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Independence of Young Children in Japan


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rainymike

I'm a believer in teaching kids to be independent at a young age. However, I would not allow this to happen with my kids in the Philippines.

 

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Skywalker

Doesn't Japan have the highest rate of suicide amongst young people?

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If you did that in the Philippines, you would never see your children again.

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Aren't Davao and Cebu rather safe??

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Aren't Davao and Cebu rather safe??

 

If you let small children wander around by themselves, you will shortly see just how "safe" they are.

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If you let small children wander around by themselves, you will shortly see just how "safe" they are.

 

But I actually see lots of kids wandering on street by themselves...

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rainymike

Here's the full post where I found the video. It provides an explanation. I'm guessing that maybe in the old days, it probably was like this out in the provinces in the Phils.

 

 

It’s a common sight on Japanese mass transit: children troop through train cars, singly or in small groups, looking for seats.

 

They wear knee socks, polished patent leather shoes, and plaid jumpers, with wide-brimmed hats fastened under the chin and train passes pinned to their backpacks. The kids are as young as six or seven, on their way to and from school, and there is nary a guardian in sight.

 

Parents in Japan regularly send their kids out into the world at a very young age. A popular television show called Hajimete no Otsukai, or My First Errand, features children as young as two or three being sent out to do a task for their family. As they tentatively make their way to the greengrocer or bakery, their progress is secretly filmed by a camera crew. The show has been running for more than 25 years.

 

Kaito, a 12-year-old in Tokyo, has been riding the train by himself between the homes of his parents, who share his custody, since he was nine. “At first I was a little worried,” he admits, “whether I could ride the train alone. But only a little worried.”

 

Now, he says, it’s easy. His parents were apprehensive at first, too, but they went ahead because they felt he was old enough, and lots of other kids were doing it safely.

 

“Honestly, what I remember thinking at the time is, the trains are safe and on time and easy to navigate, and he’s a smart kid,” Kaito’s stepmother says. (His parents asked not to publish his last name and their names for the sake of privacy.)

 

“I took the trains on my own when I was younger than him in Tokyo,” his stepmother recalls. “We didn’t have cell phones back in my day, but I still managed to go from point A to point B on the train. If he gets lost, he can call us.”

 

What accounts for this unusual degree of independence? Not self-sufficiency, in fact, but “group reliance,” according to Dwayne Dixon, a cultural anthropologist who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Japanese youth. “[Japanese] kids learn early on that, ideally, any member of the community can be called on to serve or help others,” he says.

 

This assumption is reinforced at school, where children take turns cleaning and serving lunch instead of relying on staff to perform such duties. This “distributes labor across various shoulders and rotates expectations, while also teaching everyone what it takes to clean a toilet, for instance,” Dixon says.

 

Taking responsibility for shared spaces means that children have pride of ownership and understand in a concrete way the consequences of making a mess, since they’ll have to clean it up themselves. This ethic extends to public space more broadly (one reason Japanese streets are generally so clean). A child out in public knows he can rely on the group to help in an emergency.

 

Japan has a very low crime rate, which is surely a key reason parents feel confident about sending their kids out alone. But small-scaled urban spaces and a culture of walking and transit use also foster safety and, perhaps just as important, the perception of safety.

 

“Public space is scaled so much better—old, human-sized spaces that also control flow and speed,” Dixon notes. In Japanese cities, people are accustomed to walking everywhere, and public transportation trumps car culture; in Tokyo, half of all trips are made on rail or bus, and a quarter on foot. Drivers are used to sharing the road and yielding to pedestrians and cyclists.

Kaito’s stepmother says she wouldn’t let a 9-year-old ride the subway alone in London or New York—just in Tokyo. That’s not to say the Tokyo subway is risk-free. The persistent problem of women and girls being groped, for example, led to the introduction of women-only cars on select lines starting in 2000. Still, many city children continue to take the train to school and run errands in their neighborhood without close supervision.

 

By giving them this freedom, parents are placing significant trust not only in their kids, but in the whole community. “Plenty of kids across the world are self-sufficient,” Dixon observes. “But the thing that I suspect Westerners are intrigued by [in Japan] is the sense of trust and cooperation that occurs, often unspoken or unsolicited.”

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But I actually see lots of kids wandering on street by themselves...

 

Those kids' parents have no money, so they aren't worth anything to snatchers. Also, the mortality rate with those street kids is VERY high. Not many will see adulthood. You are right, though. There are some VERY young children wandering the streets of Cebu...begging. And there are "handlers" nearby watching them to make sure they are hustling. A lot of those kids are high on Rugby (the glue...not the game).

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First, I was travelling alone on public transport at about 7yo to and from school. No problems.

 

As for street children in the Philippines, many of them have "handlers" who drop them off and pick them up after "work". The first time I saw this was in Pasay, at KFC near the airport. There was a group of about 6 children regularly begging for money (not food) outside of the KFC. Late one night, I saw that they were all picked up by their handler in an SUV. Some days later I saw the same SUV dropping them off early in the morning for "work".

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Are those in Cebu as well? The kids here only help us dump garbage not begging, but they don't really look friendly...

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I watched the video and understood every word. I don't need subtitles and they didn't match the conversation anyway. Its TV. Just more sensationalism to say how wonderful Japan is. They make the video then get celebrities to comment on it The kids were surrounded by camera crew. They were not on their own. Usually boys are spoilt lazy little bastards. They are not normally expected to help around with chores. Girls have to do it all. As Bob says it is safe. But its safe here too. Parents send kids down to the sari sari at six in morning. The difference is they are carrying 20 kilos of rice. Not a rucksack. The boy has almost certainly already done 'time' at a kindergarten and is just a crybaby. This video is not the norm. Even kindergartens transport kids door to door. I speak from experience on this having run a kindergarten for some years and taught junior high, high college and uni. When I see videos like this I know exactly what they are up to. When I first worked there they didn't even have a PTA.

 

I really wish they would get the kids out in the Baragay with tongues and basura bags to clean up as its them that dump the crap in the first place. In Japan we teach kids. "If someone dumps rubbish? Somebody else has to clean it up". One good thing to notice on the video is how clean it is there as well as safe.

Edited by hyaku
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