Although its name and function is unknown, she has an ability. Higuchi is a fairly tall, young woman in her 20s. Her hair is blonde and comes down to her shoulders, which she usually keeps tied up into a messy bun. Her eyes are a deep brown color. She wears a black suit that she leaves unbuttoned,and is also usually seen wearing a pair of rectangular, blue sunglasses.

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To succeed, you have to let go of fear. Her stories are held as groundbreaking masterpieces. She was also fearless. Circumstances, setbacks, tragedy, and the world around her gave her plenty of reason to fear. But she found a way to overcome it, and achieve more in her short life than any man of the Meiji period.

The shogun gave up his power to the Emperor. The class system that put the samurai class above everyone else was abolished. And the country ended its long standing isolation from the rest of the world. Japan as a whole felt like it had fallen behind and the only way to catch up was to modernize, and fast.

The government sent out groups of scholars to bring back technology, political ideas, language, and everything else they could get their hands on to turn Japan into a modern mishmash of the best parts. This flood of new technology bombarded the Japanese people, forcing them to play catch-up while the country reinvented itself.

And for women, this did a few really harmful things. Education Revisions to the educational system crippled girls compulsory education. Not only was the education provided to girls embarrassingly lower than that given to boys, but they were only required to attend six years of school.

Suddenly people were arguing that an education would make girls misbehave. This destroyed the missionary schools that were teaching girls a better, higher education than those set up by the government.

Instead, they should be home taking care of the household. Once they were married, they had pretty much no rights whatsoever. A married woman in the Meiji period was considered the property of her husband. The head of the household, her husband or father, had all the power.

He would make most of the decisions for all the family members — whom they should marry, where they should live, whether they could adopt children, and so forth. Female prostitutes were licensed and worked in houses under contracts. They usually had a certain amount of debt on their contract and would work for the house to pay it off. This kept it from being considered slavery, which was illegal according to the new Meiji Constitution.

And when women tried to do something about it, they discovered that the people in power within the government who they needed to convince, were men who supported the practice more than anyone. Who Am I? Another thing you need to be aware of is the idea of the "individualism. The idea that people were individuals whose needs could matter more than that of the groups they belong to did not exist yet in Japan.

They were a collectivist society, one that gave importance to groups specifically, instead of the individuals in said group. Individualism: a focus on the thoughts, needs, and wants of the individual rather than of a larger group. Now we end up in a world where women are forced to take a step back in a country that was forging ahead at an incredible pace.

Her father and mother had moved to Edo from the country before she was born to find success in the city. Her father had worked hard to buy the rank of a lowly samurai and everything seemed to be looking up.

Unfortunately for them, almost immediately after he got it, the rank lost all meaning thanks to the removal of classes in the Meiji Restoration. He eventually found work as a low ranking member of the local government, but the family was never able to find financial stability again.

She was shy, quiet, and poor. She read stories about heroes going on adventures and fighting villains and doing exciting things. She wanted to be a hero and do something important with her life. But being born in Meiji Japan made that difficult, if not impossible. Elementary schools had just been introduced in Tokyo when she was a baby, but as we now know, they were more focused on making girls into productive members of society than giving them a proper education.

Her father, however, bought her poetry books and a private tutor to help her study. He was well educated himself and wanted his daughter to be well educated too. Although she was at the top of her class, her classmates were the daughters of rich, important people.

She never felt like she fit in and this pushed her to focus intensely on her schoolwork. As a result, she was consistently at the top of her class and won many poetry composition contests. Her other brother had been disowned years earlier. This left her as head of the household and caretaker of her mother and younger sister. This was a pretty unique position for a woman of the Meiji period. Before her father had passed, there were talks about her engagement to a well-to-do law student.

However, once he realized how poor they were, he left; a huge betrayal to the Higuchi family. They borrowed money from family and neighbors and took in cleaning and sewing work to make ends meet. The only other options for women to make money at the time were prostitution or becoming the mistress of a rich man.

So when a classmate from Haginoya , under the pen name Miyake Kaho, became famous for publishing a novel, she decided to try making money writing fiction.

But she constantly struggled with separating writing for art and writing for money. It was extremely hard on her. In the afternoon I sat at my desk and, somehow or other, I was engaged in writing. However, for various reasons I got disgusted. I have already torn up my manuscripts about ten times. Every time I read famous tales and novels, both ancient and modern, I become distressed over my own writing and finally I begin to feel like giving up.

