thinking about the plight of “disappeared children.” Education ministry figures for last year show 5,877 children nationwide failing for one reason or another to attend elementary or junior high school. Of those, 1,191 – topping 1,000 for the first time – are listed as “whereabouts unknown.”
“There was this girl who worked in the same fuzoku place as I did,” R-san relates. “She had a little boy who would’ve been in about grade five. There was something a bit creepy about him.”
He seemed terrified at the very thought of leaving the room – a tiny room stripped of all but the most basic furniture. R’s friend was not the child’s mother. His real mother, also a fuzoku worker, got hooked on stimulant drugs and disappeared. R’s friend took the child under her wing and no doubt did her best under trying circumstances, but a child needs more. He never went to school. “I was in her room one time and I said to him, ‘Come, let’s you and me go out,’” R tells Spa! “He just shrank from me. Didn’t say anything. No expression on his face.” Soon after they moved away and R has no idea what became of them.
No one has any idea what’s become of the 1,000-plus “disappeared children,” but the glimpse R caught of the one is suggestive. Fuzoku seems a recurring factor, as is – more prominently – domestic violence. A woman grabbing her children and fleeing an abusive husband is not likely to advertise her whereabouts, and the situation is hardly conducive to a normal life for the kids.
Theoretically, it’s up to the school to check on children who are suddenly absent, but that usually means visiting the children’s homes. What can the school do when there is no home to visit? More likely still to fall through the cracks in the system are preschool children. If they are included, says an education ministry official, the ranks of the “disappeared” would likely swell to several thousand.
The story of 25-year-old “T-san” epitomizes the limbo of life among the “disappeared.” She’s 25 now, was 19 when she gave birth. “I didn’t realize I was pregnant,” she says, “and when I did realize, it was too late to have an abortion. After the baby was born, we lived with my boyfriend’s parents, but my boyfriend beat me and his father raped me and forced me into fuzoku. They took all my earnings. I put up with it for five years before I finally escaped.”
But all she escaped to was another fuzoku establishment. Spa! talks to her current boss. “Her daughter isn’t in school,” he says. “The mother is incredibly insecure. She doesn’t mistreat the girl, but she looks about three – she’s tiny and hardly talks at all. More than school, what she needs is institutional care.” But there is no indication she’s going to get it.