Japan has got to be one of the most fun places in the world to grow up as a child.
I had the luxury of visiting Okinawa twice as an older child, and both times I remember wishing I had grown up there.
If you’ve ever seen a Japanese playground, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Now that I’m a bit older, I’ve set out today to discover what else makes Japan a unique place to grow up in. And I’m sharing that information with you.
And let me tell you, Japanese parenting is nothing like Western parenting.
Here are some examples:
Children are not bragged about (Time)
Despite the fact that Japanese culture is competitive by nature when it comes to getting children into the best schools and programs, it is considered boastful to even mention these things in conversation. Your children are part of your private life, and their success is part of your family legacy. These are not things you share with co-workers or acquaintances.
This is something the Japanese and the Brits appear to have in common, which I find very interesting. In America, talking about your children’s accomplishments is the norm, as it conveys how proud you are of their success.
Daycare is common (Cup of Jo)
But there are two particular types. The normal daycare runs like a preschool. It’s fairly academic focused and is only for a few hours a day. This is for children whose mothers do not work.
There is a second type of daycare that runs all day, for children whose mothers work. You must prove to the government that you have a job that doesn’t allow you to take care of your children during this time. This daycare is primarily focused on play, especially outside play. It’s much less academic.
Women don’t breastfeed in public
Japanese culture is very private by nature, as we have already discussed. Consequently, women tend towards modesty and do not breastfeed their infants out in public. However, many public places are equipped with special rooms to accommodate breastfeeding mothers.
Compliance is socially motivated (Brian O’Sullivan)
Like the Philippines, Japan is a collectivist culture. This means that the needs of the community are perceived as more important than the needs of the individual.
Japan is very community focused, and consequently this affects the way that compliance is achieved in children. Western society dictates that compliance is achieved through discipline, often using a punishment and reward system focused on the behaviour of the individual. In Japan, there is a lot of social pressure to fit in and mesh with societal norms.
This pressure is what derives compliance from children, rather than individual discipline.
There is less concern about pregnancy
The U.S. is all about what pregnant women CAN’T do. What they can’t eat, what activities they can’t participate in… On and on.
Japan is much less concerned about these things. Japanese doctors even believe that caffeine and alcohol in small doses will not be detrimental to a fetus.
Physical contact is important
The early years of Japanese parenting focus on physical closeness between parents and child. Babies are carried constantly, taken everywhere the mother goes, and co-sleeping is the norm.
There is no such thing as hiring a babysitter to care for your children. It is the mother’s responsibility to make sure her child’s needs are constantly met.
Interestingly, hugging and kissing the infant is not common. Holding them close nearly every moment of the day is sufficient physical affection.
Aesthetics are essential
If you know anything about Japanese culture, you know how necessary it is that everything be aesthetically pleasing. This includes keeping a neat household, packing a beautiful (and healthy!) lunch for your children, and taking beautiful pictures of your new baby when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Japanese children are also expected to harmonize with their environment. This means not being rowdy or loud in public. The picture of peace and serenity is maintained by every citizen, from young to old.
Children are safe to walk by themselves
Although the collectivist aspect of Japan emphasizes community and reliance on others, there is also a self-sufficiency that is instilled in Japanese children as they are expected to walk themselves to school and back, even if that means taking public transportation.
Because Japan has very low crime rates, it is not considered irresponsible to allow children out by themselves starting at a young age. All members of the community look out for them as well, when they are crossing busy intersections or if they lose their way.
*Note: I could not find anything about toilet training children in Japan! If anybody has some information they would like to share on this topic, please do so in the comments!