Famed animator plans children’s nature retreat in Okinawa isle forest

This article originally appeared, with an illustration, in the Japan Times.

Famed animated film director Hayao Miyazaki is working to build a children’s facility in a virgin forest on a small island in Okinawa Prefecture to encourage kids to enjoy nature through their five senses.

Set for completion in 2018 on Kumejima Island, about 90 km west of Okinawa Island, the facility will replace existing playground equipment, local officials said.

A reinforced concrete two-story building to accommodate about 30 people will be erected within the 10,000 sq. meters of forest being offered by the town of Kumejima for the project, they said.

The idea was conceived as Miyazaki, whose works are often directed at children and themed partly on humanity’s relationship with nature, supported a town program to accept disaster-affected people from Fukushima Prefecture after the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdowns.

With the Oscar-winning director bearing the cost of about ¥300 million, construction will start next April and the facility will be donated to the town, according to the officials.

Miyazaki is willing to have the facility designed and built by local firms under a “made in Kumejima” concept, using local construction materials as much as possible, according to a town monthly publication available online.

He is working with local people on how it will be run.

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