Four women, four incidents: gender, activism and martyrdom in modern Japan



Publication Details

Mackie, V. C. (2013). Four women, four incidents: gender, activism and martyrdom in modern Japan. In M. Gavin and B. Middleton (Eds.), Japan and the High Treason Incident (pp. 103-114). London: Routledge.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9780415509374


The year 2010 marked two significant anniversaries in modem Japanese political history. It was the fiftieth anniversary of the struggle against the ratification of the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States of America and Japan (known colloquially as 'Anpo'), and the centenary of the high treason incident. Both of these events involved radical women who were martyred to their political causes: Kanno Suga in the high treason incident and Kanba Michiko in the Anpo struggle. The coincidence of these two anniversaries invites reflections on gender, martyrdom and activism and also suggests links between Kanno Suga, Kanba Michiko and other female activists in modem Japan. In this chapter, I would like to explore these themes through a focus on four radical women whose lives overlapped and on the four incidents in which they participated. I will consider Fukuda Hideko (also known by her maiden name, Kageyama) and the Osaka incident; Kanno Suga and the high treason incident; Nakamoto Takako and the anti-communist purges of the 1920s and 1930s; and Kanba Michiko and the 1960 Anpo struggle. l These incidents and these lives span the history of modem Japan, from the freedom and popular rights movement of the 1880s to the struggle against the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty in 1960 and the more recent commemorations of these events. These lives also span two political systems, that of imperial Japan (the regime of the Meiji Constitution and Civil Code from 1890 to 1945) and that of postwar Japan. One woman, Nakamoto Takako, experienced both of these political systems, and thus serves as a link between the two systems, the four incidents and the four individuals.

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