Sutematsu Oyama is too beautiful! Famous flowers that bloomed in Rokumeikan [Japan’s first female international student]

Around the time of the Meiji Restoration, there was a woman named Sutematsu Oyama who was too beautiful. This woman is the first female exchange student in Japan, right?
beautiful? ! “I want to know about Sutematsu Oyama!” “What kind of woman was she?” “According to history, she was the first Japanese woman to study abroad!” ?


I will answer these questions.

Sutematsu Oyama is too beautiful! Famous flowers that bloomed in Rokumeikan [Japan’s first female international student]


When my youngest sister, Sakiko, was selected as one of the first five female students to study in Japan, my older brother, Hiroshi, who is 15 years older than me. “Well, I’m going to educate myself in American society, and later on, I’ll definitely look back at the upstarts of Satsuma and Choshu.” Sakiko, that’s Sutematsu Oyama. And…beautiful!

This article introduces Sutematsu Oyama, Japan’s first female international student.

■Summary of this article
Sutematsu Oyama is a beautiful woman and the daughter of a samurai.
・Sutematsuto Oyama went to San Francisco at the age of 12
・Social debut of Sutematsu Koyama
Oyama Sutematsu Profile
Oyama Sutematsu (Oyama Sutematsu, February 24, 1860 (March 16, 1860) – February 18, 1919) was a Japanese nobleman and educator. His maiden name was Yamakawa, and his childhood name was Saki, later Sakiko. She was one of the first female international students in Japan. She is the first Japanese woman to graduate from university with a bachelor’s degree. She became an elder and through her position as the wife of Iwao Oyama, she provided support for nurse education and girls’ education.

Sutematsu Oyama is the daughter of a samurai who is too beautiful


Karakoromo, the mother, tries hard to suppress the sadness of sending her young daughter to a foreign country, but this may be a long farewell to you. “I’m sending you to America as if I had abandoned you, but every day I look forward to the day when you return after successfully completing your studies for your country.” I changed my childhood name from “Sakiko” to “Sutematsu” and sent her off.

Sutematsu lived in the United States for 12 years while she was studying abroad, but there was a very twisted situation in her hometown when she left.

She was born on February 24, 1860, the youngest of the second son and fifth daughter of Shigekata Yamakawa and Karai. Her father, Shigekata, had died at the age of 49 before her Sakiko (Sutematsu) was born, but she had a good life. This is because Shigekata’s father, Shigehide, was selected as a magistrate of accounts for the Aizu clan and was a person who rose to the rank of chief retainer.

Oyama Sutematsu’s Aizu Spirit “Nara no Koto wa Naranasu”



“Nothing can happen”… This clan, which has been refined with a strict “Aizu spirit”, has an extremely high level of education, with Masayuki Hoshina, a disciple of the third shogun, Iemitsu Tokugawa, as the founder of the domain. He was also thoroughly aware of bushido.

Sutematsu’s eldest brother Hiroshi became chief retainer at the age of 23. However, when he became chief retainer and supervised the military affairs of the clan, the Aizu clan was forced to fight the most tragic battle of the Boshin War.

All the women of the Yamakawa family enter Tsuruga Castle, following their grandfather Shigehide and Kenjiro, who was transferred to the Byakkotai. At that time, Sakiko (Sutematsu) was eight years old.

She was decapitated by an exploding cannonball from an attack cannon on the castle of the government army, and she was experiencing the terrifying experience of her life.

On September 22nd, 1868, Tsuruga Castle was reluctantly surrendered, and the 1,700 people living inside the castle were placed under confinement. I lived such a rough life.

Fortunately, Sutematsu was placed in the custody of Takuma Sawabe, a missionary of the Greek Orthodox Church, who was a paternal relative of Ryoma Sakamoto, who lived in Hakodate. .

The former Aizu feudal retainers, who were treated as “national bandits,” were kicked out of the new government of the Satsuma-Choshu clan.


Sutematsu Oyama studied abroad in San Francisco at the age of 12


In July 1877, the Hokkaido Development Commission was established, and Sutematsu’s second older brother, Kenjiro Yamakawa, was selected to study in the United States. (Becoming the first Japanese student to graduate from Yale University.) As a result, Sutematsu was selected as one of the five female exchange students in time for the second round of recruitment. At this time she was 12 years old.

