This project showcases student project work from Japan and the World, a modern Japanese history course offered at Kanda University of International Studies. It focuses on important themes and individuals from the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-26) periods, when Japan was beginning to open to the world after centuries of government-enforced isolation.

All submissions are researched, whether in English or Japanese, and references provided. Comments responding to and exploring ideas, suggesting connections or further reading, are most welcome. As entries are written by non-native English speakers, please refrain from non-constructive comments about language use.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Morgan O-Yuki (Yuki Kato)

By Yasuyo Katsumata
Morgan O-Yuki
Morgan O-Yuki

Have you heard of Morgan O-Yuki? The reason that I was going to write about Morgan O-Yuki is because I was interested in geisha. Geisha are Japanese female entertainers who perform traditional Japanese music and dances at exclusive parties. The geisha date back about 400 years. Morgan O-Yuki was not just a Japanese geisha. She is the best woman who married to a wealthy man on modern history.

At first, I will introduce about her background. Yuki was born in Kyoto in 1881 (Sumi Kosakai, 1984). She became a geisha at the age of 14 years old. Particularly, she was superior in singing and dancing, and flipping the Chinese fiddle. Everybody called her Yuki of the Chinese fiddle. When she was 17 years old, she met Toshisuke Kawaue who was an elite university student. They loved each other. But his parents were strongly opposed to his marrying a geisha. Yuki broke up with her lover. One day, one American came to Japan. His name is George Dennison Morgan. She met him, and her Yuki’s life was dramatically changed.

Next, what were human relationships between Yuki and Morgan? He was a son of the American great financier J. P. Morgan. He went out on the town at night in Shimbashi and Tokyo. He became a celebrity in the polite society and came over to Kyoto at last. Morgan met Yuki at the time, and it was love at first sight. He continued going to meet her. And he decided that he wanted to marry her and paid 40,000 yen. Today, 40,000 yen amounts to a hundred million yen. Finally, she also made up her mind that they would spend their lives together. After that they held a wedding ceremony in Yokohama and left for New York. Her reputation was good in the United States and she became a famous woman. After 10 years of marriage, he has died of a heart attack in Spain in 1915. That was a very sad affair. Due to that Yuki inherited a large fortune and contributed all their property to charity. When World War II broke out in 1938, she came back to Japan. After she returned, she was beaten up by public opinion and was seen as a woman who had been blinded by greed. In 1963 she died at 82 years old.

In my opinion, it is rare for a Japanese geisha to have internationally married in the Meiji era. Her life was the subject of the musical "Morgan O-yuki" in 1959 (Sumi Kosakai, 1984). It is a very fascinating musical. After she died, I think Morgan O-Yuki is still loved and respected by many people here in Japan. I long to get an international marriage. It is not so easy to get internationally married. For example, language and Culture are fundamental problems of international marriage. So, she was in a very tough situation. Morgan O-Yuki had a very strong mind.

In conclusion, there are a lot of memorial days in Japan. What day is it in January 20? It is said to be 'a day of the marriage to a wealthy man' on that day. The origin seems to be the day when their wedding ceremony was held. Not many people know about that. Her life was unstable and she was criticized by the world. I think it was the bitterest experience of her life. However, they truly loved each other. If nothing else, at least this is certain. For her, love was more important than money. Even the richest man like Morgan can’t buy true love. I guess she lived a happy life with him, and Morgan O-Yuki is one of the famous women in Japanese history.

Reference List

Morgan O-Yuki(モルガンお雪)Sumi Kosakai, Publishing company: Syueisha, in 1984