Happiness Lessons from 10-Year-Olds

I want to share a documentary with you today.

This 2003 award-winning documentary, titled “Children Full of Life”, is about a rather unusual 4th grade classroom in Kanazawa, Japan.

Here is how the film starts:

On the first day of school, Mr. Toshiro Kanamori asked this question to his 4th grade class: “What’s the most important thing this year? What are we here for?”

“To be HAPPY!” the 10-year-olds shouted in unison.

Are you surprised?

I was.

I’ve been in classrooms both here in the US and back in China, from K-12, to college, to graduate school, no teacher has ever taught me that the most important thing in a classroom or in life is to be happy.

I’m going to bet most of you haven’t either, which is why the classroom in this documentary is so unique.

Mr. Kanamori teaches his students not only how to be students, but how to live a happy life. He teaches them about compassion, vulnerability, and empathy. He guides them on how to cope with difficult life situations like bullying, or worse, death. He gives them lessons on teamwork, community, and acceptance.

And observe the transformations in these 10-year-olds. Watch how they rise to the challenge to face the difficult subjects in front of them and learn the lessons with grace and courage.

Witness how they share their inner most thoughts and feelings, and embrace the kind of vulnerability that most adults would be afraid to touch, much less lay bare for all to see.

Yet it is this type of vulnerability that leads to understanding and a deeper connection. It unlocks in others their pain, and gives them the courage to face it. It is this type of vulnerability that allows us to return to and accept our most authentic selves, without which we can never truly be happy.

I’m in awe of these 10-year-olds.

The full documentary is about an hour. Give yourself a gift and watch it in its entirety.

I am glad I did. :)

There are five parts to the documentary, and should play one after another automatically. If you have any trouble viewing them here, try watching on YouTube.

What is your biggest takeaway from the documentary?

Share in the comments below!

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  1. What a touching & inspiring documentary! Kids have such a profound ability to learn & adopt & act. Teach them important values and be amazed at what they can do.

    I’m hoping for more teachers like Mr. Toshiro who will teach not just the fundamental arithmetic, reading, writing skills but also impart in them the values of being compassionate and empathetic to others.

    I was deeply moved. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for sharing this video, I’m so glad I took the time to watch it. I am inspired.

    Happiness. Isn’t that what we all strive for, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Perhaps if we all had the opportunity in grade 4 to set a goal to be happy for the year each of us would be closer to living a happy life. Instead many of us constantly strive for more. More money, more love, more things, more education, more acknowledgement, more power. Constantly striving and never quite achieving.

    So I am reminded to make a choice to be happy, to make that choice everyday, and to share that happiness with others.

    I think I may share this video with my 8-yr old. Quietly, without comment. And then I’ll ask what she thinks about happiness.

    • Jarlin Sung says:

      Hi Sharon!

      Thank you for your insightful comments! Your’e absolutely right…we constantly strive for more because we believe our happiness is dependent on it…when in fact happiness is really a choice. There is always a reason to be happy if we look for it, and we always find what we seek.

      And, I’m so glad you’re giving your daughter the opportunity to set a goal to be happy starting at a young age!! :)

      Have a wonderful weekend.


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