Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief (158th report)
Onsite support

[TOKYO, JAPAN, 1 June 2012]

"In this building lives the spirit of our ancestors—those who planted the cedar trees that construct this building hundreds of years ago," comments architect Takaharu Tezuka at the foundation ceremony for Asahi Kindergarten (25 May in Minamisanriku Town, Miyagi Prefecture).

In response to numerous requests received from municipal governments in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures, the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) provides assistance for the construction of new temporary and permanent facilities and for large-scale refurbishments to preschools, kindergartens, welfare facilities, and children's libraries heavily damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake. A total of eleven buildings have been completed so far, and construction continues on another eight.

A preschool located in Iwate Prefecture's Otsuchi Town was the first to receive assistance for the construction of a temporary prefabricated building. At the time of construction it was difficult to acquire resources such as prefabricated materials, as it overlapped with the construction of temporary housing in various areas. Nevertheless, the staff of the municipal government in Tono City, Iwate Prefecture, who were overseeing the construction of such facilities, understood the importance of preschools as a centre for children and as a base for carving a future of Otsuchi Town. Staff therefore advanced construction of the facility in an expedited manner, helping the school restart classes in its new two-story building exactly one year ago today.

Construction and repair efforts then took off in other locations. Construction sites, however, always faced impediments such as aftershocks, snow, gale winds and heavy rain. Furthermore, there were a very limited number of places for people to eat and sleep. Nevertheless, construction experts from around Japan have joined hands in the Tohoku region, taking up these construction efforts as personal projects.

The disaster saw city streets crumble in their entirety in a matter of seconds. A large number of architects have since traveled to Tohoku to work on creating new buildings. Some of these architects have put their focus on the trees of the affected areas. Two such architects are Hideo Satsuta and Takaharu Tezuka, both of who quickly responded to JCU's calls for assistance.

Damaged by the tsunami, many trees in the affected areas were marked for logging or scraps. Mr. Tezuka, however, reminds us that, "These trees have always been used to create new buildings when Japan has suffered natural disasters in the past. There is no reason to treat them the same as rubble." Mr. Tezuka was in charge of designing the new Asahi Kindergarten building in Miyagi's Minamisanriku Town. He proposed a plan for using a large two hundred-year-old cedar tree damaged in the disaster that had lined the approach to a town temple to construct a portion of the building. Expedited efforts are currently being made to construct the new building.

Meanwhile, a nursery facility in Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, that started construction earlier was completed on 26 April of this year. Mr. Satsuta, who is also working on the construction of another preschool building, conveyed his feelings to children at the opening ceremony for the nursery facility in saying, "This building was constructed with the famous Kesen cedars. Every part is built using the cedar trees, including the roof. The building is rich with the natural smell of cedar trees and we have even painted it with natural oils. This is truly a building for school children of Kesennuma. I would be so happy if you all enjoy your new building!"

Last month Asahi Kindergarten in Minamisanriku Town celebrated the completion of its new building foundation. Mr. Tezuka greeted the some 100 visitors attending the ceremony, saying, "I am very happy to be here today. In this building lives the reincarnation of our ancestors, those who hundreds of years ago planted the trees used to build the building before you today."

JCU continues to promote emergency disaster assistance in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake with the support of its generous donors. Countless individuals have extended selfless efforts in support JCU's onsite activities.

On Monday, 4 June, the NHK television programme "Professionals: The Way we Work" will introduce the activities of architect Takaharu Tezuka and his wife. We hope that you will watch the programme to learn more about the efforts and passion of the individuals that support the onsite activities of JCU.

Mr. Hideo Satsuta talks to the children at the opening ceremony for the new facility.   Children playing at the new facility.

All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF

Professionals: The Way We Work

"As long as we both believe, we can do anything." Architects Takaharu and Yui Tezuka

NHK Sogo Television: Monday, 4 June, 10:00 p.m. – 10:48 p.m.

Rebroadcast: NHK Sogo Television: Friday, 8 June, 00:50 a.m. – 1:38 a.m.

*Kindly note that broadcasting times may change without warning.

Programme website: http://www.nhk.or.jp/professional/index.html(Japanese Omly)

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