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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #243 - Ito Noe (1895-1923), an anarchist feminist in Japan (fr, pt) [machine translation]

Date Mon, 24 Nov 2014 10:50:08 +0200

There was barely a century in which Japan modernized along Western lines appear at the same time capitalism, anarchism and feminism. Ito Noah is one of those pioneers who dare to challenge the imperial and patriarchal order. His life illustrates the difficult path of this young generation trying to live freely in an authoritarian society. ---- Ito Noah was born in 1895 in the village of Imajuku in Fukuoka Prefecture in southern Japan, where Japan's cultural and ideological boil, just emerging from feudalism. Its ruling class since the opening of the Meiji era (1868-1912) chose to open abroad and modernize the state by copying the Western model: the foundation of a nation-state fast emergence of capitalism with the emergence of a middle class that replaces the old aristocracy, starting the process of capital accumulation that accompanies it.

In knowledge and Western techniques that are imported by the Japanese and begin to permeate Japanese society, are Marxism, socialism, anarchism and feminism, the theoretical works began to be translated in the early twentieth century and are read with great interest by the Japanese proletariat emerging [1].

Workers and workers in Japan are aware of their existence as a social class, and began to organize into unions and revolutionary political organizations. It is in this context that we must place the upheavals golf militant Ito Noah.

Discovery of patriarchy

At birth, his once prosperous family in maritime trade, long live in poverty and deprivation. His mother works in the fields and his father is a factory worker tile.

It was at the age of 8, in 1903, the future activist entered the village primary school, six years of compulsory education is supported by the state for three years. It immediately shows a keen interest in reading and study. A year and a half later, the economic situation deteriorating parent, Ito Noah is sent to Nagasaki with his uncle. His new city life allows him to have access to a larger library and complete his education, in which it shows great intellectual precocity.

Once back in his native village, she is obliged, at age 14, working in a post office, to support his parents, although frustrated not to be able to continue his studies. So she sends letters to his uncle, who moved to Tokyo, asking to continue his education in this city, which he accepts.

Ito Noah therefore has the opportunity to attend a progressive school that refuses to include in its principles the famous Japanese patriarchal adage "good wife, wise mother." This is where she is studying in depth the literature, philosophy, and also introduced to foreign languages, especially English.

In 1912, after graduating graduation, she is forced to return to the village because her parents betrothed to the son of a wealthy farmer of the village, forced marriage common practice at the time. Reluctant at first, she eventually agreed, hoping that this connection allows him to go to America, where the boy studied for several years.

However, the first meeting with her fiance inspires contempt and disgust and thus nine days after her marriage, she decides to flee and take refuge in Tokyo, with his former English teacher, Tsuji Jun with whom she befriended during his training, choice of insubordination in the conservative and patriarchal society of the time which earned him a repudiation by his family as well as serious financial problems.


It is ultimately even his uncle, whose business is thriving, which supports the costs of divorce. Director of the school got wind of the matter, decided to dismiss the English teacher because of his complicity in the fugue. Despite economic uncertainty, the couple began a passionate, free and marriage relationship, which naîssent two children in 1913 and 1915.

It was during this period that Noah meets Raicho Hiratsuka, founder of the literary magazine Seito, monthly "written in hand woman for women," and goes into the association. The magazine, though officially apolitical [2] knows great excitement and publish more, especially since 1913 with the arrival of Noah in the drafting committee, political articles to report the status of women.

By 1912, when she was 17, Noah Ito began by writing poems in this magazine and a story about his personal experience of forced marriage, which she roundly condemns this practice.

The media begin to appoint "new women" (atarashii onna), activists of the editorial board of Seito, and soon they are reclaiming this name.

Ito Noah is dedicated to writing feminist essays, to echo that of Raicho in which it proclaims: "New Women vow to destroy the moral and reactionary legislation developed for the convenience of men. "

One of the articles Ito Noah, too virulent, could have been the cause of the February issue of censorship of 1913. It is also criticized vehemently by his colleagues for his "indecent behavior" puisqu'ouverte new relationships when she already lives as a couple. Despite these repeated attacks, it continues its activities, and in the month of August of the same year she discovered anarchism.


Japanese various anarchist groups have in fact organized a meeting in honor of the American Emma Goldman (1869-1940), while international figure of feminism and anarchism. It provides the opportunity to work at Goldman entitled Anarchism and Other Essays and about three months later translated into Japanese the three collections it contains ("The tragedy of the emancipation of women," "Love and Marriage" "minorities against majorities").

She speaks with fervor in March 1914 in the journal Seito, support for the cohabitation, his rejection of the system of marriage and morality that is fundamentally linked, while condemning the superficial behavior of the time that is to proclaim liberated woman wearing Western clothes instead of traditional Japanese outfits, or upgrading her hair or drinking alcohol.

It also advocates for prostitutes, where she stresses that these women rejected by the entire society, from poverty-stricken backgrounds, have no other way to feed their hunger to sell their body. She begins to be identified as "socialist" by the State, which is a real danger in Japan at the time, which fascise increasingly since 1905 and the imperialist policy of the Japanese ruling class to China and the whole of Asia, embodied by colonization of Korea.

In January 1915 Hiratsuka Raicho transfer the management of the journal to Noah, at his request. Most other contributors, from a rather middle-class and who use the magazine only for the purpose of expressing their literary talent, from separating and leave monthly for they become too contentious and political. Premises Seito are transferred to the home of Noah and his companion Tsuji, where they live in poverty, with their two children.

