Safe Haven For Overstressed Teens in Japan.

Overstressed Teens in Japan

Overstressed teens ranging from middle schoolers to college students is very present all around the world. For my Catalyst Project, I identified a clear problem in Japan as 250 children and teenagers took their own lives last year.

Noriaki Kitazaki, a Ministry of Education official stated that “The number of suicides of students has stayed high, and that is an alarming issue which should be tackled,”.

Even though there is a clear problem in Japan, it is still not being approached head-on. The Weekday Newspaper stated that “In the majority of cases, the reason behind the suicide was unknown, but some children were reported to have been bullied, while others had family problems or concerns about their future.” Along with this, Japan has long battled one of the highest suicide rates in the world. According to the World Health Organizations, In the late 1990s, “Many deaths are believed to be linked to academic pressures and bullying.” A government study published in 2015 recorded an annual spike in child and teen suicides on September 1, the start of the new school year. “You’re most likely to get bullied and less likely to get support services and understanding from your parents,” Vickie Skorji, director of TELL, added. All these sources are either primary sources or secondary sources making them very valid and reliable. All of this research concludes that there is a serious problem in Japan that needs to be resolved immediately.

The Current Solution

While doing my research, I learned that in Tokyo, there are no extra support systems that are available to kids that are in need. I talked to one of my old Japanese baseball teammates who is currently in a very rigorous high school and he said “I always feel a bit stressed but it is nothing that I can’t handle, Although I feel bad for the kids who don’t have a solid support system. I feel privileged to have a nice family and a good set of friends. But for my classmates that have to go through their high school without supportive friends, family or community.”.

My teammate stated that he came from a rather wealthier household which allowed him to travel the world and see different things which gave him perspective on the different types of kids. I also interviewed one of my coaches that teaches at The Roppongi Junior High school. Although he agreed to help me with this project by conducting this interview, he was very reluctant and emotional when we began to talk about his experience with stressed junior high schoolers.

There were no names named during this interview but he began to talk about a third-year student that had trouble studying for his final test that determined what high school he could get into. He ended up taking his life as. We did not go into much detail, but Mr. Mori the coach talked about his constant stress as he did not have much of a social life due to studying. This alone shows that there is a clear problem in the Japanese culture as teens can’t find a way to de-stress.

How is the situation in your country?

Quick Questions

Do you think that there is a solution to this problem?
Do you think having a solid support system is beneficial to teens?
Depends on the context
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Would you feel embarrassed if other people knew about your need for a support system
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These inspirations are not architectural inspirations, but rather they focus on the feelings they provide for people.


“Onsens” or public baths are widely accepted in Japanese culture. This is one of my inspirations because these public baths that are located in most cities have a very nice environment as people respect each other’s privacy.

The Tokyo American Club

Tokyo American Club or TAC is a private club that has many different types of activities for the members. Although it is very expensive to join this club, there are many things you can do here regarding working out, eating and relaxing.

The Neutral Zone

The Neutral Zone is located in Ann Arbor. Their main focus is to allow kids to express their personalities. Whether it be group activities that allow kids to mingle with other kids or big concerts that allow kids to have fun while being able to meet new people.


Joypolis is one of the most visited facilities as it is one of the biggest game centers in Tokyo. Joypolis creates an environment where kids, teens, and adults can take their minds off of the stressful things and allows them to de-stress and take time off to regroup themselves.

Architectural Solution


My main Goal after doing extensive research and finding inspirations is to make a “safe haven” for students between middle school to college to come and forget about their school work, family problems and or social problems. The design has to make students feel at home and should be welcoming while also maintaining a decently low profile. Allowing students to forget about the real world and to destress is key, so making it enjoyable is very important.

Thought Process

At first, I was planning to make something very flashy and creative. Because Japanese culture promotes people to be similar to being radical and bold is often seen as a negative thing. I then began to understand that this shouldn’t be an area only for kids who need help but rather a place to prevent students from needing help by giving them a supportive community.

This then allows me to understand what activities may be appealing to students. I also understand that if I do end up making a super supportive community, the student may want to begin to do homework here as well. This is why I am also thinking of having study rooms where kids can work together collaboratively which isn’t promoted too much in Japanese schools according to my Japanese baseball teammate that I interviewed earlier.

