Around 40 students are starting their dance class inside the school’s hall, “Hall for Everyone.” As they dance full of energy, their eyes are focused towards the director of the school who is called “mom” by them. She watches over them all attentively, calling out, “Great, that’s great everyone!” and there is an unconditional bond of trust between them.

 

Since founding the school, she has always valued real expressive education activities that allow the students to demonstrate their talents, not limited to just with dance, but also including lessons in things like painting, the tea ceremony and choral singing. With painting, all the students concentrate on a theme they want to paint about, which allows them to develop their own individual style of painting wonderfully, and they have held over 100 art exhibitions, both in Japan and overseas, that have inspired and a great number of people.

 

There are also buildings that are open to the public scattered around the approximately 80 hectares of the school’s premises, such as an art gallery that displays their works, four shops that sell knitted products and general merchandise made by the students, and a café that provides the students with work experience. She has created a community called the “village of Nemunoki” here, that is centered on the special educational needs school and care facility where 73 students, ranging in age from elementary school to senior high school, spend their time.

 

There were only eight students when it was first founded. The “Nemunoki” experiment started from her earnest desire, which has been unwavering for 50 years as it has progressed and developed into a cultural “village” that is unprecedented in Japan. Her ideal of a society where people with disabilities can live together harmoniously with non-handicapped people is taking shape and spreading out in a lush green valley.

 

Mariko Miyagi

Born in Tokyo in 1927. She made her debut as a singer in 1955 with “Gado-shita no kutsu migaki” on Victor Records. She also performed as an actress in musicals, plays and on TV. She was the director of four films, including “Nemunoki no uta” and “Nemunoki no uta ga kikoeru.” She has written and published many books and books of paintings related to the school.

Cooperation: Zele Music Office

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

 

This article originally appeared in “Shinsei” magazine, July 2017 issue, published by RINRI Institute of Ethics. Partially rewritten to update for this internet release.

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

created by
THE SPIRIT AND SPINE
CREATIVE FORCE,Tokyo

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
photography
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
ISUKE INC. and ICA
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)