JAPAN: Bringing Smiles to Children in the Disaster Area

Many nursery schools in the Tohoku region suffered  flooding and collapse as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Even now, the remaining nursery schools continue to struggle. As a result of damage to nearby schools, Shimoyahagi Nursery Center in Rikuzen-Takata City, Iwate Prefecture, has 55 children enrolled, far exceeding its maximum capacity of 35 students. In Otsuchi Town, Iwate Prefecture, Ando Nursery School has no place for children to play, as it is borrowing rooms from a nearby elementary school and the schoolyard is filled with temporary housing.

Below are examples of AAR JAPAN’s ongoing efforts for Tohoku children in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Seasonal Events: Christmas and Setsubun

December 24th, 2011 – “What’s inside?” A Christmas event at Ando Nursery School in Otsuchi Town, Iwate Prefecutre. At left is Ryo OIKAWA of AAR JAPAN Morioka Office. 

AAR JAPAN delivered Christmas presents to nursery schools in Iwate Prefecture in December 2011. Presents delivered to Ando Nursery School (Otsuchi Town), Akasaki Nursery School (Ofunato City), Yonezaki Elementary School ‘s Apple School Child Club (Rikuzen-Takata City), and Fureai School Room and Shimoyahagi Nursery School (Rikuzen-Takata City) consisted of cookies made by persons with disabilities at the Atelier Sun vocational workshop in Miyako City. The children in Ando Nursery School’s infant class were further surprised by a visit from AAR JAPAN staff dressed as Santa Claus, and they smiled to see their presents. The toddlers carefully listened to a talk from Santa, promising to be good boys and girls.

February 3rd, 2012 – As per Setsubun tradition, children cry “Devils out!” and throw beans at Kazuo OBARA, AAR JAPAN Morioka Office, dressed as devil. (Hirata Branch of Kamaishi Nursery School, Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture)

On February  3rd, AAR JAPAN staff visited Otsuchi Nursery School in Otsuchi Town, as well as the Hirata Branch of Kamaishi Nursery School in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture. This was the date of Setsubun, when it is traditional to ward off demons by throwing beans and crying “Devils out!” At first, the toddlers were nervous to see staff in a devil costume, but they started to smile as they enjoyed throwing their beans.

Bean-throwing sets, prepared by Atelier Sun, were given to all the toddlers so that they could throw beans at home as well. Though they have lived under difficult conditions in the disaster-affected area, parents smiled to see their children enjoy throwing beans at school.

Toys and Stuffed Animals
AAR JAPAN delivered toys and stuffed animals to nursery schools and social welfare facilities in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures.

February 20th, 2012 - Children at Yanagawa Central Nursey School sent us a video of them singing with their stuffed animals. (Date City, Fukushima Prefecture

At Yanagawa Central Nursery School in Date City, Fukushima Prefecture, a child holding a large stuffed toy told us, “This is as tall as my friend who moved away.” Families continue to move away from Yanagawa due to radiation fears. Teachers tell us that children in Yanagawa are suffering from stress because they can’t play outside and from loneliness as their friends leave the area. 

February 22nd, 2012 - We delivered a trampoline to children at Ayukko, a regional child-raising support center in Rikuzen-Takata City. The trampoline was provided by the Orange Page, Inc. Their original buildings washed away by the tsunami, Ayukko reopened to children in February 2012. 

January 13th, 2012 - We delivered toys to Midori Preschool in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture. The toys were donated by Sanrio Company, Ltd. With children required to play indoors due to heightened levels of radiation, the children were happy to receive indoor toys.  
February 9th, 2012 - At Midori Preschool in Otsuchi Town, Iwate Prefecture, children and teachers are happy to receive teddy bears donated by the Teddy Bear Museums in Izu and Nasu.   
February 2nd, 2012- “It’s warm!” Children hold stuffed toyrs on a cold, snowy day. (Ando Nursery School, Otsuchi Town, Iwate Prefecture
March 2nd, 2012 - A few days after delivering the toys, we received messages of thanks from Otsuchi Nursery School

Yoshino HORIKOSHI, AAR JAPAN Tokyo Office
Started work at Tokyo Headquarters in April 2005, currently in charge of projects in Japan and Sudan. After studying internaional policy at graduate school in the United States, joined an international organization as a United Nations volunteers in Guyana before joining AAR JAPAN. (Born in Tokyo)