As part of its ongoing work to support the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, ICMIF member Zenrosai organized the “Reading Relay Project” which took place in 2012 and 2013. The full story on the Reading Relay Project can be read in Zenrosai’s Annual Report for 2012.
The project began in November of 2012 and took place in the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures and also in Tokyo. The aim of the project was to help children who had been evacuated from affected areas through the sharing of story books. A special book of stories was written for the project by the well-known Japanese writer, poet, illustrator and lyricist Takashi Yanase; the book was called Takashi Yanase’s Fairy Tale Picture Book. The sessions took place in preschools and other community locations and 2551 children took part in the project in 36 different locations. The stories were broadcast on community radio stations and also shared in other community-based events. The reading sessions were enhanced by large wall-hangings of the images from the various stories by Mr Yanase. The project attracted a great number of volunteers who wanted to help with the story reading, this included an actress, local radio personalities and others from various not-for-profit organizations.
The project was a great success with all those involved but most importantly for the children who benefitted from the story-telling sessions. This was an opportunity for them to lose themselves in the imaginative stories that had been especially written for them. It was reported that the teachers at the preschools in the areas affected by the earthquake were delighted by the reactions of the children to the stories.
The final performance took place in the Toyosu Culture Centre in Tokyo on 16 March 2013 and included readings by the leader of a local theatre group, Ms. Inagaki of the Mezamashi-Dokei Theatre Troupe; music; balloon art performances and a specially created “Forest Classroom” for the children to explore.
As part of Zenrosai’s ongoing support for the earthquake victims there were also classes in first aid which were given at the Toyosu Culture Centre event by the Japanese Red Cross Society. Both parents and children could learn emergency first aid.
The event not only provided welcome entertainment for the children and parents but it was also an opportunity for victims to share their stories and provide each other with emotional support.
The project itself has now finished but Zenrosai has committed to continue to lend the wall-hangings of the artwork from the story books to other schools and groups so that more children can benefit from the experience of the stories and the pictures. Zenrosai also donated copies of the book by Mr Yanase to each of the locations where story-telling events had taken place.