I Didn’t Find My Children’s School, I Built It: Hazuki Tanaka Of Hayama International

When you don’t have what you dream of having, more often than not you keep searching. You change the place, you change your priorities, you compromise and you finally settle down on the best available choice. But this wasn’t the case for Hazuki Tanaka — when she didn’t find what she was looking for, she decided to build it herself. 

“I really didn’t have time to wait,” she says, eyes wide open as she recalls the time when she had just returned from the U.S. in 2003 with her two daughters, one nearly three years old and the other still a newborn.

Hazuki Tanaka at Hayama International School’s Tokyo campus in Shirokanedai.

After spending six years in Oregon and New York, Tanaka came back to Japan to only discover that the education at all daycare facilities she tried for her children were still based on the very old Japanese education model of raising the “perfect child.”

“They would put a pencil in my daughter’s hands and have her write word after word. She hated it and wasn’t good at it,” Tanaka recalls. “There was also this vibe hinting that only the children who could do it well were the ‘good’ kids.”

Determined to provide her two daughters with a global-minded and fair education that does not enforce uniformity, in 2004, Tanaka, together with her husband, founded Hayama International School. Fourteen years later, the school has nearly 200 students and an impressive story behind it.

Eye-opening experience

Looking at all the achievements Tanaka has now, it is hard to believe that her journey began with no clear direction.

“I really didn’t know what to do after graduating from high school,” she said. “I certainly didn’t want to go to university because there was nothing specific I wanted to do there.” Luckily, her boyfriend at the time (and now her husband) had an idea. He advised her to try studying abroad — as he himself would — and experience a different world.

For the next 10 months, she stayed in Oregon with her American host family, while attending a language school.

“My host family opened my eyes to so many things,” Tanaka remembers with a smile, saying that they are still strongly connected. “Suddenly I was exposed to an environment where differences were not just acceptable, they were normal.”

‘Telling children how things should be done is not necessarily beneficial for them.’

After getting married, Tanaka and her husband once again settled down in Oregon when their first daughter was born in 2000. There, she first experienced the type of education she would bring to Tokyo.

“A friend of mine operated a homeschool and

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