Kazuo Nimura
Takano Fusataro and His Times

  Chapter 12    The Opening of the Yokohama 'Cooperative Store'
            - Pioneer of the cooperative movement -

A strange decision - Takano's turn towards the cooperative movement

On November 29, 1898, ten days after Kaneko Kentarô 's public speaking, Takano Fusataro did something that surprised those who knew him. He announced his resignation from the secretaryship of the Kiseikai and from the executive committee of the Ironworkers' Union. He had decided to step down from his position in the leadership of these two organizations one and a half years after the launch of Kiseikai and less than a year after the founding of the Ironworkers' Union. The Labor World reported on this on page seven under the title Kumiai-ihô (Union bulletin) as follows:

    A meeting was held on the 29th of last month of the executive committee of Rôdô kumiai Kiseikai, at which the following was resolved upon:
     (1)   Committee Secretary Takano Fusatarô submitted his resignation. After a consideration of the circumstances, it was decided that there was nothing to be done about the situation, and the resignation was accepted. Katayama Sen's name was put forward as a replacement and his agreement secured.
     (2)   To record the achievements of the officials in the service of the Society, photographs of them are to be taken and displayed in the Society office.
     (3)   In gratitude for Mr Takano's hard work as standing committee secretary in the arduous tasks of the Society, Mr Katayama and Mr Sawada have been commissioned to find the best way to express the Society's thanks to Mr Takano.
    Ironworkers' Union Council - A session of the Ironworkers' Union Council was held on the same day. Items resolved on were as follows:
     (1)   Following the resignation of Mr Takano Fusatarô , Mr Katayama Sen is to be recommeded for the post.
     (2)   Photographs are to be taken in appreciation of the hard work and achievements of the officials of the Union and displayed on the upper story in a central location, and Mr Sawada is to be charged with the necessary arrangements. One photograph of each Council member, one of all the union office members, one of each of the branch secretaries, and one of all the members of the Union's inaugural committee.
     (3)   As a mark of gratitude for former standing committee member Mr Takano Fusatarô 's hard work, it was resolved that the Union shall join with Kiseikai in sending him a present with an accompanying written note of thanks....

Along with the text of the note of thanks, it was reported in the Union bulletin on December 26 that this present was of the value of 50 yen. It was in this simple fashion, not on the front page but on page seven, that The Labor World reported these important news of the changes in its own movement's leadership. The impression given may have been rather blunt and curt, it must have given rise to all kinds of speculation among the members of the union. Actually, although he had withdrawn from leading positions in Kiseikai and the Union, Fusatarô had not quit the movement; he had transferred his attention and energies to another area of work. This was the 'cooperative store' or cooperative union. This was opened not in Tokyo, the main location of the movement, but in Yokohama. Named the 'Yokohama Ironworkers' Cooperative Capital Company', with its intended customers the members of the No.3 Branch of the Ironworkers' Union, it started business as the year was drawing to a close on Dec. 22, at 1-1 Okinachô , Yokohama.

Why did Fusatarô make such a decision at this time?   The new union movement had hardly got underway, and at this time when its future certainly did not look bleak, why did he throw away his position at the top of the movement to pitch himself into running a cooperative store?   His behavior is rather difficult to understand. He left no diary for this period, so it is unclear why Fusatarô came to such a decision. Those around him have no left no word about it either. The only source is the The Labor World announcement already cited.
    The first possibility is that he may have felt that the emphasis which the union movement was then putting on mutual aid was misplaced and that he sought instead to put his energies into setting up an effective cooperative union that could give practical support to the workers' livelihoods.   As we have already seen, in 1898 the process of forming the organizational structure of the Ironworkers' Union went ahead smoothly, but there was clearly a problem with the increasing numbers of members who did not pay their union dues.   Union membership was rising but the number of those who paid their dues was falling off sharply.   In the first three months after the founding of the union, the average number of members who paid their monthly dues was 1,288.   There had been 1,183 members at the time of the founding, so even taking account of those who joined subsequently, the payment rate can be estimated at around 100%.   However, from September to November the following year, when membership numbers went over 2,500, the average monthly number of those paying their dues was 1,497.   Over 40% of members were not paying.   Fusatarô put the fall-off in the members' enthusiasm down to the following reasons in his report dated July 18, 1898:

