Picture 1 Moving Summer Festival
In Rikuzentakata City, two Summer Festivals (Tanabata Festival) are usually held every year on August 7 in Takatacho and Kesencho separately, two towns divided by Kesen River. These towns suffered from a large number of losses in the East-Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster. Takatacho, where Kirarin Kids (KK) has been in operation even before the disaster, holds “Moving Summer Festival (Picture 1)”. The town is divided into about ten areas, each of which organizes a group and spends about three months to build a beautifully decorated festival-float every year. People pull floats and walk through their areas. But when one float meets another one, they swing floats back and forth with loud and rapid drumming, whistling and bell-ringing. This festival has the history of more than several hundred years. To maintain this tradition, people struggle to continue the festival by changing the routes due to obstacles on the road created by redevelopment and land-raising operations. Many people participate to dedicate the festival to the victims of the Disaster as well as mutually and spiritually support redevelopment efforts.
KK obtained a grant in 2019, named “Kirarin Disaster Prevention”, from a Sumitomo Corporation program, called “Follow-up Program of Redevelopment from the East Japan Disaster”. The goal of “Kirarin Disaster Prevention” is to raise parents’ and residents’ awareness about disaster by re-informing experiences in the East-Japan Disaster. The meeting is held every month. The theme of June Meeting was on water. Eight years after the Disaster, residents forgot about their experiences of drinking water shortage, while many new residents who came to live in the city recently do not know about the symptoms of dehydration by the difference of age. The key issue is how to prevent dehydration while preserving drinking water. It is quite a difficult, but very important, issue at a disaster situation. Another issue covered then was about disaster prevention in the case of torrential rain.
As a part of the program, KK at its “Kirarin Summer Festival” cooked miso-soup with pork and vegetables for 100 people as an exercise of serving food at a disaster situation. Up till last year, July “Kirarin Summer Festival (Kirarin Kids Summer Evening Festival) at the previous temporary arcade used to offer fireworks and thin-wheat-noodle floated down with cold water in a half-cut water shoot. However, this year it was held from 11 am to 2 pm on Saturday at “Rikuzen Takata City Common” located right next to “Abasse Takata”, which is a major commercial facility in the city. KK will soon move into an area close to these facilities (Picture 2). Because of this locational change, KK had to give up several well-reputed attractions. But by offering free lunch and bubble-blowing play, it succeeded in attracting many residents enjoying shopping and parents coming after they picked up their children at daycare centers. The play was so popular that KK had to go to buy additional bottles of soap. KK hopes to increase visitors to its parents-children care facility. However, it had three regrets. One was whether many participants really paid attention to the goal of “Kirarin Disaster Prevention” which was explained in fliers distributed to them. It seems that many might have misunderstood the soup as just free offering. Another was that KK had to pay extreme care about participants’ safety due to high traffic in and out from Abasse Takata. Safety of children was really a serious issue. And the other was that the festival was held very close to a basketball court, making it difficult for high school students to play basketball. Since this is the first time to organize the festival in the area, KK learned a lot and will improve the next year.
On July 25, KK held “Children’s Health Salon” by inviting a pediatrician from Takata Hospital. This event was the 12th one held since the Disaster, including events previously organized by a different NPO. Five sets of parents and children participated and asked a lot of questions, making two-hour session too short.
July was an extremely busy month for KK. Every month, it goes to three different locations to open their activities to people living in remote areas. Then, children went to crop potatoes planted in Spring and came to organize “Potato Cooking Event”. They also organized candle making, health salon, dietry education for children, etc. Some of such activities were brought in by outside organizations. KK feels that outside organizations come to propose these activities, since it is much more flexible to operate with than the city or other public organizations. But such events are also considered beneficial for KK to increase new participants or attract more active participation of present members.
KK’s activities are very important, especially for Rikuzen Takata City to become a childrearing-friendly community. In the past, the extended family system, having grandparents and other relatives living together or close by, supported childrearing by providing support and transmitting necessary knowledge. But presently, due to the nuclear family system, some mothers feel isolated, not knowing anybody in the community, receiving vital information about childrearing, having any opportunity talk about their childrearing problems, etc. KK provides vital place for parents and children to come together and enjoy, not like a daycare center where staffs simply take care of children while parents are away. Mothers can freely and openly talk about their worries and problems about their children or returning back to their work. They even consult KK’s staff about diverse issues. KK is really becoming a valuable place where parents with children feel safe, relaxed, and enjoyable (Picture 3).
However, since mothers return back to their work much earlier than before, it is also true that the number of KK’s members is declining. Mothers sometimes shift from KK to a daycare center to drop their one-year-old children behind. This trend is not reversible. Despite so, the roles and the high quality of services KK offers to parents are unique and valuable. To further enhance their valuable contributions to parents in Rikuzen Takata City, KK needs to make extra efforts to increase its new members.
Picture 2 Location where Kirarin Kids Moves in
Picture 3 A Day at Kirarin Kids