6 Message from America
- The first call for labor unions in Japan -
Takano Fusatarô on Labor Unions
In my earlier reference to the founding of the Friends of Labor, I asserted that: among Japanese at that time, Takano Fusatarô was the first to show a real interest in the labor movement and had the deepest knowledge of it. Here I would like to discuss how much knowledge he actually had of the labor movement at the time of the formation of the Friends of Labor and what he thought about the movement.
It was in April 1890, when he was in Tacoma, that Takano Fusatarô first made his own views on labor unions known to the Japanese public. He contributed a long essay "Hokubei gasshûkoku no rôeki shakai no arisama wo josu" (On Labor Societies in the United States of America) to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper as one of his series of 'Reports from San Francisco'. This essay divided up in 11 parts which were published sporadically in the newspaper from May 31 to June 27 1890. It was the very first presentation in Japan of a serious and thorough discussion of the significance of labor unions. Earlier, there had been some references to labor unions in economics textbooks or books introducing economic issues, but all had been either translations or adaptations of western economics texts. Takano's essay was the first discussion of labor unions by a Japanese on the basis of his own study and reasoning.
Many scholars have previously claimed that the article "Rôdôsha no koe" (The Worker's Voice), published in Kokumin no tomo (The Nation's Friend) Magazine, Sept. 23 1890, was the first piece of writing in Japan to discuss the importance of labor unions and to urge their formation, but "Hokubei gasshûkoku no rôeki-shakai no arisama wo josu" was published earlier than "Rôdôsha no koe". In fact, I am of the view that "Rôdôsha no koe" may well also have been written by Takano. In support of this argument, I shall start by first considering Takano's view of labor unions in "Hokubei gasshûkoku no rôeki shakai no arisama wo josu".
At the beginning of this essay, Takano indicates the fact that labor unions had wielded considerable power in the political history of the United States, arguing that the Chinese Exclusion Act had been passed as a result of the power of unionized labor. He goes on to discuss workers' welfare regulations at the state level, mentioning such things as limits on working hours and safety at work, and having drawn attention to these issues, and finds in the existence of labor unions the answer to his own question about the reason for such political muscle. He then gives an overview of the history. This is the content of the first chapter 'The present situation of the unions and their formation'.
The second section of the essay is titled 'The Three Main Adversaries of American Workers' and posits them as (1) the invention of machinery, (2) foreign immigrants and (3) convicts labor. These three are seen together as increasing unemployment and intensifying competition between workers. Takano supports his argument with statistical data.
The third section is titled 'Collective strike action'. The argument here is that collective strike action is the only means workers have of safeguarding their rights: workers cannot move freely if their wages are low; consequently, strike action is the inevitable tool required to put them on an equal footing in any confrontation with employers. But Takano does not merely affirm the positive value of strikes; he also points out the great burdens they force unions to sustain. What he emphasizes is that if unions come to acquire a great degree of power, this will increase the possibility that labor and management can avoid strikes and opt instead for the path of peaceful negotiation.
In the fourth section, 'Reducing Working Hours', he outlines how the movement to reduce working hours has developed in the US. Here he points out that the reduction of working hours benefits workers' education and has the effect of reducing unemployment. He informs his readers that on May 1, 1890 the AFL and the Knights of Labor joined together to campaign for the realization of the eight hour working day. This was the origin of the International Workers' Day (May Day), and Takano contributed this essay to the Yomiuri at this time because April 30 was the day before the first 'May Day'.
Takano concluded the final, fifth section with the following words:
From what has been presented above, readers will have been able to gain an understanding of the present situation of workers in America and their relations with capitalist owners and employers. They will also have discovered how important labor unions are. I believe that labor unions will certainly continue to grow steadily as a force in society. Capitalist groups are combining their forces year on year, and workers have been feeling that they too need to strengthen their own combinations to oppose the capitalist forces. Evidence of this came in the formation of the American Federation of Labor in December 1886. Relations between management and labor are sure to become ever more complicated in the future. At present, the main problems are low wages and the reduction of working hours, but the conditions of the modern economy are bound to produce more serious issues in the years ahead. I hope for the steady growth of the strength of labor unions so that they can be a match for the combinations of capitalist power and thus be able to defend workers' rights.
I would like to draw attention once again here to two points: the first is that while intending in his essay to introduce to readers the situation of labor and labor unions in America, Takano in fact argues for the significance of labor unions in capitalist society and the inevitability of their formation.
Secondly, there is the fact that Takano's essay "Hokubei gasshûkoku no rôeki-shakai no arisama wo josu" (On Labor Societies in the United States of America) was the first piece of writing by a Japanese to argue for the significance of the labor union movement.
At this time Takano Fusatarô was 21 years old. 'Mt. Fuji of Tacoma' would have drawn his thoughts towards his homeland, but his dreams of success in the world of business were far from realization, and he was spending his days earning money to send back home. Despite this disappointment and adversity, having discovered the existence of labor unions, something of which many Japanese still had no idea, Fusatarô was buying and reading the newspaper of the Knights of Labor, accumulating information about the labor movement and seeking to acquaint his compatriots in Japan with the positive role of unions. To find out about labor issues and the labor movement and to study economics was for him a joy and gave his life a purpose.
Takano becomes a 'friend' of the Yomiuri Newspaper
On August 7, 1891 another of Fusatarô's pieces appeared in the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Its title was "Nihon ni okeru rôdô-mondai" (Labor Issues in Japan) and was published over four days on the front page immediately next to the paper's banner. That was not the only remarkable thing about it. Readers' attention was drawn to the editor's 'introduction' that appeared alongside:
The following essay was contributed by Mr. Takano Fusatarô, a friend of this company, currently resident in the United States. Mr. Takano has given a great deal of attention to all aspects of the labor problem. Labor issues occupy the minds of all sections of society. Accordingly, instead of simply presenting our usual editorial commentary, we submit Mr. Takano Fusatarô's essay for our readers' perusal and contemplation this essay by.
Takano was now referred to not as a 'correspondent' (tsûshin'in) but as a 'friend of the company' (shayû) and his essay was described as a sharon (editorial). In other words it was regarded as having the status of an in-house piece of writing. In those days, for the most part, the front page of the Yomiuri was reserved for op-ed pieces by the chief editor Takata Sanae. Compared to "Hokubei gasshûkoku no rôeki-shakai no arisama wo josu" (On Labor Societies in the United States of America) , this was streets ahead in terms of publicity for Takano's writing. Through this essay, his old friend Itô Chiyû remembered him as a polemicist in labor issues, and many Japanese living in America learned to know of him as a writer on labor issues.
Another notable point about this essay was the timing of his writing of it - July 1891, exactly the time of the founding of the Friends of Labor. And the aim of the organization was "to study the labor issues obtaining in western countries and to contribute to find a solution of labor issues in Japan". "Nihon ni okeru rôdô-mondai" (Labor Issues in Japan) advocated the improvement of the situation of workers in Japan. It is clear from this essay that Takano Fusatarô stood at the center of the founding of the Friends of Labor.
There are three sections to the essay's argument: (1) the present state of labor societies (2) the way to improve workers' conditions (3) the conditions necessary for Japanese workers to be able to combine in unions.
In the first section, 'the present state of labor societies', Takano shows his understanding of the current situation of labor in Japan as follows:
Because social organizations lack equality, workers are oppressed by injustice; they are without assets, their livelihoods lack stability; they have no education and are dispirited. They do not know the joy of a happy family; their wives and children suffer from famine and cold. Unable even to think of savings, they are filled with envy and are without self-respect or shame, so eventually they fall into moral degradation and lose even the path to salvation. Is this not the situation of workers' society in Japan today? When one thinks of the future, it is truly a deplorable situation. Labor-saving machinery is developed day by day, increasing the numbers of the unemployed. When even American workers, who all unite in joint action, suffer from the introduction of labor-saving machinery, what will happen to the isolated, helpless workers of Japan?
When we look at the level of education among workers, we find that not only is the worker himself without an education but his low income does not allow him to give his children an education, and he has to make even his disabled children go out to work. His children and grandchildren thus become ignorant and wretched. Is this not an unhappy situation for the Japanese Empire?
Japanese workers do not have the power to improve their own position in society and wait for the appearance of a savior. There is still a chance to save them before their discontent explodes. If leaders do not come forward to lead them at the present time, the communist party and other radical parties will appear in Japan.
His second theme - the way to improve workers' conditions - was that labor unions are the only means of improving workers' conditions. What had brought about the miserable situation of Japanese workers was their ignorance. Takano emphasized the need for labor unions to be founded to educate workers.
The reasons that have brought about the miserable circumstances of Japanese workers are twofold: 'external' factors and 'internal' factors. 'The external factors' are problems of social organization and oppression by capitalists. The 'internal factors' have to do with the workers themselves. They have no assets of their own, only a meager knowledge; they lack morality and are frivolous. Both types of factors mutually reinforce each other and have caused the present misery.
The power of owners and employers had certainly been increasing year on year as technological innovation and modernization grew apace. This power was both economic and political; they had confirmed their position as members of Japan's elite. With such a gap having opened up in the power balance between owners and workers, however much workers might wish for a more equitable distribution of rewards, realizing it was going to be difficult.
To come to the aid of Japanese workers, such basic causal factors would have to be eliminated but that was exceedingly problematic. To carry out such difficult reforms required a movement on a huge scale, characterized by morality, practical action, order and discernment that could reform the unjust social structure. To achieve this, workers' immoral and frivolous attitudes would have to cease and be replaced by more upright and steadfast behavior. Practical steps would be needed to improve workers' livelihoods and their level of education. The economic status of workers vis-à-vis employers had to be made more equal.
How then was such a powerful social force to be created? 'Solidarity' was seen as the only means. By combining together, workers could forge this powerful force and if they maintained their solidarity and cooperation, they would be able to develop an ordered, intelligent movement. In combination and unity was the source of strength.
The third section of the 'Labor Issues in Japan' - the conditions necessary to enable Japanese workers to combine in unions - was rather more concrete than the previous two and dealt with the course of action necessary to promote the unionization of Japanese workers. The following two points were made:
(1) As Japanese workers did not have the strength to improve their own social status by themselves, labor unions would need to be led by reputable intellectuals.
