A New Preschool in Japan Designed to Accumulate Large Puddles When it Rains

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei

the courtyard of the new Dai-Ichi Preschool in Kumamoto | photos Ryuji Inoue courtesy Hibino Sekkei

What is it about puddles of water that makes kids want to jump right into them with all their might? It’s no doubt that outdoor play, whatever the weather, is a necessity of childhood. So if there’s any place where kids should be allowed to be kids, without being subject to the cringes and shouts of adults who are overly concerned about wet shoes, socks and pants (don’t even mention the mud), that place is preschool.

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei

Usually when it rain, kids aren’t allowed to play outside until the ground is dry. But the new Dai-ichi Yochien in Kumamoto City is designed to make sure the puddles stay exactly where they are.

The courtyard of the school is designed to accumulate rain water so that after a heavy downpour there is a gigantic, pool-like puddle just waiting for the kids to come out and play, explains Taku Hibino. The lead architect at Hibino Sekkei designed the courtyard so that on dry days it can function as a badminton or softball court and in the winter it can even be converted to an ice skating rink. Rain or shine, these kids will always be able to go outside.

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei

Hibino Sekkei, and their Youji no Shiro brand, specialize in designing early education facilities. You can read more about them here.

The school itself was designed with an open floorplan in order to foster a curriculum that’s both flexible and unconstrained. Furniture is used as partitions and teachers are encouraged to mix up different classes. Students are asked to purchase their own desk and chair, which they keep and eventually take home after graduating. This keeps a continual flow of new furniture into the school, which helps in maintaining a fresh and clean aesthetic.

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei

dai-ichi preschool in kumamoto by hibino sekkei


  1. Mereoni Uluiviti Radravu

    June 23, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    This is so lovely ….This is one of the top pre school in the world….. I love it. Only wish if they allowed those who want to come in and teach english for the students …i will be the first one willing to come and teach.

    God Bless. Have a blessed day.

  2. Such an inspiration. Other countries should take note. Play is essential to childhood. And while here in the U.S. we downsize and build unnecessary safeguards in our playgrounds because we are afraid of litigation, in Japan children are allowed to explore, venture, think, run, imagine. Far better than relegating children to video games and screen time.

    But then I am not surprised. Japan is always in the forefront of such innovation.

  3. Reminds of our childhood when we played in rain water puddle towards side of our house , enjoyed with friends jumping in water loved that & always waited for the rainy season ! Sure Japan is allowing a memorable experience for the School kids ! Brilliant !

  4. Hmm, the idea is fun. But what about the possobilities of breeding mosquitoes?

  5. Dorothy H Badri

    June 24, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    what an innovative, ingenious and beautiful and modern school. Nice if we had schools like that in the US. One question, what is the rationale of having restrooms with glass windows that everyone can look in and see. Usually you want privacy in the rest room.

  6. Lovely design–the openness and light. So clean, too.

    But I’d want to know what the tuition is. I’m assuming this is not a public preschool, but a private one, and I doubt it’s cheap.

  7. I have to say that this is amazing idea! I wish that in my childhood I could attend to such a kindergarden! Love it!

  8. That is not what I would call preschool. Way to sterile looking. The only neat thing is when it rains they get to play in a puddle. Preschooler should not be sitting at desk .

  9. I love some of the design concept, but not all. I feel it looks very industrial. As much as the puddle area (which can be transformed into different purposes depending on the season) is inviting to children, I wonder if the social engineering of minimalism and starkness of the environment removes children further away from nature and spontaneous creativity.In a private preschool such as this, these children are being tunneled through the beginnings of an elite education system that maintains policies of global exploitation and capitalism. Yes architectual innovation is fine, but for whom is it most benefiting?

  10. Do you know where in Japan is this school at?

  11. I think this is a wonderful idea! Japan has always had such a forward thinking aspect when it comes to education. I may be presumptuous in thinking, but to respond to some of the already made comments, I would think the lack of decor is also because they are showing it without the students, specifically the size of classes they intend to have. As they pointed out, they were planning on requesting the student to purchase their own chair/desk which the student can personalize as they desire. As well as the glass walls allowing for not an “industrial” look but maybe allow the children not to feel constrained by walls, by still feeling “connected” to the outside, and as in the shot of children watching the chefs prepare meals, it is a great way of children being allowed to learn without possibly being harmed(not to mention a great way to grow interest in culinary arts!)In the aspect of the rain puddles and potential mosquitoes, I would presume that the custodians or whomever in that direction would have that as part duty to use natural deterrents for that possible problem(i.e. removing water after X amount of time, treatments to the flooring to help prevent such as some natural plants can be used as repellent.) As for the bathrooms having glass walls… As an American, with the level of publicized acts of depravity against children, this would show a deep concern to me as well. However, we are talking about Japan, I believe they do not have such level of issue and the glass walls still allow a level of protection to the child(I know this sounds odd to start, so hang on) that a “typical” walled bathroom does not supply. Bullies. They ARE everywhere. ACCIDENTS. They ARE everywhere. Having the glass walls ensures that should a child need help, no matter what the reason, it is easier and quicker to find out.
    Anywho… I think it is a great idea. I think much of the designing Japan uses for both their physical plans for schooling and curricular plan would definitely benefit influencing American schools.

  12. @Kristy
    The building is Minimalistic, but it’s not Nihilistic. Like a plain, cardboard, box, young kids can take a simple thing, and make it into something fun.
    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the building was cleaned and partly de-cluttered before the photoshoot.

  13. Pretty cool except preschool kids and kindergarteners should not have desks. There should be plenty of open shelving with toys/materials for play, a lot of free space for playing and a few tables here and there for children who prefer to “work” there. And there needs to be children’s art work displayed.

  14. Preciosa escuela. Lo que no acabo de ver son los servicios sin intimidad.

  15. Catherine Vaki

    June 29, 2015 at 2:42 am

    It is wonderfull!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. -Hey Mr. Architect, we kind of forgot to place a drainage system in the courtyard!!!

    -Whhhhhhattt?? Ok lets not panic here, lets say this is a feature ok. We´ll just say that in Scandinavia they place ponds every where-

  17. And no one has anything to say about the bathrooms? I find those a bit disturbing, personally.

  18. “Authorized children Garden” is

    Country to authorize, to possess the kindergarten and nursery functions of both, can receive a quality higher education facility.

    The quality of this case, it is adaptable in the population lives.

    The index, for each facility, features are different.

    We have a goal that the country is increasing.

    However, because commercial purpose of the company, can not meet the criteria of the medium ‘s approval.

    So, in the schedule, it is not increasing.

    It is difficult to receive the country of approval.

    Because it is the highest peak of the authorization provided by the State, and is exploring a variety of organizations, trying to break through the examination.

    This design imitates the facility that received the previous authorization, or is likely to develop type.

    However, even under national authorization, the quality is to be removed if Ochire.

    Local governments, companies, countries, such as is support.

  19. Not sure why all the fuss about the bathrooms? I’ve taught/lived in Japan for quite a while and they have shared bathing (onsen) in Japan.

    I recall when I was at the mall that had a kiddie pool area. Some 3 year old escaped and was running down the mall naked giggling and laughing (while mom was trying to chase him down). Nobody batted an eye or was outraged. Even when I was teaching Kindy the kids all change in the classroom together. Nobody cared.

  20. Awesome way for the kids to interact with nature and the elements during a school day. I love the wide open design and layout! Thanks for the post.

  21. A preschool with an interesting concept! There’s no way the kids don’t love it! 🙂

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