TOKYO (AFP) - A group of 13 Japanese governors have joined forces to let babies cry if they want to - or at least create a society that is more tolerant of tearful tots.
The "We Love Babies Project" comes against the backdrop of Japan's slumping birth rate and shrinking population.
The 13 male politicians made the pledge Thursday (May 31) to support the campaign, which encourages restaurants, shops and individuals to display stickers that say "It's OK to cry", in a bid to support the beleaguered parents of bawling infants.
Despite government efforts to create a society more conducive to rearing families, Japan is sometimes seen as intolerant of children.
Communities often refuse to host nursery schools or parks because neighbours complain about the noise of playing toddlers.
"Japanese society still tends to make mothers and fathers feel sorry for people nearby when their babies start crying," Mie Governor Eikei Suzuki said at a gathering of the politicians on Thursday, according to Kyodo News.
"We want to change that social situation," he said.
The private initiative was started in 2016 but this is the first time it has received such high-level support from a large group of political leaders.
Japan's population is rapidly ageing, and the national birth rate has been plummeting for years, posing serious challenges for the country's economy and labour market.
A key plank of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic policies has been to encourage a more family-friendly society, partly to encourage mothers back into the workplace but also to boost the country's slumping birth rate.
The health ministry said Friday that the number of newborn babies in 2017 was a new record low, with just 946,060 births recorded, the second straight year the figure has fallen under one million.