The International Democratic School Mamenoki
This interesting Free School lies off the beaten path in an agricultural area towards Kyoto, in the eastern part of Tamba Sasayama City. The school was founded in 2016 by Gen Nishimura and Anna Lodico. Located just 10 minutes from where Gen spent his childhood.
The school is a coalition of like minded parents who are seeking an alternative type of education/childhood for their children apart from the traditional schooling method. It’s a trend that more people are following, as the number of disenfranchised children who do not want to or cannot cope with regular school grows.
The Philosophy of the school is found in their motto, ‘Independently thinking–together!’ Their goal is to encourage an independently thinking child who can and will pursue his or her talents, desires and abilities and find a future path that they will be most satisfied with.
Building Community is a main goal of the school: This encompasses collaboration and community building with the surrounding local community, with Permaculture minded people, as well as with other free schoolers. The school is also a Host for (WWOOF*1) volunteers, in fact a number of volunteers have played an important role in the development of the school since it’s founding. (*1 See my previous article, ‘Gunge Pizzeria’ for details about WWOOF.)
Another of their goals is for the school to become Carbon Neutral , a goal that more and more individuals and institutions strive for worldwide nowadays. To accomplish this they are discovering different ways to live more independently or ‘off-grid’ becoming less dependent on large commercial suppliers for utilities and other necessities.
To that end they have built a growing number of facilities for themselves. The list includes a homemade Pizza oven, a Smoke oven, and a traditional Japanese Kamado or Earth oven, all located outside, under a covered cooking/dining area, in the spacious garden. The garden has a play area for the children with swings, climbing frame and other amenities.
The school has a well that is used for most water needs apart from drinking. They also have catchment containers for up to 2,000 liters of rain water that is used in the dry summer months to irrigate the vegetable and flower gardens. They even have a Composting toilet at the edge of the garden.
In a plot adjacent to the school there is a small animal husbandry area, at present they have chickens, but are hoping to expand into other animals in the future.
Then came 2020! With all of its turmoil and change for just about everyone on the planet. Here in the school too, changes both helpful and destructive have brought on a time for reassessment. Considering the next steps and how to move forward, just as it seems all of us are or have been doing this year. I wish them the best in all their pioneering efforts.