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(en) Revolutionary portraits: Ito Noe - organise #59

From Al <klasbatalemo@yahoo.ie>
Date Sun, 22 Dec 2002 04:57:52 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Ito Noe was a courageous Japanese woman who broke
with her social conditioning and became a champion of
both women's liberation and anarchism.
Ito was born in 1895, to a family of
landed aristocracy, on the southern
island of Kyushu. After graduating
from Ueno Girls High School, she was
forced against her will into an
arranged marriage in her native
village. She soon ran away to Tokyo.
In Tokyo, women had been
developing progressive ideas since the
1870s. Hiratsuka Raicho founded the
Seitosha (Blue Stocking Society) and
brought out its magazine Seito (Blue
Stocking) which gave space to women
to develop their literary, aesthetic and
political capabilities. Ito joined this
group in 1913,  at the age of 18,
and became one of its editors from
1915 to 1916. Skilled in several
languages, including English, she
translated articles by the anarchist,
Emma Goldman, on the situation of
Ito later married the writer Tsuji
Jun (1884-1944), who had taught her
at school in 1912, but left him to have
a passionate love affair with the
charismatic anarchist firebrand Osugi
Sakae in 1916.

Free love
Ito and Osugi believed in the concepts
of free love. Osugi at this time was
conducting an affair with the leading
woman anarchist, Ichiko Kamachiko.
Unfortunately, the theoretical concepts
of free love collided with human
jealousy and Kamachika attacked Osugi
with a knife and severely wounded
him. The mass media used this
incident to attack Ito, Osugi and
Kamachika for their `immorality' and
the anarchist movement in general.
This caused problems in the anarchist
group in which Ito and Osugi were
involved and many comrades split with

Ito worked with Osugi in promoting
the anarchist movement, as well as
developing her ideas on women's
liberation. She helped found the
socialist women's group Sekirankai in
1921. She produced over 80 articles
for different publications, as well as
translating the work of European
anarchists like Kropotkin and
Goldman. In addition, she produced
several autobiographical novels, which
charted her life from adolescence,
through breaking with tradition, to
reaching her emancipated and
anarchist outlook. They included
Zatsuon (Noises) in 1916 at the age of
21, and Tenki (Turning Point) in 1918.
In 1919, with Osugi, Wada Kyutaro
and Kondo Kenji, she brought out the
first Rodo Undo (Labour Movement)
magazine, which sought to link
anarchism to the industrial working
class and many branches of an
organisation with the same name were
set up.

Two years later, in September 1923,
shortly after the birth of her seventh
child, the Great Kanto Earthquake hit

As often happens in the aftermath
of an earthquake, many fires broke out
and more people were killed by these
than by the quake. A total of 100,000
died and as many as two million were
left homeless.

Rumours began to spread,
encouraged by the authorities, that
various `unpopular' groups were
responsible for starting fires and
causing other mischief to aggravate
the situation. As a result, mobs
attacked many immigrant Korean and
Chinese workers, and the police used
the opportunity to murder anarchist
and socialist militants. Thousands
were killed. Among them were ten
socialists in Kameido in Tokyo, as well
as Ito Noe, Sakae Osugi and his six-
year old nephew, Tachebana
Munekazu. They were taken into
custody on 16 September and all were
beaten and strangled in the cells of the
dreaded Kempei-tai secret police.
Osugi had been No 1 on their death
list for a long time.

Several days later, the bodies were
found in a well, where they had been
left to decompose. At the trial which
followed the discovery of the
murderer, a secret policeman,
Amakasu Masahiko, on orders from
Emperor Hirohito, was given just ten
years' gaol. Released by personal order
of Hirohito, four years later, and
assigned to `special duties' in
Manchuria, he finally committed
suicide in 1945, before his crimes
could be avenged by the many
anarchists after his blood.

Earlier in 1924, Wada Kyutaro, a
comrade of Ito and Osugi, had
attempted to kill Fukuda Masataro, the
general in charge of the military
district where they had been
murdered, who had passed on orders
from Hirohito to the secret policeman.

Ito was well aware of the
consequences of being an anarchist in
Japan at that time. In 1911, Kotoku
Shusui, the leading woman anarchist,
Kanno Suga, and ten other anarchists
were framed on flimsy charges of
attempting to kill the Emperor and
subsequently executed.
In his autobiography, Bertrand
Russell recounts how he met Ito Noe in
Japan in 1921. "She was young and
beautiful... Dora [Bertrand Russell's
wife] said to her: "Are you not afraid
that the authorities will do something
to you?" She drew her hand across her
throat, and said, "I know they will
sooner or later".

>From Organise!, thrice yearly magazine of the
Anarchist Federation (Britain/Ireland), now available
in PDF format at:




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