Japan’s independent kids

The Ando family are not unique. You see, Japanese families encourage their children to travel to and from school alone every single day. By Western standards, Japanese culture emphasises independence and self-reliance from an extraodinarily young age. In fact, one of Japan’s most loved and longest running TV shows, is called My First Errand, In which young children are given neighbourhood tasks, and secretly filmed as they set about them alone, sometimes even with a younger sibling in tow. My First Errand is appealing because all Japanese people had that experience of having their parents entrust them to do some simple job where they leave the house on their own and they come back to the house on their own. And it’s funny. Jake Adelstein was the first Westerner to work a crime beat in Japan. giving him an insight into Japanese crime and justice no other Westerner has. He, like many foreigners, noticed something different about Japan. As I was walking to the station i would see these young kids coming from the station with their little backpacks on, walking towards the school, thiking, where are the adults? Like, who is making sure these kids cross the road and get to school okay? Even my own daughter, when she was about four or five, and she said, I’m going to walk there myself. And she left, and I put down the phone and chased after her, and she ran all the way to school, and of course nothing happened to her. And I was like, you know? Maybe in Japan that’s how it works. It’s Monday morning on Sydney’s affluent North Shore, where the Frasier family are starting the day. My name is Rob Fraser, I’m 47 years of age, there’s three of us in the family. There’s myself, there’s Jane, and Emily, who is 10. There’s an apple in your bag Em. Please don’t leave the apple in your bag all week. Am i turning lights off again? Yes, you are. All right. Tennis raquet is in the car? No, not yet. Wow. Um… it’s cool. i had a conversation with her the other day about what would she like to do, would she like
to get the bus to school, would she like to go on her own. She made it very clear that she would like to do that. One thing I’m most looking forward to in high school is walking home from school by myself, And having a key and everything. Give me a kiss? I’ll see you later. In fact, studies show kids want to walk to school. It’s their parents that won’t or can’t. The evidence is irrefutable – that children are not safe to cross roads on their own until they’re ten. That’s why we’re so nervous about children being allowed to walk on their own to school, though they might be on the footpath the whole way. But it should be safe. You see, Emily’s School, Middle Harbour Public, was the first to trial a 40 km p/h school zone in Australia. It’s also a cultural reason. If you look at the way Australians behave when they reach a school zone, I mean, a lot of people have one thing on their minds, and that’s themselves. They don’t care less about anyone else. Group socialisation is huge in Japan. Having parents pick up and drop off their kids would be bad for Japan incorporated, and that’s one of the reasons you probably don’t see it. It’s also one of the other reasons that Japan and Japanese society is set up to make it safe for kids to commute to school, because if parents have to be responsible for that commute, they’re going to have to reorganise the entire workforce and the way companies work. Japan, of course, has an exceptionally low crime rate. They have more than five times our population but less than four times the homocides we have. I’ve covered very few cases of children being abducted. Maybe one child death in the 12 years I was a reporter. That’s the only one I encountered. But to say kids go alone to school because of a low crime rate would miss more subtle and underlying forces. Our society suffers from a paranoia about leaving children on their own. I think some of it is probably ill-perceived. But a lot of it is understood. I don’t believe there’s any more dangers now, other than traffic, than there were 30, 40 years ago. I think the fact that it’s more in the public eye, it’s in the press all the time, I think also with the social pressure element of letting go and letting them go and do things at such a young age, I think is actually quite difficult to take on. Kawaii ko literally means cute kid, and tabi o saseyo means put them on a trip, so the meaning is, if you love your kids, or you want your kids to be smarter, send them to do something, send them on a trip. Kids are less independent nowdays. it’s just the way it is. You have got me thinking about it. You’ve got me thinking that maybe I’m being a little bit paranoid.

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100 Responses

  1. ZHER0 says:

    As growing up on philippines when i was young kids are like this but bcuz of drugs things change … now dont ask us why we hate drugs… ph is not safe as it was before drugs and crime evrywhere .. corrupt govt. ..im thnkful for our new gov right ^~^ change is comming

  2. Mr Fantastic yellow says:

    When I visited Japan a week ago I saw this kid at 9pm riding the train. I taught his mother was near by but nope. At 9pm all by himself he went home..

  3. mvk85 says:

    Did that girl kiss her dad on the mouth??? ??

