In 1989, Gerald Kondo and Mark Takeuchi saw a need to preserve their unique culture which the surviving Issei (first generation) pioneers brought from Japan. As Sansei (third generation) Mark and Gerry felt a lack of knowledge and background to effectively pass on an understanding of the Japanese American culture to their children. It was that desire to give their children a solid foundation in their cultural heritage which began Mark and Gerry’s road to establishing “Kokoro no Gakko”, which translated means “School with a Heart”.

After months of hard work and organization, the first Kokoro no Gakko was established in the summer of June 1990. The first year’s teachers were instructors: Mark Takeuchi from Rolling Hills Middle School, Marcia Hashimoto and Jane Jofuku from T.S. McQuiddy, Michiko Matano from Mar Vista Elementary, Candace McCarty from E.A. Hall Middle School, Sandy Momii from Hall District Elementary, and Eiko Stewart from Moss Landing Middle School. The Board of Directors for the founding year were: Gerald Kondo, Chairman; Mark Takeuchi, Principal; Aileen Tsukiji, Secretary; Gayle Uyematsu, Treasurer; Joanne Hayashi, Terry Hirahara, Jeanni Kadotani, Patricia Kondo, Barbara Sakae, Patt Takeuchi and Tom Takano.

The community support was and continues to be outstanding. Grants were received from the Watsonville Buddhist Temple, the Westview Presbyterian Church and the Watsonville Japanese-American Citizens League (JACL). Numerous guest lecturers from our community continue to demonstrate Japanese art, Ikebana, calligraphy, bonsai, music, cooking, history, festivals and more. The common denominator of all those involved in the Gakko has been this spirit of “kokoro”, a willingness to give from the heart and share the experience with their children and friends.

The program is held every summer as a parent cooperative venture, thriving on 100% support from all the children’s families, volunteers, and the generosity of the classroom and resource-specific senseis. Having completed its 29th year, children and grandchildren continue to benefit from this cultural program. To our ancestors and founders of the Kokoro no Gakko: Thank you.

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