Hajimete no Otsukai Bakushou 2014 Special

Hajimete no Otsukai is a long-running Japanese TV show where kids aged between 1-5 years are sent on their first ever errand (indeed the title means “My First Errand”). It can be something as simple as delivering a pencil to someone five minutes away to something as complicated as taking the train or bus somewhere far away to buy some trivial item. Either way the audience gets to watch the children’s progress through hidden cameras and microphones, enjoying their little comments, laughing when something funny happens and cheering them on when the going gets tough.

Hajimete no Otsukai only airs a few times a year, no more than 3, which means that out of all the footage filmed over the year only a few errands are cherry-picked for our viewing pleasure. I used to like the show until I realized a tendency to focus mainly on two types of errands:

1. The type where the child doesn’t want to go and cries and cries and cries but eventually goes anyway. A variant is to have the child soldier bravely on but start crying once s/he returns. Since the errand won’t air unless the child eventually makes a move, you already know the kid is going to go anyway, so milking the tears for drama is just annoying. Plus it makes the parent seem callous for being so desperate to appear on a TV show that they’ll force an unwilling child out into the wild, calling it ‘character development’ and shedding a few crocodile tears of their own to make themselves appear less self-centered and rapacious.

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2. The type where the child is either sent very far away or made to carry something ridiculously heavy so they’re struggling every step of the way. This can be amusing when the kid does it to themselves. Boys tend to fall prey to this the most – Mom will tell them to buy one can of milk and they’ll buy 3 just for the kicks. May be combined with type 1 for maximum crying.

There’s a third type, where a cute kid just goes on a normal errand with some minor happens and comes back without much fuss or tears. This was more common in the older episodes I’ve watched, even up to about 3 years ago, but now they make up the minority of stories on a typical episode these days. Even when you think you’ve been spared, there might be a tearful ‘surprise’ at the end.

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As you can figure, I didn’t enjoy the 2014 Special too much. The tears were just too manufactured, especially on the part of the studio audience. They even went to the extent of finding a kid whose mother had cancer and sending the kid to the hospital alone. I skipped that errand. It was just too tasteless. Then there was a sweet one where a child goes to a pottery festival and meets all kinds of people along the way… but then her mother cranked up some of the fakest tears I’d ever seen and made the poor girl cry as well. Another fun one had two brightly-dressed brothers in a high-class shopping mall… and at the end the little brother started to bawl. It’s not Hajimete no Otsukai unless kids are crying, I guess.

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Then there was a long boring bit showing the first errand of one of the boys. One of the Kameda boxing champion brothers… Tomoki? From 18 years ago, it wasn’t aired when it was originally shot because it was just too boring, and it hasn’t improved with age. Then there was the usual mix of Type 1 and Type 2 errands, nothing really worth remembering.

Maybe the show always was this chockful of forced sentimentality – an errand from about 20 years ago had a poor boy carrying a ridiculous heavy bundle of firewood, for one thing. Maybe I’m the one who has changed from when I started watching the show. Having a lot of nephews and nieces born one after the other in the past few years has made me pay more attention to children and their safety.

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For example I remember an episode where a mother made her 2 year 10-month old son ride a bus a long distance away. Now that I have a nephew around that age, I’m horrified at the very idea. He’s just a baby! What if something happens to him? Don’t stand on the balcony crying, run down and get him! Right now the errands I enjoy most are the ones that keep children away from main roads, that make them go reasonable distances for their age (almost none of them) and that have happy, willing kids running errands they’re excited about.

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