A Pioneer of Girls' Education in Japan
By Masayuki Shiohara
In 1903, when Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944), the founding president of the Soka Gakkai, published his first major work, The Geography of Human Life, only a handful of girls were receiving a secondary education in Japan. It was against this background that Makiguchi conducted correspondence courses for girls; he became deeply involved in publishing magazines for girls and in not-for-profit charitable education. This paper aims to explore the role played by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi in the early phase of women's education in Japan.
Makiguchi was 32 years old when, after overcoming a variety of obstacles, he published The Geography of Human Life on October 15, 1903. The scope and quality of the book won many plaudits, as can be understood from reviews in 32 newspapers and magazines. In the months following its publication, Makiguchi, who had a young family to take care of, became secretary of Meikeikai, the alumni association of Tokyo Higher Normal School, and also undertook editing of Meikeikai's periodical Kyoiku (Education). He also started teaching geography to overseas students from China at Kobun College.
In May 1905, Makiguchi spoke about his passion for education in a panel discussion that was serialized in the magazine Kyoikukai (The World of Education). "I have been involved in education for a long time, and my love for education does not wane even under my present circumstances." He was, perhaps, expressing a lack of satisfaction at his work at Meikeikai, away from the classroom.
In fact, a couple of months earlier in March, Makiguchi had begun working as a geography teacher at Toa Girls School in Kijimachi, Kanda-ku, Tokyo. This school had been established by the Toa Buddhist Federation as the Toa Seika Girls School in May 1904, and its name had changed to Toa Girls School in August of that year. When Makiguchi began working there in March 1905, the Toa Girls School set up an intensive teaching department for overseas female students from China, so we can speculate that the reason Makiguchi was employed by the school was his considerable experience at Kobun College in the education of overseas students. Further, it is also possible that Makiguchi and Hiroyuki Tanaka, who was the school's proprietor, had mutual friends.
Toa Girls School was relocated to a new address in Kitainari-cho, Shitaya-ku, in September 1906, and it has been confirmed that Makiguchi was also teaching at this new location. Toa Girls School was a very small school with only about 40 students even at its peak, and it continued until the beginning of the Taisho Era (1912-25).
In May 1905, Makiguchi participated in the establishment of the Dainippon Society for Further Education for Young Women. This society conducted correspondence courses providing secondary-level education for girls who had graduated from elementary school. It provided a two-year educational program (later shortened to one and a half years) by distributing to its subscribers Further Courses for Young Women (twice-monthly transcripts of lectures) and the monthly magazine Daikatei (The Great Family).
Makiguchi was the editor-in-chief when the society was founded, the number-two position in the society. The secretary-general was Kojiro Hama, principal inspector of schools for Tokyo City. After graduating from the Tokyo Higher Normal School, Hama had worked at the Hokkaido Normal School for three years from 1892. Makiguchi, meanwhile, graduated from the Hokkaido Normal School in 1893, becoming a teacher at the elementary school that was attached to it. Hama had thus been one of Makiguchi's former teachers and then one of his senior teaching colleagues. He was probably one of the few people in Tokyo who knew Makiguchi well.
Because Hama's primary job was as principal inspector of schools for Tokyo City, the practical management of the Dainippon Society for Further Education for Young Women for the most part fell to Makiguchi. According to Volume 3 No. 1 of Daikatei issued in December 1907, it was "published and edited by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi."
Daikatei carried stories about women who were active on the international scene. The name of the magazine most likely expresses a desire for girls to develop into independent women of broad vision, rather than being confined to the "family" in its narrow sense.
The Dainippon Society for Further Education for Young Women employed quality teaching staff including teachers from Higher Normal Schools for Men and Women and the Tokyo Metropolitan Normal School. The list of names includes Yahei Yoshida, Manji Ikoma and Yonezo Minegishi, who, as directors of the Meikeikai and teachers at Kobun College had a personal connection with Makiguchi. Makiguchi was responsible for courses on world geography.
The forerunner of the Dainippon Society for Further Education for Young Women was an organization called the Dainippon Society for Education for Young Women, which conducted distance learning courses for women and published Courses for Young Women. It was Makiguchi and his colleagues who added the word "Further" to these titles.
It is in this that the distinctive character of the Dainippon Society for Further Education for Young Women is clearly revealed: to aim at "further" education, in other words general education and liberal arts education. Further Courses for Young Women also offered practical subjects such as domestic science, needlework, cooking, the tea ceremony and flower arrangement, although only domestic science and needlework are mentioned in a newspaper advertisement at the time the society was established. It would seem that the objective of the society was to develop girls and young women from non-elite backgrounds with a broad vision of the world by offering subjects such as geography, history and English.
