For for the past two weeks, my favorite pastime has been watching tiny, adorable Japanese toddlers run errands, courtesy of the Netflix license Old enougha reality show that has been a hit in Japan since the 90s.
The premise of the show, which debuted in Japan under the title Hajimete no Otsukaior My first race, is simple but captivating: young children, some as young as 2, run errands for the first time without their parents, while a film crew follows them. In each utterly charming (and 10-15 minute, very digestible) episode, a child is asked to do something like drive to the local market and return with an elaborate grocery list or run home from the orchard. to make fresh juice for the family. These activities can feel herculean in the tiny hands of toddlers tasked with carrying them out, often leading to hilarious situations and sweet interactions with strangers that affirm children’s independence and abilities.
That’s not to say there aren’t challenges – sometimes there are distractions for little ones who are more interested in playing than shopping. It can be difficult to remember every item needed (even as an adult I still find it difficult), to correctly count the money for purchases or, in the case of a tiny but stubborn girl, to finish work, when the mission harvests a cabbage almost as big as her.
Then there is the apprehension and tears that sometimes precede going out alone for the first time, on the part of children and their parents, who more often than not are even more anxious than their offspring. Therein lies the show’s most compelling and controversial aspect: the belief that little children can do things safely in the world, and do them well, on their own.
Read more: Here’s Everything New to Netflix in April 2022 and What’s Left of It
After the show aired on Netflix in late March, the discourse in the United States ranged from awe and delight to disbelief and concern. Inevitably, discussions about parenting styles, cultural differences, and even infrastructure and policies emerged. Perhaps it should go without saying that it’s highly unlikely that a show like Old enough would never be made in the USA
This does not mean that the parents of Old enough do something wrong. For one, Japan has an exceptionally low crime rate and one of the strictest gun control laws in the world. Urban planning and policies across the country have created much more supportive environments for children walking alone than in the United States; in an interview with Slate, Hironori Kato, a transportation planning professor at the University of Tokyo, described solo travel for toddlers as the norm. “A lot of kids walk to neighborhood schools on their own, that’s pretty typical,” Kato said. “Roads and road networks are designed so that children can walk safely.” And culturally, Japan values independence and self-sufficiency; in an interview with the New York TimeToshiyuki Shimoi, a child development expert based in Tokyo, explained that the practice of sending children on errands when they are young is normal, calling it “a typical way of raising children in Japan and symbolic of our cultural approach”. .”
All this to say, on Old enough, the kids are more than fine, and anxious viewers can relax knowing that the show really is as wholesome and delicious as it sounds. If you had told me a month ago that I would be doing a show about doing the mundane things I’m tired of doing in my personal life, I would have laughed in your face. But Old enough is captivating! It’s adorable! Honestly, it’s exciting! And after a series of stressful, anxiety-provoking shows about troubled teenagers, soul-sucking family empires, and relentless tests of romantic commitment, it’s soothing to find entertainment in the adventures of precious toddlers conquering the world, one race at a time. It’s also a good reminder that wonder can be found in even the most basic activities, if we only take the time to look for it.
More Must-Try Stories from TIME