Portal site for Russellian in Japan


Bertrand Russell at Keio University, July 1921(3)

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Russell undertook the trip to Japan with great reluctance. He was approaching fifty years of age and was still recovering from double pneumonia which he had contracted in China, where he had been living and teaching for the previous months with his mistress and ideological companion Dora Black, later to be his second wife and at this time expecting their child. Unfortunately, the Japanese press had caught wind of the visit some time before and had begun a tactic of harassment, which continued until the couple left the country at the end of July. As a result "Miss Black" had become "curt" with some of the journalists and the newspapers in Japan maliciously reported that Russell, having been critically ill, had died! This news was forwarded to America and subsequently to England. "It provided me with the pleasure of reading my obituary notices, which I had always desired without expecting my wishes to be fulfilled."*7
Russell could hardly have picked a more volatile moment to visit, given the social climate in Japan. Three recently published works had promulgated Russell's pacifist, anti-capitalistic ethic:Bolshevism in Theory and Practice had just appeared, and prior to that, Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism (1919),and Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916), all of which had been translated into Japanese. Thus there was a high degree of interest among socialists in Japan regarding Russell's thought at a time when not only was democracy being stifled by the militarists, but the country was also in a period of economic recession. His stay coincided with the so-called "Pacific Conference" (which was being given a cool reception in Japan), convened by the then American President, Warren Harding, in Washington to discuss the growing Far East problem, notably the military build up by the Japanese and actions in China (Russell did nothing to conceal his sympathies for the Chinese). In addition, there were labour disputes taking place in the country, notably in Kobe where a strike at the Kawasaki dockyards was being led by the Christian pacifist and labour leader Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960).

*7 Autobiography, p. 132.