Jiyu Gakuen celebrates its 100th anniversary

These days, where sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, Jiyu Gakuen is getting renewed attention for their motto—“Daily life itself is education.” Founded by Christian journalists Yoshikazu and Motoko Hani, Jiyu Gakuen celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

Located in Higashikurume City in Tokyo, Jiyu Gakuen’s Minamisawa campus serves as a natural learning site for its students. Here, students are exposed, not only to the rich cycle of nature, but also to the processes behind farming, food, and education. For example, students raise vegetables in the fields and cook the harvest as part of their meals, learning how to manage the school and their dormitories themselves.

Jiyu Gakuen’s original school building, Myonichikan, was built in Ikebukuro in 1921. It was designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright who sympathized with the Hanis’ disappointment with the intense Japanese rote repetition style of education and their desire to build a better school. The building is designed to represent freedom and equality under God, rather than authoritarianism. Myonichikan is now designated as an Important Cultural Property by the Government of Japan.

Kazuya Takahashi, president of Jiyu Gakuen, shares the school’s prospect for the coming future—“One of our school’s missions is to nurture each student’s power to live better. We want this school to take part in building a better society.” The school plans to combine the gender-segregated junior and senior high school departments in 2024 as their first step to building a more collaborative environment, allowing students from various backgrounds to learn and live at peace together.

Although Jiyu Gakuen was founded upon Christian standards and holds Jesus Christ as the one and only teacher, it is only this year that they added Bible classes to their curriculum. Students now learn about the Bible in their “TLP time”, a class based on Motoko Hani’s policy of “Thinking, Living and Praying.” Takahashi notes, “Having Bible classes does not make a school Christian. The biblical teaching needs to be connected to daily lives. Various problems arise when we live together, and it’s when we try to solve them that biblical teachings come into play.” He concludes, “Each student is precious and has God-given talents. Our aim is to encourage them to take pride in what God has given them and to live their lives to the fullest.”

From Christian Shimbun, July 11, 2021
Translated by Hiromi Kiuchi

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