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Lady TAkeko Kujo
October 20, 1887 - February 7, 1928
Takeko in 1927.jpg

Lady Takeko Kujo was born on October 20, 1887, in Kyoto, Japan. She was the second daughter of Koson Ohtani, known as Abbot Myonyo, the 21st Monshu (head priest) of the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha. Takeko Kujo became a devout Nembutsu follower and committed humanitarian, a renowned poet, writer, and artist. In 1904, she co-founded the Buddhist Women’s Association (BWA) with her sister-in-law, Lady Kazuko Ohtani.

Although she was an aristocrat, Lady Kujo dedicated her life to helping people suffering from the effects of war, poverty, and natural disasters. Using her social status and her own money, Lady Kujo did many important things in her short lifetime of 41 years. Back then, Japanese society disregarded women’s education. Lady Kujo proposed creating a school for girls, believing that educational opportunities for women would reduce poverty and prostitution, which was then legal in Japan. Thanks to her hard work, Kyoto Girls School was established in 1912. By 1920, it had been transformed into Kyoto Women’s University. 

In the 1920s her book of essays, Muyuge: Flower without Sorrow, was extremely popular. She wrote about the reality of impermanence, the value of friendship and forgiveness, and lessons from nature and the Buddha, among other topics. Her 101 essays were printed in a major Japanese newspaper over the course of several months. Her book was reprinted over 300 times, most recently in English in 2018 by the American Buddhist Study Center in New York under the title Leaves of My Heart. 

Lady Kujo helped Tokyo rebuild after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. The Hongwanji opened a small, free clinic in 1925, and when it ran out of funding, Lady Kujo used her own money to operate and expand the clinic. By 1930, it had been transformed into Asoka Hospital, one of Japan’s first modern medical centers. Asoka Hospital was founded two years after Lady Kujo’s death, funded by royalties from her book Muyuge. 

Lady Kujo was not afraid to work among poor people in Tokyo’s slums. She spent years doing so. Unfortunately, she passed away on February 7, 1928, after contracting blood poisoning. 

Lady Kujo’s contributions to society flowed from her nembutsu faith and the teachings of Buddha. Her work lives on in BWA chapters throughout the world. 

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Answer to Where this Stupa for January 21st, 2023:

A Stupa in Comiso, Italy, constructed by the Japanese, Nipponzan Myohoji, was founded in 1917 by Nichidatsu Fujii and originated from Nichiren Buddhism. Photo: Wikipedia

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