  4. Impossabear says:

    Damn pokemon trainers

  5. Nate Walker says:

    Japanese shit can be overrated

  6. hvuu1628 says:

    But also teaches a child that family no longer matters. This is why japan is having a population crisis. All this independent idea with not family oriented focus.

  7. Mikko Saarinen says:

    This is normal in Finland as well. Except that finnish kids start to travel by themselves in about age of 7.

  8. ZaChannel says:

    We also do this in the Philippines.

  9. Lisa W says:

    "If she doesn't solve the problen herself, she won't be able to come home" smiles But hey, I like this attitude.

  10. honey bunches of oats says:

    So cuuuute
    But poor girlie struggling with her bag >.<

  11. Ainul Mardhiyyah says:

    Cool~ In Singapore, kids here are somewhere in the middle. For me and my siblings, our schools are usually along the way my dad drives to his work. So he drives us part of the way and drops us off before going to work.

    For primary school (7-12 years old), either parents walk their children to school or school buses do. Those taking school buses usually go to and go back with buses. Other students will go back home on their own, if their parents did not get a helper to do it.

    Once you hit secondary school age (13-17 years old), then most kids would go to school on the trains and buses. Less students have parents send and fetch them.

    I guess you can say SG students either have to or can afford to go back alone because of our low crime rate and because majority of SG students have regular tuition classes they have to go to after school LOL.


    I'm from Germany and here I think it is quite normal to go o school by your self, maybe in first or second grade parents go along but after that you go on your own.

  13. Klaus Gartenstiel says:

    they grow up fast in japan and then spend a lifetime trying to relive their childhood. whereas here in the west we never truly mature. only time will tell which is the better approach.

  14. Daniel Romen says:

    wtf as if it was so unusual to manage to get to school and back alone?? Nothing special about that.

  15. Roger SNITH says:

    Hahahahahahaa they're only able to do that because they don't live in America ????? when i moved to chicago these same kind of Asian parents definitely changed their mindsets about letting their children go to places by themselves. Those who do, later find out that either their children got involved in a gang, shot, or worse…. Japan is so nice. It's so shitty here smh. Atleast 5 gunshots are reported every month in my are SMH

  16. Layla Ali says:

    There's more paedophiles within the UK. it's a problem

  17. Pablo Gutierrez says:

    "Brushes her own teeth" like who else's teeth is she going to brush?

  18. Faizol Mai says:

    Being independent for a child at a young age is a good thing for them and also when they go grow up. I can't see this happening in America or England

  19. Zang says:

    I wish my parents were more like this with me as a kid. My mom was paranoid about me biking to school and the gym up until I was 15. I eventually just stopped listening to her when she told me not to go out on my own. I think rebellion is natural, especially when the rules you break aren't logical or healthy.

  20. No Face says:

    The mother is 39??? She looks at the most 27 wtf

  21. Alyx-Fao says:

    It's probrably a good thing. I guarantee if those kids where surrounded by their parents constantly they would lose their fucking minds. This is probrably a good way to keep the kids out of the stress that would rub off from their parents. The only thing to consider is that Japan is one of the safest countries on the planet with very little actual room and no bordering countries.

  22. Davie Lawrence says:

    My friend lived in a small village, about 30 km away from the town where her school was. She went with her little brother to school every day, using the bus, the train and another bus again. Also in Germany children are allowed to walk home from kindergarten on their own if the parents want it. And many do! In can't remember my parents walked me to school except when it was raining very hard and I couldn't go by bike.

  23. Deni-chan says:

    This is not possible in Rome…roman drivers never respect the rules…car crush, car incidents, car hitting people who were crossing the street while the light was red for the cars…all this and more happens very often in Rome! You see plenty of flowers on the side of streets in honour of the poor victims.

  24. Kiddo with no Nimmo says:

    Still remember the first time i was allowed to cross the road by myself… a whole new world

  25. MsEnigmabk says:

    Okay….kids in New York would do this all the time. Myself included when I was her age o.o

  26. mark luis says:

    a few years back a 11 year old kid from new York took the subway. and child support was called and I think the parents were charged with child abused.

  27. kek says:

    I'm almost 18 and I still have my mother breathing down my neck. She has severe paranoia, so I suppose it's a different case, but I still couldn't imagine having so much freedom at such a young age in america.

