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The First Generation of Japanese Women Psychologists

School of Social and Human Sciences, Tokyo International University, Kawagoe 305-1198, Japan
Genealogy 2020, 4(2), 61;
Submission received: 14 April 2020 / Revised: 9 May 2020 / Accepted: 17 May 2020 / Published: 21 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feminist Genealogies: Specific Political Intersections)


The purpose of this study was to characterize the first Japanese women psychologists, pre-WWII, as identified by their published work in psychological journals and by their conference presentations at meetings of the Japanese Psychological Association. From my archival survey, I collected data on the education levels, degrees, marital status, and careers of eight women. Three earned PhDs from US universities; five earned BAs from national public universities. All eight psychologists found teaching jobs at colleges. As the centenary of the JPA draws near, this work calls attention for the need to integrate women into the pre-WWII history of psychology when the school system and matriculation prerequisites for women differed from men.

1. Introduction

The modernization of the Japanese social system came about rapidly in the late 1860s when the new Meiji government endeavored to import various knowledge and techniques from Western countries. In 1877, the Ministry of Education (established in 1871) approved Tokyo University as the first national university in Japan. Even then, from the beginning of a student’s college education, psychology was taught as a subject, though the first psychology laboratory was not founded until 1903 at Tokyo Imperial University1. By 1927, just 50 years after the founding of Tokyo University, the Japanese Psychological Association (JPA) was established as the first Japanese society for psychology.
In 1952, 25 years after the JPA was established, the first complete member list was published and showed there were around 900 members, though only 7% were women (Japanese Psychological Association 1987). Over the years, more Japanese women joined the JPA such that, by the year 2002, 50 years after the first list was compiled, women comprised more than 40% of the membership (Kuno 2002). Thus, today it would seem the field of psychology would consist of a nearly equal number of women and men. Yet, oddly enough, while psychology classes for today’s undergraduates at universities and colleges are comprised mostly of women, the skewed ratio in leadership in JPA continues, which implies that this imbalance must be common across many countries. If this is the situation now, what was it like for the first generation of women psychologists in Japan?
To date, several papers and books on pioneer women psychologists in US, Canada, and European countries have been published (e.g., Furumoto and Scarborough 1986; Gul et al. 2013; Gundlach et al. 2010; Scarborough and Furumoto 1987). Among them, the present paper was mostly inspired from the studies of American women psychologists for two reasons: the Japanese educational system, from the late 19th century, was influenced by the American system and because the very first Japanese women psychologists obtained their doctorate in the US.

2. The First Generation of Women Psychologists in Japan

2.1. Defining the First Generation

According to research carried out in the US (Furumoto and Scarborough 1986; Scarborough and Furumoto 1987), first-generation American women psychologists were identified by two objective criteria: inclusion in the 1906 directory of American Men of Science and, by 1906, membership in the American Psychological Association. At this time, 25 women psychologists were identified. Since no such directory as Men of Science was published in Japan, the first formal list of members JPA compiled as a supplement of No. 6, Vol. 7 of the journal Shinrigaku Kenkyu [Japanese Journal of Psychology] was referred instead. Among 196 members listed, three women psychologists were named.
Additionally, to find more women psychologists, psychology journals were consulted to locate female authors of published articles: Shinri Kenkyu [Psychological Research] (the first Japanese journal of psychology issued from 1912 to 1925); Shinrigaku Kenkyu, founded in 1926, which then became the main journal of JPA after 1927; and Nihon Shinrigaku Zasshi [literally Japanese Journal of Psychology], published at Kyoto Imperial University from 1919 until 1923 and the different journal, published under the same name, though at Tokyo Imperial University from 1923 until 1925.
To add to the data collection, names customarily used by women listed as presenters at the JPA’s meetings were identified and counted. In April 1927, the first meeting of the JPA was held at Tokyo Imperial University, with the organization having held eight biennial meetings by December 1941 when WWII began. Table 1 shows the number of participants and presenters found in the program for each meeting. The total numbers of participants with the full list of names were reported for the first five meetings (1927–1935). Yet in the last three meetings (1937–1941), somehow only the total number of participants were reported. At six of the seven meetings, one or two women psychologists presented their research. The exception—the sixth meeting in 1937 in Keijo (the Japanese name for Seoul in Korea at that time)—had fewer participants than usual. Collectively, for the eight meetings, women presenters comprised 1.4%. This contrasts with the German psychology congresses where, for example, from 1927 until 1938, women made up 7.3% of presenters (Sprung and Sprung 1996).

