Home Podcasts Japan Station Japan Station 16: The Women of the Iwakura Mission (Janice P. Nimura)

Japan Station 16: The Women of the Iwakura Mission (Janice P. Nimura)

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In this episode of the Japan Station podcast we’re learning about the amazing story of the first group of Japanese girls to study in the U.S.

Janice P. Nimura is the award-winning writer of the book Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back. In Daughters of the Samurai, Nimura recounts the epic real-life story of a group of Japanese girls who in 1871 were sent to be educated in the U.S. in hopes that this would eventually help Japan in its relentless push to become more like the Western powers of the time. The book specifically focuses on the transnational journey of three girls: Shige Nagai (later Baroness Shigeko Uryū), Sutematsu Yamakawa (later Pricess Sutematsu Oyama), and Ume Tsuda (later Umeko Tsuda). Although of these three it is Umeko Tsuda who is best remembered today as a pioneer of women’s education in Japan, all three women did important and inspiring work after their return to Japan despite the many cultural and societal hurdles they had to overcome.

In this episode we discuss:

  • What the Iwakura Mission is
  • The factors that led Japanese officials to decide to send young girls to the U.S. to be educated
  • The incredible life of Sutematsu Yamakawa
  • The complicated figure that is Umeko Tsuda
  • The difficulties Shige Nagai, Sutematsu Yamakawa, and Ume Tsuda faced after returning to Japan
  • The importance of portraying historical figures “warts and all”
  • Janice P. Nimura’s upcoming book, Sister Doctors, which is about pioneering 19th-century doctors Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell
  • And much more!

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Extra Stuff

If you would like to purchase Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back, you can do so via the Amazon link below.

You can follow Janice P. Nimura on social media.

Janice P. Nimura on Twitter

Janice P. Nimura on Facebook

For more information on Janice P. Nimura and her work, you can visit her official website.

Janice P. Nimura Official Website

During the interview Janice mentions a book about Sutematsu Yamakawa that was written by Sutematsu’s great-grad-daughter. The book is called Unexpected Destinations: The Poignant Story of Japan’s First Vassar Graduate and you can find it on Amazon via the link below.

Unexpected Destinations on Amazon

To learn more about Umeko Tsuda becoming the new face of the 5,000 yen banknote in 2024, you can read the Japan Times article below.

Japan announces new ¥10,000, ¥5,000 and ¥1,000 bank notes as Reiwa Era looms

pecial Thanks

Opening/Closing song: Oedo Controller (大江戸コントローラー) by Yunomi featuring Toriena (Used with permission from Yunomi)
To listen to more of Yunomi’s music, check out his Soundcloud page or YouTube channel.

Japan Station cover art: Provided by Erik R.

Image: Courtesy of Janice P. Nimura. Photo by Lucy Schaffer.

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