St Andrews school a model for education of Japanese women

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A ST ANDREWS school has been credited with helping to shape women’s education in Japan.

Keiko Ozeki, professor of English Literature at Jissen Women’s University in Tokyo, visited St Leonards last August as part of her research into the life of the university’s founder, Madam Utako Shimoda.

And after receiving a Christmas card from St Leonards, Keiko got back in touch with the school to provide the full story.

“Madam Shimoda lived in London from 1893 to 1895, to inspect women’s higher education in Europe after she had been asked to educate two princesses by the Japanese Emperor,” said Keiko.

INSPIRED

“While in London, she began to think that the education for ordinary girls was very important so she began to inspect many schools in Europe, especially schools only for girls.

“I believe that she visited St Leonards in 1895 and that she thought it was an ideal school.”

Inspired by her trip, Madam Shimoda returned to Japan and in 1899 established the Jissen Women’s Educational Institute with the aim of promoting spiritual and economic independence among women.

Today the Institute includes the university, a junior college, a high school and a junior high school.

Although their visits were separated by more than 100 years, Keiko knows that both she and Madam Shimoda were left with fond recollections of their time in the East Neuk.

“I believe that Madam Shimoda must have enjoyed her stay in St Andrews,” she said.

“I have very beautiful and lovely memories of St Leonards myself. I love the old history and the beautiful nature.

HISTORY

“Scottish people, especially the school staff, were very kind to me and I could feel lovely and warm Scottish heart!

“I hope that I can visit St. Leonards again!”

Along with Dr Mary Campbell-Brown, secretary of the St Leonards Seniors Society, the headmaster of St Leonards, Dr Michael Carslaw, gave Keiko a tour of the School.

Dr Carslaw said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Keiko to St Leonards and to learn of the fascinating history of the Jissen Institute and of the life and work of Madam Shimoda.

“Although St Leonards has changed in the century since Madam Shimoda’s visit, not least because these days we have as many boys as girls, I’m delighted that, in turn, Keiko was able to catch a glimpse the school’s own rich history.

‘‘As if introducing girls’ lacrosse to the world and being the reputed inspiration for Malory Towers wasn’t enough, it’s great to see that the reputation of St Leonards has spread so far!’’