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Thin line between neglect and independence for Japanese kids

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A sign of the times, 'parents' neglecting their own kids.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Japan is considered safe,

Correct.

a country where kids are allowed from a very early age to be independent. *

Incorrect. Children are allowed to run around and do what they please. Being independent has the connotation that they are also responsible.

Neighbors and the wider community foster this autonomy through the general acceptance that children in Japan, much more so than in other countries, are able to look after themselves.

I seriously doubt the veracity if this statement. It seems to me this autonomy is fostered by people not taking advantage of unsupervised children.

This is another Japan fluff piece by Kyodo. Ridiculous.

8 ( +14 / -6 )

My parents gave me independence and if anything went wrong, I’d get punished for it.

I survived and I think I’m better for it.

Helicoptering has long term effects on the development of children and stunts their maturity.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

One more sign of the break down in society. In my neighborhood these "latch-key" kids have something called a "gaku-do" 学童、typically a house, apartment, or some location, that they can go after school, have some snacks, play with their friends, study, and all under the supervision of adults.

Some schools have them on their grounds too,converting a old classroom or some other room!

There are vans that take them home too, if parents cant pick them up!

These are solvable problems, but municipalities MUST be proactive and put kids safety first!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

My parents gave me independence and if anything went wrong, I’d get punished for it.

I survived and I think I’m better for it.

People regularly claim 'I did X when I was a kid, and I'm fine', yet they aren't actually fine. That kind of evaluation can only be made by an objective 3rd party observer.

Helicoptering has long term effects on the development of children and stunts their maturity.

I agree with this.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Japan is considered safe, a country where kids are allowed from a very early age to be independent. Neighbors and the wider community foster this autonomy through the general acceptance that children in Japan, much more so than in other countries, are able to look after themselves.

Fantasy nonsense. Kyodo is now entering the realm of science fiction.

5 ( +12 / -7 )

My number one question is Why did she consult with a teacher (school) instead of the parents? I don't believe it is a school matter. The parents should sit-down together and work things out in the utmost positive way.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

As ever, Japan is what you see with your own eyes people! Not what Kyodo or anyone else tells you to think.

I was under the impression that gakudo was just an after-school club, a supervised place where kids of working parents can spend time.

Regarding hochigo, this is not new. There was a famous case at least ten years ago, which was then made into the movie Dare mo Shirenai (Nobody Knows). I think the reality is just that some people are terrible parents and society is too busy pretending they don't exist to step in and help the kids. In short, society fails in its responsibility to protect the children.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

children in Japan, much more so than in other countries, are able to look after themselves.

This statement I cannot agree with. Going home alone isn't the same as being able to take care yourself. If that were the case, many kids wouldn't stop to speak to strangers when they are spoken to by them. Furthermore, they wouldn't just enter a stranger's car or wander off with them.

As for leaving children alone, I think the bigger issue is the working culture. When parents are forced to work overtime and companies don't pay livable wages, this is the end result.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

There are vans that take them home too, if parents cant pick them up!

We have those vans in America too. they usually say "fReE cAnDy" on the side.

Seriously tho, local safehouses are much appreciated.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

But thinking he was also her son's friend, she invited the boy in as well and served them all snacks.

But the boy began coming more frequently and would even take food from the refrigerator without permission, she says. He would hang around, seemingly with no intention of leaving even when it got late. After having her doubts, the woman asked her son about the boy and was astonished when he replied he had no idea who he was. "In fact, he was a total stranger. My son said he didn't know him at all," she said.

haha this is funny and 'so japan' on so many levels, love the story! Mum too kind/polite/afraid to confront the kid hitting the fridge & outstaying his welcome, mum & son not communicating, son & kid not talking, son giving 0 F about the whole thing etc. love it!

13 ( +15 / -2 )

My daughter is now 6 and a lot of her classmates' parents have started letting them stay home alone, or go otsukai which just seems insane to me. My daughter is probably the most responsible and well mannered kid in her entire class but I would never consider leaving her home alone or letting her go to conbini alone at this age. It's not so much that I think she'd do something wrong, I just don't trust a car not to hit her or some creep smoking outside of Family Mart to try something. MIL thinks I should let her otsukai but seriously, no chance. Even though we live in a nice family area in western Tokyo there's a few neighborhood crazies, people drinking in the morning and walking around talking to themselves... yeah, no.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

The author seems to confuse being independent and being left alone.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

In the States now some busybodies will call the police as soon as they see kids playing alone in the park or whatever. Seems like things are going in one extreme or the other depending on society view.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

since1981 wrote Today 07:44 am JST

My number one question is Why did she consult with a teacher (school) instead of the parents? I don't believe it is a school matter. The parents should sit-down together and work things out in the utmost positive way.

