HdB Haus der Begegnung

Haus der Begegnung (HdB)  - Schweizerische Ostasien-Mission in Kyoto
Kyoto International Student House

40 Jahre Haus der Begegnung - 2006

1961 in der Schweiz werden gelder für die Gründung eines "Hauses der Begegnung" gesammelt
In Kyoto wird ein Planungskomitee gegründet
1963 wird die Satzung für die Stiftung "Haus der Begegnung" beschlossen.
1964 wird die Stiftung "Internationales Studentenhaus" Kyoto eingerichtet.
1965 INAGAKI wird zum ersten japanischen Hausvater berufen, Dummermuth zum schweizerischen.


Die erste Regel:

"Der Friede kostet etwas. Es genügt nicht, sich nur mit Worten für den Frieden einzusetzen. Auch der Krieg kostet etwas. Wir bezahlen jährlich Millionen von Franken für die Ausbildung der Männer zum Krieg und für die Waffen. Wenn es uns wirklich um den Frieden zu tun ist, müssen wir Zeit , Geld und Kraft für den Frieden im Volk und unter den Völkern einsetzen. Wir sollen uns für ein Zusammenleben im Frieden einsetzen. Dieses Zusammenleben ist nur ein kleiner Beitrag angesichts der gewaltigen Anstrengungen für die gegenseitige Zerstörung. Menschen aus verschiedenen Klassen, Nationen und Rassen sollen einander begegnen, miteinander zusammenleben, um später an ihrem Ort aktiv den Frieden im eigenen Volk und unter den Völkern aufzubauen."
(Aus: Millenial Edition Yearbook, Vol. 29. 40th Anniversary Edition)

Prof. Hirosho Inagaki

Prof. Dr. W. Kohler

H. Inagaki und W. Kohler und die Familien


Principle and Purpose

"Haus der Begegnung" is a house where men from different continents and cultures, of different races and colors, different social strata, religions and outlooks live together. The house members face realistically the difference of national, cultural and religious backgrounds. It is a "House of Encounter" as its name "Haus der Begegnung" indicates. It is an experimental training place for peace, which is not merely absence of war, a training place for the construction of a new form of society necessitated by the demands of the world of tomorrow.
The house life is guided by the following considerations


The living together in the International Student House Kyoto is not an end in itself. Nor is it a world of its own. It is concerned with the daily human society to which we all belong. Our human society, as history shows, is in need of constant renewal. Forms of society change, old traditions decline, new ones arise; but Life Together is the destination of man.

2. Life Together is life in relation with others, with those we like and those we dislike, with those who have different convictions and opinions. Life Together means love and respect for those who are different. We have the freedom to agree to disagree with one another.

3. Life Together is life in daily renewal. We all have a natural inclination to favor our own beliefs and concepts. The house members let themselves be mutually questioned and challenged in their opinions, attitudes and habits. By nature we are inclined to have relations with, and fulfil responsibilities to, our own family group and those of our own social milieu or those that are useful to us. We aim to outgrow these self-centered inclinations. Life Together allows for diversity and runs counter to conformity and unconformity. The traditional societies classify people according to their educational, political, moral and financial standards. Life Together transcends these traditional classes.

4. Life Together is an adventure and an experiment. "Haus der Begegnung" in Kyoto practices in small dimension a new form of society. This new society is both conservative and revolutionary in that it respects the past with its traditions and looks to the future with its possibilities. It is a form of society which is renewing itself in free self-criticism of its members. The basis of this Life Together is Life itself.

Thus it is hoped that students living in this house are willing on their own initiative to participate in various activities such as seminar-like meeting, common meals and house chores of different kinds
Dr. Werner Kohler
(Aus: Millenial Editon Yearbook Vol. 29, Kyoto International Student House, 2006)

