Unexpected Destinations: The Poignant Story of Japan's First Vassar Graduate

Akiko Kuno, Author, Meagan Calogeras, Editor, Kirsten McIvor, Translator Kodansha International (JPN) $23 (246p) ISBN 978-4-7700-1638-6
In 1871, 11-year-old Sutematsu Yamakawa and four other daughters of the samurai class were sent by the Meiji administration to live in the U.S. for 10 years to learn the ways of the West and become modern role models for Japanese women. Drawing on some 40 letters Sutematsu wrote to an American friend after returning home, her great-granddaughter here examines a life that reveals much about the status of women--and Western ideas--in turn-of-the-century Japan. After living with an American family and attending local schools in New Haven and then Vassar College, Sutematsu was so Westernized that for the rest of her life she spoke better English than Japanese. But by the time she came home, the governmental impulse that had sent her to America had lapsed; she could either remain single and teach, or fulfill society's expectations and marry. She married and, as the wife of minister of war Iwao Oyama, she introduced upper-class women to volunteer work and fund-raising. Her great-granddaughter suggests, however, that she was frustrated by the necessity of remaining a silent, indirect influence on social attitudes. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
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