When they arrived in San Francisco, they were greeted with a warm welcome.



(Omitted) All of them are said to be samurai daughters. Compared to the men of the mission, they are much more handsome and attractive. (Omitted) These five daughters were the first high-ranking women to leave Japan. (From Akiko Kuno’s “Rokumeikan no Kifujin Oyama Sutematsu”, the quoted text is the same)


Sutematsu ended up staying at the Reverend Leonard Bacon’s house in New Haven, Connecticut. Three years later, in 1873, Sutematsu entered Hill House High School, a coeducational public high school. Here she studied for three years and she went on to Vassar College, a prestigious women’s college. She and Sutematsu have been living in the dormitory here for “the happiest and most hopeful four years of my life.”

She Sutematsu became the first Asian woman to receive a degree from an American university. She has excellent grades and she has been selected as one of the top 10 alumni representatives. In a short period of time, she has transformed from a samurai daughter into a woman with an international education.

After Sutematsu Oyama returned to Japan

In 1882, after completing 12 years of studying abroad, Sutematsu returned to Japan via New York. At this time, Sutematsu was 23 years old.

However, what awaited Sutematsu was Japan’s old constitution, which did not prepare a chair to make the most of his career.

Sutematsu, who was disappointed with the Ministry of Education’s response to the abolishment of the Hokkaido Development Commission and the transfer of jurisdiction, decided to start teaching English privately at his own home, but his brother Kenjiro was also opposed to this plan. I was crushed.

The actual situation in Japan was far behind that of Western countries, and it was a time when there was not even a job, let alone independence for women.

Sutematsu formed the “English Drama Club” using his experiences with the Shakespeare Club during his time as Vassar.

From that activity, Sutematsu meets an invited guest. Lord of the Army, Iwao Oyama. Oyama was a cousin of Takamori Saigo and one of the central figures in the Meiji government.

The age difference with Sutematsu is 17. However, Oyama was also one of the few people who had studied abroad in Europe during this period, and he was a person who could understand Sutematsu’s study abroad experience.

In November 1883, Sutematsu married Iwao Oyama. It was just a year after she returned to Japan.


Sutematsu Oyama makes his social debut at Rokumeikan

Sutematsu will act on his own initiative to make use of his experience in the United States in Japanese society!

Sutematsu, who became her Army Lord’s wife, will make her brilliant social debut at the Rokumeikan, which opened 20 days after her marriage.

At the Western-style building, which was intended to appeal to the advanced Western nations that Japan was never behind, every day, her dignitaries and their wives gathered at home and abroad, and a ball modeled after Western countries was held.

The first stage is Rokumeikan. This is a foreigner entertainment center created by the Meiji government for its celebration policy.

The early Meiji era, when women’s activities were severely restricted. What action did Sutematsu take in such an era? She is active in social circles. The flowers of Rokumeikan! There was a wish with a throwing pine.

I thought that in order to improve the status of women, it was necessary to communicate with women in government officials. One day, he visits the hospital with the women and realizes that there are only men taking care of the hospital, and there are no women.

・Establishment of Japan’s first nursing school

Organize a charity for women of government officials to raise funds. Started volunteer activities.

Japan’s first charity bazaar was held at Rokumeikan. Funds were collected at this event to establish Japan’s first “Yushi Kyoritsu Tokyo Hospital Nurse Education Center”.


When the Russo-Japanese War broke out in 1904 (Meiji 37), Sutematsu carried out various social service activities, such as visiting war widows and orphans, making donations, and building a free nursery school.


・Support for girls’ education

At the request of Hirobumi Ito, she worked hard to establish a peerage girls’ school. In addition, she worked hard to raise funds for the women’s English cram school run by her fellow student Umeko Tsuda. She will also serve as a school counselor.


Sutematsu did what he could in life.

I am so grateful that my life is now so peaceful and happy.引用:「鹿鳴館の貴婦人 大山捨松」久野明子著より


Aiming for a society where women can demonstrate their abilities!

This is a must-read book for those who want to know more about Oyama Sutematsu.



Among the people of Aizu who were active in the Meiji era, there are many people who lived turbulent lives. I was confused and hit a wall. A historical figure can give you a big hint.



I would be happy if you could refer to it even a little.

Thank you for reading to the end.


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