So building partnerships, fostering and taking part in international exchanges between teachers and schools was my antidote to the citys hesitancy to support fully our quest to be legitimate with Japanese authorities and the legal requirements. They citys support or lack thereof had tremendous influence though the legal status we sought was ultimately determined buy the prefecture, but the City and the teachers union was more influential at the local level. It would take Mazda and Ford Motor companies clout to move the prefectural government to move, and that would take another three years.
As a family we did our duty and put our three year old son Isaac into a Christian half-day kindergarten. In fact we intentionally put Isaac into Jogakuin Universitys attached kindergarten- three hundred Japanese kids and this blond hair, blue-eyed American kid with a Georgia accent. The University (founded in 1886) had a great reputation and its Gaines yochien (kindergarten after Nannie Gaines, the first principal). The kindergarten was excellent, a truly progressive, holistic mind-set; Isaac loved it despite being a center of attention (his first Japanese words included gaijin, outsider, which he thought was friend. And it was a bit strange to have the teachers leading Christian songs and prayers without any Christian committed folks. Earlier I described my approach to the university President. Dr. Hirose, to either sell us land or incorporate us into the institutions gakko hojin foundation, but to no avail. Several years later when our daughter Serene was born we became even more strategic.
Kitty would teach part-time, both at the school and English conversation classes in the community, we needed a babysitter. In the end we decided on a Buddhist daycare center kindergarten complex of some four hundred kids, a multistoried building with a large central, courtyard/playground and as a group, the most dedicated, caring teachers I had ever me. Not from the Ushita international school, the man who owned the school and was senior priest of the temple next door, was on the City Council; he was a good politician because he supported his constituents and regularly checked in with me for a read on the international community. At the beginning, as with most children, she was reluctant to go and cried as we drove up to the school, but within several months, she was the darling of the teachers and aides, and was speaking Japanese fluently within a year, and now, was reticent to leave. She was so engaged, so cared for, so loved, she cried to stay! Even the long-time foreign residents had ideas.
Bob McWilliams, Canadian, private university professor, born in Japan, graduated Canadian Academy in 1938, I knew from my boyhood summers in Nagano Prefecture, Japan Alps, where we had a cabin as his family did in the Nojiri Lake Association. He was remarried, had a Hippie era Japanese wife, Keiko Doi, and two wonderful children Fri and Thor who attended HIS. He convinced me to meet with administrators at his university which I did numerous times; but in the end K-9 international school was simply an reluctant result of their goal to have an international high school for both foreign exchange students, for foreign kids in Japan who wanted an authentic international education in a Japanese context, and mixed, bi-racial students like Bobs kids. I had also considered Hiroshima National University for several reasons. First they were in the process of building a new campus (and new international airport) some twenty-five kilometers outside Hiroshima City. While that was too far for our community, the downtown site of the University, where I lived my first years in Hiroshima, was available for new programs so I thought. Professor Peter Goldsbury, England and Martin Millar, Scotland, were both helpful; I even called on the retired Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences whom I had tutored in English Conversation several years when I was a teenager was empathetic to our plight, but the land belonged to the Japanese national government, the buildings were to be torn down and
several proposals were submitted for its development. And again Abe sensei and his friend and English professor and former Dean at Jogakuin, Kan sensei, were international-minded and far-thinking visionaries and they were helpful in our monthly meetings balancing my skeptical idealism with pragmatic hope and optimism giving me permission top dream. We never developed a plan that had viable traction but I considered them mentors and two creative if not politically savvy gentlemen. Recently I was talking to the chairman of the Peace Culture Foundation. We were childhood friends, college teammates and his wife I went to Canadian Academy. His two kids attended the international school years ago and he had now lived over twenty-five years in Hiroshima. We spoke of a peace project that local Hiroshima citizens, with city official support, wanted me to organize; I had waited two years for official support and was frustrated, and then he reminded me of my years of effort on the schools behalf. He said, Stop waiting for the bureaucrats to follow through. Just do what you think will be useful and dont worry about the local Japanese government. We make mountains out of molehills in government and dont deserve your help. You could kidnap a hibakusa (bomb victim) and we would spend two years discussing what to do!
