The Japanese government will step up efforts to tackle child abuse after the recent death of a 5-year-old girl who had written "forgive me" in a notebook in begging her parents to stop abusing her, the top government spokesman said Thursday.
"A tragedy like this should never happen again. We will take thorough countermeasures against child abuse," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, adding the government is expected to hold a meeting of Cabinet ministers Friday to discuss the matter.
The death of Yua Funato of Tokyo in March has drawn public attention since details of her abuse by her mother and stepfather came to light after their arrest earlier this month on suspicion of neglect resulting in death.
(Photo of Yua kept by her greatgrandmother)
According to investigators, Yua was given only a cup of soup for breakfast and a little bit of rice, over which miso soup was poured, for lunch and dinner, as her parents demanded she stay slim "like a model." She weighed only 12 kilograms when she died, compared with the average weight for her age of 20 kg.
The police found at Yua's home in Meguro Ward a notebook and memos written by her in hiragana letters, filled with pleas to her parents to stop abusing her.
"Please forgive me forgive me," "I have played like a fool. Playing is like being a fool. I will stop it. I promise I will never ever do it again," the memos read.
The police also found a piece of card with about 10 rules for the girl written on it, such as "Study," "Brush my teeth," and "Wash the bathtub at four," in hiragana. The police believe Yua's parents wrote them.
She was forced by her parents to wake up at 4 a.m. every day to measure her weight and practice writing hiragana, according to the police.
Her parents had not taken Yua to a hospital even though she was ill. Her 25-year-old mother Yuri Funato allegedly told investigators, "I thought it would put me in a bad position."
(Yua Funato's stepfather Yudai, left, and mother Yuri)
The police believe the couple abandoned the girl because they were afraid their abuse of her would be discovered by child welfare centers or the police.
In the end, her 33-year-old stepfather Yudai Funato made an emergency call on March 2, saying, "Our daughter has not eaten for a few days and vomited, and her heart doesn't seem to be beating."
Yua was wearing a diaper when she was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her mother explained at the time it was because Yua was "bedridden," indicating she was too debilitated to go to the bathroom by herself. Yua also sustained bruises around her eyes and over her body.)
The abuse inflicted on her apparently got worse after the family moved to Tokyo from Kagawa Prefecture in January.
While in Kagawa, the stepfather had been referred to prosecutors twice on suspicion of abusing the child on several occasions, but both cases against him were dropped.
Information on the alleged child abuse was passed on to a Tokyo child welfare center from Kagawa, and an official visited the family's home on Feb. 9 but was denied an opportunity to see the child by her mother. This information was not shared with the police.