Tanaka and Kōtoku’s Appeal to the Meiji Emperor (1901)
Your lowly and humble subject, Tanaka Shōzō, in fear and trembling, rever-
ently and respectfully submits this appeal. Humbly, even though a mere
commoner, this subject dares to transgress the boundaries and break the
law by approaching the imperial carriage, a crime punishable by death. Yet,
resigned to this, and mindful only of the plight of the nation’s people, it is
suddenly clear that the current state of aff airs can no longer be endured.
Humbly, I beseech you, in your majesty’s profound benevolence and
boundless compassion, have pity on this subject’s great transgression, and
deign to grant the reading of this appeal.
Respectfully, forty ri1 north of Tokyo lies the Ashio Copper Mine. For
some time, the exploitation of this mine has caused poisonous waste to fi ll
the valley and fl ow in its waters, joining the Watarase River and continuing
downstream so that nothing living along the banks escapes its disastrous
eff ects. Together with increased mining, the poisonous fl ow has worsened;
last year forests at the river’s source were recklessly felled by toxic emissions
so that now the river runs red with the poisoned earth of the bare mountain.
Th e river has been drastically changed, so fi lled with poisonous sediment
that water levels have risen, and frequent fl oods inundate the land, spread-
ing poison in every direction, down into the four prefectures of Ibaragi,
Tochigi, Gumma, and Saitama, and continuing on into tens of thousands of
chōbu2 in the watershed below. Entire species of fi sh have died out and the
countryside lies ruined. Tens of thousands have lost their health and liveli-
hoods: unable to work, hungry without food, sick without medicine, the
old and the children lie dead by the roadside; the young men are forced to
1 Approximately one hundred miles. One ri is 2.44 miles.
2 One chōbu is 2.45 acres.