Education: 3 inspiring practices to steal from the Japanese



Would you let your 6 year old kid travel all alone in the largest city of your country? If you had the time, the money and even the car, would you still have the heart to let your most precious belonging spend hours commuting in subways, buses and cross the streets all by herself?

Japanese parents do!!! When I told a Japanese friend about it, she gave me this typical Asian smile I have learnt to decipher. A very diplomatic way to say “you poor Occidental really don’t get it”.

And that’s what I love about being an expat: being constantly forced to look beyond your standards and prejudges. Expose yourself to other cultures and learn from it. From this trip I Japan, I learnt a famous local expression that says “To the adored Child, Send him on a journey”:

  1. Raising responsible children

From age 6 (grade school), children are supposed to be independent: not only able to take care of their belongings and brush their teeth, but also do some errands for their parents and travel to school back and forth on their own! Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 15.54.11

Those kids travel sometimes for one hour to reach their school, take subways, change lines, take a bus .. No way I would ever let my daughter going to school on her own before.. a long time! But hey, this is Japan, and I guess most of the Japanese mothers would not let their kids travel on their own in any other country.


Japanese subway is incredibly clean, safe and extremely punctual. The little ones know they can rely on their community: if they are lost, there will always be an elder to help.

In Expectations for Japanese Children, Prof. Linda Bennett explains that “A child in Japan is a member of the “national family.” All Japanese children are cared for by the whole society, and all Japanese adults help teach the norms and customs of the society. Children learn that the group is more important than the individual, and that the individual should not stand out. Appropriate behaviour includes learning how to be reserved, cooperative, and supportive of the group”.

Tokyo is definitely not Paris..Not the Philippines either, where most little students are escorted by a yaya who would do anything and everything for them.

Am I ready for this yet? Well, maybe, if we ever live in Tokyo and my kids and I were fluent in Japanese (that definitely gives me some time!)..

  1. At school

Did you know how that Japanese kids are empowered from very young to take an active role even in the school community ?

They are responsible for ordering the classroom into a little lunch room. Under the supervision of their teacher, they take turn in distributing the food, ensuring the respect of the basic hygiene rules, cleaning everything after eating. Too much? I can’t help but wondering when those kids do actually really relax. But I still love the idea (especially if they can replicate it with me..  but they ll probably too tired to move a finger once finally back home!)

I am pretty strict with the diet of my kids, so I peeked at the bonto (lunch boxes) of the little students. They are not only super healthy (rice, fish or meat, vegetable and milk), but so kawaiii!

Admire the work.. and the pressure on the poor SAHM:

As beautiful as it is, it did not work as expected with my son. I have made a super cute Winnie Pooh and Tiger once, I was so proud of. But my son’s reaction did not really match my expectations. He reacted exactly like this one. Priceless!



  1. A decent sense of fashion

I am a strong advocate of the uniform at school. Not only because it dilutes any social difference, but also because is saves us so much time and energy in the morning. All of you who had to fight with a toddler who has been changing her mind for the 100th on the Tshirt of the day will understand ..

Sometimes, conformity is serenity!

In Japan, uniforms are usually short skirts, so yes, girls show their legs. But at least, they don’t show cleavage nor wear low shirt. It is considered as rude. Now make their uniform down under the knee and I’ll be happy!

Care for more?

On Facebook, follow the great tips and get inspired by the Bentos Mommy and Little Miss Bento

On Instagram, admire the mouth watering IG feeds of @bentomonster and  Tian Min @5ambento

Curious to know what school lunches from all over the world look like ?

Eventually, some of the differences between Japanese and American students are greatly explained on Elena’s blog

Arigato 🙂



37 thoughts on “Education: 3 inspiring practices to steal from the Japanese

  1. Wow! This is surely why this little Asian country is one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world. The discipline and independence begin at a young age and that is why they grow up as responsible disciplined adults. 🙂

    1. Indeed! Very inspiring, and I am so impressed by their sense of community – long lost in France! Thanks for stopping by dear 🙂

      1. That is so true. That is why the place is safe comapred to the cities that we have here in the Philippines. It is indeed an ideal place to rear a child. 🙂

      2. Oh yes! Plus the food is awesome and we can really walk on sideways and ride bicycles without fearing for our live 😉 anyway when I am reading a bicycle, it’s the people around who are fearing for their live, not me 😛

      1. those lunch boxes are too cute to be eaten 😉 I can almost relate to the little boy crying when he realised he had to eat those precious little jewels 🙂

  2. Love that independence! I remember starting that young as well. And growing up in Singapore is safe. It is the environment, I guess. Can you imagine letting your children at 6 YO independently to go to school in Bangkok, though? My hair stood on ends just thinking about that!

    1. No wonder where you got that strong temper from 😉 that’s so great, I didn’t know Singapore was so safe, lucky you !
      no way I would ever ever let my kids traveling even 20meters in front of me in Paris or in another wagon of the BTS in Bangkok!
      It’s indeed the safety of the environment and the strong sense of community that makes the difference. There’s none of the above in Paris ..
      (Btw I bet you did far better than you thought at your Deutsch tests. Fingers crossed 👌🏻)

      1. Singapore’s clinical!!! LOL. You need to move to Japan. Reminds me of your story when both you and ms atilla got lost on a bike there…hehehee
        Are you going to be back in Paris? I stopped crossing my fingers…sigh..

      2. Back in Paris but for holidays only, next month! then a bit of Switzerland and hopefully Italy !
        You already had the results of the Deutsch test??

      3. Your are globetrotting! When are ou in Switzerland/Italy? Let’s see if we can make plans!
        Nope. I haven’t yet. God knows how long that would take. But I don’t really have high hopes for it… :/

      4. Paris late March, Switzerland in April and Roma late April probably. And I am wondering if I should not extend, as the kids will be on holidays till June.. When will you be in Holland? If not too late, I could even pass by with the Attilas, it is not so far from Paris with the Thalys I think ..
        Forget about the tests, there is nothing you can do for now except .. planning our next meeting, which is for sure more exciting 😉 XXX

  3. Fantastic, I think I should move to Japan! I love their attitude towards children! Surely, I don’t know whether I can do like that, but there is a lot to think about! I always admire their culture and lifestyle, they seem to be a wisdom nation!

    1. Thanks for stopping by dear Ann 🙂
      I too really like this independence taught so early, even though I really don’t think I would be able to do the same yet .. But what is amazing to me, is how they seem trust their pairs, their community. I love the fact that the kids learn from their youngest age to be responsible and help each other.
      How is it in Ukraine? Are children raised to be independent from a young age too?

      1. I guess in Ukraine situation is not the same! Well, I cannot tell that our children are not independent, but still parents prefer bringing them to school and not letting them going alone in a very little age. There is no common situation, everything depends on parents. Sometimes I see examples when kids are alone almost all day, what do they eat, what do they do, nobody cares too much, i mean parents are busy and children should survive on their own. And there are opposite scenes when a mother brings her already not a small boy to school by hand, which I guess too much. Tokyo is more developed in it. And I am afraid we cannot count on community help!

      2. Yes I can relate, I guess it is the same back in France. It would be so nice to know you can count on your community and that you can feel that your children are safe in the public transportation by themselves ..

        Let’s all move to Tokyo for while and have the best sushis of the world 🙂 I know you ll find so many beautiful flowers and squirrels to photograph 🙂

      3. That can be PERFECT! I adore shusis and would love to explore this country’s beauty! You even shouldn’t ask!

  4. i saw this video before and i found it inspiring how the japanese do things the way they do, especially when it comes to raising their kids. i even read this article about how, in the first few years of grade school, they are taught manners and politeness rather than academics. it makes sense and i like the idea behind it.

    i’m all for kids’ independence too but to be honest, i have my reservations. if i were living in the philippines, i definitely would be more protective of my kid. here in australia, even. as much as i trust my kid, i don’t know if i can trust the people around them.

    1. Your last sentence is totally spot on! I feel exactly the same, as much as I can trust my kids, I would not trust the people around back home, definitely not. And honestly you would never see a mother in her right mind letting her kid travel for so long on her own, she would be considered as totally irresponsible. Interesting to see how it works the total opposite way in Japan..
      At the end of the day, it comes with trusting not only your kid but your community.You can only encourage him/her if you feel that he is safe. It is like jumping in the water. You can only encourage your kid to do it if you know the water is not bad, right?
      I guess all those education/kiddos staff is taking a new meaning to you now 😉 How many months before you join the SleeplessyetsuperhappyMoms gang? Big hug from your home town!

      1. 9 weeks to go! =) and yeah, you’re right. My comment was based on how i’d feel once i actually have my kid (because although i’m pregnant, i couldn’t really say i’m a mom already, you know what i mean?) and it’s a crazy world out there. I’m even starting to worry about my kid being bullied and all those issues that are so prevalent in the news lately.

        I like what you said about the japanese trusting their kids and their community. It really is a communal effort, after all, to protect and raise the nation’s youth who would someday lead the country’s future. If only we all have that same mindset.

      2. 9 weeks, waou, time flies! And your worries tell me you are a mother already, welcome 🙂
        Motherhood makes you feel so much more sensitive and I guess it comes with the sense of responsibility, and obviously wanting the best for our children.
        I can’t even watch the news anymore, it depresses me far too much and I wish we could find the most peaceful place to immigrate. But if you need a recommendation of the Winnie Pooh last cartoons, I am here! Works for boys and girls 😉

      3. i know, right? just 5 months ago i was worried about my clothes starting to feel too tight. now even my loosest shirts fit me like a freaking bandage dress. lol.

        i don’t know if there is ever really a peaceful place. the best we can do, perhaps, is to make sure that there’s peace in our own homes. =)

      4. That’s indeed the most important blessing we can offer to our children ! Cheers to loving, peaceful and caring homes (and funny too, of course!) ❤

  5. This is such a wonderful read! You have nail it down totally.I totally agree with you, looking at other parenting styles in Global parenting could really open our eyes, and become more aware. Its totally different in Japan,I agree, although I myself cannot just let my daughter travel alone like that knowing its not a norm here.I almost laugh when you mention about the struggle of dressing up your kid, 🙂 Aha, I’m not yet there, my daughter doesn’t fight with me yet about what to wear, but I know the struggles of dressing up & morning rush,coinciding the rushing to work & getting everything ready.Just thinking about it makes me tired already.

    I always look forward for your fun,witty & relatable posts!

    1. Thanks so very much 🙂
      I think it is the whole dress up thing that turned us into a minimalist family. And she only has to chose between dresses, at least she does not have to wear winter clothes yet 😛 Obviously she wanted to bring kimonos back from Japan, but she finally realised that they are not really Jeepneyproof!
      I thought it was a girl thing, but her brother turned even worse. Might be in their Parisian DNA? On one hand, you are proud of their sense of growing autonomy. On the other… well, you know!
      Happy Sunday to you and your lovely fam!

  6. This is great! I agree 100% with letting kids do as much as they can themselves, including navigating their community. It’s sad that there are so many places where that does not feel possible.

    1. Thanks a lot 🙂

      Even in my home town, I would never let my kids play anywhere out of my sight. Yes, it is very sad that we lost this trust in our community -presuming we had it in the first place!
      I guess it still works like that in remote places like the little island of Bantayan, because they are like little villages where everyone knows everyone. But for a big town? Singapore seems to super safe too, “clinical” according to my friend’s @Ann GrubbsnCritters’ comment 🙂

  7. Those bento boxes really are so kawaii!!! ❤ And that little boy's reaction is so sweet!! I don't have kids so I can't remember what 6 y.o. is like. Seems like they're still very small then. But I do remember doing long commutes to school in a new country when I was 9, transferring from metro to bus all by myself, and then cooking for myself at home on a gas stove while my parents were still at work… I never once thought there was anything weird with it. Maybe it just depends on the kid and what feels normal to them. I like the idea of those Japanese independent kids, vs. the ones over here whose parents call them a dozen times a day to tell them they should eat a snack… I mean, before mobile phones we kids didn't need someone to tell us we were hungry! But as I said, I'm not a parent so what do I know about the reality of it 🙂 I probably would be calling my kids all day long! 😉

    1. Aren’t they? It is almost a shame to eat them. Japanese have such a natural sense of aesthetic, it’s incredible to me. My friends told me to always tell them “no wrapping” because they tend to use too much and it is not very eco friendly.
      But I never did. They do it too beautifully 😉

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