Mutsu Ryoko (陸奥亮子)

Ryoko MUTSU (November, 1856 - August, 1900) was a wife of Count Munemitsu MUTSU who was a statesman and diplomat in the Meiji era. She was a sei-shain (regular member) of Japanese Red Cross Society.
Her beauty and intelligence made her called 'the queen of the society in Washington, D.C.'


She was born in Edo as the oldest daughter of Shitomi KANEDA who was a hatamoto (direct retainer of the bakufu, which is a form of Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) of the ruined warrior class. In the early Meiji era, she became a geigi (geisha, that is, a woman who gives fun with a song, a dance or a music instrument at a feast) of Kashiwaya in Shinbashi, Tokyo, and she was accepted by the name of Kosuzu (Kokane). It is said that she ranked among just the few most beautiful and famous geigi in Shinbashi. While she belonged to the karyukai (world of the geisha), there was a reputation that she disliked men, and it is also said that she had strict morals. In February, 1872, Munemitsu MUTSU's former wife Renko died, and in the next year, 1873, when Ryoko was seventeen years old, Munemitsu fell in love with her at first sight, so she got married to him to be his second wife. The former wife left three children: the first son Hirokichi, the second son Junkichi, and the first daughter Sayako. In the year after their marriage, a daughter was born to her and Munemitsu, and in 1877, her father-in-law Munehiro DATE died.

In 1878, her husband Munemitsu received a sentence of five years' imprisonment for suspicion of taking part in the movement to overthrow the government, and he was imprisoned in the Yamagata prison (later moved to the Miyagi prison). Ryoko stayed with Tsuda family, a friend of Munemitsu's, and while she was waiting on her mother-in-law Masako and raising their children, she supported Munemitsu confined in prison. Munemitsu wrote and sent a lot of letters to his wife Ryoko, and while he was in the Miyagi prison, he dedicated to Ryoko a Chinese-style poem in which he appealed the yearning of mutually loving husband and wife.

In 1882, he was allowed to get out of prison under an amnesty, and in the next year, 1883, he went to Europe to study abroad partly because he was advised to do so by Hirobumi ITO. Munemitsu wrote more than fifty letters to Ryoko while he was abroad. In 1886, Munemitsu came back to Japan, and he was employed by the government. Ryoko was introduced into the society, and she was called 'the beauty of Rokumeikan' as well as Tomomi IWAKURA's daughter Kiwako TODA.

In 1888, she went to the United States with Munemitsu who held the post of Minister to the U.S.
Thanks to her beauty, personal charm, and art of conversation, she was praised as the first-class lady, and she was called 'the queen of the society in Washington, D.C.' or 'the beauty of the Japanese Legation in the U.S.'