That same advertisement begins with the words: "In this rising nation, it will be difficult for the woman without education to become a good wife and wise mother." Makiguchi's The Geography of Human Life could be seen as aiming to instill the knowledge and perspective required of world citizens, and the Dainippon Society sought to carry on this process by focusing on women, who are half of the world's population. Developing women of wisdom was the ideal to which Makiguchi and his colleagues strove.
The Dainippon Society was founded during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). Many young men had lost their lives, and there was an undercurrent of unspoken grief throughout Japanese society. It was against this background that Makiguchi and his colleagues considered the importance of education for young women and established the Dainippon Society.
The advertisement for Further Courses for Young Women presented as one of its features the fact that the teachers "provide accessible correspondence courses using new ideas that have been devised after much consideration." Thus, the approach is student-centered and the "courses are easy to understand." It also stated they were planning to provide opportunities for socializing, so the courses would also feature entertainments, raffles and maple-leaf viewing parties at Takino River, a famous sightseeing spot.
The Half-Day School System
Why did Makiguchi get involved in establishing the Dainippon Society, taking on a central role? There are two recorded remarks by Makiguchi that may provide an answer to this.
In October 1907, in a lecture at the Kawagoe Junior High School, he drew attention to the fact that even though many women had a strong wish to learn and improve themselves, there were no suitable means for them to do so. The night schools that were accessible to boys were not suitable for girls. Further, schools for girls were concentrated in the cities, and it was extremely expensive for girls living outside the cities either to commute to and from such schools or to attend as boarders, putting them essentially out of reach for girls from less affluent backgrounds. Having missed their initial opportunity to satisfy their desire for education, many spent their lives lamenting their lack of learning. With the future of women at stake, he felt he could not stand idly by, and this, he concluded, was his reason for setting up the Dainippon Society.
Makiguchi himself did not come from an advantaged background, and this no doubt increased his empathy for girls who were unable to fulfill their educational aspirations.
The second source for insight into Makiguchi's motivation is the Kyoikukai panel discussion, where he repeatedly raised the problem of the harmful influences of the contemporary school education system, advocating half-day schooling as an appropriate solution. He noted that along with the development of the educational infrastructure, there had been an increasing incidence of people who excelled academically but were of little use to themselves or society, suffering from nervous exhaustion or lethargy. This, he said, was a central problem facing education. He also questioned whether it was appropriate to set aside a time span of as much as 20 years as a period of one's life exclusively dedicated to learning.
He then proposed a "half-day schooling system"--suggesting that a system where people "learn for one half of the day and work for the other half," continuing this pattern for the whole of their lives, was an ideal for education. In other words, more than a century ago Makiguchi was talking about the need for a lifelong learning society, and took positive and practical action toward fulfilling that need.
The Dainippon Society was established by individuals who understood the significance of women's education and were passionately committed to it. In an advertisement in the Yorozu Choho newspaper dated October 1, 1905, we find the words, "Commemorating the attainment of 10,000 subscribers since the inaugural June issue. . ." Seeing that the society was off to a good start after four months of operation, Makiguchi retired from the Meikeikai in November and devoted his energies to the Dainippon Society.
In March 1906, the Dainippon Society was relocated to Suido-cho in Koishikawa-ku from Misaki-machi in Kanda-ku, which was its address at the time of its establishment. From January of that year, handicraft seminars were held on the third Sunday of the month, and that may have caused the original location to become too crowded.
The Dainippon Society seems to have grown steadily: on November 11, 1906, an advertisement appeared in Yorozu Choho that read, "Enjoying enormous popularity, it already has in excess of 20,000 subscribers." However, from that time on, hardly any advertisements for Further Courses for Young Women appeared.
In the lecture he gave at Kawagoe in 1907, Makiguchi stated, "Because of our lack of ability we have experienced a number of setbacks, and three years have gone by and I am ashamed to say that we have not yet achieved even a small fraction of our original ambitions. However, our simple and honest zeal has earned us the acknowledgment and support of society, and fortunately we have established a firm foundation."
The Seikyo Shimbun's biography, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo, notes that around this time "Makiguchi faced economic hardship as a result of standing as financial guarantor for others," and this may provide the background for his statement.