(2) Unions would need to benefit workers not just indirectly but directly. What they would gain from unionization would mainly be benefits of an indirect nature, but to attract large numbers of workers and build a large and powerful force, unions would need to be able to bring workers direct benefits.
What Takano proposed in regard to these 'direct benefits for workers' was the following:
If workers are to be provided with direct benefits, it will first be necessary for unions to function as friendly societies. This means to set up structures that will provide members with financial aid when they fall sick, and when they die, provide their families with money. If they suffer from fires or other unfortunate incidents, these structures will again provide them with the means to cope with the situation. This is one way to provide direct benefits. With money accumulated from workers' savings, cooperative companies (kyôdô kaisha) can be set up in which workers will have the status of owners and which will provide workers with profit from the production and distribution of the products of those companies. By producing goods and selling daily necessities, thus increasing workers' income and decreasing their living costs, workers benefit directly. This is the second way to provide such benefits.
The point of this proposal is for unions, as 'friendly societies', to provide workers with relief and mutual aid and to operate as cooperatively owned companies (livelihood cooperatives and production cooperatives). The ultimate goal is for unions to become a powerful force in society with a status equal to that of owners and employers so that workers as a whole can raise their social status. But this would take time, and workers would not immediately be able to appreciate the significance of unions, so in the meantime, Takano calls for unions to provide workers with direct benefits in the form of mutual aid and cooperative unions that could support workers' lives and families, and through these means give workers an experience of real benefit. In advocating unionization, he was also promoting mutual aid among workers and cooperative unions.
Reading 'Labor Issues in Japan' (Nihon ni okeru rôdô-mondai), one sees that already at this time Fusatarô had conceived the basic ideas that he put into practice six years later when he founded Rôdô kumiai kiseikai (the Association for Encouragement and Formation of Trades Unions) and Tekkô kumiai (the Ironworkers' Union).
In previous studies of Takano Fusatarô, one often encounters the view that, having been appointed an AFL organizer, Takano became an adherent of the ideas of Samuel Gompers and sought to organize the Ironworkers' Union as a craft union due to the influence of those ideas. But in fact, Takano had already worked out the basic policy outlines for a labor union movement in Japan three years before he first met Gompers. The prime goal he emphasized, unlike Gompers, was not the formation of craft unions, but rather, first, unionization itself, and the need for the formation of a support group for the labor movement, a group which would consist of intellectuals. It is more probable that this idea of a labor movement sustained and supported by a wider social movement owes more to the influence of the Knights of Labor than it does to the AFL.
The fact that the founding of the Society for the Formation of Labor Unions preceded that of the Ironworkers' Union also stems from this idea. The Ironworkers' Union laid great emphasis on mutual aid and running cooperative stores; the facts that Takano had already conceived of these ideas at this early stage means that they were not something he suddenly thought up when those organizations were founded.
Who is the author of the 'The Worker's Voice'?
In the previous section I said, there was a high probability that the author of "Rôdôsha no koe" (The Worker's Voice), known as Japan's first text arguing for labor unions, was also Takano Fusatarô. I should now like to return to this notion and the evidence in favor of it.
For many decades now, going back to before WWII, various scholars have been of the view that the anonymously written essay "Rôdôsha no koe" which carried in the Sept. 1890 issue of the magazine Kokumin no tomo (The Nation's Friend), was the first text to argue for the importance of a labor union movement in Japan. However, I hold that the first such text was in fact Takano's "Hokubei gasshûkoku no rôeki-shakai no arisama wo josu" (On Labor Societies in the United States of America), which was published in the Yomiuri Shinbun Newspaper 3 months before the "Rôdôsha no koe". But it is nevertheless true that the first text which called for the formation of labor unions and workers' cooperatives directly aimed at Japanese was certainly "Rôdôsha no koe". As far as I am aware, no-one has intended to find out the author of the text earlier than this. This is no doubt because it is an anonymous printed essay, and researchers were not in a position to be able to assess the handwriting as they would have been with a manuscript; this made it hard to identify the author. They therefore did not trouble themselves to discover who actually wrote it. I was in the same position. But I am not just guessing that the author of "Rôdôsha no koe" was Takano Fusatarô, I have some reasoning.
The essay is six pages long. It is not an especially fine piece of writing, but the argument is clearly presented. The first point made is that the history of various countries indicates that workers everywhere will gain the right to vote, and in order to prepare for that time, it is necessary now to give workers the power to fulfil their duties as citizens of the nation. But in the present circumstances, it cannot be expected that workers themselves will actively campaign to raise their status in society, so the others people should help them. The second point presents two concrete suggestions for improving workers' status. The writer's habits here provide certain clues as to his identity:
We shall here make two proposals by which we hope to appeal to the charitable and righteous persons.
The first is that workers should establish a system of trade unions. What is a trade union? Carpenters combine in groups with other carpenters, plasterers with plasterers and other tradesmen with men of their own trade, and thus when the need arises, they can provide each other with mutual aid. This has been going on for some time already in western countries and has reached quite an advanced state. Trade unions have been formed not only by men in the same trade but also by those in different trades. They have all joined together and united as one and can consult with each other accordingly and thus secure their own profit and together work out ways of expanding the same. [......]
These days the friends of working people cannot afford to disregard such matters. I am of the view that there are no demerits and only advantages to be gained by joining together in the same union. However, if this is left entirely to workers in our country, it will take too long to accomplish. Although I would not want anyone to exploit workers for his own benefit by means of agitation today, if there are those who would make common cause with the people and with the workers, they should be prepared to sacrifice the interests of their own family and vow to forge a path for working people.
The second proposal is the establishment of kyodo gaisha (cooperation). There are many ways to do this, but the point is between capitalists and workers; between employers and employees to arrange matters so that their interests can go together.
The individual worker should contribute a small amount of capital himself, enabling the company to be jointly managed.... The preceding discussion has addressed only profit arising from the productive wealth of the joint enterprise. We shall now consider the distribution of this profit.
In western countries items which company workers need for their daily lives can be bought at work at a low price, which provides for workers' daily needs. If this method were to be applied well [in Japan], workers would benefit greatly thereby.
This essay argues that the formation of dôgyô kumiai (lit. same trade associations) = rôdô kumiai (labor unions) and kyôdôgaisha (lit. cooperative companies) = kyôdô kumiai (cooperative unions) is itself the key to the improvement of the status of Japanese workers, but this exactly matches Takano Fusatarô's Nihon no okeru rôdô-mondai (Labor Issues in Japan). Also, although I shortened the cited passage, the stance taken with regard to workers' combinations does not differ at all, even in its details, from the piece by Takano.
"Rôdôsha no koe" was not issuing this call to workers but as an appeal to right-minded, philanthropically-inclined people and other such gentlemen of the nation, who might be moved to become supporters of working people. This stance also matched perfectly that of Takano Fusatarô.
"Rôdôsha no koe" shows numerous resemblances to Takano Fusatarô's writings not only in the content of its argument but also in the way it is written and in the words used, for example the phrases: gojin for 'I' or 'we', rôekisha for 'workers', yuai kyôkai for 'friendly society' and fukô ni sôgu - 'encountering unhappiness'. The following three passages bear this out particularly well. The first is from "Rôdôsha no koe" (The Voice of Labor) , the second from "Hokubei gasshûkoku no rôeki shakai no arisama wo josu" (On Labor Societies in the United States of America), and the third from "Nihon ni okeru rôdô-mondai" (Labor Issues in Japan).
(1) Workers must establish a system of trade unions....At first, I disagreed with those who wanted such large-scale combinations. What is needed is for such unions to be set up which can constitute fraternal mutual aid groups that can accumulate a certain amount of money, so that those members who have to face unfortunate incidents such as sickness, fire and other hardships can, after appropriate investigation of their circumstances has been carried out, be given help, or else, when labor disputes occur, the workers can band together and prepare collective action.
(2) Reading the political history of the United States, I frequently noticed that working people had had a great influence upon that history. I witnessed the passage of the Chinese workers' Exclusion Act which happened as a result of Chinese workers' lack of organized strength.
(3) If workers are able to profit directly, their unions need to function as fraternal cooperative organizations. These will be able to provide sick members with monies and when they die, to extend aid to their families for funerals as well as to assist them in coping with the after-effects of fires and other unfortunate incidents.
But there is a problem here. The word ketsugo (combination), which Fusatarô used frequently appears only once in "Rôdôsha no koe" as daiketsugo (large-scale combinations). Instead, the word danketsu (unity) is often used. Today, danketsu is the more commonly used phrase, but Fusatarô was in the habit of using ketsugo. This difference in words that are key concepts in the argument of the essay raises doubts as to whether "Rôdôsha no koe" was in fact written by Takano.
However, my own view of this is that as "Rôdôsha no koe" appeared in a magazine, it would not have been published in the form the author had written it; an editor at Kokumin no tomo would have had a hand in it. He would have decided that Takano's ketsugo sounded unnatural and would have changed it to danketsu. My reason for this conjecture is due to a short article titled "Rôekisha no kumiaii" (Workers' Unions). It appeared in Kokumin no tomo (Sept 3, 1891) some 20 days before "Rôdôsha no koe". It is reasonable to suppose that, since "Rôekisha no kumiaii" and "Rôdôsha no koe" appeared in the same magazine on the same topic and made the same argument, they were written by the same author. "Rôekisha no kumiaii" displays all the characteristics of Takano's writing style. As it is only a very short article, I shall cite all of it.
Plasterers and carpenters' unions have apparently already been organized. However, it seems there is still no print-workers' union. Other workers should swiftly move to set up their own unions. If setting these up does not have the effect of protecting workers and of advancing their status, there is no purpose in having unions. If they wish to establish such unions, then wages issues should be discussed in the unions. Dealings with employers should also be discussed there, and movement of itchi danketsu(in unison: in one united body) should be organized there. Today, relations between owners and workers are unbalanced in favor of the owners due to workers' lack of power. Workers simply have to obey owners' commands. They do not have the courage to oppose the owners' unfair and unreasonable practices. That they are without courage is hardly surprising; it is the result of the lack of ketsugo (unity) among workers. Alone, they can never expect to win against the owners. However, if they have the power of ketsugo (union), what can the owners do? I am certainly not calling on workers to take strike action nor am I calling on them to band together and riot. Given the existence of the injustices, the unethical acts and the unreasonable behavior of the owners, I merely want to see workers with a force that can protect them, one they will not lose.