    It is a common condition, we believe, that in a country where the labor movement is yet in its infancy and where low standard of intelligence prevalent among working people, the ordinary features of a trade-union do not prove to be interesting programme to a large majority of workers.   Gain of higher wages by concerted action is out of question, since it is too weak to make such an attempt.   Benefit features of an union is inadequate to make its healthy members active for the union.   Educational advantages offered by an union are appreciated by a small number of workers only.   In short, the essential element of success of a trade-union in such a country is to offer direct benefit to those who join the union.   As the co-operative system of distribution conducted as an auxiliary feature of union is most likely to fulfill this requirement, we commenced, as soon as the preliminary business of the newly formed union of iron workers was finished, the agitation for its actual inauguration. (Co-operative stores in Japan.)

In other words, in order to keep workers in the union, it was important that there were activities that made even ordinary union members who had no health concerns appreciate the merit in belonging to the union. Fusatarô felt that this was the role of the cooperative union.
    But even if he thought that, it did not necessarily require him personally to engage in the management of such a cooperative. All over the country, starting with the Tokyo arsenal, cooperative stores were springing up. To spread the cooperative movement, rather than managing one store aimed at union members in one region, it would have made more sense for Fusatarô as a leader in the movement to support the growth of cooperatives in all areas and propagate them throughout the union branch network. In any case, this alone does not suffice to explain Fusatarô 's sudden change of direction. The answer must lie elsewhere.

Fusatarô's long bachelorhood came to an end

The spring of 1898 saw a big change in Fusatarô 's personal life. His long years of bachelorhood came to an end. His bride was Yokomizo Kiku, 16 years old and the eldest daughter of Yokomizo Shinbei, owner of Yanagiya, a meeting hall and restaurant in Nihombashi Gofukuchô . By modern standards, the gap in the couple's ages may seem too great and the bride too young but she was in fact in her 18th year, which by the standards of the time was a most appropriate age for marriage and not at all too young. Rather, as Fusatarô was 29 years old, almost twice as old as his bride, he had left it a little late. Takano Kiku, aged about 20
    Yanagiya was the restaurant where rooms were rented by Kiseikai and the Ironworkers' Union for their head office space. Kiku was the restaurant owner's daughter, the 'kanban musume' [the term has the sense of a girl who draws customers - transl.]   Fusatarô had been traveling to work there in the office at Yanagiya every day and on very busy days he would sleep over at the office, so he and Kiku soon got to know each other. For Fusatarô , who was used to the outspoken manners of American women, she was probably a desirable type. For her part, Kiku must have been attracted to a man like Fusatarô who had been abroad, spoke excellent English and was respected by many as a leader.   It was a marriage between the restaurant owner's daughter and one of the leaders of Kiseikai and the Ironworkers' Union, so one can well imagine that rumors flew among the members of those two organizations. One of them was that "the reason why the Ironworkers' Union declined was because Fusatarô fell in love with Yanagiya's owner's daughter and the union members didn't like it". This story was reported by Yamazaki Benji, a researcher into the history of the cooperative movement, who wrote that he had heared it from Muramatsu Tamitarô, but in my view it has no basis in fact. The time factor undermines any attempt to see a connection between the marriage and the decline of the Ironworkers' Union. Kiku was entered into Fusatarô 's family register on July 14, 1898, but in March the following year the couple's first child, a daughter, was born, so they must have got together before July 1898. The Union, however, continued to grow steadily in both the number of branches and members throughout 1898. There may be some people who suspect that problems developed between Fusatarô and the union members on account of his marriage and that these led to his having to resign from the executive committee. But if this had been so, would both Kiseikai and the Union have presented him with the letter of grateful appreciation and gifts and would they have been as courteous as to have a photograph of him put up in their head offices?   There are no real grounds for seeing any connection between Fusatarô 's marriage and his resignation.
    In my view, the main reason why Fusatarô stepped down from the leadership of the two organizations was because of his economic circumstances.   He had got married and was soon to have his first child; he had to think of the stability of his household. Since the reconstruction of the Friends of Labor, Fusatarô had carried on his activities while living on a shoestring. Kiseikai and the Ironworkers' Union had signed up many members and had accumulated quite sizeable funds from members' dues, but Fusatarô did not receive a single sen in wages from either body. To be an unpaid leader in the early days of the movement was a wise choice. A number of labor groups had broken up in the past due to stories about 'leaders living off the workers' backs'.

