Let me explain to you what is broken with the world and why BKI is in business to fix it. 

Just ask yourself “What is a child?”


If we are what we think, then a young child (lets call her Sara), just like her parents, is the sum of all her thoughts.


Thoughts. Just like an adult mind Sara’s mind is full of thoughts. But life is much simpler in young Sara’s reality. Thoughts flow like a river of dreams and her heart is always full of hope. But sometimes along the way kids get lost, as she grows the nature of Sara’s thoughts may begin to fade, her dreams may become distant memories, and by the time she is an adult the world for Sara and some of her friends may be a seemingly complex, perhaps meaningless reality. Just one glance at the internet news today will confirm this.

Most of us know that following our dreams is the way to a happy life, so why is this story of inaction the same for Sara and so many other kids? How is it that we are failing our children? 

The very nature of childhood is sacred. As parents we must come to realize that the seemingly insignificant ways we live our daily lives does make a big difference in how we influence our children. By coming to know ourselves at a deeper level it does give our children a healthier and more balanced life. If Sara’s parents continue to communicate warmth, respect and high expectations and also live everyday as best they can, openly and positively accepting life as it is, children like Sara will, in most cases, follow their parents example.

The Mind of the Three Year Old-Stays for One Hundred Years...
— Old Japanese Saying

Every child deserves a fortunate life, but this outcome is very dependent on the experience that precedes it. 

So what determines a child’s fortunate life? With out a doubt it is to love and be loved. As following our dreams is simply an expression of this we must understand the consequences of action and inaction. The answer, ingrained as habit, opens the door to a higher destiny. Right here, in the habitual domain, is the junction where all children succeed or fail along their journey to adulthood. Found beyond the walls of convergent thinking, Sara’s answer lies in finding her "Ikigai." Ikigai is the things we do to create purpose in  our life, it is the repeated actions we take in pursuit of happiness. We must all come to understand that the only way we can impact this life is through the repeated habitual actions that we take on our thoughts and ideas. In Sara’s case certainly as life unfolds, and for her parents particularly in relation to her childcare.  We are what we think and do, all that we are arises with our thoughts and actions, and with our thoughts and actions we make the world.

To clearly state it once again, the development of Sara’s personality is greatly a function of her life experience. For Sara’s parents it is largely their thoughts and actions that make Sara’s world, but as we all know, the home environment is not the only place a child learns...

The BKI learning environment: Why we must place the utmost emphasis upon this foundational experience.

While language retention is naturally absorbed in the early years, at BKI we also strongly believe in the importance of inspiration, will power, character and the creativity of kids like Sara to be great strengths that will lead on towards a better life. This page then is about the system and care we use to build and nurture these aspects.

Thank you for reading this far. If you only read one page on this website, please make it this one as doing so will fully help you to understand the core of our program.

If Sara comes to BKI, this is how we help her: We nurture her subconscious habits by moving the nature of her creative thoughts from one of inaction to one of action!

Some may think that the care of a young child is an intellectual exercise, but finding the way to our ikigai is also felt through the heart as well as the head. In fact, the functions of Sara’s heart and her mind, it could be said, are exactly one and the same! 

When BKI children discover, through our Reggio inspired “Design School Process” that repeatedly acting on their own creative ideas, is a totally fulfilling and rewarding feeling, they want to do it over and over again. It is this repeated exposure to our environment, explained below, that will put Sara firmly on the way to finding her ikigai in later life.  


Why do we need it?

The current flawed system of education that has caused so many children to drift, not towards matters of the heart, but away from them, is now in an epic struggle between old school thinking and new school thinking. 

“The major challenge facing formal educational systems throughout the world is moving from an emphasis on convergent thinking – getting the right answers, to an emphasis on divergent thinking – struggling with problems, tolerating ambiguity”.

Uniquely positioned, BKI Preschool is in business to right these wrongs of childhood by nurturing Sara’s "Intuitive Compass,"  providing her with the real world means to follow through on her creative ideas that will later allow her to experiment with, and deepen her creative interests, opening the way for divergent thinking and thus navigating her towards her IKIGAI as an adult. 

As a positive addition to this, leading companies worldwide now also highly value and reward creative and passionate adults who have the intuitive skill set to handle such ambiguity and paradox in their work.

What is the BKI Design School Approach? 

Utilizing the perfect combination of the Reggio Emilia Educational Method, Design Thinking, and our unique process (explained below), BKI students get fully immersed in divergent thinking practices on a daily basis and are able to actually see their ideas tested and acted upon in the real world (not classroom), by the important adults in their lives. This is empowerment for young children at its very best.