Apart from the one occurrence of the word danketsu in the compound itchi danketsu (in unison: in one united body), the word ketsugo is used twice. If it is assumed that the author of "Rôdôsha no koe" and "Rôekisha no kumiaii" is the same person, then the one use of the word ketsugo, and that in the compound daiketsugo in the long essay "Rôdôsha no koe" seems odd. It does not make sense unless one assumes that the editor of "Rôdôsha no koe" judged that the frequent use of the word ketsugo was not a suitable Japanese expression and altered it.
If one were to maintain that Takano Fusatarô was not the author of both essays, that would give rise to another riddle: would someone with such knowledge of unions and cooperative societies and who was so keen to see the organization of Japanese workers simply have kept silent after having had just one essay and one short article published? Seven years later, both the Rôdô kumiai kiseikai (the Association for Encouragement and Formation of Trades Unions) and the Tekkô kumiai (Ironworkers' Union) were established and got underway. If the author who wrote the following in "Rôdôsha no koe" had been alive and well, he would naturally have produced a batch of writings in support of Kiseikai and the Tekkô kumiai:
I believe that the labor question must make its presence felt in society, and as long as I have the strength, I shall continue to call for this, and, with growing support in society and desirous to present the voice of the workers to the consciences of right-minded gentlemen throughout the land, I shall make so bold as to go on doing it.
In fact, the only person who went on producing such writings over the following years was indeed Takano Fusatarô. The argument of "Rôdôsha no koe" matches exactly those of Takano, the phrases used are the same as his, and afterwards, no-one else has been found to have written such things. I therefore concluded that the author of "Rôdôsha no koe" was definitely Takano Fusatarô.
The turning point - 1891
In January 1891, Fusatarô turned 22 years old. For many young people today it is the age at which they are graduating from university and deciding whether or not to step out into the world and begin to forge their own careers. But looking at Takano's whole life, which ended at the age of 35 years and 2 months, by January 1891, exactly two thirds of his life had already passed. This year in fact turned out to be a major staging post for him, not only because of his age but also in terms of his life experience. Throughout the year he continued his studies at the San Francisco Commercial School and in the summer he founded the Shokkô giyûkai, which made its own mark on history. Another significant event was his encounter with George Gunton's book Wealth and Progress. Whenever there is discussion of what Takano learned in America, many people mention the name of Samuel Gompers, but in fact, he had learned about the labor movement from The Labor Movement - The Problem of Today edited by George E. McNeill, and in the area of economic theory, he was much influenced by Wealth and Progress and its author George Gunton. We shall look again at how he was influenced by Gunton, but first let us review the situation Fusatarô found himself in during this important year.
As we have already noted, to attend school on a full-day basis was, for someone in Fusatarô's straitened circumstances, hardly a sensible plan. But his efforts day after day and night after night under a weak lamplight bore fruit; his results steadily improved. Nevertheless, he had not only to support himself but was also burdened with having to send money home, so attending school during the day and working in the evenings was physically and economically extremely hard. Several times he was unable to remit money home owing to illness or a good job having come to an end. He also still had debts from his failed Japanese store business. At this time, Fusatarô's life, as well as that of his family in Tokyo, was a very hard one. His difficulties with the illness affecting his eyesight have already been mentioned; by autumn, there had been no great improvement. One gets a sense of this from his letter to his brother of October 8, 1891.
I am sorry that I was so busy with my studies that I have not been able to send a letter on either of the last two mail boats. My eye trouble has greatly improved so please do not concern yourself on that score. During the day, I have my lessons and my part-time work, so I do my homework in the evenings, and although I do not always see perfectly, I have at least been able to dispense with the services of the doctor. I am really glad that all went well for father's memorial service. Mother seems to have been very satisfied, and I am too.
I must apologize for causing you to worry about my plans for the lumbering business. The information you gave me has been very useful in helping me to form my views. If you hear anything at all which you feel I ought to know, please do write and tell me. I have understood the situation of your budget and loans. After I graduate at New Year, I shall give much thought to finding a solution to the matter.
I congratulate you heartily on your coming matriculation next year and I pray that all will go well for it. Do not worry yourself about the costs that will be incurred at matriculation; we shall do whatever is necessary at that time. Please let me know Mr. Takao's present address. I shall write to him directly to negotiate with him. Please do not reply to him yourself if any communication comes from him, because commercial loans are for me to deal with and not for anyone of my family....
I shall send the past two months' remittances by a later post, so please deal with them as per usual. My eyesight problem upset my plans, so the remittance is a month late, for which I sincerely apologize. Next month, however, I shall send rather a lot, so please understand. All is going well at school and at my master's house, so if things go on like this for two or three months, our financial situation will be back to normal....
His father Senkichi had died in the summer of 1879, so a memorial service on the 12th anniversary must have taken place by the time. His mother Masu was shouldering the burden of the Takano Family's debts, moreover it seems that she had been asked to pay off Fusatarô's personal debts by someone. For both Fusatarô personally and for his family, this was a most trying period economically.
We shall now look at part of a letter to Iwasaburô written on Dec. 9, exactly two months after this one. This tells us that the 'commercial loans' referred to in the previous letter related either to a loan made when Fusatarô opened his Japanese goods store or to a down payment on goods not fully paid for, and that the lender was Takao Hidetarô, a resident of Yokohama, who had sent a letter to the Takano family in Tokyo demanding repayment of his loan. It also appears from Fusatarô's letter that Itoya, founded by his uncle Yasaburô, was experiencing difficulties.
I have read your letter posted Nov. 19 last. I have enclosed $10 with this mail. I had actually intended to send a little more this month but I still have not been paid by my employer, so I was unable to do so. Thinking I must get the money order together two or three days before the mail boat leaves, I went three times to pick up my wages, but each time there was no-one there, so there was nothing I could do. I finally managed to get the money order done today. The man at the post office told me that it would go on tomorrow's mail boat sailing.
Yesterday I met Mr. Yasukichi, who works as a 'boy' on the S/S China and he told me a lot about the Itoya situation. Yasukichi was handed the power of attorney by Mr. Takao Hidetarô to collect the money, but I explained the situation to him in detail. I asked Yasukichi to tell Mr. Takao not to do such things as send letters demanding repayment to my family in Tokyo. I shall write a letter myself making the same request. I am still not sure what is going to happen after my graduation from the Commercial School, but one of my friends in Tacoma is urging me to return there. I may indeed go there. I am thinking of how I'll be able to assist as much as I can for everyone at home in Tokyo, but being so far away, it is difficult to think of anything. I frequently think "If only I were in Japan".....
Although Fusatarô had conceived the plan to found the Friends of Labor, which was to make history, he was sorely pressed in his finances, and this is why he left the Commercial School without waiting for the graduation ceremony. Another reason was that although it had been slated for the end of the year, the school had put the ceremony off until later in the following year. A letter to Iwasaburô dated Jan. 13, 1892 describes the situation:
The school term ended on Jan. 1 last. I heard from one of the students that a classmate had quit school but attended the graduation ceremony in May and had received his diploma. I said that was good news and that our class was supposed to have graduated at the end of the year but that the School Department of San Francisco City Government had postponed the ceremony until May in order to save money, so lessons over the next five months would mostly just be repeats. I would consult the Principal and ask to do the same as that other student.
Then on the 9th I went to see the Principal and explained that I was in the difficult situation of having to earn a lot of money, gave the example of someone and tried to negotiate, and the Principal said: "Your results have been very good since you started at the School. Personally, I really hope you will stay on at School, but hearing your situation, I see that you do have to quit. I promise you shall be handed your diploma at the graduation ceremony and I shall do anything I can do to help you out." I was really glad to hear that. Anyway, as a result, I quit school today and have been able to spend all my time looking for a regular all-day position, so please do not worry. Recently I have been in touch with a friend from Tacoma about a job there. If I find anything suitable there, I shall go there as soon as possible.
It is clear from a letter of Feb. 12, 1892 sent from 1317, C St., Tacoma City that Fusatarô soon left San Francisco and moved to Tacoma. In the letter, he writes:
It is much colder here than in San Francisco. I had just gotten used to the pleasant climate in San Francisco, so this is hard to cope with. Compared to San Francisco, this is really a country town, but the wages are much higher so that's good.
From a letter of a girl called Lucy which we shall come to later, it seems he worked as a waiter at a bar run by a Miss Nellie, the kind of establishment where men would go in the hope of meeting women. Not only were his wages high, but he probably also received lots of tips; his economic situation improved rapidly. We know this because at the end of May that year he was able to remit home not only the usual monthly sum of $10 but also $40 towards the costs of Iwasaburô's university entrance - a grand sum of $50. At the same time he bought a set of the expensive Encyclopedia Britannica and a number of books on economics. Looking at it another way, having sacrificed the opportunity to make a lot of money, he got all he could from his studies at the San Francisco Commercial School.
Encounter with the book - Gunton's Wealth and Progress
Soon after returning to Tacoma from San Francisco, on March 7, 1892 Fusatarô wrote the following to Iwasaburô about a particular book:
I have been translating an economics book recently and finished it a few days ago. There are some technical terms for which I can find no suitable translation in my dictionary, which is why I need to refer to Japanese economics books and why I have asked you to send me some economics texts several times. Should you have occasion to pass any second-hand book shops, if you come across any cheap books, please buy them and send them on to me.
The book I am translating is Wealth and Progress by George Gunton, who opposes both socialism and the Mill School of economic thought and has his own unique way of addressing the major questions of economics. Wages are not decided by the application of supply and demand, and profits do not decrease when wages go up. It is the same with rents and interest. Profits, rents and interest all go up when wages rise. He lays out all kinds of new arguments in a thoroughly inductive manner about society progressing from practical concerns to intellectual and ethical ones. He argues for new, previously unheard- of principles. Should you feel like reading it yourself, I can send you a copy of the original.
The book that Fusatarô was so very much taken with was none other than George Gunton's Wealth and Progress (New York, Appleton, 1887).
