88-year-old woman earns doctoral degree in Japan

Kyoto - Kiyoko Ozeki, an 88-year-old professor emeritus of Tokai Gakuen Women’s Junior College, was given a doctoral degree Saturday by Ritsumeikan University for her practical studies over more than 30 years of a kind of clothing believed to be the oldest in Japan.

Ozeki, who lives in Nagoya, has written academic reports about the clothing, called “angin,” which is believed to date back to the Jomon period (ca 10,000 B.C-ca 300 B.C.).

According to Ritsumeikan University, she is the oldest person to obtain a doctoral degree in literature (a field not limited to the study of written works) among the nation’s universities.

Ozeki is a native of Aichi Prefecture. She graduated from a school for girls. At the age of about 30, after going through a divorce, she began producing dolls to earn a living.

Some officials of the junior college noticed her skills, and Ozeki was employed there as a lecturer in handicrafts in 1964. She worked in that role until 1995.

While studying the history of clothing, she became interested in the fact that dogu — clay figures produced in the Jomon period — appear to be wearing clothing with sleeves on which decorative patterns are featured. It prompted her to begin studying angin clothing.

To figure out how people produced clothes in the Jomon period, in which there were no looms, Ozeki visited 165 ruins of the period from the north to the south of the nation, traveling to Hokkaido and 21 other prefectures, in her late 50s to 80s.

She then analyzed the net-like patterns on the bases and other parts of excavated earthenware pieces. She checked the distances between the patterns’ lines and looked at the marks left by strings used to make the patterns to see how they had been twisted.

To work out things that could not be determined only by appearances, she actually wove replicas herself.

Through her examinations of skills and tools, Ozeki discovered that there had been various techniques for weaving cloth in the Jomon period.

On Saturday, Ozeki attended a ceremony where she received a certificate for the degree at Ritsumeikan University. “I’m full of emotion over being given a doctoral degree at this age. This is the most glorious event of my life,” she said, tearfully.