Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Kids and Control

Most children are safe these days, I acknowledge that. Kids being murdered, raped, attacked, abducted, snatched by estranged partners, gunned down in their schools by pissed off ex-students, etc is rare. I accept that too. BUT it does happen and whether or not the media used to ignore it but don't now really isn't the point in my opinion.

When I was a kid, we would play outside for hours without adult supervision, on playing fields, in the street, in parks.

At school we would have 'stranger danger' talks - don't talk to a strange man (yes, 'man'), if you are scared talk to an older woman, don't get into a strangers car under any circumstances, even if they say they have kittens, or know your parents, etc.

Anyway, my point is about Japanese kids.

I've worked in a couple of kindergardens and have been a bit shocked and surprised with what I've seen, or not seen, regarding the kids running around, security and so on...

Last Monday, for example, I worked in one where access couldn't have been easier. Of course, as a Gaijin, before long I probably would have been stopped sooner or later (if someone had been brave enough to try to communicate with a foreigner), but if I was Japanese, I'm sure it would be a LONG time before I'd get challenged about being in a school like that. Meanwhile, 4 and 5 year olds are wandering around, climbing in and out of windows, in and out of the school, etc with no supervision.

And all wearing their name badges. It would be SO easy for me walk up to little Yuka and pretend I knew him, and remove him from the school, for example...

It truly concerned me. And I've seen name badges on kids in the streets too.

apparently Japanese parents are very strict with their kids. This is what I've heard anyway and, compared to the UK, I've seen almost no tantrums in public since I've been here. The opposite in fact, as kids seem to be very spoiled here, up to a certain age, after which they are treated like robots.

But on the other hand, I haven't seen any parents trying to control naughty kids either. And this is particularly evident in our schools where parents ignore bad or unacceptable behaviour, or inappropriate behaviour or things that might inconvenience someone else. Especially if the parent is busy gossiping with another parent.

School receptionists never trying to control bad behaviour either. The kids really can do whatever they want. One school I work in allows kids to run around with no parental supervision on a regular basis. I spotted one of them some weeks back clutching an open scoring knife (the kind of knife that is sharper than scissors that you use for cutting paper, card, etc) ....

He was smiled at when I pointed this out to the receptionist who removed the knife.

I told one of my students my concerns about the kindergardens and she added that where she lives, next to a park, she often sees kids aged 4 or 5 playing unsupervised and digging up flowers from people's gardens, digging holes in the park, drawing on the pavements, screaming and shouting...

Kids here seem to have a lot of freedom and few guidelines.... until they're herded into clubs, juku, activities etc, by their parents and then all freedom and freetime stops for many of them.


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