All names in this post are done in standard English style, with first names first and family names last. This is, of course, opposite of Japanese tradition, but I'm doing it on account of this being an English site and all.
Ichiyo Higuchi is recognized as being one of the first authors of contemporary Japanese literature. This era of "contemporary" is generally agreed to be the beginning of the Meiji era. Although she only lives until 24 years of age, she has quite a substantial volume of work under her name.
Born in May 2nd, 1872 in Tokyo. The second daughter of Noriyoshi and Takiko Higuchi, her given name at birth is Natsume. She takes on the name Ichiyo (one leaf) as a pen name. It was a popular thing to do for authors during the Meiji Era.
She was taken out of school at age 11, on her mother's belief that too much education was not good for women. Her father wishes for her to continue however, and three years later she is sent to a poetry school run by Utako Nakajima. She begins to excel at poetry, and in fact surpasses her more economically privileged classmates. It is around this period that Ichiyo starts her diary, which is considered by many to be one of her finest works. Indeed, some consider her diaries to be a greater literary accomplishment than her later novels and short stories.
Ichiyo becomes head of the family at age 16, after the passing away of her older brother and the retirement of her father. She works as a maid to earn money for her family while writing at the same time. However, she must also support the rest of her family with this money. As a result, Ichiyo remains in poverty for the rest of her life, doing odd jobs to support her family.
She is first published in the literary magazine Musashino when she is 20 years old. Afterwards she goes on to write many more short stories. Most importantly, she serializes two novels, both of which are praised by fellow Meiji literary giants. She falls victim to tuberculosis on November 23, 1896. She is only 24 years old.
To this day, Ichiyo has somewhat of a cult following among aspiring young writers and Japanese literature enthusiasts. It is said that they gather every year at her grave on the anniversary of her passing (to do what exactly, I'm not sure, but they gather nevertheless). This is undoubtedly influenced by the fact that people tend to romanticize when genius dies young, but that does not detract from the fact that Ichiyo was an amazing writer.
Her works of note include:
(as mentioned above)
(Flowers at Dusk, her first published short story)
Numerous English translations are out and about. If you are looking to read Ichiyo Higuchi, then may I so humbly point you towards the Robert Lyons Danly translations? They are done very well, and I recommend them.
Addendum: Higuchi Ichiyo is currently the woman who graces the 5000 yen bill in Japan.