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

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

But the kyu word we’re talking about today is kyugyo. Kyugyo is a handy compact expression for a leave of absence from work, and it’s written by combining the kanji character 休, meaning “rest,” with 業, meaning “an enterprise or undertaking,” and in many cases, by association, “work.”

▼ Kyugyo

Kyugyo is often combined with some other vocabulary word to specify the reason someone is taking leave, which is where we get the expression ikuji kyugyo. Ikuji means “child rearing,” and so ikuji kyugyo is when a new mother or father takes parental leave.

Ikuji kyugyo

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike doesn’t like the sound of “ikuji kyugyo,” though, since individually, those kanji mean:

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

Koike is concerned that the etymology of ikuji kyugyo could be creating a sense that people who take maternity or paternity leave are “resting” while they’re not “working” in the office, in turn making it socially difficult for new parents to take the time off necessary to care for a newborn and maintain their own health as well. Because of that, Koike called for suggestions for a new term to describe parental leave, and after receiving some 8,800 submissions, the committee in charge of the project has decided on the word ikugyo.

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