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Miki Sawada

Miki Sawada, a native of Oiso, Japan, was founder and director of the Elizabeth Saunders Home in Japan, the first Christian orphanage that accepted racially mixed children, particularly those born to American men and Japanese women.

Born the eldest daughter of Baron Iwasaki, a diplomat and head of the vast Mitsubishi enterprises in Japan before World War II, she was married to Renzo Sawada, former Japanese vice-minister of foreign affairs and ambassador to the United Nations. In her roles as daughter and wife, Sawada traveled frequently. In England, she was moved by the orphanages she volunteered at, deciding she’d like to open one in Japan.

After the war, Sawada was horrified by the number of homeless and abandoned children, usually persecuted for having a Japanese mother and Allied soldier father. She took many of the children into her own home, raising them as her own family. However, when the Japanese government began to take possession of personal property, Sawada could no longer afford to take care of the children.

Remembering her trips to London, she sold off all of her remaining property and established an orphanage. The Elizabeth Saunders Home, also supported by funds from the Episcopal Church, the Japanese government and the Christian Children’s Fund, was named for an Englishwoman who served as a governess in Japan for 50 years. Sawada passed away in Spain in 1980.