However, a lifestyle in which Fusatarô had to work unpaid all year round for the two organizations but earn his living from other work placed an intolerable burden on him. Though he and his new wife had the wherewithal for survival, the Takano family had no financial leeway at all.   In that sense, they were in a much more difficult situation than Katayama Sen.   Katayama was by no means well-off, but he owned the building that could be used both for the Kingsley Hall and for social activities and he was able to earn money from running a kindegarten and nightschool there. Also, until the spring of 1899 he received 25 yen a month from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions towards the costs of running the Kingsley Hall, and from time to time he was sent sacks of rice gratis from the brother of the wife of a rice dealer in Fukagawa.   By contrast, Fusatarô , who had no similar access to income, opted to earn a living by sending articles and reports to American labor movement journals, for which he was duly paid. In these circumstances he had from early on had to send a number of letters to Gompers asking for favors. The first was in a letter of December 11, 1896, before he had actually started the movement, when he informed Gompers of his firm resolve to start a labor movement in Japan:

    I am keenly alive to the necessity of providing myself with a fund to carry me through in my first move and am devising a plan to earn enough to sustain myself by engaging in a work of translation of English to Japanese and vice-versa.   This, I hope, I shall be able to do in my spare time, giving me an income barely enough to sustain.   As it is desirable to secure as much income as I can possibly do, I would like to inquire of you whether I shall not be able to secure by your kind effort, one or two labor papers or magazines to which I can send monthly contribution of articles concerning the Japanese industries and industrial life with suitable remuneration however small it may be.   I shall be under lasting obligation to you if you will make enquiries among your friends to the effect and let me know at an early date.

There was no reply to this request, so six months later on May 2, 1897 he broached the subject again:

    I have, upon perusal of your latest favor, been somewhat disappointed in failing to find any response from you in reference to my request made in my letter of Dec. 11th last on the subject of my proposed contribution to some of the American labor journals.   As I have written to you in my last letter, it became an imperative necessity for me to find a way to raise enough fund to carry on the agitation.   It is estimated that at least 30 yen per month is necessary to hold a public meeting once a month and this to be continued until the idea of fraternity and solidarity is sufficiently awakened in the minds of our working people.   It is out of question to raise the fund among the workers as well as among other classes of our country men, hence the necessity of raising it by means of contributing articles to American journals and to use the compensation thus received for the purpose of holding the meetings.   I hope you will understand the situation I am facing and my feeling of helplessness.

Urged to action by Fusatarô 's plight, Gompers, despite his own extremely busy life, wrote to the editors of various union journals to persuade them to take part in a syndicate that would publish Fusatarô 's reports paying $1 per item for them. Gompers not only sold Fusatarô 's manuscripts to the syndicate, he copied and distributed them, collected the money and sent it to Japan. By August 1897, 16 unions were participating in the syndicate, and $15 a month was sent to Fusatarô in Japan thereafter. The amount sent gradually increased to $20 in September.   In April 1898, $52 was remitted; this was probably for two reports that month. However, for Fusatarô , in the midst of all his activities for the labor movement, it was not easy to keep writing a monthly report in English.   The psychological and physical burden of trying to cope with all his commitments seems gradually to have become too heavy.   Sometimes he was unable to meet deadlines for the reports, and then he would have to go without pay for a month. He also began to run out of topics to write about.

