Japan X4: Uryu Iwako

Greetings all!

Right – so I’ve been living in Japan for about a month now, and so far I am having a blast. Naturally, I am still finding my feet and exploring what Tokyo has to offer. Just recently, I was recommended to go to Asakusa: A well known area, home to a popular shrine. Of course I went, and I loved it!

Senso-ji Temple. Apparently Japan’s oldest Temple, associated with Tendai Buddhism
The Five-storied Pagoda was founded in 942 and rebuilt in 1648 by Tokugawa Iemitsu. Apparently a bone relic of the Buddha, presented by Sri Lanka is placed on the topmost part of the Pagoda!


A copper statue of the 9th Danjuro Ichikawa, the famous Kabuki actor


Asakusa was truly remarkable. However there was one thing that stood out – something that led me to research further, even after my visit to Asakusa. As I browsed the temple grounds, I was led to a small area that contained a handful of stone tablets. There I found the most striking statue of a woman long gone. Her name was called: Uryu Iwako.

Lady Japanese
Uryu Iwako: The great social worker

While most of the tourists and visitors were glued to the various other sights, this particular sight seemed to be overlooked. Nobody was marveling at her, or stopping for a moment to read the plaque. However, I was drawn to the statue and everything about it. She was seated, so warm and peacefully – giving off a sense she must have been a very giving and loving person. The statue portrayed a happy, confident, gentle yet driven individual. However, what made this statue so special? I am sure there were many notable people throughout Japan’s history, so why this seemingly common and friendly looking woman?

Upon reading the plaque, I found that the woman was a driving force in educating the girls of her clan (Aizu Clan). She also established the Fukushima relief facility, for the poor and orphans. She also founded the Midwifery research institute and Saisei Hospital – essentially promoting social work.

I guess that explains why she was immortalized. She was a great contributor to Japanese society. It also explains why the sculptor carved her image in such a respectable way. She seemed like someone I would have loved to meet. She also seemed like someone that was greatly needed, during the time of the Meiji restoration.

I wonder what kind of amazing things Uryu Iwako would contribute to today, if she were still alive? Either way, her efforts were not in vain, and will be remembered forever.

Thank you for reading!

Ricky Baxter



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