Higuchi Ichiyō was the first woman to be a professional novelist in modern Japan, and she is now the lady printed on the Japanese 5,000 yen note. But she didn’t have any luck with money herself 😂!
Her father was a low-ranked ex-samurai and a disastrous entrepreneur. He died when Ichiyō was 17, leaving behind a huge debt. Ichiyō was engaged with an elite prosecutor but their engagement was canceled after her father’s death.
The only good Ichiyō’s father did was put her in a top school full of kids of royalty during a time people like her own mother would say “Education is no use for women!” Ichiyō learned poetry there, and won poetry contests, defeating all her spoilt peers.
When her father and brother died, she was left with a sister and a sick mother. Ichiyō’s ex-fiancé came back one day to offer to start over, but she chased him back, saying “I am not going to be the wife of a man who humiliated me.” He had faired well in his career and become a mayor of a prefecture, but that didn’t seem to matter even a bit for Ichiyō 😂!
Ichiyō was determined to be the breadwinner of her family by writing novels, which was an unthinkable career for a young woman like her back then. But she wrote like a monster and published 3 masterpiece books in just 14 months. The world of literature went crazy about her!
But unlucky for her, just when the world recognized her powerful talent, her time came. She passed away at 24 due to tuberculosis.
In one of her novels Takekurabe, there is a scene where critics claim one would need first-hand experience in love to write. But Ichiyō’s time was fully occupied by work until right up to her death. Was she in love with someone? It remains a mystery 🤔.
That was the supersonic, fireball life of one of the pioneers of modern Japanese literature.
Painting by KITANO Tsunetomi (1880 - 1947) 浴後.
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