She is called the mother of Japanese female education, and her life story is inspirational. Recently, I came across a fascinating blog post that covers all of the critical points in Masako Katsura’s life and what made her so special. Starting from an article on Brainpickings.org, this post on Mitoda International Blogspot provides a little more personal detail into what sort of person she was to how she contributed to restarting the education system in Japan after World War II.
-A Brief Introduction
Masako Katsura was born in Japan in 1856. She was the daughter of a doctor and an avid reader from an early age. After her mother died when she was eleven, Masako was sent to live with her grandparents in Edo (now Tokyo). While living with her grandparents, she became interested in Western literature and culture.
In 1871, at fifteen, Masako married Tadaatsu Katsura, a bureaucrat who later became the Prime Minister of Japan. The couple had eight children together.
During her husband’s political career, Masako helped him by entertaining essential guests and hosting parties. She also used her influence to promote educational reform in Japan. In 1885, she founded the first private girls’ school in Japan, the Hirose School for Girls. The school taught its students traditional academic subjects and Western-style education, including science and mathematics.
Masako’s work helped pave the way for other women to enter higher education in Japan. In 1903, she became the first woman in Japan to earn a degree from a foreign university when she graduated from Columbia University in New York City.
After her husband died in 1913, Masako retired from public life but continued to promote education for women through her work with various charities and organizations. She died in 1934 at the age of seventy-eight.
-Masako Katsura’s Strength, Determination, and Education
It was not easy for Masako Katsura to get an education. She was born into a low-income family in Japan and had to work hard from a young age to help support her family. Despite this, she was determined to get an education and eventually became the first woman in Japan to earn a Ph.D. in Education.
Katsura’s work has had a profound impact on Japanese education. She developed new teaching methods and helped raise education standards in Japan. She also wrote several books on education, which are still used today. Her work has inspired many people, both in Japan and worldwide, to pursue their educational goals.
-From Convalescent Home Volunteer to Wandering Person
After Katsura graduated from college, she volunteered at a convalescent home. It was there that she met a woman who would change her life. The woman was wandering around the grounds, and when Katsura asked her what she was doing, she replied that she was looking for a place to die. This response shocked Katsura, and she began to think about the plight of Wanderers – people who have no home and no place to go.
Katsura eventually left the convalescent home and began working with Wanderers. She helped them find food and shelter and also worked to educate them. She believed that if they could be taught basic skills, they could find a way out of their situation.
Katsura’s work with Wanderers led her to advocate for education reform in Japan. She believed that everyone deserved an education, regardless of their circumstances. Japan’s education system was transformed thanks to her efforts, making it more accessible to all.
-Katsura Started Courses in Philosophy and German Education at 27 years old
After Katsura experienced firsthand the shortcomings of the Japanese education system, she decided to pursue a degree in philosophy and German education. At 27 years old, she enrolled in courses at Waseda University and Tokyo Women’s Normal School (now Ochanomizu University), respectively.
During her time at university, Katsura was greatly influenced by Western philosophy, particularly the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and John Dewey. She also became interested in German educational thought and practice. These interests would shape her pedagogical approach, which she later implemented as a teacher.
After graduation, Katsura began working as a primary school teacher in Tokyo. During this time, she began to develop her unique educational methods, which blended aspects of both Western and Eastern philosophies. Her ultimate goal was to create an educational system allowing all Japanese children to reach their full potential.
Katsura’s progressive teaching methods attracted the attention of fellow educators, and she soon gained a reputation as an innovative thinker. In 1912, she was invited to lecture on her work at Columbia University in the United States. This marked the beginning of her international career as an educator and popularizer of Japanese culture.
-Master’s Course at the University of Heidelberg: Doctor Fugaku Kishikawa
In 1874, at the age of twenty-four, Masako Katsura entered the prestigious University of Heidelberg in Germany to study medicine. She was one of the first women from Japan to study abroad and one of the first to earn a medical degree from a foreign university.
Katsura was inspired by her experience at Heidelberg and dedicated her life to improving education for women in Japan. When she returned to Japan, she co-founded the Women’s Education Society and worked tirelessly to promote educational opportunities for women. Thanks to her efforts, women began to be admitted to Japanese universities and colleges in increasing numbers.
Today, many women in Japan owe their educational opportunities to Masako Katsura. One is Dr. Fugaku Kishikawa, who is currently completing a Master’s course at the University of Heidelberg. She is studying German literature and plans to return to Japan after graduation to teach at a university there.
Dr. Kishikawa cites Masako Katsura as one of her biggest inspirations and credits her with helping make it possible for her to pursue her dreams. “I would not be here today if it were not for Masako Katsura,” she says. “I am very grateful for all that she did for Japanese women.”
-Became Chief Teacher of Foreign Languages at Takushoku University
In 1897, Katsura began teaching at Takushoku University, eventually becoming the chief foreign language teacher. She was one of the first women in Japan to hold such a position. During her time at Takushoku, Katsura helped revolutionize how Japanese students were taught Foreign Languages. She advocated for a more immersive approach, in which students learn through experience and interaction rather than simply memorizing grammar rules. This approach proved to be highly effective and is still used in many language classrooms today. Thanks to Katsura’s innovative teaching methods, Takushoku became one of the most prestigious universities in Japan.
–Worked as a Grad COPY CAT: President of International Culture and Language
In her early twenties, Masako Katsura worked as anGrad COPY CAT: President of International Culture and Language at a time when Japan was still very much closed off to the outside world. During this period, she began to learn English, which would eventually become one of her great passions in life. After a few years in this position, Katsura left to pursue a career in teaching.