Bully Mamas

While in Osaka Sunday for a Four Stories event (more on that later), I picked up a copy of Kansai Scene. There was a great article by Laura Markslag about the all-important Park Debut, that is, the first time a mother ventures onto a public playground in Japan with her child.

Markslag writes, “Many parks in Japan are controlled by gangs. No, not by the gangsters that sell illegal substances to children or the kind that would steal your grandmother’s purse. These parks are controlled by exclusive bands of mothers, your average neighborhood housewives, and they decide exactly who can and cannot play at the playground with their children. These gangs of mean mamas have more power than many thugs do and instill fear in the hearts of the new mothers.”

I was blissfully unaware of any such groups here, and besides, we usually met up at the park with other foreign friends when we ventured out, but I find this whole scenario very easy to imagine. And people wonder why bullying is such a big problem in Japan!

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5 thoughts on “Bully Mamas

  1. That’s pretty sad — there are times when I think that another mama at the park is less than friendly, but I’ve never felt “bullied” or like I couldn’t go to a park because of another mama. Maybe this is a potential plot for a musical — one in which the other mamas rebel and overthrow the bullies?

  2. I remember my first “park debut” here in the U.S. and I was struck by how young all the mothers were, and by how little they seemed to care about me, or my son, or even their children. They were on the phone, they were reading magazines. Well you probably can guess where this is heading…I was at a park full of nannies and au pairs and I was too dense to realize this, initially….

  3. I had the same thing happen (as Jennifer) at a park in an upscale area of Montreal a few summers ago. Tons of kids and women with them, but I was the only mom. I knew that was the way it was in Hong Kong, or Singapore, or maybe New York, but was pretty surprised to experience it in Canada. And it’s totally non-existent in 99% of Japan. Don’t want to sound too judgmental, but I guess I am, at least a little.

    The Osaka scene sounds scary. I’ve found the elementary school parent/parent interaction to be a bit that way here. I’m glad my son and I both made a lot of friends at his kindergarten — we’d be lost without them.

  4. I have not managed to bond with the mothers at my daughter’s school. It’s very sad, because you’d think they’d be supportive of me, having deaf kids and all, but I am nakama hazure there. (For you non-Japanese speakers, that means I am an outcast.) The mothers at my son’s school are much nicer.

  5. Wow. This sounds vaguely familiar in some sports clubs I’ve heard of around here. If your kids is talented and one of THE golden team members then all the parents want their kid to play with your child.

    If your kid isn’t, well talk about being squeezed out……

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