Amazing experiences from Yamaguchi, Japan

by Dang Minh Thu (ELEVATE Fellow)

Dang Minh Thu, one of the 12 ELEVATE Fellows, shares her impression of her trip to Japan in March 2015 as part of the ELEVATE  StartWell Challenge, and how it has changed her perspective of children’s play. 

Recently I had a chance to participate in the ELEVATE Innovation Camp as part of the ELEVATE Challenge. The trip was organised by the British Council and Yamaguchi City Foundation for Cultural Promotion with the support of Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (YCAM), Japan. Together with 12 ELEVATE Fellows we had an amazing experience.

About Kidstallation

Kidstallation was the project that I submitted to the ELEVATE Challenge. It’s an installation art project created by children for children. Children interact with one another to create and change the surrounding environment with simple objects used daily. The theme is diverse, from history to natural science, but it has to be developed artistically. Besides, our project also focuses on children’s physical health. They can learn and play while creating their works in groups or individually. 


In Japan, we met with 12 ELEVATE Fellows who came from different backgrounds, including playground management, research, architecture, design, installation art, and technology and product creativity.

Nonetheless, everybody shared the same goals – to change society by being creative; to create children’s playgrounds or toys for them to grow in the most natural environment, to interact with nature and the world through relationships with parents, friends and the community; to focus on the role of education in creativity, and creativity in education.

One example of creativity is Chloe’s music box. It is a box with a few things that are meaningful, each thing associated with a song or story. When you open or touch the detector, a story or song is played. This is a unique creation widely used nowadays, especially in hospitals or other health care centers to treat memory disease.

Playgrounds in Tokyo

We also visited Miraikan, a children playground with technology i.e. video art and touchscreens.  Here, there are no rules for children but there is a rule for parents, which is to never say “no” to children.

And there is another centre, CANVAS, which organizes construction or re-construction workshops for children by helping them understand the things they are using, or what they are interacting with. For instance, they will create new words from their understanding of old words a, b, c.

We also visited Hanegi Park. This is a playground created by parents and the local community from disposed materials such as wood, ropes and tires. Children come here to play and take “falls/pain” as gifts awarded during play. As a result, they will be aware of the hidden danger from objects surrounding them. In addition, the playground also encourages children to blend in with nature by building a house on the tree or collect firewood for cooking.

Finally, when we arrived at Yamaguchi, we ran a 2 hour workshop to experiment with our ideas, and we worked together to create new ideas for a children’s playground. 

Last words

ELEVATE has given me a different perspective of the British Council. Your organization has shown that you really care about the important role of creativity in bringing social change. It’s a fact that children are the main focus of this ELEVATE Challenge. 

I hope you can find some interesting ideas from my experience for your own. And I hope that you will be ready to participate in the next ELEVATE Challenge.