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Campus Now

Early Spring Issue (Apr. 2013)

Message to the second century

To realize world peace, planting the hope for peace in the hearts of children

Ms. Tenkoko Sonoda

Waseda first accepted women as official students in 1939. 4 female students entered Waseda University and the following year, Tenkoko Sonoda entered our university in the second class of female students. Ms. Sonoda discussed her life at Waseda University when there were only a handful of female students, gave her expectations for our school, and spoke about her current activities.

Gender equality at Waseda immediately after the acceptance of female students

――Why did you decide to enter Waseda University? At the time, it was rare for women to enter a normal university, right?

My father taught me that there is no difference between men and women. I believed that modern women must possess the same level of understanding as men. Therefore, I took entrance examinations for Waseda University after graduating from Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. Although I initially planned on entering the School of Political Science and Economics, I ultimately enrolled in the School of Law and audited lectures in the School of Political Science and Economics.

――How was the time that you spent at university?

I really enjoyed it. Although there were only 3 women in my class of about 300 students at the School of Law, I never felt inferior because of my gender. Male students treated me naturally and associated with me as an equal.

Between classes, I hung out at my favorite bookstore, ate lunch, studied and debated with my fellow students. I read every book that I could get my hands on. I remember the fun of feeling my knowledge expand.

Nowadays, it seems that students look almost exclusively at the internet. However, I strongly recommend reading books. In order to improve the world, it is first necessary to become a well-educated and outstanding individual. Reading is essential for improving yourself.

Becoming the first female Diet member in order to eliminate starvation

――You were elected to office in the 22nd Lower House general election, which was held soon after the end of WWII and was the first election with universal voting rights for both men and women. You were active as one of Japan’s first female members of the House of Representatives. Would you please discuss your path to becoming a Diet member?

Due to the war, my graduation was moved up to September 30th, 1942. The next day, all of my male classmates entered the armed forces. Many of my classmates died in battle and I constantly asked myself for what purpose I had survived. At that time, I heard on the radio that many people had starved to death in Ueno. I couldn’t stand the thought of such suffering, and I visited Ueno with my father. Underground passages were filled with many people that had starved to death. I felt that this was wrong and made my way to Shinjuku, where I called out to pedestrians and told them what I thought. It wasn’t a street-corner oratory; I was simply calling out to people. However, everyone listened to what I said. Like-minded individuals gathered and we began activities under the name of the Association to Prevent Starvation. When petitioning the Diet to open military barracks to homeless people and to hand out stock of rice, I had an opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Shidehara. Eventually, I represented my fellow members and ran in the Lower House general election in 1946. In summary, it was not my initial intention to become a Diet member. Rather, expressing my beliefs naturally led me to entering the Lower House.

Continuing to protect the Waseda doctrine

――Waseda University has formulated a new vision as our school moves towards our 150th anniversary. This vision proposes the cultivation of professionals who use a global perspective to perform both throughout the world and in local society. What are your expectations for Waseda University in the future?

I hope that Waseda will devote itself to fulfilling the doctrine created by Shigenobu Okuma. I expect Waseda to continue to protect the spirit of the doctrine. I am proud of how I grew within that atmosphere. Last April, I visited the campus in order to speak at a meeting of the Tomon Women’s Network, a gathering of female Waseda graduates. On campus, I saw that current female students are cheerful and energetic, which gave me peace of mind about the future.

The source of world peace is teaching by mothers

――Even today, you remain active in a variety of fields. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

In order to realize world peace, it is important for people to wish for peace from their childhood. In 1979, the International Year of the Child, Japan promoted the slogan “The peace of the world begins in the hearts of our children” and, through the wives of ambassadors at foreign embassies in Japan, presented 200 Ichimatsu ningyo (100 pairs) to 100 countries throughout the world. As a show of gratitude, 57 countries sent messages of peace and dolls wearing the traditional dress of that country. There was great hesitation to deliver the Japanese dolls to Israel, which was involved in heavy fighting in the Middle East War. After much deliberation, Israel was the last country to which dolls were sent. Much to my surprise, Israel was the first country to send its own dolls in gratitude. This was Israel’s way of showing us how ardently they were looking forward to peace. I strongly wish to build a “World Peace Embassy Doll Museum” in order to store and exhibit these dolls, and to convey a message of peace from the world to Japanese children.

――As someone who has worked to raise the position of women, could you please give a message to women today?

The power of mothers is important to create the wish for peace in children. I hope that mothers and women throughout the world will hold an earnest desire for peace while raising our children.

1978: Visiting China and meeting with Deng Xiaoping and his wife

Recent written works of Tenkoko Sonoda
“Hekotarenai Kokoro” (Tireless Heart), Gakken Publishing Co., Ltd.
Provides exhaustive detail on secrets for living positively and overcoming crisis and difficulty.

Ms. Tenkoko Sonoda

Born in 1919. Graduated from the Department of English, Tokyo Woman’s Christian University in 1940. Graduated from the Waseda University School of Law in 1942. From 1944, began part-time work at the Navy News Service. In 1946, ran in the 22nd Lower House general election from the former Tokyo District #2 as a representative of the Association to Prevent Starvation. Won the election to become Japan’s first female Diet member. Currently holds numerous important posts such as Honorary Chairperson of the Japan-Latin America Women’s Association, Chairperson of the Association to Create a World Peace Embassy Doll Museum, Chairperson of the Federation of LDP Women’s Groups and so on.