2.2. Women PhD Psychologists

2.2.1. Higher Education for Japanese Women before WWII

In Japan, women were systematically excluded from advanced training in Psychology, though three women sought and completed training in the US. These three Japanese women psychologists who each earned a PhD in the US before WWII have been described briefly elsewhere (McVeigh 2017; Takasuna 2012). However, it is worth mentioning here the problems women in pre-WWII encountered earning a PhD in Japan.
Japanese primary schools consisted of 6 years of coeducational, compulsory education beginning around age six. Once girls graduated from primary school, they could pursue more schooling at girls’ middle schools (4–5 years), whereas boys could study at boy’s middle schools and then continue on to boys-only high schools, which also acted as preparatory schools. Only those who graduated from these high schools could enter an imperial university. Consequently, only male graduates were allowed to continue on and matriculate to a university in Japan. If you were a man and wanted to study psychology, you could go to Tokyo Imperial University, where the psychological laboratory was founded in 1903 under Professor Yujiro Motora (1858–1912). Or you could go to Kyoto Imperial University, where a course of study in psychology was established in 1906 by Professor Matataro Matsumoto (1865–1943), one of the Motora’s students. Both also provided graduate programs. However, as mentioned, these two imperial universities did not allow women students, so determined women had to find other ways to study psychology.
Around the turn of the 20th century, a few schools for women emerged with the word “college” attached, such as Japan Women’s College, founded in 1901 in Tokyo (note that none were officially acknowledged as a college or university until the “School Education Law” was enacted in 1947). By the end of 1918, the new “College Act” was passed, which finally allowed private schools to be officially acknowledged as colleges or universities if they met specific requirements. Thus, by the end of WWII, despite the many private colleges and universities that benefited from the 1918 College Act, only a “women’s college” was still identified as a special school (senmon gakko), a general name for vocational schools. Since private colleges and universities seldom allowed women students, the highest level of education Japanese women could achieve was at one of two women’s higher normal schools, namely Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School (originally established in 1874 as Women’s Normal School) and Nara Women’s Higher Normal School (founded in 1908). “Normal school,” which is derived from the French word école normale, was a school dedicated to training teachers (it is now the equivalent of a teacher’s college). Graduation from either of these schools meant that women were qualified only to teach at girls’ high schools.
Despite facing obstacles, following three women and others made contributions in the pre-war era to the field of psychology in Japan.

2.2.2. Tsuruko Haraguchi (1886–1915)

Tsuruko Haraguchi (née Arai) was the first woman psychologist in Japan. She was born in 1886 to a family of wealthy farmers in the Gumma Prefecture. Her mother died at the age of six, but her father was eager to give his daughters (Tsuruko was his second daughter) a good education (Ogino 1983). In April 1903, after graduating from a middle school in Gumma, Tsuruko Haraguchi entered Japan Women’s College in Tokyo to study humanities. During college, she attended psychology lectures presented by Matataro Matsumoto and became interested in the field. Matsumoto, who became the first president of JPA, was known for being supportive of women’s higher education, though at that time there was no college or university that had an institute for women to study psychology. Matsumoto encouraged Haraguchi to go abroad to further study psychology, which she did. To add to her good timing, as she neared graduation, a new professor, Shozo Aso (1864–1949), arrived at Japan Women’s College. He had recently returned from studying pedagogy and psychology under John Dewey (1859–1952) at Columbia University. Aso told her about the Teachers College at Columbia University; so, in 1907 after a year of preparation, she left Japan to become a graduate student at Columbia University Teachers College under the direction of Edward Lee Thorndike (1874–1949).
Considering the education or lack thereof she received in Japan, she had no intention of jumping into a doctoral program. After asking Thorndike for advice as to first applying to the master’s program, he replied, “Let’s try,” and recommended for her PhD candidacy (Haraguchi 1915, pp. 48–49). During this time, she attended lectures in various areas of psychology, such as experimental psychology presented by James McKeen Cattell (1860–1944), physiological psychology taught by Robert Sessions Woodworth (1869–1962), and ethics instructed by John Dewey. In 1912, after 5 years working on mental fatigue, she became both the first Japanese woman to earn a PhD from Columbia University and the very first Japanese woman to earn a PhD in any field. On the evening of the same day of the graduation ceremony, she married Takejiro Haraguchi (1882–1951).
Tsuruko Haraguchi returned to Japan after her honeymoon in England. She went on to give birth to a son and a daughter within 2 years. In between childbirths, she wrote papers and articles and occasionally gave lectures. Sadly, she died prematurely in 1915 at the age of 29. Despite her short professional career, she wrote the book Shinteki Sagyo oyobi Hiro no Kenkyu [Research on Mental Work and Fatigue] (Haraguchi 1914), which was an enlarged and revised version of her doctoral thesis (Arai 1912). She also translated Francis Galton’s Hereditary Genius (originally published in 1869) into Japanese, and this was published posthumously in February 1916.

