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Kōtoku: Advocate of Direct Action

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2011

Nobutaka Ike
University of Colorado
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One would hardly expect extreme political theories like anarchism to be popular in Japan, where there is a strong tradition of obedience to political authority, and where those in control of the government do not hesitate to use police power to check what they consider to be “dangerous thoughts.” In fact had it not been for the famous Taigyaku Jiken or the high treason incident in 1910, anarchism might have been relegated to obscurity, having made but an imperceptible ripple in die course of Japanese thought. As a result of this incident, however, there are probably not many among the older generation in Japan today who have not heard about Kōtoku Shūsui, the leader.

Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 1944

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1 His given name is Denjirō, but he is better known by his pseudonym, Shūsui.

2 Japan weekly chronicle, January 19, 1911, quoted in Reed, John Paul, Kokutai (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1940), p. 62.Google Scholar

3 Yūzō, Shimanaka (ed.), Shakai mondaijiten (Dictionary of social questions) which is v. 40 of Shakai shisō zenshū (Collected works on social thought), (Tokyo: 1933), pp. 234235.Google Scholar

4 The London Times Weekly Edition, January 13, 1911, p. 24.

6 Goldman, Emma, Living my life (Garden City: Garden City Publishing Co., 1931), p. 474.Google ScholarPubMed

7 The London Times Weekly Edition, January 20, 1911, p. 44.Google Scholar

8 This reference to Mme. Kōtoku probably refers to Kanno Sugako, who was the only woman in the group. Kōtoku was divorced, but there is no evidence that he ever married Miss Kanno. In a contemporary magazine article we find the statement: “Kōtoku's relationship with Suga Kanno involved no violation of his marriage vow, on this point all those who knew him well are emphatic. Neither Miss Kanno nor Kōtoku, they say, had a thought of anything but their conception of ‘liberty’.” Stellman, Louis H. in “Denjirō Kōtoku, revolutionist,” Overland monthly, v. 58, New Series (October, 1911), p. 290.Google Scholar

9 Yūzō, Shimanaka, op. cit., pp. 142Google Scholar, 234; The London Times Weekly Edition, January 27, 1911, p. 64.Google Scholar Kōtoku remained a materialist to the end. In prison he wrote a book, Kirisuto Massatsu Ron (Obliterating Christ) in which he denied that Christ ever lived. In a letter which he sent a friend a few days before his execution he wrote: “At last everything has come to an end. I feel relieved of my responsibilities. Death is like a cloud on a high mountain. When you look at it from afar, it appears in the shape of a terrible apparition, but when you draw near it is nothing. To a materialist it has no more significance than the fact that the pendulum of a clock which has been moving back and forth has come to a stop.…” Inosuke, Nakanishi, Shikeishū no jinsei kan (The view of life of criminals condemned to death), (Tokyo: 1924) p. 165Google Scholar

10 Quoted in Reed, John Paul, op. cit., pp. 6263.Google Scholar

11 Goldman, Emma, op. cit., p. 474.Google Scholar

12 The London Times Weekly Edition, February 10, 1911, p. 104.Google Scholar

13 Quoted in Reed, John Paul, op. cit., p. 63.Google Scholar

14 Stellman, Louis J., op. cit., p. 290.Google Scholar

15 Mr. Shigeki Oka is probably the only living person in the United States who has had personal contact with Kōtoku. He worked with Kōtoku on the staff of the Yorozu Chōhō, later coming to the United States. When Kōtoku came to San Francisco in 1905 he stayed at Mr. Oka's house, and it was while there that Kōtoku told him about assassinating the emperor. I am indebted to Mr. Oka for this information as well as other material of a background nature.

