Culture & Lifestyle

What is the truth about Netflix’s hit reality show ‘Old Enough’?

I was born in Taiwan and raised there until the age of 5, every day I walk to and from the preschool by myself, which is just across the street from our apartment in Taipei. But after immigrating to the United States, my single father told me not to tell anyone that I was alone in an empty house after school.

See “Old Enough” by Netflix, a Japanese reality show about kids under 2 doing errands alone, I wonder how the show shows different cultural norms when it comes to parenting in Europe. Asia (specifically Japan) compared to the US, with its notorious overprotection parent “helicopter” and “bulldozer”.

I wonder how the show represents different cultural norms when it comes to parenting in Asia (specifically Japan) compared to the United States.

“Old Enough” is a popular reality TV series in Japan, for the first time children are secretly filmed running errands. As I watch 20 episodes of the short (streaming on Netflix in 190 countries), I find myself smiling as the adorable kids go on their first adventures in the ancient seaside villages and countryside. glasses. I cheered as the 2-year-olds recalled the grocery list they had to buy at the local market and gasped when a 5-year-old dropped her newly bought fish onto the sidewalk. Tears came to my eyes as I watched the neighbors graciously help each child along the way as the owner said, “It takes a town to raise a child and a town to take care of a child.”

But how realistic is “Old Enough” in representing Japanese culture? I asked Matthew Marr, an associate professor of sociology at Florida International University who has researched homelessness in Japan and the United States. He cautions that we should be careful not to generalize about an entire culture from a single program.

“This program is very popular in Japan because it is rare for parents to send their 2-year-olds on their first errands there,” he told me via Zoom. He also pointed out that most of the children featured in the program live in rural areas, which are perceived as “safer” than urban areas. Similarly, 18-year-old Morishi Ito, a student at Kyoto Sangyo University, sees the show as presenting “special cases” of very young children without reflecting his and his friends’ experiences. The same age group grew up in more urban areas like Tokyo. or Osaka.

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According to Ito, Japanese children start doing odd jobs alone from the time they are in elementary school. This is still in contrast to US culture, where it is rare to see elementary school-age children shopping for groceries alone. In Japan, such behavior is so common that it receives infrastructural support through special “yellow flags” placed at lights for young children to pull out, hold as they cross and back to the other side, according to Marr.

The show thus alludes to a common Japanese practice of encouraging children to walk to school, run errands, and do things alone. According to a class of Japanese students at Kyoto Sangyo University, a common saying among Japanese children is “I can do it on my own!”

Viewers of “Old Enough” in the US can draw the conclusion that Japanese parents raise their children to be more independent than Americans helicopter parents – people who have a reputation for being fearful and controlling their children – do. According to Michie Kawashima, an associate professor of international relations at Kyoto Sangyo University, learning to do things on your own at a young age is not the same as developing independence from your family.

Kawashima said she finds it helpful to let her 10-year-old son travel to and from Tutoring sessions “prep for exams at school” their own like helping her child “be more capable in their daily lives,” without forcing her child to be independent from her. In fact, Kawashima said she feels that, compared to students in the United States, her Japanese college students are “more dependent on their parents.” Kawashima said Japanese students depend on their parents financially and “rarely pay for college”.

She also said she believes young Japanese people depend on their parents “mentally” by “following their advice on what kind of work to do.” She points out that despite working odd jobs alone at a young age, young Japanese “rarely leave their parents’ house when they’re 18 and sometimes stay until they’re 30.”

“Old Enough” viewers should not confuse public responsibility with individual independence.

Therefore, “Old Enough” viewers should not confuse public responsibility with individual independence. This is something that people living in Japan can more easily recognize.

When asked what reality shows that influences the way people in Japan perceive the United States, Rei Uezato, a college freshman at Kyoto Sangyo University, said Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at the Oscars ceremony. They say the incident shows that “Americans behave not according to social pressure but according to their personal beliefs.” In Japan, the way society thinks of you often overwhelms personal desires.

While this is an insightful observation based on Uezato’s understanding of Japanese cultural norms, it does not capture all the nuances surrounding a single incident at the Oscars, nor as should not be extrapolated to all American culture.

In a similar way, I learned that I shouldn’t watch a Japanese reality show about a select group of kids through a prism focused on the United States, nor should I watch it as representative of the whole world. set of Asian or Japanese cultures. Instead, I should enjoy “Old Enough” as Japanese audiences do – like a reality TV show.

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