Japanese films such as “Drive My Car”, which was recently honored with a foreign Academy Award, are universally popular. Abridged episodes of a Japanese television entertainment documentary that has been shown in Japan for decades are now available on Netflix.
Hiroki is facing the greatest adventure of his life. The little Japanese is only two years and nine months old, but now he is supposed to go shopping for his parents on his own for the first time: flowers for the home altar, a box of curry and a fried fish cake. “Take care of yourself,” his mother yells to him for the last time as Hiroki makes his way to the supermarket.
Thus begins an episode of the Nippon TV entertainment documentary “Hajimete no Otsukai” (The First Age), which has been popular in Japan for three decades and now wants to win a global audience: Selected and abridged episodes were recently made available on Netflix under the English title “Old Enough” !” , i.e. “Old enough!”.
Children between the ages of three and six are sent by their parents to do something unaccompanied for the first time. Of course, this does not always go smoothly. At first, children feel nauseous to go out on their own. No wonder: Hiroki’s road to the supermarket is one kilometer long. Once again a young girl returns to her mother in tears after being lost. But then the little one takes off again.
The children, whose first names only appear, have an “amulet bag” hanging around their necks with a wireless microphone on it. This allows viewers to hear if the child is talking to himself or when he is singing a tune. You can also hear the narrator’s voice and the studio’s intermittent laughter, a common concept on Japanese TV shows. Of course it can happen that the child forgets what to do because of the excitement.
Independence and other educational issues in focus
It’s all touching, even when the kid is so proud of himself at the end of the day because he made it. On the other hand, the program aims to promote the independence of children. On the other hand, television viewers should be encouraged to think about the relationship between parents and children and raising children.
“There are certainly not many countries like Japan where kids can roam around town safely,” wrote Japanese IT journalist Munichika Nishida, explaining why the show is making international headway with the Netflix deal. However, in Japan, episodes last much longer than those shown on Netflix: three hours per show. It only airs twice a year as it takes months to produce shows.
Children are selected after a complex selection process. Parents and staff walk the roads together to make sure the roads are safe and there are no suspicious people. The camera team and the observers are assigned hiding places. All neighbors in the area will be informed of the operation so that they are not too eager to call the police and report an unaccompanied child wandering aimlessly in the streets.
This format has been extremely popular for three decades: ratings average in Japan between 15 percent and over 20 percent. According to Japanese media reports, there are cases where the children featured in the entertaining documentary in the past are now parents and now want the same adventure for their children. It remains to be seen whether the rendered episodes of the Japanese company’s deal with Netflix will be met with a similarly enthusiastic response.