History of UT Women

The first female students

Last updated: 19 March 2022

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After the Second World War, the occupying powers (GHQ) imposed a series of legal reforms in Japan, aiming at peace, freedom and democracy. These also extended to education, with one of MacArthur’s “Five Major Reforms for Ensuring Human Rights” of October 1945 calling for the liberalization of education systems, and another for the political liberation of women. As part of this process, the US Educational Mission to Japan (USEMJ) prepared a report to assist with the development of new education reform policies. The report, delivered to GHQ in March 1946, notably states that “Young men and women in Japan should have the freedom to pursue any degree of higher education according to their ability”.

 

The same year, the USEMJ reorganised the former Japan's Educators Association into the Educational Reform Committee, which reported to the Prime Minister. Shigeru Nanbara, then President of the University of Tokyo and an active proponent of liberal arts education, served as its vice-chairman, and played a role in shaping the new policies. The committee would go on to create a basic plan for the Fundamental Law of Education and the School Education Law, enacted in 1947, which were key in democratising access to education in post-war Japan, including by women.

 

Against this background, starting from Spring 1946, restrictions on female admission to universities were relaxed, under the “Guidelines for Reforming Girls’ Education”. This enabled 108 female students to take the UTokyo entrance exam in 1946, 19 of which successfully passed, accounting for 2.1% of newly-admitted students. This first cohort comprised women from varied backgrounds, including some who had already been working and some with children.

 

One of these newly-admitted students was Haruko Fujita, a critically-acclaimed pianist who enrolled in the Faculty of Law, and graduated in 1949 as one of the first 17 female undergraduate degree holders of UTokyo. Mayumi Moriyama, a later pioneer of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, and Chie Nakane, later the first female UTokyo Professor, both graduated in 1950.

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