A New Kindergarten Made From Shipping Containers Teaches Kids to Value Resources

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Photography by Studio Bauhaus, Ryuji Inoue

For its 50th anniversary, Ogura Asahi Kindergarten in Saitama, Japan upcycled stacked shipping containers into an earthquake-resistant and environmentally friendly kindergarten. These alternative structures were completed in a relatively short amount of time in 2016 by Hibinosekkei + Youji No Shiro, architects who specialize in the construction of children’s facilities. The reconstruction strives to send an educational message to OA kindergarteners about reuse and green living.

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Children gather around the single tree in the middle of the kindergarten.

Buildings made of upcycled shipping containers have been popping up all over the place recently, from schools in Costa Mesa to daycares in London. This trendy green building technique utilizes prefabricated materials to create a striking visual statement that emphasizes environmental responsibility and upcycling. The interior of each structure is softened with warm timber panels, with large windows opening up into the nursery and the classroom.

By using shipping containers and conserving energy in the entire construction process, the architects hope to send a valuable lesson to both the children and their parents abut the importance of conserving our limited resources.

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The largest space at the kindergarten can be used for a multiplicity of purposes. Here, it is being used for physical education, with energetic little kids running around.

Japanese kindergarten culture itself is fascinating. The application process to a kindergarten is both competitive and time-consuming, as expensive slots will often open on a first-come, first-serve basis so that parents will line up around the block at 2 or 3 am for their child. Once a child has been accepted, some kindergartens demand that parents hand-craft (and sometimes embroider) an assortment of bags, daily bento boxes, labelled indoor slippers, and durable outdoor sneakers.

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While Ogura Asahi Kindergarten emphasizes environmental responsibility and stylish beautiful interiors, Japanese kindergartens vary in their offerings, from schools that specialize in Western Montessori methods suitable for foreign children, to schools whose curriculum place especial heft on music and crafts activities.

Ogura Asahi Kindergarten is located in Saitama, just 30 minutes North of Tokyo. Who wouldn’t want their kid to enroll in a green kindergarten protected from earthquakes, with beautiful facilities and a 50 year relationship with the neighbors?

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It seems like Japan’s far ahead of the US with mixed gender school restrooms!

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Neat little rows of shoes, no doubt labeled with their owners’ names, are lined up in a shoe cabinet beside the door. Inside, uniformed children play with a bright array of plastic toys.

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The wooden signs are made from planks of zelkova serrata, a kind of ornamental tree that happens to flourish in and around OA kindergarten. Zelkova serrata is also often grown as miniaturized Japanese bonsai trees.

 

2 Comments

  1. Nice concept, looks nice and practical

  2. A Good design concept well executed except that the trees and garden area seem to be rather an afterthought , but in all my years of living in Japan I’ve never been able to get comfortable with the idea of women ( cleaners ) in Men’s restrooms. Looking at that photo here of the girl washing her hands in the urinal area, I can see where it all starts! Interesting.

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