This is a biography of eight women who lived the tumultuous Meiji Era(1868-1912): Chiyo AOYAMA, Nioko WAKAE, Empress Haruko (the wife of Emperor Meiji), Kakei ATOMI, Osamu TAKABA, Ei WADA, Etsuko SUGIMOTO, and Kikue YAMAKAWA. They all had strong will and a sense of responsibility to get through the period.
‘Never Abandon the Desire to Learn’ Chiyo AOYAMA: a member of the inaugural class of the Tokyo Women’s Teacher’s School (the current Ochanomizu University). She is the mother of Kikue YAMAKAWA.
‘Objection to the Meiji Government’ Nioko WAKAE: The private tutor of Empress Haruko. She advocated the exclusion of foreigners as a Cofucian and was expelled from Kyoto by the founders of the Meiji Government, such as Tomomi IWAKURA.
‘To Be the “Model” of the Japanese Modern Women’ Empress Haruko: The empress dowager praised as the “spirit of the Japanese royal family” in the dawn of the modern Japan.
‘Strategies to the School Administration!’ Kakei ATOMI: The founder of the current Atomi University. She introduced liberal arts to her school while implementing the traditional Japanese-style education for women.
‘Training Rough Guys with Spirits of Rebelliousness’ Osamu TAKABA: The head of a private school called Koshi-juku. She was a Cofucian and dressed as a man. One of her students was Mitsuru TOYAMA. Toyama went on to be the leader of Genyosha, one of the Japanese main political organizations at that time.
‘Taking the Responsibility for the Encouragement of New Industry’ Ei WADA: A daughter of an official of the Matsushiro Domain. She worked for Tomioka Silk Mill and wrote The Tomioka Diary.
‘Working as a Cultural Bridge Between Japan and USA’ Etsuko SUGIMOTO: A daughter of an official of the Nagaoka Domain. She taught Japanese language and culture at Colombia University and wrote A Daughter of the Samurai.
‘Expressing Herself in a Bold and Frank Way’ Kikue YAMAKAWA: The wife of Hitoshi YAMAKAWA, who introduced Marxism to Japan as a communist. She stood in her political belief despite the suppression by the authority and became the first Director of the Women’s and Young Workers’ Bureau after World War II.
Some of them were so unique that they might have caused you some troubles if they had been your sisters or friends. Some did much more effort than no one ever could. You get overwhelmed by their remarkable energy and vitality, and moved by some tragedies beyond our imagination and dramatic events in their lives.
They went a little beyond the “conventional norms” before they knew it. Not all of them enjoyed honor and high social status or made their dreams come true. But when you imagine their lives from the anecdotes by those who knew them well, you can feel compassion for these women from the bottom of your heart. “Compassion” is not enough to describe the feeling you have when reading about them; it’s a kind of “co-vibration.” It should be a waste not to know such evocative stories of their lives.
This book includes 80 pictures and figures, as well as three columns, so that it would be accessible by those who may not be familiar with the Meiji Era. This book will provide you with a good opportunity to discover about these women.
Original Article written by Chizuru SAKAKIBARA (The author of this book)
Translated by N. TAJIMA