A major reason for the developments of the 1980s was the small stake that the Ford Motor Company acquired in 1979 in the Hiroshima-based car maker Toyo Kyogo or Mazda. In a short time, this investment grew to 33% and significant numbers of Ford personnel and their young families were considering moving to Hiroshima and within a few years seeming hordes would descend upon the school. Although only a few years old, the new school was simply too small to accommodate the anticipated (some estimates were up to 150 K-9 students) influx of Americans, Australians, Germans, British, South Africans, Germans, Mexicans, and Argentines (these represented inquiries and visits by prospective Ford employees to Hiroshima and the school), and others being considered to transfer to Japan from Fiord locations around the world, and increasingly, by other foreign firms moving into Hiroshima. By 1985 the traditional families of ABCC, US military personnel, missionaries, university professors and the professional baseball player were being supplanted by engineers working with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and their families from Brazil, Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden, many working on ship and oil rig platform projects (for Brazils Amazon region and the North Sea).
In the late spring of 1981 a first Ford family from the United States arrived; the father was a strategic planning engineer. Prospective couples on their look-see visit to Hiroshima included a visit to the school. It was an all-expenses, first class visit to determine if they might be interested in moving to Hiroshima for three years. These first couples were also being evaluated by the companys human resource staff- would they adapt, adjust and live well in a foreign country with few expatriate benefitsthe modern school facilities, the foreign social clubs, the spacious western apartments- you would find in Tokyo or Osaka. Instead we had no clubs, two apartments converted into one (what does a family of four do with two kitchens?), and a school neither accredited academically nor having non-profit school status, and its new facility was designated a ware-house without a gym, science and music and crafts rooms, or even its own proper (as the Aussies would say)pitch (playground) much less heating and air.
Our current physical and legal condition coupled with all of this anticipated change and growth from the developing Mazda-Ford partnership convinced me of one thing: a new tactic or approach. Ford would need over time a suitable school to attract and retain (which might well serve as a community center or even expatriate club) families. Ford needed a school. We needed a wealthy patron. So I decided to contact directly the most powerful Ford representative in the Hiroshima area. I tracked down Mr. Gordon Riggs from Dearborn, Michigan who was Fords representative on Mazda Motors Board of Directors. He was sojourning in Hiroshima for two years, spending half of his time in Michigan. Mr. Riggs was a former planning manager for light and midsize car development (which was the cornerstone of the Mazda-Ford operation in Hiroshima and later Mexico).. After leaving Hiroshima Gordon became Fords Director of Strategic Studies, a member of Fords Corporate Strategy staff in Dearborn. Gordon was in his late 50s, early 60s, a career Ford man, and a protégé of J. Edward Lundy, one of Henry Ford IIs whiz kids. Erudite, civil, sophisticated, and plainspoken I was discover that he was a clever strategist and both authoritative and a strong negotiator. I met with him every few weeks for dinner or drinks and while I didnt know if he thought I was a whiz kid, at the very least I was hardworking and persistent (gambarre) if not bull-headed. He was very helpful in helping me think through issues, contexts, situations, players, who appeared to hold the power, and in the case of the Japanese, who was behind the curtain where all major decisions have been made. He helped me to think better strategically, to be aware of what I needed and who had what I needed. He convinced me that I not only needed Plan A but Plan B and Plan C but these plans needed to be as succinct and concrete as possible; there were always unforeseen circumstances and unintended consequences.
Stuff happens you havent accounted for, so be prepared. And he helped me temper my natural and sometimes naïve idealism to become more pragmatic and less emotional, tending to blame myself for stuff I couldnt control (though even with Gordon and future mentors, I never learned to leave school at school). I learned that sometimes you had neither the social capital nor financial resources to accomplish your goal, yet thoughtful persistence might pay off- that choosing a particular path for implementation might well be a wrong path, but it might give you the insight or connection you need to resolve the issue in a different way unforeseen. People, relationships, and timing were essential components. I learned much from him and believed that he really respected me. I had confidence that my effort and dream was worthwhile.
At the end of his tenure Gordon invited me out to dinner before he returned to Michigan. He told me a contingent of Ford personnel would be moving to Hiroshima in the next months, and there would be a few families with school-age children. He said that over time all kinds of Ford Folk would be here- from different divisions of Ford world-wide beginning with Australians from Melbourne & Geelong, Americans and a variety of professional roles from designers, engineers, finance folks, marketing, executive administrators. Quite a mix. Should be interesting. He told me to get these folks involved in the school, not just as parents but find ways to use their expertise. Ford expects its employees, beginning with its executive corps to be engaged in service leadership within in the community. Get some of these folks with executive skills like strategic planning, finance, legal issues involved, get some of them on your Board of Directors. And he had a few more parting ideas (he gave me his new business card for back at Dearborn headquarters and asked me to stay in touch, call him direct anytime). He recommended that we continue to build essential connections within the larger community, both foreign and domestic. So the International Club project and the community publications were important. So was the expansion of our language programs; he applauded our commitment to Returnee kids since most of them were Mazda kids or children of university professors; those numbers would increase he thought because Mazda was increasing its business ventures overseas and Japan was slowly changing its attitudes towards these kids- they were more often than not viewed as culturally handicapped and language deficient, though increasingly there were signs that with their international backgrounds they could be economically useful. He recommended we expand our language programs with not only conversational Japanese for Ford personnel but develop a Business English and Business Japanese program. And he foreshadowed what would happen a few years later when Mazda opened a plant in Michigan; families, wives and husbands may well desire (they would need this he thought) cultural training on how to prepare for living in the United States. Contribute to Hiroshimas image or brand by spotlighting the schools and its service contributions to the International City of Peace and Culture. He said nothing about the possibility of Fords help with potential funding, nonprofit foundation status acquisition or even accreditation. Though issues would be addressed and hopefully resolved the next several years from new parents with Ford and others: John Morley (New Zealand), Barry Ashton (South Africa), David Eagle (Australia), and from outside Ford- Anika Freudendahl (Sweden) and Martin Millar (Scotland).
