Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief (179th report)
Building parks in temporary housing districts in Otsuchi Town, Iwate: The Playground Building Workshop

On 22 December, just three days before Christmas, these two children headed straight to the workshop from their morning basketball practice.
Children attached cards of their favorite play equipment onto a blank park outline provided by Otsuchi Town. If there was no card, the children simply used crayons to draw in their ideas, such as the twisty slide and park entrance gate in the picture above.
Mr. Shun Uzawa, an Otsuchi Town employee and organizer of the workshop, emphasized the importance of child participation. Mr. Uzawa was dispatched from Kishiwada City, Osaka Prefecture in April 2012 to Otsuchi Town. The park is scheduled to be completed by March 2013 before the end of Mr. Uzawa's appointment in Otsuchi.
The entrance to Kozuchi Temporary Housing District 4. The park is planned to be constructed in the space to the right-rear of the parking lot. The 22 December workshop was held in the brown log house in the centre of the photo.

As part of its assistance efforts in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) creates opportunities for children to participate in the recovery and reconstruction process. JCU also supports the efforts of affected municipal governments in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures that aim to ensure that towns are reconstructed in a manner in which children can lead fun and safe lives.

In Otsuchi Town, Iwate Prefecture, there are a very limited number of places where children can safely play. That is why JCU in fall 2011 began supporting the development of a park located at a support centre within a temporary housing district, an initiative driven mainly by the Otsuchi Town Community Development Section (Local Development Division). In May 2012, the park was completed. The park is equipped with slides and other play equipment selected after taking into consideration the opinions and requests of children who participated in a Playground Construction Workshop.

A new playground concept

Otsuchi Town is also planning to construct a new playground at the corner of a parking lot located at Kozuchi Temporary Housing District 4. JCU facilitates a building process that reflects the input of the community so that, in addition to being a great play area, the new space will better attract local children and town residents. As one part of this assistance, on Saturday, 22 December 2012, JCU held a workshop for parents and children to consider concepts for their new playground.

The children were able to select their favorite play equipment from among cards representing monkey bars, swings, jungle gyms and other equipment, and then attach the cards to a location of their liking on the blank park outline prepared by Otsuchi Town. If there was not a card for something, the children used their imagination to draw their own cards for play equipment, gates and other items that they desired.

Listening to the voices of children

Mr. Shun Uzawa, an Otsuchi Town employee and organizer of the workshop, has been dispatched to Otsuchi Town from Kishiwada City in Osaka Prefecture since April 2012. Mr. Uzawa indicated that the new play area, which has been dubbed the Kozuchi Iroiro Asobi Koen (Kozuchi Mix-up Play Park) by children taking part in the workshop, is scheduled for completion by spring 2013 when his appointment in Otsuchi Town concludes.

Mr. Uzawa noted, "I started the workshops because I thought that it would be better to hear the ideas of the children, rather than simply asking government staff to conceptualize the park. Last time, the children were able to select the colours of the play equipment and make other small contributions. This time, however, they actually participated in the selection of the equipment. In addition to this project, I am promoting urban development efforts in Otsuchi Town that include the participation of town residents."

Kozuchi Temporary Housing District 4 is located within a rich natural riverside setting. Because of the natural beautfy of the area, there are also plans to build walking paths for the elderly in parallel to the construction of the park.

All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF

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