Portal site for Russellian in Japan


Bertrand Russell at Keio University, July 1921(14)

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On September 15th, 1923, in the hysteria which followed the Kanto Earthquake, the civil police arrested Osugi with "his wife" and a six-year-old nephew (Munekazu) who happened to be there at the time as they were returning from a visit to Osugi's young sister Tachibana Ayame. As has been recorded elsewhere, although accounts vary, the three were taken to Kojimachi gendarmerie station. There they were either strangled or beaten to death; their bodies were recovered from an abandoned well on September 20th.*36 Despite the fact that the exact circumstances of their deaths remain a mystery there has always been a suspicion that their murder, along with those of several labour leaders on September 4th, was sanctioned by the authorities. 'No source, however, has offered concrete evidence that any authority higher than Amakasu played a role in the murders.'*37 The chief perpetrator of the deed, Amakasu Masahiko (1891-1945) was a police captain (Kojimachi Kempeitai 'buntai cho'). After a show-piece trial, he was subsequently sentenced to ten years in prison, but released three years later, in October 1926.*38 As a footnote to the story it is interesting to read the slightly distorted account of the incident by Taid O'Conroy. O'Conroy was scholar at Keio University, described as the 'Oxford of Japan' in the introduction of his jaundiced attack on Japanese nationalism, The Menace of Japan (1936). Fired more by righteous indignation than accurate reportage he describes how 'An old man, named Sakae Osugi, a retired schoolmaster,., [who] earned a little money giving private tuition', his wife and son [sic] were murdered at the hands of the police.*39
  Bertrand Russell married Dora Black on their return to Britain on September 27th. They were divorced in 1932.


*36 See Stanley, p. 159.
*37 Stanley, p. 160.
*38 Amakasu was subsequently posted to Manchuria where he was involved in the "Manchurian Incident" of 1931, later becoming head of the Manchukuo film industry. He is perhaps more familiar to the Western world from his portrayal by popular musician and actor Sakamoto Ryuichi in Bernardo Bertollucci's 1987 film, The Last Emperor. Amakasu committed suicide by poison on August 20,1945.
*39 The Menace of Japan (London: The Paternoster Library, 1936), in manuscript form, was apparently used by Eamon de Valera when he was preparing to act as president of the League of Nations during its consideration of Japan's policy in Manchuria. Apart from the information contained in the posthumous preface to his book, that he was married into an aristocratic family, that he arrived in Japan around 1919 and died on Nov. 5th, 1935, I have been unable to find further biographical information and Keio records do not reveal more.