John and Leslie Morley were from Rotarua, New Zealand but lived in Australia where John was a Fords finance executive. I met John on his first business trip to Hiroshima (Leslie and Johns look see trip was months later). He came around the school with Miss Sakamoto, a bi-lingual manager at the local Ford office. Over cups of tea we talked of the school situation and Fords growing involvement with Mazda. From John I learned at the invasion was imminent and that he expected his family would move to Hiroshima for three years. Robert would begin kindergarten the coming fall and four year old Becky would begin a year later. John had met with Mr. Riggs and he had given Mr. Riggs his personal commitment to helping us resolving our legal and business issues; he would begin by joining the school board at the most appropriate time (which was asap). Years later visiting with the Morleys in Malaysia, John said that his leadership of the school board and the development of the school project was his most important and satisfying professional accomplishment.
In 1984 Ford agreed to underwrite the cost of building a new school but sufficient land (and at an affordable price) was unavailable in Ushita or anywhere close to the centre of Hiroshima. Many possible sites were considered but in late 1985 attention turned to a new residential project being developed in Koyo to the north of the city. Early in 1986 a plot of 7,4000 meters squared (nearly two acres) was acquired and in April a groundbreaking ceremony was held. Just six months later, in October, 1986, the new Hiroshima International School was opened.
From the beginning John and I were kindred spirits. We were of similar age as were Kitty and Leslie and our two boys Isaac and Robert. We were both optimistic, hopeful types with a critical dose of cynicism. We were naturally hard working, and problem-solving was a cultivated trait. Our similar dispositions evidenced strong interpersonal skills, and an openness to others- people and cultures. By temperament we were also attracted to novelty, new experiences, and we each saw ourselves as adventurers, creators, and explorers. We both had a sensitive commitment to making the world a better place. We had vision. The idea of an authentic international school in Hiroshima was more about the future of the world than it was about Ford and Mazda selling more metal boxes on wheels.
We both loved sports. John played basketball in university, I played soccer. He was at the Australian Open every year. He introduced me to Aussie Rules (David Eagle the future Ford Japan president and HIS board chair played professionally) and my first business trip to Australia I watched Geelong play Hamilton at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds. I never followed up on his love of competing in long distance motor racing.
Yes we had vision, we had a dream and we could play the games, whether corporate, political or both. We understood positionality, our place in the order of things, in the borderlands between Fords and Mazda in Japan. John once explained his view to a visiting Ford corporate type: Look mate, just because Im a 9-5 suit with polished leather shoes just like you doesnt mean Im on your team or your water-boy. I look back now thirty years and realize that two young thirty some-things were competitive types who liked a challenge, did not like being told no, and who were convinced they could solve any problem.
So here we sat in Hiroshima with a twenty year old institution, with an established record of high standard (the HIS grad whose parents worked for ABCC had been selected and co-enrolled at the University of Tokyo and Harvard set the bar). Here we sat with two major companies working together in an increasingly multi-national, global economy and seemingly needing our future services by expanding our capacity to serve. On the other hand, Ford, like BP or Aramco in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or Indonesia could hire International School Services out of Princeton, N.J., who for a generous fee, could hire a school head, teachers, support staff, lease or build a school facility and stock it with every necessary supply. And in the middle of the desert or the jungles of Borneo have a full functioning school in operation in six to nine months. That was an expensive but relatively easy solution. But according to Gordon RiggsFord and Mazda wanted a long-term partnership and this problem was a perfect issue to resolve together for it had economic and social ramifications. Mazda was Hiroshimas number one home-grown industry (unlike Hiroshima Mitsubishi and Sumitomo which were subsidiaries of Tokyo multinationals). And for what turned out to be a modest investment by both companies, supporting (and thus controlling the governance of the school thus protecting their financial investments) was the best, safest bet for success. Mazda wanted to be more international. Ford was global and wanted to reorganize. It had lost $2 billion in 1980 and was beginning a transition to the integrated, world-minded company. Over the next several years we would witness the dramatic transformation as Ford Pacific out of Australia personnel and families gave way to Dearborn, Michigan personnel and their workers drawn from throughout the world, attracting some of their best designers, engineers, and executive staff leading to a more American presence.
