Our Japanese Language School, sponsored by the Gardena Buddhist Church, opened its doors in June, 1928.
Two years after the establishment of the Church in 1926, the Gardena Buddhist Church Japanese Language school was established. The School began with two teachers and about 70 students with Rev. Kosei Ogura as the first principal. Since then, until the 1980s, the minister of the Church held the double duty of being the principal of the School as well as the minister.
Originally the student body was restricted to the offsprings of the Church members, and the Japanese language instructions included Buddhist teachings; this policy was changed after World War II, to accept any student regardless of their religious beliefs.
Originally a Saturday-only school, both the Saturday and Daily classes were in existence by 1941, with approximately 220-230 students in the former and 40-50 students in the latter.
The Gardena Buddhist Church Japanese Language School (GBC-JLS) ceased to exist temporarily with the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific. The church and the classrooms served as baggage storage for the evacuees during World War II, when all Japanese were evacuated from the West Coast areas.
The Gardena Buddhist Church re-opened its doors in September, 1945, as a combination Church-hostel; then in October, 1948, it regained its status as church only.
In February, 1949, after seven years and two months, the Gardena Buddhist Church-Japanese Language school was reopened in September, 1958.
Rev. Zesei Kawasaki and other members of the Church held various meetings, and new plans were formulated in regards to regular class grades, increasing the qualification requirements and number of teachers, choosing of new textbooks, increasing the number of classrooms, starting the Parent-Teacher Council, etc.
The reorganization was a huge success, with an increase in enrollment, teachers, etc. With an ever-increasing enrollment, an Upper Division was formed (later became the Intermediate Division) and Tea Ceremony and Flower arrangement classes were started.
On November 17, 1962, a new 15-room classroom building (the one located just north of the Church building) was opened; a second classroom building was built just north of the first building, and was dedicated on February 2, 1975, which added eight more classrooms.
The GBC-JLS, which started as a Saturday school, then became a Daily and Saturday school in the 1930s followed by a Saturday-only school in the post-war period, again became both a Saturday and a Daily School, with the start of a new Daily Division in September, 1963. By the late 1960s, the enrollment neared 600 students.
In June, 1970, the Summer School was revived after a nine-year hiatus.
In the Fall, 1972, the Yochika (later renamed Yochibu) Division (Preschool) for children ages 3 and 4 was inaugurated as a part of the Daily Division; Mrs. Sachi Masuyama became the first Preschool Director. In addition, various elective classes were started on Saturday afternoons from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. The third change involved the hours of instructions. The Saturday school hours had been from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. ever since the start of the School in 1928. With this school year, the hours were changed to 8:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.
In September, 1973, the Daily Intermediate Division was inaugurated. Until then, even though the Daily Lower Division was begun in September, 1963, the students completing the Lower Division were required to switch to the Saturday Division in order to attend the Intermediate Division.
In September, 1974, both the Daily and the Saturday Kindergarten classes were started, and in September, 1975, the Saturday Yochika ( now called Yochibu) Division came into being.
Thus, the GBC-JLS is currently divided into five divisions by grades: Yochibu (Yochika in past) = Preschool; Elementary of Lower (Kindergarten, Nyumon [Intoductory], above); Intermediate or Middle; Upper or High School; and High School Advance Study.
The School is further divided into Daily and Saturday Divisions.
The Preschool, first called Yochika, became Yochibu (to signify that it is a part of the Japanese Language School) in 1994; it is now also known as the Nakayoshi Yochien (as of 1996) and includes a Day Care Center (as of 1997). It now accepts children from age two. The classes with children age two are called Y-2, children age three are called Y-3, and children age four are called Y-4. An elective piano class is held on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.
The Kindergarten group encompasses children aged around five years (the public school kindergarten age) and is called K-3.
The Lower (Elementary) Division consists of seven years of instruction. In the Fall of 1974, in order to conform with other Japanese language schools in Southern California, the seven grades came to be labeled Nyumon (Introductory) the first year, then grades 1 through 6. The Intermediate (Middle) Division consists of 7th and 8th grades, while the Upper (High School) Division encompasses 9th and 10th grades. There is an additional class called the “Kenkyu-ka” or “Advance Study.” They are the 11th and 12th graders, who are in their 12th and 13th year of Japanese school counting from the Nyumon class.