Menifee Teacher Goes to Japan

The Press Enterprise has an article about a teacher at Freedom Crest Elementary, Jolene Bedley, who was selected for the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund program that sends teachers to Japan for three weeks...

She will spend three weeks in October traveling through Japan and visiting schools to learn how the Japanese school system works in hopes of sharing that knowledge with her American colleagues.
Read the full article here...

I started my schooling in Japan. My father was in the US Navy, and during the years between 1969-1971, he was in Vietnam working as a hospital corpsman. He moved our family to Yokohama, Japan so that he could spend more time visiting us.

That worked out well for my mom, because she was born and raised in Japan.

Many of the children of US service men living around the Tokyo Bay attended Sancta Maria International School, run by the Catholic Diocese, located in Nerima. The entire faculty were nuns. It was a great solution for Americans because the school taught in English, and celebrated Christianity which was rare in a society dominated by Buddhism.

school uniform of Sancta Maria International School, JapanI went to kindergarten at age 4 there. We all had to wear uniforms then, and in kindergarten the boys had to wear this goofy looking pull over dress. I don't know who their clothes designer was, but it must have been a cruel joke. I remember a teacher in my kindergarten class, walking over to another boy who was goofing off, and wacked his fingers with a cane. The kid was my age for crying out loud! My mom enrolled me in piano lessons there, and the nun who taught music refused to teach me any further because I wouldn't sit still.

For Christmas, a Japanese Santa Claus visited the school and brought every boy a set of plastic bowling pins. I don't recall what the girls got. And in the Christmas play, I was one of the drummers.

Sancta Maria taught all grades from preschool up to the senior class of high school. I have a year book from the class of 1970, and the graduating high school class had only 10 people in it. But because most of the students were "military brats", their stay at Sancta Maria lasted only one or two years, and were never able to forge lasting friendships with other kids.

When my father's tour of duty was complete, he was assigned to Balboa Hospital in San Diego, and we moved there in 1971. I was five years old then and found myself having to take kindergarten all over again, just to stay in sync with the other kids.


  1. I also went to Sancta Maria. This was in the early 60s. I remember several incidents there. One of the nuns told me to draw an airplane. I have never seen one so could not draw. I was scolded. Another time was when we had to tell the time looking at the big clock on the classroom. Prior to that, I had never even seen a clock. All I wanted to do was go home. Then I went to St. Joseph College. How time flies! Drop me a line.

  2. A proud Kindergarten grad of 1971! My sisters and I all attended Sancta Maria for kindergarten and moved on to St. Maurs. I loved my kindergarten teachers. I still remember the enrollment interview with Sister I don't remember her name. My father took me and I sat down nervously across from her, as she asked me questions.

    Is it just me or is the world getting smaller?

    Would love to connect with others who attended Sancta Maria. I'll look for you in the yearbook!

  3. 18, 2007 5:12 AM

    Didn't beleive I'd find much Sancta Maria attendees outside the group group of friends I personally know!
    I was looking up about St. Joseph's because I just found out they closed too in 2000. Then, on their alumni site they talked of Sancta Maria (natsukashii).

    I transferred from a Japanese Catholic kindergarten in Yokosuka to Sancta Maria (1st grade) in 1970. I lived less than 5 minutes walk from that school and went there my whole elementary school.

    I know what you mean by the mean (pun) Japanese nuns! I remember one of the first days in school, I needed to go potty during class but the nun-teacher won't let me. Of course being only 5 yrs old and couldn't hold it, I had an accident...surprising thing is that they had all these underwears ready for the kids to change into, of course they were anticipating accidents (and it did happen every so often too). They trained little kids like potty training dogs, I guess.
    Another thing I remember was that they won't let any kids go out to the playground until everybody finished eating. I was notoriously slow and took me the whole lunch break most days to finish my meal, so my poor classmates had to stay inside and play half the time. Sorry all (:P)

    Actually, some nuns were really nice though. I remember Sister Victoria from 3rd grade, she loved birds a lot and had them in our classroom. And the classes were so small after a while you know everybody in school, after a few years, you made tight friendships.

    In the early 70s it seemed you only had temporary foreign kids or mixed Japanese kids who were also in the entertainment world like singers, models and actressses. I knew many of them who were, those one-sans liked me a lot because I was a tiny little runt.

    That school's been gone since around 1978 or 1980 or something.I went to YIS after that which was a whole new environment. Reading your blog brought me some fond (and not so fond) memories of that school.

  4. Wow - Sancta Maria?! I went to 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade there, from 1970-1973, with Sister Elizabeth, Sister Trinity, and Sister Victoria... back when we lived in Grant Heights. I can remember having to change shoes each day when getting to school, having to "freeze" when the first bell sounded, and eating popcicles on the school bus ride home.

    I also remember playing with these little, round or rectangular card thingies with pictures of Ultra Man or monsters on them. What were those things?

    How about the calisthenics to start the day? Or the frog exercises in PE?

  5. I went to Sancta Maria in 1966 I was there for six months in the 5 grade. I also remember Mother Elisabeth and Mother Principal.The schoolsystem was completely different from the danish I was used to. I still keep my yearbook from 1966

  6. I'm another Sancta Maria student.I went there from 68-70, I can't remember any of my teachers names. My mother is Japanese, and we were raised partly Buddhist, the nuns were always very kind. I remember it was a fun school, I especially remember the view of the city from the playground, I went back about ten years ago, the school is long gone, but the view of the city is the same from where the playground was. I still have my yearbooks. I also remember how friendly the Japanese police officers were.
    Very nice finding this site,
    and nice to hear your memories of Yokohama!

  7. Hi. Reading the blog made me feel old. I am a graduate from 1974. I have never seen any of the students get hit by the nuns. I only have good memories about them. We had Sister Carmen for 4 years as our homeroom teacher. During our times we had Mother Superior, nuns being called Mothers and others were Sisters. We also had some young American teachers whose husbands were of U.S. Military personnel. Have you visited the grounds recently? I read that there is one cherry tree from the time the school was there. I shall come back to this site to hear from others. Thank you for blogging on this site!


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