2.2.3. Tomi Kora (1896–1993)

Tomi Kora (née Wada) was born in 1896, 10 years after Tsuruko Haraguchi, in Toyama, the mid-western part of Japan. After graduating from a girls’ middle school in Niigata, she moved to Tokyo and entered Japan Women’s College in 1914 where she participated in two events that would greatly impact her life. One was the funeral of Tsuruko Haraguchi in 1915, which eventually led to Kora’s study abroad. Another was the visit of Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) to the Japan Women’s College in 1916. Tagore, who had won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, had an enormous effect on her life, especially after WWII. So in 1917, she went to the US to work towards a master’s degree at Columbia University under Thorndike, as Haraguchi did before her. In 1920, Tomi Kora was awarded her degree from Barnard College, the sister university to Columbia. After consulting with Thorndike about continuing her research for a doctoral degree, he suggested she apply to Johns Hopkins University to work under John B. Watson (1878–1958). She accepted his advice and relocated to Johns Hopkins. Unfortunately, soon after Watson welcomed her in Baltimore, he had to leave the university due to a scandal. Fortunately, she was allowed to complete her research with Curt Richter (1894–1988), which she did in 1922. As shown in her PhD thesis, “An experimental study of hunger in its relation to activity” (Wada 1922), she was particularly interested in hunger and its effects on peace, which became the central theme of her later life. Her earlier contribution to the progress of measuring physiological indices in Richter’s laboratory was published by Richter and Wada (1924), a few years later she left the laboratory.
Although Thorndike recommended that she find a teaching position in the US, her parents wrote her a letter admonishing her that the education she obtained should be about aiding the progress of Japanese women, not helping Americans, and that she should come home as soon as possible (Kora 1983). Accordingly, she left New York and headed back to Japan in July 1922.
Next year, in 1923, Kora became a research assistant in the Department of Psychiatry at Kyushu Imperial University in Fukuoka. Three years later, in 1926, she tried to get promoted to associate professor at a just-opened Department of Law and Letters but faced opposition because she was unmarried, and all her students were single men. Tomi became indignant, resigned the post, and left Fukuoka for Tokyo where she became a professor at her alma mater in 1927. In 1929, she married a psychiatrist, Takehisa Kora (1899–1996), with whom she became acquainted at Kyushu Imperial University. She eventually became the mother of three daughters.
Tomi Kora presented her research three times at JPA meetings (Table 1), the first two being on children’s mental development (1927/1929) and their emotional responses, as measured by plethysmograph and galvanometer. In The Psychological Register Volume 3 (Murchison 1932), where Matataro Matsumoto compiled a few pages devoted to Japanese psychologists, Tomi Kora was listed as the only woman out of 47 psychologists included.
In 1931, the Manchurian Incident occurred in the northern part of China. During this time, Kora traveled to China and India to meet three pacifists—Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948), Rabindranath Tagore, and Lu Xun (1881–1936). Besides being a college psychology teacher, she began participating in peace activities. By the 1940s, she resigned her professorship at Japan Women’s College, partly in protest to WWII. After the war, in 1947, she was chosen to become a member of the House of Councilors (similar to being a member of the US House of Representatives or the British Parliament). It was the very first election in the history of Japan in which women could vote and become candidates. Although she did not work as a psychologist after the war, she continued to participate in various international peace conferences until the age of 77.

