For all its foibles, Japan is really a great place for young kids. The parks are amazing, cities come fully equipped with all sorts of baby-friendly infrastructure, people are understanding less than cherubic behaviour. And not to mention that kawaii culture is pretty pro-baby.
One aspect of Japanese tot life that I’m particularly fond of is the fact that children here are really free to be kids. The culture of fear that exists in America is wonderfully absent here. Once toddlers are up and walking on their own, they roam the parks pretty freely while mothers chat mostly in the background. Kindergartners (age three to five) regularly walk to school without adult accompaniment. Six year olds navigate the subway system. Free range kids - the notion is totally unheard of here, it’s just how things are done.
On Sunday Mr. Chef and I took Stella to the local shopping center for a spot of shopping (SERIOUSLY!) It was boiling. There was a little outdoor water fountain, and a million kids were running around, clothes soaking wet, slipping, sliding and occasionally face-planting on the slick tile. Nobody worried about law suits. It was incredible. Take that, America.
(Also, because I am a total dork, while Stella was reveling in the waterfuntimes, I had to choke back tears. You see, when Mr. Chef and I visited this city for the first time on a look-see trip, I saw kids playing in this very fountain and I thought, “maybe one day we’ll have a wee one running through this fountain.” That day came, people. And it was beautiful.)