Today was the day. I raced to Ogatsu and made it in time for lunch with Mr. Yui and his team. The Ogatsu School Restoration Project is run by a group of energetic and enthusiastic young men and they have behind them a man who knows how to make things happen. In a previous incarnation Yui-San started a kids theme park in Japan called Kidzania where kids can play at being adults; getting jobs, going shopping or saving their salary, eating out or dining in. He has moved away from that now and lives in Ogatsu. He commutes to Tokyo to conduct his business.
He gave me a tour of the project and the beautiful surroundings before dashing off to the capital. He left me in the good hands of Midori, the summer intern.
A group of first-year government employees on what must be described as a kind of training retreat showed up in their matching working-outdoor uniforms and we all got to work clearing bamboo from the forest behind the school. Yui-San had told me they intend to layer part of the hill and create a small amphitheater for outdoor performances: he is dreaming big. But he is also making it happen. Week after week groups of corporate workers are shipped up to Ogatsu to see what they’re capable of in the real (non Tokyo) world. They interview and interact with local fishermen and store owners and then they use a bit of muscle to do whatever needs doing at the school. This way, slowly, the school is being restored. And they choose people power over machine power. When I asked why they bundle up all the bamboo branches by hand instead of just throwing them in a chipper I was told that it’s about the people. The more people that play a part in the project the more the word gets out, the more those people wish to see the project succeed and the more people will visit.
So why not play your part?
When the school is finished, hopefully by the end if the year, it will host school groups from all over the world and bring people from the outside world to interact with the people if this fading community. The success of this project is not just about helping local children but about breathing life into a community that really really needs it.
Please give what you can. Thank you