chapter  8
KŌTOKU SHŪSUI AND THE AMERICAN CONNECTION
Pages 30

Prior to making contact with Albert Johnson, Kōtoku had generally been hostile towards anarchism. His writings had contained frequent references to anarchism as a ‘virus’ and as a ‘poison’6 and, in typical social-democratic style, he had tended to carelessly identify all anarchists with terrorists.7 Stopped by the police from making a speech at a public meeting in September 1902, Kōtoku had been strongly critical of the authorities for failing to distinguish between

‘socialism’ and anarchism and for indiscriminately seeking to suppress both.8 Yet, having corresponded with Johnson for several months and having read Fields, Factories and Workshops for a second time during his term of imprisonment from February to July 1905, Kōtoku was to write to Albert Johnson on 10 August 1905 that he ‘had gone (to Sugamo Prison) as a Marxian Socialist and returned as a radical Anarchist’.9 Although this claimed adherence first to Marxism and then to anarchism needs to be treated with a certain amount of scepticism on both counts, what is clear is that by the summer of 1905 Kōtoku’s interest in anarchism had certainly been aroused. Interested in anarchist ideas, Kōtoku wanted to know more, and the best way of informing himself seemed to be to travel abroad. Kōtoku confided to Johnson that he intended ‘to live in America and Europe during several years’ for three main purposes. These were to improve his English and learn other languages, to criticise the Japanese emperor without being silenced, and to ‘visit the leaders of many foreign revolutionists and learn something from their movements’.10 More realistically, in a letter to Oka Shigeki in the USA dated 4 October 1905, Kōtoku talked about visiting the San Francisco area for 6-12 months. To Oka, Kōtoku gave one of his reasons for wanting to live in the USA for a period as the need he felt to be able to discuss freely the new ideas he was becoming aware of:

Especially since within Japan there isn’t the slightest freedom of speech or association, I think I would like to experience free discussion in a free country such as you are in.11