Nelly Kohler

Report on the Stay in Japan from 1954 - 1959


(Swiss House Mother. 1965 - 1969)
Als pdf-Datei hier

During the Annual Meeting of the Swiss East Asia Mission (SOAM) of 1953, Werner Kohler was elected to be sent to Japan. The German pastor Hessel the representative of the mission - had slapped the Japanese woman pastor Ms Hoshino in the face and was dismissed by the mission. Werner Kohler then left the parish of Waldstatt (Appenzell AR) at the end of 1953. Until the summer of 1954 the family moved in with the parents of Nelly, the Scherrers, to Basel, while Werner Kohler learnt English in England. The parents Scherrer in Basel took care of Kathi (5 years old), Veronika (4) and Georg (2), while Nelly was attending a course for missionary wives in the mission house of the Basel Mission. In England Werner bought a red carpet, some metal bed frames, rubber mattresses to be taken to Japan as well as a Plymouth cal. The family drove, together with Werner's father to Genua where we embarked in a cargo vessel. During the eight week journey there was a sand storm in the Red Sea. Then the boat got into huge waves in the Indian Ocean. When leaving Zebu, a typhoon was announced and the captain turned the boat back to the Philippines.

On arriving in Tokyo, we learnt that the typhoon had overturned a boat between Honshu and Hokkaido. Werner went to meet the Swiss theologian Emil Brunner, who was teaching at ICU (International Christian University). Then the family went on to Kobe. There we were received by the church elder of Kinrin Church, Nakagami-san, the pastor Ms Hoshino and the Doctor of the Clinic Dr. Gerhard Schwersenz. They accompanied us to Kyoto. In the old mission house at the Shogoin, Yoshimi Kurata (the now Yoshimi Pfenninger) was waiting for us. We stayed there for a couple of days together with the Schwersenz family who then moved to their newly bought house at Kita-Shirakawa.

Yoshimi Kurata supported us in a lot of practical house chores and was looking after the children while Werner and I attended Japanese classes. Werner had to start right away with his task as the head pastor of Kinrin church and its day nursery, as well as the encho (head) of the Kindergarten attached to the mission house. A student of theology at Doshisha University, a farmer's son, I. Uchida, helped in translating and also took care of the car. Soon Werner was looking for a head pastor for Kinrin church as he decided not to take this position as a missionary. He met Akira Endo, a young pastor, later professor of NT (New Testament) who had just finished his final exams at the Doshisha Faculty of Theology and was prepared to serve as main pastor in Kinrin church. Ms Hoshino had meanwhile found another employment as pastor. There was a young student in theology who supported Werner in translating sermons and speeches: Teizo Tanida. He was soon able to understand intuitively Werner Kohler's language and translated almost simultaneously.

During the church service, Kazuko Inagaki, the wife of Hiroshi Inagaki, used to play the reed organ. After church service, we were invited by the parish to a meal, where we ate chirashi-sushi along with tiny jako fish. The whole family sat on small chairs from the day nursery. Our children cried when they looked at the eyes of the jako fish in the obento boxes, and they were not able to eat them.

The three theologians Endo, Tanida and Kohler met on a regular basis to work on text exegesis of the biblical verses and prepare the sermon.

Once, mothers of the Kindergarten children wished to have additional space for their children on the second floor. However, these rooms were occupied by a German woman missionary, Elsa Schwab who came to Kyoto after having been released from Internment by the Japanese. Another couple also lived there, the future labour Pastor of the Kamagasaki district in Osaka and his wife, librarian at Doshisha, Aimei and Chiseko Kanai.

The mission decided then to buy a four tatami room house adjoining the compound of the Kindergarten. When the mothers saw the rooms we offered them, they refused them: they had sent their children to a Western Kindergarten wishing them to sit on chairs and work on tables. I myself was very enthusiastic about the idea of children playing on the floor (Tatami) in Europe since we let the children play on the floor.

We started to accept students in these tatami rooms: Kiyoshi Imai, Hiroshi Nakamura, Kuniyasu Take and Sato, later on Tsujimura and Hatakeyama followed. All of them studied at Doshisha University except Tsujimura.

In the morning, we met for a prayer in front of the kindergarten. In the evening, we used to read together texts by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. - Imai-san often walked through the garden and talked with the four year old Georg telling him: "Both of us will be oomono later on". Georg liked to climb with his pal Hajime in the trees of the garden. Many years later, in 1971, when Georg got ill, Nakagami-san prayed to God to spare Georg and to take him, the old man instead. - .When I visited Japan I attended the memorial service of the death of Nakagami-san in the neighbourhood of Kokusaigakusei-no-Ie. So Georg passed away first on Sept. 16 and, Nakagami followed him.