The copy which Fusatarô had bought in San Francisco and which he had been using for translation was a popular edition, published in 1890 and it still exists. Inside the front cover he wrote in English that he had bought it on Feb. 29, 1891, and on the last page, also in English, was written: "Finished in Tacoma, Washington State, March 1, 1892, after two and a half months." When I first saw "after two and a half months", I thought it must mean the period in which he had completed a reading of the book, but from the letter to Iwasaburô, it is clear that it must have meant the time taken to translate the book. He had translated a specialist text of almost 400 pages in just two and a half months. Furthermore, translating the book was after all not his only occupation; he also had to work to support himself and could only work on the translation in his spare time. He also moved from San Francisco to Tacoma in this period. All this puts one in mind once again of Fusatarô's great linguistic ability, and his outstanding concentration and diligence.
The translation of Wealth and Progress may also have owed not a little to the love of study that was such an essential part of his nature. As I have already mentioned a number of times, Fusatarô's conscious goal in life was success in the world of business. That goal remained consistent, from the time he arrived in America until his death, apart from the interval he spent in the labor movement. Nevertheless, it was a goal that he had learned to cultivate through becoming familiar with the expectations placed upon him as the heir to the Nagasakiya family business and through what he had experienced and learned in his teenage years working in Yokohama of the respect that came with success in business.
I feel that Fusatarô's character was definitely better suited to that of a scholar and researcher than that of an entrepreneur. He would always make a thorough study of whatever he was concerned with and would not rest until he had got to the bottom of an issue, as is clear in the way he went about opening his Japanese goods store or drawing up plans for the establishment of a sawmill. What lay at the root of this spirit of inquiry was his "inborn love of study" and without taking this into consideration, it is hard to understand how, without relying on anyone else, he was able to put such energy into translating a specialist text - a translation that had no prospect of being published, because he put all that time and effort into translating an economics text that would not earn him a cent, despite having to work unremittingly without a moment's leisure due to the need to remit money home and to repay his debts.
But this is to digress. Let us return to Wealth and Progress and see what kind of book this was that Fusatarô esteemed so highly. The final chapter is titled Summary and Conclusion, which Gunton himself wrote under ten headings:
1. Social progress depends upon improving the material conditions of the masses.
2. That the wealth of the laboring classes cannot be increased by lessening that of any other class, nor by any method of redistribution whatsoever, but only by increasing the aggregate wealth produced.
3. That the only way of increasing the income and improving the material conditions of the laboring classes is through a natural and permanent advance of real wages.
4. That a natural rise of wages does not tend to increase prices, diminish profits, or to reduce rents.
5. That the rate of wages is not governed by supply and demand, nor by the amount or value of the product, nor by the skill of the laborer or the caprice of the employer, but that the price of labor is governed by the same economic law as that of everything else, namely, the cost of production.
6. That the cost of producing labor is governed by the standard of the laborer's living. In other words, the standard of living is the law of wages.
7. That the standard of living is determined by the social character of the people. Thus wages, like social and political institutions, finally depend upon the social character of the masses.
8. That the character of any people or class is mainly determined by the social environment, being low or high in proportion to the simplicity or complexity of their social relations - i.e., according to the extent of their social opportunities. Hence, social opportunity, or, in other words, contact with an increasing variety of social influences, is the natural foundation for all industrial, political, and moral reform. Therefore, no proposed change can, in any permanent sense, improve the material and moral well-being of the masses which does not tend to increase their social opportunities.
9. That under wage-conditions, and especially under the factory system, the most, if not the only, feasible means for enlarging the social opportunities of the masses is a general reduction of the hours of labor.
10. That this can be effectually accomplished by the general adoption of two simple propositions : i) A uniform eight-hour system and ii) a half-time school system for all working children under sixteen years of age.
The disadvantage of this Summary and Conclusion is that its overall argument is not easy to follow. If we try to restate it in a more easily comprehensible fashion, then Gunton can be seen to be making the following points: not only would a reduction of working hours be a plus for the working class, but it would also constitute a plus for employers and landowners. This is because a reduction of working hours increases people's social opportunities, and the increase in the masses' social opportunities leads to a rise in real wages, which in turn expands consumption in society as a whole and thus increases the overall production of wealth in society. In other words, Gunton's thesis argues that the reduction in working hours itself is the key to the expansion of internal demand. Its insistence that the reduction of working hours would be a plus for all classes in society provided the economic underpinning for the movement for a reduction in working hours, which at that time enjoyed considerable popularity.
The thesis was not in fact Gunton's own creation; it had first been conceived by the Boston machinist Ira Steward, who was a forerunner of both Gunton and George McNeill in the labor movement. Steward had been called "the father of the movement for a reduction of working hours in America" and the "eight hour fanatic". He had planned to write a book titled Economic and Social Importance of the Eight Hour Movement, but he fell ill before he could complete it and asked Gunton to finish it for him. Gunton took on the task in 1885. He left the labor movement, moved to New York and began a second life as a journalist and educationalist, completing the task of finishing the book two years later. It appeared in fact in the form of his Wealth and Progress, which he published with a different title and under his own name. This was because Steward's original manuscript was incomplete and so Gunton took the responsibility of turning Wealth and Progress into a theoretical work.
According to a researcher who has studied Steward's original draft, the two men's theoretical line of thought is essentially the same. However, the two differed widely in their ultimate aims. Steward believed that constantly rising wages would reduce capitalists' interest and profits and envisaged the eventual realization of a kind of classless society, while Gunton was of the view that the wages system would continue indefinitely and in his later years seemed to advocate cooperation between labor unions and big business. (Dorothy W. Douglas, "Ira Steward on Consumption and Unemployment", Journal of Political Economy, Vol.40, Aug.1932).
Takano Fusatarô's view On National Wealth
From this period onwards, Takano Fusatarô's essays were all based on Gunton's ideas. This is certainly the case "Fukoku no saku wo ronjite nihon ni okeru rôdô-mondai ni oyobu" (The Way for Japan to Become a Rich Nation - Labor Issues in Japan) published in Tôkyô Keizai Zasshi (Tokyo Economics Journal) in 1893; this article was based on Gunton's theories and discussed the way forward for Japan's economy. The main points of the article are as follows:
1. A Policy for a Rich Nation
(i) Consumption is the origin of production and the prerequisite for a rich nation. The growth or decay of production depends on a people's capacity to consume.
(ii) The capacity to consume is determined by a people's lifestyle. That lifestyle is determined by the degree of leisure or stress in a people's way of life, and that degree of leisure or stress is in turn determined by the access to the daily necessities of life.
(iii) The daily necessities of life consist of physical necessities such as clothing, food and accommodation and social necessities such as entertainment, religion, studies and travel. The former are limited, the latter unlimited.
(iv) For a country to become rich, there needs to be an advancement of social necessities.
(v) Various larger or smaller differences in social necessities are produced by the customs of society. The social environment forms social customs. To make a country wealthier, it is important to improve the social environment that enfolds us.
2. Labor Issues in Japan
(i) The great majority of the population of Japan are workers. There is no other way of increasing the nation's wealth than by improving the workers' standard of living and of increasing their consumptive capacity.
(ii) The policy advocated and carried out in western countries to aid workers is the policy of distribution. However, if all the world's wealth were to be distributed evenly among the world's population, there would not be enough to satisfy everyone. However ingenious the method of distribution employed, it would not be able to improve living conditions for a great number of workers.
(iii) The only way to enrich the lives of the poor is to increase workers' power of consumption and to develop industry throughout the nation.
(iv) The only to increase the workers' capacity to consume is to raise their standard of living, and the only way to do that is to create a better social environment.
(v) To bring about this much-improved social environment for workers, the following measures are required:
(a) unions must be organized and the workers' knowledge developed
(b) education that is universal, compulsory and free of
charge must be propagated
(c) working hours must be regulated according to law
(d) working hours must be regulated for women and minors
(e) a labor statistics office must be established and data collated with regard to all aspects of workers' lives.
Takano's essay argued that the enrichment of the nation required an increase in the consumptive capacity of workers, who made up the bulk of the population, and this in turn called for unions to be organized and a better social environment for workers to be created. Although this program was based on Gunton's ideas, whereas Gunton argued that a reduction in working hours would benefit all classes in society, Takano claimed that the way to increase the nation's wealth was to improve workers' intellectual development through labor unions. 'Gunton theory' could be described as focused on 'the alleviation of class conflict through the key measure of reducing working hours', while the key principle of 'Takano theory' was 'the enrichment of the nation's wealth by raising the intellectual level of workers through labor unions'.
Even before he encountered Gunton's ideas, Takano had thought that it was labor unions that supported the well-being of the working masses and had argued that in order to improve the standard of living of Japanese workers, unions had to be established. What Fusatarô gained from Wealth and Progress was not only the idea that the creation of labor unions would benefit workers, but the conviction that it would also lead to the development of the Japanese economy as a whole.
There are those who argue that the book Wealth and Progress was just Takano's 'source book' (tanehon), Fusatarô merely repeated what Gunton said, and there is no original idea and thought of Takano Fusatarô. I do not share this view. Takano's theory was not a repetition of Gunton's theory. Although Takano's assertion, which emphasizes the formation of labor unions, and Gunton's theory, which focuses on a reduction in working hours, share a logical framework, they differ in their social meaning. Born in the early years of the Meiji era and educated in the age of 'civilization and enlightenment', Takano Fusatarô was a nationalist. It came naturally to a man with this personal background to argue that the Japanese economy would be improved by raising the intellectual levels of workers through the establishment of labor unions. He was no doubt of the view that such a theory would gain the support not only of workers but of most people in Japan, including capitalists.
There is another reason why Fusatarô was attracted to Gunton's ideas. In Wealth and Progress Gunton claimed to have discovered the 'Principles of Economics', and such principles are precisely what Fusatarô had himself been emphasizing for a long time throughout his writings. For example, already mentioned article "The Way for Japan to Become a Rich Nation - Labor Issues in Japan" (Fukoku no saku wo ronjite nihon ni okeru rôdô-mondai ni oyobu), he wrote:
For a policy of industrial development, economics will need to be motivated by a set of principles. If we make a thorough study based on these principles it will be very easy to make progress along the path towards the enrichment of the nation.
For Fusatarô, what moved the world was the economy; he believed in 'the principles of economics' that ruled the economy. His encounter with Gunton's work served to strengthen his interest in economics. Back in Tacoma, with a stable job and a larger income, Fusatarô now bought himself many books on economics, which he read assiduously.
