Children play with robot toys in Tokyo in December. Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File
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U.N. rights committee urges Japan to let children be children

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By Stephanie Nebehay

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Seriously! I always say that children here have no childhood. The mental effects are very obvious later on in life. I'm always surprised at the amount of people with mental disorders or who are socially handicapped in Japan. By the time my kid is 5, we will be back in the States. There's no way I'm putting my kid through the system here.

21 ( +34 / -13 )

A Canadian friend who was a JALT or something recalled the time the elementary-school teacher and her took a class of kids to a picnic area in warm spring weather.

Once they arrived, the Canadian said, "OK kids, go and play." The kids stood there looking confused, and the Japanese teacher awkwardly explained, "The kids don't know how to play. Do have to tell them what they should do."

27 ( +40 / -13 )

It may be cultural differences and I probably don’t have a right to say this because I’m not Japanese; however, I have always believed that children here are under way too much pressure.

Many students are accustomed to studying from when school starts to 11pm at night at a cram school. They are under incredible pressure from their parents to enter into top schools in order to assure their futures or help greatly reduce the cost of education.

They have to make life choices and are seldom allowed options. Even things as simple as school clubs end up being long term commitments for the remainder of your time at that school.

Many don’t have time off on the weekends because of multiple educational program commitments. There is no childhood in being a child in Japan. It all seems like work from elementary school until you die of old age.

18 ( +26 / -8 )

If you were to let them be actual children that would throw the whole culture out of whack. No more would we have docile obedient children. These kids need to properly learn the rule book or society overall will collapse.

3 ( +13 / -10 )

I don't quite understand this UN recommendation.

Japanese children are living the lives of ordinary children.

Japanese children aren't like Chinese or Korean children, who spend most of their waking hours studying for college entrance exams.

So this UN recommendation is unnecessary. UN should tell that to China and Korea who sacrifice their children's childhood in order to produce world-class workers to fuel the rise of Chinese and Korea high tech firms dominating globe.

-30 ( +13 / -43 )

The Japanese children I know seem pretty happy, but whatever you do Japan, don't let them become like lazy, entitled American children...

-10 ( +22 / -32 )

No matter how you try to change the lives of Japanese children, they are not going to change. Japanese children, Chinese children, Korean children, Vietnamese children, and all children of East Asia, are the same: smart children.

-25 ( +11 / -36 )

The Japanese children I know seem pretty happy, but whatever you do Japan, don't let them become like lazy, entitled American children...

Maybe I should clarify that I am American and I'd hate to see what has become of our younger generation happen to Japan...

-6 ( +15 / -21 )

extanker, unfortunately, you don't represent America.

-15 ( +9 / -24 )

extanker, unfortunately, you don't represent America.

Ok, I'll bite, please explain to me how an American doesn't represent America... I'll wait. I bet this will be good.

10 ( +17 / -7 )

Most elementary aged or younger do have a pretty fun life if they are not the victims of abusive parents or bullies although, there are an ever-growing percentage who have already become part of 'Japan Inc' and are attending private schools six days a week and juku (cram school) six evenings a week. Then, as they get to high school things change very quickly for them. They become part of a near-militarised schooling system with excessive hours of schooling and ridiculous amounts of homework. The teenagers attending private high schools have no life at all. They are pressured and bullied by the schools to get the highest grades possible. If their grades are not adequate, they are made to go to cram school as well. You have these young teenagers spending six days a week at private high school, six evenings a week at cram school and spending every other minute of their lives completing homework. That is not a life of a child. That is the life of a prisoner (of Japanese society). With the huge amount of time these kids are made to spend on schooling, they should all be geniuses, but they are actually far from it because they never actually learn anything. They just memorise enough prerequisite garbage to pass the tests and forget it within 24 hours because they have to prepare for the next round. The life of a child in Japan is absolutely hideous!

15 ( +24 / -9 )

Kids have better grade when they have no pressure.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

As well as experiencing violence from family or teachers, kids here are obliged to join clubs for after school activities and go to cram schools. No fun, no play and no sleep.

14 ( +21 / -7 )

Once they arrived, the Canadian said, "OK kids, go and play." The kids stood there looking confused, and the Japanese teacher awkwardly explained, "The kids don't know how to play. Do have to tell them what they should do."

Very sad. Kids should be allowed to just be kids. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Not only that, all creativity is lost. My own dad, 74 now, takes exception to the slightest hint of disciplining I try with my 8 yo son. says I want you to bring him up differently from the way I did you.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

The UN are a bunch of busybodies fingerwaving at the world. I think it's fabulous that Japanese children apply themselves early in life.

-16 ( +11 / -27 )

madmanmunt, unfortunately UN rights committee doesn't represent UN.

-23 ( +0 / -23 )

madmanmuntToday 07:35 am JST

I think it's fabulous that Japanese children apply themselves early in life.

You say that like they're given a choice.

