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Crammed, unregulated 
& dangerous

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Baby's death highlights Japan's nursery woes

When Japanese mother Yuki Kai dropped her baby off at a nursery on her way to work, he was his usual bright, exuberant self.

Just hours later, the 14-month-old boy was dead.

Ms Kai, 39, remains tortured by the questions surrounding Kento's final hours and her decision to leave him at an unofficial facility.

"Kento was found dead when a staff member went into the room to wake him from a nap," she told AFP about the incident in March.

"He was in a room separate from where the other infants were sleeping because he had cried."

Kento was a healthy baby with no previous medical history except for a few food allergy issues, said the Japan Times.

The case caused national outrage.

Legal expert Toko Teramachi warned that accidents are "30 times more frequent" for children at non-official centres.

But the system is under-funded, and government-approved nurseries are over-subscribed, forcing many parents to rely on other options, where rules dictating class size, staff training and space are less strict.

Last year, 14 children died in childcare facilities nationwide and 65 per cent of these incidents happened in unofficial nurseries.

Experts warn that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's bid to tackle the daycare shortage by easing up on requirements, such as those limiting class sizes, for even official nurseries will make more facilities dangerous.


Child welfare specialist Hiroko Inokuma said deregulation plans were "a reckless move... which could lead to more accidents" with too many children crammed into nurseries.

Mr Abe has come under fire for his call for the nation's women to both bear more children to stem a falling population, and to keep working to boost the economy, without providing proper childcare facilities.

The labour ministry said that at least 23,000 children could not find an official daycare place last year.

Ms Kai's baby had been left unattended for 50 minutes before he was found face down in the bed.

Government regulations say children must be placed to sleep on their backs and checked every 10 minutes.

An autopsy proved inconclusive, but Ms Kai is considering legal action.

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