Whatever was the actual cause, on October 20 1898 the last of Fusatarô 's English language reports appeared in AFL official magazine.   It was shortly after this that he resigned from the executive committee. It must have been his realization that his English language reports would not be able to provide a sufficiently secure basis for his family's livelihood that made him decide to go in for the management of a cooperative store.   The cooperative was not of course only a source of income; it was also a part of the union movement.

There are sources that lend support to this conjecture. One is the book Nihon no rô dô undô (The Labor Movement in Japan) by Katayama and Nishikawa, which explains the reasons for the decline in the Ironworkers' Union as follows.

    When union members who had joined the union without actually understanding what the labor movement really meant, simply because they had been attracted during the boom years of the movement, and later quit one after the other, and a leading member put his own livelihood first and were not necessarily able to devote himself wholeheartedly to Kiseikai.

This reference to 'some leading members put their own livelihoods first' was clearly meant to indicate Takano Fusatarô . In which case, one can feel that the conclusion reached earlier - that it is without foundation to argue that Fusatarô 's marriage was the cause of the Union's decline - cannot in fact be said to be entirely groundless.
    Another consideration is the fact that just six months after this period, Fusatarô returned to the secretaryship of Kiseikai and the Union on a fixed salary of 25 yen a month. This signified that the previous November, when it was "accepted that on investigation, in fact, there was nothing that could be done about the Secretary Takano Fusatarô 's resignation from the Permanent Committee", the phrase "in fact, there was nothing that could be done" really amounted to saying: "unpaid volunteers cannot support themselves."

The newly-weds' life in Yokohama

In December 1898 Fusatarô and his wife Kiku moved to Yokohama. With the birth of their first daughter, Miyo, on March 4, 1899, the young family began their new life together. They had moved to Yokohama to enable Fusatarô to focus on his livelihood in the cooperative movement. But if Fusatarô wanted to run a cooperative store, why did he not choose to do it in Tokyo?   Not only were there more union members in Tokyo, it would have been more convenient from a management point of view and would have had more influence on other regions.   It would have been easier on his finances because the family could have lived with his mother.   Yet Fusatarô opted to move to Yokohama.   He probably felt pulled back to Yokohama by his childhood memories and because it was the sentimental place where the old friends of his youth still lived. He had also got to know a number of workers through the Yokohama ship carpenters' strike, and they may have invited him to move there.   It may also be that his new wife Kiku did not want to live with her mother-in-law in Tokyo.

Fusatarô 's new job description was "Shop Manager, Yokohama Ironworkers' Cooperative Company".   The company was a 'limited partnership company', supposed to have a total capital of 5,000 yen for "the sale of rice, firewood, coal, sake, soy sauce, miso (fermented bean paste, a staple of Japanese cooking), and other goods".   At the time of its opening, however, the shop had acquired capital only to the value of 500 yen. There were 16 partners, and Fusatarô was the only manager and had unlimited liability; the other 15 partners had limited liability only for the money which they themselves had invested. The partners were all members of the No. 3 Branch of the Ironworkers' Union and included most of the branch officials. The branch accountant, Arima Manji, would soon join Fusatarô as a manger. The store opened for business on December 22, 1898.

The store was located at 1-1, Okinachô, Yokohama, near the site of today's Yokohama Stadium. It was a two story thick motar walls building.   Fusatarô 's family lived in the building, and on the second floor was the office of the No. 3 Branch of the Ironworkers' Union. The branch office had previously been at block 3, Kotobuki-chô but had moved when the store was opened. Walking along the road in front of the store in the direction of Motomachi, at the end of the road one came to the former site of the Yokohama Steelyard. This had been built by the Shogunate and was later used as a site for workshops of the Ishikawajima Shipyard. Along the banks of the River Hori there were all kinds of ship repair ironworks and yards. Okinachô was a convenient location for most of the Ironworkers' Union members. The Yokohama Dock, the largest metalworking site in Yokohama, was located in today's Minatomirai area, so the cooperative store was not far from the workplace of those workers, and was thus, all in all, in an ideal location.
    Management of the store seems to have gone smoothly. On May 5, 1899 The Mainichi Shimbun Newspaper reported as follows:

Good Results for Yokohama Cooperative Store
   Thanks to the efforts of Takano Fusatarô and Arima Manji, the Yokohama Cooperative Store has made steady progress and in the last three months has achieved sales of 3,409 yen, and has made a profit of 507 yen, or 14%.   If this were to continue over the year, it would result in a profit of 52%.   While consumer unions have only appeared very recently in our country, the results have been splendid, and to have had this report is most heartily to be welcomed.

