AAR Japan: Because of the impact of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, children in Fukushima Prefecture seldom have the opportunity to play outside. Furthermore, outdoor play areas for children are limited around the temporary housing complexes. Not being able to play outside not only leads to psychological stress for the children, but constant lack of exercise, which causes obesity and the weakening of the immune system, is also a concerning matter.
In response, this past summer AAR Japan held the “Nishi-Aizu Waku-Waku Kids’ School” (waku-waku describes a state of excitement in Japanese) to help reduce the stress that the children experience from living in temporary housing and to combat the lack of exercise. The event was held in the town of Nishi-Aizu in Fukushima Prefecture’s Yama County. Twenty families from Sukagawa City were invited to Lotus Inn and the International Art Village to take part in nature workshops. With a population of about 7,000, Nishi-Aizu is a remarkably nature-rich area with a beautiful landscape that is located in western Fukushima. The amount of aerial radiation is relatively low at about 0.8 microsieverts per hour, which is about the same level as that of the Kanto region. The participants learned to build their own fire, make soba noodles, and carve bamboo cups and musical instruments, and they were allowed plenty of time to play outdoors.
JEN: On October 14, a “Fureai-Hiroba Festival to ‘Revive Kamikama'” was held with help from JEN. It was a festival intended to provide an opportunity for residents to interact with each other and renew their resolve to revive Kamikama, as well as to celebrate the reopening of the park, where tulips were planted. Some 200 victims were temporarily buried in this park last year because of the shortage of space to lay out the remains in the aftermath of the disaster. At the beginning of the festival, people gathered in prayer for the repose of all the disaster victims and those who were buried in this park. The mayor of the city of Ishinomaki delivered the opening address and a ribbon was cut to open the park. After the opening, children planted tulip bulbs and various events were held including a traditional dance, a tug-of-war, kite flying, and a picnic. JEN asked people in Higashihama, Sasunnohama, and Kaduma—where JEN is supporting economic recovery efforts—to open stands at the festival as a way to encourage local communities in Ishinomaki to interact with each other, promote better understanding and ties between them, and advance together toward recovery. The festival also attracted people living in temporary housing and those who are taking shelter in other places and they enjoyed a happy reunion for the first time in quite some time. JEN is committed to assisting in the revival of local communities.