It's a boy: Shinjiro Koizumi becomes first Japanese Cabinet member to go on paternity leave

Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi said he was planning to take two weeks of leave over three months, in an effort to become a role model for Japan's working fathers. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, who has said he will take paternity leave in a rare move for a Japanese man, announced on Friday (Jan 17) the birth of his first child: a boy.

Mr Koizumi, son of charismatic former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi and seen as a future leader himself, said on Wednesday that he was planning to take two weeks of leave over three months, in an effort to become a role model for Japan's working fathers.

But some lawmakers have criticised his interest in taking parental leave, saying he should prioritise his public duties.

The telegenic Mr Koizumi, popularly known as Shinjiro to distinguish him from his father, grabbed headlines in the summer of 2019 with news he was marrying Ms Christel Takigawa, a French-Japanese television personality, and that they were expecting a child.

Soon after, he was named Environment Minister.

Mr Koizumi told reporters he had come straight from the hospital and had been by his wife's side for the birth.

"As a father, I'm really happy that a healthy boy was safely born," a tired but happy Mr Koizumi told a news conference.

"Both of them are doing well, that's the most important thing. What a relief."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been trying to encourage more men to take paternity leave, and for businesses to allow a better work-life balance, as part of his "Womenomics" programme of bolstering women's employment.

While Japan's parental leave policies are among the world's most generous - providing men and women with partially paid leave of up to a year, or longer if there is no public childcare - just 6 per cent of eligible fathers take childcare leave, and most of them for less than a week, according to government data.

Mr Koizumi acknowledged that he has heard comments both for and against his decision.

"I'll keep a priority on policy and on managing anything unexpected that comes up, while also carving out time for childcare," he added.

"I don't really feel like a father yet, but that should come soon. I want to be a father like my dad was," he was quoted by NHK television as saying.

His father divorced his mother when she was pregnant with their third son, and never remarried.

The elder Mr Koizumi told the couple when they announced their marriage that everybody "should try matrimony once".

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