Kotoku Shusui

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  • Death: 1911
  • Japanese: 幸徳秋水 (Koutoku Shuusui)

Kôtoku Shûsui was a prominent thinker and political activist of the Meiji period, known for his opposition to militarism and imperialism.

Among his writings is "Imperialism: The Specter of the Twentieth Century" (廿世紀之怪物帝国主義) written in 1901. In it, Kôtoku writes of the immorality of imperialist expansion, identifying Japan's imperialism as being fueled chiefly by militarism and jingoism, and drawing upon the least admirable and most selfish of human emotions. Drawing upon Confucian logics and notions, he argues that the goals of civilization should be humanism, justice, and righteousness, and that Japan's nascent nationalism of the last fifty years or so has freed the people from feudalism only to bring them into a new form of slavery. Further, he denounces the government for distracting itself, and the people, from domestic problems with promises of overseas glories, and expresses his concerns that with democracy so new and weak in Japan, the authoritarianism that comes along with colonialism is sure to be all the more repressive than even in many colonies of the Western powers.[1]

In 1910, in what has come to be known as the Kôtoku Incident, Shûsui and a number of his fellows were arrested on charges of plotting to assassinate the Meiji Emperor. He and his compatriots were executed the following year.


  1. Marius Jansen, "Japanese Imperialism: Late Meiji Perspectives," in Mark Peattie (ed.), The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895-1945, Princeton University Press (1984), 65.