Building a playground in Fukushima

By Ron Choi

Figure 1. Our volunteers posing in front of the completed playground in Fukushima-shi, Fukushima-ken.

On the 8th of March, 2014, NADIA volunteers, in partnership with the members of Playground of Hope (PoH) and It’s Not Just Mud (INJM), built a beautiful playground in Fukushima city, Fukushima prefecture in Japan.  It was 24th build of Playground Of Hope and the third year anniversary of the March 11 triple disaster, which made it even more special.  It is well-known Fukushima was devastated by the triple disaster of March 2011.   The effects of that disaster were clearly seen even three years since.  The Wakaba kindergarten, our job site, had a large electronic display showing the real-time reading of a Geiger counter.   It was showing 0.065 μSv, which is around where Tokyo is.  The school ground was clearly safe, but the previously installed play equipments had to be taken away from the school grounds in the aftermath of the nuclear incident due the rain that deposited the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant.   All wooden and metal play sets had to be removed due to contamination.  The students didn’t have a play set to play on for three years.

Figure 2. This is why we do it.

Early march in Fukushima is undoubted cold.   It snowed throughout Saturday when volunteers built the play set.    Some assemblies had to be done indoors in the school gymnasium to not to expose volunteers to inclement weather.  The volunteers however never lost the positive spirit despite the less than ideal working condition.   Nishiyama-san, a National Diet member representing Fukushima, stopped by to encourage the volunteers.   The school staff was unbelievable hosts.  They also participated in the build activities.

Figure 3.  This is why we do it.

There are about 150 schools in Fukushima with the same exact predicament.  The play sets were torn down and taken away due to contamination, but even though school grounds are perfectly safe they do not have funding to rebuild the playgrounds.   Here’s one area NPOs like NADIA can play a huge role in financing and building the much-needed playgrounds.

Figure 4.  Kids love binoculars.

It was a great experience seeing the children absolutely loving the play sets we built.   Yet another reason to strengthen our belief in humanity and our conviction that we can make a difference in the lives of the victims of the March 11th disaster.

Figure 5. Our entertainer of the day, Guy Totaro, also known as Niko Niko Taishi, performed for 300 people from the neighborhood

This was a greatly planned and executed bus trip to Tohoku.  The Playground Of Hope team is continuously honing their skills in making good things happen in Tohoku region.   We show our gratitude to Playground Of Hope and It’s Not Just Mud staffs for their hard work and a great execution.  Also to all the volunteers who willingly gave their time and efforts on this project, we sincerely thank you.

Figure 6.  Made giant bubbles for the children before the opening ceremony.

Figure 7.  A student and a teacher enjoying the afternoon.

Figure 8.  Khilan Shah, one of the NADIA volunteers, making the base of a slide.

Figure 9. Members of the It’s Not Just Mud staff braving the cold to bring joy to the kids of Fukushima.

Figure 10.   We sincerely thank our volunteers for their hard work in building the playground.

Figure 11.   Nishiyama-san, a National Diet member, visited the job site to give us encouragements.