24 Mai 2017
May 24, 2017
By TAKUYA IKEDA/ Staff Writer
AIZU-WAKAMATSU, Fukushima Prefecture--Comedy education is being offered at schools in this part of Japan that is still getting over the 2011 nuclear disaster, and that's no joke.
The Okuma board of education in the prefecture has been giving serious attention to ways of making the children of evacuees laugh spontaneously to help them improve their communications skills and self-expression.
The special classes are now under way at three town-run elementary and junior high schools temporarily set up in Aizu-Wakamatsu, which is situated a safe distance from the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
An evacuation order remains in effect for all the residents of Okuma.
Okuma's board of education set up a panel for comedy-based education for schools on April 28 as all the town's children are still living as evacuees more than six years after the nuclear crisis triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that ravaged northeastern Japan.
Working with Osaka-based Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., which represents artists and has many famous comedians on its books, the education board stated that it was committed to bringing "smiles" to the faces of more children uprooted from their homes.
The focus of the classes is on Japan’s “manzai” traditional style of stand-up comedy.
The children are taught by agency entertainers how to develop manzai scripts and perform by themselves in front of others.
The course runs for a total of eight hours.
A meeting of the panel held April 28 at the temporary branch office of the Okuma town government in Aizu-Wakamatsu was attended by school principals, parents and their children.
“Principals should make people laugh at least once a day,” said Toshihide Takeuchi, head of the education board.
“Teachers who cannot make students smile in classes will be arrested,” he deadpanned to laughter from the audience.
A key objective is to ease children's anxieties.
“Many children feel exhausted at home,” Takeuchi said. “They appreciate what adults are doing to help them, but they also are evacuees. These children work very hard, trying to live up to adults’ expectations.”
Takeuchi expressed his hope that the comedy program will help children to laugh and relax.
The education board said it wanted children to realize that making a fool of others or running down someone perceived to have some sort of defect does not constitute “enjoyable laughing.”
Similar efforts are being made elsewhere in Fukushima Prefecture.
Elementary schools in the village of Iitate began offering special classes combining manzai with education during the last fiscal year.
Sixth-graders at three village-run elementary schools learned how to play the fool in manzai from performers of entertainer agency Shochiku Geino Co., also based in Osaka, last fall at temporary buildings in Kawamata, where many evacuees now reside.
Last year, the city-run Daini Junior High School and Kawahigashi Junior High School in Aizu-Wakamatsu also offered manzai classes based on a nine-hour education plan developed by a city-based nonprofit group called Aizu Engine that focuses on social education.
Penguin Nuts, a comic duo that works primarily in the prefecture, served as teachers along with others during the special classes. Students formed comic duos themselves and competed with each other to make people laugh.
The two schools said the “effects” of the comedy-based education are already apparent as more children feel able to express their opinions directly to teachers and classmates.