Életfa Primary, Secondary and Art School and Életfa Kindergarten of Keszthely are in mourning

After long suffering, our school’s founder Okuma Nobuko passed away on May 19, 2012. She was a lovely human being who we owe our wonderful school.

We first met in 1989 in Japan. It was a special encounter that resulted in lifelong friendship. Back then I met several Japanese people, who initiated a movement that strives to save and preserve Japanese culture, the original Japanese children’s games, songs and customs.

They regarded the work of Zoltán Kodály an exemplary model.
Okuma Nobuko and her husband Okuma Tsuneo founded a school - Machida Kodály Music School in Tokyo. This school taught and still teaches music on a high level. The great composer’s and music teacher’s widow suggested the name for wonderful Machida Kodály Choir.

Ever since the 1980s, numerous Japanese groups have been visiting Hungary in order to study education in Hungarian kindergarten. During the 1990s, Okuma Nobuko personally accompanied many Japanese groups to Keszthely’s “Életfa”-Kindergarten and assisted the participants in studying its operation. They were particularly interested in methods of person-centered education, the kindergarten’s free and liberal breeding, the sophisticated activity units, the learning methods, and the coexistence and cooperation of children of various age groups, whereas preserving customs, the world of folktales and children games in musical form played a major role. Mrs. Okuma was confident that this form of teaching will succeed. She invited me to visit Japan and lecture on this topic to kindergartener teachers.

We dreamed of applying the method to school. Both, the idea as well as our decision was born: we would found a school to cooperate with the kindergarten and continue the work that had started there. What happened then was like a fairy tale – simply wonderful. It is globally unique!

In Japan, Nobuko launched an extensive donation initiative, mainly amongst those educators who had already visited the kindergarten. All of them supported us. It was really moving to see that even their children donated their pocket money to help build the school. From 1996 to 2001, the school was erected in the kindergarten’s attic. The first lessons were held in 1997. All conditions were met to locate the municipal kindergarten and the endowed school in one building. Even though the dream of both institutions partially working together did not come true in the long run, it worked very well for several years. Eventually, a school was created which truly represented the initial idea.

Nobuko loved Hungary. She always pointed out that she considered Hungary her second home. She spoke our language fluently, even though she had not been taught by a teacher. She was self-thought. She learned the language from Hungarian folk songs. She read Géza Gárdonyi’s novels in their original version. She understood Hungarian idioms. Storks were her special favorites.

Being world-famous Kodály-supporter, she was awarded the Kodály Award several years ago for keeping up and popularizing the respective methods of musical education. In her choir and school, she practiced these methods on such a high level even Hungarians should take this as a model.
She was a wonderful person. She was loved and respected by everyone. She had enormous amount of energy, and her sense of humor, her optimism was never ending.

A little while ago, she quoted Maurice Maeterlinck to me:
“The blue bird is always with us if we love each other. The blue bird is happiness, and its cage is the human heart”.

She was truly a friend. Love and friendship will never die.

I wish you a good journey, Nobuko! One day, we will meet again.

The kindergarten and school will always remember you.

Gyöngyi M. Komáromi