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Why Are Little Kids in Japan So Independent?

In Japan, small children take the subway and run errands alone, no parent in sight. The reason why has more to do with social trust than self-reliance.
A schoolgirl walks through a Tokyo subway station.
A schoolgirl walks through a Tokyo subway station.Toru Hanai / Reuters

It’s a common sight on Japanese mass transit: children troop through train cars, singly or in small groups, looking for seats.

They wear knee socks, polished patent leather shoes, and plaid jumpers, with wide-brimmed hats fastened under the chin and train passes pinned to their backpacks. The kids are as young as six or seven, on their way to and from school, and there is nary a guardian in sight.