During the Taishō and early Shōwa periods, workers’ education was widely acknowledged by the leaders of the workers’ movement as a means to elevate workers’ social status and facilitate union organization. One of the most prominent of those leaders was Suzuki Bunji (1885-1946). In 1912, he established the Yūaikai (“Friendly Society”), which later developed into the Nihon Rōdō Sōdōmei (“Japanese Federation of Labour”), the leading labour organization in prewar Japan.
From an early stage on, Suzuki and his followers took a keen interest in workers’ education. Among their various activities in this field, the Nihon Rōdō Gakkō (“Japanese Workers’ School”) was their most important and lasting effort. Established in 1921, this school is regarded as the first union-based workers’ school in Japan. It became the model for similar schools to be founded later and produced many leaders of the prewar Japanese labour movement.
In this presentation I will describe the context of this school’s founding, show how it operated and discuss its impact on the development of worker’s education in Japan.