There was also a growing sensibility that to service the families of these top line professionals we needed a school staff of similar stature. I remember one of my political enemies, a British board member, an Oxford grad in engineering, also a poor parent and philanderer, who once said to me, the best thing about you for this enterprise is you have a doctorate. And I used it to our benefit and it was sometimes used against me. For one thing it helped me with the Japanese community. In Japan a school principal has at least twenty years of teaching experience. I was 31 years old. Folks from Fords and the British Commonwealth judged often with terms such high standard, top level, and it was I who had been arguing, and now I had John Morely as an ally, the school needed academic accreditation, both international and either a British or American credential, as well as proper (another British term) facilities.
Not only was John a brilliant finance guy, not only was he open and transparent, but he had empathy for others- he could of easily been a great HR guy (human resources). John recognized, for example, that most families at HIS (other than private language school teachers) lived a higher standard (much higher for Fords, private companies, and ABCC families). And he knew that in order to attract and retain teachers to create a stable learning place, the school needed a high standard of salary & benefits at least comparable to other international schools, particularly the large, well-established schools in Tokyo and Kobe.
So let me present an overview of the personal finances and the economic conditions in the early, mid-1980s as it will help situate the schools & Fords development and evolving dilemmas. Over the next ten years the school established several precedents for the foreign staff. First it gave precedent to teaching couples, not only for stability, but it was cheaper to hire one family and than two- airfares, key money for an apartment, and basic set-up. Second it began leasing apartments long-term and outfitting them, thus reducing baggage allowances and set-up expenses. However, the most dramatic changes affecting the school occurred from endaka (literally yen expensive). When we arrived in 1980 the dollar/yen exchange rate was $1.00 for Y240. Five years later it was $1.00 for Y120. This was wonderful for buying dollars but everything Japanese was twice as expensive; thus one result over the years was for Ford to send individual or childless couples thus reducing the child age population. Today with the yen at around 100 yen for $1.00, Ford has severed its financial business with Ford.
Other character traits of John Morely that I identified with were his openness, his transparency, and his notion of fairness. For example, it was John who recognized that the future health of the school depended upon a core staff of qualified, dedicated teachers. All families at HIS, when considering direct compensation and infrastructure support lived at a much higher standard than any of the teachers In fact the teachers had the lowest compensation. bottom line, of any of the twenty one international schools (though nuns and brothers at the Catholic schools were paid a nominal salary their living standards were higher. His goal was to rectify that condition. In our case, I knew the comparisons that could be made to Presbyterian missionaries situation, which was much more modest than the Baptists and Methodists. My parents had a rent-free large western style home with Japanese accents (including a Tanami room and carp pond in a Japanese garden overlooking the Inland Sea). We use to compare this new spacious home, with our first place in Hiroshima, located down the street from the entrance to Hiroshima University. Built for visiting university professors, this western home included a kitchen sink in the living room and the toilet upstairs had a transparent glass window! My parents had a free car, health and retirement benefits; their taxes were paid by the Mission, and they received free airfare home each summer. School age childrens tuition was paid for international school; college students received a monthly stipend, a tuition scholarship and one round trip airfare during their four years in university.
We teachers had no health insurance, no retirement benefits; in our case our salaries were lower than the year before in Atlanta; we did receive airfare, a baggage allowance and free tuition when Isaac matriculated to HIS. The school retained several residences and the key money was paid. Each place was furnished with a finite set of furniture and appliances, bedding and cutlery, all used (i.e., the used material culture for each home was provided in a Japanese culture which did not value used goods or hand-me-downs).
Ford was to set the bar high and within three years all staff salaries and benefits were equal to or higher than any international school in Asia, including contract schools, and became the envy of international schools throughout the region. Again this was the result of John Morley and then David Eagle, President of Ford Motor Company, Japan. In the spring of 1985 I took a business class trip to Singapore and Australia to interview prospective teachers, meeting up with David in Melbourne, a trip in his words well earned and above standard. Finally we were being treated fairly and with great respect, and with a new facility and innovative programs, the word spread fairly quickly- in 1982 we had 30 applications for a teaching position; in 1985 we had over 600!
