Toddlers in Public Spaces–The Japan Edition

monkey park
Just a guy walking his monkey at the park. nbd.

I live in the very middle of Tokyo. There is no room in our apartment for my sidekick to run about letting off energy. Case in point–she is really into hide-and-seek right now, but the only place I can fit myself into to hide is the shower room. We also do not own a car. Parking alone in our area is upwards of 50000 yen (about $500 US) a month and I like the idea of keeping our carbon footprint toddler sized. So, we spend around three hours a day in public to tire ourselves out.

Our frequent haunts include: parks, supermarkets, the train, and the local children’s center (児童館jidoukan). The following is what I have learned is expected from me as a mother accompanied by a toddler:

park japan
The negotiating mother

Parks: The line for the slide is sacred and considered a valuable teaching tool. We must stand closely to the stairs of the slide to make sure our child understands that under no circumstances do you take your turn before those ahead of you, and if someone is approaching quickly on the stairs behind you, you must match their pace or get out of the way. The lasting effects of this training can be seen in the long, orderly queues at popular restaurants throughout Tokyo. No really, I’m pretty sure this is where it all starts.

Supermarkets: Under no circumstances can toddlers touch the fruits and veggies. As a matter of fact, mommies should also not do this to check for ripeness. As taught to me by my hubs. We even had to buy a pack of cheese that my lovely toddler threw in a tantrum despite being packaged in 2-3 layers of plastic because it had touched the ground. (What is with all that plastic though? Increase that carbon footprint a size or two.) Also, good moms force their kids to ride in the carts with children’s seats so they don’t get in the way of other shoppers (even if it means their sidekick would be screaming like a banshee…sigh).

The train: The one place it is okay to plaster a kid with unhealthy snacks in order to keep them happy. But, if you do have an unhappy little one you should get off at the next stop and wait it out in spite of freezing temps because the older man yelling at you is annoyed. (One of the few times I actually talked back, to the delight of fellow passengers who smiled and nodded in support.)

The Jidoukan: The foremost rule of the jidoukan is sharing. And maybe take your child’s socks off. But, really, sharing. What a touchy subject–so many ways to approach it as a parent and they all come to a head here. I get the feeling that as long as you’re at least feigning an effort you won’t be shunned by fellow mothers.

I hope the sarcasm came across. I’ve had a few unpleasant interactions, but for the most part people are happy to see little ones out and about. I’ve received copious amounts of support while dealing with my tantrum prone toddler, “You can do it mama!” Even people offering to hold her, which scares her into silence (thanks kind strangers). Sometimes I wish I had a car to escape to in times of stress, though.

I can’t wait to introduce *Elsa to India. I hear there is a lot of tolerance for young, rambunctious kids. I hope India is ready for her…


2 thoughts on “Toddlers in Public Spaces–The Japan Edition

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  1. Tokyo is strange. Most kids seem very well behaved. Yesterday we watched as a young lady (teacher?) hushed a bunch of school kids – they must only have been about 4 – but she thought they were talking to too loudly. Then one started bumping his umbrella on the ground – Ssssh! – she said. But when we went to the Edo open air museum, a couple of kids were running wild (literally) – shouting and touching – their parents let them carry on and no one said anything. And all that fuss about taking shoes on and off – and kids were climbing on the tram seats with their shoes on. I don’t get it – Tokyo is a conundrum!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      Oo, climbing on the seats with shoes on–that’s enough to get you glared at for sure! I love that you’ve highlighted how multi-faceted raising kids is, even in Japan. I’ve seen mothers throw their kids across the room in anger and I’ve seen parents that will let their child run around physically hitting & pushing their peers without saying so much as, “No!” I also think it’s interesting that no one blames a child here, it all comes back to their caretakers. If my child goes up and steals a toy from another I am expected to apologize on her behalf (although, not everyone does…but this won’t make you any friends for sure).
      Again, thanks!

      Liked by 2 people

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