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

Oyama Sutematu

By Yui Fukatsu
Oyama Sutematsu
Oyama Sutematsu

Oyama Sutematsu is the lady who tried to change Japanese education because she was really interested in American life style. I chose her because I am interested in why she is not famous in Japan. This essay is focused on her back ground, her life in foreign country and her contribution to Japan’s education.

At first, I will introduce about her background. She was born on March 16th, in 1860. Her name was Saki. Her father was so rich because he was the leader of Aizu-han which was located around modern-day Fukushima. For this reason, Saki was also rich and her childhood was wealthy. However, her life’s turning point came with the Aizu war which was fought between Aizu and the government, which Aizu lost. Then, Saki entered French family as foster child because Aizu people suffered from poverty and stavation, so Saki’s family thought they could not bring her up. In 1871, Kuroda Kiyotaka wanted some men and women to go to America because women and man are equal in America. Then Saki decided to go to America because one of this project’s students was Saki’s brother Kenjiro, and she related to European lifestyle in her new family.

Next, I will talk about her life in America. She changed her name to Sutematsu. At the same time, Tsuda Umeko, who became famous for contributing Japanese education, went to America, too. I will explain about her at last part. After arriving in United States, Sutematsu grew up with the Bacon family. There she met their daughter, Alice Bacon, and they became best friends. Four years later, Sutematsu could speak English perfectly, so she entered local high school and Vassar College which is famous in America. She was so excellent and beautiful. She was first Japanese person who graduated from a US University. Then, she entered nursing school and studied a year and became interested in International Red Cross. Her dream was to establish Japanese Red Cross and advance Japanese girls’ education. Her study in United States was 11 years.

At last, I want to focus on her obsession after coming back to Japan. First of all, she really felt cramped because her lifestyle was very Americanised in terms of thinking, acting and so on. She could not write or read Kanji. In this era, there was no job for people like Sutematsu. However, when she was 23 years old she got married Oyama Iwao. Meanwhile, Meiji government made Rokumeikan for social purposes, completing it in 1883 [Editor’s note: Rokumeikan was a large Western-style building built to accommodate foreign dignitaries.It became controversial for holding extravagant banquets and balls aimed to impress visitors with Japan’s sophistication and development]. Japanese people tried to know Western culture. In this place which was to become a controversial symbol of Westernisation, many foreigners laughed at Japanese because they danced and wore clothes like clowns. However, Sutematsu was just a good Japanese person who naturally adapted to foreign culture. People called Sutematsu “The flower of Rokumeikan”.

In Sino-Japanese war and Russo-Japanese war, her husband, Oyama, became a leader. She supported him by collecting money and taking care of veterans as a nurse. In addition, she tried to send letters to American Newspaper Company to claim that Japan’s financial difficulty. This action made American people support Japan. Also, her dream was to be a teacher and establish Japanese girl’s education. She could not relate to education because her husband worked at government. However, she didn’t give up. In this point, I will explain about Tsuda Ume as I said. She was student who went and lived America same time as Sutematsu. She studied a lot and she changed her name to Tsuda Umeko. She established a school, Jyoshi Eikakujyuku, with Alice Bacon and Sutematsu and so on. This school became bigger and bigger, and now, it is one of the biggest universities, known as Tsuda Juku University. They made an ideal school for Japanese girls. Finally, Sutematsu died because of Spanish influenza when she was 58 years old.

In conclusion, Sutematsu’s life in The United States made her dream, then her dream made Japanese girl’s education and the basis of Japanese nursing. I can say that I can study in school because of her. Especially, I was interested in her efforts. She studied a lot and she also made Japanese woman’s dream. I think her name is not so famous but we have to know her life and her dream, especially for women. In addition, I was really wonder why she is not famous in Japan. I think this is because Tsuda Umeko is more famous than Sutematsu, perhaps because her activities cannot be summarized in just one word. For example, Tsuda studied abroad and established university. However, Sutematsu did many things like nursing, studying abroad, explaining Red Cross in Japan, becoming famous in Rokumeikan, and establishing a university. She did many, small things. I want many Japanese people to know about her.


Kuno, A. (1993). “Rokumeikan no kifujin –nihon hatu no jyoshi ryugakusei [the lady of Rokumeikan- the first girl exchange student]. 1993/05. Tokyo: Chuo Koron-sha

“Tuda umeko”.(2013)- Wikipedia. Retrieved 2013.07.22 from

“Ooyama sutematsu”. (2013)- Wikipedia 2013.07.22