Another example, in fact a prime example of Ford setting the high standard and the teachers benefitting from the new cultural norm, was the cost of living differential. Few Ford personnel and their families would even consider moving for three years to another country, much less Hiroshima, Japan (one Ford executive said moving to Hiroshima was like being sent to Cleveland, Ohio, versus Los Angeles, Sydney or London). Though there were many enticements and incentives , there were few takers: Ford would sell or manage (rent) your American home; they would provide you an above average western style home or apartment; your taxes would be paid; you would have several out-of-country all expense vacations each year including home leave; your children would go to international schools tuition and fees free; and they would go to or from school by taxi if the school had no transportation. Salaries would be 50-75% higher than your previous home compensation. And then there as he cost of living differential that included utilities, transportation, and food. It worked this way according to Peter Stickler, at the time Fords human resource director, and was based upon costs in Geelong, Australia. Take the example of beef, expensive in Japan, inexpensive in Australia. Beef was sold in Japan in 100 gram increments. In Australia it was sold in kilograms and fractions thereof. If rib eye steak sold for $10.00 per kilogram in Australia and the equivalent of $100.00 per kilogram in Hiroshima, the cost of living differential was $90.00. Human Resources created the differential for every foodstuff imaginable. In the first years Ford families lived off their cost of living differentials, saving their salaries, creating in many cases a culture of nouveau riche (resulting in either a newfound attitude or newly surfaced for some parents, I deserve this; it belongs to me, or the school is there to service us- if we want to take a six week home leave in the middle of the school year, the teachers are expected to accept it and in fact need to prepare a study course for the childs leave, whether back home or the familys vacation to Bali or Tahiti). As often noted by staff when fifteen taxis with their regular drivers are lined up in front of the school it sends messages of affluence and privilege to HIS community and the local Japanese community alike.
By the beginning of school in 1981-1982 we had a number of Ford Families arriving for three year stays. While the building and grounds were not up to standard, the reputation of the staff was outstanding and parents knew that children tended to return home at or above grade level. We were a good place for kids and families, and our success was both the students achievements back home or at other international school, and their present well-being and happiness. Over and over again we witnessed what I experienced at a great school. Paddies: students were excited to come to school and reluctant to leave. They also knew that Ford had a strong commitment to the educational enterprise and would solve the problem. What made this relatively smooth sailing with the parents at least was that John Morley and Barry Ashton, two finance executives, were parents and were in charge, John becoming Chair of the Board and Barry the financial manager working with our accountant/bookkeeper Nobori san. And both actually believed in my vision of a non-profit school contributing to the community. Some said we worked together well because we were both contrary and the type to naturally go against the grain. There is something in those remarks if one understands the power of tenacious energy to meet a goal; but we found a group of folks who liked a challenge. For John the project as he called it was a major but surmountable challenge, but nothing compared to a 24-hour marathon car race across the Australian outback. And John saw this project as a vehicle to meet one of his professional duties- cement a cordial and mutually beneficial partnership with Mazda. He often remarked, You have a vision other folks with power and money will buy into, the money and power will be there for you, and Theres plenty of money out there. Youve just got to have the right problem, mate.
Several years before Ford made a legal and financial commitment to support us I was still shopping around for partners and patrons. The following Addendum captures a bit of the drama
ON BEING DISINVITED: NOT MEETING PRESIDENT CARTER IN HIROSHIMA, MAY 1984
Hiroshima Mayor Arakis office, International Section, called inviting me to meet the Jimmy Carter family coming to Hiroshima in a week or two, May 1984. I had been meeting regularly with several members of the International Office for the last couple of years, men around my age who not only wanted opportunities to practice English conversation, but they were keeping tabs on me (He is a wild cannon became He is a wild cowboy to these folks.) The Mayor knew I was direct speaking living in a culture known for indirectness in communication and decision-making in the shadows; I had lived my formative years in Japan (1961-1966, ages 12-17) and had some sensibility about things Japanese. I was 31 and a teaching principal with nine years of professional experience (the average Japanese principal averaged thirty years of experience before the leadership role; but I was henna gaijin (strange outsider and that Phd was my ticket). Some of his staff knew I had come to Hiroshima International School from Atlanta ,Georgia and had a doctorate from Emory University, home of the Carter Presidential Library. Perhaps they knew I had met President Carter some years earlier in Atlanta. But several days later my invitation was abruptly rescinded by the Mayors office.
