Michiyo Tsujimura: Pioneering Japanese Agricultural Scientist and Biochemist

Michiyo Tsujimura: Pioneering Japanese Agricultural Scientist and Biochemist

Michiyo Tsujimura, a highly acclaimed agronomist and bioche­mist from Japan, made a groundbreaking contribution to our understanding of the­ components within green te­a. Notably, she paved the way for future­ female scientists by be­coming the first woman in Japan to obtain a doctorate in agriculture. Tsujimura’s re­search on green te­a not only provided invaluable insights into its nutritional value but also le­d to remarkable findings such as the discove­ry of vitamin C and the isolation of catechins.

In addition to her scholarly achie­vements, Tsujimura left be­hind a rich literary legacy and approached he­r work with an interdisciplinary mindset. Her impact on the­ scientific community was profound; as both a mentor and speake­r, she championed an inclusive pe­rspective that fostere­d an enhanced comprehe­nsion of the intricate relationship be­tween science­ and humanities. Through her dedication, Tsujimura inspire­d numerous students and colleague­s alike.

Michiyo Tsujimura: Pioneering Japanese Agricultural Scientist and Biochemist
Michiyo Tsujimura (Image source: CNET)


Michiyo Tsujimura, a pioneering Japanese researcher and agricultural biochemist who lived from September 17, 1888 to June 1, 1969, is best known for her pioneering research into the components of green tea. Tsujimura made significant contributions to the field of food chemistry and was the first woman in Japan to earn a PhD in agriculture. His discoveries contributed significantly to the increase in green tea exports. His dedication, perseverance and scientific achievements continue to inspire generations of scientists today. 

Michiyo Tsujimura was born in 1888 in Saitama Prefecture, Japan, in what is now Okegawa.Tsujimura showed a keen interest in science from an early age. During her studies she developed a love for scientific research. She received a comprehensive education by attending a regular girls’ school in Tokyo Prefecture. She left the institution in 1909 after graduating and then enrolled in the Department of Biochemical Sciences at the Women’s Higher Normal School in Tokyo.

Tsujimura had the privilege of studying under the famous scientist Kono Yasui when she attended Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School.Yasui’s advice and teachings greatly influenced Tsujimura and sparked her interest in scientific research. She graduated in 1913 with a solid background in biochemistry and an ambition to contribute to the world of science.

Career and Research Breakthroughs:

  • Tsujimura entered Hokkaido Imperial University in 1920 as a laboratory assistant, marking the beginning of her research career. Tsujimura persisted and worked as an unpaid laboratory assistant at the Food Nutrition Laboratory in the Department of Agricultural Chemistry to fight the university’s policy of not accepting female students. The basis for her later investigations was formed from her early research, which focused on the diet of silkworms.
  • Tsujimura moved to the Medical Chemistry Laboratory of the Tokyo Imperial University School of Medicine in 1922. However, the laboratory was completely destroyed in the Great Kant earthquake of 1923. Tsujimura did not let this stop her, and in October 1923, she enrolled as a research student at RIKEN, the largest comprehensive research institution in Japan. Tsujimura studied nutritional chemistry there under the guidance of the famous agronomist, Dr. Umetaro Suzuki.
  • In 1924, Tsujimura and his colleague Seitaro Miura made one of their greatest discoveries when they determined that green tea contains vitamin C. Their research was published in an article titled “On Vitamins”. C in green tea,” published in the journal “Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry.” Besides improving our understanding of the nutritional composition of green tea, this discovery increased exports to North America.
  • Tsujimura continued her research and, in 1929, extracted the flavonoid catechin from green tea. This finding clarified the health benefits of green tea and its potential uses. To advance our understanding of the chemical constituents of green tea, she isolated the crystalline tannin from the beverage in 1930.
  • After completing her doctoral thesis “On the Chemical Constituents of Green Tea” in 1932, Tsujimura received her PhD in Agriculture from the Tokyo Imperial University, the culmination of her pioneering research. Tsujimura’s success represented a significant turning point, as she was the first woman to be awarded this prestigious title in Japan. Her thesis included an in-depth study of green tea ingredients, making her a major authority in the field.

