A generation ago, it was unheard of for a Japanese man to take a break from work to care for his child. Today, an increasing number say they are interested in doing so, and some are even practising the seemingly impossible. But many other young fathers are not ready for it. In fact, only 0.4 per cent of working fathers in 2003 took advantage of up to 18 months' paternity leave for those with children under one year of age, according to a government survey. For years, Tokyo has tried to encourage more men to take paternity leave in another attempt to get more couples to have a baby and reverse the trend of an ageing population. In 1992, the Childcare Leave Law was implemented; and in 2002, the government set a goal of having 10 per cent of working fathers with children under one - or 100,000 men - staying at home in 'two to three years'. In 2003, it was announced that companies where one or more men took paternity leave would receive a grant of 700,000 yen ($49,800). And the Next Generation Law, which came into effect in April, requires companies with more than 300 staff to give at least one father time off. A few men, clearly, are embracing the new trend, and the media has picked up on this, with articles offering them hints and tips. Some stay-at-home fathers have even launched their own blogs or websites to build a national support network. They are, however, still very much the exception. Indeed, the government grant scheme was scrapped this year - because not one single company had applied. One major reason for men's reluctance, say many young parents, is financial. In many households, fathers are the breadwinners, with a large part of their income coming from overtime payments. Even if men do take paternity leave, they typically receive only 40 per cent of their salary. And there is no guarantee that their jobs will be kept open for them. 'It is also psychologically very difficult to ask your boss; it is unprecedented in many work places,' said one 32-year-old father in Tokyo. Commentators say that a strong belief in the traditional roles of men and women still runs deep, despite the contemporary outlook of many young couples. Indeed, it is still considered 'unmanly' for a husband to show in public a keen interest in his family or domestic matters. And some full-time housewives do not want their husbands getting involved in daily childcare. 'If he is around all the time, it means more work for me,' said one young mother. It seems that Japanese men need to be trained to take care of themselves first - rather than relying on their wives to look after them - before they can even think about taking care of a child.