Education for Girls, Umeko Tsuda

Hello, how are you doing? New emperor era has started in Japan as of May 1st, 2019. From Heisei emperor to Reiwa emperor, the torch was passed on and it was held nation wide festivity to commemorate the ritual. Japan had unprecedented 10 day long holidays to congratulate the ceremony. Japan is the only country in the world that still retains emperor system in this day and age. And we have name of an era corresponding to the reign of an emperor. Heisei era has ended and now that Reiwa era made a fresh start. The name of Reiwa era was chosen from the most ancient poetry of Japan first time in the history that we stopped using Chinese old-time literature originated name. The meaning of Reiwa was named after wishes to have a beautiful harmony. It embraces a message that each one of Japanese citizen contributes to an international world holding on to have Japanese identity and make a valuable achievement in a beautiful harmony. I believe this will be a wonderful occasion that we fully recognize the fact that Japan treasures one and only Peace Constitution in the world and we are able to carry on to play some meaningful roles.


Heisei emperor put on Heian era (8th century) kimono for the ritual.


From  Heisei to Reiwa, the era has changed and now it is being prepared to issue new bills. Japanese bills are 1,000yen (about 10 US dollars), 5,000 yen, and 10,000 yen. Today, I want to focus on Umeko Tsuda (1864~1929) whose picture is going to be used for 5,000 yen bank note. And the new 5,000 bill is designed as this below.

平成から令和へと移り変わり、新しいお札が流通するように現在調整がなされています。日本のお札は、千円札、五千円札、一万円札、が流通していますが、その中で新五千円札の顔に選ばれた津田梅子(1864~1929) について書きたいと思います。こちらが新しい五千円札のデザインです。

Umeko Tsuda was dispatched to USA with 4 other girls in 1871 when she was only 6 years old under Japanese policy with a mission to learn English language and America. And later on she turned out to be a pioneer of education for girls.


All the Japanese learn about Umeko in school education. Umeko had been faithful to the mission all through her life that she was entrusted as just a little 6-year-old girl. She faced countless hardships and difficulties yet never gave in to them, and she yielded freedom and light of hope for girls and ladies by studying English to open up a brighter door. She contributed immensely for women education.


This is a very famous picture of Umeko and other girls used for a textbook at school. They sailed to cross Pacific Ocean spending many days and nights, when they first saw a land of America, they leaned over to see it closely from the ship. We can see their pure excitement and thrilled anticipation. A girl from the second left is 6 year-old tiny Umeko. I still remember vividly when I found this picture for the first time on a school textbook when in elementary school. I felt at that moment a bud of hope grew inside of me. By the time Umeko got back to Japan when 18 years old, it is said she completely forgot how to speak Japanese.


In Japan when Umeko came home, there still remained strong Confucianism belief that was far from liberal arts. And occupational opportunities that returnees from abroad could take a chance were very limited. But thanks to supports from her family and their acquaintances, Umeko first worked as an English teacher. And later on she established  Tsuda English School to cultivate women to become frontiers of the new era. This Tsuda English School was led to become Tsuda University that is women’s university in Tokyo as times descended. Umeko dedicated her life to educate women and she devoted everything for the mission. It was very rare in those days that she chose not to marry in her lifetime. I, myself admire Umeko as well and I took entrance examinations for Tsuda University when I was a high school student. Eventually I didn’t study at the university, however I still respect Umeko and the English education that the university provides. Umeko treasured and protected a seed that was plated when little, she never abandoned it and kept pouring water, then a beautiful flower of her own bloomed in the long run. I feel as if it is a sign of good promise that the beginning of a new era gave a spot light to Umeko.


That’s all for today. Blessings to each one of you, especially for girls. Cheers!


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