Monthly Archives: March 2022

Women’s education pioneer Tsuda Umeko (1864 ~1929)

by Laura Miller 

On March 5, 2022, TV Asahi will broadcast a special TV Drama about Tsuda Umeko (1864 ~1929), considered one of the most important figures in modern Japanese history.

Photo taken at the Japanese Finance Ministry in Tokyo on April 9, 2019, shows the front (top) and back of a sample of the new 5,000 yen bill featuring educator Umeko Tsuda (1864-1929) to be introduced in fiscal 2024. (Kyodo)
(Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)

The drama is entitled “Umeko Tsuda, an International Student Featured on Banknotes” (津田梅子~お札になった留学生), and stars Hirose Suzu in the lead role. The Japanese Finance Ministry unveiled new designs for paper currency that will be put in circulation from 2024. The new ¥5,000 (approximately US$43) banknote will honor Tsuda Umeko. Tsuda was involved in extraordinary events and cultural changes from the time she was a child. When she was only six years old, she was a student delegate in the Iwakura Mission (Iwakura Shisetsudan) of 1871, a diplomatic journey around the world. Many of the delegates on the mission were students (she is the child wearing white in the photo). Tsuda remained in the US until the age of 18, living in the Washington DC home of an American family while she received an education at the Archer Institute. She returned to Japan in 1882 and worked as a tutor and educator. In 1889 Tsuda returned to the US to earn degrees in biology and education at Bryn Mawr College. While at Bryn Mawr, she established an endowment that would support Japanese women for study abroad in Philadelphia. Tsuda later became the founder of what is now one of the top women’s private universities in Japan. It is now named Tsuda College (established in 1900) where she made study abroad an integral part of the mission. Tsuda paved the way for more than a century of Japanese women seeking education in the US. Today Tsuda is a popular folk model of exceptional intelligence and bravery. She is featured in many books, manga and other media.