Portal site for Russellian in Japan


Bertrand Russell at Keio University, July 1921(2)

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Bertrand Russell was one of three notable Nobel laureates who came to Japan and lectured at Keio in the 1920s. The Indian philosopher and poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the first Asiatic to win the prize, visited Japan three times and lectured at Keio in 1916*3. Following Russell's visit, Albert Einstein came to Tokyo in November of 1921. Tagore, like Russell, seemingly caused a certain amount of controversy, not to mention ire:

Though the Japanese welcomed Tagore with real and warmhearted enthusiasm..,
the enthusiasm cooled off considerably when he warned them in his lectures
against imitating not the humane values of the Western civilization but its
lust for power and its blind worship of the state machine in the name of the
nation.*4

However, Tagore maintained an affection for the country throughout his life, According to Ronald Clark's biography of Einstein, the scientist left Japan "thankful to board ship for Europe". Given that he had agreed to a marathon lecture tour Clark remarks that Einstein should not have wondered that he was "milked hard" as a consequence. "Both his brief diary notes and the oblique references in several newspaper interviews suggest that in practice it turned out to be a disillusioning experience, even though he liked what he considered to be the simple, gentle Japanese."*5 But Clark adds that "Even so, he had a high opinion of the people themselves."*6


*3 "... most of the time he stayed in Hakone, from where he made occasional trips to Tokyo for his lectures at the University of Keio-Gijuku" Krishna Kripalani, Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography(Oxford University Press: 1962), p. 255.
*4 Kripalani. p. 256.
*5Ronald Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times(London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1973), P. 288.
*6 Clark, p. 289; see also Banesh Hoffmann, Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel(N.Y.: Viking Press, 1972): "he ... was captivated by the picturesque charm of the Japanese. Years later ... he vividly recalled this visit to Japan, saying 'I loved the people and the country so much that I could not restrain my tears when I had to depart from them.' " (p. 150)