Read again. She had no idea who the kid was, that's why she consulted a teacher. She could have asked the boy, but it's doubtful he would have given his parents phone numbers to her, right?

Chip Star wrote Today 06:54 am JST

> a country where kids are allowed from a very early age to be independent.

Incorrect. Children are allowed to run around and do what they please. Being independent has the connotation that they are also responsible

Responsible for what exactly? What are the responsabilities of a child? Going to school, arriving on time, not getting into fights or bad stuff, being home on time? Well, most kids in Japan do that.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

When I first moved into my house in a new part of my city, there was a young girl who often played outside my house. She was a bit older than my daughter, but she was friendly. One Sunday morning, she was over around breakfast time, and we asked her if she had eaten breakfast yet, and she said no. Turns out that her mother worked full-time as a nurse and was often gone. And her father would sleep all day on his day off. And no one was fixing breakfast for her. So we fed her from time to time. We did make contact with her mother, though, to make sure it was okay. Very friendly mom. Very apologetic. But we didn't mind.

This girl later became too old for my daughter and they went separate ways. But we'd see her from time to time. Still always friendly. In high school, she went on to a top level school and entered an international course which specialized in English. I've always wondered if being at my house, eating pancakes and what not, and hearing English spoken around her, led her to that direction. :)

12 ( +12 / -0 )

My number one question is Why did she consult with a teacher (school) instead of the parents? I don't believe it is a school matter.

That's the mentality in all of East Asia seemingly; everything is the teacher's problem and fault. Add in the home room system and teachers are inundated with parents and students pestering them at all hours with every single one of their little life problems. Because asking the parents might make them lose face.

Sad!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

good-natured individuals

Did you mean normal human being ?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As a parent I'm torn about this.

On the one hand yes, I get that helicopter parenting in North America has gone absolutely off the rails insane to the point that people will accuse you of parental neglect for letting a 12 year old ride the bus. That is nuts and not good for kids or parents.

On the other hand, I really do feel that a lot of Japanese parents go too far the other way. Like I've got two young kids (5 and 2) and we live near one of those idiotically dangerous roads which have no sidewalks or shoulder, poor visibility and aren't wide enough for two cars to pass each other, yet cars often whip by at extremely unsafe speeds.

Owing to the way the neighborhood is laid out, we have to take that road whenever we go out, its unavoidable. When we are walking with the kids on it to the park nearby, I rigorously keep them under control and whenever a car comes by I make sure I've got each of them as safely out of the way as possible because if I just let them do their own thing they'd eventually get run over by one of the damn speeding cars.

But I constantly see Japanese kids running around freely on the same road. Like the parents will let a 2 year old run ahead of them so far that if a car came whipping around a corner, as they often do, the parent would not be able to pull them to safety. It just drives me nuts since it seems so inherently unsafe to me, yet everyone seems to have a very blasé attitude towards child safety.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Maxjapank,

Nice story.

Glad she has done well.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

That's the mentality in all of East Asia seemingly; everything is the teacher's problem and fault. Add in the home room system and teachers are inundated with parents and students pestering them at all hours with every single one of their little life problems. Because asking the parents might make them lose face.

This article has nothing to do with teachers. Every opportunity possible all the under-qualified, overly-self-entitled English teachers start bleating on about how hard their life is.

Give it a rest.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

A couple commenters hit the nail on the head: the whackiness of that story starts with the mom not even bothering to ask her son “who are your friends?” and the son not saying anything when the ‘unknown to him’ boy followed him into his house. Disfunctional on all levels...

6 ( +6 / -0 )

My mom would let me bring friends at home but she would always ask who they are, where they live to be sure that they would not to do something their parents would not accept (eating, allowed time out, etc.).

Isn't that what an adult does, being responsible ?

I would have been considered myself seriously mentally-ill to let come and play someone with me at my place that I don't know.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The worst thing in the world for a child is to feel unloved and neglected. How sad. While it does take a village to raise a child, the primary responsibility lies with mum and dad.

