One of the greatest benefits of the Sukusuku School initiative has been a sheer expansion in capacity. The total floor space available for after-school activities for children rose seventy-fold from 10,000 square meters to 700,000 square meters. Similarly, the number of children enrolled rose ninefold from 3,000 to 27,000, which figure equals some 70% of all the elementary school children in Edogawa. These gains in capacity eliminated at a stroke the problem of long waiting lists of children that had previously been so intractable.
A second major benefit, being qualitative in nature, is not revealed in the numbers. Through various activities — learning to dance or play the game Othello, or even just chatting — Sukusuku Schools let children interact on a daily basis with people of all ages from the community. Interacting with so many different people will be of great significance in their future lives. At the same time, these daily activities nurture their bonds with and warm feelings for the community, a love of the place they call home. It is hardly too much to expect that ten or twenty years from now, having set out on their own path in life, they will return to their old community to provide guidance in turn to other children.
These were not the only benefits of the program. The adults involved, thanks to their increased opportunities to interact with children, have developed a strong conviction that it is the responsibility of the whole community to bring up the children who live there. They have also become committed to taking action themselves to make their community a better place. Seniors in particular have, through intergenerational contact with children, gained a sense of purpose in life, of being involved in society. The result is a more broad-based sense of community. For example, the Build a Safe, Secure Community Campaign, under which local residents take action themselves to eliminate crime, has swiftly taken root in local neighborhoods: today there are 440 volunteer crime prevention groups operating in Edogawa, with 33,000 members protecting local residents. These efforts, incidentally, have paid off handsomely, reducing the number of crimes committed within the city limits by some 40%.
In a recent opinion survey of city residents, over 50% expressed the intent to participate in community activities. That is a high number indeed, and the city hopes to parlay at least some of their intentions into action.