Know Your School: The History of ASIJ


Photo by Sharon Choi

Article by Serena Landers, Writer

Reading Time: 2 minutes

ASIJ has a rich history that many students are unaware of, and it stretches far before the move to our current campus. The official founding of our school was in 1902 when it was established as the Tokyo School for Foreign Children. The classes were small in the beginning, but slowly started to gain students. Soon, the campus moved to a new location in Tsukiji and then, for a time, relocated frequently.


In 1920, the name was changed to “The American School in Japan,” following the recommendation of the American ambassador to Japan, Roland S. Morris, who was interested in the school and suggested the name. Prominent architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed plans for a new campus, though his designs were never actually built.


The campus then moved to Naka-Meguro in 1927, and in 1933, the symbolic ASIJ Gate, which still stands today, was placed. The school was closed during World War II, from 1941 to 1946. The facility was first used by the Japanese government, and after the war by the U.S. Army. A well-known myth is that the Gate was hidden during the war to prevent it from being taken by the Japanese government. While there’s no proof of this, it’s true that the part of the Gate spelling “The American School” was taken down during the war.

Photo by Sharon Choi


Finally, due to an ever-increasing number of students, the school was moved to our current campus in Chofu in 1963. The dedication for the new school was held on December 5th, 1963, and was attended the American Ambassador, Edwin Reischauer.


An article in The Japan Times on December 28, 1963, comments that many were worried about the school being too far removed from central Tokyo. Students could even “look out the windows and see rice paddies.” The distance from prompted the bus system to progress towards its current scale.


However, many people saw the school as “exotic” and “gorgeous.” There were a number of new buildings built, including the donut building and the high school building. Additionally, the school held a contest to design a mural, with the winner being Pearl Mok; this mural was displayed outside of the Theater and can still be seen today on the wall facing out of the campus.

A different mural placed in the middle school courtyard. Photo by Sharon Choi


More recently, in 2013, the entrance to the school was updated with the addition of the facade, which was inspired by the Gate. Our focus is often on recent and future changes to ASIJ, but it’s also important to look back once in a while and learn about our history.