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Tomoe Gozen wields a naginata on horseback with Uchida Ieyoshi and Hatakeyama no Shigetada.

Must Know Iconic Japanese Women Throughout History

It was only after World War II that women in Japan were recognized to have equal rights to men.  Japanese women obtained the right to vote in 1945 and since then, their status has continuously improved. The Japanese monarchy remains strictly males-only and a princess has had to give up her royal status when she marries a commoner.

Though Japanese women have had their fair share of unbalanced social and economic conditions, it hasn’t deterred many in making a mark in history. Here are just a few iconic Japanese women to know:

Chiaki MukaiChiaki Mukai

Chiaki Mukai -(b. 6 May 1952) – a board-certified vascular surgeon and a JAXA astronaut, Chiaki Mukai was the first Japanese woman in space and the first Japanese citizen to have two space flights. She spent a total of 23 days in space. Her first shuttle mission was aboard the “Columbia” in 1994; the second was on the “Discovery” in 1988.Tomoe Gozen

Tomoe Gozen

Tomoe Gozen (1157–1247) – a 12th-century female samurai warrior. She was the concubine of Minamoto no Yoshinaka (1154 – 1184, a general of the late Heian Period). She fought in and survived the Genpei War (1180-1185) where she was recognized for her strength and bravery.

Yayoi Kusama – (b. March 22,1929) – is considered to be one of the most important living artists of Japan. Her contemporary works are based in conceptual art and shows some attributes of pop art, abstract expressionism, minimalism, surrealism and feminism, among other things. Kusama’s works are primarily centered in sculpture and installation (an artistic genre of three-dimensional works), but she also dabbles in painting, poetry, fashion, film, and other arts.

Sadako Ogata – (b. 16 September 1927) – an academic, author administrator, diplomat, and professor emeritus at Sophia University in Japan, Sadako Ogata is widely acclaimed for the posts she held as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Chairman of the UNICEF Executive Board, and President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). She is beloved by the Japanese people for her compassion for the less privileged and admired for her dedication to human rights.

Nakano Takeko

Nakano Takeko

Nakano Takeko (1847 – 1868) – a prominent female warrior of the Aizu domain who fought and gave her life during the Boshin War (a civil war in Japan from 1868 to 1869 between the ruling forces of the Tokugawa Shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the imperial court).

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Read all about Japanese immersion learning and studying abroad. Check out our eZasshi archives for more articles!