Hiroko Takahashi succeeded her mother Nobuko as director of the kindergarten in 1986, but in the preceding years she had already been active in introducing Waldorf early childhood education to Japan by organizing seminars with European lecturers or study tours to Waldorf and Anthroposophical institutions in Europe.
The teachers of Nasu-Mifuji Kindergarten also participated in these seminars and study tours and learned Waldorf views on the child and human being as well as essential elements of Waldorf kindergarten to integrate in to their own practice. In summer or spring, the kindergarten hall also served as the venue for Waldorf seminars, with prominent lecturers such as Dr. Helmut von Kügelchen, Dr. Michaela Glöckner, Dr. Johannes Schneider, Freya Jaffke, Peter Lang, Reinhild Brass, Margret Costantini, Peter-Michael Riehm and many others. Gradually, our kindergarten turned into a Waldorf Kindergarten of what may be called a “Stuttgart model”.
The first (critical) turning point came, when Hiroko Takahashi, prompted by the wishes and requests of the parents, tried to found a Waldorf school within the framework of the school institution that had been managing the kindergarten. In Japan, there are severe conditions for a school to be recognized by the state, and our school institution had been recognized as such, because Nobuko Utsumi had donated the land and the building to the institution to meet these conditions. So, theoretically, it is possible to found a elementary school on the basis of the Kindergarten, as many of the parents had hoped in those days.
However, instead of building up a community to support the school foundation, she depended on some dubious consultants to make plans, negotiate with the local authorities, etc., and ended up loosing a fortune and risking the management of the kindergarten itself. In this process, the kindergarten also lost the trust of the local community.
As the employees of the kindergarten asked Hiroko’s son, Akio Takahashi (Kai Iruma) to take over the kindergarten management, he discussed with them whether they wanted to stay further with the name “Steiner”. Since it became clear that they did not feel confident about Waldorf, but they had been doing was what they were told to do, they came to the agreement that they would not call themselves “Steiner” any more, but simply strive to carry out what they feel is good for children in a way they could hold themselves accountable for what they do.
Thus most of the Waldorf-oriented elements, which the teachers had been practicing up to then, have been maintained, and other elements from the local culture have been consciously integrated into our kindergarten, but we do not claim to be a “Waldorf” or “Steiner” kindergarten.
Instead, for us to simply be what we are, namely “Mifuji” Kindergarten, we have developed our own vision, as seen throughout in this website, in which each one of us agrees on what we are striving for: we would like to prepare the grounds for each individual child to grow to truly believe in her- or himself, that is, in what they think, feel and will.
In this way, what we have imported from the West, -Anthroposophy-, will be reborn from within each one of us and lead to a new form of Waldorf education in Japan, in Asia.