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Iwako was born in Kitakata, Fukushima, to a merchant family of the Aizu domain. She lost her parents at age 9, and was looked after by grandparents. After becoming widowed, she devoted her life to helping poor and orphans, took the lead in building hospitals, and contributed to improving the living conditions of Tokyo's average citizens. A statue in her honor was dedicated in Asakusa in April 1901.