The Public Paperfolding History Project

Index Page


Paperfolding in the Kindergarten in Japan

This page is being used to collect information about the history of the Kindergarten in Japan (and, of course, the use of paperfolding within the curriculum in Japanese Kindergartens). Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

A normal school is a teacher training institute.




'Shinzo Seki (1843-79), the first superintendent of the kindergarten attached to Tokyo Women's Normal School, translated a three-volume book on the kindergarten in 1872, and later added Kindergarten Guide by American kindergartner Elizabeth Peabody as a fourth volume in his translation.' (2) (I have not been able to identify the three-volume book referred to here.)

'Seki had been a Buddhist priest, and engaged actively in anti-Christian campaigns.' (2)

According to (3) 'In particular, Shinzo Seki (1843-1880), who later became the first principal of the first Japanese kindergarten, introduced the ideas of kindergarten education to Japan by translating Douai's 'The Kindergarten: A Manual for the Introduction of Froebel's System of Primary Education into Public Schools; and for the Use of Mothers and Private Teachers' but no date for this translation is given.

Similarly according to (3) 'Johann and Bertha Ronge's 'Practical Guide to the English Kinder Garten: For the Use of Mothers, Nursery Governesses, and Infant Teachers; Being an Exposition of Froebel's System Of Infant Training (1858) was also widely used during the initial stages of the establishment of kindergartens in Japan. This book focused on the methodology of Froebel's Gifts (wooden blocks) and Occupations (a series of hands-on activities such as paper-weaving and paperfolding).'



'The first private Japanese kindergarten was established in 1875, attached to an elementary school in Kyoto.' 'The Kyoto school was Yanaike Elementary.' (2)



'The first kindergarten in Japan was attached to the Tokyo Women's Normal School. To promote the best aspects of western civilization. the Department of Education made it a national model. At the beginning. 75 children were enrolled in this kindergarten and the number of children increased to 158 in the next year. Shinzo Selci, teacher of English at the Tokyo Women's Normal School, became the first superintendent of this kindergarten. The head kindergarten teacher was Klara Ziedermann Matsuno, who had received kindergarten training in Germany, Fuyu Toyoda and Hama Kondo were appointed as kindergarten teachers and were trained in the following way: Matsuno explained the methods and content of kindergarten education in English. Seki or Taka Nakamura, an adopted daughter of Masanao Nakamura. who was the first Principal of the Tokyo Women's Normal School and was an advocate of kindergarten principles, translated this into Japanese for Toyoda and Kondo.(1)

'In 1876, the first kindergarten was established as part of the Tokyo Women's Normal School (today known as Ochanomizu University Kindergarten). Its initial intake was seventy-five children aged between three and six who were mainly from upper-class families. The teachers at the kindergarten included Clara Zitelmann Matsuno, whose German background exposed her to Froebel's kindergarten principles; Fuyu Toyoda; and Hama Kondo. The Ministry of Education wanted to incorporate every single practical element of Froebel kindergarten curriculum into that of the Japanese kindergarten. These elements included songs, games, and Froebel's Gifts and Occupations and other pedagogical materials. Kindergarten teachers provided sets of Gifts and Occupations for children to finish or let them copy from a drawing of Gifts and Occupations on the blackboard. However, while the use and operation of Gifts and Occupations was highly stressed in the Japanese kindergarten curriculum ... the Froebelian theological views that supported his curriculum were excised. (3)

A footnote in source (3) casts some doubt on the amount of kindergarten training that Clara Matsuno had received: 'Having received training at the Froebel Institution in Germany, Clara Matsuno Zitelmann was assumed to be a qualified kindergarten educator; however, the research of Maemura, Takahashi, Nozato, and Shimizu revealed that that was not the case.'

