Friday, January 28, 2022

Japanese Children Win at the Starting Line

Japan has always led the way with its unique approach to education. Their traditions are embedded in their education system so that Japanese children inherit a solid foundation of virtue and morality, along with academic knowledge. China, on the other hand, has been focussing more on a child winning than being virtuous.

China’s education system has been more about teaching skills to help win at life and make money, rather than teaching children about how to be good people. Because of these different approaches, it’s the Japanese children who are winning in the race of life. 

An old Chinese saying is: “You can see the adult in a three-year-old and the senior citizen in a seven-year-old.” The saying highlights the importance of what Japanese children learn from their parents in the early years before they start school.

In Japan, many new mothers stop working so they can spend these precious years with their children. Japanese parents know that the money they are sacrificing can always be earned again in the future, but this time with a child will never come again. In this sense, the Japanese are the most forward-looking in terms of long-term investments — they know that the time spent with their little children will bring rewards as they grow. 

Japanese school children
Six and seven-year-olds learn how to get to school by themselves, fostering a sense of capability and empowerment. (Image: Nuiiko via Dreamstime)

Japan’s school lunches are world-famous

Japanese primary schools prohibit parents from driving their children to school — Japanese children must make their way, learning independence from an early age. Six and 7-year-olds learn how to get to school by themselves, fostering a sense of capability and empowerment. Even the little princess from the nation’s royal family made her way to school from the age of six years old. It’s something that all Japanese children learn.  

What if something goes wrong on the way to school? There is an elaborate system in place to ensure the children’s safety.

  • Before school starts, parents familiarise themselves with the school route. 
  • Children are told that they must take the same route every day to and from school with no exceptions- no stopping at any shops or anywhere else.
  • They must go straight home and change out of their school uniform before going to play
  • Every schoolbag has an alarm button that the child can activate if anything goes wrong
  • There is a “110 Voluntary Assistance Team” made up of citizens and businesses. These volunteers are available to support children on their way to and from school. In Osaka alone, there are over 140,000 individuals and businesses participating in the scheme. 

The whole of Japanese society has formed a network aimed at protecting and supporting school students. With this safety net, the children are safe to strengthen their sense of self-reliance, self-improvement, and self-discipline.

Lunchtime is a very important part of the day. It’s another opportunity to help Japanese children learn independence. According to the rules, the principal and all the teachers eat together with the students. The principal eats first in the continuation of a long tradition to ensure the food is safe to eat.

The children collect their lunch and before they eat, they thank the chef, their teachers, and the principal. No matter what the lunch is, they have to eat it all, even if they don’t like it. When lunch is over, they take their dishes out to the kitchen ready to be washed and then they brush their teeth. (They bring a toothbrush to school every day).

Next, the children clean the tables and the floor and they thank one another for their contribution. Then lunch is over for the day. Repeating this process every day teaches the children respect for authority, politeness, mutual respect, diligence, and teamwork.

An Australian journalist once recorded the whole process and the video was viewed more than 33 million times. A Chinese person who saw it said: “They are cultivating citizens; we are cultivating princesses!”

Japanese school lunch
The children collect their lunch and before they eat, they thank the chef, their teachers, and the principal. (Image: Dennis Peterson via Dreamstime)

Japanese children are taught not to make trouble for others

Japanese children are not only taught etiquette, self-discipline, honesty, and gratitude, they also learn not to make trouble for others. This is not only a code of conduct, but also a nationwide moral standard. Japan has the most distinctive cultural traditions that make it stand out from all other countries.

Japanese children are quiet and well-behaved in public places because they have been taught by parents and at school not to cause trouble for others. If the child forgets, parents or teachers will immediately remind them and they will apologize to those around them for their bad behavior. With its huge population, the phrase “I’m sorry” must be uttered multiple times every day — it’s no wonder Japan is recognized as the politest country in the world! 

David Pilling, a correspondent from the British newspaper Financial Times, wrote a book about his time living in Tokyo called Japan: The Art of Survival. He says: “Japanese people are obsessed with punctuality, politeness, and cleanliness in everything they do. And they approach everything with utmost seriousness — all of which I found surprising.”

After being taught politeness, etiquette, gratitude, punctuality, dedication, and integrity from a young age, these values lay a foundation for a lifetime of respect and honor. The Japanese people have a very different perspective on life from the West. 

When Japanese people are visiting overseas on a business trip, they always dress in suits and neat business attire. They believe that dressing properly is a sign of respect for others. Japanese women always dress beautifully when they go out. The purpose is not to show off, but to show respect to others. I noticed this when I visited Japan for the first time over 30 years ago. I said to my friends: “All of the women dress as if they are going to a wedding; they are so beautifully presented.” The people dress beautifully and their behavior is always polite and respectful. 

The uniquely moral education bestowed on Japanese children ensures that the best of their ancient traditions are passed on and kept alive. Japan is not only the most prosperous but also the most civilized country in the world.

China’s economy has surpassed Japan’s in recent years, but China’s population is 10 times the size of Japan’s. Japan is the third-largest economy in the world, larger than Britain and France combined.

Even when compared with Europe and the United States, Japan surpasses them in terms of security and service. The Japanese population is five times larger than that of Australia yet its crime rate is one-fifth of Australia’s and one in two hundred lower than the US! This is living proof of that old Chinese saying: “You can see the adult in a three-year-old and the senior citizen in a seven-year-old.”

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Kathy McWilliams
Kathy grew up in suburban Melbourne, where she still lives. She has two crazy cats that keep her company and make her laugh every day. Her favourite food is pasta and she loves cooking. Kathy is a passionate human rights advocate and believes that every act of kindness makes a difference to the world, even if it’s something as simple as smiling at a stranger. Kathy finds hope and inspiration in writing stories that help to bring compassion and understanding to the world.
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