Asia - Pacific

Japan’s women’s universities draw spotlight in Turkey

Universities accepting only female students date back to 19th century in Japan's modernization period

Ahmet Furkan Mercan   | 08.07.2019
Japan’s women’s universities draw spotlight in Turkey


Japanese women’s universities have been drawing attention in Turkey in recent weeks after the Turkish president received an honorary doctorate from one such university in Osaka, during his attendance to the G20 summit last month.

Women's universities represent roughly 80 from Japan's 800, aiming to elevate the women’s social status. 

Dating back to early 1800, these higher education institutions were seen as manifestations of western perspectives towards the Far East and Japan, and a project to educate women in the country.

The number of these establishments increased considerably in the post-World War II era, offering courses on human sciences, home economics and social sciences.

Founded in 1875 in Tokyo, the Ochanomizu University was among the top national universities in Japan and the first one to admit exclusively female students.

The school, established as a post-secondary education institution, was converted to a university after World War II ended.

It was well known among the Japanese as a place where male aristocrats would send their wives. 

Following the ceremony, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was honored to receive the degree from Mukogawa Women's University and thanked the university for its hospitality during his stay for the G20 summit.

One-third of women’s universities in Japan have deep relations with Christianity, said Shinya Takeuchi, the counselor of Japanese Embassy in Ankara, in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency.

Some of the schools were established in the Meiji Era -- a period of modernization and westernization in Japan -- as Christianity was banned in the previous Edo Period. 

The schools' goal was to produce "good women and good mothers" in the pre-World War II era, though this shifted in order to "keep up with the new, modern world" after 1945, Takeuchi said.

"Students do not have to be Christians in order to get into [these] universities, despite the institutions being known as Christian schools," Takeuchi said, adding that their reputation was due to their founders being Christian and being established "with the spirit of Christianity." 

A high employment rate was one of the shining points of these universities, according to Takeuchi.

"Students from these universities can speak fluent English and 95% find employment after graduating," he said.

Sinan Levent, a professor from Ankara University in Turkey's capital told Anadolu Agency that women's universities were directly related to Far East and orientalist social life in the country. 

Japanese women did not enjoy suffrage before 1945, he underlined.

With the Emperor Meiji's "Westernization of Japan" policies in 1868, the doors for the elevation of women's status in Japanese society were widely opened, he said. 

"The entry of missionaries increased after the country was defeated by U.S. in World War II," he said, with women's universities owing to inspiration from Western missionaries as they were most successful in education and health services.

* Writing by Maimaitiming Yilixiati

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