Iwate Childrens Care Center: Children hold the key to the future


By Francis Markus and Midori Tasaka

Amid continuing needs for help in responding to the emotional impact of the March 2011 tsunami, a new Children’s Care Center, supported by the Japanese Red Cross with funds from Kuwait, has been formally inaugurated in the northern city of Morioka.

The “Kuwait and Japan Friendship Plaque” ceremony was conducted on 29th May. 2013 at the new Iwate Children’s Care Center hosted by the prefecture’s Medical University. Dr. Junko Yagi, the Center’s founding Deputy Director and a senior child psychiatrist, said: “it seems that the number of children speaking up about their psychological issues has increased and the process has become more vibrant.” There are wide range of cases, such as children who had recently spoken up but been hiding and suffering from guilt thinking “if I had done something, I might have been able to save someone else’s life,” or who had tried too hard to recover from their psychological problems and got tired and stopped trying, she said.

According to a survey conducted by Board of Education of Iwate Prefecture in December 2011, around 20,000 children in the prefecture suffered from greater or lesser degrees of trauma after the Japan Great East Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11 that year. In the course of 2011, some 287 children ranging from babies to middle school students visited local Children’s Care Centers in the prefecture and in 2012, 308 children visited the local facilities.

In order to increase support for the children of Iwate Prefecture, the government decided to create the Iwate Children’s Care Center to act as a central institution to provide more specialist help with children’s mental health needs. It is managed by Iwate Medical University and received funding of JPY 137 million through JRCS, funds donated by the state of Kuwait. The Middle Eastern country donated approximately 5 million barrels of crude oil (worth JPY 40 billion) and an additional 157 million yen to support survivors in the affected areas.

“Children hold the key to the future of Iwate and Japan, nothing can be more urgent than addressing their needs and providing them with all the special care and support they require,” said Kuwaiti Ambassador H.E. Abdulrahman Al-Otaibi, who spoke at the ceremony. Ambassador Al-Otaibi added: “I praise the initiative to establish Iwate Children’s Care Center that bears a tremendous responsibility to help brighten the children’s lives and contribute to their well-being and help them overcome their tragedies.”

Akira Ogawa, board member of Iwate Medical University, said: “we hope this center will enable us to stand side by side of children’s heart and give them hope and peace.”

For her part, Dr. Yagi also stressed that children’s mental health is intimately bound up with that of adults. It is vital for children, she said, that their parents are healthy, positive and living their life vividly, since it also affects them. “In times of hardship and difficulty time, like wild flowers, it is okay to take time, stop and stand still under the sky. Pushing to do the best and moving forward may not always be the answer to everything. By walking at your own pace and continuing to ‘live now’, you are creating and marking your own life,” said Dr.Yagi.