2.2.4. Sugi Mibai (1891–1969)

Sugi Mibai was born in 1891 in Awaji Island near Kobe. Her father, a merchant, was an old-fashioned tyrant type of father, which left her doubtful about the institution of marriage from a young age (Mibai 1958). When he died directly after she graduated from primary school, she decided to go to work at the post-office in the city of Osaka. While working there, Mibai became acquainted with the assistant principal of Baika Women’s School and eventually became a student. She next transferred to Kobe College where she graduated (again, not authorized as a women’s college but as a women’s school) in 1915. The following year, she won a scholarship to study liberal arts at Mills College in Oakland, California. After graduation, Mibai traveled to the University of Michigan where she earned a master’s degree in psychology in 1921, then returned to Japan. Soon after, in 1923, she had another chance to go abroad to the US and Europe, including the opportunity to study at Columbia University for 6 months. She then returned to Japan but again, in 1928, went abroad to the US for the third time, this time to Michigan to finish her doctoral thesis. Mibai’s thesis, “An experimental study of apparent movement” (Mibai 1931), was supervised by Professor Walter B. Pillsbury (1872–1960). It was exceptional for a Japanese woman in her twenties to thirties to travel abroad three times. After returning to Japan in 1932, Mibai became a professor and then a dean of Kobe College. She left the college after the war but remained active in the field of women’s education and never married.
All three women psychologists who earned PhDs before WWII wrote their theses in experimental psychology. When compared with the first generation of women psychologists in the US, like Mary Whiton Calkins (1863–1930), Christine Ladd-Franklin (1847–1930), and Margaret Floy Washburn (1871–1939), as described by Scarborough and Furumoto (1987), the Japanese pioneers were born much later but were younger when they decided to study psychology.
The first two women, Tsuruko Haraguchi and Tomi Kora, were lucky to be able to attend psychology lectures given by Professor Matataro Matsumoto, a man who championed women’s higher education. Since he obtained a PhD from Yale University, he had become comfortable with the academic atmosphere of American universities where men and women were colleagues and collaborators. In contrast, at this time in Japan, it was not common for academic researchers—including those who were psychologists—to approve of coeducation. So, it was amazing that Columbia University and other American colleges admitted Japanese women in their graduate programs because the colleges they graduated from in Japan were not acknowledged as regular colleges at that time.

2.3. Women Psychologists Graduate from Japanese National Universities

2.3.1. Tohoku and Kyushu Imperial Universities

As noted earlier, those who graduated from boys-only high schools were allowed to matriculate to imperial universities. However, Tohoku (founded as the third imperial university in Sendai, 1907) and Kyushu (founded as the fourth imperial university in Fukuoka, 1911) had problems recruiting student candidates, partly due to their locations. So, while the first Tokyo and Kyoto Imperial Universities had had their pick of students, meaning that most graduated from regular high schools, Tohoku Imperial University relaxed their admissions requirements to attract more students. Here, students could be admitted though they had graduated from private schools, Higher Normal Schools, and Women’s Higher Normal Schools (Amano 2009).
Tsuyako Kubo (née Kurose, 1893–1969) was such a case and, in 1926, she became the first woman to graduate from Tohoku Imperial University in the field of psychology. Prior to then, she had graduated from Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School and worked at the kindergarten attached to the Normal School for a few years. Then, in 1922, a new College of Law and Letters was established at Tohoku Imperial University, and she applied as one of the first students to major in psychology. After graduation, she continued on to Tohoku’s graduate course of study, eventually becoming the second woman to enter the graduate program there and the first women graduate student in psychology. She then obtained a string of teaching positions at various places, dropping out before finishing her doctoral work. Despite this, Kubo still managed to write three books, including The Imagination of Children and Their Education (Kurose 1924) before WWII. Should you look up the alumni list in the psychology department at Tohoku University, her name is always listed on the first line under the first professor Tanenari Chiba (1884–1972). After the war, she became a psychology professor at Tokyo Kasei Professional School and Tokyo Kasei Gakuin Junior College (now Tokyo Kasei Gakuin University).
Aiko Higuchi (née Komatsu, 1911–1974) graduated from Women’s English College (again, not authorized as a women’s college but as a women’s school) in 1932 and graduated from Tohoku Imperial University in 1938. Right after graduation, she became a junior assistant of psychology at Tokyo Bunrika University. During the assistantship, she presented her research on women and the arts (especially music) at JPA meetings in 1939 and 1941 (Table 1). After the war, she became a professor of psychology and music and later a dean at Shiraume Gakuen (now Shiraume Gakuen University). She then became the president of Shiraume Gakuen Junior College in 1968, which was the first 2-year junior college with a psychology department.
Sachiye or Sachie Osaki (1904–1992) was born in Kumamoto and graduated from Kyushu Imperial University in 1934. She published her BA thesis, “On children’s causal thought studied from their explanations of strange phenomena,” in the Japanese Journal of Psychology (Osaki 1934). Osaki presented her research on child psychology three times at JPA meetings before WWII (Table 1). After the war, she became a professor of psychology at Kumamoto University and then Kumamoto Women’s Junior College (now Shokei University).

