Noe Itō

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Itō Noe
Ito Noe 2.jpg
Born (1895-01-21)January 21, 1895
Fukuoka, Japan
Died September 16, 1923(1923-09-16) (aged 28)
Tokyo, Japan
Spouse(s) Jun Tsuji

Noe Itō (伊藤 野枝, Itō Noe, January 21, 1895 – September 16, 1923) was a Japanese anarchist, social critic, author and feminist.

Early life and education[edit]

Itō was born on the island of Kyushu near Fukuoka, Japan on January 21, 1895.[1] At 14 she went to work for the post office; the next year she moved to Tokyo to enter the Ueno Girls' High School.

In the summer of her fifth year at Ueno, under her uncle's management she was married to a man named Fukutaro, agreeing to the marriage because Fukutaro had just returned from America, where she hoped to go. She confided in her sister that when they reached America she would leave him. That never happened, they remained in Japan, and Itō's displeasure deepened when her husband did not support her educational interests—which had been part of the wedding arrangement.

While attending Ueno, Itō formed a friendship with her English teacher, Jun Tsuji. He had been her confidante during her marriage, and he let her stay with him when she was to be sent back home with her husband, which would have disrupted her education. With his support she ended her marriage and continued her education.

Political activism[edit]

In March 1912, Itō graduated from Ueno Girls' High School. She joined the Bluestocking Society (青鞜社 Seitō-sha), producer of the feminist arts-and-culture magazine Seitō (青鞜) in 1915, contributing until 1916. In her last year as Editor-in-Chief,[2] she practiced an inclusive attitude towards content; she "opened the pages to extended discussions of abortion, prostitution, free love and motherhood".[3]

Under Itō's editorship, Seitō became a more radical journal that led the government to ban five issues of Seitō as threatening the kokutai.[4] The February 1914 edition of Seitō was banned by the censors because of a short story Itō had published in the journal titled Shuppon ("Flight") about an young woman who escapes from an arranged marriage and is then betrayed by her lover who promised to escape with her from Japan.[5] The June 1915 edition of Seitō was banned for an article calling for abortion to be legalized in Japan.[6] Three other editions of Seitō were banned because of an erotic short story where a woman happily remembers having sex the previous night; another edition for a short story dealing with the break-up of an arranged marriage, and another edition for an article titled "To The Women of the World" calling for women to marry for love.[7] Ito had Seitō become more concerned with social issues that it had been before, and in 1914-16, she engaged in a debate on the pages of Seitō with another feminist Yamakawa Kikue about whatever prostitution should be legalized or not.[8] Ito argued for the legalization of prositution for the same reasons that she favored the legalization of abortion, namely that she believed that women's bodies belonged only to them, and the state had no business telling a woman what she may or may not do with her body.[9] Furthermore, Itō argued that the Japanese social system did not offer much economic opportunities to women; that most Japanese prostitutes were destitute women who turned to selling sex in order to survive; which led her to the conclusion that these women should not be punished for merely seeking to survive.[10] Itō wrote social criticism and novels, and translated writings of Emma Goldman (The Tragedy of Woman's Emancipation, etc.). In February 1916, Seitō published its last edition because of a lack of funds as the government had prevented distributors from carrying the magazine.[11]

After graduation, Itō's relationship with Tsuji became romantic and they had two sons, Makoto (born on January 20, 1914) and Ryūji (born on August 10, 1915). They were officially married in 1915.[1] Their relationship lasted about four years before she was captivated by Sakae Ōsugi. Ōsugi who was already married, engaged simultaneously in relationships with Itō and another feminist Ichiko Kamichika, taking the viewpoint that he loved all three women equally and he should not have to choose which one he loved the most.[12] The three women he was involved with did not feel the same way, and each wanted him only for herself, which caused considerable problems.[13] Itō loved Ōsugi so much that in February 1916, she went out for a walk with him in a Tokyo park, holding his hand and kissed him in public; at the time, kissing in public and couples holding hands in Japan was considered to be deeply immoral acts that no decent person should ever engage in, and many people in the park chided the couple for their behavior.[14] Later that same day, when Ōsugi met Ichiko, he told her that he kissed a woman in public for the first time in his entire life, which as the woman in question was not Ichiko, caused a very heated scene.[15] Itō, who had hoping to see Ōsugi again, had followed him to Ichiko's apartment, which in its turn caused an angry scene between the two women over who loved Ōsugi the best, while Ōsugi insisted he loved both equally.[16] Ōsugi continued to live with his wife while seeing both Ichikko and Itō until November 1916, when in a moment of jealousy Ichikko followed Ōsugi and Itō to a countryside inn; upon seeing that they had spent the night together, she attacked Ōsugi with a knife as he emerged out of his room in the morning, stabbing him several times in the throat.[17] Ōsugi was hospitalized as a result of his wounds while his wife left him during his stay in the hospital.[18]