In our house, there were some female students living on the third floor: Hisako Nakano, studying at the English Department of Doshisha Women's College. Yoshimi Kurata was also living there for some time after having finished her studies at the Anglican Women's College and continued at the Doshisha Faculty of Theology.

In the German class (kaiwa class), there were above all students in medicine who were participating: Shunzo Maetani, Ban, and others, who became recognized surgeons and specialists. There was also Hidenosuke Nishio, Shunzo Yajima and others. We used to read famous writers and sang German songs under my charge. Nishio-san had arranged a booklet with songs. At the same time his mother was teaching Kathi and Veronika how to play the piano. We had them also take violin lessons. Aside from this, they learnt some Japanese dance.

I was occasionally invited by the wives of some professors from the Doshisha Faculty of Theology like Fujishiro-san, Endo-san, Oogata-san and others. Werner and I had regular meetings with some foreign teachers of Doshisha, as Otis Cary, Bob Grant and Wood, later joined by Masao Takenaka coming from the United States, and their wives. Mary Wood was teaching Social Welfare at the Doshisha. The Cary couple were both second generation missionaries, Otis having been born and raised in Japan, whereas Alice had been raised in Turkey in a missionary's family.

In the mission house, we had sometimes guests, e.g. from Panmunjong, Korea, passing their furlough / vacation in Japan. They were members of the Swiss Army as part of the Neutral Supervisory Commission together with representatives from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Sweden. These Swiss had collected among themselves some money for the needy students in the Swiss Mission House at the Shogoin. There were always lively discussions with guests in the House at the Shogoin. Oskar Pfenninger stayed on in Japan. When we left Japan in 1959, he stayed as a supervisor of the house and administered the building planning for Kokusai-gakusei-no-ie.

In the Shogoin house there was the custom to have an open supper: the Japanese women residents helped preparing supper. So for example when there was kujira (meat of whale) which had to be prepared in a tasty way. The children took an obento with makisushi along to school - rice with carrots, egg and spinach. After Barbara was born in 1957, and she was able to eat, we cooked for her always rice with fish and vegetables. When Yoshimi started to study and could no longer assist in the house chores, there was Matsuzaki-san, a member of the parish, living in an asylum for war widows. The former woman pastor had a good-contact with the war widows. Another woman was sewing my clothes - the sizes of Japanese women being different so my clothes had to be sewn individually. I took a lot of pleasure in the wide choice of beautiful fabrics, not available in Europe. Matsuzaki-san was assisting me with the care of Barbara when I came back from the clinic. The people helping in our house often said, that the house had a special smell - (I say gaijinkusai). And then there was the dog Micky, living in the garden. One day, he no longer was there. Isao Uchida went to look for him and found him at the dog catchers'. Micky was saved from being cooked (or that's what was said). The Japanese living with us used to say that the smell of the house was batakusai. At one time we bought a washing machine. Once a woman neighbour asked me if she could use the machine, offering us a live hen as a present afterwards. I fastened it with a string at the corner of the house, however, the next day it was dead, bitten by Micky!

Our daughters Kathi and Veronika were going to the catholic Notre Dame Primary School. Thus Veronika had started school one year earlier. They were clad in a school uniform - with a jacket with a goose track pattern, a brown pleated skirt and a hat. They had a long way to school. Veronika was enthusiastic about the worship of Mary, which a protestant did not appreciate very much. One year later, I asked Kinrin Shogakko (primary school) in our neighbourhood, if they could accept the two girls. So they continued there. As for Georg, he went to the Kindergarten of Ms Suzuki, next door. He attended subsequently also Kinrin Shogakko. According to his teacher, he was so shy, he never uttered one word. In the spring of 1959 we sent Kathi and Veronika back to Switzerland for the beginning of the new school year. Jun Inagaki, a schoolmate of Veronika, asked her to cut some hair (gin no kami) as a memento for him. There they were living with my mother. In 1958 Werner had been asked to give lectures at the ICU (International Christian University) in Tokyo on systematic theology. I joined him in spring 1959 with the two younger children, Barbara and Georg to Tokyo where we lived on the campus of ICU. I taught Georg with a Swiss schoolbook and Barbara played with the neighbour’s children. In this period, Werner was doing research on new Buddhist and Shintoist Religions in Japan. After the defeat in World War II, some new movements had been founded.

