Childhood in Japan is certainly not getting any easier

The girl was 15, the teacher in his early 30s. He recognized her ability, encouraged her, befriended her, seduced her. He took her to a love hotel and said, “This is what grown-ups do.”

The story appeared in the Asahi Shimbun last month in a series on child abuse. The girl is a woman now, age 44, looking back on an adult life of rage, self-hate, broken relationships — the usual fruit of what she went through as a child. “This is what grown-ups do.” Truly, grown-ups know not what they do to the children they do it to.

The teacher is now in his 60s. An Asahi reporter tracked him down. The teacher at first said he didn’t remember the girl. He may not have been lying. What was it to him? A casual encounter, 30 years past. Prodded by the reporter, he said, “If I caused her pain, I am deeply sorry.”

Most adults are not child abusers. Most adults would never knowingly hurt a child. Most Japanese children grow up healthy, happy and unscathed by childhood, to be kind, loving and self-sacrificing parents in turn.

All the same, children are frighteningly vulnerable. Totally dependent and utterly helpless when small, they grow less so only gradually. Against bad parents and bad teachers they are virtually defenseless. In society, which has so much else on its collective mind, they count for little — less and less as their numbers decline.

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