Starting in 1916, she lived and worked with Ōsugi, where she continued to rise in the feminist group and showed growing leadership potential. As an anarchist, Itō was very critical of the existing political system in Japan, which led her to call for an anarchism to exist in "everyday practice", namely that people should everyday in various small ways seek to undermine the kokutai.[19] Itō was especially critical of the way in most Japanese people automatically deferred to the state, and accepted the claim that the emperor was a god who had to be obeyed unconditionally, leading her to complain that it was very difficult to get most people to think critically.[20] As someone who had challenged the kokutai, Itō was constantly harnessed by the police to the point that she complained of feeling that her home was a prison, as she could not go out without a policeman stopping her.[21]

Death[edit]

In the chaos immediately following the Great Kantō earthquake on September 16, 1923, according to writer and activist Harumi Setouchi, Itō, Ōsugi, and his 6-year-old nephew were arrested, beaten to death, and thrown into an abandoned well by a squad of military police led by Lieutenant Masahiko Amakasu.[22] According to literary scholar Patricia Morley, Itō and Ōsugi were strangled in their cells.[23] Noe Itō was 28 years old.[22]

The killing of such high-profile anarchists, and a young child, became known as the Amakasu Incident and sparked surprise and anger throughout Japan. Director Kijū Yoshida made Eros Plus Massacre in 1969, about Sakae Ōsugi; Itō features prominently. Amakasu served only two years in prison for the murders before being pardoned by the Showa Emperor in 1926, and was released as a national hero.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Stanley, Thomas A. (1982). Ōsugi Sakae, Anarchist in Taishō Japan: The Creativity of the Ego. Harvard East Asian Monographs. 102. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ Asia Center. pp. 92–93. ISBN 9780674644939. 
  2. ^ Morley, Patricia (1999). The Mountain Is Moving: Japanese Women's Lives. University of British Columbia Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0774806756. 
  3. ^ Sharon L. Sievers, Flowers in Salt: The Beginnings of Feminist Consciousness in Modern Japan. Stanford: Stanford University Press (1983), 182-183.
  4. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 284.
  5. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 284.
  6. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 284.
  7. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 284.
  8. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 285.
  9. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 285.
  10. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 285.
  11. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 286.
  12. ^ Large, Stephen "The Romance of Revolution in Japanese Anarchism and Communism during the Taishō Period" pages 441-469 from Modern Asian Studies, Volume 11, No. 3, 1977 page 445.
  13. ^ Large, Stephen "The Romance of Revolution in Japanese Anarchism and Communism during the Taishō Period" pages 441-469 from Modern Asian Studies, Volume 11, No. 3, 1977 page 446.
  14. ^ Large, Stephen "The Romance of Revolution in Japanese Anarchism and Communism during the Taishō Period" pages 441-469 from Modern Asian Studies, Volume 11, No. 3, 1977 page 447.
  15. ^ Large, Stephen "The Romance of Revolution in Japanese Anarchism and Communism during the Taishō Period" pages 441-469 from Modern Asian Studies, Volume 11, No. 3, 1977 page 447.
  16. ^ Large, Stephen "The Romance of Revolution in Japanese Anarchism and Communism during the Taishō Period" pages 441-469 from Modern Asian Studies, Volume 11, No. 3, 1977 page 447.
  17. ^ Large, Stephen "The Romance of Revolution in Japanese Anarchism and Communism during the Taishō Period" pages 441-469 from Modern Asian Studies, Volume 11, No. 3, 1977 page 447.
  18. ^ Large, Stephen "The Romance of Revolution in Japanese Anarchism and Communism during the Taishō Period" pages 441-469 from Modern Asian Studies, Volume 11, No. 3, 1977 page 447.
  19. ^ Konishi, Shu "Reopening the "Opening of Japan": A Russian-Japanese Revolutionary Encounter and the Vision of Anarchist Progress" pages 101-130 from The American Historical Review, Volume 112, No. 1, February 2007 page 129.
  20. ^ Konishi, Shu "Reopening the "Opening of Japan": A Russian-Japanese Revolutionary Encounter and the Vision of Anarchist Progress" pages 101-130 from The American Historical Review, Volume 112, No. 1, February 2007 page 129.
  21. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 286.
  22. ^ a b Setouchi, Harumi (1993). Beauty in Disarray (1st ed.). Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company. pp. 18–19. ISBN 0-8048-1866-5. 
  23. ^ Morley, Patricia (1999). The Mountain is Moving: Japanese Women's Lives. University of British Columbia Press. p. 19. ISBN 9780774806756. 

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