“My first errand”: the controversial Japanese reality show about children who go out alone and do the shopping

A production team secretly records children under 2 or 3 years old while they run errands without the help of an adult.  (Netflix)
A production team secretly records children under 2 or 3 years old while they run errands without the help of an adult. (Netflix)

Independence or irresponsibility? Netflix recently premiered my first erranda controversial reality show Japanese about small children doing the housework or some other errand without adult supervision. The show was originally created as a segment in 1991, and was inspired by the children’s book “Hajimete No Otsukai” published by Yoriko Tsutsui two decades earlier. In its pages, the story of a mother who sends her five-year-old daughter to buy milk was told.

Although, in the 1970s, such parenting was common in Japanese families and also in other parts of the world, this reality does not apply to today’s society. And so a debate began: reality television production has been severely criticized in its own country and worldwide since its arrival on the platform streaming. Despite this, its popularity in the Asian audience is quite great to date.

The reality show was inspired by "Hajimete No Otsukai"a children's book published in 1971. (Netflix)
The reality show was inspired by “Hajimete No Otsukai”, a children’s book published in 1971. (Netflix)

Each episode lasts just under 15 minutes and follows two- and three-year-olds running errands under the watchful eyes of citizens. They don’t know they are being documented, as the behind-the-scenes team hides in the distance to portray as true an experience as possible.

The infants walk down pedestrian crossings and go to crowded places completely alone, while a narrator describes their actions. This format gets the audience excited as they complete their tasks and return home safely. However, that does not prevent some strangers from approaching them on the road, because they go unaccompanied through the streets and run into multiple adults. The latter has led to the title being described as a form of entertainment in which children are “abandoned” to their fate.

"my first errand" It is made up of 20 chapters that last 15 minutes or less.  (Netflix)
“My first errand” is made up of 20 chapters that last 15 minutes or less. (Netflix)

Although my first errand It is intended to be a learning lesson for the little ones in various homes in Japan, in many cases the protagonists end up ruining their own errands as they are too young to carry out such activities. They forget to buy an ingredient or they just get completely distracted from what they had to do. In other cases, they refuse to do so, even if it is a message at the request of their own parents.

Self-reliant upbringing in families in Japan

In Japanese houses, children are accustomed from a very young age to be self-sufficient by their parents or grandparents. They are taught to shop, clean, cook and more tasks that contribute to the daily routine of the family, while, in schools, a part of their day is dedicated to cleaning the classrooms.

Children in Japan are raised self-sufficiently by their parents and grandparents.  (Netflix)
Children in Japan are raised self-sufficiently by their parents and grandparents. (Netflix)

The origin of this upbringing in Japan it goes back to their own disciplined and elder-oriented culture. For moms and dads, the fact that their children carry out an errand has a strong meaning that they are successfully facing the challenges that are part of growing up and that they will soon become hard-working adults with a great sense of responsibility.

The 20 chapters of my first errand are available to view at Netflix.

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“My first errand”: the controversial Japanese reality show about children who go out alone and do the shopping