Category Archives: Japan

Remember – Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard

Words can never capture the terror of Hiroshima’s fiery destruction.


Even in the aftermath of such fear, pain and loss, the heart and spirit are boundless in their ability to forgive. Within a couple of years of the firebomb sweeping through their city, children from a Hiroshima school sent a series of pictures to the congregation of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C. as a thank you for the gifts the parishioners had sent them.

Source: Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard

Play, beauty and joy are recurring themes in the nearly 50 pictures that were uncovered in a congregation member’s home in 1996. The documentary film, Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard, by director Bryan Reichhardt tells the story of these timeless drawings full of light and life.

Source: Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard

If you’re in the vicinity of UCLA Berkley, the pictures are on exhibit at the Institute of East Asian Studies until September 12, 2012 – In the Shadow of Hiroshima: Childrens’ Visions of Life. The documentary will be screened there on August 10 at 4:30 p.m. in conjunction with an observance of the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

Hug your kids today, get out and play.

ScreenShot Mondays – Hand-Made Play

A couple of Mondays per month, PlayGroundology screenshots a cyberspot that focuses on playgrounds, or play. I hope readers dive in and explore. Even if you’ve seen the selection before, take a moment and check to see what content has been added recently.

Think of this as a very slow stumble upon, an invitation to relish something new or to revisit an old friend. Some of the people and places may be household names in the world of play and playgrounds, others not so much. I hope all will pique your interest in what they have to offer and further your own possibilities for playfulness.

Hand-Made Play

Hand-Made Play is created out of Tokyo by Chris Berthelsen and collaborators. The site, part of the larger A Small Lab, houses a treasury of play ideas and a resource section with links to articles, books, websites and videos.

Click image to enlarge.

The masthead says it all – ‘notes from a collaborative + open research project investigating, enjoying, and learning from the self-initiated non-commercial play of children in Tokyo’. Most of the examples draw on ‘hand made, everyday creativity, play, and usable environments’.

One of the more recent additions to the Hand Made Play collection is Rainy Day Treasures: A Study on the Child’s Perception of the Street. I’ve just started strolling through this small gem tonight and am enjoying how it is shifting my perspective so much closer to ground level. The pamphlet is available as a free download.

I enjoy how Chris’ work highlights the simple pleasures and shows how galaxies of possibilities exist within the smallest of worlds. You won’t go wrong giving Hand-Made Play a few moments of your time.

Kids at Play II

If you haven’t already noticed, I’m infatuated with flickr. There are just so many great photographers posting striking photos for the world to see. I visit on a regular basis to see how people are capturing and documenting play.

Kids at Play II is the second installment of an occasional feature of images from around the world presented in PlayGroundology’s flickr photo galleries. Flickr galleries allow the curator to include any photo from amongst the 5 billion strong digital collection with two exceptions – the curator cannot include his or her own images and a contributor can choose to opt out of the ‘gallery’ functionality.

Photo credit – Jose Maria Cuellar, (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Worth a 1,000 words and more, these images tell the story of children at play in countries around the world. Despite differences in culture, environment and economic circumstances, these photos attest to a common language. Children everywhere have an innate desire to play – to have fun, to learn, to dream. As global citizens we have an obligation to ensure that kids who are in more difficult situations are able to more fully express their ability to play.

Kids at Play II (lightbox)

Kids at Play II (default)

The Day Play Was Vaporized

Sixty-six years ago, humanity reached a low point. A searing flash of destruction on an incomprehensible scale above Hiroshima brought life, play and hope to a screaming stop.

Take a moment to think of the victims of that atomic blast. Remember also that armed conflict, natural disasters and famine continue to take their toll around the world. Children are always the most vulnerable in these situations.

Life, play and hope were reborn in Hiroshima. August 6 also commemorates the strength of the human spirit, its capacity to rebuild, to re-imagine, to re-dream.

What actions can we take to help bring about the possibility of play and peace in areas of conflict and disaster?

Here’s a kid powered idea to help with the Japanese tsunami rebuild – Paper Cranes for Japan.

Free the Children is a kid led organization based in Canada that is supporting sustainable projects throughout the world.

There is plenty of good work being done by individuals and organizations at the local and global levels. Find a cause that you can support through financial contributions or personal participation. Make the world a better place.

Go to the Peace Shadow Project for more on Hiroshima remembrance.

Kids at Play – flickr Photo Gallery

If you haven’t already noticed, I’m infatuated with flickr. There are just so many great photographers posting striking photos for the world to see. I visit on a regular basis to see how people are capturing and documenting play.

