chapter  3
STUDYING AT THE FEET OF EUROPEAN SOCIAL-DEMOCRACY
Pages 34

In 1889, the year that the social-democratic Second International was founded in Europe, a young man called Sakai Yūzaburō1 was despatched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce in Japan to be present at the great Exposition being held in Paris. Sakai was appointed because of his knowledge of French but it so happened that the person who had taught him this language was Nakae Chomin, one of the principal theoreticians of the left wing of the ‘people’s rights movement’ and the first person to translate Rousseau into Japanese. Sakai had been influenced by Nakae and was interested in radical political and social thought himself. Realising he had a golden opportunity to investigate this during his time abroad, he paid little attention to his official duties (later he was transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce to the Foreign Office) and concentrated instead on informing himself of the developments which were taking place in trade union and left wing political activity in Europe. Among other things, he attended the second congress of the Second International held in Brussels in 1891 (being, of course, the only Japanese present-although he did not rank as the delegate of any social-democratic organisation, since none existed in Japan at that time).