Pilot a plane, Fight a fire, Make a pizza… KidZania is a world of adventure for children
Stepping into the brightly lit Recruit office, visitors are greeted by a wall of jobs: Coca-Cola bottling plant staff, pizza chef, fire-fighter, photographer, radio DJ, pilot—in fact, so many it is difficult to make a decision.
Unfortunately for Japan’s unemployed, this isn’t a new mall in Shibuya or Roppongi but KidZania, a parallel world of mini stores or “pavilions” offering children age 3-15 the chance to try a wide selection of adult jobs.
KidZania opened in Mexico City in 1999 and now operates in 16 countries with two operations in Japan (Hyogo and Tokyo).
Self described as a “Family edutainment center” the attraction is essentially a micro city complete with a central square, a bank, a hospital and a host of other real to life buildings operated in partnership with high street brands.
Walking around KidZania in LaLa Port, Toyosu, visitors will spot the instantly recognisable logos of Japanese businesses such as J-Wave radio, Pizza La, Mos Burger and ANA as well as international companies of the likes of Coca-Cola, Clinique, and Johnson & Johnson.
The designers of KidZania have planned everything down to the finest details. On entering, children are transported to a realistic world built to resemble a foreign country; a real boarding pass is issued to children along with traveller’s cheques, which are converted into KidZania’s own special currency the “Kidzo”.
Children can spend Kidzos in shops or on activities but behind this and every aspect of KidZania is a lesson, in this case: money is hard to earn—so spend it wisely.
To earn more money children must get a job to provide a product or service in the town, thus learning about working in the real world. All of the activities involve an element of education and KidZania actively instructs children in important subjects such as teamwork and patience and communication.
“In all of the pavilions we do an English greeting and two or three sentences in English mixed in with Japanese. At the next level, three pavilions a day do their activities 100 percent in English,” explains Cory McGowan Chief English Coordinator.
“Our goal is not to teach English, we don’t have any responsibility as an educational institution. Our goal is just to get kids around English, so there is less of the ‘English complex’—‘English is not a scary thing, it’s just something fun I did at KidZania the other day.’”
While the kids take on roles like radio DJ, construction worker, Coca-Cola bottling plant staff or soft cream shop customer, the grown-ups get to relax in the parents’ lounge in the knowledge that their children are in a safe, fun environment guided by energetic, multilingual staff.
“It doesn’t matter what language we do [activities] in. As long as they get to make a bottle of Coke, the kids don’t care what language it’s in!” says McGowan.
“We do have an team of 25 good English speakers, but the rest are just normal Japanese staff, so we have to train them to do their whole activity in English, as you can imagine there was some resistance at times. Now we’ve been doing this for a few years, people know that when they come to work at KidZania they’re going to use English. In fact many people work at KidZania because they want to use English in their job.”
Tokyo Weekender toured KidZania on the recent fifth birthday celebrations. The event also marked the addition of three more sponsors, Family Mart, Clinique and Radish Boya to the already booming attraction.
Though actual businesses feature at KidZania, Marketing Director, Yosuke Sekiguchi is keen to stress the learning aspect of the pavilions. “We say KidZania has lots of educational benefits for kids; communication, globalization, friendship and teamwork. Children can really learn here.”
“Sometimes we are compared to Disneyland but our theme is the opposite. KidZania is not fantasy, it is the real world and kids really get excited here,” he says.
With over 80 sponsor companies KidZania easily feels like a real town and as mini fire engines, buses and police cars drive around children learn to look for every day hazards in a safe, controlled and fun environment. “In other theme parks, food is transported hidden from view; at KidZania everything is on show, just like a real city.” says Sekiguchi.
With so many pavilions to choose from, even touring KidZania can make you feel like a big kid. Among the staff and children there are clearly favorite pavilions but one seems popular with everyone:
“The most popular store is the Sweets Factory,” says Mayu Kihara, the English team manager at KidZania. “I’ve worked here for five years…it’s great!”
Global “Otomodachi” [email protected]
November 30th. Come join the fun!
Price: ¥2000 kids (3-15),
¥1000 adults (16+)
Call now: 0570-06-4012