  • Reggio Design School is our standard Reggio Emilia class, but with an added dimension. Kids in the Reggio Design School Class now will have real world access to the world of designing and seeing their own products manufactured and sold on the open market. 

  • The Concept in a Nut Shell: It is the design of (by students like Sara, at BKI), manufacture of (by Adults, and also her parents*) and sale of, (by BKI Management) locally Handmade Souvenirs. Profits go to charity and operating costs are deducted by the school.

  • Design school features our own BKI shop for testing, as well as a part time volunteer manufacturing adult workforce and access to a distribution network of other shops. 

  • The Kid’s designs are first drawn out during regular class time. (This actually includes designs from anybody in our community who wants to participate.)

  • Those selected Ideas with potential are then reworked and enhanced into prototypes which are tested in the shop. Once proven as sellers they go out to other local shops. 

  • Volunteer Adults (*including parents) come together at the school on selected weekends to make the kids product ideas to sell. 

  • The essence of the entire concept is to bring the people of our community together. Each year the school chooses a new charity and picks a new nominated target to see how much more we can raise.

* Non Compulsory

 Many schools around the world are currently adopting design thinking, and its really amazing that BKI can now take the process one step further, but what is the Core Educational Structure of Design School Thinking and how can this lead my child to their ikigai?

“Design thinking is an educational approach that stresses creative problem solving for students with the added value of an entrepreneurial outlook. It’s an approach that could and should lead to more entrepreneurship — or at least, to a more entrepreneurial way of facing challenges in the future.”

There are five fully tested stages to design Thinking:

1. Empathize:

At core of what it is to be human we find the centerpiece of design thinking. As all problems are human problems it makes perfect sense that we need to start our own problem solving from an empathetic point of view. To get the full story behind any problem we need to listen to people’s stories, observe them and discover how they feel and think, what their world view is, and what they like and dislike. Opening questions therefore include “What kinds of people are now visiting Japan?”  and “What would work in a fun way to remind them of their visit?”  To discover this we need to connect. We could meet and talk to these people or we could learn about their ways in class. 

To design meaningful products the children, like Sara, need to understand their users and care about them as people. What a perfect run up to the Olympics!

2. Clarify:

With empathy in mind we need to then describe the challenge. This always presents us with a new frame of reference than if we had tried to define it from only our own perspective. Sara  needs to clarify the problem based on the needs of her users. This will give her focus and references from which to act. For example sometimes therefore, she may need to discover a common understanding of the meaning of NOVELTY by comparing and contrasting and other times she may need to discover the meaning of UTILITY. She may also explore what makes something INTERESTING. The simplification of these criteria will inspire and empower her, keeping her focused on the question of what she can create that is valued.

3. Conceive:

“Possibility” is dependent on circumstances. With BKI design school in place, the possibility of Sara’s ideas going from contribution to market place is now a very powerful reality. This creative stage encourages freedom of thought, encouraging children to open their imaginations and think “outside the box,” stretching them to go beyond the obvious. There is no such thing as a “Mistake” at BKI Design school, only learning through trial and testing.

Build to think and test to learn.
— Hasso Plattner Design School at Stanford University, California, USA

4.  Prototype:

Once Sara has her own idea, its time to experiment with original models that will allow time for feedback and possible solutions. A prototype is the first attempt at something that allows space for testing then change to occur. From BKI’s perspective, the main point is that a prototype allows us to get closer to the solution, in minimal time, through the critical process of taking action. This brings Sara’s imagination out into the real world for the very first time, but allows group change to modify it further. Prototypes may include storyboards, hand-made models, posters, or role-playing.

5. Test:

This is the pinnacle of the five stages of design thinking. The continuous reframing of the problem has allowed space from which multiple perspectives can form a possible solution. But does it work? BKI puts Sara’s designs on sale in the BKI shop to test them out! Customers come to the shop on the weekend to see the children’s group designs on display. (Salable product is only made by adults) Talk about authentic assessment!

 Now, lets come back to the power of thought again. What is likely going on in young Sara’s (four year old) mind when she comes to school and see’s that the product that she has helped to design (and one that her parents had a small hand in making) has just been sold? How will that feeling evolve if the product then goes on to sell in many shops? Further, how will she feel when she also gets to meet the people (charity) that received proceeds from those sales? Will she develop a strong foundation of meaning and purpose? As this process gets repeated how will it influence her ongoing future habits? How will this shape her life as an adult?

Design thinking is for all children because it is spirited, dynamic, engaging and it fully completes their needs. While many schools around the world are now embracing design thinking as a new direction for learning, BKI may be the first to implement the full process from design to sale, particularly for children at the preschool age. 

Why you should put design thinking on your family’s educational agenda: BKI Provides Real Life Context!

