Children's Workshop

Children Workshop Experience the old traditional Japanese house in Chiba


Let’s think about the importnace of even the smallest light in the dark 2023.11.25-26  
Sachiko Segawa+Noriko Higashi+Mami Kono

Nakanoya, a 119-year-old private house, and participants

こどもワークシWe have held several “Irori (hearth)” gatherings at the Children’s Workshop as a way to experience the darkness, and we have always been thinking about the idea of spending the night in an old private house.
The workshop was designed to fully engage all five senses, with the expectation thatr spending the night using as little electricity as possible and only small lights would reveal something different from the usual.
This year’s children’s workshop was held in an old house in Otaki Town, Chiba Prefecture, under the theme “Let’s think about the importance of small lights in the dark!
For these few years, we could not hold the event due to the COVID-19, or when we did hold it, we didn’t get opportunities to have time talking with the children. This year, however, we decided to have an overnight program to spend time with the children to feel the light. 6 children, ranging from 5 years old to 2nd grade elementary school students, gathered and enjoyed the workshop.

The children designed lanterns freely with pens and cellophane

This old house, called Nakanoya, has a thatched roof and the Irori hearth. In order to spend the night without relying on modern lighting as much as possible, we first made lanterns. The children made the lanterns by drawing pictures and pasting colored cellophane on hard tracing paper. Since candles could not be used inside the house, LED candles were used instead. We took the lantern and went for a walk around the oldhouse.

Take a walk at dusk with a homemade lantern

There were no streetlights along the road surrounded by rice paddies and fields, and the children had the experience of walking with the lanterns they made as it gradually became darker. When Mr. Mende lit up the big gingko tree, the children got so interested and started to illuminate various things with their flashlights.
After the walk, we spent time in an old house with the existing lights turned off and only lanterns placed in the house. We started with a barbecue in the garden with our own lanterns nearby. However, it was too dark to see how well the meat was cooked, so we had to use a flashlight.
Unfortunately, the sky was overcast, so we could not see stars, but the children’s appetite was very strong even in the darkness. When we turned off the flashlights, we saw the crackling red glow of the charcoal and the children seemed to enjoy this somewhat unusual situation. After the barbecue, we replaced one of the lanterns with a real candle. Perhaps it was the tracing paper around the lanterns but even the adults were surprised how natural that those LED candles were even right next to the real one. The real candles were a little brighter, but I felt that the colors have been improved in these 10-ish years LEDs have been around. After the fireworks, we sat around the hearth and listened to a talk about light by the leader, Mr. Mende.
Unluckly, only charcoal fire was used in the hearth, so we could not see the burning wood fire, but the space surrounded by the lanterns and charcoal fire seemed to naturally lull the children to sleep. As our eyes had become accustomed to the darkness, I felt very dazzled by the modern light source that the leader showed us during the talk. The children seemed to feel “uncomfortable” with the glare. After the talk, the children who had spent the morning with their friends and were in a state of excitement quietly fell asleep in the darkness.

A talk about light by Mr. Mende around the hearth

he next day, in the early morning, we walked again along the same path we had walked the day before. It seemed like it was a completely different experience to see the scenery in a brighter light for the children, and they were playing tag while walking. At the end, we sat around the kotatsu and talked about what we had felt on there two days. When asked, “How was it to spend the day in the dark?”, their responses were various from , “I was scared” to “I was totally fine.” I would be happy if this workshop helped the children, who live in today’s world saturated with light even at night, to notice and cherish the small lights that are around them. (Sachiko Segawa)

At the end of the workshop we discussed what we felt over the two days