IWAKI, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – The library at a school near the radiation exclusion zone in Fukushima Prefecture has received an unusual makeover that aims to fuel readers’ imaginations.
The book room at Yoshima Daiichi Elementary School in Iwaki, a municipality hit hard by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns, has been redesigned with a cardboard cave and cloth hangings to create an exciting space for children to creep into with a book.
Around 50 of the school’s 400 pupils are designated evacuees from areas close to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Many of them fled their homes with few possessions, least of all their books.
School principal Koji Matsumoto commissioned students of Tokyo City University to redesign the library to improve its reading environment.
They consulted the pupils on what they wanted. The 128-sq.-meter space has roughly 7,000 books and is now adorned with layers of cardboard and white cloth.
“I can enjoy reading here,” said 9-year-old Kai Nozawa.
He was reading a book about the life of Jesus Christ when a reporter visited on Wednesday.
One of the project designers was Kaito Miyamoto, 20, a student at Tokyo City University. Miyamoto said he hopes the children will use the place in a variety of ways.
Matsumoto said those hopes are already being met. The library has become a place where children can expand their imagination in ways other than reading, he said.