Out With the Old, In With the New

This past weekend, Rikko Preschool, the site of our upcoming English Summer Camp, held a ceremony to bid farewell to their old school building which is being demolished this week. Kids and parents alike gleefully wrote, drew or painted on the walls of the buildings and classrooms, everything from “Thank you” messages to piles of poop (Japanese kids love to draw poop).

Though the event was announced only a couple days earlier, hundreds of children and parents came to the event. It was easy to see the love the community has for the preschool and the nostalgia associated with the old building. One of our church members even made a cake in the shape of the old building to commemorate the event. Our pastor presided over the ceremony and it was wonderful to hear him and the president of the school remind people that Rikko is a Christian preschool, a fact that until recently was not well-known or well communicated to the alumni families.

The highlight was being able to tour the brand new building for the first time, and it was so exciting to see how beautiful and spacious it is. With its wood flooring, large windows and open spaces, it has an airy feeling of being connected to the outside space. There are many large, well stocked classrooms and best of all, a chapel that is probably larger than the chapel of our own church. It was not difficult to envision how the space will be used this summer for our English camp, but beyond that, we can imagine that huge chapel being filled every week for worship service with members of the community who have never had the opportunity to attend church before.

A very pleasant surprise was the cross-shaped window above the main entryway, forever a reminder to those who come of Rikko’s roots as a Christian institution. As God has blessed Rikko with such a beautiful new facility, we pray that it can be used for His glory, to share the gospel of Jesus with the families of Rikko and the surrounding neighborhood.

Rikko Kai

Not far from our church is a Rikko Kai, a campus consisting of a large preschool and a dormitory for housing foreign students. Our pastor is the chaplain of the preschool and gives a weekly message to the children as well as a monthly message to the parents.

Though the organization drifted toward the secular over the years, Rikko Kai has a fascinating history as an organization founded by Japanese Christians over 100 years ago. Outside the building stand the busts of two prominent figures in Rikko Kai history; Pastor Hyodayu Shimanuki, who founded Rikko in 1897 under the slogan “Spiritual and Physical Salvation of the Japanese people.” and Mr. Shigeshi Nagata, who changed the vision of the school to train people in mainly agricultural skills in order to send them overseas to South American countries like Brazil and Peru. If you ever wondered how so many Japanese immigrants made it to South America, Rikko Kai was one of the organizations responsible for helping send them.

The Christian foundation of Rikko Kai can be seen in its logo which contains a cross and also in its name 力行 which translates roughly to “Go in power”.

The preschool is very large, almost 500 children. Part of the draw of Rikko is that they are a play-based preschool that is suitable for children of all kinds. Rather than the focused learning type of preschool that not every child is a good fit to attend, Rikko is a welcoming environment for children with special needs or learning disabilities.

In recent years, Rikko Kai had been losing touch with its Christian roots, but lately, there has been a resurgence in a desire to return to them. Bringing in our pastor as the school chaplain was a big part of that, but the staff and parents of the children have been asking for more Christian education and meetings that resemble church service. Our prayer is that Rikko remains a place where kids of all kinds can find the love and acceptance of Christ and that the staff and families of Rikko continue to grow in their desire for spiritual things.