Noah with his comrades decided that the magazine will bear no particular ideology does not mean there's withdrawal from politics, but rather his willingness to address all topics, including sensitive abortion, maternity or prostitution. It seems that most of the activists then have the profile of Noah economic impoverishment caused by the divorce after forced marriage.

The experience of free love

She also became aware of social injustice related to the expropriation by the State of peasant land, and it should be within the logical continuation of his revolt against the established order, anarchists, including Sakae Osugi, a great figure of Japanese libertarian communism. Friend Kotoku Shusui [3], Osugi has not been executed by the state unlike the latter (for "attempted assassination of the Emperor") is itself already in prison for political activism at the time of facts. It therefore could not be accused of conspiracy whose fierce repression in 1911 decimated the Japanese anarchist movement.

Appreciating each other and know their work, Osugi repeatedly visited the couple and hides them in the censored copies of the second issue of the Journal of the People (Heimin Shinbun), the new journal created by Libertarian Osugi and his friends.

The year 1915 is difficult for Noah, increasingly isolated in the drafting of the journal Seito, so much so that she finally decided to throw in the towel in February 1916, as well ceasing Seito published. It also quite companion Tsuji (which has in turn began a relationship with the cousin of Noah), and began cohabiting with Sakae Osugi, leaving the eldest borne by Tsuji son. This separation occurs without quarrels, no trying to impede the freedom of others.

Financial precariousness not allowing him to have a separate housing that of Osugi, she is temporarily hosting by her lover in the pension he occupies, which is not without its problems, is already puisqu'Ôsugi married Yasuko Hori and also common for some months a young journalist. Wishing to pursue these relationships despite his affair with Noah, and by virtue of faith in free love shared and Noah Osugi, they try to develop a "pact" with three rules: economic independence, separate residence and mutual respect of the freedom of others (including that of having other lovers).

But finally Kamichika Ichiko, the young journalist stabs of jealousy Osugi throat, wounding him seriously. The case, known as the "Case of the teahouse Hikage," the name of the tea house where the incident happened, was a resounding echo in the media, who booed the anarchist for immorality, and make this assassination attempt a demonstration of ineptitude and idealism of the concept of "union free." Ito Noah is also taken to task and severely beaten by a close friend of Kamichika. In addition, following the media coverage of the case, the engagement of the sister of Osugi are canceled and the latter committed suicide in disgrace, while the woman Osugi divorce.


Once released from the hospital, the withdrawal of the two women, the journalist and wife, allow the couple to live together in a rented house where their daughter was born in Their poverty is almost 1917 total. They suffer from the cold, but that did not prevent host libertarian comrades. Changing address to settle in a working-class neighborhood where they share the life of the proletariat.

Over the next year, they are forced to regular moves, both for financial and political reasons, since they are constantly monitored by the police. They then publish several libertarian and feminist journals including Critique of civilization in 1918, then Labor Movement in 1920.

During these years, Noah writes many articles militants, meeting the workers on strike and participated in the founding of the "Society of the Red Wave" (Sekirankai), the leading independent organization of socialist women, created in 1921 and dissolved in 1923.

It must also take one of the home, with new children, she name is "Emma" (in honor of Emma Goldman), "Louise" (Louise Michel) and "Nestor" (Nestor Makhno) as his companion stays in several months in jail in 1920 for striking a police officer.

In 1922, Osugi is invited to attend the International Congress of anarchists in Berlin. He left Japan and went to France with false papers in order to meet Chinese anarchists, with the aim of founding a Asian anarchist organization. But he was arrested by the French police in a public speech at the rally on May 1 in Saint-Denis and finally deported to Japan.

The following year saw the Great Kanto earthquake, which claimed more than 100,000 lives and devastated many cities, including Tokyo.

Martial law is declared and in the ensuing chaos, wild rumors spread through the crowd and give rise to pogroms against the Korean and Chinese minorities. Taking advantage of this unrest, the military police conduct mass arrests of, socialist or communist anarchist militants, killing it. This is a real catastrophe in the ranks of the proletariat organized.

It's September 16, 1923 Ito Noe, Sakae Osugi and his 6 year old who was with them that day nephew were arrested, then beaten to death and summarily strangled in their cells by a group of policemen led by Lieutenant Amakasu. Their lifeless bodies were found a few days later, dumped at the bottom of a well. Ito Noah was 28 years old.

Revenge, two of their comrades, attempting in 1924 to assassinate the lieutenant, but fail to do so and finally stopped to turn and sentenced to life imprisonment. One committed suicide in prison and the other died of an illness shortly after the announcement of the award.

This lieutenant executioner will be sentenced to 10 years in prison but will serve in three, before being returned to the army as a national hero after his release. He committed suicide after the defeat of fascist Japan in 1945.

Francis, Friend AL (Brest)

Thank you Marion University Paris VII, for his thesis entitled "Noah Ito, an anarchist feminist Taisho era."

[1] See the thesis of Christine Levy, a lecturer at the University of Bordeaux III, "Formation of proletarian internationalism in Japan between the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century." Thank you to her for her help.

[2] And in fact at odds with the feminist Meiji fighting for their political rights and their economic independence, the image of the anarchist Kanno Suga (1881-1911) performed by the state a few months before the foundation of Seito

[3] See AL in May 2008, "A libertarian communist in Japan Kotoku Shusui"
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