Harrison arrives in Tokyo

In the middle of June 1922, less than a year after her release from Russian prison, Marguerite Harrison boarded the Canadian Pacific Railway train to Vancouver and days later caught a steamer bound for Yokohama, Japan.

As soon as she arrived in Tokyo, the wary Japanese assigned an agent, Dr. Matsujiro Honda, to act as her guide and translator. On the whole, she didn’t mind the chaperone. Japan was unlike any country Marguerite had visited, and she marveled at its many contrasts. She rode an efficient electric train from Yokohama to Tokyo, yet along the way passed villages of straw-roofed huts. In the city, she observed women in kimonos with babies strapped on their backs walking alongside young people dressed in the latest European fashion. Exotic geishas, Japanese flappers, students, soldiers, and tourists mingled throughout Tokyo.

Asakusa Park, Tokyo, 1922. NY Public Library collection.

At first, Marguerite interviewed Tokyo government and business leaders, including a former U.S. ambassador and a past premier. But after several weeks of attending official lunches, teas, and receptions, she ventured beyond the capital. Interested to learn about the Japanese worker movement and its views on socialism, she traveled to the slums of Kobe, where she interviewed one of the country’s foremost labor leaders. After that visit, she concluded Japan was too nationalistic to be swayed by international socialism. Even the nation’s major labor organizer focused on improving conditions for the unemployed through schools and clubs, not revolution.

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