Old enough! and the autonomy of Japanese children

Old enough! and the autonomy of Japanese children

Old enough! is a Japanese reality show that landed on the Netflix platform in April 2022.

Present in Japan since 1991 on Nippon Television is a whole new format for us:

in this reality documentary Japanese children, from 2 to 5 years, they are responsible for implementing commissions alone, accompanied at a distance and watched by a huge TV team.

Old enough! How the program was born

The reality show Old Enough! has been on the Netflix platform worldwide since April 2022, but his history starts from afar.

The idea for the program comes from one illustrated children’s book by Yoriko Tsutsui and Akiko Hayashi published in 1976, which tells of the task that a little girl had entrusted by her mother, to buy milk.

Towards the end of the 1980s, the book was translated into English and included as a starting point in an information program, “Tsuiseki“.

These small fragments are quite successful and thus become an independent program that has been broadcast in Japan since 1991. Specials are still broadcast today.

The reality show on Netflix

To the platform Netflix has been selected twenty paragraphs where children engage in all kinds of errands:

go shopping, take fish to the fishmonger to make sashimi, make mandarin juice with freshly picked fruit from grandpa’s garden, take dad’s tunic to the laundry, get some plants from the nursery or take a local nun.

Old enough!

A big one troop picks up, accompanies and follows children closely on their journey.

The funny thing is that the program’s large crew is “masked” with common roles and objects:

some are fake electricians who store cameras in the job bag, other fake gardeners and so on, depending on the situation.

Children are selected for the program after extensive evaluation work:

we are based on the school environment, where more than 5000 questionnaires are administered, and then proceed with an in-depth study of the family structure and can eventually organize the project.

Nothing is left to chance.

Education of Japanese children

Japanese children receive a completely different training and education than we are used to in the West.

From primary school, they are educated and brought up with ideals of respect, towards the environment and towards others; there is, for example, a task called Osojiwhich consists of cleaning the school, the corridors, the bathrooms … the idea is to increase their sense of respect and responsibility.

The school does not only study the classic and well-known school subjects: An important space is dedicated to knowledge of emotionsespecially with a view to a strong sense of community.

The rules of a good and civil cohabitation are learned from an early age.

In addition, Japanese children eat in the classroom, with the teachers, and take care of themselves meal handling, therefore of their distribution and subsequent cleaning.

All of these elements are part of a child’s training and education process that goes beyond the idea of ​​a simple school structure: the school is considered one’s home, a place to be cared for, as if it belonged to us.

A kind of moral upbringing that aims to build a strong sense of community in the little ones who will follow them throughout life.

The feeling of autonomy …

At the first impact of disturbance and anxiety by watching two-year-olds go out on their own and fend for themselves, a strong sense of wonder and sweetness takes over, always accompanied by the narrative voice that makes the atmosphere fun and never banal.

The children, who at first were afraid of the idea of ​​having to find themselves alone to cope with the task, discover along the way the strength to act and move on.

They discover a sense of satisfaction by solving a task that helps the family and thus nurtures the strong sense of belonging to the community that characterizes them.

Old enough!

There is no shortage difficulty:

in’section 8, for example, a child from Hakodate, a mountain town in Hokkaido, is instructed by his parents to bring fresh fish to the fishmonger and buy apples for his little sister.

The venture turns out to be really difficult: The fish fall on the street twice because the rope holding the box breaks and the apples roll down the city’s steep streets.

The child initially feels a sense of despair, but never stops looking for solutions to the problem:

he will be able to collect the fish and take it to the fishmonger, and he will procure the apples for his little sister, thus completing his commission and finding practical solutions to the problems which have arisen.

… Combined with trust in society

Children are considered to be able to act alone and to solve practical problems that may arise and that always arise:

the awareness of being able to find a solution and get away with overcoming confusion and sometimes fear or discouragement deeply nurtures their sense of autonomy and responsibility.

THAT parentson the one hand they do not hide their worries, but on the other hand they put a strong sense of trust in the children, who perfectly understand these signals and find, also thanks to this reinforcement given by the parents’ trust in them, the courage and enthusiasm to complete their mission.

But confidence of parents are placed not only in children but also in Community:

they are aware that if children were to have difficulties, they would be supported and helped by the sellers, but also by the citizens; a community that actively cooperates in the realization of this strong sense of self-confidence.

Reflections on Old Enough!

The reflections and emotions that this reality evokes are innumerable:

definitely stand out there discipline and respect which characterizes these children, respect for others, but also respect for the environment.

Five of the twenty episodes on Netflix show kids running errands as couples. with friends or brothers, and show how and how important cooperation and mutual respect are.

Children do not get angry, they have patience and encourage their travel companion if necessary.

Another interesting aspect is the centrality of announcement:

children interact equally with each other when in pairs, and with adults; they greet politely, they know how to ask for what they need, they thank and apologize with kindness.

It is an interesting discovery not only for children but especially for adults;

a completely different way than ours to face life and difficulties, a different way of looking at and raising children, from which there is probably only to learn, regardless of the concrete possibilities of repeating a similar project in other countries like ours.

The strong sense of society and society makes this project possible; along with public spaces on a human scale that enable children to understand them and the effective road safety system that allows them to move with peace of mind.

A Japanese proverb reads:

“Kawaii ko niwa tabi o saseyo” literally “Send the cute kids on a trip”.

In fact, we see that this is possible.

Elena Elisa Campanella

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