It is a country that honors parenthood but frowns on adoption.
CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reports on what happens to Japan's young orphans.
Eight-year-old Mayu longs to be someone's daughter. Abandoned by her mother, she is the darling of a foster family who visit often, take her to their home and want to adopt her as their own.
She says they make dolls when they're together.
But this is Japan. Her grandmother never visits, but will not approve the adoption. So Mayu will likely live at the children's home until she's 18.
In Japan, explains children's home director Minoru Katoda, people feel it is shameful to ask someone else to look after their children.
So children end up in state-funded homes because people are more concerned about a loss of face than a child losing the chance for a normal life.
Thousands of Japanese children are trapped in this Catch-22: having relatives who don't want them but who won't let strangers adopt them. So while in America more than 60,000 children are adopted each year, in Japan the number is more like 600.
Consider the case of Hiroshi and Yoshiko Watanabe and the two foster children they would love to adopt.
"We wanted to experience as father and mother," says Hiroshi Watanabe.
Their real father doesn't want them, but he won't allow adoption because he says he doesn't have the courage to admit to society that he can't take care of his children. And the Watanabes feel they can't tell many of their friends their true intentions - that they're thinking of adopting.
According to Yoshiko Watanabe, in America if parents adopt, people around them try and help. In Japan neighbors give a strange look. So the Watanabes are hesitant to tell people of their adoption plans.
The Watanabe children are luckier than most. At least they are living with their foster parents.
But children's home director Katoda sees no quick end to Japan's prejudice against adoption. He gives children everything he can. But even Katoda can't give them the one thing adoption would provide: a parent's love.
©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
Copyright 1999 CBS. All rights reserved.
CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff