For Children and Young People Living in a Hard World
I finally saw.
One day, I saw that an elementary school child was studying alone at a cafe.
I slipped out, “Oh my gosh.”
This scene made me disappointed and saddened. Of course, it wasn’t against him, but against society.
His parents weren’t around, and he was seated at a one-person counter, separated by a clear partition that had become common during the pandemic. He looked like he is still in the lower grades of elementary school, not the upper grades nearing junior high. Such a young boy was studying silently with an empty Frappuccino that was bigger than his small face.
Looking back, I remember this wasn’t the first time I had seen an elementary school child studying in this same cafe.
Just the other day, I had seen a child who was being strictly taught to study by his father at about 9 p.m. in a suburban cafe.
I said to my boyfriend, “It's kind of toxic for a child because he looks like he’s just learning words, being forced to study late at night.”
Yes, to me, his behavior as an elementary school student seemed downright “toxic.”
“I want you to go to a good school (elementary, middle, and secondary), enter a good university, join a good company, and earn a lot of money.”
I was reminded of this magic phrase that many parents would’ve told our generation.
I’ve never been told this magic phrase by my parents, but I’ve been told this in school and cram school. In university, I met many students who could’ve been told this and have been studying for hours a day since they were little.
Some people knew that I’m from a public high school and said to me, “You don’t look like you’re from a public high school. Were there any naughty students?”
I laughed and just told them, “No, there are some public high schools where several students go to the top-level university! And it’s a good value for the price because I grew up in a public school, right?” But in fact, I was hurt and angry at those slightly insulting eyes.
Some people wouldn’t interact with me because I was from a rural area or public high school, and sometimes the relationship was over the moment they found out. Some people cared about my parents’ academic background and upbringing. That made me sad, honestly.
Not all orthodox elites were like these people. Of course, I have several best friends who have lived like ordinary elites.
There’s just one thing I want everyone to keep in mind.
I want you to know that this magic phrase can instill sad and ugly values in your children. And even if you want your child to take the orthodox path, don’t tell them in an ugly way that denies someone who doesn't take that path.
Someone said on a TV show, “The generation with a low fertility rate will raise their children with a lot of money and care.” Is this really a “correct” correlation: being raised with a lot of money=being raised with care?”
The ratio of parents who want their children to go to private school from elementary school to university is increasing, even though many families are likely to go bankrupt because of growing inflation and increasing taxes with stagnant.
On the other hand, half of the junior and high school students, as well as those in their 20s, may be saying, “I don’t want children,” in anticipation of such a grim future. Even if they do have children, they probably think children have to study until adulthood. They may also be saying it because they’re at the forefront of the reality in which people complain when children make noise on trains, and parks are destroyed because children having fun are considered “disturbance.”
These social realities have led foreign media to say, “Do Japanese hate children?” At that point, I think it can’t be said that “children are growing up with care”, regardless of whether the birthrate is declining or not.
Now that I’ve joined the selfish adults, I think about it.
“How can my children be happy? Or rather, what's happiness in today’s society?”
Most of my generation have started working, and we’ve taken various paths after completing our compulsory education. So I peep at their form of happiness.
One person started working right after graduating from high school, steadily saved up money, and built her own home.
Someone fashionable who has found fulfillment in buying and collecting their favorite clothes and sneakers.
Another person fulfilled a big dream and is satisfied with it and is in the process of searching for a new dream.
Another person got married in her early twenties and is struggling to raise a child.
Another person goes on a trip every month. Another person works hard and has fun at work.
There are all kinds of people with different educational backgrounds, working experiences, and even salaries, but they all seem to be happy.
Everyone makes decisions based on the values they’ve built for themselves, and everyone makes their own happiness.
I respect and am proud of all of them.
I see a variety of happiness, so I want to believe that children will be happy in their own way without being bound by this magic phrase “I want you to go to a good (elementary, middle, and secondary) school, enter a good college, join a good company, and make a lot of money."
I hope we can create a society where children can have a good time being children but not have to live with uncertainty about their future.
What can I, what can we, do?
First of all, don't spell it out.
How can we let media overseas say, “Japanese see children as objects to be nurtured and not equal to adults, while Westerners see children as separate humans and as equals to adults." Of course, there’s a background of traditional Japanese values based on feudalism and the family system that is taken into consideration.
Stop saying the magic phrase. Break down the traditional values! Just kidding.
Because we just finished being children, we’d like to view the many children in society and my future children as separate and equal beings just like ourselves.
If each of us stopped making judgments about people of different generations, perhaps young politicians would be more likely to be elected. Moreover, capable young people might be able to step forward and hold off those who are dignified only by their authority.
We need to make an ally of people with different attributes from our side if our numbers are small. “Toxic” ideas can destroy even the solidarity of one's generation. Why don’t we get along well with everyone?
Written by Kiana
Translated by Kana Miyazawa
Edited by Emiru Okada
Graphics by Ren Ono