Combining Japanese Ingenuity With Kindergarten Design

A Japanese architect named Takaharu Tezuka wanted a kindergarten that kids would love. (Image:  TED)
A Japanese architect named Takaharu Tezuka wanted a kindergarten that kids would love. (Image: TED)

A Japanese architect named Takaharu Tezuka wanted a kindergarten that kids would love. So he designed the Fuji kindergarten in Tokyo, widely regarded as one of the best looking kindergartens in the world.

The Fuji kindergarten

The oval-shaped Fuji kindergarten was completed in 2007. Located in the Tachikawa suburb, it can accommodate up to 600 kids aged between 2 and 6. The school follows the Montessori method of teaching in which the kids are given full freedom to learn through discovery. Keeping this in mind, Tezuka developed the idea of a “nostalgic future” in which he looked at the way kids would naturally choose to play without the presence of gadgets and incorporated the findings in the design of the kindergarten.

As such, there is no play equipment installed in the compound. Instead, the kindergarten itself acts as a giant playground, where children can run around and move as freely as they want. “This kindergarten is completely open, most of the year. And there is no boundary between inside and outside. So it means basically that this architecture is a roof. And also, there is no boundary between classrooms. So there is no acoustic barrier at all. When you put many children in a quiet box, some of them get really nervous. But in this kindergarten, there is no reason they get nervous. Because there is no boundary,” Tezuka said in a TED talk (TED).

The school follows the Montessori method of teaching in which the kids are given full freedom to learn through discovery. (Image: TED)

The school follows the Montessori method of teaching in which the kids are given full freedom to learn through discovery. (Image: TED)

The roof, with a height of 2.1 meters, acts as a running track. There are handrails around the edge that act as a safety barrier. Children can sit on the roof with their legs dangling through the handrails. Skylights allow natural light to enter the classrooms. The place has five gargoyles that channel rainwater into water butts. Tezuka sees current kindergarten designs as unnatural and believes that his open-architecture encourages kids to learn through collaboration. In 2017, his firm Tezuka Architects was awarded the Moriyama RAIC International Prize by The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). The jury was apparently very pleased with the thinking that went into designing the Fuji kindergarten.    

“There is no hierarchy to the place; the teachers and the kids all have an equal status architecturally, which is a direct result of the form and the way the whole building opens up. It is an egalitarian, comfortable, and physically stimulating place for children… This is an extraordinarily positive place — a giant playhouse filled with joy and energy, scaled to a broad range of the human condition,” the jury said in a statement (World Architecture).

Free preschool

Japan is not just known for innovative schools like the Fuji kindergarten. The country invests heavily in the education of its children. Last December, the government-sanctioned free public preschool education for all kids between 3 and 5 years of age. “We will transform the nation’s social security system to reassure all generations from youth to the elderly… The free education program is an important first step,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement (Japan Times).

Children can sit on the roof with their legs dangling through the handrails. (Image: TED) (Image: Secret China)

Children can sit on the roof with their legs dangling through the handrails. (Image: TED)
(Image: Secret China)

The preschool subsidy program is estimated to cost around US$7 billion per year. The government has also announced that it will make daycare services free for kids up to 2 years of age provided they belong to low-income households. Plus, students from such households will also be eligible for scholarships to universities. The new educational measures will come into effect by October this year when the government will raise the country’s consumption tax to 10 percent from the existing 8 percent.

The subsidies could be offered as an incentive for Japanese couples to raise more kids as the declining birth rates are not good for the country and its economy.

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