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Friday, Feb. 25, 2011

TOKYO

Theme park shows kids career fun


Staff writer

Come April, all public elementary schools in Japan will start teaching English to students in Grades 5 and 6. Kidzania, a popular indoor amusement park that aims to simulate different types of jobs, is giving kids a head start in English education.

News photo
Safety first: Children learn how to scale a building at the Kidzania theme park in Koto Ward, Tokyo.

Since October, the Mexico-born, job-related, role-playing, theme-park chain housed in shopping malls in Tokyo's Koto Ward and Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, has introduced activities in which kids must use English. During a recent visit to Kidzania Tokyo, a lot of the English exchange revolved around basic greetings, colors and directions.

In a bit of irony, contrary to the ideal of the theme park, which is making children more interested in careers, all of the staff running the pavilions — ranging from a bakery to an airline to a TV station — are arubaito, workers who receive hourly wages. But park attendants still brim with professionalism, emphasizing the great responsibilities the workers shoulder and the close attention required for each job. Rewards are available as well. After completing an assignment at each pavilion, children get eight "KidZos," a currency they can use to buy services or goods there, or deposit in the park's bank account, which yields 10 percent interest a year. That rate is something that I hope real-life banks will learn from Kidzania.

Reservations for the park can be made online or by phone. Admission for children ranges from ¥3,100 to ¥4,400 depending on the venue, time slot and day of the week. For more information, visit www.kidzania.jp.


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