Thursday 16 March 2017

Squid Sushi and Child Safety

A poster with a mnemonic in Japanese telling children how to stay safe
 Teaching children to stay safe with squid sushi

This poster can be found along routes where children walk to school (tsūgakuro) warning them what to do if a stranger in a car stops and calls them over. Reading from the top, it instructs them (1) not to go (towards the car) (2) not to get in (the car) (3) to shout out in a big voice (4) to immediately run away and (5) to let (a teacher/parent etc) know. To make it easy for children to remember, the characters in bold make up the mnemonic ika no osushi, literally “squid sushi.” Also along the route, there will be retirees with flags at crossings (like the British lollipop lady or man) as well as designated “safe houses” (kodomo 110-ban) where children can seek sanctuary if necessary. A chime which acts as a kind of curfew is also broadcast across the neighbourhood telling children to go home before it gets dark. In Kodaira City, the chime sounds at 5:30 to the tune of Edelweiss in summer and at 4:30 to the tune of Nanatsu no Ko (a popular Japanese children’s song) in winter. Although all these measures may suggest a certain element of danger, Japanese children typically commute solo – even taking trains and buses by themselves – from the start of elementary school, and incidents are very rare. It is interesting that in a society where dependence on the group is often emphasised, Japanese children enjoy a high degree of independence from a very young age.