20 ( +27 / -7 )

While this advice to Japanese society regarding children is helpful and contains legitimate concerns, it smacks of an attempt by the haughty U.N. to lecture the Japanese about social issues.

Unfortunately the U.N. has become a tool of secular humanist social progressives attempting to subvert the sovereignty of independent nations and cultures. If bodies like The U.N. have thier way our children may not even exist due being brutally aborted, or they'll be pumped so full of a plethora of behavior modifying drugs like ritalin on top of mandated vaccines. Plus they'll be lazy, spoiled brats because disciplining them will be illegal. Besides all that the poor kids won't even know what gender they are due to gender confusion being forced into school curriculums. Finally, parents rights will be usurped and the state will have the final say in medical and other decisions regarding children. This is the direction the U.N. is heading.

I reccomended that the Japanese politely totally ignore them.

-11 ( +12 / -23 )

Japan ratified the UNCRC in 1994 so the cultural differences argument does not apply.

In my opinion child abuse is child abuse whether it is ingrained in a culture or not.

Recommendation 27(b) is a huge benefit for children in Japan. Unfortunately, Japan has done nothing to address this issue for over 14 years.

They say children are the future and you reap what you sow.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

First world problems.

Awhile back ago, before TV, computers and video games, kids got off school and had to go home to help with the crops, milk the cows, feed the chickens, clean up the waste, other household chores, then do homework. It’s been less than 70 years, and mostly in stable countries and large cities where this “UN Human Rights” issue applies. Keeping kids busy is the smartest thing to do. Many US inner cities struggle just to keep the kids in class let alone getting them to a reasonable level of high school education.

But, I guess the overblown “corporal punishment” label or the suicides is more important to the U.N. than drug use, joining a gang, killing other gang members, then going home and playing video games.

This really is a waste of resources by the U.N.

-7 ( +8 / -15 )

This really is a waste of resources by the U.N.

I was thinking the same thing.

-8 ( +7 / -15 )

Being a public school teacher here, I'm surprised that many teachers call children with no opinions who never talk back, complain or point out teachers' fault "good students."

I'm Japanese born and raised here, and I'm very lucky because I realised this is wrong since I know what's common outside Japan thanks to English.

20 ( +25 / -5 )

Seriously! I always say that children here have no childhood. The mental effects are very obvious later on in life. I'm always surprised at the amount of people with mental disorders or who are socially handicapped in Japan.

Agree 100%.

By the time my kid is 5, we will be back in the States. There's no way I'm putting my kid through the system here.

My son is 3 and my daughter 7 months old. We are in the process of immigrating to Canada. Like you, I do not want to put my children through the Japanese system. No way.

14 ( +23 / -9 )

By the time my kid is 5, we will be back in the States. There's no way I'm putting my kid through the system here.

I understand the sentiment but I don't think it's quite that either-or. First off, public elementary school is relatively benign. My kid is halfway through and is flourishing. I hear you about JHS/HS though and we are weighing such decisions as I type. It also depends how much you can supplement or perhaps circumvent the looming indoctrination and conformity. If enrolling them in an international school isn't an option (the costs!) you can at least spend sufficient time with them at home to better develop their creativity and critical thinking. Ultimately just expanding the insularity of Japanese education/life. Also, you can largely opt out of juku if your ultimate goal is having your kid go to uni abroad. No need to put them on that rat-wheel if their final destination is elsewhere. Finally, if you're able to take your child abroad for significant chunks of time, or send them to family back home on summer vacation, this can also help a lot. I'm lucky to have summers off and a month back home works wonders for kids' language skills and bi-culturalism.

Once they arrived, the Canadian said, "OK kids, go and play." The kids stood there looking confused, and the Japanese teacher awkwardly explained, "The kids don't know how to play. Do have to tell them what they should do."

Sorry but anyone with kids would call b-s on this. Have you ever observed kids in parks here, from daycare on up? They immediately run around like maniacs the world over. I suspect that your mate either intimidated them, they didn't understand what he was telling them, or it was the first day of school and they simply didn't know each other/were shy.

15 ( +19 / -4 )

Ok. But please don't let them become like Norwegian children, who are noisy with no manners, are totally spoilt and boss their parents around. I love children in Japan, and I hate them in Norway, my native country.

1 ( +12 / -11 )

When I read this article, I immediately wondered as to the context of these recommendations from this UN Committee.

So, I went checking for additional information. And here is what I found, from the Committee itself.

GENEVA (7 February 2019) — The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has published its findings on the countries it examined during its latest session from January 14 to February 1: Bahrain, Belgium, Czechia, Guinea, Italy, Japan, and Syrian Arab Republic.

The findings contain positive aspects of how the respective States are implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, highlight matters of concern and make recommendations.

In this context, it wasn't something that just focused on Japan. It examined a number of countries. And in the same release, this text was included.

The next session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child will be from 13 to 31 May to review the following countries: Botswana, Cabo Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Malta, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Tonga.