  28. Andi says:

    I'm Venezuelan. My mom can't let my walk to school! I hate it, but i know it is for my well-being tho…so frustrating!!!

  29. ela ito says:

    We can't do this in italy.. if a teacher or some parents see a kid come alone they will call some social assistent becouse probably there is something wrong in the family…

  30. Effa Humayra says:

    hoping malaysia is safe enough just like japan to let kids go on their own 🙂

  31. Fw k says:

    I would love to live at japan

  32. Sapphire Bloom says:

    I been going to school alone since i was 7 and i started walking with my brother since i was 5. I took the city trains and buses to go visit my mom at work in manhattan after school sometimes. I lived in Bronx Ny and my mom entrusted my brother and i with chores and going to school. I know this generation is a little different cause i dont really see that anymore

  33. peanut butter says:

    I was raised the exact same way. My mother couldn't help me in any way and I head to do things by myself. At first it wasn't easy. Ofc as a kid you want to have your parents to things for you and more but now i don't regret it being raised like that. I am independent and I know how to solve things by myself.

  34. dangerouskrill says:

    beyond having lower crime ratew, japan also has better public transit and way less cars per capita. lots of factors make it a lot different for pedestrians. it's not necessarily all about family dynamics.

  35. Emma Frost says:

    Everyone calls this "Child abuse" but in my opinion Over protecting is child abuse because you are getting in the way of the mental development and you are ignoring the childs unhappiness to feel better about your fears. Over overprotecting is not love It's fear and paranoid management for yourself. You are almost just as incompetent as deadbeats.

  36. ckaj Xyzpqrstuvw says:

    Following Japanese example, I kicked my 6 months old baby out of the house (they are gonna live alone in future anyway). I am a responsible parent.

  37. Mansoor Haque says:

    Damn, I feel so lucky as my parents would drop me off and pick me up from school.Appreciate my parents even more.

  38. Arthur Tully says:

    In Serbia its the same as in Japan. No problems

  39. Aaliyah M says:

    When my Japanese-American high school teacher turned 12 his parents sent him from SF to Tokyo. He had his own apartment and was responsible for himself (his parents sent money which he had to budget). I was in disbelief when he told me this??

  40. Cristina Guerra says:

    Los niños de muchos otros países son igual de independientes que los de Japón, no me mal entiendan, admiro la lo capaces que son los chicos de este video para hacer las cosas por sí mismos sólo digo que no es novedad o al menos para mí no

  41. J. Byrd Oliver says:

    My favorite part of being a kid was always me and my friends striking it out on our own.

  42. Sophia Villarreyna says:

    I've had a key to my house since i was 6 years old. Mom had to be at work by 6AM and I had to get myself to and from school everyday, on my own, making sure get up on time, get dressed, and get to school on time to eat breakfast.

  43. Ash.03 says:

    Bruh i think kids its just the place not the age

  44. lifewithBunmi says:

    I didn't start riding public transportation by myself til I was about 16

  45. 6Kubik says:

    When I was 6-7 years old in Germany it was normal or us to go to school alone. I still see children going alone, playing alone etc. I am not sure if I would let my children go alone in this country anymore. It has become way more dangerous since I was a child.

  46. Angela says:

    I remember visiting Tokyo when I just turned 12. We kept seeing little kids, half my size at the time, riding the subway by themselves.

  47. MintGreenGhost says:

    This isn't weird for some parts of America (ie the hood.) Parents off to work before school, parents back really late. Kids gotta get to school and the after school programs are severely underfunded. It wasn't uncommon, especially where I grew up with 5 schools within 10 minutes of each other, for you to see an 9 year old dropping their sibling off at preschool on the main street and walking over to the elementary/primary K-5 school further into the residential area. This was probably helped by the amount of bus serivce in the area and the sheer number of kids around.

  48. BlueBeardedDevil says:

    I don't know anyone that had their parents take them to school, maybe if they had an injury or something ?

  49. Elle says:

    I think it depends on the time frame here in America. When I was in elementary school (abt 11 years ago), I would get myself up, eat breakfast, get dressed, and walk to the neighborhood school bus stop by myself. Things have changed, though. I wouldn't be allowed to do it by myself now.

  50. Kayla Thlang says:

    Can't do this in America because fucking pedophiles.