The Society for Japanese Girls
After the move to Koishikawa, Makiguchi also became the general manager of the Society for Japanese Girls, whose president was Utako Shimoda, from about February 1907. This organization had been established in June 1905 and published the magazine Nihon no Shojo (Japanese Girls), the second such magazine to be established in Japan. The offices of the publishing house were located in Ushigome-ku at first, but moved to Suido-cho, Koishikawa-ku, where the Dainippon Society was located, in about February 1907.
During the period when he was working as general manager of the Society for Japanese Girls, it is clear from the content of Nihon no Shojo that Makiguchi thoroughly enjoyed the lively discussions he had with girls in elementary schools, kindergartens and other venues in the Tokyo area on an almost weekly basis, and treasured the time he spent with them. The meetings were clearly most enjoyable, and the magazine described discussions held between girls who belonged to the Society for Japanese Girls and older girls who belonged to the Dainippon Society. Nihon no Shojo explained how to hold such meetings, encouraging girls to arrange them throughout Japan.
During this period, Makiguchi evidently focused on making Nihon no Shojo original, easy-to-read and enjoyable, encouraging interaction and participation among readers. Ways in which readers could contribute to the magazine included essay writing, traditional Japanese poetry such as waka and haiku, modern poetry, drawing, photography, anecdotal stories, hidden picture or word puzzles and critiquing of waka and haiku poems. There were many letters between readers in the correspondence columns as well as a question and answer column with the writers of the magazine.
Because Makiguchi had roles in both societies, Nihon no Shojo readers could take part in events organized by Dainippon Society or have their writings critiqued by the Dainippon Society teachers. Additionally, lecturers from the Dainippon Society were sent to participate in the various group discussions that the Society for Japanese Girls organized.
It is possible that Makiguchi took on his responsibilities for the Society for Japanese Girls inspired by the possibilities of continuity and collaboration with the Dainippon Society. However, this additional role lasted only about half a year until July 1907, after which Makiguchi appears to have turned his attention to charitable educational efforts.
Women's Arts Training Institute
Ordinary people were undergoing serious economic hardships after the end of the Russo-Japanese War. Makiguchi and his colleagues aimed to provide free of charge the kind of education that would enable girls who could not attend school due to the poverty of their families to acquire skills and become economically independent.
A meeting of a committee to set up this Women's Arts Training Institute, which would be affiliated with the Dainippon Society, was held on October 12, 1907, and a new president of the Dainippon Society, Duchess Hiroko Nijo, was appointed in November. The next month, the Dainippon Society moved to Kaga-cho, Ushigome-ku, to accommodate the establishment of the Women's Arts Training Institute.
From the time of its establishment, the Dainippon Society gave special consideration to girls who had a strong desire to learn even though they were poor. The families of soldiers fighting at the front were exempted from paying the enrollment fee, and their tuition fees were reduced by half. In addition, specially commended students, who were recommended by the principals of their elementary schools and would serve as models to others, were exempted from both the enrollment fee and the monthly tuition fee.
In setting up the Women's Arts Training Institute, Makiguchi aimed to provide free education for both day students and boarders. The course consisted of domestic science, needlework and embroidery, artificial flower making and other traditional Japanese handicrafts, as well as bookkeeping and midwifery. Explaining the rationale for this in his lecture at Kawagoe, Makiguchi said that providing money and goods produces surprisingly little effect; what is necessary is to provide the material and occupational conditions that make independence possible.
A Graduation Ceremony for the Dainippon Society, together with a general meeting of subscribers, was held in grand style at Aizumi Girls School in Shinjuku Aizumi-cho on January 19, 1908. However, this appears to mark the end of Makiguchi's endeavors in this field. The Dainippon Society relocated to Shirogane-cho, Ushigome-ku that April.
Materials summarizing the memories of people close to Makiguchi state that the time when he was engaged in the Dainippon Society was "the most difficult time for his family financially." The "Profiles of Distinguished Persons" column in Kyoiku Shuho (Education Weekly) for March 7, 1931, in a feature called "Tsunesaburo Makiguchi of The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy," states: "He later considered publishing a book version of Further Courses for Young Women. However, this ended in failure. As a man who has no room in his brain for making profit, this seems to have been an unsuitable venture."
In the end, the Dainippon Society proved to have insufficient funds to compete faced with the economic recession following the Russo-Japanese War. However, even when its very existence was threatened, Makiguchi persevered in the attempt to provide free education for girls who, though lacking financial means, were keen to continue learning. In this, we can see the kind of behavior and approach that characterized Makiguchi throughout his later life.
[Translated from the June 2001 issue of Ushio magazine]