It has generally been believed that Naoe Okamoto of Fukui Prefecture, who was licensed to open a pharmacy in December 1885, was Japan's first female pharmacist. However, there has been no way to confirm this because the pharmacists' registry held by the Ministry of Internal Affairs was destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. This paper describes a hazy picture of her life, which we traced based on fragments of information from the Tokyo University Pharmacy and Life Science (TUPLS), pharmaceutical journals of her time, and two residents of Fukui City who met her when they were children. Naoe Okamoto was born in Asuwakamicho, Fukui City, in 1870, as the eldest daughter of a druggist operating since the Edo Era. Born in a socially and economically privileged family, Naoe went to Tokyo and entered Tokyo Pharmacists School (currently TUPLS) in 1883 or 1884. After two-years' study, she passed the pharmacist certification examination held by the Tokyo Prefecture Government in the autumn of 1885 and received a license to open a pharmacy from the Minister of Internal Affairs. In 1886 or 1887, she overtook the family business and married a doctor. She got divorced shortly thereafter, but continued to manage the family business although she had a younger brother. She died in 1941 at the age of 71. Her house and all articles left by her were burned to ashes after an air raid by the US Army Air Corps in July 1945 during the Second World War. Naoe left her small native city in Fukui Prefecture to study pharmacy in the capital at the beginning of the Meiji Era, when it was extremely difficult for women to pursue a professional career. She obtained the license to operate a pharmacy and pursued her career as a pharmacist through the Meiji, Taisho and Showa Eras. Her life offers great courage and lessons to today's 139,000 female pharmacists in Japan. Naoe Okamoto should be remembered as a pioneer of female pharmacists at this turning point when the 6-year pharmacy education system is about to start.
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Yakushigaku zasshi. The Journal of Japanese history of pharmacy|
|Publication status||Published - Dec 1 2005|
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