So, this just helps put the Committee's findings into perspective and that is part of a systematic review of member countries.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

A Canadian friend who was a JALT or something recalled the time the elementary-school teacher and her took a class of kids to a picnic area in warm spring weather.

Once they arrived, the Canadian said, "OK kids, go and play." The kids stood there looking confused, and the Japanese teacher awkwardly explained, "The kids don't know how to play. Do have to tell them what they should do."

reminded me of an International baseball camping event I joined a couple of years ago.

Kids were separated per nationality (some 12 groups), all the french, american, italian, african, canadian, kids (and its chaperones) seemed to be having a lot of fun, but whenever the japanese and taiwanese kids started running and goofing around they were reprimanded on spot by their chaperones.

As I was in charge of one of the japanese groups, I didn't hesitate to let the kids play, until another japanese chaperone (in his 20s) from another group started telling me I shouldn't do this, everything has its time blablabla.

Couldn't control myself and told the guy "no wonder your kids (his group) hate you".

I regretted saying that but we became friends after that.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

The son of a friend turned 6 last summer. He studies piano and goes to 2 English classes apart from his regular kindergarten. Next school year he will be traveling one hour each way going to first grade; two trains plus a bus ride. The school offers extra English classes. The mother claims it’s necessary for the child to learn this second language for the sake of his future. He claims competition is that tough. They want me to give him extra English classes. The child barely knows what its like to be a kid.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

In relation to Japanese present day societal problems, I think the "children have no time to play because they are too pressured by society" problem goes wayyy back. With Japan being one of the countries with a Confucian culture, (along with China, Korea, Taiwan) that one of its main teachings is to pursue the cultivation of man and society, one would really have to expect that the Japanese would really pursue education and social improvement, by instinct almost, at the expense of oneself at times. While Confucian teachings are great, one pitfall it has on modern society today is that people are somewhat being forced to raise the bar way above what they can reach and end up losing time to become themselves and living the way they want to - hence, you get people that are institutionalized, have excessively reserved opinions and mental issues. Culturally-rooted issues are difficult and would take years of re-education to change

8 ( +11 / -3 )

I see one of my neighbours kids leave home the same time as me, 0730 but he doesn't get home until 2200, then still has homework to do. He's 9!

12 ( +16 / -4 )

I think there is a danger here of confusing different issues that are not related. The Yua Funato case is not automatically related to Japanese schools, she was not even school age, and was a failure of social care. The state had clear evidence but did not move in to protect the child. Children get abused for many reasons, mental and marriage problems for their parents included. You could have the most wonderful loving society but children will still get abused due to dysfunction in individual families. Japanese society did not abuse Yua Funato, her parents did. Japanese society erred in completely failing to protect her from them.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The above said I’ll add I have been very satisfied by the way my children, now 20

& 17, were treated in kindergarten and elementary school. Rigid? Maybe a little. Well mannered, public thinkers. Yes, they now play too much with their electronic toys, like most kids, but I saw how much the teachers gave and sacrificed for their class. I never saw or had that when I was growing up. Like all systems, I found pros and cons. Through elementary school I believe its good here.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

I agree with the rights committee. Let the children have a childhood.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Majority of posts bringing other countries children/education/stats into the conversation.

Caging the conversation in certain specific terms seems to be discouraged, though. How odd.

If you confine children to the classroom, it can be seen as sometimes a punitive measure on young minds. Sure, there's a need for education but the need for freedom is an essential human right. Otherwise, what kind of adult is being formed, down the line?

9 ( +11 / -2 )

It's funny, in that in my decade in Japan working with Japanese children and adults, I saw a mix that can almost be called "non-childlike immaturity."

What do I mean? I mean I saw, as noted by others, this regimented, non-thinking, totally unchildlike system forced on children. I saw kids who treated Saturday soccer practice like military training, and coaches who'd do the same. When asked about it, of course the parents and kids would say they were having fun, but at the same time, what else did you expect when that was all one knew?

I saw the same in judo, where within 1 meet I knew how to beat EVERY player from the local 'championship' club and high school, simply because they were non-thinking robotically patterned automatons who certainly didn't take any enjoyment in their activity. I never saw laughter, only tears, in sports, etc.

Conversely, at the same time I saw great levels of immaturity amongst students and even adults. I'm not talking things like "oh, that 25 year old likes anime!" but rather a general lack of understanding of the world, of abilities to care for and take care of themselves. I knew thirty five year old men who, if their mothers or wives didn't feed them and wash for them, would show up for work every day in dirty, unkempt clothes and eat nothing but conbini food. Or twenty three year old women who didn't know how to operate a washing machine, and so would instead take her dirty clothes back to her mother's house on a weekly basis to have them done.

I could go on for longer than this thread would allow, but I would say that just saying 'let kids be kids' is a bit of a misnomer. It's much more nuanced than that.