2.3.2. Tokyo Bunrika University

In 1929, two national Bunrika universities were established in Tokyo and Hiroshima. These were an extended version of men’s and women’s Higher Normal Schools; both Bunrika universities carried a psychology program for undergraduates and graduates. According to the list of alumni at Tokyo Bunrika University, the first women students majoring in psychology graduated in March 1935.
Isoko Hatano (née Hatakeyama, 1905–1978) first graduated from Japan Women’s College in 1927 and, from 1928, became a researcher at the college’s Child Research Institute under the guidance of Usao Onoshima (1894–1941), a psychology lecturer at Tokyo Bunrika University. Then, in 1930, she married Kanji Hatano (1905–2001), a psychologist who graduated from Tokyo Imperial University. Isoko Hatano soon after entered Tokyo Bunrika University, majored psychology, and graduated in March 1936. Her research focused on drawing and writing in children’s development. She published her article in Japanese Journal of Psychology (Hatano 1932) and presented it orally twice before WWII (Table 1). After the war, Hatano became an associate professor at Toyo University in 1953, followed by a professorship at Kunitachi College of Music from 1963 until 1971. While teaching at these colleges, she founded and headed the Japan Child Research Institute in 1960, established the Mother Academy (renamed Hatano Family School in 1966), and became its director in 1963.
Sae Kobayashi (1913–2002) first graduated from Nara Women’s Higher Normal School in 1934, and then moved to Tokyo. She graduated from Tokyo Bunrika University in March 1937, a year after Isoko Hatano. Kobayashi became a child psychologist, with her BA thesis published in the Japanese Journal of Psychology (Kobayashi 1937). After the war, she became an associate and then full professor of psychology at Jissen Women’s University in Tokyo.

2.4. Women with Realized National Doctoral Degrees

There were indeed several women who obtained PhDs from imperial universities in pre-war Japan. The first women woman awarded PhDs in any specialty by a Japanese university was a botanist, Kono Yasui (1880–1971), who graduated from Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School in 1902. She, then earned a PhD in biology from Tokyo Imperial University in April 1927. As already stated, women seeking to matriculate at imperial universities faced many obstacles. Accordingly, the many women scientists who finally claimed a degree did so only after an extended period of research (during which time they were personally supervised by university professors) and while not officially registered as graduate students. Kono Yasui was the first example of who followed this pattern and her theses consisted of one main paper on Japanese coal and eight supplementary papers—after 25 years of hard work—including much extensive research at Harvard University.
In the list of Lives of Women Doctorates (Nagashima 1937), 21 women were found to obtain PhDs at Japanese imperial universities in the field of natural sciences, including medicine, biology, and chemistry, but none earned PhDs in the social sciences or humanities. While men commonly obtained PhDs or MDs in the natural sciences, PhDs in the social sciences were less common, even for men in Japan, meaning that Japanese women in psychology faced overwhelming barriers. Consequently, women in psychology were exceptionally willing to travel abroad because it was likely the only opportunity way for them to pursue their goal of a PhD.

3. Integration Form

When considering the position of women psychologists in society, marriage often became (and remains) a barrier for women pursuing this work. Among the 25 first-generation American women psychologists, 12 women (48%) married and changed their family name (Scarborough and Furumoto 1987). For first-generation Japanese women, 62.5% married but were otherwise not statistically different from American women (χ2 < 1, df = 1, n.s.). Elizabeth Scarborough (personal communication, 2008) was amazed that two of the three Japanese pioneers with a PhD got married and kept working. It is assumed that these Japanese women were better able to meet more progressive men who were not traditional and, so, would appreciate having a highly educated wife. It seems also that these men were outside the general population as they were highly educated themselves and may be less threatened by these accomplished women. For example, when Tsuruko Arai met Takejiro Haraguchi in New York City, he was working at the Japanese Consulate and later became a professor at Waseda University. Tomi Kora’s husband, Takehisa Kora, was a psychiatrist and also a colleague, while she was working as an assistant at Kyushu Imperial University.
Therefore, marriage or the relationship with a partner is another point of analysis when considering women’s position in psychology. Here, I refer to five models proposed by Sprung and Sprung, which they call an “integration form” of women in psychology (Sprung and Sprung 1996, 2010).