'In 1876, the first Japanese kindergarten was established and attached to Tokyo Women's Normal School (now Ochanomizu University) by an initiative launched through the Ministry of Education. This kindergarten became the model in Japan, Froebel's kindergarten curriculum was introduced, and in particular, the methodology of Gifts and Occupations was strictly adhered to.' (4)

'When the first kindergarten was established, Papier-Falten (paper-folding ), Froebel's Occupation number eighteen, was introduced as a pedagogical tool, and was one of the important handiwork elements in his kindergarten curriculum.' (4)

'The first Japanese kindergarten was established in 1876 as a kindergarten attached to the Tokyo Women’s Normal School (present-day Ochanomizu University). It served as a model preschool, and was well known by the adoption of “Fröbel’s Gifts” into its curriculum.' (5)



'In July 1877, several months after its opening. the Regulations of this kindergarten were announced. These Regulations influenced the development of kindergartens throughout Japan. In them it was stated that the children to be enrolled should be from 3 to 6 years old, that the enrollment number would be 150, that the tuition should be charged monthly, and that there should be 4 to5 hours of education per day. The curriculum consisted of Froebel's "gifts and occupations," as well as arithmetic, nature study, singing, story telling, gymnastics and play.'(1)



'The first kindergarten training course in Japan was opened in 1878 at the Tokyo Women's Normal School. This training course was abolished the next year after training only 11 kindergarten teachers when it was incorporated into the Normal School curriculum.' (1)

'Up until the Tokyo Women's Normal School's reopening of the kindergarten teacher training course in 1896, the course was combined with the school's elementary education teacher training course. The original kindergarten training course offered two terms (23 hours per week) for one year. However, to qualify as kindergarten teachers, students enrolled in the elementary education teaching training course were, for example, only required to complete a couple of extra modules, to gain practice teaching at a kindergarten and develop operational knowledge of Gifts and Occupations.' (3)



'Modelled on the kindergarten attached to the Tokyo Women's Normal School, three public kindergartens were opened in 1879.' (1)

'In 1879, a book entitled Yochien Ho Nijyuyugi (Kindergarten Methods Twenty Plays) was published by Sinzo Seki (1843-1880 the first president of Japan's first kindergarten. This instructional book helped kindergarten teachers to implement Froebel's Gifts and Occupations. Each page presents one Gift or Occupation with an illustration, as illustrated below and referred to in Figure, where a child sits on a table with inscribed gridlines and holds a paper crane. This table can also identify a grid of origami paper and a pair of Japanese scissors. The book did not explain Froebel's educational theories, which underpins the methodology and operation of Gifts and Occupations, only stating that:

'This Occupation is a simple square-used remnant. This is actually the most inexpensive and affordable teaching material in Froebel's Gifts and Occupations. However, this coloured and squared paper can be created with the innumerable useful forms of beauty with various folding techniques and methods. It is believed that this paper-folding activity also helps children to understand basic geometry. The origami method and techniques utilise various forms of geometry, like other aspects in Gifts and Occupations and create various forms and objects.'

'According to the early kindergarten timetables, Japanese children usually practised paper-folding two or three times per week. They sat at the kindergartens tables for thirty to forty-five minutes, repeatedly exercising different folding models as instructed by their kindergarten teachers. Such paper-folding activities were a training task for children and were not play-based learning in Froebel's pedagogical conception as the mission for kindergarten teachers was to follow all elements of Froebel's kindergarten curriculum precisely. Eventually, Froebel's Gifts and Occupations was widely introduced and gradually spread to all kindergartens in Japan. Paper-folding was consequently also successfully implemented and became deeply-rooted in early childhood education and its curriculum in Japan.' (4)



'In 1880, one public kindergarten and two private kindergartens were started.' (1)

'The first Christian kindergarten was opened in 1880 in Tokyo. This kindergarten was attached to the Sakurai Girls School.' (1)



'In a government statement of 1881 on early childhood education, the kindergarten was defined solely as a place to supplement home education and to prepare for entrance into elementary school. This marked not only a curricular but also an ideological departure from the Froebelian model. Presaging later laws, the emphasis was on moral education.' (2)



