By TAKUNORI YASUDA/ Staff Writer
June 25, 2022 at 10:00 JST
caption: Rin Furukawa, left, and Koume Otsuki, both 14, pose for a photo in the assembly chamber in Higashidori, Aomori Prefecture, on May 13. (Takunori Yasuda)
HIGASHIDORI, Aomori Prefecture--Two junior high school students took matters into their own hands to ensure their classmates don’t suffer when summer temperatures here surge above 30 degrees by getting the mayor to commit a tidy sum to upgrade facilities.
Mayor Toshiaki Hatanaka of this small Pacific community with a population of just 6,000 was so moved by their request he got the village assembly to include 100 million yen ($748,000) in its fiscal budget to carry out ground repair work and install air conditioners in classrooms.
Rin Furukawa, the 14-year-old captain of the track club at Higashidori Junior High School, the only educational facility in the small village catering to students of that age, was despondent over the poor state of the ragged 400-meter track packed with bumps and dips.
Koume Otsuki, also 14, was distressed to see classmates rushed to a local hospital after collapsing from heatstroke during classes.
Located on the Pacific side of the Shimokita Peninsula, the village until recent years had relied on a northeasterly wind known as “yamase” to stay cool in summer.
But these days, it is not uncommon for the mercury to rise above 30 degrees.
Otsuki decided something had to be done to change the environment in classrooms.
So last November, the duo attended a “mock assembly session” to petition the mayor to repair the schoolyard and install air conditioners in classrooms.
Their straightforward approach touched the mayor’s heart, prompting the village assembly to include 100 million yen in its budget to accommodate their request.
The pair garnered national attention for their spirited involvement in local politics to accomplish their goals.
Kenta Izumi, the head of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, spoke highly of the duo on his Twitter account.
Furukawa and Otsuki said they were simply pleased their efforts resulted in the outcome they sought.
Their foray into local politics triggered an interest in them both to start paying more attention to media coverage of national politics as well as village assembly gatherings.
But they admitted to being baffled by some of the language used by the media in political coverage.
The pair urged media outlets to use language that is easier to understand for junior high school students.
The village office started installing air conditioners in May, while an assessment of damage to the school’s track is set to be completed before the summer vacation.
Both Furukawa and Otsuki were amazed at how the power of words can translate into change.
They now harbor hopes that society can become a place where people’s dreams and wishes come true when they express their thoughts in a concise manner.
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