Applying for Child Care Leave in Japan is a complicated business, particularly if you can’t read Japanese.
Or even if you can read Japanese. Legalese is its own language in any country.
At any rate, this page lists some of the web pages available in both English and Japanese concerning the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s official laws about child care leave in Japan.
The original act was May 15, 1991 (Act. No. 76, Act on the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members Including Child Care and Family Care Leave).
It was revised in Act. No. 160, effective April 1, 2005. There may be more revisions not included in the English versions of the act.
Please note that the English translations are NOT the official law. They are merely translations. If there are any differences between the English and Japanese versions, it is the Japanese version that companies will follow.
Child Care Leave links
The English front page of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/index.html) only has a PowerPoint file for some reason (http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/policy/affairs/dl/05.pdf) which has so much information as to make it virtually unreadable.
The official English version of the Child Care Leave Act is available at http://www.mhlw.go.jp/general/seido/koyou/ryouritu/index.html
This page also has all the documents you need in order to apply for Child Care Leave. Your company or institution’s General Affairs Office (人事係 jinjigakari) should fill out most of this information for you. Ask for their help if you need it; that’s what they’re there for, after all.
If you want to read the act in English, you have to be able to read Japanese in order to figure out which link to click on. Once you get to the above page:
1. 法律 houritsu is the PDF version
2. 育介則英文（抜粋） ikukaisoku-eibun (bassui) is the html version
The act has plenty of sections and dense language, much of which concerns overtime pay and shortened working hours. The documents available (dated Heisei 17, or 2005) list “child under one year” and in some cases, “up to the age of 1 year and 6 months.” I was told that I could take leave until my child was 3 years old, because the act had been revised.
Legal documents take time to be translated in Japan, particularly when not a lot of people are all that pleased about them (i.e., major Japanese corporations that continue to pressure their female employees to quit after childbirth and their male employees to work overtime without pay). Please check for the most updated recent revision of the act with your company or institution’s General Affairs Office.