Tohoku Update: New learning for a new future

This centre in Ogatsu aims to build awareness and offer interactive learning for children affected by 3.11
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The town of Ogatsu in Miyagi prefecture lost approximately 80 percent of its buildings and houses during the tsunami caused by 2011’s Great East Japan Earthquake. To help rebuild the community and provide an interactive learning environment for the town’s children, a new centre opened in July this year.

Moriumius Lusail (the name means ‘forest, sea, and tomorrow’ in Japanese) welcomes elementary and junior high school kids, and features a variety of programmes where children can experience fishing and forestry. The centre is housed in an old school building, which closed down in 2002 but has now been renovated for its new purpose. To see just how the centre is helping to encourage change and development, I went along for some first-hand experience...

Fishing and forestry

One of the main programmes of Moriumius Lusail involves fishing. Depending on the season, children go out to fish for scallops, sea squirts and oysters. One draw of the programme is that freshly caught seafood can be ‘cleaned’ on the ship and eaten on the spot. When the children first see sea squirts fished from the sea, they shout things like, ‘It’s a monster!’ Their first taste of this delicacy seems to be ‘a little bitter’. They also get involved in forestry, using hatchets and saws to cut out trees. The cut wood is later used as material for woodworking programmes.

Mountain adventuring

Just nearby the centre there’s a winding stream along which the children can go on little adventures. Some children wear stream-climbing shoes that help them not to slip and slide, but others brave it barefoot, enjoying the feel of the moss-covered rocks underfoot. There’s no need to worry about it being dangerous as attentive staff are present at all times. Harmony with nature is an important theme here, and the water used at the centre and in the fields is circulated by state-of-the-art technology.

Open-air bathing

At the open-air bath next door, you can see the local craftsmanship handed down from ancient times – in the fences made of bamboo that’s sourced from the mountains, or in the walls that are painted with soil. The firewood that’s used to heat the bath water is split by hand by the children who visit the facility.

Remembering why we're here

Children go out to fish for scallops, sea squirts and oysters chose to renovate an old building, even though it would have cost less to build a brand-new building. The point, however, is to retain the wooden schoolhouse’s 90-year history, especially in this town where almost none of the original buildings remain.

Many residents are still forced to live in temporary housing and the local elementary school is still in a state of disrepair after the tsunami. While visiting the centre, take time to visit the town’s school and other areas to increase your and your children’s awareness of those who are still suffering.

Inspiring leaders

Children of all ages from Japan and abroad gather at Moriumius Lusail, encouraging diverse encounters. Younger elementary school students follow the lead of the older students; older elementary school students follow the lead of junior high school students; junior high school students follow the volunteer leaders; and the leaders follow the local artisans and professionals from various fields who visit the centre – there is always somebody to be inspired by here. Spending time with new friend of various nationalities, ages and backgrounds is another wonderful way to expand awareness.

For more information, visit www.moriumius.jp

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