A Love letter from Lucy
In late October 1892 Fusatarô left Tacoma, made a second short return trip to Japan. We know the date of this from a love letter he received in Japan sent by a Miss Lucy Clark from Tacoma.
It was evidently in reply to a letter he had sent to her, and reveals something of the secrets of Fusatarô's youth. The letter read:
Your long-looked-for-letters were received a few days ago. Everyone was delighted to hear from you and especially Miss Nellie glad to receive a letter from you.
I wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Of course we all like Frank then you know you are missed very much.
Miss Nellie showed your letter to every one [sic] that came in as she wanted them to see what a nice you could write. Everybody is well but myself I believe, and I am so sick that I did not go to work this morning and I think I shall lay off 2 or 3 days.
Now Henry, don't make yourself sick over there as we all want to see you looking well when you come back. Everything is just about the same as when you were away; business is good and I have to stay up very late. They have all been drunk for a week.
There are 6 girls in the house, so, you see, it is pretty full. Miss Nellie gave the girls some pretty presents.
Bertha is still running after Eddie. I hope you will not have so many Chinese to bother you when you return. Charlie and Frank are so good to me, but you were the best of all, and that is just what Miss Nellie says to the girls.
I received some very nice presents for Xmas but did not get full. The others are on a big drunk and they make Frank so very angry. I am going to Calif., but will be here when you return. I am like you, Henry, I wish there were no Chinese in the [1 sheet missing?]
I believe this is all I can think of so will close.
I remain as ever
P.S. Don't forget if you love me darling tell me with your eyes.
Teddy is still crying for a mate but I'm not, don't want anyone just now, of course Henry you think I am man-struck but I'm not.
I can't deliver your message to Mr.s. Anderson as she has been gone for a month or more.
Mr.s. Pudd says she is going to write to you.
I believe this is the first letter I ever wrote to a foreign country so if it isn't allright [sic] bring it home with you and I'll read it for you.
From the fact that Lucy refers to Miss Nellie several times and writes that six girls work at the bar, she most probably worked there too. It is not impossible that Fusatarô was one of Lucy's regular customers, but as he wrote letters to Miss Nellie and other people and had acquaintances there with whom he had friends in common, it is only natural to suppose that Fusatarô also worked for Miss Nellie. The letter shows that he had merged well into American society and was well-liked. It is also clear that he harbored some prejudice against Chinese, which was shared by Americans, and that such feelings were a common topic of conversation.
Fusatarô's second journey home was also a very short-term affair. It was reported in the August 1893 issue of the Japanese language magazine Ensei (Expedition), published in San Francisco - a short piece titled Takano Fusa-kun (Young Takano Fusa). It is not easy to understand, as it is a humorous piece that includes a great deal of wordplay published without further explanation. Here is the lead-in paragraph:
Young Takano Fusa, well-known for his commentary on labor issues, has neither been seen nor heard of since the end of last year, but the other day he turned up at the Kurosawa Clinic. He apparently went home for a short while at the end of the year, but unable to adjust to straitlaced Japan, he soon returned to Tacoma and then came on back to San Francisco. The speed of his comings and goings is electric.
The brevity of this trip home suggests that Fusatarô had already given up on his plans for a lumber business. If he had still been thinking of starting the business, he would have had to spend longer in Japan visiting potential forested sites.
The latter half of this humorous article makes it clear that Takano's reputation among the Japanese community in San Francisco, Fusatarô was seen as a 'cocky' young man whose ventures all ended in failure, further it mentions that in the summer of 1893 he had moved from San Francisco to Chicago.
Ensei was the in-house magazine of the Overseas Entrepreneurs Association (Kaigai jigyô dôshikai), whose members were Japanese living in America who were trying their luck in business. In its pages Fusatarô had crossed swords with a correspondent from the Japanese language newspaper Aikoku (Love of Country), which was also published in San Francisco.
What then was the reason for his return home? The answer can be found in a letter he wrote to Iwasaburô on October 20, 1891.
Recently, I have given much thought to what I should do after I graduate from the Commercial School of next May. I have not yet made any definitive decision, but I am thinking that, with your situation in mind, I would like to take a big step. It has already been more than five years since I came to this country, and I am aware that I must do something, but having to remit funds back home does restrict my freedom of action. Truth to tell, I would appreciate it if you would find a position and free me from my responsibility for remittances. But this could only go ahead after careful forethought. I would like to make my decision after you have arranged your affairs. I am thinking that either I could return to Japan, or otherwise, go to the eastern States of the USA, or else go to South America or Mexico, or I could become a sailor. I would therefore like to ask if you have a possibility of a position that would enable you to provide for Mother or whether you still need me to remit money.
Most likely, the aim of this second short trip home was connected with the repayment of various debts of Takano Family including Fusatarô himself, and the need to get his mother and brother to release him from his obligation to remit money home so that he could gain more freedom of action. In July of that year Iwasaburô graduated the First High School and in September entered the Imperial University. Already 21 years old, it was only natural that he should be asked to depend on himself now and not on his brother's remittances. Judging from Fusatarô's subsequent activities, Iwasaburô must have raised no objections to his brother's request.
Salesman at the Chicago World's Fair Exposition
After returning to America from his short trip home, Fusatarô seems to have pursued further efforts to break into the business world. In May 1893 he wrote a letter of enquiry to the American Tobacco Company in New York. The company's reply asked him to address enquiries about exports to Japan to the company's agent in Japan. With this reply he seems to have ceased his efforts in a business direction and set out on a trip to the eastern states. It is not known when exactly he left Tacoma but it must have been June or July 1893. He stopped for a short while in San Francisco where, at the Kurosawa Clinic, he happened to meet Takekawa Tôtarô and others with whom he spent some time in conversation but he soon moved on to Chicago.
Situated at the southwest end of one of the five Great Lakes, Chicago was a key transport hub linking America's east coast with the mid-western region via the Great Lakes and the canals that fed in and out of the city. With the development of the railroad network, many lines now met in the city: with 10 trunk lines and 11 branch lines by 1855 already, Chicago had long been a huge railroad center. The city's growth had been prodigious; in 1833 it had been a small town of just 350 people but had grown to 4,500 in 1840, 30,000 in 1850, 110,000 in 1860, 300,000 in 1870, 500,000 in 1880, and 1,090,000 in 1890. In 1871 the city had suffered in a major fire disaster in which 100,000 people had lost their homes. After the fire, the city authorities had banned further construction of wooden buildings in the city center, and Chicago re-emerged as a modern city with rows of high rise buildings. Many talented architects competed against each other to make Chicago the world's first city of skyscrapers. Rarely before in history had there ever been such a rapid transformation of the scale and style of a major city.
On his journey from San Francisco to the eastern states, it was only natural that Fusatarô should stop off first in Chicago, but his aim was not only to see America's second largest city; it was also to experience the International Exposition, or Chicago World's Fair, that was taking place there. This was only the second great international exposition in the USA since the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876 which had celebrated 100 years of American independence. The theme of the Chicago Exposition was to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492, so the official name of this fair was the World's Columbian Exposition. It opened on May 1 and was visited by 27,500,000 people during the six months of its duration. In 1890 the population of the USA was 62,000,000, so almost every second American must have visited the Exposition. It was very popular among Japanese residents of the US, and Fusatarô's decision to travel to the east coast, despite not having done so for many years, was surely influenced by his wish to experience the Exposition. His later colleague Katayama Sen, who normally spent his summers working to raise funds for his studies, did not do so that year, as he too wanted to visit the Exposition. Katayama arrived in Chicago in August, and the two men's paths may well have crossed in Chicago without them knowing each other.
The Exposition site was located on an enormous area on the shore of the Lake Michigan. Three times larger than the site of the 1889 Paris Exposition. Canals and lagoons linked all parts of the Exposition to Lake Michigan, pleasure boats plied here and there, the sound of gondolas' oars was heard everywhere - the whole Exposition was like a city on the water. At the center of the Exposition was the Court of Honor with its large lagoon all around which were built large white pavilions of about the same height so that the whole created a unified, illuminated impression.
Everyone called the Exposition 'the White City' because of these ivory white buildings. At night, 10,000 electric light bulbs lit up the pure white pavilions, creating the illusion of an artificial environment.
There were over 200 pavilions hosted by France, Germany and all the world's nations as well as exhibition halls of each of the states of the USA. Besides these, the Exposition included The Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, The Electricity Building, The Transport Building, The Machinery Building, The Mines and Mining Building, The Freight Building, The Agricultural Building, The Performing Arts Building, the Fisheries Building, the Fine Arts Building and The Women's Building. It is significant that at this point at the end of the 19th century, the Exposition already included a pavilion designed by women for women. A specially constructed elevated railroad linking the Exposition site with Chicago city center was laid down as well as 1600 meters of moving pavement. Long-distance telephones and electric kitchens were displayed and along with the night-time illumination of the White City, signified that this was an Exposition that heralded the coming age of the practical application of electrical power to daily life. Fusatarô must have been given a strong impression once again of the power and wealth of America.
He stayed in Chicago for over three months, working as a salesman at the 'Japanese bazaar'. With his fluent English and his own experience of running a Japanese goods store, Fusatarô was just the right man for this job. It was probably not only due to his presence but Japan in fact was among the top national earners in profits made at the Chicago World's Fair. After Italy's $2,500,000 and Germany's $1,500,000, sales of Japanese goods, headed by pottery and lacquerware, came to over $1,000,000.
A country town on Berkshire Heights
Details as to what route Fusatarô took on his continuing journey after Chicago are few. He mostly likely visited Niagara Falls. One hardly needed to make a return journey to get there and for Japanese, it was one of the most famous tourist sites. Fusatarô's character being what it was, he would not have wanted anyone to say "you spent all that time in America and didn't see the Niagara Falls?" What is known is that New York was his final destination and that shortly before going there, he spent a few months in Great Barrington at the western edge of the State of Massachusetts.
Great Barrington was a small town on the Berkshire Heights which are part of the Appalachian Mountains. It is a summer resort less than ten miles south of Tanglewood, famous for its Music Festivals, at which the Boston Symphony Orchestra is in residence. In 1890 the population of Great Barrington was 4,612, with 924 households. Most of the population were white, with just 100 African-Americans.