14 ( +19 / -5 )

I have been always curious what those kids study in their schools and juku...they spend endless time there, but if you ask them any kind of general stuff, especially outside Japan, they have no idea about anything, no opinion, empty glances. What do they study all the time? 14 y high school student could not tell me the title of her favourite manga because she could not read its kanji.

Not to mention, that companies hiring fresh graduates do not care about whole education (just ranking of their university) , because they train them like little pets from the beginning.

So, not being able to have childhood, then you have an army of emotionally immature adults playing games, being all kawaii and childish - if you have tried to have some normal conversation with women or other men, you know what I am talking about.

I do not know if this is everywhere in Japan or just because of me living in inaka.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

They just need some trained and up to date super psychologists in the Ministry of Education, that understand deeply how to optimize human potential , to reform the whole education system. No easy task I know. It’s way too authoritarian, and too focused on producing obedient kids which only pays off in the short term. School often becomes more of a holding pen than a place of self development, learning HOW to think and self express. You don’t need to throw out the baby with the bathwater though as there’s some great stuff that should be kept. Cleaning your own school and preparing and serving nutritious lunches together for example is the envy of the world. No one jumps rope like a Japanese kid can is another example. Quite incredible to watch a ten or eleven year old doing triples!

There’s a ton of research out there that will point in the direction needed to go, but if you just call the out of dated stuff holding this current generation back ‘Japanese culture’ then you won’t get far at all. It’s not actually Japanese culture anyway, much of it was just taken from early 19th century Prussian education models. With a bit of forward thinking, care and will though these changes can be made. Once the Ministry gets with the times people follow suit quickly. You’d think they’d want the very best for their beloved children right? Not easy, but neglect this challenge at your peril, even worse , your kids peril!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Just a cursory look on any street in Tokyo at children will show you that the UN appears to be making something out of completely nothing. Japanese children appear to be some of the happiest on Earth.

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

The moment a new mother and father look at their newly born child surely they will be overwhelmed with happiness and won't be able to conceive of living life without that young life.

This is, however, something my wife and I, mid 40s, have opted never to experience.

The pressure and overwhelming control school has on a child's life here is just too enormous. Yes, there are countless happy families and children, but I do think it's because they know no alternative and make do with what they have. Good for them, truly. But having grown up outside Japan and knowing what else is possible, I just couldn't do it.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Lafcadio Hearn wrote about this in his wonderful book “Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation”. In his chapter on education he wrote that young children enjoy a great deal of freedom and independence - more independence than American kids - but after elementary school they lose ALL independence - and of course the ability to think independently when they are adults.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

Yep, the transition from Genki elementary school kids full of cheeky laughter and questions to the standard side glancing over cautious junior high school kid is a sad transition to watch. The hammer comes down.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

@yokohamaries: this exactly. Life through elementary school does seem like a wonderful time, what comes after is the what is troubling and sad to watch. Of course, there are countless exceptions and people find ways to create happiness, but. Just but.

Anecdotes are not the best for evidence, but here is one: a good friend (English father, Japanese mother) wanted to visit the U.K. this past Christmas holiday but did not because their 14 year old son had baseball practice in the week between Christmas and New Year's. They told the coach they wanted to miss practice, but were told, quite clearly, that he would be letting down his team and school by not showing his spirit. Again: practice in the middle of winter, just before the most important holiday on the Japanese calendar, for a summer sport.

The child's grandmother died this past January. They did not see her. They did not say goodbye. All for not letting down the team for a practice of almost no value.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

I was quite surprised by the UN recommendation.

It's true that some nasty parents are abusing their children but it can happen in any country.

Overall, most children are happy with their parents who devote themselves to their children. Parents these days are changing rapidly as more and more mothers go out to work and more and more fathers take an active part in raising children, which will give a good impact on the children.

However, we have to admit that it becomes too extreme in terms of education, be it school, cram school or club activities, and some parents.

But I think it's nothing like the UN to make recommendation about since it's cultural stuff and every culture have its own problems.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

I saw kids who treated Saturday soccer practice like military training, and coaches who'd do the same. When asked about it, of course the parents and kids would say they were having fun, but at the same time, what else did you expect when that was all one knew?

and that was one of my biggest culture shocks in this place, especially when you come to the country with a high japanese level and start mingle with the community from day 1.

From street dance classes to soccer, any indoor/outdoor activity here seemed so rigid and I wondered from day 1 if the people were really having fun. It's also a bit weird watching dance performance rehearsals on TV (Tomioka High School Dance Club, etc) with the so called "senpais" shouting nasty things and other members crying. Kind, what is the real meaning of what they are doing?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Hmmmm.   seems like another silly UN "intervention".  Pretty meaningless.  and the issues they raise are common to many countries around Asia.

Issue here is so many adults continue to cling to childish ways.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

When I was in jr high, the basketball team practiced Mon, Wed & Friday. Sometimes a game on Saturdays. Whereas in Japan they’d be practicing 7 days a week.