3.1. Partner Model

The “partner model” refers to women who worked privately alongside her partner or husband. For example. Clara Stern (1877–1948), the wife of German psychologist William Stern (1871–1938), worked with her husband in observing their children. In Japan, no exact case for this model exists, but Fukiko Sakuma’s case is close. Fukiko was the wife of Kanae Sakuma (1888–1970)—the first professor of psychology at Kyushu Imperial University. She helped him translate various English articles into Japanese and published them in Shinri Kenkyu during the 1910s and 1920s. Though she was not a psychologist, she graduated from Women’s English College.

3.2. Father-Daughter Model

The second model, the “father-daughter model,” indicated that the daughter’s chosen research topic was at least initially influenced by her father, though she later became independent. One obvious example is that of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) and his daughter, Anna Freud (1895–1982). In Japan, psychologist Sumiko Marui (born in 1924) and her father Kiyoyasu Marui (1886–1953), a psychiatrist, also mirror this model, although Sumiko Marui belonged not to the first but second generation of women psychologists. Kiyoyasu Marui, a professor at Tohoku Imperial University, was supposedly the first person to bring psychoanalysis to Japan after studying under Adolf Meyer (1866–1950) at Johns Hopkins during WWI.

3.3. Single-Fighter Model

The third model is the “single-fighter,” which is characterized by women struggling to make it on their own, as observed in many first-generation psychologists both in the US and in Europe. In Japan, Tsuruko Haraguchi worked as a part-time lecturer at her alma mater before becoming ill, and Tomi Kora worked as a professor at her alma mater after she married.

3.4. Co-Worker Model

Many examples describe the fourth “co-worker model,” wherein the woman psychologist and the male partner psychologist work together professionally. These include Eleanor J. Gibson (1910–2002) and James J. Gibson (1904–1979). In Japan, Isoko Hatano married Kanji Hatano, a developmental psychologist. Although both Hatano were developmental psychologists, Isoko Hatano also wrote most of the books and articles on her own. As well, Takako Shinagawa (1922–2016) and Fujiro Shinagawa (1916–2012), who were both educational psychologists, co-authored many books after WWII, although Takako Shinagawa was not a first-generation psychologist. Aiko Higuchi and her husband, Junshiro Higuchi (mathematician), worked at the same junior college, although she taught psychology and he taught the statistics portion of the psychology course.
The co-worker model has its limitations. There was, and sometimes still is, an anti-nepotism rule in the US, as exemplified in the case of Eleanor J. Gibson, whereby her husband, James, was appointed professor of psychology at Cornell, thus preventing her from becoming a faculty member of the psychology department (Johnston and Johnson 2008). In pre-WWII Japan, psychologist couples were not as common as in the US and, as of now, I have not officially heard of any anti-nepotism rule in Japan.

3.5. Team Model

In the last model, the “team model,” women psychologists first worked with other psychologists as a team and later built up a career as an individual. The famous example for this is German psychologist Kurt Lewin (1890–1947), who collaborated with various women psychologists in the 1920s and 1930s, such as Tamara Dembo (1902–1993), Maria Ovsiankina (1898–1993), and Bluma Zeigarnik (1901–1988). There is no Japanese example of this model.

4. Professions after Degrees

To categorize women’s postdoctoral activities, Scarborough and Furumoto (1987) identified three distinct patterns: teaching, applied work, and homemaking. All the first-generation Japanese women psychologists discussed went into teaching at the college level, whether they had a BA or PhD, because that was “the only professional role for which women’s higher education was distinctly preparatory” (Scarborough and Furumoto 1987, p. 155).
One point I find especially interesting in terms of teaching is the stricture against women instructing men. I quote from the same book:
“Educated women were concentrated in teaching, and as they began to predominate as teachers at the lower levels, there was a growing alarm over the feminization of the schools, specifically focusing on dangers to the masculinity of boys subjected to instruction by women. This alarm provoked strong resistance to women’s entry as teachers of young men at the college and university level.”
As previously mentioned, Tomi Kora’s promotion at Kyushu Imperial University was rejected because it was deemed that an unmarried woman should not teach male students. Surprisingly, the person who blocked Kora’s promotion was Tatsukichi Minobe (1873–1948), a jurist who historically has been considered liberal, since his interpretation of an emperor as being an organ of the state (called “Emperor Organ Theory”) was denounced by Japanese militarists. Kora wrote, “Dr. Minobe was regarded as progressive, having received much backlash from his Emperor Organ Theory, but as to the position of women, he had an old way of thinking” (Kora 1983, p. 68). Such discourse reflects the view that, by a certain age, women would have been expected to be married, (in other words, mature) and, so, male students should be taught by what was deemed a reliable, mature person. In contrast to Japan, married women in the US were not allowed to teach anyone other than their own children (Scarborough and Furumoto 1987). Even at Japan’s women’s colleges, marriage resulted in women faculty members losing their position. When you consider the more traditional Japanese family in the first half of the 20th century, it is likely that some women remained unmarried if they wanted a job. To be married was not, and sometimes is still not, considered a good position for women to be in when competing with men for a job.