So why then, did Fusatarô come to this town? It was not on the way from Chicago to New York and was a summer resort in the mountains, hardly suitable as a place to spend the harsh winters of the region. For Fusatarô, who was used to the warm climate of the west coast and to a city lifestyle, winter in a country town in the hills must have left a distinct impression.
Fusatarô stayed in a drugstore owned by Fred Whiting. American drugstores sell not only pharmaceutical products but also daily necessities of various kinds and often include an area for drinks and light refreshments. The Whiting family were an old New England family who had settled in Great Barrington at the beginning of the 18th century and was one of the ten most wealthy families in the town. Fusatarô came to live with them and most likely did housework and worked in the shop. Here too he soon developed a close relationship with the members of the family, as we learn in a letter from Percy, Fred Whiting's son.
Sunday, August 14th, 1896
We received your kind remembrances at New Years and would have acknowledged them at once had not several things come up to prevent it. My uncle, my mother's brother, was taken sick and died soon after and my grand-mother has not been well since then so mother has been very busy and has had realy[sic] no time to write.
All our immediate family are alive and well, but my grand-mother and grand-father Whiting and two of my uncles have died. Howard has finished school and is studying to be a lawyer. I am still going to school but when I finish I hope to enter Harvard Medical school and study to be a doctor. Hellen is studying to be a trained nurse in a hospital in New Hampshire and when she finishes her course she is coming back to live with us and just go out when she has a case. This, in brief has been the history our family since you left us.
Great Barrington has changed a good deal since you were here.
Last winter there were destruction fires. The first burned up the post-office and the stores that were in the building. The second and third swept from papa's store up to the next street and partly down that. They are all bring rebuilt and of course the town has a changed appearance.
I hope that you will answer my letter and tell me about yourself and what you are expect to do. And I hope that if you ever come again come to the United States you will not fail to come to Gt. Barrington. As you would be sure of a hearty welcome from the Whiting family.
Your sincere friend,
Percy Hollister Whiting
This is clearly not a formal reply to a New Year's greeting of the kind that servants were accustomed to send in the old days. Rather, it is a warm letter from one friend to another. The fact that the letter gives news about all the family members and states that all were looking forward to welcoming Fusatarô back shows that he was well-liked by the Whiting family. It is not known how or why he came to work with the Whitings but he may well have been recommended to visit Great Barrington as a result of getting to know someone at the Chicago World's Fair or on his subsequent travels.
Correspondence with Samuel Gompers
While he was staying with the Whiting family, Fusatarô wrote a letter that was to change his life. Written on March 6, 1894, it was addressed to Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which had been founded in 1886 as a national organization for labor unions. Occupationally-based unions belonging to the Knights of Labor opposed the Knights' policy of regional organization and broke away. Gompers was the President of the new organization from its inception and nurtured the growth of the AFL as a national center representing America's labor movement. As this was the first of dozens of letters later exchanged between Takano and Gompers, it will be quoted in its entirety.
Having been attracted by the well doings of American Workingmen since my arrival in this country a few years ago, my thought has been turned upon Japanese laborers whose condition viewed from social and material standpoint is most pitiful and has caused me to determine to try to better their condition upon my return home. In order to do so, I intend to study as much as I can of American Labor movement while I live in this country.
Understanding that you had such varied experiences on labor organization and as a head of one of the most powerful union in this country, your opinion concerning labor matter in its various phase would be most worthy, I venture to seek your advice concerning practical application of the labor problem in Japan.
As you are aware, there is no labor organization in Japan at present and the cause or this non-existence, I believe, is the prevailing ignorance among the working people. This being the case, to educate the working people is the most important step to be taken in amelioration or their condition. I further believe that the educational work must be carried by organized effort, that is to say, we must organize the working people in order to educate them.
Thus far I am firmly convinced of the correctness or my position, but what form of organization to be adopted is the point I am not quite sure. Whether it should on line of trade union such as your order is, or it should be organized by locally irrespective of trade or calling such as the Knights or Labor is. It is clear to me that as a permanent form of organization, the trade unionism is the most desirous from in that it insures stability of the union, but to apply it to Japan under existing condition, the result is doubtful. Under the prevailing condition in Japan ignorance among the working people in the country, it is impossible to form any powerful organization whatever form it may adopt in the course of several years. While such gloomy state is existing, is it wise to proceed to organize by trade, I fear it will result in formation of many small organization too weak to make its educational understanding effective. It may be suggested that those small organizations should be federated. But that means another years effort, meantime the educational work must remain ineffective which ought to be avoided, if there is another way.
I am inclined to consider that it is preferable to adopt the form of K. of L. as a temporary method in organizing the Japanese workingmen, bringing what ever number of them there is who is willing to join under one organization and start the educational work at once. In course of time when should any trade within organization become strong enough to form separate union, allow it to do so, and affiliate it to the main organization and finally bring the organization on to the basis of the trade unionism. Or, would you advise me to proceed with the plan of the trade unionism regardless of its present consequence?
The reason I am so anxious to select a best plan to begin with is this; failure of the first attempt to organize means annihilation of another attempt within ten or fifteen years following.
Should you be kind enough to give me any advice concerning the subject matter, I should esteem, it as a greatest favor and benevolence. You will please, also, favor me with a copy of constitution of your union, and any printed matter you have so that I may study more closely the organization of your order.
When he received this letter, Gompers immediately sent a reply. At this time, while acting as President of the AFL, Gompers was living an extremely busy life as he had also taken on the role of editor of a new magazine American Federationist and was preparing the first issue. He had no administrative leeway, and the numbers of staff were limited. Despite all this, three days after receiving this letter from an unknown Japanese, Gompers wrote a polite reply which revealed not only the high degree of his administrative abilities but also his personal qualities as a leader of the movement.
I am in receipt of your favor of the 6th inst. the contents of which are
In reply permit me to say that I experienced more pleasure in the perusal of your letter than I have time, or opportunity, or possibly the ability to express. To my mind it appears that no growth or permanent good can come either to the workers of America, Japan or any other country without the essential factor to secure it, namely, organization. That you after a stay of a few years in our country have arrived at the same conclusions and propose on your return to Japan to do what you can to instill this thought upon your fellow countrymen, is an evidence to me that your time has been well spent here, and that you may be in truth a benefactor to your fellow countrymen and to the human family.
Truly, as you say, I cannot enter into a full discussion of this subject in a letter nor answer your questions as I believe they deserve to be, but the initial step to be taken by any people must of necessity be the right to coalesce, the right to organization. That right I am aware is not accorded to the subjects of the Japanese empire.
The workers should be organized in the unions of their respective trades and callings at the earliest possible time. That brings unity of feeling and action and instills in the hearts and minds the feeling and knowledge of interdependence, security and progress. The indiscriminate organization of workers regardless of their trades and callings is by no means to be compared in its stability and results to the organization upon trade lines.
As per your request I mail a number of documents to you with this and commend them to your careful study.
Should you at any time be enabled to make a visit to this city and have an hour to spare, it would afford me pleasure to discuss this matter at length with you. In all likelihood a better understanding could be had than a mere correspondence could secure.
Again expressing my appreciation of your kind thoughts upon the organization of the Japanese workmen, and trusting that your effort may be entirely successful, I am,
Very Respectfully Yours,
American Federation of Labor
Fusatarô was extremely happy to receive such a warm reply to his letter and sent a letter of thanks in response. Once again, Gompers quickly reciprocated and repeated his invitation to Fusatarô to come to New York. He also sent a copy of the first issue of American Federationist and invited Fusatarô to contribute an article on the situation of workers in Japan.
Sailor with the US Navy
Fusatarô left Great Barrington in April 1894 and made his way to New York. He finally arrived in America's largest city, which he had long wanted to see. The first place he went was to the Naval Shipyard at Brooklyn. Normally, the term 'Naval Shipyard' signifies 'naval arsenal' but it was not only shipbuilding and repairs that went on there; it was also a naval base charged with recruitment and provision of supplies. Commodore Perry, known for his role in the opening of Japan, had been in command there. But Fusatarô was not there for sightseeing; he intended to enroll in the navy.
The US military still recruits foreigners today, but in those days the Navy could not have functioned without foreign recruits. Of the 130-man complement of the ship Fusatarô joined, 58 were born in America, 38 were US citizens who had been born abroad, and the remaining 34 were foreign citizens. 10 of these were Japanese and all 10 were assigned to duties in the ship's canteen.
When then did Fusatarô sign up for the navy? One can imagine motivations such as wanting a free passage home or wanting to see some of the world, but the main reason was make a clean sweep of his debts. He still had debts dating back to the Japanese goods store business in San Francisco and others relating to the family in Tokyo. If he were to return to Japan, it would have to be after having accumulated the necessary funds to pay off these debts. Working for the navy would not only provide him with food, clothing and accommodation, it would also pay him over $30 a month. There was nowhere to spend this on board ship, so his earnings would all be retained as savings.
His first posting was to the Vermont, which was not a fighting ship but more of a floating office! Originally built as a warship, it had been refitted as a 'receiving ship' and was permanently moored at the New York Naval Shipyard. New recruits were trained as sailors on the Vermont and then assigned to crews on other ships. I was familiar with the fact that Fusataro had been a US sailor, because Iwasaburô wrote in his memoir My Brother Takano Fusatarô, that Fusatarô had returned to Japan on an American warship. But the details as to when and how were not clear. The riddle was more or less cleared up during my first study trip to the USA in 1977. In the National Archives in Washington D.C. I discovered the ship's log and muster roll of the ship on which he served. The documents recorded his name as Henry Takane. 'Henry' was the name he used throughout his time in the USA, but the surname Takane may either have been a deliberate mistake on Fusatarô's part at the time of enrollment or a mis-hearing by the enrollment officer.
