Japanese kindergartens are well known for their minimalist design and creative play spaces. Japan-based Hibino Sekkei and Youji no Shiro have created many of our favorites, and their latest design for Kids Mayumi or “KM” Kindergarten in Osaka demonstrates all the signature elements of its predecessors, with some unique departures. With ample indoor space and a fantastic protected play yard, KM Kindergarten elevates childcare and early education to an art.
The most stunning aspect of the kindergarten is its sprawling green courtyard with sloping hills and play equipment, where children run and climb in the fresh air. The play area connects with a grass-covered ramp that leads to an upper outdoor deck, where more fun awaits. A separate area of the courtyard features climbing structures and a fun wooden playhouse that inspires imaginations to run wild.
Inside, some areas of the kindergarten were left intentionally unadorned, with unfinished plywood covering the floor, walls, and ceiling to provide kids with a space to ponder their thoughts. Tucked thoughtfully within the kindergarten’s indoor spaces are additional play features, such as hidden ladders and corner rope swings, which blur the line between learning and recreation in a way no kid could possibly resist.
Communal areas inside the school are expansive and open, with accordion-like walls that allow teachers to create indoor/outdoor spaces during pleasant weather, giving kids the opportunity to experience fresh air and sunshine during meals and class sessions, rather than solely during play breaks. An open gym with a finished wood floor creates more space for group activities, and features large windows that invite daylight to flood the room.
On the outside, the building looks fairly nondescript—a typically rectangular structure clad in a cool grey facade. The two-story school could be easily mistaken for an office building, as the inner courtyard is hidden from street view and there are very few windows on the outer perimeter of the building. This enables the kindergarten to function within a somewhat protected bubble, away from the distractions of passing traffic.
Images via Ryuji Inoue/Studio Bauhaus