I must, by all means, complete it by day after tomorrow. If people wish to laugh at my faint heart, let them laugh! It had been nearly one year since I began writing novels. I have published none yet, and none satisfies me.

Once I have claimed myself as a writer, I would dare not write anything that may be thrown into a waste basket after being read once, as is the case with the majority of writers. People today are frivolous, and what is welcomed today may be discarded tomorrow in a world like this, but if I appeal to the genuine feeling of the people, and if I depict genuine feeling, even though it may be a fictitious writing by Ichiyo, how could it be without value?

I do not desire a brocade gown nor am I after a stately mansion. How could I ever stain my name which I wish to leave behind for a thousand years for the sake of temporary gain? I will rewrite even a short story three times, and then I will ask the world to pass judgement. Someone who was already established in the literary world. This is where Tosui Nakarai came in. They were both uncomfortable around one another, considering the social implications of a man and a woman who were not related spending any time together.

Though he did eventually help her publish the first of her short stories through a literary journal. Soon Nakajima Utako approached her, revealing the rumor that was following her: Tosui was telling people that the two were sleeping together. This, along with her broken engagement plans, gave her a realistic and bitter outlook on love, and heavily influenced her writing. Female friends and writers, including Miyake Kaho the woman who inspired her to write for money in the first place and Nakajima Utako helped her make new connections in the literary world, including a group called Bungakkai The Literary Circle.

She continued to work hard and made money off of her publications, but her need to create quality content and refusal to make anything subpar crippled her income. Eventually she got so fed up with this struggle between art and money, that she moved the family to a little shop near the pleasure quarters of Yoshiwara.

There they opened a store that sold knick knacks, small wares, and candy. She continued to write after the business failed, but her experiences in the pleasure quarters had a huge impact on her writing, and ended up inspiring what is now considered to be her masterpiece.

But what is it about her writing that made her so famous and so memorable? First of all, most of her main characters are women; almost always poor, almost always in a situation that is completely out of their control. She wrote about orphans, divorcees, children, and prostitutes. She wrote in a way that is painfully realistic. No one is "saved" or whisked away in some sort of fairytale ending, and most of her stories end without any kind of real closure.

She took inspiration from the Heian classics she studied in school, and later, Ihara Saikaku, who was famous for writing about the common people of the pleasure quarters during the Edo period.

And of course, she took inspiration from her own experiences as a woman living in Meiji Japan; being spurned by the men in her life, living below her means, being unable to control her own destiny, and especially from her time in Yoshiwara.

As she grew as a person, she grew as a writer. Her first works were overly flowery, relying heavily on Heian language and motifs. But they slowly transformed into strong representations of the people living in the Meiji period ; of the time she was alive and of the struggles of the downtrodden.

She stopped focusing on pretty words and shifted into trying to represent the world around her; merging a beautifully written style with allusions to the Japanese classics and problems of the modern day. She never crossed the line past "good wife, wise mother" and instead, was able to express the pain and sorrow of women, children, and the poor without blaming the system that put them there. Because of this, her male contemporaries saw her as, "a writer who beautifully told the sad stories of women," Yukiko Tanaka and not as one of the feminist writers they saw as an annoyance.

But if she had been received differently, we might not be remembering her today. To sum it up nicely: Her motive to write stories was not simply to emancipate women from the oppression of men, as is often argued of women writers in early modern societies; it is more complex: she wanted to write because she knew her writing skills were much more sophisticated than those of her peers, whether male or female.

But she also needed to write for practical reasons; she needed to make money in order to support her family as the registered head of the household. The marriage helps support her family and improve their standard of living, as well as find a job for her younger brother.

She overhears them talking about how wonderful her marriage has made their lives and how thankful they are for the match. She finally goes in and admits why she has come.

About how her husband may have married below his social standing, but he was the one who found her, who courted her, and convinced the family of the choice.


Higuchi Ichiyō

Early life[ edit ] She was born in Tokyo , with the name Natsuko Higuchi. Her parents had come to the capital from a farming community in a nearby province. Not long before this final debacle, Higuchi, 14 years old, began studying classical poetry at one of the best of the poetic conservatories, the Haginoya. Here she received weekly poetry lessons and lectures on Japanese literature. There were also monthly poetry competitions in which all students, past and present, were invited to participate. Poetry taught at this school was that of the conservative court poets of the Heian period.


Ichiyō Higuchi


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