Photo/Illutration Elementary school children on their way home in Tokyo in June (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

About 20 years ago, a local edition of The Asahi Shimbun printed a poem by Yuki Mizumoto, who was an elementary school first-grader at the time. 

It starts, “I’m home.”

I visualize her arriving home and opening the front door, her school bag still on her back.

Eager to tell her beloved mother how her day at school went, she chatters about her classmates who were absent and what she had for lunch.

She also wants to know how her mother’s day was, so she asks: “Mother, where did you go today?/ What did you do today?/ What did you buy today?”

The poem captures the happy relief schoolchildren feel when they come home.

That moment was also what a pedophile deliberately chose when committing his crimes.

Osaka prefectural police announced last month they arrested a 26-year-old man on charges of sexually violating multiple underage girls and sent the case to prosecutors.

The man told police he followed children leaving school and looked for ones who did not appear to have any family member waiting for them at home.

He would attack the moment his victim opened the door.

His reason for not targeting adult women was that “they might report (the rape) to police.”

The suspect is reprehensible beyond words. His ilk, who prey on defenseless victims, have always been around.

A home security company advised people in an Asahi Shimbun report to get their children into the habit of calling out, “I’m home,” even when there is no one home to fool would-be rapists.

Children must feel forlorn when they return to an empty house and their voice is not greeted by another voice from inside their home. And it is none other than their parents who are most pained by this thought.

But today, there are more than twice as many dual-income households than those with stay-at-home mothers.

It is only natural for any parent unable to wait for their children at the door to try to do whatever they can to protect them.

“I’m home” is the switch, so to speak, that connects the hearts of parents and children.

But when that must be used to protect a child’s safety, I feel chilled and not because it’s winter.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 3

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.