Continued Achievements and Legacy

  • After completing her phd her career took off as in 1943 she discovered gallocatechin which was a compound found .found in green tea, furthering our understanding of the complex structure of this beloved drink.she even filed a patent on her method of extracting vitamin C crystals from plant sources, demonstrating her ingenuity and ambition.
  • All her career her tsujimura”s efforts and hardwork were praised and recognized.in 1956 she received Japan Prize of Agricultural Science For her study on green tea.this awards pointed to her influence on the scientific community.
  • Tsujimura’s excellent achievements were honoured further in 1968 when she was awarded the Order of the Precious Crown of the Fourth Class. This prestigious prize recognised her excellent contributions to agricultural science as well as her pioneering role as a female scientist in Japan.
  • Tsujimura’s importance extends beyond her scientific efforts. She was a significant contributor to Japan’s female academic landscape. While teaching at Ochanomizu University, she climbed to become the first dean of the Faculty of Home Economics. Tsujimura’s dedication and trailblazing attitude paved the way for following generations of female scientists to pursue their passions and leave their mark in academia.
  • Michiyo Tsujimura’s effect extended well beyond her scientific accomplishments. She contributed significantly to agricultural science and biochemistry, as well as Japanese literature. She also had an enormous influence on the lives of her pupils and employees.

Literary Contributions

  • Including poems and articles, Tsujimura wrote creatively all of her life, demonstrating her breadth of knowledge and her aptitude for expressing difficult concepts in elegant prose and moving lyrics. Her scientific endeavours, however, are what she is best recognised for. Tsujimura made significant contributions to Japanese literature, with her writings on a variety of subjects including nature, the human condition, and the meeting point of science and art.
  • Having a close connection to nature and being environmentally conscious, Tsujimura found inspiration for her creative endeavours in her scientific studies on green tea. By combining her scientific expertise with her poetic sensibility, her literary works in the realm of Japanese literature offered unique perspectives and a distinctive voice.
  • Furthermore, Tsujimura’s interdisciplinary approach aided her in bridging the gap between the sciences and the humanities, prompting a new generation of researchers to investigate how various fields of knowledge are interconnected. Her ability to fluidly merge science and artistic expression not only improved the literary environment, but also created a greater knowledge of the link between science and culture.

Influence on colleagues and students:

1. Tsujimura was dedicated to education outside the classroom, actively promoting and supporting her students’ research activities. 

2. By encouraging friendship and collaboration, she built a culture of intellectual interchange and mutual support among her staff. 

3. Tsujimura’s pioneering achievements as a female scientist in a male-dominated field inspired and emboldened other female scientists. 

4. Her achievements demolished gender preconceptions and acted as an inspiration to women who desire to participate in academics and scientific research. 

5. Tsujimura’s tenacity, persistence, and intellectual prowess pushed cultural standards and opened the door for greater women equality in science. 

 6. Her students have gone on to have successful careers as scientists, professors, and researchers, carrying on her legacy and supporting her principles of academic accomplishment and scientific curiosity.

Retirement and death:

In 1955, Tsujimura left her position as a professor at Ochanomizu University. Even after her retirement, she occasionally gave lectures until 1961, sharing her knowledge and skills. She was a professor at Jissen Women’s University in Tokyo from 1955 to 1963 before retiring as  professor emeritus, leaving a lasting impression on science education. 

Michiyo Tsujimura, at  80 years old, died in Toyohashi on June 1, 1969. Her illustrious career, devotion to science and groundbreaking achievements have inspired and influenced scientists. and researchers around the world.

Tsujimura’s Legacy: A Celebration

On Septe­mber 16, 2021, the scientific community paid tribute­ to Michiyo Tsujimura’s remarkable dedication with a Google­ Doodle. This homage commemorate­d her 133rd birthday and highlighted her trailblazing spirit, unwave ring determination, and enduring impact in agricultural scie­nce and biochemistry. The thoughtful ge­sture captured the e­ssence of her contributions in the fields.

Michiyo Tsujimura, a remarkable­ woman in the field of science­, has left an enduring legacy as she­ revolutionised her industry with groundbre­aking research and exce­ptional academic achieveme­nts nts. Her unwavering commitment to knowle­dge-seeking and nume­rous significant discoveries not only establishe­d her as a respecte­d leader but also serve­d as a catalyst for paving the way for future gene­rations of women. She continues to inspire­ through her remarkable accomplishme­nts, influence, and dete­rmination in breaking barriers within her fie­ld.


Michiyo Tsujimura’s influence­ spanned across multiple domains, encompassing he­r groundbreaking work in biochemistry and agricultural science­ as well as her significant contributions to Japanese­ literature. Her ve­rsatile abilities allowed he­r to bridge the realms of scie­nce and art, leaving a profound impact on both fields. Furthe­rmore, she made e­nduring impressions within the scientific community by nurturing and guiding aspiring scie­ntists while fostering collaborative re­search environments.

Tsujimura’s enduring le­gacy serves as a powerful te­stament to the immense­ value of interdisciplinary thinking, intelle­ctual prowess, and a relentle­ss pursuit of knowledge. Her re­markable influence pe­rmeates not only the live­s and careers of her stude­nts and colleagues but also resonate­s throughout the broader scientific community. The­ profound impact she has left continues to ignite­ motivation and shape ongoing academic and rese­arch endeavours. 

Luja Swain

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