Marriage, child bearing and child raising are the most serious responsibilities we'll ever have. Yet, many families and most societies don't make much effort to impart this concept to nor educate the next generation on how to do these things successfully. No wonder there are so many failed marriages, dysfunctional families and poor parenting.

Us parents ought to strive to be living examples to our kids of hands on, loving and responsible parenting, and high schools ought to touch on these subjects as well. That would help.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

vallum; Read again. She had no idea who the kid was, that's why she consulted a teacher. She could have asked the boy, but it's doubtful he would have given his parents phone numbers to her, right?

Then I would have called the police.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

There is something seriously wrong with a society that believes leaving a three year old at home alone is teaching them to be independent and not child neglect. I was always astonished by how many Japanese parents leave little kids at home alone for extended periods of time. Even my ex-wife suggested we go out fir dinner and leave a 3 and 5 year old at home alone.

Perhaps they are talking about the parents’ independence so they can shirk their parental responsibilities on a whim.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

More interesting than the article itself is the JapanToday commentator crowd, many of whom seem to think Japanese parents are automatically wrong unless they come to the exact same conclusions as their Western counterparts. This is even though Japan is a different environment than the United States, which obviously means different tradeoffs. For example:

If that were the case, many kids wouldn't stop to speak to strangers when they are spoken to by them.

Whether this is a good idea depends on the locality. If you tell your kids to not speak to strangers no matter what, you may be playing it safe but you are also killing off entire bunches of your child's opportunities to independently converse with unfamiliar people, and to independently come to a conclusion regarding their safety or dangerousness.

A child that does not speak to strangers no matter what is not demonstrating good judgment. He is demonstrating slavish adherence to a norm. The norm may be optimum, at least for the locality, but the child did not judge at all and does is not even demonstrating bad judgment - he is demonstrating none.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

More interesting than the article itself is the JapanToday commentator crowd, many of whom seem to think Japanese parents are automatically wrong unless they come to the exact same conclusions as their Western counterparts

I'm sure most Japanese people would agree that feeding some random kid off the street with no connection to you isn't how it should be done! Unless they're in desperate need of course, my (Japanese) friends often take a rice bowl from a restaurant where it's self-service and give it to a homeless person. I'm sure my ('western') parents would have done the same if they thought that they were my friend

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Interesting how long it took to figure out that the outsider kid was not even someone her son knew! What kinda relationship did they have?

Sitting around pretending each other didnt exist? Anywho...fictional story...made up

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Savethegaijin:

"Crazies talking to themselves..."

Sometimes you just need to talk it out between yourself.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japanese elementary school children as early as first graders, for example, can be seen walking home from school or riding busy trains alone -- something almost unheard of in other parts of the world.

What? I walked to/from school almost every day from age 6 on. My friends in the neighborhood would go together.

After school, we'd go to someone's house and get some snacks before heading out to play some game or disappear in the the woods, swamp, beach. Which depended on the location which house had to freshest snacks.

Catching a bus was very common when we moved to a place about 3 miles from school. Also had to make/pack our own lunches from age 7 on. Forget to do that and go without 1 day and you'll never forget again.

This was common everywhere I've lived.

Sometimes I'd come home to a note saying to make dinner for X people with these ingredients. There was also a "chores" list on the fridge for each kid in the family. From age 5 on, we all had assigned tasks. Every year, the list would get longer for each kid.

I never felt neglected, but I wasn't home alone ever before age 13. At age 10, I started baby sitting other kids. That was a common thing at the time. At 10 yrs old, everyone was considered old enough to be home alone for 6 hrs.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As my kids get older, I’ve noticed this more and more. There’s a neighborhood park that I think is used as substitute babysitting by some parents, as there are a few children always there who seem desperate for adult attention but who never seem to go home. I really feel for these kids as they are still out there when everyone else goes home for dinner and bedtime. Sometimes they will ask whatever adult is there if they can come over for dinner, but my husband is very much against having children whose parents we don’t know in our house, so I have never brought them home for dinner. I have brought rice balls to the park a few times, and I have seen other parents do the same. We have also notified the local elementary school, but it hasn’t seemed to do much good. I have no idea who the parents are, not will they tell me.

I don’t think this is something unique to Japan, of course, and I remember similar “stray” children being around when I was a kid. Where I grew up, the city parks offered a safe place for kids to be in the evening, with staff to supervise them and a meal provided to those who needed it. Would like to see communities here do more of the same. I know of one town nearby that does “kodomo no shokudo” for kids who otherwise wouldn’t get an evening meal, and would like to see more of this.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I was under the impression that gakudo was just an after-school club, a supervised place where kids of working parents can spend time.

