Tokyo (CNN)When Japanese politician Yuka Ogata decided to bring her 7-month-old child into Kumamoto's city assembly, she was hoping to set a precedent for working mothers.
Instead, she set off a confrontation.
"They were telling me like, 'No, you cannot stay here' and, 'Leave the chamber immediately with your baby.' Those words really shocked me," Ogata said.
One councilman even began shouting at her. Ogata was eventually forced to leave and only allowed to return after she had left her son with a friend.
While globally other politicians, such as US Sen. Tammy Duckworth and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, have been celebrated for bringing their babies into the halls of power, Ogata's experience, in 2017, highlights Japan's struggle with mothers in the workplace.
The government of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has spent six years encouraging women to join the workforce, promoting the idea as a way to drive economic growth in a country with an aging population and shrinking labor pool. About 71.3% of Japanese women in their prime working years now hold some sort of job, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Yet when these women join the workforce, they are confronted with the many challenges of being a working mother in Japan. Pain points include a shortage of day care facilities, a lack of flexibility in working hours and a traditional culture that leaves women doing most, if not all, of the household chores and child care.
This tension between what Japan wants from its working moms and the support it provides them has given rise to a new generation of activists, like Ogata, who believe the country should do better to facilitate a work-life balance for parents.
Ogata felt the entire incident in 2017 was not only shocking, but a violation of her position as an elected official, a democratically chosen representative of, among other people, working moms.