Ichiyo Higuchi was born in 1872 and died in 1896 at the age of only 24. She lived however long enough to become such a prominent novelist to have her portrait depicted on the Yen 5,000 note.
Ichiyo, whose real name was Natsuko Higuchi, lived in the time of big changes during the Meiji Restoration. Like many people in her time she had to contend with a lot of hardships. She was of samurai lineage, but when the Edo Era came to an end so did the social cast system, throwing their financial security off balance. Her father tried to make a living through his business, but failed. When Ichiyo was 15 her brother died and soon after her father passed away. Together with her mother and sister she tried to make ends meet by doing odd jobs like sewing and washing. She lived in what is now known as Ichiyo's Dwelling for about 10 years. All these hardships gave her the inspiration to write her unique Meiji Era novels. It is known that Ichiyo was a regular customer of the Iseya Pawnshop, which still remains in Hongo. At the age of only 24, Ichiyo contracted tuberculoses and died.
The neighborhood is still reflects some of the atmosphere of those days. Although many buildings have been replaced with modern constructions, a lot of the Meiji Era buildings that existed during Ichiyo Higuchi's lifetime can still be found around her former dwelling.