Friday, February 23, 2007

Standoff at Kisaki

Kisaki, a small community in Toyosaka City, lies twenty kilometers east of central Niigata. Some eighty years ago it was the scene of a bitter and protracted feud between tenant farmers, landlords, and a particularly intransigent superintendent of local schools, Majima Keijiro.
Having formed a union in the early 1920s, the local tenant farmers sought to negotiate a 20% reduction in their rents. To this demand the landlords acceded, but they were overruled by the head of their association, one Majima Keijiro. The tenants responded by refusing to pay any tax at all, whereupon Majima received a court order prohibiting the tenants from working their land. Taking personal responsibility for the failure of the tenants' cause, the union leader committed suicide, and nearly half of the farmers capitulated. Mr. Majima wasn't satisfied, however, for he then demanded that the recalcitrants be evicted and made to pay all taxes they owed.
The bailiff dispatched to execute the court's order was nearly despatched himself, and clashes between police and farmers ensued, resulting in numerous arrests. Majima was superintendent of schools, in addition to being an influential landlord, and the tenants retaliated by removing their children, some 600 all told, from public schools. They then established separate schools to educate their children, the first time such a development had occured in Japan.

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