Biography of Miki Sawada

Sept. 19, 1901 Born as the eldest daughter to Hisaya Iwasaki (the third-generation president of Mitsubishi Zaibatsu[Combine]). Named after Miwa and Kise, the mother and the spouse of Yataro Iwasaki, the founder of Mitsubishi.
July. 1922 Married Renzo Sawada, a Japanese diplomat.
July. 1930 Left with Renzo for London, his new assignment place.
Autumn, 1931 Began volunteering at Dr. Barnardo’s Home every once in a week.

Spring, 1932



Befriended Josephine Baker, a world famous entertainer and singer, and deepened friendship ever since.
Moved to Paris with Renzo.
Learned painting from Marie Laurencin, a noted female French painter.
Feb. 1934 Left for New York, Renzo’s new posting place.
Aug. 1945 Akira, her third son, died at war.
Oct. 1946 Ms. Elizabeth Saunders left her legacy of $170 to Episcopal Church of Japan for its charitable activities.
Oct. 1947 Committee for opening an orphanage for mixed-blood toddlers and infants was held at St. Luke’s International Hospital and decided to name the orphanage Elizabeth Saunders Home.
Feb. 1948 Elizabeth Saunders Home as a social welfare corporation was founded with Miki Sawada as Chairman of the Board and Director of the home.

For detailed biography of Miki Sawada(PDF111kb)

Background of Foundation

Elizabeth Saunders Home is a child welfare institution founded by Miki Sawada. She was born in 1901 as the eldest daughter to Hisaya Iwasaki, the third-generation head of Mitsubishi Zaibatsu, and as the granddaughter of its founder Yataro Iwasaki. Married Renzo Sawada, a Christian diplomat, and converted to Christianity herself, she spent years abroad and deepened her faith.
When in London, she got the chance to volunteer at an orphanage called Dr. Barnardo’s Home where she was deeply impressed with the overflowing affection and opportunities for learning the orphans were getting for their future. She realized for the first time that “there is such happiness that money cannot buy.”
Facing the desperate situations the mixed-blood children of the Occupation Forces and the Japanese women were thrown into after the end of war, Miki believed it was her mission to devote herself to caring for those children. So, she embarked upon the project to rescue such children.
Going through unimaginably hard time in raising the fund, she finally bought back Iwasaki’s Oiso Villa which had been confiscated by the government during Zaibatsu Dissolution after the end of the war. She then began to run an infant home named Elizabeth Saunders Home there in February 1948.
She converted the home to a children’s home as the children grew older, and eventually raised a total of 2000 children in 30 years until she died in Majorca Island, Spain, while on a journey. She dedicated her life to raising those children as their mother and mentor.


Oct. 22, 1946

Ms. Elizabeth Saunders, a member of Episcopal Church of England, died at International Catholic Hospital in Mejiro, Tokyo, leaving her legacy worth $170 (equivalent to \61,200 of the day) to the social welfare activities by Nippon Sei Ko Kai.

Oct. 1, 1947

Organizing committee of opening an infant home for mixed-blood orphans was held at St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tsukiji, Tokyo.

The committee decided to use $170 donated by Ms. Elizabeth Saunders to start a new facility and to name it Elizabeth Saunders Home in memory of the donor.

It also appointed Miki Sawada to represent the organizers.

Feb. 1, 1948

An infant home “Elizabeth Saunders Home” was inaugurated with Miki Sawada as its first director to start with two infants admitted.

Mar. 16, 1953 Establishment of a social welfare corporation Elizabeth Saunders Home was officially approved and Miki Sawada was appointed the first Chairman of the Board.
Apr. 1953 An incorporated educational institution “St. Stephen Primary School” was opened with Miki Sawada as its first principal.
Oct. 30, 1955 Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress of Showa visited ESH.
Feb. 1957 Pearl Buck accepted four ESH children to support their self-sufficiency in the US.
Apr. 1959 St. Stephen Secondary School was opened with Miki Sawada as its first principal.
May. 1972 Miki Sawada was awarded Second Class Order of Sacred Treasure.
July. 1978 Nippon TV Network broadcast “Children crossing the Seven Seas ~ ESH’s 1600 children and their stories.”
May. 12, 1980

While on a journey, Miki Sawada died in Parma City, Majorca Island, Spain, at the age of 78.

She was posthumously granted Senior Fourth Rank and Honorary Citizen of Oiso-machi.

Dec. 1987 The new “Miki Sawada Memorial Museum” was inaugurated.
Nov. 6, 2002 Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress of Heisei visited ESH.
Apr. 2016 “Aobato” was opened as a certified center for early childhood education and care.
May, 2018 The memorial ceremony was held to celebrate the 70th and 30th anniversaries of the foundation of ESH and MSMM, respectively.

For detailed history of ESH(PDF126kb)