The Site

For the Site, I took all of the middle schools, high schools and colleges in Tokyo and found the center of all of the schools. The site is relatively downtown and is easy to access through public transportation. This is key because the minimum age to drive in Japan is 18 so most students resort to buses and trains.

This site is next to a big road which allows for the students who drive to access the facility. Also coincidentally, the University of Health and Welfare is right next to the selected site.

3D Model

The 3D model is made out of cardboard and thick signboard. This model is .003 of the actual building and it gives a general idea of what I am trying to build.

SketchUp Design

For this rendered design, the first 5 pictures are floor plans going from the top floor to the bottom floor. I tried to incorporate some way that the students that come to the facility could earn money to help themselves.

There is a cafe on the 4th floor. Meeting rooms span for all floors except the second and the fourth floor.

The second floor I a general community area where events could be hosted to further connect the students together. Looking at the outside, this is primarily a 3 story building with extra rooms on top.

The very bottom floor has a seating area where they can enjoy the surroundings on the ground level. Once you enter the building and go to the roof, There is additional seating on the top.

The reason why I rendered the floor as grass is because there is a study showing that nature is usually important for relaxation which is why I emphasized the use of wood and grass. The glass ceiling allows for sunlight to enter during the day and for it to get very dark during the night as students are recommended to go home every night.

The gradual slope on the top of the building is meant to replicate a hill which can also be used for extra seating. Also, the big hole that goes through the entirety of the building is meant for the bottom seating area to get sunlight. This whole building is mostly comprised of wood and glass which gives a modern feel while having warm colors all around which make you feel at home.

*For display purposes, I did not add the side fencing that prevents people from falling off the building.*


If you are interested in reading into the ongoing problem in Japan:

Complete Project Design and Documentation:

Image sources:

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  1. April 28, 2019 by Wesley.Breier

    This an awesome project idea that you clearly put a lot of effort into as seen by your SketchUp models that you attached. Along these same lines, you probably know better than I, but do you think it would be beneficial or even possible to try and set up a community of schools around the globe that feel that this issue is one that strongly affects them and hope to rectify?

    • May 01, 2019 by Kyle Ku

      To answer your question, yes. I do believe that it would be beneficial to set up many communities around the world that help kids without strong support systems. Although it may not be appealing and might be a bit embarrassing to attend such a thing, I believe that through common goals and similarities students will be able to bond with each other. Also, thank you so much for going through my project!

  2. April 28, 2019 by Lucy.Fitez

    Hello! This is a really cool project. A safe space for students is not only a fantastic idea, but one that seems fairly necessary. It is clear that you put a lot of work into this project, and it shows through your work. I would like to know more about what is going on inside the safe building?

    • April 29, 2019 by Kyle Ku

      Thanks for looking through my project! I wanted to answer your question because I feel that it is a very important one. What I envisioned was that the students that come here to de-stress have the option to do whatever they would like. I never included my client interviews with some of my Japanese friends, but mostly they just wanted to escape reality for a bit and to just chill. One organization that I did my inspiration on held major events such as concerts, movie viewings, and many other things. I believe that holding these things could do benefit everyone. Once again thanks for going through my project!

  3. April 28, 2019 by Donna Boucher

    Wow this is incredible! I love how you went through the process of actually designing a building that you think would be effective in helping treat stress in Japan and internationally. After reading your presentation, I have a question of how effective do you think places like this would be if people are not comfortable in telling others that they need help or support?

    • May 01, 2019 by Kyle Ku

      Great question. This is a very big issue in the world, but especially in Japan because the social norm is for everyone to be the same. Addressing the problem towards the community as a whole is very easy because people wouldn’t know what the purpose of a building is. Also stereotypically, Japanese people are very polite and do not outright say something bad about someone. I think that the problem is with the students amongst other students. In this case, I envisioned that it is available to everyone and can become a hang out place for everyone as I think that every student stresses out a bit. Thank you for going through my project!

  4. April 29, 2019 by Rose Cook

    Woah!! This is an incredible design and project that you made. Your Safe Haven sounds so relaxing, it would be such a gift to any student who visits it. You clearly put a lot of time into this project and it shows, from the various models and floor plans you made, to the essays you wrote and the interviews you conducted. Awesome job!!

    • May 01, 2019 by Kyle Ku

      Thank you so much!

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