That's more or less correct. Both of my boys used the club across the street from their school. It was/is administered by Kita Ward and supervised by professionals. There is, however, great variation in these clubs. Their quality depends on local government initiative. Kita Ward is very progressive and proactive.

Japanese elementary school children as early as first graders, for example, can be seen walking home from school or riding busy trains alone

These are kids who go to private schools. You can tell they are private school students because they wear uniforms. Very, very few public schools require uniforms for elementary school kids.

Elementary school kids going to public schools in Tokyo are generally required to attend one within walking distance of their home. Those with special needs are the only major exception.

Elementary school kids attending public schools go to/from schools along designated routes led by either an adult or an older student (usually a sixth grader). In Kita Ward senior citizen volunteers walk with elementary school kids who go home after hours. I presume other jurisdictions have similar systems. My kids used this sytem.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Henny PennyToday 12:55 pm JST

Elementary school kids attending public schools go to/from schools along designated routes led by either an adult or an older student (usually a sixth grader). In Kita Ward senior citizen volunteers walk with elementary school kids who go home after hours. I presume other jurisdictions have similar systems. My kids used this sytem.

Based on the Japanese Wikipedia, this system would seem to be in the minority:

徒歩 - 学校から自宅まで近距離の場合、歩いての通学。小学校などでは、登校時に班を作って、集団で登校をする学校や地域ある。

Translation: Walking - when the distance between residence to school is close, going to school by walking. For elementary schools and like, there are also schools and regions that arrange squads for collective going to school.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To supplement the above, here:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/302874075_International_Origins_of_Walking_School_Buses_and_Child_Fatalities_in_Japan_and_Canada

is an article claiming 65% of elementary schools have a 集団登校 program (such programs having started in 1955) and ostensibly Student Participation is "All Students in School".

My reaction is Really. I really don't remember seeing those little groups with yellow flags (maybe I've seen some kindergarteners or something), and I can not remember a single media work where elementary school kids are portrayed to use this system.

Maybe the issue is with the "problems" – as he puts it:

1) A child is late to the meeting point. The lead child may have difficulty deciding when to leave, which can lead to the-group being late. If it is uncommon for that child to be late,the lead child may swing by the tardy child’s home and call out “we’re off!” to prompt the child to come quickly. If the child is chronically late, they may be dropped from the group.

2) A child is absent/unable to go to school. In such cases, the parent may inform the school, but no message is sent to the group of children who remain at the meeting point, waiting for the absent child.

3) The meeting time is considered too early. Even though schools will typically start at around 8:30 AM, the meeting time may be considerably earlier such as 7:45 AM for a 10-minute walk. This may be a result of trying to allow for children who are late (no matter the time) and thus giving ample “cushion” time; it may also be the result of anticipating slow or leisurely walking speeds by the children.

4) A child is very early. Some children may want to get to the school in order to play. Others may come from homes where the parents must work early. In such cases, the child may not wait around for the others and simply go to the school directly.This can cause the same problem as above (1) with the group waiting for the non-present child.

5) The meeting location is problematic. In some cases, the meeting point may be further from the school than the child’s home. In others, it may be located at a point where there isconsiderable traffic such as by a convenience store parking lot. In still others, the children may be waiting at a point that inconveniences other people such as in the lobby of an apartment.

Reading between the lines, every kid who does not want to wake up at 7:30 so he can join a 7:45 group assembly for a 10 minute walk to a school starting at 8:30, the kids with clubs that require really early attendance, some for which the route is just too inconvenient, and everyone that’s too embarrassed to be wearing yellow caps and then led by someone waving a yellow flag … have all have quietly opted out of these programs and no one is stopping them. By the time they grow up, no one remembers these programs even exist, and any observer will ignore the one convoy of kids in favor of the stream of kids that go to school independently.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Japan is considered safe, a country where kids are allowed from a very early age to be independent." Being alone is not the same as being independent; one is tempted to say that the last thing any Japanese child can be accused of is independence. As I recall, Doi Takeo never wrote a book called "The Anatomy of Independence"...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Being alone is not the same as being independent

When you are alone, you seem to have little choice. Sure, your judgments may be better or worse, you may take a lot of action or choose inaction, but how can you NOT be independent when you are alone?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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