Motoko Hani (1873-1957) was born in Hachinohe City, Aomori. As a child she thought thoroughly about everything that she learned. It is said that she had to try harder to learn drawing and singing because she was a bit clumsy and tone-deaf. Those experiences drove her to invest in art education at Jiyu Gakuen.
Motoko came to Tokyo in 1889. She entered Meiji Girls' School where she helped to edit the "Jogaku Zasshi," Girl students' magazine, and learned basic skills of magazine publishing. Her regulated life in the dormitory led her to focus on including housekeeping skills into the curriculum at Jiyu Gakuen.
In 1892 she briefly returned to her hometown, but came back to Tokyo and started to work as a proofreader for Houchi Shimbunsha, a newspaper publishing company. From here she built her bright career as Japan's first female newspaper reporter.
Yoshikazu Hani (1880-1955) was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture. After studying Chinese classics at a private school, he moved to Tokyo. Hani proactively worked as a political correspondent for Houchi Shimbunsha, where he met Motoko and they got married.
Motoko and Yoshikazu published the first issue of the opinion magazine "Fujin no tomo," meaning women's friend, in 1903. They established Jiyu Gakuen in 1921, aiming at giving a new education which would replace rote learning. This new education philosophy suggested close links with people's lives; for example, it required the students to cook their own meals. The education Mr. and Mrs. Hani offered would symbolize the free education movement in the early 1920s.

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