Here is some footage from a visit to the School of Green Gables in Okayama, Japan, about three hours by bullet train to the southwest of Tokyo.
I’d heard about the “Anne of Green Gables School of Nursing” for years, but I never knew how real it was or if it even still existed. It’s mentioned on the PEI government website in a jokey way: “There’s even an Anne of Green Gables School of Nursing!” But they give no details about what it is or where, or the history of it or anything. It was actually a little difficult to find.
However, we got the warmest reception imaginable when we visited, and found that it’s a school with an excellent reputation that turns out very highly sought after students. What we also found was that it had an atmosphere of incredible warmth and friendliness. All the students we spoke to commented on this, and explained how much they appreciated that it was different from other hospital care training facilities. You can tell it’s unique just looking at the buildings and the layout, which are very different from typical Japanese buildings.
I was lucky to catch some footage of an instructor mid-speech to her students, that I was later told ran along the lines of, “This is your last chance to go out into the world and make a difference.” An inspiring speech, basically.
This footage gives you a rough idea what the place looks like. In addition, for the full documentary, we’ve got interviews with the school’s director, in which he goes into some detail about the ethos of the school, which is directly inspired by L.M. Montgomery’s book, and also about the history of Anne’s place in Japanese culture. And we’ve got an interview with a couple of students, who very much affirmed that Anne cemented their attraction to the school.
What’s interesting is that the Anne factor isn’t treated as some kind of novelty. It’s integral to the students’ education and even raises the stakes for them professionally. They’re here to live up to a standard, a standard that has been set very high by the example of Anne herself. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the school, but I ended up finding the whole experience quite moving.
The school’s director showed me a certificate of congratulations given to the school in 1992 by Prince Edward Island’s Minister of Tourism and Parks, Gordon MacInnis. It reads, “We present to The Okayama School of Welfare the affectionate nickname of ‘The School of Green Gables’. Warmheartedly caring for others – the basic concept of ‘welfare’ – is a central theme of Anne’s story. We wish your students success, and hope they will strive to be happy and to make others happy, in the true spirit of ‘Anne of Green Gables’.”
For a long time, the school sent an annual delegation to Prince Edward Island to work in care facilities and to engage in a cultural exchange. Then they started going every second year and then less and less frequently. Basically, there’s not much reciprocal exchange from the PEI side. I found this to be true, too, in Hokkaido, as a group of young kids were getting ready to go to PEI as a group. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip. And it’s strange that there isn’t much interest coming back the other way. I’m not sure why that’s the case, exactly. But the interest on the Japanese side is sincere and enthusiastic.
On the face of it, you could say that since the school was inspired directly by our novel and our culture, that we’ve set a standard that they’re trying to live up to. But if anything, I’d say the situation is now reversed and that the School of Green Gables sets a high standard for us.