16 Merriam, Charles Edward, Barnes, Harry Elmer (ed.), A history of political theories (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1924), p. 203.Google Scholar

17 From a letter Kōtoku wrote to Sakai Toshihiko in Shūsui, Kōtoku, Kōtoku shūsui shū (A collec tion of works by Kōtoku Shūsui) v. 56 in the Kaizō Bunko series (Tokyo: 1929), p. 5758.Google Scholar

21 This is the view held by Mr. Oka.

22 Kōtoku shūsui shū, p. 35–36.

23 This party was formed by the members of the Shakai Shugi Kenkyū Kai cooperating with the leaders of the Iron Workers Union. See Colegrove, Kenneth, “Labor parties in Japan,” American political science review, v. 23 (May, 1929), p. 339.Google Scholar The party was ordered dissolved by the Home Minister the very day it published its declaration. See Isoh, Abe, “Socialism in Japan,” Count Ōkuma, Shigenobu (ed.) Fifty years of new Japan (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1910), v. 2, pp. 505506.Google Scholar

24 The declaration is reprinted in Sakuzō, Yoshino (ed.) Meiji Bunka Zenshū, (Collected works on Meiji culture) (Tokyo: 1929), v. 21, pp. 530537.Google Scholar The Meiji Bunka Zenshū will hereafter be cited as MBZ.

25 Reprinted in the special January, 1929 issue of Kaihō (Emancipation) entitled “Kōtoku shūsui hyōron bunshū” (A collection of commentaries by Kōtoku Shūsui) pp. 76–78.

26 “Seijika no Tōkigyo,” Yorozu chōhō, October 26, 1899, and reprinted in Kaihō, January, 1929, pp. 118–120.

27 This discussion is based on “Chokusetsu sansei ron,” Yorozu chōhō, January 27, 1902, and reprinted in Kaihō, January, 1929, pp. 133–139.

28 Takeuchi, Tatsuji, War and diplomacy in the Japanese Empire (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1935) p. 140.Google Scholar

29 Isoh, Abe, “Socialism in Japan,” op. cit., p. 507.Google Scholar Also the chronological list of books published in Japan on social subjects in MBZ, v. 21, pp. 603–622 should be consulted.

30 Isoh, Abe, “Socialism in Japan,” op. cit., p. 507.Google Scholar

31 Kōtoku and Sakai translated this essay and later published it as a pamphlet. In the introduction, Kōtoku indicated that he did not agree with Tolstoy's argument that the way to end wars was through religion. Kōtoku said that he believed that the cause of wars lay in international economic competition and not in individuals as Tolstoy claimed. This introduction is reprinted in Kōtoku shūsui shū, pp. 177–181.

32 Isoh, Abe, “Socialism in Japan,” op. cit., pp. 508509.Google Scholar

33 This information I obtained from Mr. Oka.

34 MBZ, v. 21, p. 619.

35 Kōtoku made this speech on February 17, 1907 at the convention of the Japanese Socialist party held in Tōkyō. He wanted to defend an amendment, which he proposed, to the resolution drawn up by the committee. The first paragraph of the original resolution read:

Our party desires to carry out basic reforms with respect to our present social organization, to socialize the means of production, so that these will be operated for the benefit and happiness of all the people.

Kōtoku urged that they insert the words, “recognizes the inefficacy of the policy of working through the Diet, and chiefly” after the words, “Our party.” His proposal, however, was defeated by two votes. Moreover, as a result of publishing this speech and the resolution, the February 19 issue of the Heimin shimbum was banned and on February 24, the Japanese Socialist party was ordered dissolved. MBZ, v. 21, pp. 594, 603.

36 “I change my ideas,” MBZ, v. 21, p. 573, hereafter cited as ICMI.

37 “The speech of Kōtoku Shūsui,” MBZ, v. 21, p. 597, hereafter cited as SKS.

38 ICMI, op. cit., p. 574.Google Scholar

39 ICMI, op. cit., p. 574.Google Scholar

39 SKS, op. cit., p. 597.Google Scholar

41 ICMI, Ibid.

42 SKS, op. cit., p. 599.Google Scholar

44 Ibid., p. 597.

45 ICMI, op. cit., p. 574.Google Scholar

46 Ibid., p. 575.

48 Ibid., p. 575.

49 SKS, op. cit., p. 599600.Google Scholar

50 ICMI, op. cit., p. 576.Google Scholar

51 Ibid., p. 577.

53 Ibid., p. 576.

54 Ibid., p. 578.

55 Reed, John Paul, op. cit., pp. 162163.Google Scholar