  51. Catherine Paguay says:

    Honeslty thats normal here in NYC anyways cant speak for all of state but in NYC , walking to school by yourself is normal. I walked to school and back in 4th grade. Then for middle and high school, I had to take the subway and bus, which isnt such a big deal.

  52. Bekahh says:

    Japan is more safe for kids because their culture values respect …where as Australia we dont value respect for others we are a Selfish people who speed past school zones i cant tell you how many kids have died from hit amd runs in Australia in the last 12 years i know of 4 in my area alone in less than 10 years.

  53. Pon Pon Production says:

    I live less than a kilometer away from my primary school…..and my parents wont even allow me to go on my own……

  54. Kopfy Smart says:

    Its the same in Germany. Parents accompany you in the first day of first grade and then you are on your own.

  55. Suaidatul Aziemah Kusnadi says:

    I was thinking about kidnapped. There must be low kidnapped crime cases in Japan right?. How peaceful.

  56. ro3 says:

    Crime rates in japan is very very low, ok? In many other asian countries, its not safe for children to be alone

  57. bubble tea says:

    Fuck, my mom didn't let me go out alone until grade 7. Now she's even more strict after a child was killed in my province

  58. Hazelnutsss says:

    3:00 I couldn't stop laughing xD

  59. Zabel Connor says:

    "They don't care less about someone else" – I don't think that is the saying?

  60. Herr Hurbig says:

    were I live, children start going to school by themselves at the age of six. They don't have to take the train though, they just walk 20 mins at most.

  61. Atika Ngagipar says:

    When i visit Japan, its such a common scene to see grade schooler kids took train on their own, its so impressive because of the elaborate and complicated train line they got there.

  62. nurul nazirah says:

    How did japanese not scared that your kids will get kidnap. Hmm

  63. agizzy23 says:

    This made me a little less nervous to take the subway everyday for school. Of course New York is different than Japan. I'm used to going to and from school by myself, but I only lived two blocks away. Now it's gonna be ten city blocks.

  64. José Andrade says:

    When I was a Child, I went to my school by my own every single day and prepare all my things too (I think my mother has a lot of japanese mother thougths lol) but it was so good for because that gave me the independence that I appreciate right now, being an helicopter parent it isn't correct

  65. Kei Tazaki says:

    All Asian parents will teach their kids to be independent at an early age. Its not unusual really..

  66. Matthew Marcum says:

    My sister's 8 and she still makes my mom carry her

  67. bored_and_tired says:

    Germany is pretty similar to japan in that regard, the USA is simply paranoid and weird

  68. Princess Berry says:

    I couldn't take the train on my own at 7, but a I also live in NYC and kidnappings are a thing.

  69. Agomon Hossain says:

    It migth be safe to go to school by it self in Japan.
    But I think you should take your childern to school if its far away

  70. Yenny Kartika says:

    Raising my future kids like Japanese parents? Hmm.. worth trying..

  71. Yenny Kartika says:

    The little Japanese girl is so cute!!!

  72. Fantasy En says:

    It is nice to be independent like them but in here in philippines we couldn't since there are lot of dangers just like rapists while in japan there are just a few

  73. Novia Nur R says:

    Because Tokyo is like the most safe city in the world. When I was there, tho I was careless to keep my bag zipped or left my luggage on the train, I can get em back. I'm not losing anything when I got back to my apartment.

  74. Rachel G says:

    world safest country——JAPAN

  75. Criosphynx says:

    I'm American. I remember very clearly at 5 years old asking (borderline demanding) to walk to my school myself. (it was about 2 blocks away) and my mother would not allow it. I asked again at 6 when I moved up a grade so I imagine other little kids have to same drive and desire to do this. This looks amazing

  76. Ananya Iyer says:

    That awkward moment when you're an Indian teen and you do all this shit every day, but no one calls you 'independent'.

  77. Lois Mensah says:

    I love this, coz I know people who cannot do anything without their parents

  78. A says:

    I'm from Australia and my neighborhood was quite safe. Parents pushed me to be a little more independent. Walking to school at the age of 7 and I enjoyed it a lot! Usually walked with my classmate who is only a street away from me and I would purposely leave early for school just to grab freshly baked bacon and egg bread rolls for $1.80 and have the spare 20c to buy 2 snake sourheads (back when canteen treats weren't ridiculously expensive) for lunch. This got me skipping down memory lane haha! I enjoyed my childhood a lot due to learning things on my own rather than just being feed how to do things. You think better and become more efficient with time and speed 🙂

  79. Chris Guillen says:

    What if someone tries to kidnap her

  80. Larissa Reyes says:

    i always wanted to take the bus, but because my parents owned a gas station down the street i was dropped off. i didn't take the bus until high school. I'm not sure if i would let my kid go to school by themselves at 7, but at 10 i would let them.