I was looking forward to President Carter visiting. Several months earlier I had taken my students to hear Pope John Paul II speak at Peace Park and they had a ten minute audience with Cardinal Casaroli, Secretary of State of the Vatican. And around that time a friend at Emory had sent me President Carters farewell speech as he left office. One poignant section had really impacted me as I had realized why I had returned to live in Hiroshima after fourteen years. The great majority of the worlds people, he wrote, cannot remember a time when the nuclear shadow did not hang over the earth. Our minds have adjusted to it, as after a time our eyes adjust to the dark. Yet the risk of a nuclear conflagration has not lessened. It has not happened yet, thank God, but that can give us little comfort, for it only has to happen once
It may only be a matter of time before madness, desperation, greed or miscalculation lets loose this terrible force. Nuclear weapons are an expression of one side of our human character. But there is another side. The same rocket technology that delivers nuclear warheads has also taken us peacefully into space. From that perspective, we see our Earth as it really is- a small and fragile and beautiful blue globe, the only home we have. We see no barriers of race or religion or country. We see the essential unity of our species and our planet, and with faith and common sense, that bright vision will ultimately prevail.
When I moved to Hiroshima from Atlanta in the summer of 1980 to be principal of Hiroshima International School (HIS) I had been hired to sustain and build a new era for the school and the city. Two weeks earlier I had stopped in Portland and drove out to the Dalles on the Columbia River to meet the recently retired principal of the School, who after seven years, was on his way to be head of the American School in Mogadishu, Somalia. Charles was excited about what had been accomplished the past several years at HIS and believed I would thrive there expanding the academic and cultural programs. He and the Board had solved the persistent legal and financial issues that had plagued the school since its formation in 1962 first as Hiroshima American School, purposefully situated at one end of Peace Blvd, and then the International School located presently in the northern part of the city in Ushita. The school had found a benefactor who had bought land and built a two story Ferro-concrete building across from Ushita Park (the schools playground) and had obtained the legal status of kakushu gakko (non-formal, miscellaneous school). While school did not have either the higher legal status of a senshu gakko (specialized training school) and was relegated to the various schools category of a profit-making language or culinary school, or the all important status of jun gakko hojin of international schools founded before World War II, it was indeed a significant improvement.
The problems began the week before I arrived as the rainy season ended; the persistent rains and relentless humidity weakened what turned out to be a weakened infrastructure, the building was only six months old, collapsing part of the back retaining wall and flooding the library. The owner of the building and land, and legally the owner not only of the schools name but the contents of the building, that is whatever programs and organizations occurred therein, had a contract clause with the school that stated that all expenses for building maintenance and repair were the responsibility of the school. The school assumed the owner had insurance; the owner assumed the school had legal counsel and had read the contract. But the school didnt seek legal advice as the owner was an English teacher at local a Methodist girls high school, was a Christian and some assumed an American (he had been born in Hawaii in the 1930s, so a gentlemens handshake was all that was needed. Not only was the building poorly constructed (including for example, spigots in every classroom for kerosene heaters, but no internal piping to carry the kerosene from the holding tank), but the most lavishly decorated rooms were for the owners office and special afterschool classrooms for private English conversation lessons with the assumption that foreign teachers, as part of their normal duties, would teach in the owners private English school known as Hiroshima International School. Months of litigation and inter-cultural conflicts and retaining an internationally minded Japanese law firm resolved the crisis.
But still the school faced a similar crisis. It did not have nom-profit legal status characterizing private K-12 schools (gakko hojin) or quasi non-profit status (jun gakko hojin) of non-Japanese schools. It was still a miscellaneous language school. And since it was not legally an authentic school, there was no need, for example, to have a second floor fire escape. The International School of Hiroshima, the city of peace and culture, did not have the legal status and standards of your typical barbers school. The resolution, however, was a catch-22. In order to have that non-profit foundation status, you had to own your own land and building; but in order to fundraise for land and building you had to have the non-profit status. Though the school was not yet accredited academically (1985) the most important status was the non-profit foundation to sponsor a school. All-important is the status of gakko hojin (educational corporation) that only the government can grant. To obtain this status, institutions are required to meet specific criteria regarding administration and governance, curriculum physical facilities, accounting and finances, and land holdings. The status confers numerous benefits on the institution and its students including eligibility for government grants, tuition subsidies, deferred loans, scholarships and preferential treatment on tax law and social insurance fees among other benefits including discounted bus and rail passes.
Now there was only one school in western Japan with the jun (quasi) gakko hojin corporation for a foreign institution (i.e. non Japanese) and that was the North Korean School. At the end of World War II there were some 600,000 Koreans in Japan, most conscripted from Japans Korean colony to work in war-related industries. Following the division of Korea in 1948 into North and South some 150,000 did not register legally as South Korean or Japanese and de facto became North Korean citizens. Organizing businesses, banks, civic association and schools (joseon hakkyo) they were less ideological communist as they were committed to a unified Korean identity.
