More than 10 per cent of elementary school pupils don't even have a friend to play with. The issue is common to both cities and countryside. In part, this is due to the drop in the country's birth rate. For the scholar who carried out the research, the country needs a "social intervention ".
Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Over 70 per cent of 2,986 elementary school students who responded to recent questionnaires in rural and urban Japan said they do not play outside on weekdays and over 10 per cent do not even have friends to play with, this according to a study by Chiba University, Tokyo.
“We need social intervention to encourage kids to play outside," said Isami Kinoshita, professor of Environmental Science at Chiba University, speaking to the Mainichi Shinbun newspaper.
The scholar and his collaborators began to collect data from primary schools in the city of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture (north-eastern Japan).
According to the survey, 76 per cent of children said they do not play outside during weekdays. Some 18 per cent answered they do not have any friends to play with after school, while 29 per cent had only one or two friends to play with.
By play areas, which allowed multiple answers, 85 per cent said they play at home, followed by 8 per cent who play near rivers, waterways or ponds and 6 per cent who play in mountains or forests.
In a bid to understand the situation in urban areas, the same questionnaire was carried out in one elementary school in the city of Chiba, capital of Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, in fiscal 2018, and 425 responses were received.
Researchers found that students in Chiba had the same tendency as those in Kesennuma, with 77 per cent saying they do not play outside during weekdays, and 13 per cent not having any friends to play with after school. Some 76 per cent answered that they play at home.
Primary school children in three municipalities in the north-eastern Fukushima and Gunma Prefectures, northwest of Tokyo, were also surveyed and the results showed the same tendency – except that the proportion of students who had no friends to play with rose to 20-30 per cent.
"Kids aren't playing outside even in rural areas, where they are surrounded by nature. Due to reasons including the declining birth rate, it's not easy for children to play with friends and they are losing their reasons to play outside," surmised lab member Mitsunari Terada, who played a central role in the research.
Kinoshita pointed out, "Playing outside, such as the game of tag or playing with mud, is a way for kids to come into contact with society and is necessary for a child to develop skills to make decisions and to think on their own."