'Lion Park' kids of Miyagi welcome President Tan

ST VIDEO: WALTER SIM
Pupils of Shichigahama Toyama Nursery School, together with Dr Tan and Mrs Tan, adding the finishing touches to a banner artwork featuring drawings of the children and the Singapore President and his wife.
Pupils of Shichigahama Toyama Nursery School, together with Dr Tan and Mrs Tan, adding the finishing touches to a banner artwork featuring drawings of the children and the Singapore President and his wife.ST PHOTO: WALTER SIM

Japanese nursery school is so named as it was rebuilt with funds donated by Singaporeans

Pupils at a nursery school in north-east Japan, dubbed the "Lion Park", yesterday eagerly welcomed visiting President Tony Tan Keng Yam by waving the Singapore flag.

The enthusiasm of the children - aged six and below - was palpable as they put up a performance of two Christmas carols in English and Japanese, and completed a drawing with Dr Tan and his wife, Mrs Mary Tan.

The pupils are from the Shichigahama Toyama Nursery School, which had been badly destroyed in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters.

It was rebuilt on higher ground using $5 million in donations from Singaporeans, hence its moniker in recognition of its bonds with the Republic.

The school reopened in 2013 and now enrols about 90 children aged six and below, many of whom took part in singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells.

They also surprised Mrs Tan, who celebrated her birthday yesterday, with a birthday song and a gift - a handmade Christmas ornament.

Shichigahama mayor Kaoru Terasawa said he hopes the children can grow up to become a "bridge to connect our two countries".

"We owe great gratitude. Our children are now smiling and have returned to nursery school and are very actively pursuing their lives," he said.

"We do appreciate very much the response from the Republic of Singapore and Singaporeans of every walk of life, who actually have made a huge difference to our children and our lives."

The Singapore Red Cross raised $35.7 million in disaster relief in the wake of the disaster that hit north-eastern Japan, in one of the Republic's largest relief efforts.

Dr Tan has, on this trip, been citing this as an example of robust people-to-people bonds between the two countries.

Besides the nursery, Singapore also left its mark on three other reconstruction projects.

A multi-purpose community hall was rebuilt in Rikuzentakata City in Iwate prefecture with $11.1 million.

The site, which houses the city's police and fire departments to enhance disaster preparedness, has a hall named "Singapore Hall" to recognise the Republic's efforts.

Another $2.1 million was spent on the Isobe Community Centre in Soma City in Fukushima prefecture, which was rebuilt on higher ground. Lessons on recreational activities like taiji and the harmonica are held there.

The Taro Support Centre in Miyako City, Iwate prefecture, was rebuilt using $1.16 million, and now provides eldercare and rehabilitation services to about 1,700 elderly and disabled people.

The remainder of the funds went towards supporting immediate relief and recovery efforts, as well as to upgrade two community libraries and an after-school activity centre, and establish a scholarship fund, among other things.

Dr Tan returns to Singapore today.

MORE ONLINE
Nursery school kids perform for President Tony Tan http://str.sg/4QC8.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2016, with the headline ''Lion Park' kids of Miyagi welcome President Tan'. Print Edition | Subscribe