Portal site for Russellian in Japan


Bertrand Russell at Keio University, July 1921(4)

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It was the Kawasaki strike which Russell and Miss Black first encountered on arriving at Kobe, July 17th, at noon, on the steamer, the "Yeiko-maru". Kagawa persuaded Russell to give an impromptu speech at one meeting at a temple; the labour leader was organizing meetings at temples where authorities could supposedly not interfere*8. Dora records in her autobiography:

The Japanese Government was at that time thoroughly repressive in its opposition to socialism and what were described as 'dangerous thoughts'; in consequence all demonstrations were forbidden. But Kagawa, a Christian Socialist, realizing that the arrival of a distinguished foreigner would put the authorities in a difficulty, had staged the occasion to organize a turn-out in which the police would hardy dare to interfere.*9

The following afternoon he lead "Miss Black" and the economic historian Eileen Power (then a lecturer at the London School of Economics), who was also travelling in Asia, on a fellowship from Cambridge, on a tour of the Kobe slum quarters. Russell had gone to Kobe ostensibly to meet Robert Young, the editor of the English language newspaper The Japan Chronicle,*10 who took the three to Nara and Kyoto before handing them on to the editorial staff of the "up-to-date" general interest magazine Kaizo [Reconstruction], which had formally invited him to Japan, for the rest of the stay. A translation of an article on "Patriotism" had appeared in the New Year 1920 edition of Kaizo, but had been censored. Russell in his Autobiography cites a letter from one S. Yamamoto, a Kaizo staff member, dated December 25, 1920, which states 'One half of our government officials and almost eighty per cent of the army men, have been caught in dreams of aggression, it is true. But recently there has been much awakening from that.'

*8 "One of the curious incidents of the strike was a brief address to a group of strikers delivered in a Buddhist temple by the Hon. Bertrand Russell." A. Morgan Young, Japan in Recent Times: 1912-1926 (N.Y.: William Morrow, 1929), p. 237.
*9 Dora Russell, The Tamarisk Tree: My quest for liberty and love(London:1975), p. 144.
*10 "His was, I think, the best newspaper I have ever known, and he started it with a capital of £10, he saved out of his wages as a compositor." Autobiography, p. 36.