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How Japan prepares its children for independence

By Kate Lewis

Last week, my two-year-old son took a "secret" field trip. His "yochien" (preschool) packed up all of their child class students, took them on a bus, and would not tell us where.

When we learned about the plan, the other American parents and I looked at each other in excited disbelief. “This would never happen in America,” we whispered, conscious of the mountains of forms and waivers that would have been deemed necessary back home for such a trip. Yet we weren’t horrified or worried. We were delighted.

The reasoning behind the "secret" field trip was simple: this was the children’s first adventure without their parents. The "yochien" did not want us moms to show up, one of the other mothers laughingly translated for us. They joked that one or two of us might sneak to the park to watch this first solo outing, and it was important that the children take this small step toward independence alone.

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A noble idea. Lets not neglect the fact young Japanese are among the least independent in the world though, so there's a bigger question here - if children are allowed to go out alone like this, how do they end up remaining so dependent on their parents even well into adulthood?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Igloobuyer = Very good question indeed !

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Igloo - right on. A long stay by the writer may well see differing results evolve.

The stories presented are commonly obseved throughout Japan - however I believe they are not so much about developing strong independence, but rather nurturing the idea of inter-dependence, where all are seen as just one cohesive member of the whole - ie group, class, community, office etc.

Which is why independent flair is not the recognized norm here (altho you will see examples) and teenagers, young adults and others are extremely dependent upon each other.

I reccomend the book Anatomy of Dependence by famous pychiatrist / academic Takeo Doi to add more.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Independent children in a park climb trees and do things like that. Have you ever seen a Japanese child climb a tree?

Does the trip actually teach children to be independent or to obey authority in the form of a teacher?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

it was important that the children take this small step toward independence alone

Alone with 20+ other students and at least 5 yochien teachers telling them what to do, where to go, when to eat, when to say Hi Chiiiiizu for the group photo and when to get back on the bus,

On the other hand, she's right; this wouldn't happen in the US.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Make no mistake,this is not about any child's--especially a two year-old's--independence. It is the first step in establishing the greater social authority of the school and its teachers over the child--and the parents.

We are taking your two year-old on a secret trip. You will be told nothing about its location, you are not welcome to be present, and there is nothing you can do about it. You are not asked to sign waivers because your permission is irrelevant.

This is how the children (and the parents) are gradually conditioned away from the home and into the larger social sphere. Before long they will spend more time at school than at home; when they are adults they will spend more time at the company than with the family.

I'm not fan of helicopter parenting and waiting on a child's every whimper as often happens in North America; however, this has nothing to do with independence. Browny1 is correct. This situation is easier to understand if you have read Anatomy of Dependence by Takeo Doi.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I would like to twist this to a point that perhaps the teachers didn’t tell the parents, which I really don’t believe, so monster parents didn’t turn up at the park and get in the teachers and children’s faces.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Their minds and souls are crushed in their upper school years

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

With all the tiny little kids wearing those goofy school uniforms and looking all of 4 years old riding the trains themselves, I think they do a great job of it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is exactly how Battle Royale starts.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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