The wholesome Japanese program has been around since the early ‘90s
For fans of the hit South Korean reality-variety show The Return of Superman, Netflix recently acquired the beloved Japanese TV program Old Enough!, popularly known as Hajimete no Otsukai (My First Errand). This has been airing in Japan—on and off—since the early ‘90s.
Children in squeaky shoes, and even toddlers as young as two, go on their first errand alone or with a friend or sibling, as a camera crew and safety team follow along. This could be a quick run to the grocery or the cleaners, or something more challenging like a journey around town with several errands, with the ventures personalized by the parents themselves. Some of the young ones are reluctant to leave on their own, usually calling out for a parent—there are even tears involved, and the occasional stubbornness—but in the end, it becomes an adventure.
In an expansive pool of true crime documentaries and horror classics, Old Enough! is a refreshing, easy watch—with episodes going on for as short as 10 minutes. But the program, which has reached global fame, hasn’t exactly been free of criticism, with many generating parental debate on kids performing “grown-up sized” errands.
In one episode, a 3-year-old is tasked with navigating the bus route home to pick up a father’s cheering uniform before a big event. In another, a shy boy and his homesick sister visit a mobile supermarket up in the mountains.
A YouTube comment by user Hana Packard on TODAY’s report gives the audience more insight on Old Enough!. She notes, “Having originally grown up in Japan, I can attest to the fact that the record for public safety is great and they have low crime. That’s why this is more possible. I remember having fun going on occasional errands on my own or walking our dog alone, going on public transit on my own, or even going alone to play with friends as a child.”
She adds, “There was also this social concept that children are communally looked out for. Everyone in the community knew each other. Nice older ladies, neighbors and other adults would look out for the kids, too, when we went to play together. That’s what a healthy society needs to be.”
Parenting experts believe that many could learn from the show. From doing errands at such a young age, independence is encouraged. Children are praised for their resilience, especially when the going gets tough. In one episode, a very polite Hinako, who is almost 5-years-old, encounters a troublesome cabbage at a vegetable patch. She is determined to take it home for her sick sister and keeps twisting it out, even if it takes her until sunset. The camera man offers to lend a helping hand, but she eventually takes it out and relishes in her victory.
The culture of Japan has always fostered one’s individuality and independence. It’s great to note that they boast of one of the lowest crime rates in the world, too. I can’t possibly relate as a very sheltered child from Manila who needed a guardian with me at all times, even until I was in high school (even requiring a chaperone for a quick McDonald’s date as a 15-year-old).
Old Enough! demonstrates how equipping a child with the right opportunities and support, even as a toddler, can grow their self-esteem and their self-belief.
Stream “Old Enough!” only on Netflix.
Art Gail Ordiales