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A photography blog about Tokyo, run by Australian photographer Rohan Gillett

One step forward - Japan's first western-trained and registered female doctor

Ogino Ginko (荻野吟子) was a real pioneer.  Born on March 3, 1851 in Saitama prefecture, which is right next to Tokyo, she married at the young age of sixteen. Contracting gonorrhoea from her husband, she divorced him soon after.  At that time it was very shameful to contract such a disease and to compound that problem, it probably wasn’t pleasant either to be treated by male doctors.  As a result she decided to become a doctor herself.

Graduating from Tokyo Women’s Normal School, she finally took per medical practitioner’s examination and became Japan’s first female registered doctor in 1885.  Specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology, she opened her own hospital in Yushima in the same year. In a time when medicine was completely dominated by men, she must have been a real pioneer and trailblazer for future generations of women who followed in her footsteps.

In 1890 she remarried, to a protestant clergyman and went with him to Hokkaido in 1894, where she ran another practice.  Upon her husband’s death she returned to Tokyo in 1908 and resumed running her hospital. She died in 1913 and was buried at Zoshigaya Cemetery.

Her grave is really nice.  There is a statue of her in one corner.  The statue portrays her in the clothes typical of the time when some people moved away from traditional garb.  In the middle is her grave and around that are some more memorials. I think it is very beautiful and it is always kept in good condition.

I think Zoshigaya is a great place for her to be buried.  Even though it is quite close to Ikebukuro, which is one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations, the cemetery is very “green” and peaceful.  Plus there are so many other famous people there along with her. It is a fantastic place to visit as well as being a great place to see some Japanese/Tokyo history. You can learn more about this cemetery in this article.