5. Conclusions

I found eight first-generation women psychologists in Japan. They were born between 1886 and 1913 and, because they are uniquely early and few, they can be said to be the first generation of women in psychology in Japan. Prior to WWII, they (1) published research in psychological journals and/or books or (2) presented their research at a meeting of a psychological society.
About half married, but all (except the short-lived Haraguchi) kept working and teaching at colleges, at least, for a while. As to the integration model for married women psychologists, I found no first-generation Japanese women psychologists working with their psychologist husbands. The co-worker model, for example, was seen more frequently after the 1940s (e.g., Takako and Fujiro Shinagawa), when educational reforms were enacted after the war.
One characteristic of the first-generation psychologist is that those who earned a PhD in the US carried out research in experimental psychology, while those studying in Japan were more interested in developmental or child psychology (Table 2). It is unclear whether the women psychologists themselves preferred to explore these themes or if they were more likely to follow the theme suggested by their mentors.
Psychology in general has been a popular field for women for decades. As the centenary of JPA draws near, the society needs to cast a light on the different generations of women psychologists in Japan. As the number of psychologists generally increased after WWII, so did the number of women psychologists. After 1947, though, women who graduated from colleges and universities should count as belonging to the next generation. While 107 US women (Johnston and Johnson 2008) have been identified as second-generation psychologists, there will need to be more data to classify second-generation Japanese women psychologists, and further analysis to clarify why no woman has been president of the JPA for more than 90 years.


This research received no external funding.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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Tokyo University renamed Imperial University in 1886, which then renamed Tokyo Imperial University in 1897. Tokyo Imperial University finally renamed University of Tokyo in 1947 after WWII.
Table 1. JPA meetings before WWII.
Table 1. JPA meetings before WWII.
YearVenueNo. of Participants (Women)No. of Presentations (No. and Name of Women Presenters)
1927Tokyo Imperial Univ.191 (1)66 (1; Wada)
1929Kyoto Imperial Univ.177 (5)101 (1; Wada)
1931Tokyo Imperial Univ.252 (6)131 (1; Kora)
1933Tohoku Imperial Univ.119 (1)87 (1; Hatano)
1935Tokyo Bunrika Univ.256 (9)126 (2; Hatano and Osaki)
1937Keijo Imperial Univ.90 (unknown)63 (none)
1939Tokyo Imperial Univ.245 (unknown)121 (2; Osaki and Komatsu)
1941Kyushu Imperial Univ.158 (unknown)89 (2; Osaki and Komatsu)
Table 2. Summary of the first generation of Japanese women psychologists.
Table 2. Summary of the first generation of Japanese women psychologists.
Name and Life
Year of Final Degree (PhD/BA *)Final Degree EarnedTheme of Thesis
Tsuruko Haraguchi
(Arai; 1886–1915)
1912Columbia Univ. (US)Mental fatigue
Tomi Kora
(Wada; 1896–1993)
1922Columbia Univ. (US)Hunger and motivation
Tusyako Kubo
(Kurose; 1893–1969)
1926 *Tohoku Imperial Univ.Thinking in children
Sugi Mibai
1931Univ. of Michigan (US)Apparent movement
Sachiye Osaki
1934 *Kyushu Imperial Univ.Children’s sociability
Isoko Hatano
(Hatakeyama; 1905–1978)
1936 *Tokyo Bunrika Univ.Development of drawing in children
Sae Kobayashi
1937 *Tokyo Bunrika Univ.Modification of drawing in children
Aiko Higuchi
(Komatsu; 1911–1974)
1938 *Tohoku Imperial Univ.Women’s inclination for art
Note: * Year of earning BA.

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