During winter holiday / spring break, we never-ever had a stack of homework. When I found out Japanese kids have homecoming during winter / summer vacation, I was like “that’s insane.”

8 ( +9 / -1 )

"Let children be children" does sound culturally myopic. To different societies that means different things. "Child" in Japan means someone in the process of becoming a human being, with the right and duty to full-time education, their "job". Education here raises generalists rather than specialists. A drawback is there is extreme shame, isolation, and guilt when one can't align oneself with the average.

To reduce suicides and provide relief from the mental distress of bullying I often think more outside connections could help. School is insular and can become all-consuming. Perhaps it can make kids feel there's nowhere to turn, no way out, no neutral 3rd party to talk to when trouble comes. Little League-sort of community orgs instead of school-run sports clubs? I don't know what would be feasible, to help show them that the situation at school or home isn't all there is in this wide world...

4 ( +8 / -4 )

 and all children of East Asia, are the same: smart children.

if that was the case then much of the worlds modern advancements in medicine, science, literture would have been invented by east asians, but as we can see they're clearly not, those advancements mostly come from Europe, America UK, so it woud seem the majority of the worlds smart children don't come from east asia

13 ( +18 / -5 )

smart kids doesnt = creative thinkers, need to have both to produce world leaders in science, medicine, technology

3 ( +7 / -4 )

And in yesterday's news in Japan (including Japan Today): Suspected abuse of record-high 80,100 children reported in Japan in 2018 or today's: Man arrested for fracturing 8-year-old stepdaughter’s collarbone by hurling her across room

I think the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has all the justification to stick its nose into the treatment of children in Japan and report on it.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

School years in America is still a lot of brutal conformity, bullying, hair and dress codes that stifle the children because of abuse by uncaring parents and more. The 'Japanese way' looks too rigid too. But in America wealth and parental attitude changes everything. Too many families try to shape their kids to be in their image or they just treat them like machines. American kids are not on Easy Street by any means.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

FouxdefaToday 11:14 am JST

Not sure why this post was voted down. I think it's quite a sensible post.

I also believe that 'clubs' should be optional (guilt-free) AND separated form the school. This would free up teachers, the kids would have access to teachers well-versed in what they are teaching/coaching (unlike now, many teachers don't know the sport they are coaching).

The teachers would have more time and less pressure. And the students would potentially also have more time and less pressure, along with access to better coaching. The economy of the local society would also improve with new jobs etc.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

There are more children in the world that are not fed, not clothed, not sheltered, and not educated, than Japan, and they should be the focus of the not wrong committee.

-13 ( +4 / -17 )

wtfjapanToday 11:32 am JSTsmart kids doesnt = creative thinkers, need to have both to produce world leaders in science, medicine, technology

A lot of smart children in America don't get encouraged to follow their muses due to ignorance, superstition, jealousy and just plain hatred, pressure and/or misunderstanding from their parents. having good grades ain't enough, kids need to be encouraged to THINK FOR THEMSELVES, BE THEMSELVES and BE ACCEPTED as they are. There is no independent spirit encouraged at all.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Starpunk - ok but this isn’t about problems in America.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

“There are more children in the world that are not fed, not clothed, not sheltered, and not educated, than Japan”

And there are more Japanese children sexuality exploited than the West. In fact, didn’t Japan just barely ban child pornography a couple years ago? Way too late. But better late than never.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

There are more children in the world that are not fed, not clothed, not sheltered, and not educated, than Japan, and they should be the focus of the not wrong committee.

ah well the job of the UN is too look at all countries not just the poor ones, just because Japan is a wealthy nation doesn't make it void of faults and criticism.

10 ( +17 / -7 )

That definitely should be a given! These are the formative years for children where they are defining themselves with their personality and creativity. For a society to exploit that would be damaging to children for years to come. It's easy to say a country is to blame for kid's stress and excessive academic and cultural expectations. However, this starts from the family. I for one am allowing my three precious girls to enjoy their formative years without parent peer pressure. We tend to hear from other parents that their kids are excelling in juku and staying up to do their homework and study. I guess that's all well and good for them. However, My wife and I always tell them that we are always and will always love them and support them. We both agree to let them enjoy their childhood.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

If the UN said this same thing about Korea and China, I might be more willing to give it a pass. That said, the literacy rate in Japan is fantastically high, the crime rate astonishingly low. Japan's approach to teaching math is actually extremely well-regarded worldwide as being innovative (regardless of the stereotypes about Asian math teaching).

Yes, America has much more 'great' thinkers and scientists. However, I have to think that America's education system is one of extremes: incredibly great outputs and incredibly bad outputs as well (illiteracy rate ridiculously high for a country of such wealth, poor overall math scores as a nation, school violence, etc.).

