日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【December 2022 No.411】Educating Children in the Love of God(6)


by Sakashita Michiaki, pastor
Asagaya Higashi Church,
Principal, Asagaya Kindergarten

Takasaki Yoshiki started Asagaya Kindergarten in October 1925, and it became a government-licensed facility a year later. Takasaki was a pastor in the Nihon Kirisuto Kyokai (Japan Christ Church) denomination, which was absorbed into the Kyodan in 1941. Following the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, he was involved in earthquake relief, focusing on children, and he felt sad when those efforts were phased out. He had been thinking for quite some time about the importance of religious education for children, particularly those who remained in a particular location until they reached adulthood, so he decided to establish a kindergarten. The Asagaya site he chose was at that time surrounded on both sides by thick forests, with rice fields lining the way to the railway station. In spite of much trouble in the beginning, the records say that 400 children graduated in the first ten years.

One of the things Rev. Takasaki valued was education for mothers. He said, “In order to raise children well, it is necessary to first educate the mothers,” and once a week he taught mothers Christianity and methods of child-rearing in a Mothers’ Course, which was later renamed Mothers’ School. Later, he worked with Rev. Takenami Takashi, who founded Koganei Church and Koganei Church Kindergarten, to publish a magazine on raising children  entitled, Children’s Learning.  Following Takasaki’s wishes, Asagaya Kindergarten requires that all mothers attend Mothers’ School the few times each year that it meets. Recently, so that fathers and grandparents as well as mothers will feel comfortable attending the class, its name was changed to “Soapberry Tree School,” after a soapberry tree on the school grounds.

In 1945, the proprietor's name was changed from Rev. Takasaki as an individual to Asagaya Higashi Church. It’s interesting to note that the kindergarten preceded the church, as the kindergarten's worship service gave birth to Asagaya Church. A kindergarten developed into a church – something that is rather unusual.

The situation today is one of decreasing numbers of children and an increasing need for daycare centers in urban areas. Every kindergarten is affected by this ongoing trend to one degree or another, so Nishi Tokyo District's Commission on Education established the Association of Church-related Kindergartens for the purpose of promoting fellowship among principals and directors and the exchange of information.

Some kindergartens have expanded their programs to include those of daycare centers and have been certified as such. Among these, some now offer daycare from early morning to late at night and during extended vacation periods. It seems likely that the number of conventional kindergartens no longer able to maintain their former structure will continue to increase. In 2017 Asagaya Kindergarten restructured itself to conform to the New Child-rearing Support System and regained some financial stability. However, the reality of decreasing numbers of children remains the same.

Having a kindergarten results in some of those children feeding into the church school program as well, but unfortunately, as they reach the upper years of elementary school and begin attending afterschool “cram schools,” many of them begin to drop out, and after they enter middle school, their various club activities (which are often on Sunday mornings) cause them to quit entirely. Occasionally, the parents of kindergarten students begin to attend church and even receive baptism, but their numbers are small. I do not fret over that, however, because we educate children in love of God in this kindergarten. This is the mission we must faithfully complete. We are sowing the seeds of the Gospel here. (Tr. SK)

From Kyodan Shinpo (The Kyodan Times) No. 497677

坂下道朗(さかした みちお)







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