The administrators and teachers at the
children's home were quite open in describing their goals and the types of
children who lived there. If possible, they try to have the children
return to their families, even if just on the weekends, since this situation in most cases is the most
preferable. Although the children's home employs teachers and other
educational professionals, the children there attend regular local
schools during the week.
Showing My Home
Connecticut on a Map
The 67 total children at Jinpu Gakuen
include 19 preschool or younger children, 18 in elementary school, 19 in
junior high, 9 in high school, and 2 in a school for handicapped children.
The major reasons for children living at the children's home are the
following: parental abuse (12 children), bankruptcy or other financial
difficulties of parents (11), parents' whereabouts unknown (8), parents'
work situations (8), and parents' imprisonment (5). About half of the
children have lived at Jinpu Gakuen for 5 years or more.
I gave a short talk to the children, but it
was a real challenge to cover topics interesting to everyone since the
audience of about 30 children ranged from early elementary school to high
school students. However, even when considering the age range, I quickly
found that the children in the school did not respond emotionally in the
same way as most children at regular schools. Maybe they were just
surprised to meet a foreigner visiting the children's home, but I sensed a
real reluctance to get involved during the presentation. The head of the
children's home explained afterward that many children had difficulties in
social situations due to their backgrounds.
After my talk with the children, we went on
a tour of the children's home and saw the children's rooms where they
lived two to four together. The toddlers were taking a nap during our tour
(see photo below). Even though they looked so cute sleeping on the tatami
mats next to the window, I also thought how unfortunate they were to not
be living with their own family. In a display case near the main entrance,
the children's home proudly displays the two American friendship dolls
given by Lucille Supple in 2003.
A former kamikaze pilot, now 78 years old,
kindly accompanied me on my trip to Jinpu Gakuen Children's Home. He grew
up in Kagoshima City and remembers in late 1941 when Japanese Navy planes
destined for Pearl Harbor practiced dives and bombing over Kagoshima Bay
because of the physical similarity of the two locations. He was a former
Zero pilot who flew a kamikaze mission to Okinawa, but he managed to
return when his plane was damaged after a skirmish with American planes. I
was surprised to find out that, even before I arrived in Kagoshima, he had
driven to Jinpu Gakuen and had met with the administrators there about my
visit. He explained to me that part of being a good pilot is preparing
beforehand and knowing the route.
I hope in the future to have the
opportunity to visit another children's home in Japan. During this visit I
learned a lot about the Japanese system to handle abused and abandoned
children, so I think I will be better prepared on my next visit.