'Soul-shattering' child abuse death in Japan has the nation weeping

'Soul-shattering' child abuse death in Japan has the nation weeping

"Please forgive me, please, I beg you, forgive me,” wrote the little girl, pleading to her mother and stepfather.  

In March this year, Japan faced a “soul-shattering” child abuse death case. The victim was a little girl, just five years old, named Yua Funato. 

The little girl had not just been physically abused over months by her very own mother and step-father, but she had also been starved. In fact, her cause of death was linked to malnutrition.  

japan child abuse

A mother and her child mourn for Yua outside the apartment where she was abused for months. | Image: Reuters/screengrab.

Japanese Child Abuse Death: What Happened? 

According to The Japan Times, Yudai Funato, 33, and his wife Yuri, 25, physically abused little Yua from January 2018 right until her death in March.

They also did not give her enough to eat. This led to her death on March 2 from sepsis, caused by pneumonia (triggered by malnutrition). 

When she died, Yua weighed only 12 kg: the weight of a one-year-old. 

The husband and wife were arrested back in March. But will it ever bring back this little innocent who is now an angel? 

japanese child abuse

Japanese child abuse: The child had been battered and abused for months before her death.

‘Mama, I Will Make Myself Do Much Better…’

In a recent report by Reuters news agency, more heart-breaking details about the little girl’s tortured life were revealed. 

Mama, I will make myself do much, much better tomorrow than I did today, without being told by Papa and Mama, so please forgive me, please, I beg you, forgive me...”

This is what the little girl wrote in a notebook in which her stepfather forced her to do writing drills as punishment. Reportedly, the child’s parents kicked and beat her regularly. She did not get medical care despite her deteriorating condition. 

Japanese Prime Minister Orders Loopholes in Child Welfare System to be Closed

Yua’s tragic death, which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called “soul-crushing”, has forced the government to do some soul-searching. 

On Friday 20 July, the government announced strict emergency measures that would “confirm the safety of all pre-schoolers, relying on the help of law enforcement officials, if necessary,” reports Reuters. 

“The government will work as one to create a society that protects the lives of children,” its top spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, told a news conference.

Loopholes in Japan’s child welfare services are being blamed for Yua’s abuse going unnoticed (or ignored) for so long. 

Social Workers Knew of Abuse

Just three weeks before Yua’s death, the mother reportedly refused to allow welfare workers to visit their apartment in Tokyo. 

Apparently, the workers did not insist on going through with their visit because the family wasn’t under official supervision anymore. They had moved to Tokyo from the western prefecture of Kagawa. 

Dr Fujiko Yamada of the Japanese Medical Society on Child Abuse and Neglect, stated that welfare workers failed to notice signs of abuse the little girl was facing, even when they visited her. 

Reportedly, when they lived in Kagawa, social workers took the little girl into protection twice after showing signs of abuse. 

Last July, authorities handed the child back to her mother and stepfather under supervision. This included frequent observation by a doctor. 

Every following month, the doctor had alerted welfare workers to signs of physical abuse. Yua had also said she didn’t want to go home, a clear red flag, say experts. 

“I want to know why the authorities didn’t take any action,” Dr Yamada said. “How the words of the doctor, and Yua herself, could be taken so lightly is beyond comprehension.”

The welfare of Japanese children lies firmly in the hands of social workers, since kids there have no independent advocate or representation, unlike in other developed countries. However, now, with the pledge of the Japanese government to do more for children, we hope what happened to Yua is never repeated.  

May you rest in peace, precious girl. You were too good for this cruel world. We hope your death has not been in vain, and that this never happens to another child, ever again. 


Sources: Reuters, The Japan Times


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