During the time in Japan Werner had been working on a new approach to Christian missions. In the summer of 1959 he spent some weeks in the mountains near Shiobara to study "new religions" with a translator before our trip back to Switzerland.

The second stay in Japan from 1965 to 1969 of the Kohler family

(Swiss House Mother: 1965-1969)

Back in Switzerland in the year of 1959, Werner Kohler often spoke of a plan to build a "Haus der Begegnung" (HdB) for people from all over the world. Thus in Zurich, the HdB association was founded, in which friends and acquaintances gathered. A meeting was organized in Boldern, the Evangelical Academy of the Church of Zurich. Hans Jakob Rinderknecht, the actual responsible leader of Boldern, and Heinrich Hellstern, the president of the HEKS, the Relief Organisation of the Swiss Reformed Church, as well as August Baenziger and besides other representatives of East-Asia Mission participated. This is why HEKS supported the building of HdB, the "place of encounters" in Japan. The house was built through a partnership of Japanese and Swiss people.

In the autumn of 1965 we travelled to Japan with Kathja, Veronika and Georg by airplane to Moscow and by Siberian Railway to Chabarowsk. We stopped in Irkutsk, and then arrived in Chabarowsk. On every train station peasant women sold cooked food. From Nachodka we took a ship to Japan.

The HdB had already been opened in spring by Professor Inagaki and his wife Kazuko and Fritz and Yoko Dummermuth. Then we arrived at the end of September. The children had to go to school immediately. The three older children commuted every day from Kyoto to Kobe. After awhile the girls stayed there during the week in the dormitory of the Canadian Academy. Barbara and Elisabeth joined us later accompanied by my sister-in-law Julie. Barbara went to the English Speaking School in Kyoto by herself. She got private lessons from an American Nisei Student and as she liked these lessons very much, she started to speak English fluently in a short time. At that time, students of Kyoto University were on strike. She had to pass every day in front of the compound of the University. She witnessed the fights among the students with iron bars. She was very frightened then as one of them got killed.

We had to attend several meetings. On one hand there was a meeting of the house parents and the office staff and on the other hand a meeting of the house team elected through the house meetings. The house team was responsible for keeping a complicated steam boiler for heating and had to take instructions. Before this meeting we had the weekly common meal which was prepared by the house mothers and the obasans, Hiyama and Suwa-san. Later on some residents cooked in turn food from their countries assisted by us.

For the weekly house meetings my husband had an excellent interpreter, Jiva Ganepola, a medical student from Kyoto University, a Singhalese Buddhist from Sri-Lanka. Werner Kohler explained the deeper meaning of "we agree to disagree" and other religious topics, since there were repeatedly occasions where agreement had to be found among the house fathers and the students themselves. Often we had difficulties understanding the Japanese side. Some times there were heated discussions about problems in the house. For example there were students who climbed on the top of the toilets to do their business. We later on knew that this was the way they criticized the lack of men's toilets. Further there was the issue of the Gentlemen's Agreements which meant: that visiting girls should leave the room of the boy friend at 10 o'clock in the evening when the house door was closed. Sometimes there were problems in which an agreement was hard to be attained between the Japanese and the Swiss parents. Then I learned how the idea of confronting each other directly was too difficult for the Japanese mentality.

Every evening there was a goodnight message, through the loudspeaker of the house held by the house father or a resident.'

A lot of the students from South-East Asia in HdB had scholarships from the Japanese government in form of war reparations payment. There were several Burmese students. They all could stay in Japan for the time of their studies and were obliged to return to their country after the final exams. One day a Burmese student disappeared with his beautiful girlfriend and only later on we learned that they had gone to Canada. We had observed them always playing ping pong.

