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  • Sara Thompson

Meeting Michiyo Tsujimura

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise

Image credit Asahi Shimbun Company, Wikimedia Commons.



Michiyo Tsujimura was born in September 1888 in Japan. In 1909, she enrolled at Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School where she studies in the Division of Biochemical Science. One of her mentors was biologist Kono Yasui, who inspired Tsujimura to be a scientist.


In 1920, Tsujimura became a laboratory assistant in the Food Nutritional Laboratory at Hokkaido Imperial University. A few short years later in 1923, she became a research student at RIKEN. She studied the nutritional chemistry of green tea and in 1924 discovered that it contained vitamin C.

This finding was published in the journal of Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. Her findings led to an increase in green tea exports to other parts of the world, but especially North America, which helped her country’s economy. She continued to research green tea and was also able to isolate and extract catechin, tannin, and gallocatechin. Some of her research showed potential in green tea properties being used for anticancer uses.


All of Tsujimura’s research and discoveries earned her a doctorate in agriculture from Tokyo Imperial University. She was the first woman to earn a doctorate degree in that field and it helped to promote her to more research positions within RIKEN and becoming a professor at Ochanomizu University, where she continued to lecture until 1961. In 1963, she was awarded the Japan Prize of Agricultural Science for her research. Tsujimura passed away at the age of 80 in 1969, but her research lives on with more health benefits being discovered in agriculture, especially tea.


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