'There were only 7 kindergartens in the whole country in 1882. Therefore, in that year, the Department of Education encouraged the establishment of less comprehensive kindergartens'(1)



'in 1884 (the government) prohibited preschool children from attending primary schools, stating that these children should be taught by the kindergarten method. (1)



'Consequently, the number of kindergartens increased to 38 in 1886' (1)

'In 1886, Francina E. Porter, who was sent to Japan by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church of the United States in 1882, opened an Eiwa Kindergarten in Kanazawa.' (1)



'In 1889, in Kobe, the Glory Kindergarten and its teacher training school were opened by Annie L. Howe, who was sent to Japan by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions of the Congregational Church ... Howe was an experienced kindergarten teacher, who had graduated from the kindergarten training school run by Mrs. Alice Putnam in Chicago and had taught for 9 years as a kindergarten teacher in the United States. Howe was critical of the emphasis on the gifts and occupations in Japanese kindergartens and stressed the importance of enjoyable activities for children such as the care of plants and animals, story telling, singing, play, and so on.' (1)

According to (3) the curriculum of the Glory Kindergarten Training Schooldid not include any instruction on the use of Froebel's gifts or occupations (table on page 467).



'Between 1895 and 1906, kindergarten\par teacher training schools based on Christian principles were opened in Hiroshima, Nagoya, Tokyo, Nagasaki and Ueda. Graduates of these training schools were employed by the Christian kindergartens which were opened across Japan.' (1)



(The number of kindergartens increased to) '223 in 1896' (1)



'At the end of the 19th century, the Ministry of Education, seeing the gradual quantitative growth of kindergartens, issued the first “Regulation on Kindergarten Contents and Facilities” in 1899. Later, in 1900, when the “Elementary School Order.” was proclaimed, this regulation was integrated into the Order. According to these acts, kindergartens were established as pre-primary educational institutes to educate children ages three and above before they entered elementary school. They covered four subjects over the course of a five-hour school day: play, singing songs, hearing and speaking, and handicrafts. During this period, Fröbel’s Gifts, which had dominated the early years of Japanese kindergarten education, were incorporated into the subject of handicrafts. Generally speaking, the education methods during this period were teacher-oriented, like those of elementary schools.' (5)



(The number of kindergartens increased to) '360 in 1906. But, even in 1906, only 1.4% of 5-year-olds attended.' (1)



'In the 1920’s more child-centered education methods were practiced in the kindergartens, inspired by progressive educational philosophies from America and Europe. Sozo Kurahashi (1882-1955), a professor at Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School, was one of the most remarkable leaders of preschool education reform during this period. In accordance with this reform, the Ministry of Education promulgated the “Kindergarten Order” in 1926, which was the first independent ordinance specialized for kindergartens, and it generally specified the contents of kindergarten education as play, singing songs, observation, hearing and speaking, handicrafts, and so on, so that every kindergarten could decide its own educational content and practices.' (5)



(1) 'The First Japanese Kindergartens' by Yukiko Matsukawa. International Journal of Early Childhood, volume 22, article number: 32, 1990. Published March 1990.

(2) 'The Black Forest in a Bamboo Garden: Missionary Kindergartens in Japan, 1868-1912' by Roberta Wollons. History of Education Quarterly Vol. 33, No. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp. 23 1-35. Published by Cambridge University Press.

(3) 'Missionary Froebelians Pedagogy and Practice: Annie L. Howe and Her Glory Kindergarten Teacher Training School' by Yukiyo Nishida. History of Education Quarterly (2022), 62 447-474.

(4) 'Something old, something new, something borrowed and something Froebel? The development of origami in early childhood education in Japan' by Yukio Nishida. Paedagogica Historica 55:4 529-547. (Note that this source is inaccurate in many places.)

(5) 'Preschool Education and Care in Japan' by Mariko Ichimi ABUMIYA. Available from 201109ECEC.pdf (