Each year, Toyota has a special event at its company conference building and at the Shizuoka Prefecture Fuji Speedway to help teach kindergarteners how to behave in a world with cars. This is especially important because starting as elementary school first graders, most will walk to school every day. It has Power Rangers! ...Sort of.
Very much unlike my experiences (except when I lived right next to my school), most elementary school children in Japan walk from first grade on to their elementary schools. Whether rural or urban, most cannot avoid crossing streets and therefore crossing traffic. While older children do often walk with younger children, and if there is a nearby junior high school, some of those students may act as volunteers, and there are often parents and volunteers along the route... There are still many potential situations where Japanese children could encounter traffic based dangers. For this reason traffic safety is highly ritualised for both driver and child. Children wear bright hats and bright backpack covers (usually yellow, but sometimes neon green or pink) and wave flags with warnings... and they have all sorts of hand gestures which tell you, “Wait! I’m crossing!” or “Go ahead! I’m waiting for you!” or “I’m turning here!” and so on.
It was a lot for me to learn when I repeatedly failed my driving test. Imagine how difficult it is for the kids!
So Toyota had the bright idea to make it more fun. Its program began in 1975 when Toyota established the “Toyota Safety School” at Fuji Speedway as an addition to the information it was already offering (presumably to adults or families) via its Traffic Safety Center. This means it is now the 40th anniversary since the event was founded. As it has expanded out to a total of 3,541 kindergartens and 267,541 people so far (including the children, their parents, and their teachers), it has become a major event.
And I can imagine it’s only gotten cuter (and more ridiculous?) over the years as Toyota has added a cute bird like character named Cuckoo (クック) and three human Power Rangers (okay, so they’re technically not Power Rangers, but this is not a time to explain the complexities of sentai TV shows in Japan. Who am I, Brian Ashcraft?). They are named Safety Lady (あんぜんレディ) , Safety Man (あんぜんマン), and Traffic Light Man (しんごマン).
You know you want a traffic light helmet. Don’t lie to me. But the shipping is gonna be expensive...
Images via Toyota Motor Corporation.
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