On 1st April in 2005, there were over 10 male and female teachers gathering at the station of Fujino, a town in the mountians about one hour by train far from the center of Tokyo. People working at any Waldorf school in the world might have recognized at a glance that the teachers at the station were their colleagues ...
We were divided into some cars and arrived in five minutes at a school surrounded all with green mountains. This primary school had been used as a public school of Fujinocho - the town of Fujino until the previous day. The building was already prepared for redecoration inside it
It was in order to part from the old building and celebrate the coming new building metamorphosed into “Steiner Gakuen” that we came here together. Visiting all the rooms of three-storied building one by one, we together performed hallelujah in eurythmy and spoke Steiner’s mantra and recited “tanka” of celebration - Japanese ancient short story.
After going around all the rooms, we all jumped out into the school playground all at once. Some jumped up on a swing. Some hung on a tree. Some stretched their arms widely in the air.
18 years of waiting
At the former school in the center of Tokyo we nearly hit each otherinpassing through the narrow corridor and had to take turns in playing in the school yard from class to class. Now we teachers, free from such a narrow place, enjoyed being happy to breathe greatly in the wide space.
Have you oever been to Tokyo? If you have visited Tokyo once, you’ll know the business district that never has a sleep all day, and the buildings standing together in large numbers in the broad area, and the trains, buses, and cars passing incessantly, and the waves of a great number of people moving pushed forward by “time”. Even in the heart of Tokyo, however, there are places where with nature still remaining people can breathe freely. In such a place was our school born quietly eighteen years ago. It was the first Waldorf school in Japan and in Asia as well.
For these eighteen years we have been obliged to accept the narrow and insecure school building, and the law of education which remains unchanged as it was, and the severe official requirements for establishment of a school. But the new way appeared before us that our school might be accredited as a private school by taking advantage of the national system called “Tokku”. The Government made up the system in which the former laws are loosened in limited areas of Japan in order to promote movements in the economical and cultural fields which meet the needs of the current times. This system drilled a hole through the wall which had utterly prevented school founding. Making an application many times brought us two approvals of the Government: to ease the restriction that a private school should be required to own its land and its school building if it is to be accredited by the Government, and to use the Waldorf curriculum instead of the one authorized by the Ministry of Education and Science. So we began to look for a local government which would help realize our wish. It was in April, 2004 that we met with Fujinocho and acquired acknowledgement of “Tokku”. It was in November of the same year that our school was accredited as a private school through examination by the Council of Private Schools.
Celebrate the new start during cherish blossom time
In Japan schools start in April when cherry blossoms are out all at once. On 11th April 123 pupils of class 2 to 9 came up to the school which was hastily redecorated inside with the walls painted in different colors. Some pupils came in a bus beginning to run from Fujino Station to the school. Many pupils walked along the mountain paths. The mayor of the town said in his speech at the opening ceremony, “Everyone, I went to school by walking along the mountain path for forty minutes. That’s why I am still strong physically though I’m old.” Some small children came to school with flowers picked up on the road side. Others ate ripe mulberries on their way.
One week later the number of pupils became 147, welcoming 24 children into class 1. There was a cherry blossom tree standing in the playground, from which petals of the cherry blossoms were dancing down. Children were running around the ground, surrounded by the pink veil of petals.
On 15th July, when the first term was finished in peace, a summer festival was held at school. On 7th July, which is Star Festival Day originated in Eastern Asia, people used to grind an ink-cake with water collected from morning dews, and write their wish on a strip of paper, and hang it on a branch of a bamboo tree. We put up nine bamboo trees decorated in that way in every class, which we brought out together in the center of the playground. Around those nine bamboo trees put together, we danced, played the musical instruments, filled our mouth with sweet potatoes grown by class 7 and 9, and finally set the bamboos on fire. The burning fire made a strong and energetic sound like fireworks, and released golden flames, and raised our wishes in spiral into Heaven.
Now we teachers wish that the high school will be also accredited in the near future and its school building will be built. We also wish to have a teacher training course and a eurhythmy hall. Another great wish is that five other Waldorf schools trying to make their way with the same difficulty as we had one year ago will be successful in getting accredited and the movement will expand and be rooted firmly in society.
Let me end up this report by introducing a mother’s remark who visited Open Day of our school: “I’d like my children to go to this school even though we’ll have to move from the center of Tokyo. It’s not because I want them to cram a lot of knowledge, but because I want them to cultivate their souls.”