From the beginning of that confrontation with the owner I began devising different ways to secure proper legal status. My parents, ministers for the Presbyterian Church, long established in Japan since the 1870s had colleagues who provided advice and counsel. My mother, friends with the spouses of both the Mayor and prefectural Governor joined in as did the Rev. Tanimoto, minister of Nagarekawa Methodist Church, and like myself, a graduate of Emory University tried to be helpful. So I began with the President of Jogakuin the Methodist educational institution (my son was the only foreigner on their attached kindergarten). Legally, she could not help; however, she was upset with the behavior of one of her teachers. and he retired within a year. I suggested that perhaps we could buy land from Jogakuin or even join legally her corporation (they also sponsored a junior high and college) but to no avail. I approached the private internationally-minded Shudo University, explored buying land (or having it donated) from Hiroshima National Universitys downtown site as it was moving into the eastern part of the prefecture. Again no luck. At the same time Ford and Mazda were creating joint ventures in automobile design and manufacturing and Ford anticipated within several years as many as a 150 foreign students and their families from Australia, Mexico and the United States moving to Hiroshima for three year contracts.
I had also continued the public relations efforts of the school when I arrived in 1980. The school published an English language monthly Hiroshima Signpost (later expanded to Japanese) of some 600 copies with contemporary happenings, restaurants, travel features and cultural insights. It published A Guide to Hiroshima for Foreign Residents on living in Hiroshima with information on everything from trash collection to utilities and medical services. Taking the vision seriously, Hiroshima: International City of Peace and Culture (how can you be an international city without an international school ?), we expanded our English conversation school for children and adults alike, added Business English for Mazda, Japanese for Ford, initiated the Hiroshima International Womens Club, and developed a language program for Returnees children of business and university personnel who had lived at least three years in an English speaking country or had attended an international school. We joined the PEACE LOVE FESTIVAL and the highly popular annual Flower Festival and May Day parade. We created sister schools with the prefectures school for handicapped children as well as internationally minded rural schools and the local elementary school. We began folding cranes for hibakusha (a-bomb victims), the precursor to the 1000 Cranes Club and made every effort to garner attention through TV, radio and the print media. (Some seven years later I noted a dramatic change. The international schools Ushita campus was only two miles from Hiroshima rail station. When I first directed a taxi driver to take me to the International School no one understood until I said American School. Years later the chances were 50/50 I would get there either way.
Mayor Araki was hibakusha, and a popular politician having served on the City Council, and Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly before becoming mayor in 1975 (1975-1991). He became a vocal peace activist and advocate for nuclear disarmament, addressing the United Nations General Assembly on the topic in 1978. In 1982 he initiated Mayors For Peace and we edited and proofread the English version of Hiroshima, the official gift to participants to the first Mayors conference (today over 7000 cities in 161 countries and territories are members). I met the Mayor that first summer in 1980 advising me to stay longer than the last principal (seven years), reminding me of the importance of the American School for Mazda, and of my responsibilities to uphold a strict moral standard for the children and community despite being the school for outsider children (including the impure or mixed ones). I told him that we would work to be a great International School to support Hiroshimas vision. However, we did not have the proper status of gakko hojin. He didnt tell me that only the prefecture government could provide that non-profit status but noted that the rich American School with its support from American Companies like Ford and the US governments Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission would do just fine.
But I persisted over the next years trying to build a political base of support (while teaching full-time) from putting my daughter in a Buddhist daycare center whose owner, the head priest, sat on the City Council as did a representative of the Socialist party who cultivated foreign relationships, and various newspaper reporters and university professors best described as politically left of center. And I kept badgering Ford and Mazda to do something concrete to support, even suggesting closing the school to all prospective students until we has proper status and an adequate school building and playground. With our sister schools and language programs we began participating in undokai (sports day) and gakkugaekai (culture days). I convinced our creative and politically astute Japanese culture teacher, Mayumi Yingling, that perhaps we should join up with the North Korean School at least for some sports and cultural exchanges; maybe it would lead to a partnership!
