Thousands of colorful donated toys from Japan and overseas were brought to the Tokyo Toy Museum in Shinjuku Ward on Sunday to be packed by nearly 100 volunteers for distribution in the disaster-hit Tohoku region.
About 9,800 brand new toys, packed in sets of 100, have been donated by 55 companies in14 countries, including toy makers Bandai Co., Margarete Steiff GmbH from Germany and Kapla from France.
“We want to bring not only toys but also playing environments to shelters in the Tohoku region,” said Chihiro Tada, head of the Good Toy Association. The association runs the museum, which is dedicated to low-tech, electricity-free toys.
After considering what they can do to help the people in Tohoku, Tada and his staff decided to support the area in the only way they knew how — by sending toys and reviving the joy of low-tech simplicity.
The toys included the classic wooden building blocks that the museum likes to promote.
Enlisting other toy professionals, museum staff and toy consultants, Tada will start by taking the red, toy-filled boxes to shelters in the stricken cities of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, and Rikuzentakada, Iwate Prefecture, starting Wednesday.
His team plans to visit five shelters in three days and to repeat the journey once a month for at least a year, visiting different places each time, Tada said.
Each toy set is made of pink and brown floor mats and about 45 toys, including building blocks, card games, drawing kits and stuffed toys.
Tada plans to take the sets to each shelter and create a colorful playing space in any room available so he can teach them how to play.
“For children, toys ares like food. Children need nutrition for their body and also for their heart. They need to have both,” Tada said. “So delivering children toys and supporting their playing is as equally important as providing food.”
Tada, who is also chief director of the museum, went to Kessennuma and Rikuzentakada in early April to study what the children there really need.
He was hesitant at first to spread out the colorful floor mats and toys in a room where elderly people were sleeping, but he soon realized that the sight of kids playing energized the worn-out adults.
“They began to get up and see the kids playing. Some began tossing around beanbags,” Tada said.
Some old ladies even began sewing a little bag to put the beanbags in and looked very happy, Tada said.
One of the ladies was quoted by Tada as saying, “If this helps, then I will help you at any time.”
“It was then that I realized that the scene of children playing gives energy to adults,” Tada said. “I think playing sometimes has a a more positive impact than counseling. As for mental support, what we can also do is ask them to help us. Give them something to do.”