#30 SEIKOU KANEKO


Seikou Kaneko, a calligraphy teacher living in New York, was born in Fukuoka, Japan. She taught music at both elementary and middle schools in Japan for over twenty five years. In addition, she has been learning calligraphy for more than fifty years. In 1981, she moved to the United States with her husband upon his retirement, and since then she has been teaching calligraphy in New York as an instructor of Nihon Shuji and Kyoiku Shuji Zaidan where she holds the highest rank of the 8th degree. We interviewed her about her unique experience as a calligraphy teacher outside of Japan.

Interview with Seikou Kaneko

– Please tell us your background before coming to America.

Kaneko:

92 years ago, I was born in Fukuoka in the Kyushu area, a south part of Japan. My father was a teacher and taught at different schools, so my family lived in various places. Just before World War II, I started to work as an elementary school teacher at a public school in Fukuoka. At that time, I saw the explosion of the atomic bomb dropped in Nagasaki.

4 or 5 years later, I moved to Tokyo and worked for public elementary schools and junior high schools as a teacher over 25 years. Due to my marriage, I had to hold off on applying for a music college, but once my sons became old enough to attend elementary school, I studied at a music university for 5 years under the new education system that was implemented by the GHQ after the World War II. It may not have been common in Japan at that time to be a full time worker during day time and a student at night time.

– It must have been rare even to go on a trip to outside of Japan in your generation. What made you decide to move to the USA

after your husband’s retirement?

Kaneko:

33 years ago, my second son had a baby in Boston where he was studying jazz music at a music college. Coincidentally, it was a year that my husband retired, and my husband and I decided to come to the USA for a while. Our initial plan was to stay here for a year but we were so fascinated by America that we decided not to go back to Japan.

Since my son’s family was living in Boston, we moved there with me holding a student visa. We originally planned to go back to Japan after a year at an English language school. I like English, and while I was in college I read English literature written by Charles Dickens, Guy de Maupassant, and Ernest Hemingway with my teacher’s assistance under the old Japanese educational system. However, taking classes with English learning non-native young kids of 15 or 16 years old at the English language school was boring. I was sure learning English this way wouldn’t help me to improve my English skill. So my husband and I decided to move to New York where we happened to meet an interesting old gentleman working at a job agency. We soon agreed with him to take action to get a green card (permanent residential status in the USA). Establishing a stable legal visa status to live in New York came first for us than anything else. One and a half years later, we were able to get green cards.

At that time, we had already decided not to go back to Japan, and I launched my Kumon school and calligraphy school at the same time. Since we were living in Scarsdale, which had the most Japanese population at that time around New York area, I was easily able to have as many as 30 students for my calligraphy school. In addition to my calligraphy students, 40 to 50 students came to my Kumon school which was appointed as the first Kumon school on the East coast.