French Mum, humanitarian, restless explorer and doer on sabbatical in Cebu (Philippines): one Attila in each arm, I am exploring the “toddlers safe” corners of the region, while trying to keep some room for Me.
Would you let your 6 year old kid travel all alone in the largest city of your country? If you had the time, the money and even the car, would you still have the heart to let your most precious belonging spend hours commuting in subways, buses and cross the streets all by herself?
Japanese parents do!!! When I told a Japanese friend about it, she gave me this typical Asian smile I have learnt to decipher. A very diplomatic way to say “you poor Occidental really don’t get it”.
And that’s what I love about being an expat: being constantly forced to look beyond your standards and prejudges. Expose yourself to other cultures and learn from it. From this trip I Japan, I learnt a famous local expression that says “To the adored Child, Send him on a journey”:
From age 6 (grade school), children are supposed to be independent: not only able to take care of their belongings and brush their teeth, but also do some errands for their parents and travel to school back and forth on their own!
Those kids travel sometimes for one hour to reach their school, take subways, change lines, take a bus .. No way I would ever let my daughter going to school on her own before.. a long time! But hey, this is Japan, and I guess most of the Japanese mothers would not let their kids travel on their own in any other country.
Japanese subway is incredibly clean, safe and extremely punctual. The little ones know they can rely on their community: if they are lost, there will always be an elder to help.
In Expectations for Japanese Children, Prof. Linda Bennett explains that “A child in Japan is a member of the “national family.” All Japanese children are cared for by the whole society, and all Japanese adults help teach the norms and customs of the society. Children learn that the group is more important than the individual, and that the individual should not stand out. Appropriate behaviour includes learning how to be reserved, cooperative, and supportive of the group”.
Tokyo is definitely not Paris..Not the Philippines either, where most little students are escorted by a yaya who would do anything and everything for them.
Am I ready for this yet? Well, maybe, if we ever live in Tokyo and my kids and I were fluent in Japanese (that definitely gives me some time!)..
Did you know how that Japanese kids are empowered from very young to take an active role even in the school community ?
They are responsible for ordering the classroom into a little lunch room. Under the supervision of their teacher, they take turn in distributing the food, ensuring the respect of the basic hygiene rules, cleaning everything after eating. Too much? I can’t help but wondering when those kids do actually really relax. But I still love the idea (especially if they can replicate it with me.. but they ll probably too tired to move a finger once finally back home!)
I am pretty strict with the diet of my kids, so I peeked at the bonto (lunch boxes) of the little students. They are not only super healthy (rice, fish or meat, vegetable and milk), but so kawaiii!
Admire the work.. and the pressure on the poor SAHM:
As beautiful as it is, it did not work as expected with my son. I have made a super cute Winnie Pooh and Tiger once, I was so proud of. But my son’s reaction did not really match my expectations. He reacted exactly like this one. Priceless!
I am a strong advocate of the uniform at school. Not only because it dilutes any social difference, but also because is saves us so much time and energy in the morning. All of you who had to fight with a toddler who has been changing her mind for the 100th on the Tshirt of the day will understand ..
Sometimes, conformity is serenity!
In Japan, uniforms are usually short skirts, so yes, girls show their legs. But at least, they don’t show cleavage nor wear low shirt. It is considered as rude. Now make their uniform down under the knee and I’ll be happy!
Care for more?
Curious to know what school lunches from all over the world look like ? https://www.instagram.com/5ambento/
Eventually, some of the differences between Japanese and American students are greatly explained on Elena’s blog http://elenapotts.blogspot.com/2015/11/whats-difference-part-2-japanese.html
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