A total of 914 child mistreatment cases were reported at nurseries nationwide between April and December of 2022, including 90 deemed as abuse, a government survey that for the first time scrutinized all municipal governments showed Friday.

The survey by the Children and Families Agency, set up in April, sheds light on the serious situation surrounding the safety of children at nurseries and adds pressure on local authorities to take action to prevent incidents that could cause children physical or psychological harm.

Photo shows Sakura Hoikuen, a nursery school in Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture, in December 2022, where teachers were found to have repeatedly abused children. (Kyodo)

The poll was conducted following the arrest in December of three women who used to work as teachers at a nursery school in Shizuoka Prefecture for alleged repeated instances of abuse, a high-profile incident that led to revelations of several similar cases in Japan.

In the case in Susono, Shizuoka, teachers mistreated toddlers with one boy being held upside down by his feet, according to the city government.

As each child care facility judges mistreatment cases differently, the government compiled a new guideline outlining cases that are considered abuse.

The government is also considering a law revision to oblige child care facilities to report a case of abuse to the local government.

"I want to realize the law revision swiftly," Masanobu Ogura, minister in charge of policies related to children, told a press conference on Friday.

Facilities for people with disabilities and nursing homes are already obliged by law to report cases of abuse by their staff to local governments.

The poll asked all cities, towns and villages across the country if they have received reports from nurseries regarding cases such as teachers verbally threatening children or being violent.

According to the survey, respondents conducted fact-finding probes on 1,492 cases and confirmed that 914 amounted to incidents of mistreatment, including 90 that were recognized as abuse involving children being shaken or hurt in other ways.

By prefecture, Tokyo reported the most such cases at 173, followed by Gifu in central Japan at 79 and Kanagawa Prefecture, neighboring Tokyo, at 65.

As for abuse cases, Tokyo logged the most at 24, with Shizuoka the second most at 19 and Aichi Prefecture in central Japan the third at 10.

The poll also showed that only 9.5 percent of the municipal governments reported mistreatment cases to the prefectural governments and 27.8 percent of them did so regarding abuse incidents.

By contrast, a separate survey by the agency asking 21,649 child care facilities nationwide showed that 15,757, or 73 percent, answered "child mistreatment cases were zero," while 82, or 0.4 percent, said they had at least 31 cases.

The large disparity between the facilities suggests they judge what constitutes a case of child mistreatment differently.

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