Tokyo government announces new name for maternity/paternity leave, hopes to change mindsets

Governor of Tokyo wants people to stop saying the old term because paternal leave is not vacation.

In many Japanese vocabulary words, if you hear the sound kyu, it means “rest”. For example, the word for “pause” (as in “take a break”) is kyukeiand the one for “holiday” is kyujitsu.

But the kyu the word we are talking about today is Kyugyo. Kyugyo is a convenient compact expression for work leaveand his written by combining the kanji character 休, meaning “rest”, with 業, meaning “a business or enterprise”, and in many cases, by association, “work”.


Kyugyo is often combined with another vocabulary word to specify why someone is taking leave, hence the expression ikuji kyugyo. Ikuji means “to raise children”, and therefore ikuji kyugyo it’s when a new mother or a new father takes parental leave.

Ikuji kyugyo

Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike don’t like the sound of “ikuji kyugyo“, although individually these kanji mean:

● 育 = raise
● 児 = child
● 休 = rest
● 業 = work

Koike fears that the etymology of ikuji kyugyo could give the impression that people who take maternity or paternity leave are “resting” when they are not “working” in the office, making it socially difficult for new parents to take the time needed to care for a newborn and maintain their own health. For this reason, Koike called for suggestions for a new term to describe parental leave, and after receiving some 8,800 submissions, the project committee decided on the word. ikugyō.

▼ Ikugyō

As you can see, the word is formed by removing the middle part of ikuji kyugyo, just leaving the kanji for “elevate” and “work”. The intended implication is a reminder that mothers and fathers who take parental leave do not rest and relaxbut instead involved in a significant undertaking and involved in supporting a new member of both their family and society.

“Parental leave is in no way a vacation” Koike claimed in a June 29 speech announcing the selection of ikugyō. “The education of children is the important work of caring for those who will carry the future. In addition to ‘working’, ‘gygy‘ also has the meaning of exerting effort to achieve something.

The newly coined term itself has garnered largely positive reactions from Japanese Twitter commenters, such as:

“I hope that women and men who couldn’t take ‘ikuji kyugyo’ can take ‘ikugyo!'”
“I think it’s very progressive to get rid of the ‘remainder’ part.”
“It’s a short, sweet phrase, and I think it’s lovely.”
“The name of something can have a big effect on its image, so I think that sort of thing is important.”
“As far as names go, I think it’s a good choice.”

At the same time, some have also expressed skepticism about the extent to which the increase in parental leave taken will come from a single name change.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to use the ikugyō terminology in awareness campaigns and public service activities, but made no direct promise to retire ikuji kyugyo entirely from official documents and statements.

Sources: Abema Times, Tele Asa News, Twitter
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)
Insert images: SoraNews24
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