Our brain is designed to make meaning out of all the connections and associations that it forms. It is context that allows us to pull all of this information together instead of memorizing it all separately. 

A strong context therefore makes learning easy for kids. When we realize the importance of context we can see how the BKI design to sale concept, works so well to empower children. Children at BKI will now have a focused ability to pull all of their learning together in one place and to understand it as a unified whole that has verifiable and personal meaning. 


Ikigai being the things we do to create purpose in our life, the actions we take in pursuit of happiness, Our Core Value, for both parents, staff and children like Sara, is to cultivate the understanding and belief that personal meaning is found most powerfully through our habitual actions. If information is knowledge, then action is wisdom! If it comes from the heart don't just dream about it- act on it!

We must teach that the world will only move for those who consistently act on their creative thoughts and ideas, and that the more children, parents, and staff do this, the more meaningful and balanced their life will become. As you continue to grow together, preserve and nurture your ability to think and act with the head, the hands and the heart.

 Ikigai is a constant state of creative action that keeps all of us truly alive. In this state the mind and the heart can be conceived as one. When we slow down, stop struggling and listen to our heart, ikigai therefore breaks through the "I give up" habit with intuition and inspiration. In this “mistake” free environment everything falls into alignment, the head and the heart acts as one and the resulting balance backs life with astounding direction, focus and energy .


 These issues are at the very core of what our school believes and now with a unique, and tested approach, we have greater power to  carry it through. If Sara were real her parents would undoubtedly be her greatest Superhero’s for allowing her the space grow creatively, without limitations, by giving her the freedom and context simply to naturally be. We would most certainly be celebrating with them!


OK, Then why is it that BKI is so driven to fix this problem?  What Qualifies them?

How this unique opportunity came to be: Come and join in the creative fun with people who know... 

Of course learning a second language or following any of our other dreams not only takes passion, it also takes commitment, perseverance, and flexibility and these habits need time to develop. As this is the very nature of the problem, it is no coincidence that it's also the personal story of the owners twenty eight year struggle with entrepreneurship. Thus it is very deeply engrained in the psyche of both the directors and the BKI team.

Many years ago we ran a creative, artistic and successful souvenir manufacturing business. With an illness came change and greater insight, not failure, we realized we could teach our belief in creativity, passion and resilience, and this then opened the way for us to become qualified kindergarten teachers. For the next fifteen years we did this with a renewed dream of providing our community with a school just like the BKI that exists today. We weren’t the types to try and manifest it by rushing. Day by day, we took one small creative action at a time. Our reality is now testimony to our beliefs.

It is rare to find qualified educators with such a deep entrepreneurial history, but for those who have struggled for so long in the field of education and have made their dreams come true in the process, there is a strong urge, an ever increasing need, to complete the cycle by giving back to others. 

What we all need now more than anything, is a life filled with meaning and purpose. Even the simplest of actions towards your dream has that power. This is ikigai in motion and the key to starting this process is to sow the fertile seeds of self-worth at the right time. Let us now transfer to the subconscious mind of your child, through our constant repetition of Reggio-inspired Design School Projects, the same BKI entrepreneurial seeds, wrapped up in our Core Value, that has kept our own dreams alive until they were fully realized.

While student acquisition of basic school skills takes priority over all other school activities and the balance of explicit teaching and creative play based learning remains the foundation of our quality program, we are ever mindful of the fact that convergent thinking has already programmed us as parents to be intellectual and effortful rather than passionate and resilient. This will undoubtedly rub off on our children. Now then, more than ever, we must also not fail our children through the neglect of intuitive areas of knowing and doing that are also just as vital for the human spirit...

Your child is nature herself. What better way to act in harmony and effortlessly give her the keys to intuitive knowledge, than through our inspirational world of creativity, passion and resilience. 

There are some things that only a parent can know.

There are some situations in which only a parent can act. 

One small step can change a life...

Your child will be in front of a desk soon enough.

May they live for one hundred years,

and still have a sparkle in their eye...


Rob Mathews and Kumiko Tajima (Directors, Owners, and Qualified Child Care Providers since 2003, Parents since 2002, Artistic & Creative Entrepreneurs since 1990).

A final word: Managing people from all parts of the globe requires clarity when it comes to communication. Some people, especially Japanese people, may view the word "IKIGAI" as being particularly heavy. We certainly don't mean it to be seen in this way, and we want you to absolutely know in the strongest of terms, that we are neither a political nor a religious organization. We use this word lightly, but specifically from a foreigners perspective, meaning only that our aim is to wish all the children who pass through our school a happy, fulfilling and rewarding life. 

Please do share our story!

Written at the Ikigai Art Factory (Home of Bilingual Kids International Preschool) October 5th 2018.