I am willing to bet the great majority of commentators here are living in Tokyo or thereabouts. My wife and I own a summer home in Mie. Beautiful area, humble but nice housing and the children there seem very happy, ARE very safe and very personable. We live in the Midwest and our children and very happy, very safe and very personable. However, I work in San Francisco for two months out of the year and guess what: the children there are anxious about how they can possibly ever afford a house, competitive beyond belief and quite honestly, don't seem very happy. My feeling is that living in a very cramped, expensive area, with a very well educated populace makes for a much more intense, competitive childhood - be it Tokyo or San Francisco.

20 ( +22 / -2 )

Yeah right, Japan is always in the top 5 for PISA scores determining academic ability of the populace, ranking 3rd in the latest rankings. The US ranks a comically dopey 31st and the UK an embarrassing 23rd. The lauded delusion of "creative thinking" of the West gave us Trump, Brexit, and irreversible political division. Only a product of these broken education systems would think they are better. No, just no

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

OK, by law, you are not independent of your family. I stand by my statement.

your confusing being single to be independant, my wife like me is an independant individual in both soul and thought, she has her own job and can support herself , without me if she had too. Yes my children are dependant on me since they cant work yet to support themselves. The problem with many in Japan is they think their company / their boss is their parent and they are its children and are totally dependant on them.

While in other democratic countries if your a talented individual your company/boss should respect their employees as individuals, if they wont then the can easly change to another company that will.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

When I compare my out childhood to what I see in Japan I think, thank goodness I wasn't born in Japan!

And also glad we don't have kids here, don't think I could forgive myself raising kids here, those that do I wish you all the best & hope you can add that something that most J-homes don't even comprehend.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Agree with other posters here that Japan is a third world country in terms of child rearing. Until it adopts superior Western style attitudes and education standards, it will remain so too.

13 ( +19 / -6 )

As usual, we have people here justifying the poor human rights standards of Japan by comparing it to America. You know, there are more than two nations in the world. Plenty of great examples out there...

The fact is that school life in Japan is dehumanizing on so many levels. There is no other way to explain it, unless you want it sugar-coated or prefer to live in denial. But that doesn't help the children who are suffering.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in children in Japan. Just stop, put your preconceptions aside, and think about that for a moment. Why would so many children want to end their own lives? And if you somehow disagree with this fact and want to downvote, that's fine, but at least have the courage to speak your mind about it.

The UN should do more about this in my opinion, as Japan seems either incapable or unwilling to raise its own standards.

1 ( +10 / -9 )

At some point the elephant in the room will have to be addressed. Do you want to teach collectivism or individualism?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Even when at play, children need to learn how to play by the rules - it takes some discipline.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

“...Japanese education has always been conducted, and, in spite of superficial appearances, is still being conducted, mostly upon the reverse plan. Its object never has been to train the individual for independent action, but to train him for cooperative action,—to fit him to occupy an exact place in the mechanism of a rigid society.” - Lafcadio Hearn

3 ( +5 / -2 )

yeah right, Japan is always in the top 5 for PISA scores determining academic ability of the populace, ranking 3rd in the latest rankings. 

Does this tell you something?

World ranking of countries by their average IQ

1 Hong Kong, Singapore

2 South Korea

3 Japan, China

4 Taiwan

5 Italy

0 ( +3 / -3 )

U.N. rights committee urges Japan to let children be children

I cannot see why the current system needs changing.

If it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Mind you, for s child to removed from a family for being lightly to commit a crime without s court order is once again a failing of Japanese law.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

I have two sons in generic Tokyo city schools. One is third year middle school. One is third year high school.

The UNCRC report describes a class pattern, not a Japanese pattern. Tokyo city schools at the elementary and middle school level do not push kids and homework assignments are minimal. Some selective public high schools push kids, but most do not.

The pattern described in the UNCRC report is what you find in selective private schools catering to well off families or public schools where most families in the area are well off and highly educated. In a neighbourhood like mine where a large fraction of the children come from local families that have their own businesses, there is nothing like what is described in the report.

Comparing the school experiences of my two sons with that mine own at church-run and public schools in the Chicago area, I see my sons getting a better education in a safer environment. Moreover both appear to genuinely enjoy schooling. I hated it.

My American high school was run like a prison camp. There were hall monitors and during class hours you could not go to the toilet without a pass signed by a teacher. (I'm not joking.) Minor infractions cost you "nights" (after school detention). Too many nights and you got suspended. Long before the concept of "resource officers" (armed cops) now prevalent in US schools, we had armed police on hand at the end of each school day to stop rumbles between white and black gangs.

The final sentence of this article indicates what a farce this UNCRC report is.

"The Committee carries out a two-day review of countries' records every five years."

Two full days to review a country that has nearly 21,000 elementary schools, more than 10,000 middle schools, and nearly 5,000 high schools. Laughable. In the UK OFSTED inspectors spend that much or more time on a single school.

