How Can Adults Realize Children’s Agency in Liquid Modernity?: Challenges of Adventure Playgrounds in Urban Tokyo

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Eriko MOTOMORI, Meiji Gakuin University, Japan
Giving children agency, voices, and rights is easy to state yet difficult to realize. Protesting against the hierarchical relationship between adults and children had a certain impact in the late twentieth century.

However, in modern societies, the “tutelary complex,” a web of supervision of children, cannot and should not be completely removed. Consequently, instead of stressing the dichotomy between adults’ control and children’s agency, we should explore how adults can realize children’s agency, sometimes locally and temporarily, in specific contexts. Additionally, diversities and changes in historical and geographical contexts should be examined.

This paper aims to analyze Japanese adventure playgrounds in two different contexts: the first successful case that has become a standard since the 1970s and a recent struggling case.

The aim of the playgrounds is for children to play freely. Adults have set the slogan that this is where children can be responsible for taking risks and realize free play without interference. Importantly, the key to actualizing this philosophy is not only the existence of skilled playworkers who organize the playgrounds by removing actual dangers, but also the principle of voluntary participation of parents and local adults. This principle allows both adults and children to keep away from closed pairs and existing values. Some become empowered, and through this sense of empowerment, present and future community leaders are created. Therefore, the model have the potential to realize a utopian generational relationship and social ordering.

However, the recent case indicates that the principle faced difficulties when people and authorities began accepting children’s rights, with the biggest issue being the gap between demand and supply. Preserving the original principle under the increasing demand may undermine its voluntary nature. By showing the detail of this case, this paper will discuss the importance of flexible frames in analyzing generational relationships.