The first Kohitsuji (lambs) Camp, a short-term program designed to provide rest and recreation for families living in Fukushima Prefecture, was held at the Tokyo YMCA’s Yamanakako Center, Jan. 13 (Friday)-15 (Sunday). This program was planned by Okamoto Tomoyuki, assistant director of the Kyodan’s Relief Planning Headquarters, as a project for protecting children from radioactivity.
The camp was carried out under the joint sponsorship of the Relief Planning Headquarters and the Aizu Radioactivity Information Center, in cooperation with the Tokyo YMCA. Although 24 participants from seven families applied, two families had to cancel, so the final number of participants was 17. Matsumoto Takehiro, director of the Tokyo YMCA’s South Community Center, took the role of camp leader; three people with rich experience, along with myself as representative of the Relief Planning Headquarters, also took part. On the third day, Honda Shinya, assistant general secretary of the Tokyo YMCA and director of its head office, came to join us.
For this inaugural event, we aimed at creating a program that caused no inconvenience related to school attendance. We departed from the Aizu Radioactive Information Center at 4 p.m. on Friday and then met with participants from Koriyama Church. There, with Pastor Niwa, we joined together in a prayer for their safety at the camp. We had arrived a little later than expected due to bad weather and poor road conditions between Aizu and Koriyama. However, those waiting had a good time singing camp songs with YMCA leaders in the Koriyama Church sanctuary while waiting for our arrival. Also, as many of the participants had never been in a church before, it was a good opportunity for them to visit one in their own neighborhood, for which we were all thankful.
The following morning we arrived at Yamanakako Center, after taking an all-night bus, but because the children were so tired from the trip, the scheduled morning assembly was cancelled so that they could rest. One of the main features of the Kohitsuji Camp is that small children who cannot participate in other rest-camps as well as children with severe allergies can feel comfortable taking part in this camp experience because of the YMCA’s expertise in dealing with these issues.
Nevertheless, the main drawing card of the camp was scheduled for that first day, when the families would be able to choose from a number of activities that had been prepared. Some families chose to go fishing for small lake fish called “smelt” in English, while others went ice-skating or took an easy walk along the shoreline of Lake Yamanaka. Some children simply spent time doing their homework. Our aim was that they would be able to spend time feeling free and easy at the health resort, with all of them doing whatever they liked.
A family from the city of Koriyama decided to go fishing, and in order to get out to the fishing boat, went in a small paddleboat they propelled by foot pedals. The children were in awe of the scene, with the magnificence of Mt Fuji towering over the lake. Putting live bait on the hook took a bit of getting used to, but when they caught their first fish, they soon became engrossed and thoroughly enjoyed themselves for those three hours.
Likewise, a mother and her daughter from the town of Date, who had never been ice-skating before, decided to take the challenge. Just getting the skates on was a struggle, but as they envisioned their favorite skater, they kept at it. What struck me most was how the child repeated over and over how much fun she was having. The afternoon program involved a similar set of choices, including crafts, such as making tops, playing card games, playing outside, and going hiking. Participants had roasted marshmallows in the fireplace and baked apples for a snack at three o’clock. Quite a few parents and children participated in programs separately, and those parents no doubt had some time to be refreshed by being able to leave their children in the care of others.
At night, everyone went on the Lake Yamanaka Art Illumination tour, which was held at the Lake Yamanaka Hana-no-miyako Park. Although it was cold, the spacious site was gleaming with LED decorative lighting, and the children were so excited that they lost their sense of time and were not bothered by the cold. They said it was like being in a dream, and they all enjoyed being in this dreamlike space.
On the third day, they started from the morning assembly (noncompulsory participation), with a constant smile on their faces, doing fun morning exercises led by Tokyo YMCA leaders. They took commemorative photographs, with Mount Fuji in the background. The signal for taking a picture was “Yamanakako (click)!” They became wonderful photos, as not many children had seen Mt. Fuji before this camp.
Tokyo YMCA leaders showed their true ability during the final program, which involved a series of games. Each of the families enjoyed themselves to the full in the friendly atmosphere and also enjoyed eating the fish some children had caught the previous day, deep-fat fried as tempura; and those who had actually caught the fish displayed a triumphant look.
Finally, they had only a little time left before boarding on the bus, but for the children, it was a precious time to play before departure. Some joined in a jump-rope contest, while some of the girls played soccer, and they all spent a fulfilling time at the camp until the very end. Several issues remain to be solved, such as the aspect of publicity. However, I am grateful that we could spend these three days together safely, carefully focusing on each participant’s feelings. One mother expressed her sentiments by saying, “I couldn’t help but shed tears at the closing ceremony. Thank you for such a delightful memory.” If I can help to protect children’s precious lives even a little and help share the pain of the victims of the nuclear power plant disaster by continuing this program of rest and recreation, I will be very happy. (Tr. SM)
—Maekita Mio, staff member
Kyodan Disaster Relief Planning Headquarters
放射能から子どもの「命」を守るプロジェクトとして、岡 本知之救援対策本部副本部長が 企画した福島県内の親子を対象とした短期保養プログラム第一回「