[TOKYO, JAPAN, 28 June 2013]
Just back to Japan from Brazil, soccer star Makoto Hasebe visited Asashi Kindergarten in Miyagi's Minamisanriku Town on 27 June. Through the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU), Mr. Hasebe has used royalties from his book "Kokoro o totonoeru: Shori o taguriyoseru tame no 56 no shukan" (Train Your Spirit: 56 Practices to Becoming a Winner) and other means to support the reconstruction of Asahi Kindergarten, which lost its original school building in the tsunami. He has visited the school twice to interact and play with the school's children: once in December 2011 when reconstruction plans were finalized, and again in June 2012.
|A class of excited children welcome Mr. Hasebe.||Mr. Hasebe joins the children in preparing for the Tanabata Festival.|
This occasion marked Mr. Hasebe's first visit in a year, and his first visit since the completion of the new building. As he entered the brand new building, the children excitedly greeted him cheering: "Welcome back, Mr. Hasebe!" Asahi Kindergarten's new building is constructed with 300-year-old cedar trees that once lined the walkway to the local Daioji Temple. These giant cedars also fell victim to the tsunami, suffering severe damage from the salt water. Today, however, the spirit of the Minamisanriku cedars have been restored to take on a new role: watching over the children of Asahi Kindergarten.
|Mr. Hasebe's tanzaku card reads: "I hope the wishes and prayers of everyone that bought my book reach the hearts of these children!"||Children admiring the decorations they created.|
Mr. Hasebe joined the children in making ornaments to decorate the bamboo trees, a tradition of the July Tanabata Festival. The children put the finishing touches on their paper lantern decorations and inscribed wishes on the traditional tanzaku cards. After placing their creations on the bamboo branches they enjoyed eating lunch and playing soccer with Mr. Hasebe.
At the end of his visit, Mr. Hasebe joined Asahi Kindergarten in the commemorative tree planting of Nanking Cherry tree seedlings. Nanking Cherries are symbols of brightness and nostalgia, and the trees were chosen by Mr. Hasebe to deliver brightness to the days of the school's children. The trees produce flowers similar to those of the cherry tree in spring and small red berries similar to cherries in the summer, and will stand by the school to grow along with the children.
|Children planting trees with Mr. Hasebe.||"Seeing the wonderful new school building and its rich natural environment was profound because it was the realization of the support from so many people who had graciously purchased my book." (Makoto Hasebe)|
The Japan Committee for UNICEF has responded to calls from disaster-stricken local governments in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures by supporting the construction and major refurbishments of temporary preschool, kindergarten and other child facilities. Asahi Kindergarten in Minamisanriku Town is one example, which was made possible through a donation totaling ¥117 million by Fusball-Bundesliga soccer star Makoto Hasebe.
This assistance was made possible by Mr. Hasebe and the many generous people that answered his call to put prayer into action. Donations included all royalties from Mr. Hasebe's book and a charity event held by Mr. Hasebe in June 2011 in his hometown, Fujieda City.
Photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF/satomi matsui