Among students of Sri Lanka we had Tamils who told us about the problems in their country. That is why we got to know about the Tamil problem long before we had Tamil refugees in Switzerland. - There was one Malaysian of Chinese descendence whose mother was killed by the Japanese army in the South-East Asia war. He got married to a Japanese girl. It seemed to me as a reconciliation for him and his problem.

We also had an Indonesian Chinese who came back once with his name changed into Indonesian language since at the time there were anti-Chinese movements and the government made some laws against them. Later on he came back married to an Indonesian girl, as if to prove that he was really Indonesian.

Among the Indians there were students who went to Geijitsu Daigaku, the Kyoto College of Art. One of them went to the Japanese countryside (inaka). Since he was of dark complexion the villagers despised him, we heard. He became mentally ill. Like him there was another artist who got mentally disturbed. In these cases a Japanese resident of the house, a psychiatry student, Kotaro Nakayama was of great help. He was talking to the sick residents and treating them with adequate medication. He had a fine sensitivity for students with psychological problems. There were others who got sick. They had to go to the mental hospital. In such difficulties we knew an American social worker Dorothy Dessauw who helped to organise the journey to their home country asking some international organization to take care of the costs of the transfer.

An Egyptian artist had an exposition of his works. He had to leave his country because of religious and political difficulties in 1968/69. An American student who was technically very up-to-date considered the house as his own ship and advised my husband in many respects and got his esteem. He was disliked very much by the other house members as he did not fit into the house community.

There was a wide range of activities of the house community besides the weekly meeting. After the common meals sometimes the residents had the opportunity to introduce their country. There were parties (welcome, dance, Christmas parties) to which neighbours and responsible members of the Rijikai were invited as well. We made some excursions with the obasan-tachi. Once the house went to Arashiyama and climbed a mountain where there were monkeys. The outing of Kiyomizudera (temple of pure water) was especially exciting for Barbara who had never seen men under the waterfall clad only in a shirt of white cloth.

Then Inagaki Sensei had an accident and broke his leg, so he had to stay in the Baptist Hospital. He later on moved with his family to the newly built house in Nagaoka. My husband then asked Professor Yuasa, the Rijicho, to accept Nakayama Kotaro as the following house father. So Nakayama was accepted and started in Spring 1967. In that summer he got married to Akiko-san, who became a good friend of mine.

Akiko reminds me that once at New Year we went to Yasaka shrine to fetch the fire for the new year. So we carried the burning fire with a rope to our house. We followed the old custom of all Japanese to fetch the new fire for the hearth of the home. Coming back to the house, Werner Kohler had heated some red wine (spicy and sweet) in a special pot and offered it to everybody. This is a European custom.

In spring 1969, our son Georg left for Germany. The students made a farewell party for him. And by this occasion he had a small speech and said: "I'm going to live in a family house and not student house. We had been in student houses from 1961 to 1965 in Zurich and in Kyoto from 1965 to 1969". I realized only at that time that he had suffered under staying in student houses for such a long time. My husband had a call to a German University in Berlin so I left after Georg in summer 1969 with the two younger children Elisabeth and Barbara and we travelled through Russia Uzbekistan and Kiew to Germany and Switzerland.

When I remember all this, my heart gets heavy and sad. So let's pray for each other and may God guide you! And may Christ accompany you wherever you go. As family and wife we miss Werner Kohler sometimes very much. He was here for everybody and started to speak about God only after midnight. So we have lost him and Georg - a family without men.

Nelly Kohler lebt in Zürich, Schweiz
Die beiden Berichte finden sich in „Kyoto International Student House“, Yearbook 2005 = Vol. 30, Seite 2-10.


Haus der Begegnung



4.Juni 1884
Gründung des AEPM

Umbenennung in Ostasienmission

Trennung des schweizerischen Zweiges und Gründung der Schweizerischen Ostasien-Mission (SOAM)

Vereinbarung zu enger Zusammenrabeit von SOAM und DOAM

2009 Jubiläum der OAM - 125 Jahre
ausgerichtet von der SOAM 

Das Haus der Begegnung (HdB) in Kyoto wurde von Prof. Dr. Werner Kohler gegründet. Es ist eine eigene Sftung nach japanischem Recht.