  81. Zion Mainframe says:

    Wow there like the oppostie of Mexicans

  82. Ninja Keks says:

    I think US-Americans are some… I don't know… in Germany many kids go to bus and school on their own bevor they become 8 or 9 years old… and it works greate…

  83. mirzamay says:

    They must not have many child predators/ serial killers over there. Feels like we spawn them like Pokemon go over here in the U.S.. Could just be fear of the few instances, but having it happen every few towns is a terrifying thing for most parents. I cannot let my children go by themselves until they are big/ heavy enough to fight and know what to do. Crossing roads fine, it's the kidnappers I can't forget. And what they do when they get your kids, how few times they are found and how it's usually just bodies that are found when they are found at all. What they go through before they become bodies. And when they didn't become bodies outs often almost as bad our worse, treats and years of sexual abuse and slavery etc. Human trafficking.
    Yes it could be ill conceived but I'm too terrified to take the chance.
    Do you know how many people have pictures of missing children on their mantle 20-50 years later? Those people can't ever be right, ever move on. We are the domestic terrorist capital of the world, we spawn more private under the radar sociopaths than anyone. Serial killers never caught. I don't know why. But I can't forget it and let my child walk around willy nilly even if I know the statistics are that it won't be my child next. I can't LET it be. Yes it's probably paranoia but I can't help it.

  84. Jepri says:

    In my little village in Indonesia is possible to walk your kids all alone to their school, even if it is their first 3th grade as they walk by with their school mates, and its safe. Because the terrific isn't that busy and people mostly walk around not using car or bicycle. OMG I missed my childhood

  85. Yellow Rose says:

    In other parts of the world, traveling alone like that, that kid would have been chopped up right after being raped, and then thrown in the woods, or her body parts buried and hid inside the wall of some house. Real life.

  86. SalikUlHaqq says:

    by MODERN Western standards. when I was I kid I always walked miles alone. And my mother was alone younger and my grandfather's even younger.

  87. 272456 says:

    How is that 10 year old already thinking of highschool? She still has three years to go?

  88. Senura Rajapathirana says:

    I don't think this is something American chumps should see

  89. RUN DMC likes to walk says:

    In america, if this happened there's like a 95 percent chance your child will be abducted and abused. To know there is a country that can allow small children to venture out without your child coming up missing is something I've only dreamed of.

  90. Lady Lauren says:

    I guess people in the US are to crazy to trust! I couldn't imagine send a 7 year old child to travel to school by their self ☹️

  91. Angie Encarnacion says:

    Dique "highschool walking by myself " girl I'm just starting high school and my mom waits for me right their in the parking lot it's so embarrassing . All my family members thinks my mom treats me like a baby even though I'm turning 15?

  92. Aarush Soni says:

    That guy is Australian I can tell by his accent. Like if your Australian. and it said NSW on his car numberplate which is an Aussie state

  93. sarupi says:

    This will be bad parenting bad home.

  94. Donna Young says:

    So your saying Japan doesn't have child predators like in other countries? I would never let my little girl or boy out alone. Not because they can't do because they can't protect themselves!!!!!

  95. KineticCat says:

    Some may call this bad parenting, but I wish I was as independent as Japanese kids are when I was younger. Hell, I was afraid to walk into a classroom that wasn't my homeroom even though I knew it was ok.

  96. Ciro Amaya says:

    Its so cute how independant they are.

  97. Bruna Oliveira says:

    Infelizmente no Brasil não é possível fazer isso

  98. Sebastian Bermudez says:

    arent they afraid about human traficking and stuff, she could get kidnap

  99. tubeyou89119 says:

    That just shows how safe and orderly Japan is. Not many developed countries can be that, let along developing countries.

  100. Just an ordinary man says:

    Well, few things… First most Asian cities are walking city where cars are not needed where as in the west, cars are a must. Also, especially in Japan, this is why they generally do not have empathy. If you bring up problems u are having, most likely others would say try harder 'gam bare!'

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