World’s Best Kindergarten: A Look into Fuji Kindergarten

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Step into Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo, the best kindergarten in the world brought to life by multi-award winning architect and TED speaker Takaharu Tezuka!

Japanese architect Takaharu Tezuka and his wife, Yui Tezuka, had a common vision – let children be children. Inspired by their own kids, they believe that children should not be forced to learn in an enclosed environment, as that could deter their natural will to learn. Instead, children should be allowed to run and play freely without being overly-protected.

Fuji Kindergarten Best Kindergarten In The World
Photo by: TED Ideas

What’s unique about Fuji Kindergarten?

In 2007, the renowned architect brought his architectural masterpiece to life: Fuji Kindergarten, a kindergarten with unique open concept and novel features unlike other run-of-the-mill preschools.

Fuji Kindergarten spent its next few years bagging numerous domestic and international awards for its innovative design. Even after a decade, Fuji Kindergarten continues to receive global recognition as the best kindergarten in the world – it was recently awarded the 2017 Moriyama RAIC International Prize by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

1. Endless Fun at the Rooftop Deck

Fuji Kindergarten Best Kindergarten In The World
Photo by: Tezuka Architects / Photographer: Katsuhisa Kida / FOTOTECA

The main feature of Fuji Kindergarten – an oval-shaped rooftop deck –  was Tezuka’s intention to allow children to run and play endlessly in the fresh outdoors.

2. Mud and Slides

Fuji Kindergarten Slides
Photo by: TED Ideas

Instead of conventional staircases, Fuji Kindergarten utilises slides for children to get to class from the roof top deck. The children can first climb onto the mud mound and get their hands dirty (Tezuka strongly encourages that), before climbing the stairs to the rooftop deck and sliding into class.

3. Little Monkeys Dangling

Fuji Kindergarten Handrails
Photo by: TED Ideas

Vertical handrails with wide gaps are definitely a safety hazard, so Tezuka designed vertical handrails with gaps just about the right size for children to put their legs through and swing them around. He thinks it’s a natural instinct for children to do that – just like adorable “little monkeys”.

4. Embracing Trees

Fuji Kindergarten Tree Nets
Photo by: Tezuka Architects / Photographer: Katsuhisa Kida / FOTOTECA

Instead of cutting down trees, Tezuka designed Fuji Kindergarten to integrate the surrounding trees. Safety nets are also installed to prevent children from falling into the holes around the trees.

Tezuka knows children love to play and bounce on nets and hammocks, so this was an opportunity for another mode of play time.

5. Skylights for Curious Peekers

Fuji Kindergarten Skylights
Photo by: TED Ideas

Children are naturally curious. In Fuji Kindergarten, there are skylights above classrooms to allow children to peek into what’s going on in different classes. Distraction is not a worry here, because according to Tezuka, that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen.

Plus, there’s also no walls in the classrooms, so children won’t feel like they are enclosed and forced to learn within a tiny space. This reiterates his philosophy that children possess the natural instinct to learn.

6. Water Cooler Catch-Ups

Fuji Kindergarten Water Cooler
Photo by: TED Ideas

As technology advances, children begin to spend more time on smart phones and tablets. In order to encourage face-to-face interaction, Tezuka introduced a water cooler in the middle of classrooms so children can gather around it and talk to each other – just like Japanese women used to in the olden days when they gathered water around the well.

7. Kiri Wood Furniture

Fuji Kindergarten Classroom
Photo by: Tezuka Architects / Photographer: Katsuhisa Kida / FOTOTECA

One of the key lessons Tezuka wants to incorporate into his design is that children shouldn’t be too sheltered. It’s alright for them to fall down and learn to get back up again!

At Fuji Kindergarten, classrooms are furnished with wooden boxes which the children can sit and play with. It’s made from paulownia, also known as kiri wood. The wood is very light, so children won’t injure themselves even if they play rough or bump their heads.

8. Ring Around The Tree

Fuji Kindergarten Ring Around The Tree
Photo by: Erazvitie

If the mud mounds and slides get boring, children can also climb on trees at Fuji Kindergarten. The trees serve to encourage children to challenge themselves to become stronger and reach the upper decks without using the stairs. At Fuji Kindergarten, academics are not the only priority – building a child’s character and mental strength is important too.

The Architect Behind Fuji Kindergarten

Takaharu Tezuka
Photo by: SUCCESSness

Beyond the multi-award winning Fuji Kindergarten and Tezuka’s numerous awards for other architectural works, he also conveys his strong vision of harmony between nature and people throughout his career.

Asahi Kindergarten Classroom
Photo by: Tezuka Architects

One of the most notable things Tezuka has done was to help reconstruct Asahi Kindergarten in Miyagi, which was struck by the deadly tsunami in 2011.

Bringing the kindergarten back to life with timber trees that have been uprooted by the waves, the entire kindergarten was rebuilt using traditional methods without any use of metal.

Asahi Kindergarten
Photo by: Tezuka Architects

“The timber will be saying to the children, ‘In 2011, I was killed by the water but in 2411, be careful and come to me’,” Tezuka says in regards to Asahi Kindergarten, which has been given a new lease of life thanks to Tezuka and his belief in changing the world by embracing nature and architecture.

“I think architecture is capable of changing this world, and people’s lives. And this is one of the attempts to change the lives of children,” says Tezuka.

Unfortunately, the world’s best kindergarten is generally not open to the public, but you can still immerse yourself through Tezuka’s humorous commentary about Fuji Kindergarten in his TED talk.

Nonetheless, if you’re headed for Japan, remember to bring your YouTrip card along to enjoy Wholesale Exchange Rates with no fees!

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