It is more likely, however, that Fusatarô chose to give a false name. Full roll calls were carried out every three months, and muster rolls drawn up on those occasions, so if there were any mistakes in the record they could have been corrected. His name was recorded in the muster rolls for the first time on June 30, 1894 as follows:
|Rating at date of Present Roll||Mess Attendant|
|Date of Enlistment||94 May 2|
|Where Enlisted||New York|
|Term of Enlistment|| 1|
|Place or Vessel from which Received||on board|
|When Received on Board||May 2 / 94|
|Age / Years||22-5|
|Eye, Hair, Complexion||Japanese|
|Height feet inch||4 - 11 1/2|
Besides the name, there are a number of problems with this entry. One detail is the date of enrollment. The entry in the USS Vermont's ship's log for May 4, 1894 records: Henry Takane enrolled for one year's special duties (Mess Attendant). It is a small difference of just two days and hardly something to cause concern but nevertheless, it is a small difficulty. There is no other way to explain this contradiction than that he applied for enrollment on May 2 and on May 4 had his physical examination and was formally accepted, but the date of his application was entered as the date of enrollment.
Another problem is his age. Fusatarô was born in January 1869 and so was 25 years and 4 months old at the time of his enrollment into the navy, but the number of months is given as 5 instead of 4. He must have imagined that his birth date of the 11th month of the First Year of the Meiji Era would be a month later in the western calendar and thus December. As for the years of his age, I thought that there might have been an age limit for enrollment, but there was another Japanese in the ship's crew aged 25 years and 2 months, so Fusatarô must have decided to hide his real age. He had no option but to escape from the gunboat once back in Japan, but in that case, he would be a deserter and would not be allowed to re-enter the United States. He would have known these things because he had worked as an interpreter at the Immigration Office in San Francisco.
The record states that he had signed on for a year, but in the following rolls after September his length of service is given as three years. He had evidently extended it in the interim. Something is made clear in this roll for the first time, namely, his height. That he was short in stature we know from the article in the Japanese language magazine Ensei, but this muster roll was the first to record his actual height: "4 feet 11 inches and a half", that is, 151 cm.
Fusatarô, now a sailor, was in lodgings at 126 Gold Street near the naval base until on October 1 that year he was reassigned to the USS Machias. This was the address on a letter sent to him at that time. He was now in the military and therefore unlikely to have been allowed to live outside military control; we can therefore assume that this address was sailors' accommodation, although it is possible that it was merely an address where he could go to pick up any mail.
During the six months' wait before his ship was due to put to sea, he had no duties apart from attending roll call, getting some training, he seems to have had plenty of free time, so he turned to putting into action all the plans of which he had long conceived.
Gathering information about labor unions
In New York Fusatarô spent most of his free time studying economics and getting to know how labor unions were organized and run. For a long time he had been thinking this and that about his future, but in a letter to Gompers in the spring of 1894, he had written "It is my duty to inform my countrymen about labor unions"; this is what he had come to. In the Japan of those days it would not have been possible to support himself as a labor union organizer and even the ever-optimistic Fusatarô was not dreaming of becoming a 'professional activist'. His idea was to support himself in some other way while making the most of what he had learned in America to start a labor union movement in Japan.
While in New York, he continued to study the ideas of George Gunton and gathered information that he thought would be useful in setting up a labor union movement back home. His main way of doing this was through correspondence. He wrote to a number of union leaders to seek their views and asked them to send him reference materials. We know this from some of the replies he received at his New York address. There were seven letters from Gompers, one from John Hayes of the Knights of Labor, from a D. Everett of the Locomotive Engineers' Union, one from a L. P. August of the Locomotive Firemen's Union, a G. W. Perkins of the Cigarmakers' International Union, Henry A. Beckmeyer of the State of New Jersey, Essex County Trade Council and also from the Department of Labor
[This Department of Labor, then an agency without Cabinet status and is the forerunner of the present Bureau of Labor Statistics, under the Department of the Interior]. They are all replies to letters sent by Fusatarô, but from them one can gain an idea of the contents of the letters he had originally sent. What strikes one in this collection of letters, apart from those from Gompers, is, of course, those from the Knights of Labor. The Knights were the labor organization that preceded the American Federation of Labor and were in conflict with the AFL. Normally, Takano's connection to the Knights of Labor is hidden in the shadow of his close relationship with Gompers and is either overlooked or rather, mostly ignored. Yet even before he had formed the Friends of Labor, Fusatarô had regularly bought and read the Knights newspaper and had seen the Knights as a model for a Japanese labor movement. The English name he had chosen for his organization was "The Friends of Labor" and it is thought that the choice of this name was based on the Knights of Labor.
What Fusatarô thought of the Knights of Labor is contained in a draft letter he sent to the organization:
Gen. Sec.-Treasurer of K. of L.
Dear Sir, -- Having endeavored to formulate the best plan to ameliorate the condition of the Japanese working people, I am convinced that the cause of the existing deplorable state of affairs among the laboring class of the country, is none other than the prevailing ignorance among the same. That being assumed as true, a step towards their emancipation is to educate them. As educational work requires concentration, we must bring them under a powerful organization which can be done only through the means such as yours an order. To me it seems that to organize the workers of the country where nothing as yet known,
[a word illegible] such movement upon line of trade-unionism
[occupationally-based union organization] is a folly. It will only result in the formation of many small unions too weak to make its work of utility.
With such an understanding, I have watched as best as I can, the working of your order during the last year or two, and am satisfied of the feasibility and benefits derived thereof, and I propose to adopt the same plan when I shall begin my active agitation for the cause upon my return home.
What I am lacking in at present is the knowledge concerning the detailed plan of the organization. I know there are many forms of assembly under your order such as State, District, Local and Trade, but do not know upon what basis they are formed, for instance, as to how a state assembly is formed. It is a central body composed of the District and Local assemblies, or is it formed apart from these? Is a trade assembly formed by members of Local or district assemblies according to their trade and calling? Is the rate of the initiation fee and monthly dues of all your assembly uniform?
How is the revenue of the central body derived?
It is of the utmost necessity for me to be acquainted with every detail of the organization which I am seeking to initiate, in order to insure my successful undertaking. Beside, under existing conditions a failure of the first attempt to organize will result in annihilation of a subsequent one during ten or fifteen years following.
Should you be kind enough to give me the information concerning the detailed form, I shall be greatly obliged to you, and your kindness will bring a great blessing to the Japanese workers.
What is striking about this letter is how different it is from the first one Fusatarô sent to Samuel Gompers, in which he had written:
...what form of organization to be adopted is the point I am not quite sure. Whether it should on line of trade union such as your order is, or it should be organized by locally irrespective of trade or calling such as the Knights or Labor is.
But in his letter to Hayes, he goes so far as to write that organizing on an occupational basis would be 'folly'.
Hayes replied right away and after dealing in detail with one of Fusatarô's specific questions - the actual form of organization - went on to write as follows:
Sept. 1st, '94
Brooklyn, N. Y. #126 Gold St.
My Dear Sir, --
I am in receipt of your esteemed favor of August 31st. In reply will say that the forms under which our organization exists are Local Assemblies, District Assemblies, State Assemblies and National Trade Assemblies, as well as Trade Assemblies. The Local Assembly is composed of not less than ten persons from any one trade or calling; the District Assembly is composed of not less than five Local Assemblies in a certain territory assigned to them by the General Officers. The District may be composed of not less than five Local Assemblies of five different trades and would be known as a mixed district. The State Assembly is composed of not less than ten Locals in any State or territory of the United States. A National Trade Assembly is composed of not less than ten assemblies composed of one particular trade and may be located either in the United States or in Canada. It is not compulsory on a Local Assembly composed of shoemakers to be attached to the National trade or Assembly of shoemakers, they can be attached to the mixed District or to the State Assembly in the Jurisdiction where they are located, but once attached to a Jurisdiction they must have a reasonable excuse for attaching to some other Jurisdiction, such excuse to be sent to our General Executive Board and acted upon.
We find after years of trial, that the best plan or organization is Local Assemblies, either composed of one trade or a number of trades and then attached to a mixed district. The State Assembly is not, in my opinion, a success and neither is the National Trade Assembly, for the reason that the officers of both cannot go around to visit the Local Assemblies as often as is necessary in work of this kind, and as a result the Local Assemblies die from inattention, but in a District covering a territory of a Congressional District, if in the country or in an entire city, it can have its officers visit the Locals every week, which will keep them up much better than by the other forms.
We have Local Assemblies of the Order in New S. Wales, New Zealand, Australia, Honolulu, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium and S. Africa, and have applications from other countries on file for action by our General officers at their next meeting.
I should be very glad to see the Order of the Knights of Labor started in Japan, and believe as you do, that the idea of forming trades unions are not so good, they teach the member that wages are the only object for which they are organized, and that being the general topic of discussion in their assembly, they fail to receive the higher education that comes from a proper discussion of the preamble and principles of our Order and from the labor question generally.
I send you under separate cover a copy of our Constitution and if at any time I can be of any further assistance to you, please command me.
Very truly yours,
John W. Hayes
G. S. T.
But Fusatarô did not respond to this invitation from the Knights of Labor; instead, he chose to link himself with the AFL. Why did he make this choice, given that he regarded the Knights as a better model for a labor movement in Japan? One conceivable reason is that the headquarters of the Knights was in Philadelphia, while Fusatarô, as a navy sailor, was obliged to remain in New York. Yet if he had wanted to, he could have visited the Knights in Philadelphia before going to New York. Also, whereas he sought contact with the AFL early on, it was not until almost half a year later that he first wrote to the Knights of Labor. Most likely, rather than an organization that was in the throes of decline, he opted for one that was growing. He felt that the Knights' model of organization was better suited to Japan, which had no labor movement tradition, because he was of the opinion that to start with an occupationally-based organization would be to invite the emergence of many small, atomized unions. His ultimate goal, however, was certainly that of occupation-based unions.
He did not only ask the Knights of Labor for their views on the question of the type of union organization. The replies he received from the two railroad workers' unions, the Locomotive Engineers' Union and the Locomotive Firemen's Union dealt solely with that question. The Engineers' Union emphasized cooperation between management and workers and avoided a direct answer, saying they were unfamiliar with the situation in Japan. The Locomotive Firemen's Union, however, declared themselves opposed to the Knights' model and strongly argued on an ideological class basis for occupation-based unions.