As a Japanese citizen and taxpayer, I'd like to see Japan drastically reduce its payments to the UN or even withdraw. (Japan was for years the 2nd highest contributor to the UN. It is now 3rd.) Withdrawing from the UN would have the added benefit that it would deprive Abe of one excuse for bulking up the Japanese military: participation in UN peacekeeping operations.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

I have double opinion on this.

At one hand it is true during school years kids have to obey many rules and are over occupied with study and activities.

On the other hand they are not treated as grown ups till very late and remain much more kids compared to Western countries.

I am always shocked at the things much younger kids talk and do back in my home country.

Teens here are (look and think) like 2 years younger compared to western teens.

Japanese keep their innocence longer and thus are kids longer in my opinion!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The child's grandmother died this past January. They did not see her. They did not say goodbye. All for not letting down the team for a practice of almost no value.

But the child's sacrifice - putting club before family - is so Japanese!

I agree with you about the clubs. It has replaced juku as the main curse of this country.

My niece has little time to study in the evenings because she gets back so late and she is not particularly academic to start with - she could really do with it.

Inthe summer around O-bon she had a family gathering to go to in her own town one evening. The only way she could attend was by pretending to be sick.

In the summer vacation, in the evening, around O-bon! If you have to lie to be allowed free time at that time, there is something very wrong.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Yeah right, Japan is always in the top 5 for PISA scores determining academic ability of the populace, ranking 3rd in the latest rankings. The US ranks a comically dopey 31st and the UK an embarrassing 23rd. The lauded delusion of "creative thinking" of the West gave us Trump, Brexit, and irreversible political division. Only a product of these broken education systems would think they are better. No, just no

I can call you Asinine without the moderator deleting my post :)

Yes, Japan is top 5 in the measures that PISA measures, but how about on the ones it doesn't? Where are Japan's top universities ranked in the world? Todai comes out alongside some second tier British universities.

In terms of creative industries, the UK punches well above its weight.

To throw Trump and Brexit into it are just random things - against wish, the UK chose to leave a free trade / free movement zone in Europe. Not sure how this is an endorsement of Japan's education system. And I don't suppose you are advocating an equivalent system in Japan, whereby the entirety of China can settle in Japan visa-free and claim benefits.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

In July, the Japanese government promised emergency steps to boost the number of child welfare workers by 60 percent within five years.

Please also implement data sharing amongst all child welfare offices and a sex-offender registry nationwide with online access. It's too easy to prevent these tragic deaths in 2019.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Awhile back ago, before TV, computers and video games, kids got off school and had to go home to help with the crops, milk the cows, feed the chickens, clean up the waste, other household chores, then do homework

That was a helluva long time before TVs and computers.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

When you read this story on other news outlets in Japan/Japanese and those abroad, the information given and what is being spoken about is almost completely different from this article.

The U.N. is not calling into account how Japan is raising their children. The U.N. is calling into account the raising rates of violence against children. They are also asking Japan why it doesn't seek to punish those that receive the information about abused children but fail to take action. Furthermore, they are seeking clarification on actions being done to combat it and how they can help implement programs that create better response times for the recent situations that have been happening.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The last time UN said about Japanese kids was that 1/3 (or something) Japanese high school girls were prostitutes. When Japanese government demanded for evidence, they said they didn't have any.

So no need to listen to UN.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

The last time UN said about Japanese kids was that 1/3 (or something) Japanese high school girls were prostitutes. When Japanese government demanded for evidence, they said they didn't have any.

1 in 3 does seem an exaggeration, to say the least.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This is pretty stupid. Of all the places in the world where children are at risk Japan is low on the scale, Where is the UN condemation of the rampant child rape going on in India? And what of Africa? Ot even the U.S.A.?

Even America has a great deal of child abuse and neglect. Generally Americans don't put pressure on their children to succeed or even demand they lean respect and good behavior. But that doesn't mean they are not at high risk for neglect and abuse and the problem is getting worse.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Reading this article and all these comments from worldwide experiences sharing I realise how lucky I had been in my childhood. I hope my kids will understand that earlier.

Besides family show off with genius kids I believe the "highly reputable" universities with their hyper selective applications should be blamed first.

Accumulation of A* grade does not mean a future smart social/economic player.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Parents should choose: cram schools or regular schools, but not both. Also, get rid of all homework. Have a study hall during school hours instead. Shorten school day 9 am to 1 or 2 pm (think some euro countries do this). Get some sleep and relaxation. Do this for all workplaces too (shift work can rotate the hour durations).

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Chip Star:

A sx offender registry (scarlet letter) that one "wears" on them after they completed their prison sentence may prove unconstitutional if read as textualist (as opposed to living constitutionalist). If they do go through with it, why shouldn't there be a murder offender registry or theft offender registry? Murder is more permanent.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Finally rich:

I believe Finland tied with south Korea on education. Their systems are polar opposites, yet both seem to work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

 If they do go through with it, why shouldn't there be a murder offender registry or theft offender registry? Murder is more permanent.