Kids at Play will be an occasional PlayGroundology feature of images from around the world presented in flickr photo galleries. My thanks to Tammy Maitland whose photo of kids at play in Ahmedabad, India (below) is the inspiration for this gallery series.

This particular photo makes me think of a book I enjoyed more than 20 years ago, Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees. The young baron would have loved this set up.

Check the gallery and be prepared to smile at photos from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, North and South America. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Many thanks to the photographers.

A Brief History of Slides

Thanks to Stephen Hawking, a great theoretical physicist and author of A Brief History of Time, for inspiring the title of this post. My knowledge of physics is less than rudimentary but I do know that there are underlying principles at play each time kids launch themselves over the precipice and into the descent. We’re talking about the speed demons, acceleration and velocity getting out of the gate with a little pull from gravity.

Now in more simplified terms that the mathematically disinclined like myself can grab hold of, this is what we’re really saying when we try and quantify the slide experience. It’s pretty much whee to the power of three when screaming down the slide at whoosh factor nine, or in unorthodox mathematical notation
where ‘whee’ is the squeal of unbridled release and ‘whoosh’ is the air flow required to have a full head of hair pluming up from the nape of the neck.

I’ve done some wondering about the antecedents of the slide family. More specifically, I have tried to trace its origins. Not much luck using my standard research tools – Google and interviews with primary sources.

There does not appear to be anything in the ancient visual record that can pinpoint the slide’s birth. There are no paintings on the Lascaux caves, no hieroglyphic whisperings from the Nile delta. I have not come across any evidence-based materials that go back earlier than the beginning of the 20th century. Consequently I have had to rely on broad speculation which I introduce to you the readers as theoretical surmise.

I believe the slide originated in the northern hemisphere, in areas with hilly terrain. Long, cold winters were the norm. Sliding down snowy embankments was great organic entertainment. In North America, this was happening before the Europeans ever arrived on the scene. However, with the introduction of the horse, it’s entirely possible that aboriginal peoples of the northern plains tried to replicate sliding fun in warmer weather. When the family was taking a rest on the trail or setting up camp, it’s plausible that the younger kids would get to zip down a makeshift slide constructed with travois poles.

Before dismissing this musing as completely out of hand, listen to Corn and Potato a wonderful song by singer David Campbell that speaks to a few things that came about via the ‘Indians’. David, an Arawak from Guyana, was world beat in the late 70s and early 80s before the term was coined. He incorporates Caribbean and aboriginal rhythms in his compositions. This was one of the artist’s most requested tunes when he toured schools.

Of course, it may not have happened like this. However, in the absence of empirical evidence to the contrary, I’m sticking with the northern plains Aboriginal Nations as the innovators who brought us what we now know as the slide. If you have other theories, please send them in as comments.

Thanks to the US Patent Office for archival materials dating back to the early 20th century. A few of the illustrations below are from this period. Click here for the photo gallery. There is no indication as to how many of these patents actually went into production. Some are fanciful, some outright funny. All were designed with the intent to elicit squeals of laughter in kids and, after a second look at selected drawings, maybe some mild terror tremors.

Once experienced, whoosh factor 9 is addictive. That’s why we see kids climbing up, zipping down, climbing up the ladders, zipping down again, trying to catch that ephemeral boost. They will even wait in line for minutes on end to slide away in a burst of whoosh.

Size isn’t everything where the thrill of the descent is concerned but it can add a certain cachet. Each of us has our own particular preferences. I’m more a fan of the steep incline than the interminable ride. I want to know is my heart stopping as I look over the precipice anticipating a roller coaster scream?

The Around the World in 18 Slides gallery is a sampling of the ordinary and extraordinary. There isn’t one slide among them that I wouldn’t want to try myself (the dump truck might be a little outré). There is a little bit of everything here including a selection of animal slides – giraffe, elephant, dinosaur… Thanks to all you flickr photogs.

Around the world, 18 photos – a bit of exaggeration on my part. The math just doesn’t add up. I have noted though that Japan seems to have a love affair with slides. Octopus slides and roller slides have captured the popular imagination. Take a look at this Octopus’ Garden and the journey down Japan’s longest slide in western Kyushu.

As it turns out, there is still ample room for scholarly work on the origins of the slide following this minor dalliance with the subject. Will a true historian or anthropologist be able to unravel the mysteries of the slide’s origin, or perhaps confirm the conjecture offered here? Only time and research will tell. In the interim, just keep on slip, slidin’ away…


Image Credits

1. Sharon K – Teardrop Park Slide, NYC

2. Veronica Gomez Castaneda – Sea Serpent Slide at La Laguna, San Gabriel, California

3. US Patent Office

4. maureenld

5. unknown Japanese photograper