A Note From Ichiyo
by Rei Kimura
Behind every face is a life and a story…
The Japanese 5,000 yen note circulates round the world and changes hands every minute but has anyone really stopped to look at the face on this note?
Take a closer look and you will see the face of a young Meiji era Japanese woman looking serenely out at a 21st century world she has never known nor ever dreamt she would be a part of someday.
What is the story behind this face that moved Japan so much as to put it on a Japanese legal tender, an honor accorded to no other Japanese woman?
“A Note from Ichiyo” is the story of the turbulent life, struggles and achievements of Ichiyo Higuchi, a young Japanese female writer of extraordinary talent and the tongue in cheek ability to effortlessly cut through all the rigid constraints of being a woman in a man’s world and ended up having the world, including some of the most prominent male writers, at her feet, grudgingly so but still at her feet!
Ichiyo’s agonizing, enduring and unfulfilled love for Nakarai Tosui, a rakishly handsome writer of some repute is also told, showing the vulnerable and passionate side of a woman whom many of that era thought to be too masculine for her own good.
She was brazen and unapologetic that she was a woman without any formal education or prominent family backing and she cut through all the lines of prejudice and acute poverty to emerge, a star that shone much too brightly, just months before her death at the tragically young age of 24. And then, just as suddenly as she had appeared, Ichiyo Higuchi was gone, like a butterfly that flew in to dazzle within its short lifespan. The only difference was that Ichiyo Higuchi continued to dazzle long after she was gone and her poems and novels are read and honored hundreds of years later, a surreal dream started over 200 years ago come true…
This is the story of Ichiyo Higuchi whose face is now immortalized in the 5,000 yen Japanese legal tender, it is truly a testimony of one woman’s determination, courage and faith to defy all odds, even from beyond the grave.
“After the funeral, as they were returning home, a piece of paper fell out of the book Kuniko was holding, the last novel Ichiyo had struggled to complete even as she battled with her illness. The note fluttered to the ground, to land on a dark, murky pool of rainwater but it stood out, white, pure and undaunted, as Ichiyo had been.
“Look,” Kuniko whispered. “It’s a note from Ichiyo!”
- Mehta Publishing House, October 2012
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