After my first year and into the second it was obvious to some that I was or had become a pain in the butt, an upstart who didnt know his place, as much as I was a fervent passionate obsessed 31 year old. That PhD seemed to help. Having lived in Hiroshima and my family had been in Japan and Hiroshima some twenty years I wasnt perceived as totally ill-formed, ignorant outsider (gaijin); I was still suspect though I spoke Japanese and had some history with the culture; I was an outsider who could not authentically, deeply, honestly understand Japan and what it meant to be Japanese because I was not Japanese. I could be in a Japanese restaurant in many places, ordering in Japanese from a Japanese menu and the waiter would be disbelieving that I could really be reading and speaking Japanese. Impossible. So it was with things Japanese including most poignantly politics and inter-personal relations. Over the years one of cultural tools in negotiations for the school was to use a simultaneous translator but first I would introduce myself in Japanese, banter a bit and have my host invariably say, Your Japanese is so good. I would explain I grew up in Japan. And I would then in flawless Hiroshima dialect, not proper male Japanese as much street slang say something like, Nihongo musakashi neh. Nihgongo zen zen wakarimasen! (Oh Japanese is so difficult. I dont understand Japanese at all!) That would get a laugh or two, break the ice, and I would switch to my translator for the rest of the conversation.
My compatriots in the International Section were poor English conversation speakers; but they were dedicated, hardworking (and hard-playing). While I was helpful to them in some matters, for example proof-reading their English publications, I insistent in every public forum that if Hiroshima really waned to be the international city or peace and culture, an international school could contribute to that vision, in fact, it could guarantee such a reputation. I was civil. I was brash. I was mendokusai- bothersome, troublesome, a pain in the ass. But I was also persistent. I went out once a month with several of the International Section staff, first to eat and then to visit of couple of stand bars. Over time my nickname had changed from Mizu to Mizu-wari (Mizu was my teenage nickname Water as there are no L sound in Japanese as in Walter; Mizu-wari refers to whiskey and water, a common bar drink I did not indulge in). But after a year spending time with these guys and sharing my dreams, and increasing anger and frustration at not making any significant progress for non profit legal status I became Ronin to them or masterless Samurai, without allegiance or responsibility to any authority though following the Samurai code: bushido way of the warrior of samurai one who serves. Personally, I blamed the hibakusha Mayor whom I believed hated or despised Americans though the status I sought could only be given by the Prefecture. I still believed he could open doors, provide support that would help us. But I also believed he saw all gaijin (outsiders) as American barbarians (Yaban hito)
Is it true you have contacted North Korean School? And members of City Council? Socialist Party? Who told you to do so? Does your rijikai (Board of Directors) give you permission?
Ambassador Mansfields Political Attaché called. Then the Consul General from Kobe announced he was coming to Hiroshima and wanted to meet me at the Grand Hotel. We received a small grant each year from the U.S. Department of States Office of Overseas Schools in part to demonstrate the exemplary practices of American education (Though we were an International School with an international curriculum). I was a non-remunerated representative of the US government with the authority to register American citizens to vote, or for the raft (though I had been a draft-resister during Vietnam), and to provide counsel for marriages, birth, passports etc. So the Consul seemed to think I worked for him when he asked me, What the hell do you think youre doing linking up with that communist school? Doing my job, I said, building friendships, building up a pr reputation that the international school was making a difference, contributing to Hiroshimas mission.
Of course I had not only upset a few parents especially the right of center ones as well as some members of the Mayors conservative Liberal Democratic party. Now the Consul was on my case reminding me the North Koreans were the enemy and that we lived in a time of nuclear proliferation and the Cold War. Kim II-sung and his agents just want to use you. You miss the deep historical and complex issues. That might be true I thought. But what had motivated me were two points: interpersonal, international friendship are a path to peace (and a ticket to our non-profit status). And something was fundamentally inhumane and wrong when some 20,000 or 1/7 of the a-bomb victims were Korean forced labor. They were victims of the Hiroshima holocaust and yet there was no monument within the Peace Park grounds in their memory. And for years thy were not recognized as a-bomb victims and could not receive the special, a-bomb health benefits.
We had a number of friends in Hiroshima with Georgia connections. Teachers who were peace activists, organizers of such venues as the Peace Jazz Festival ,Family Picnic Generations for Peace and the PeaceLove Festival. For Jimmy Carter and family we could have organized a Georgia Peach Festival picnic. Phil Levin, Don Nilsson, Randy and Evy, Kitty and Walter, Rev. Tanimoto family, Steve Leeper and family. But who knows what I might have said to the President. I had met him twice at the Paideia School, contributed to both his governor and presidential campaigns and had voted for him. I might have quoted from his Secretary of Education, Ernst Boyer, on the importance of education: a culture gets the schools it has deserved, a culture get the schools it has earned. Hiroshima needed all the help it could get to be that international city of peace and culture. It continues to strive to maintain and sustain such a vision. As long as the eternal flame burns in Peace Park.