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Working as a pilot. Kids put on a uniform and get to sit in a cockpit.

Baker, firefighter, nurse, police officer, model, doctor, newspaper reporter, photographer, radio DJ, pizza maker, car dealer, bus tour guide, designer, dentist, nail artist, construction worker, travel planner . . . Would you like to try any of these jobs?

A theme park called Kidzania lets kids experience doing different kinds of work. Kidzania first opened in Mexico in 1999, and now it has arrived in Japan. Kidzania Tokyo opened in October 2006 in the Toyosu area of Tokyo. Every day since its opening, the park has been packed with kids visiting from all over the country.


Traveling around Kidzania on a life-like delivery van.

The secret to Kidzania's popularity is the pavilions, which look just like the real thing but are shrunk down to a kid-friendly two-thirds size. At the pavilions, kids can try out about 50 different jobs. Police officers dressed in smart uniforms interview people to find out the whereabouts of lost items; firefighters actually put out fires; and so on. Many of the job sites and occupations look like everyday workplaces in Japan such as the home delivery service center; the sightseeing bus; the kindergarten (kindergarten teachers are popular figures among Japanese kids); and the bakery.

Kidzania Tokyo offers some job experiences that are specially adapted to Japan. To add to the fun, when kids work at the pavilions, they get paid in "Kidzos," a special currency that can be used only inside Kidzania. Kids can use their earnings to shop at Kidzania's department stores, take drawing classes at the park's design studio, and so on.


Older kids play with infants as kindergarten teachers.

Ms. Honma from Kidzania says, "The kids are really having fun, aren't they!" The theme park is getting rave reviews from adults and kids alike. Honma has heard many children say things like "I want to visit again!" and "Next time I want to get better at my work." According to her, one young visitor commented, "My mother is a kindergarten teacher. When I tried doing her job, I found it was really hard! And I want to say, 'Thanks, Mom!'"

The kindergarten pavilion is always buzzing with activity. This is where kids can try their hand at being a nursery-school or kindergarten teacher, which is the number-one choice of profession among elementary-school girls. At this pavilion, the "teachers" take care of real children aged five and under who are visiting Kidzania. The teachers read picture books to the younger kids, supervise their play, and so on.

Another popular occupation that involves taking care of younger kids is nurse. At the nurse pavilion, kids practice the tasks involved in caring for a baby, such as changing diapers. (In place of real babies, the kids practice on extremely realistic dolls, which feel just like a real newborn baby, with the same weight and soft skin.) The nurses cradle the "babies" with great care and have very serious expressions on their faces as they go about their jobs.

According to Honma, "At the pizzeria, the kids get to make real pizzas. At the radio station, kids transformed into DJs read their scripts using equipment so realistic that even adults are surprised. Some of the little ones cry when they aren't good at the job they've picked. But by having kids aged 2 to 15 help each other and work together, our aim is to provide a fun learning experience that shows kids how society works."

Kids may leave Kidzania with two kinds of souvenirs. One is the items they buy at the Kidzania stores with the "Kidzos" they have earned. The other, which cannot be seen or touched, is the experience they have gained at the park. With their experience in hand, kids may discover a new side of themselves.

(Updated in December 2006)