(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 144-145, Note the Copyright!)
Waldorf Education has been known to a wider Japanese public for many years. Two books by Professor Michiko Koyasu, “A Primary School in Munich” (Tokyo 1975) and “A Secondary School in Munich” (Tokyo 1980), roused much public interest in the subject. They describe his daughter’s experiences while attending the Waldorf School in Munich-Schwabing.
Many of the readers thought this was an ideal form of education for Germany but not, of course, for Japan. Gradually, however, it dawned on people that such an education might also be meaningful for Japan. The first little seed began to sprout in Tokyo in the spring of 1987.
By the year 2000 89 children were attending the six classes of the Tokyo Rudolf Steiner School. And a first Class 7 opened in April 2000, at the beginning of another school year, thus expanding the school from a primary to a middle school. The curriculum has meanwhile been worked out up to Class 9 and the decision has already been made to take the school right up to Class 12.
Illegal yet recognized
The Tokyo Rudolf Steiner School has still not been recognized officially because the Japanese criteria for an independent school are very difficult to fulfil, especially as regards the size of the class-rooms. Property prices are so high that there can be no question of the school acquiring its own land and buildings. The relevant local authority registers the pupils at a nearby primary school, an informal solution with which everyone is quite satisfied. One of the tasks to be tackled in the future will be the attainment of proper recognition.
The present school building, which used to be the dormitory wing of a large company, has been lovingly renovated by the parents, but it is becoming too small and quite simply over-crowded. While one group is working on how to acquire a new building, another is tackling the task of attaining charitable status and thus taking a further step in the direction of proper recognition.
Buds in the land of cherry blossom
While the Tokyo Rudolf Steiner School is reaching the turning point of becoming a middle school, a new Waldorf School is about to open in Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital which, like Tokyo, now has a population of 12 million. In Hokkaido, too, Japan’s northernmost island, there is a group of people who are actively interested in Waldorf Education. Since 1999 a few children have been receiving Waldorf-type lessons, and this will eventually develop into a school. All over Japan there are now “out of hours” schools where children can get involved in artistic activities at weekends to counterbalance the over-intellectual teaching of the state schools. All these initiatives give warmth and strength to the Waldorf movement in Japan.
Nor must Japan’s Waldorf Kindergarten movement be forgotten, for there are now 26 Waldorf Kindergartens, and the number is growing steadily. Waldorf elements have also been incorporated into many private kindergartens. Since many kindergartens in Japan are run as family businesses which are passed on from mother to daughter, it is easy to introduce educational elements if the owner herself decides in favour of this. However, people are sometimes painfully aware of the fact that the social forms which arise as a result of this run counter to what Waldorf Education wants to achieve. February 2001 will see the introduction of a training course for teachers on Waldorf Education for infants and kindergartenage children. This will be organized by the newly-founded Association of Waldorf Kindergartens in Japan.
The small seed of Waldorf Education in Japan has meanwhile been growing for 20 years, watered by the love for this movement. Hitherto the teachers have concentrated most of their efforts on the Tokyo school. But now efforts are being made to work together with colleagues all over Japan and indeed the whole of Asia and world-wide. Warm interest helps love to flower and spread far and wide. One of the keys of this Waldorf movement are the teachers themselves in the whole way they live and carry on their work. Let us hope that they will continue to find their way in the new millennium both in gravity and in joy.
Eurythmy teacher. Since 1987, teacher at the Tokyo Rudolf Steiner School and a member of the board.