Portal site for Russellian in Japan


Bertrand Russell at Keio University, July 1921(10)
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Judging from the above, the content of the lecture could not exactly be called inflammatory, but it would hardly have endeared Russell to the authorities in Japan. It is possibly for this reason that unfortunately there is nothing in the contemporary publications of Keio University, such as Keio Gijuku Gakuho,*24 to substantiate the event.
Translating for Russell was Hoashi Riichiro (1881-1949), professor of religion at Waseda University. Hoashi had studied in the United States, at the universities of Southern California and Chicago. Yamamoto Sanehiko describes how despite Russell's weakened condition, he asked the editor to arrange a large lecture, but stipulated that it would have to be thirty to forty minutes in length, and that he would have to deliver it sitting down. This Yamamoto agreed to, preparing the considerable audience before hand, Russell, however, supposedly encouraged by the fact that the turn out was so good, remained standing for over an hour without a break, after which time "his khaki-coloured clothes were soaked with sweat" (which was only to be expected in July, in a hall filled with over 3000, in an age that had yet to know air-conditioning!). Yamamoto added that there were "flames of passion" in the philosospher's eyes, and continues in this effusive vein, describing the thunderous applause with which the lecture was greeted: "even those who did not subscribe to Russell's ideology applauded."*25 He relates the moving nature of the event -but perhaps oversteps the mark in stating that it was "one of the best lectures in Russell's life". In the end Yamamoto's opinion was that Russell was an exceptionally prickly personality, not "mild" like Albert Einstein, who he clearly preferred to have been acquainted with (see Conclusion below). In the September 1921 issue no. 10 of Kaizo, Kitazawa Shinjiro observed that there were some 3,600 people in attendance("mostly intellectuals"), how the hall at Mita was already crowded by 4:00 in the afternoon, and how it became so full that there was no standing room during the lecture, which he describes as having been "wonderful".*26 But, Kitazawa also gained the impression the Russell was "childish" and "stubborn", especially in his relations with the Japanese press. In addition, he questioned why the philosopher, if he was such a sincere friend of the proletariat, should be staying at the Teikoku [Imperial] Hotel-itself a blatant symbol of capitalism.*27


*24 A predecessor of Mita Hyoron, this only contains a reference to a lecture on Russell by Professor Teichi Kawai on June 1. The August 1920 issue of Mita Gakkai Zasshi mentions a lecture by F. Okui on the ideas of Russell and William James (pp. 122-133).
*25 Yamamoto, pp. 59-60.
*26 Kaizo, 1921, September issue, p.98.
*27 Suzanne Ogden maintains that Russell's visit to China was equally disastrous: that his visit "produced rapid disillusionment for many Chinese, widespread confusion among others, and a kind of half-hearted admiration on the part of a few." Suzanne P. Ogden, "The Sage and the Jnkpot: Bertrand Russell and China's Social Reconstruction in the 1920s", Modern Asian Stidies v.16,n.4 (1982) pp. 529-600: 529.