In Japan’s greatest and most progressive moments, we tend to overlook those on the sidelines—instrumental but forgotten. More often than not, these integral components are women.
Here are eight Japanese women who have influenced the world.
1. Ichiyo Higuchi
You might recognize Ichiyo Higuchi’s face from the ¥5,000 note in your wallet. However, she is renowned as much more than Japan’s first female professional writer.
As with many great writers, Higuchi was never out of the shadow of hardship. After the death of her brother and father, she decided to become a novelist to support her family.
Her work is often peppered with her own experiences and recurring motifs: unrequited love, grief, gender politics and class divides, to name a few. This is especially true in her acclaimed personal diaries, which caught the public’s attention for their untapped honesty in the Meiji Period.
Having a brief but powerful literary career, Ichiyo Higuchi died at age 24 in 1896.
2. Shidzue Kato
Shidzue Kato was the pioneer of the birth control movement and one of the first women elected to join Japan’s Diet. While living in America, she met with Margaret Sanger, a prominent feminist and birth control activist of the early 20th century.
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