Who was the leader of the cooperative movement?

In his book Nihon seikatsu kyô dô kumiaishi (The History of Cooperative Unions in Japan), the leading researcher into the history of the Japanese cooperative movement, Okutani Matsuji, writes:

    Prices were soaring at that time, so in order to protect the welfare of the members of the (Ironworkers') Union and to strengthen the organization of labor unions, Katayama Sen, Takano Fusatarô and the other leaders of the union movement enouraged the growth of the [cooperative] movement. Katayama Sen was especially zealous in his advocacy of the movement.The spread of the cooperative movement largely occurred under his leadership.

We are none the wiser as to why Okutani evaluated the role of Katayama so much more than that of Takano Fusatarô , as he provides us with no reasons for doing so. He was most likely drawing on the passage in Nihon no rô dô undô (The Labor Movement in Japan) by Katayama and Nishikawa about the cooperative store that reads:

    In a speech Mr Katayama Sen repeatedly drew attention to the importance of cooperative stores for workers in the world of labor and spoke about how these stores could be set up and run.

However, this passage is inaccurate. It was most likely written by Nishikawa Mitsujirô . In fact, the man who showed a real zeal for the cooperative movement and put all his energies into propagating it was not Katayama Sen but Takano Fusatarô. Katayama was not of course uninterested in cooperatives; he wrote a number of short, anonymous essays on the subject and on speaking tours in the Tôhoku region he recommended to union members in the provinces that they should set up such cooperatives. But the records do not show that Katayama made any direct contribution to the cooperative movement.   Fusatarô , by contrast, had been interested in the cooperative union movement since his years in America and had consistently advocated since that time that the labor union movement and the cooperative union movement should be as one. After the founding of the Ironworkers' Union, he had drawn up a set of model statutes titled "Tekko-kumiai nani-shibu kyô dôten kiyaku (Statutes for the Cooperative Stores of Ironworkers' Union Branches) and had explained concretely how such cooperative stores should be run.   Furthermore, he had then gone on to establish two such functioning cooperatives within the Ironworkers' Union - the Yokohama Ironworkers' Cooperative Company, which we have already discussed, and another one, the Tokyo Hachôbori Cooperative Society - and had taken on the direct responsibility of running them himself.   In a memorial address, Yokoyama Gennosuke wrote about Takano Fusatarô and the cooperative movement.

    Furthermore, you did not cease to rally the workers, and with "the aim of making available to [cooperative] society members and union members goods for their daily consumption and of easing their financial circumstances", in 1898 you started the cooperative store and consumers' union and you did not simply encourage workers to involve themselves in these undertakings, but before putting on your apron and rolling up your sleeves yourself, you established a cooperative store in Yokohama and later, another one in Kyôbashi Hachyôbori for the workers at the Ishikawajuma Shipyard and you led these two ventures.   It may well be said that you poured your heart's blood into the consumers' union; it can even be said that you gave your life for the cooperative stores. The practical example you set steadily bore fruit; many followed your example in areas up and down the country, and especially in the Tôhoku region, in Fukushima, Haranomachi, Taira, Kuroiso, Sendai, and Aomori it saw its greatest development. (Rô dôundô sossensha no shi [On The Death of a Pioneer of the Labor Movement])

For Takano Fusatarô , the cooperative stores were indeed something for which he "poured out his heart's blood" and for which he gave his life.   For Katayama Sen, however, it is clear that they were not something that he regarded as being of any comparable importantance. What he put his heart and soul into was the continued publication of The Labor World.

The original book in Japanese
    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.), The Chapter 11   Yokohama de kyodoten kaigyo

Translated by Terry Boardman

   This file was last modified on:
November 25, 2014.

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