Childeren came on the stage. The last rehearsal was about to start.

Chigusa Kindergarten - Anniversary Concert

On January 24 Chigusa Kindergarten held a concert to commemorate its 45th anniversary and the opening of a nursery school. Chigusa Kindergarten organized a public concert every 5 years starting in 1979 and this was the 7th concert, though it was delayed by one year due to various reasons.

I personally participated in two of the past concerts in 1984 and 1999. Last time I wrote an article and it is contained in the archived version of "Japan as it is". Therefore, I would like to omit from this article the general introduction to Chigusa Kindergarten and its principal Mr. Kushibuchi.

Recent developments posed kindergartens a great challenge. The most serious problem was and is the decrease of children as a result of declining birth rate. Chigusa Kindergarten started in 1963 and the first children belonged to the low birth rate generation after the WWII. The number of children was around 1.6 million per year. This picked up to the peak of 2.1 million in 1973. They were the children of the baby-boomers who were born in the first post-war years. Then both birthrate and the number of birth continuously decreased and in the recent years we had only slightly over one million babies in each year. This made the operation of a kindergarten increasingly difficult.

Chigusa Kindergarten (right) and the newly opened nursery department (above). Kittenbus comes from an anime film "My Neighbor Totoro".

Kushibuchi-san thanking members of Toranomon Symphony Orchestra for their participation. His son was in charge of the proceedings of the party.
Another issue is the need for nursery schools. Nursery schools became more and more necessary, as the involvement of women in the business life advanced. In the earlier time Japanese women usually left their workplaces when they got married or at latest when they got their first baby. Such women returned to the labor market as cheap part-time workers, when their children were grown up and did not need mother’s care any more. However, as more women wanted to do more important jobs and stayed in the workplace as working mothers, the need for nursery schools expanded. This tendency was strengthened by the increase of nuclear families, because it was then not any more feasible for grandparents to live together and take care of grandchildren, which was the case in earlier time.

Therefore, the request to Chigusa Kindergarten for opening a nursery school as well as taking care of schoolchildren outside of school time became stronger. Kushibuchi-san decided to reorganize his Kindergarten at the beginning of last year and had full of works for the purpose. In Japan nursery schools and kindergartens are regulated under two different ministries, Ministry of Health, Labor and welfare and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology respectively. Though, people nowadays recognize the necessity to integrate these two systems, there is by far no set-pattern to harmonize them. Therefore, it is understandable Kushibuchi-san took a lot of time and hi had to postpone the 7th Torakyo Concert by one year. However, thanks to this delay, we could celebrate not only the anniversary but also the opening of the nursery school as well.

Kushibuchi-sensei explained us how he tried to meet the needs of the local community in his school. Not only children of his kindergarten and nursery school but also pre-school children and babies as well as elementary school children and children who do not go to any educational or nursing institution have access to his school. So, despite of the general decrease of children, his kindergarten is again filled up many children.

We were transported from a railroad station by kindergarten busses (far above). Our lodging was located beside a river. The landscape was covered by new snow (above right). Open-air hot spring was a pleasure after rehearsal (above left). Our concert hall looked sightly shabby (right).
What our concert tour is concerned, I was among others shocked by the badly maintained buildings such as spa hotel and concert hall. 25 years ago they were both freshly built and shining. As for the hotel, it must be due to difficult business situations. But, there is no reason why a public hall is not maintained properly. It is indeed a loss of common asset of citizens.

On the other hand, the highlight of the concert was, as was always the case, the accompaniment of children's songs. It might belong to the primal instinct of humans that young energy moves us in the depth of our soul.

Among the players there were several original members of the Toranomon Symphony Orchestra who are now over 80 years old. They usually do not play in regular concerts. But, the concerts in Numata are special occasions and the Orchestra looked like an OB orchestra. For some them this might be the last occasion to play in Numata. But, they would never forget the moving moment in Numata.