Umeko Tsuda became a banknote, but Sutematsu Oyama, a friend of an international student, founded Japan’s first nursing school.

Umeko Tsuda has become a hot topic with the new design of the 5,000 yen note. During the Meiji Restoration, there was a woman named Sutematsu Oyama who was called Umeko Tsuda’s sworn friend.


It seems that there was a deep connection with “Niijima Yae” played by Haruka Ayase, who was the star of “Yae no Sakura” broadcasted in NHK’s Taiga drama in 2013.
I want to know about Oyama Sutematsu! “What kind of woman was she?” “According to history, she was the first Japanese woman to study abroad!” ?

I will answer these questions.

Umeko Tsuda became a banknote, but Sutematsu Oyama, a friend of an international student, founded Japan’s first nursing school.

Overcome setbacks with roots!

He was born into the Yamakawa family, who served as state elders of the Aizu clan in the Edo period. His brothers include Kenjiro Yamakawa, who successively served as president of the Imperial University of Tokyo, and Hiroshi Yamakawa, who played an active role in the Boshin War.

In the Aizu clan, there was a woman named Sutematsu Oyama, who was called Umeko Tsuda’s sworn friend. At the time of the Boshin War, Sutematsu was still a child, but in “Yae no Sakura” she was portrayed as being confined to the castle with Yae Niijima.

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

■Summary of this article
・Sutematsu Oyama was the first Japanese student to study abroad at the age of 12.
・Sutematsu Oyama Restarting Life
・Sutematsu Oyama’s method of overcoming setbacks
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.

Relationship between Sutematsu Oyama and Umeko Tsuda


Regarding Sutematsu Oyama, what kind of relationship did you have with Umeko Tsuda? As the first female students to study in Japan, they traveled to the United States as members of the Iwakura Mission led by Tomomi Iwakura, and had the opportunity to receive a rare education for girls at the time.

Sutematsu Oyama went to college in the United States and graduated with excellent grades.

She returned to Japan in 1882 after completing 12 years of studying abroad.

In 1900, when Umeko Tsuda founded Joshi Eigaku Juku (later known as Tsuda College), they actively supported the establishment of the school.


The strange name Oyama “Sutematsu”

Sutematsu Oyama, his childhood name was Saki Yamakawa. As for why it got the strange name Sutematsu…

He changed his name to Sutematsu when his mother sent him off to study abroad in the United States, saying, “I thought I had thrown him away and waited for him to return.”

You can feel the loneliness of her mother who sent her daughter to a distant foreign country after the Meiji Restoration, after studying abroad for more than 10 years.

Her husband is Don Saigo’s cousin.

Sutematsu Oyama, her husband is Iwao Oyama, who served as an army general in the Meiji period. Iwao Oyama was from the Satsuma Domain and was a cousin of Takamori Saigo.

The Boshin War was a war between the new Shogunate forces led by Satsuma and Choshu and the Tokugawa Gosanke (three branches of the Tokugawa family) in Aizu. is. (Tetsuji Tamayama played Iwao Oyama and Kiko Mizuhara played Sutematsu Oyama in the NHK historical drama Yae no Sakura.)

However, Iwao Oyama, who had a strong temperament, and Sutematsu Oyama, who had studied abroad, were strongly attracted to him. At the time, Rokumeikan was famous as a social gathering place for aristocrats and high-ranking government officials, and Sutematsu performed American-style ballroom dances and behaviors. She became the center of attention and was called “Rokumeikan no Hana”.


12 years old Japan’s first female international student

The turning point was the recruitment of female international students by the Meiji government.

The Yamakawa family applied for 12-year-old Sutematsu to study abroad in the United States in order to survive in the new era. She has been studying abroad for 10 years.

Sutematsu and the others were sent to the Empress, and she was told to study hard in the United States, and after returning to Japan, she should be a model for women when she returned to Japan. It was a study abroad with a national mission.

In 1871, Sutematsu left for America to restart her life.

She first arrived in San Francisco. However, the other two returned to Japan after half a year of living in a foreign country where they did not understand the language and had different customs. After that, the three of us went to live with host families separately.

Sutematsu moves to New Haven, Connecticut, and this opens up her life.

Sutematsu restarts his life by looking outside and enjoying the unknown

Sutematsu’s host family was the Reverend Leonard Bacon’s family. As for my life, I study English every day, take piano lessons, enjoy picnics with my neighbors and play games… The unknown life taught me the joy of life.

Then she goes to a local high school, where she also encounters an unknown world…a women’s social activity called Our Society.

She was doing various support activities for the poor women and children in need who lived in this town, and she was very highly evaluated by the people of the town. Charity, women only party

“What kind of activity is this?” Sutematsu joined Our Society, sewing diapers, making children’s clothes, and collecting donations. I’m going to read it. You can contribute to society by helping people! I learned that.

In September 1878, she left the home of Reverend Leonard Bacon, who had raised her like her real family, and entered Vassar College in New York.

She majored in many subjects such as physics, biology, and natural sciences, and her grades were always top class. She even short-term enrolled in a nurse training school. Her pseudonym is The Stranger.

Sutematsu did not forget to hide his identity as a Japanese who came from a faraway place to work with a sense of mission. She continued to be proud of being Japanese.

And the 11 years of studying in the United States will come to an end.

She returned to Japan in 1882 (Meiji 15). Sutematsu learned English, French and German, and she was the first Japanese woman to graduate from university. However, what awaited her after she returned to Japan was the wall of old-fashioned society.

Bewilderment, despair, hardships… what is going on with Sutematsu? It was a letter sent to her best friend by Sutematsu, who was found at her study abroad destination.

Everything is different here than in America. Doing anything is next to impossible. December 11, 1882引用:「鹿鳴館の貴婦人 大山捨松」久野明子著より


People often say that it is an honor to die for one’s country, but I think it is even more difficult to live for one’s country. March 19, 1883

After returning to Japan, the male international students were given posts at universities and government offices, while the women who were also state guest international students had no jobs.

In the Meiji government in the early Meiji period, women were mainly educated to become “good wives and wise mothers.” It was reverting to its old state.

There was yet another problem. That is “omiai”, marriage. Sutematsu, who was 24 years old, was unsold in Japan at the time, and she was not treated as a full-fledged person just because she was not married.

The frustration that she can’t decide her life by her own will, so Sutematsu!

Overcome setbacks by taking root!

Overcome setbacks by taking root!

At that time, a man who earnestly proposes to Sutematsu appears. Army Minister Iwao Oyama is from the Satsuma Domain. He was Iwao Oyama, 18 years older than Sutematsu, already 42 years old.

Sutematsu said, “I’m not getting married for the sake of my country. I believe that there must be a way for me to be happy, and also for my country.引用:「鹿鳴館の貴婦人 大山捨松」久野明子著より

After thinking it over, they decide to get married.

Sutematsu is the flower of Rokumeikan

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

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 also serves as a school adviser.


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

We aim to create a society where women can demonstrate their abilities.


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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