Japan: Playground Equipment Installed at Temporary Housing Complexes in Fukushima

Outdoor Playground Equipment Installed at Temporary Housing Complexes

A total of approximately 400 children currently live in the 13 temporary housing complexes in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture. Having lost their homes, friends and relatives in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, these children have suffered devastating loss. Play time is a vital aspect of children’s emotional stability and healthy growth, but with cars driving through the complexes and a lack of open spaces or playgrounds in which to play, these children cannot get enough exercise.

March 14th, 2012 – Children play on the newly installed playground. (Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture)

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) has started installing playground equipment at temporary housing complexes to provide places for children to exercise and release the stress built up from staying indoors all the time.

Construction of 4 pieces of playground equipment was completed at the first temporary housing complex on March 13th, 2012. At 7 a.m. the following morning, Ekuko YOKOYAMA visited the complex from AAR Japan’s Fukushima Office. When she arrived, she heard the voices of happy children--they had stopped to play on the new playground before going to school!

Opening New Lines of Communication

The same evening, an elderly man living in a nearby temporary housing complex came by with his grandchild. “Today I heard that a new playground had been built, so I came here with my grandchild,” he told us. His two-year-old grandchild could not ride the big bucket swing by himself, but some of the other children came over and asked if he would like to play with them. On the playground, the children are starting to interact with each other regardless of which complex they live in or how old they are.

March 14th, 2012 – “Let’s ride together!” Older children invite younger children to play with them. At right is Sawako MIYAZAKI, AAR Japan Tokyo Office. (Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture)

It’s not just the children who enjoy more interaction. Elderly residents who come to see what is making the children so happy and parents who come to let their children play can talk and exchange ideas about life in the complex. In some temporary housing complexes, people who have evacuated from different areas tend to stay in their own houses because they do not t have any familiar neighbors. The new playgrounds are becoming places for everyone to meet and spend time together. With the days getting longer, children can stay at the playground later each day.

April 13th, 2012 – 3 to 4 children can ride the big bucket swing together. Older children and adults push for them. (Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture)

April 13th, 2012 – Having fun at the playground and sandbox, children enjoy their play time outdoors. (Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture)

As of April 13th, 2012, we have finished installing playground equipment at 3 temporary housing complexes in Soma City. We are also aiding in the installation of indoor playground equipment in temporary assembly halls and nursery schools inside and outside of Soma City as well.

Now that they are getting a chance to move around, the children are getting excited: they tell us, “I want to play with a bigger slide,” “I want a unicycle,” or “I want to climb a jungle gym.” AAR Japan values these children’s voices, and we are committed to maintaining our support efforts in Fukushima, including the installation of playground equipment for children.

This project was made possible thanks to “互人多” (Friend), a Japanese volunteer group based in Shanghai, China; Aeon Co., Ltd.; and subsidies from the Central Community Chest of Japan’s Disaster Relief Volunteer & NPO Support Fund.

Sawako MIYAZAKI: AAR Japan Tokyo Office
In charge of Fukushima projects at AAR Japan’s Tokyo Headquarters. After studying English and tourism in the UK, worked for a travel agency and a foreign firm in Japan. Studied peace education at graduate school. Following an internship to participate in Great East Japan Earthquake projects, started working at AAR Japan in February 2012.