Momiji Iwamoto

Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Momiji  Iwamoto

Momiji is inspired by art education and its potential to encourage students to think differently. In her view, Japanese students are not encouraged to express their individuality enough, and for various reasons, educational authorities often reward homogeneity and the production of similar work. But in a world where globalisation is progressing all the time, this puts up a barrier to the next generation of Japanese being fully active and creative in a global context. Momiji wants to get rid of habitual ways of thinking and encourage students to see that their unique ideas are wonderful.

Momiji therefore sees her mission as expanding the creative possibilities of lessons in Japanese public elementary schools. Public elementary schools in Japan operate under many regulations, and certain types of teaching are dissuaded. However, Momiji has been very successful in creating approval for interesting classes that use technology and mix multiple subjects. Over the last few years, she has invited professional musicians to the school and taught art through their musical improvisations based on students' abstract paintings. Momiji also incorporates history into her art and technology teaching. For example, she taught her students about the cave wall paintings at Lascaux, reputed to be the world's oldest art. Then the students collected soil and tree bark themselves to make paint in the same way that ancient peoples had done – a process which left a profound impression on them.

Her classes are rated highly amongst the student population – with 97 per cent of students saying they are both interesting and easy to understand – and have been featured across Japanese news media. Momiji also contributes to textbooks on art education, and answers inquiries about her methods from teachers all over Japan. Since September 2018, she has been named as a Microsoft Innovative Education Expert, and also serves as the deputy director of research at Tozuken, the organization for all elementary school arts and crafts teachers in Tokyo.

Momiji also does a lot of training for teachers in person – most recently at the universities of Tokyo and Ryukyu – and her workshops are published on Facebook and the Microsoft Education Community for other teachers to view, not only in Japan but all over the world. With the Global Teacher Prize funds, Momiji would like to take her teaching and art workshops to more schools, and create an art workshop event to match the Tokyo Olympics.