Besides these two unions there were others in the railroad industry, such as the industry-wide American Railway Union (ARU) and various occupational group-based unions such as the conductors' union, the brakemen's union, and the pointmen's union, but it is not known whether Fusatarô wrote to these. As it was just after the Pullman Strike of 1894, even if Fusatarô sent a letter to them, he did not likely receive a reply as most of the leaders would have been in jail. The Pullman strike of spring 1894 was a major dispute which arose when the workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company, protesting against substantial wage cuts, joined the ARU and secured the union's support for their action. In June that year, the union ordered its members at 26 railroad companies not to handle trains with Pullman Company cars, thus bringing to a halt all railroads in and west of Chicago. The effect of the action spread throughout the country, and the strike became a major national incident when, in July, a legal injunction was issued against the strike action, and federal troops were called out, who killed and wounded many strikers. The ARU leader Eugene Debs was imprisoned. The dispute happened just when Fusatarô was staying in New York; he must have followed it carefully.
He was not only interested in the question of organizational form. In his letter to the Cigarmakers' Union he asked for information about their practices with regard to mutual relief provisions. In his reply of May 31, 1894, G.W. Perkins of the Cigarmakers' Union wrote:
Replying to your favor of the 25th inst., reference the benefit features connected with our association, first let me say, the system of paying benefits in our organization commenced November 1879; that is the law providing for benefit was adopted at that time, but only one benefit, namely: strike benefit was adopted at that time, and no benefits were paid for six months later.
The next benefit of any importance was adopted in 1881, namely: the sick benefit of $4.00 per week. However, no benefits were paid for six months later. But, the dues were increased to 5¢ per week, and, soon we approved. In the course of ten years, the following benefits: strike, sick, traveling, death and out-of-work.
With the adoption of each benefit we increased the dues 5¢ per week until we now pay 25¢ weekly dues and a semi-annual special tax of 50¢.
I am of the opinion that, all of these benefits, that we now enjoy, are too much to adopt at once, unless you provide for the payment of high dues and set the time that the benefits accrue or to be paid six month or a year later.
My advice, however, would be to adopt one or two benefits at a time, say one or two at each annual convention. We have no special fund for each benefit as all the dues are paid into one general fund from which all benefits are paid.
Second, I have practically given you the history in the first question.
Third, should the fee for the benefits be made optional or not? I say emphatically, no! You should have one statement of dues which all members should be compelled to pay, and all shoud[sic] receive any benefits due.
Fourth, how the rate of fee was determined? I desire to say that, the most of our benefit features were copied from the old English trade unions. Hence, we had a practical guide in determining the amount of dues and the amount of benefits we could successfully pay.
However, the difference in the purchasing power of money and the economic conditions between your country and ours are so different that it would be impossible for me to suggest a rate and the amount of benefits that could be paid for such fixed rate.
I enclose copy of our constitution, also proceedings of the last convention, our last financial report and circulars.
In conclusion let me say that, in my opinion, the payment of benefits and high dues are the most essential and strongest measures that can be adopted for the successful and permanant[sic] maintenance of any labor organization.
I would suggest, that benefits be adopted in the following order: first, the strike benefit, then a small weekly sick benefit, next an out-of-work benefit.
You could start with small weekly payments of benefits and increase them as you feel able to increase then with a successful maintenance of the payment of benefits.
A large reserve fund, however, is also a very important factor in contributing to the success of a labor organization. Unions with large reserve funds are less subject to strikes against reductions than organizations with no reserve funds.
Permit me to say that I will answer any question that you do not understand, and give any further advice upon any question that you may specifically state.
From the nature of the reply it is clear that Fusatarô must have asked some very concrete, practical questions about mutual relief provisions.
In addition, Beckmeyer of the Essex County Trade Council in his reply to Fusatarô emphasized the fact that previously, the workers' movement had tended to focus on the production side, but the importance of the consumers' movement should not be disregarded. In Essex County, New Jersey, that includes the city of Newark, which borders New York, 17 unions had banded together into one organization. Organizational activity was promoted through the fact that when organization members purchased goods as consumers they were buying goods produced by fellow members of the union. According to an Essex County Trade Council flyer, the total weekly buying power amounted to more than $400,000.
The 'Japanese student' who met Samuel Gompers
One reason why Fusatarô went to New York was to meet Samuel Gompers. But he did not immediately visit the AFL on arriving in the city; it was more than four months later on August 19 that he sent a letter asking for a meeting, which happened two weeks later on September 4. He had been told to come as soon as he could, so he could have met Gompers as soon as he had wanted to. Why did he take his time? He may have thought he needed to prepare adequately for such an important meeting. At any rate, without meeting face to face, they continued to exchange letters. With other union leaders, including the Knights of Labor, Fusatarô's correspondence had ended after only one or two letters, but with Gompers he exchanged 17 letters between March and October of 1894. This clearly indicates how highly Fusatarô regarded the AFL.
The AFL head office was located more or less on the opposite bank of the river from the Navy Yard, at 14 Clinton Place, NYC. Neither of the two men left any record of what they talked about when they finally had their meeting there. The only mention of the meeting came in Gompers' Autobiography, written almost 30 years later:
In the nineties I met Fusataro Takano who was then a student at Columbia University. He became very much interested in the labor movement and came down to my office to ask me for information on our trade union movement which would be helpful to Japanese workers. After several conferences with him I was convinced of his ability and his sincerity. Takano was called home for service in the Japanese-Chinese war. When he was ready to return to Japan, I helped him to establish relationships with various labor papers that would enable him to sell an occasional letter containing Japanese labor news. During a number of years I kept in touch with Takano and supplied him information of developments in American labor movement. He spread among his fellow-workers information of trade unionism and helped to kindle a spirit that afterwards found expression when there was opportunity for Japanese workers to organize. From conversations with Suzuki and other Japanese there is no question in my mind but that the seed sown by Fusataro Takano in his country found fruition in the organization of the Laborers Friendly Society in Japan.
There are two problems with this account which clearly contradict the facts - firstly, the statement that Takano was a student at Colombia University and secondly, that he was called home to take part in the Sino-Japanese war. These were not slips of memory on Gompers' part; Fusatarô had deliberately wished to create such an impression. Right from the beginning of their acquaintance, Gompers had assumed that Takano was a 'student'. The first English language article by Fusatarô in the October 1894 number of American Federationist states, following the title, that it was written
" By F. Takano a Japanese student in the U.S." One can only imagine that Fusatarô must have introduced himself to Gompers as a student. For the sake of his reputation, I must swiftly add that this was no 'barefaced lie', as it is thought that he was studying at Gunton's College of Social Economics at the time. Several pieces of evidence bear this out. The College was located in New York; it accepted new students throughout the year and also offered evening classes. Fusatarô, who admired Gunton's work, would certainly have been aware of the existence of the College. Secondly, in two publications edited by Gunton, The Social Economist and The Gunton's Magazine, Fusatarô contributed under the rubric "Our Special Correspondent in Japan". He clearly had a special relationship with Gunton.
The final and, it could be said, decisive piece of evidence is a number of letters to him from George Gunton, which certainly have the character of correspondence between a teacher and a student. For example, a letter dated July 7, 1896 begins in the following way:
Dear Mr. Takano,
Your favor dated Tokio, Japan, June 5 enclosing MSS on "Labor Problem in Japan" is received. I congratulate you on the article. You have greatly improved. It is decidedly the best you have written. I shall publish it in the August magazine....
It is clear from this letter that the two men were in a teacher-student relationship, so that the statement that Takano was 'a Japanese student in the U.S.' was more or less accurate. It remains a question as to whether Takano actually told Gompers that he was a student at the College of Social Economics; he probably remained silent about it. Because, Gunton and Gompers were old acquaintances and as a supporter of the AFL, Gunton had just written a pamphlet arguing for reductions in working hours. If Takano had actually told Gompers that he was a student of Gunton's, Gompers was not likely to have forgotten the fact.
As for Gompers' statement that "Takano was called home for service in the Japanese-Chinese war" - this was also an impression Fusatarô intentionally chose to give. Gompers wrote the following letter to Takano on September 28, 1894:
Your favor of the 26th advising me that you are called home suddenly, and desire to prosecute the work of organization among your fellow workers as soon as practicable, came duly to hand.
In reply let me say that if you can call here Saturday about 3:00 O'clock or else Tuesday about 5:30 I shall be pleased to issue you a commission as general organizer for the A. F. of L. and provide you with such documents as may be necessary to carry on the work to a successful issue.
With kind wishes, and hoping to meet you upon either of the days mentioned,
American Federation of Labor
No letter of Takano's dated September 26, 1894 has survived, so it is not known how he expressed himself, but he probably wrote that he had to return home to serve in the military. The Sino-Japanese War had just begun, so if he had written 'return home for national service', Gompers would certainly have understood this to mean he had to return home because he had been conscripted. His US Navy ship had been ordered to East Asia and he had to go with it, so ultimately, he would be going home; it is therefore a delicate question as to whether he was telling a direct lie. But certainly, he wanted to hide his status as a sailor with the US Navy and did not want Gompers to know his real identity as a migrant worker.
Gompers himself was a former worker in the cigarmaking industry, so even if Takano had revealed the fact that he was a migrant worker, Gompers would not have looked down on him. On the contrary, he would have appreciated Takano's ability and effort in learning about the American labor movement while working in the United States. But Fusatarô introduced himself as a student. This was no doubt how Fusatarô regarded himself - as 'an overseas student'. He saw his work merely as a means to facilitate his studies and his traveling abroad as a way to acquire himself with the latest knowledge. From any other perspective, it is difficult to understand Fusatarô's words and actions.
We do not know what the two men said to each other in this first meeting, but on the basis of their previous correspondence, we can certainly speculate. What Fusatarô most wanted to hear from Gompers was his views as to the most appropriate form of labor union organization to adopt when establishing a labor union movement in Japan. Fusatarô was of the view that in a country like Japan where there was no tradition of any workers' movement, if unions were to be established on the basis of single occupations, it would result in a fragmentation of the union movement into too many small units and that it would be better to begin with organizations that transcended occupational boundaries. From what happened later, it seems that Gompers concurred with Fusatarô's view. But he added a warning to "move to occupational unions as soon as the opportunity allows"
Gompers was greatly impressed by Fusatarô's enthusiasm and his knowledge of the labor union movement. This is evident from his Autobiography and even more, from the fact that he appointed Takano as AFL general organizer for Japan.
This is the English translation of the book Rôdô wa shinsei nari ketsugô wa seiryoku nari; Takano Fusatarô to sono jidai,(Iwanami Shoten Publishers, 2008.), Chapter 6 Amerika kara no tsushin