Kanno Suga: 'The unswerving path'
DOI link for Kanno Suga: 'The unswerving path'
Kanno Suga: 'The unswerving path' book
Suga reached such a precipice in her twenty-ninth year when at eight o'clock one morning she was escorted to the gallows. At 8:28 on the morning of 25 January 1911 she was pronounced dead. When she made an entry in her prison diary the day before, she was unaware that it would be her last, and on the day of her death she did not know that her eleven comrades had preceded her to the scaffold.2 According to the Buddhist prison chaplain, her countenance did not betray that this was a day out of the ordinary: she 'went to her death as if happy, wearing a smile, and composed,.3 Another witness to her execution repeated her last words. An instant before the strangulation commenced, she was said to have yelled: 'Ware shugi no tame shisu, banzai!' ('I die for the cause, banzai!,)4 One newspaper described the hanging, and the amount of time it took Suga to die, in graphic detail; while another inveighed against her 'vanity' in seeing herself as 'a pioneer among Japanese women', against her 'godlessness' and her self-indulgent habit of reading about Russian revolutionaries who had died for their 'so-called principles'. 5 (She had said during the trial that she admired Sofia Perovskaya, leader of the five Russian populists executed in 1881 for assassinating Tsar Alexander II.)
The surviving Meiji socialists were deeply shocked and grieved at the outcome of the trial, and what was particularly saddening was
their knowledge of the innocence of most of the defendants.6 But we need not dwell overlong on the attitudes of comrades toward Suga's death, except to note one point. When Arahata Kanson wrote later of his feelings at being confronted with Suga's brutalized body (after it had been collected from the prison), he also mentioned that Sakai Toshihiko had tried to drown in sake his grief at the loss of so many friends, and then took up a cane and went off smashing street lamps in the dead of night to let off steam'? When visiting Suga a few days before her execution, Sakai had let slip the telling remark, 'I thought Kotoku and you would die for [us/the cause], but ... '; he was then unable to go on, in anguish over the fact that so many (initially twenty-four) had been sentenced to death.8 What he was expressing was a common expectation that some would choose or even consent to die for the cause. Hence, while her execution was clearly profoundly saddening, for some of her comrades, Suga's death came as no great surprise.