Subscription boxes are taking some of the stress out of life for Japanese parents by delivering the essentials at a time when moms and dads are struggling to keep their heads above water.
Companies have created baby subscription boxes for everything from ready-to-eat baby food and diapers to educational toys and books so busy parents can save time and hassle.
A Toysub toy rental subscription with a monthly fee of 3,674 yen (about $27) lets members borrow toys from a collection of 95,000 items in 1,800 categories from different countries around the world.
Each box contains five to six educational toys that members can use for about two months, offering kids a variety of no-screen toys and parents a chance to save money by renting rather than buying.
Toysub's contents are tailored to children's ages and developmental stages, and they are thoroughly sanitized upon return by specialists with caregiving experience. Members can decide to buy the toys their children have become attached to or extend the rental period.
Having reached 12,000 subscribers, Toysub is giving its customers a value-for-money option, and its subscription box model -- one that requires low effort and offers unique rewards -- is growing rapidly.
"It's great because we can reduce toy clutter in our home and try toys that I would never pick myself," said a Toysub subscriber who is a mother to two children, one aged three and the other a newborn.
"If we can encourage children to have a recycling mindset as adults by teaching them the importance of reusing goods instead of buying and throwing away, maybe we can help modern society become less wasteful," Shida said.
Another service that takes a considerable burden off parents is diaper subscription.
As more daycare centers in Japan ask parents to bring a day's supply of diapers, Osaka-based Baby Job offers a service that allows centers to store diapers and wipes, and parents to access them for a monthly fee of either 2,508 yen or 3,278 yen, depending on the diaper style. More than 2,000 daycare centers are Baby Job subscribers.
A daycare worker that uses the service said she no longer has to worry about running out of diapers, while a mother whose child attends the facility said "Packing my child's bag is a whole lot easier now."
For parents looking to take the stress out of mealtime, a baby food pouch subscription called "The Kindest" provides 20 fresh, super-healthy meals for babies and toddlers every four weeks for 10,000 yen a month.
The food offerings are tailored to the age and nutritional needs of the customer's children, contain no preservatives and chemicals, use Japan-grown vegetables and are developed with the help of pediatricians and nutritionists.
"We want to make mealtimes as easy as possible through our service and expose babies to a variety of ingredients," said Yuya Sugioka, the president of the operating company.
Masami Ohinata, who is an expert in developmental psychology and dean of Keisen University in Tokyo, does not deny that automation and curation make parents' lives easier, but she says there can be some downsides.
"Monthly delivery boxes are convenient for busy parents. As for toys, the thoughtfulness that goes into choosing them is clear. I hope parents nurture their child's spirit of giving too," Ohinata said.