Sex offenders have one of the highest rates of recidivism whereas murders have one of the lowest.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"As a Japanese citizen and taxpayer, I'd like to see Japan drastically reduce its payments to the UN or even withdraw."

Well, you are a citizen and resident of the wrong country if that is your wish. The eternal dream of the people who run Japan is to see their country gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Antipathy towards the U.N. seems far higher in some other countries, including the United States.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I believe Finland tied with south Korea on education. Their systems are polar opposites, yet both seem to work.

Finland's is far more preferable to be a student in however.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

For me childhood is about exploring and understanding things around you in the world so that you can survive. UN report reminds us all that children are individuals and their opinions matter. The issues I see in Japan is the way parents and society look at children.

I've had parents tell me and their children that children's opinions don't matter because they are not adults yet!

Really? This attitude needs to change before the system will change.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The lack of childhood and cold parenting style here in Japan can lead to personality disorders (b cluster) NPD BPD etc. After many years studying this topic it quiet easy to spot and scary how many are walking around. Kind of like the glasses in the movie They Live. Learn more about BPD and NPD at your own risk.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

If the choice is between not enough parental care, and lots of parental care, I vote for lots of parental care.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Extanker I believe what she meant was unfortunately you seem to be a minority in your view . She was agreeing with you .

im Canadian and I wouldn’t put any child through the school system here where all they do is play and no child is allowed to fail so they’ll put them through to the next grade regardless of their levels , they won’t even give kids grades anymore because that might hurt their feelings.

its pathetic!

japan knows how to raise children

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I might get down votes but for someone who grew up in Japan (except for several years in the west) and have children who go to Japanese schools...

You say "Japanese children" don't have life, but really it depends on the family and school.

I know many kids who are busy with juku and all, but I also know many kids who have fun playing with friends, going out with families, doing fun activities, enjoying sports.

My youngest love her homeroom teacher and she loves talking about him. She loves going out with her friends and I love seeing them play, giggle and laugh.

My oldest (in Japanese private high school) is not in Juku.

He has some homework but not the amount to overwhelm him from doing other activities. He has friends who go to Juku, ones who study long hours, but not everyone.

Many people talk about the school system here but ultimately, it is the family's choice whether to send kids to Juku or not, whether to make them study long hours or not, whether to let them play or not, whether to give them options or not.

Those parents who do not give kids options here would not give options even if they live elsewhere. Blaming school system is easy, but it's not always best.

And when you say "Japan", many applies the term "Japan" into the only Japan they know of.

Cultures in Japan vary depending on where you are, and once again, it all depends on the family.

There are plenty of happy families/kids here, there are many unhappy kids/families as well.

there are also plenty of happy and unhappy kids/families elsewhere.

Again, I know I might get  down votes but it doesn't sit with me well when people generalize Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As is true with so many other facets of its relationship with the outside world, Japan signs these international agreements to make it appear that it is part of the world and that it respects the rights of individuals. Nothing could be further from the truth. These agreements are purely for international consumption, and no legislative action to implement them domestically is ever taken.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Many people talk about the school system here but ultimately, it is the family's choice whether to send kids to Juku or not, whether to make them study long hours or not, whether to let them play or not, whether to give them options or not.

It may depend where you live, but the general concensus around me is you have to go to juku and get into private school if you want any chance of getting into college. At least that's what the mothers are saying. So in that sense, many families don't feel like they have any choice at all.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

 At least that's what the mothers are saying

I hear you, but I'm just saying.. I'm a mother, I grew up in Japan, my kids go to Japanese school, my kids are doing just fine, not the smartest brightest kids in the world but they're healthy mentally and physically.. and no, they don't go to Juku, though they are playing sports and taking some lessons of THEIR CHOICES.

I understand many mothers feel they are pressured to send their kids to so-called "good" schools, but I still think it is too extreme to say things like "schools in Japan are blah blah" - I still stand with my opinion that the choices are up to the individual families regardless of where they live.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

the general concensus around me is you have to go to juku and get into private school if you want any chance of getting into college.

The 'general consensus' meaning people say so, but it just isn't true.

Neither of my kids went to juku. They both went to public elementary school, daughter moved on to the local public middle school where they were crazy about kurabbu, before and after school and at weekends. The public high school she attended wasn't quite as crazy, and she seems to have enjoyed school life. Got into a good private university.

Son didn't want to do the kurabbu thing, didn't want to go to the same school as his sister, and elected to go to a private 6-year secondary school (on a scholarship) where he had such a great time he literally cried at graduation because he didn't want it to end. He was accepted at a very good public university on the strength of his school grades, and is still in touch with his form room teacher from school, who turned into a friend.

So while, as fishy says in her (as always) very sensible posts, many mothers may feel pressured to push their kids to juku, it certainly is not necessary, and not everyone does it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@jcapan.

Great post mate and as a father of a 3 y.o who will be staying here, thanks!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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