PMGenesis: Chapter 14

Peter Milward's Autobiography: Genesis of an Octogenarian (2008)


<- Prev *** Next ->

Who is Peter Milward?
0. About PM Genesis of an Octogenarian
1. Attempt at an Autobiography
Pre-conscious World
Local Patriotism
Wimbledon in Wartime 
Pastoral Peace
Pastoral Philosophy
7. Life at Oxford
Between England and Japan 
9. A New Language and Culture
10. Rural Japan
Pastoral Theology
12. Teaching Shakespeare in Japan
13. A Missionary in Japan
Student Revolt  
A Floating University  
16. Literary Pilgrimages  
A Scholar's Paradise  
To and Fro in Japan  
Words, Words, Words  
Annus Mirabilis  
21. Renaissance  
Lost Years  
Two Papal Pilgrimages  
Two Peninsular Pilgrimages

More American Adventures
26. In the Footsteps of Hopkins and Newman  
Two International Conferences  
Catholic Shakespeare  
Last Words  
Bibliographical Afterword  






 Dote in Spring








Oirase River



















Who is Peter Milward?

Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier


Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan









  A Lifetime with Hopkins  by Peter Milward









     Jacobean Shakespeare
by Peter Milward










Shakespeare the Papist by Peter Milward 









 Mystical Journey, the autobiography of William Johnston, S.J., author of Mystical Theology and many other works on mysticism








 Arise My Love by William Johnston, S.J.








All About Francis Xavier (Articles on Japanese Catholic History and Jesuits) 









14. Student Revolt


   From the year 1962, ever since my return from Hiroshima to Tokyo, I was only too happy to be teaching Japanese university students.  They were so well-behaved and so diligent in their studies, even if they didn’t always seem to be so intelligent – that is, even if they didn’t always laugh at my stupid jokes.  I used to think that I could never teach little children in kindergarten – though my mother told me she would have been charmed to stay in Japan for that purpose.  Nor would it have been much easier for me to teach primary school students, though it might have been progressively easier for me to teach junior and then senior high-school students.  Still, at the summit of this ascending order of difficulty and ease I thought I had found just the right place for my talents at Sophia University, where it seemed to me nothing was easier or more delightful than to teach my good students.  From 1968 onwards, however, these thoughts of mine were rudely shaken and undermined, as the radical student revolt developed under my eyes both at Sophia and especially at Tokyo University.  There I was now lecturing once a week on the Christian presence in English literature at the special request of the dean of the English department, himself a devout Christian.


   It all began with a seemingly trivial incident.  A group of students protested at the admission of a police car onto the campus for the investigation of a certain matter which, it turned out, had been provoked by those very students, members of a discussion group with radical tendencies.  They made a circle round the police car, and nothing could induce them to break that circle, not even the warnings of the university president when he came on the scene.  Eventually the car managed to leave.  But the identities of the trouble makers were known, and at the next faculty and senate meetings we had to decide what form of punishment should be meted out to those students.  After all, as Shakespeare says, one shouldn’t let “evil deeds have their permissive pass and not the punishment”, since then the evil doers “make a scarecrow of the law” and “liberty plucks justice by the nose”.  It was, however, precisely for such punishment that the radical students were waiting, realizing that it would provide them with a welcome excuse for staging further protests and causing further troubles.  It was already the end of term and the beginning of the summer holidays, and the students intended to make use of the long recess to attend training camps for student agitation.  Indeed, nothing of all this movement took place spontaneously.  It was all carefully planned.  Nor was it merely a student anti-war movement inside Japan, but it was variously guided by Communist influence from Peking and Moscow.  In China the cultural revolution led by chairman Mao and his wife was already in full swing, and it was from them that the more violent, even murderous student groups derived their leadership and inspiration.  From Moscow, however, there was a no less disruptive power at work, aiming to take advantage of these troubles in a less violent but ultimately more virulent manner, for the sake of the Communist International.


   Meanwhile, I had different plans of my own for the summer.  The day after the incident of the police car, I took the plane for California, only too happy to leave all these disturbances behind me.  Not that I was running away from them all.  My journey had long been planned beforehand, and there was nothing I could do by staying at home.  Still, in the flight out of Tokyo airport I imagined myself listening to the engines echoing the shouts of the good students protesting against the outrageous behaviour of the radicals, “Kaere! Kaere!” – “Go home! Go home!”  So I went on to Los Angeles and my particular destination in Pasadena, where I had arranged to stay at a Catholic church.  There my duties at the church were only on Sundays, while I was free to spend my week-days doing further research on the religious controversies of Shakespeare’s age at the Huntington Library, San Marino.  It was so hot out there, with temperatures in the 40s, but it was a dry heat, and most of the time I was working in the air-conditioned rooms either of the library or the Catholic rectory.  It was indeed a paradise of scholars.  Concerning my time there I will have more to say in a subsequent chapter.  As for the return journey, I took a boat trip once more, this time on a floating university, the “Margarita”, where the English classes had been entrusted to a good friend of mine from Waseda University.  In this way I could return without having to pay for the journey, since I was hired through my friend’s influence as one of the teachers on board.  It took me two weeks to reach Tokyo instead of a few hours by plane, but it was much more profitable and interesting.  I felt in no great hurry to be back with all those troublesome students, but I rejoiced at this opportunity of engaging the students on board in English conversation about their experiences and impressions of America.  Of that journey, too, I will have more to say in a subsequent chapter.


   Now all unwillingly I must return to the troubles of Sophia.  Classes were resumed but everyone foresaw what was about to happen.  Already the radical students were loudly protesting against what they regarded as their unjust punishment by the school authorities.  It was, however, clear that they were planning ahead for the school festival during the first few days of November, culminating in the Day of Culture on November 3.  Already they were running round in groups, making processions of protest and denouncing the authorities.  During the lunch break they would stand at the crossing of the two main streets of the campus armed with loud-speakers, making incoherent speeches that even the ordinary students were unable to understand, they spoke in such an outlandish Marxist jargon.  Then, once the student festival got under way, they took over the control of everything, speaking as if they and they only were the true representatives of the student body, though, even with assistance from their friends of other universities, they barely numbered a hundred.  The school authorities sought in vain to arrange peaceful talks, so as to allow the students to air their grievances in a rational manner.  But these students weren’t interested in reason, or in a peaceful solution.  They invariably disrupted all arrangements with violence and only used them as a means of making propaganda among the still unaffected students.  The outcome might also have been predicted, as they were openly threatening to take the school buildings by storm.  And so they did.  One night, as they had foretold, while the ordinary students were sitting outside waiting to defend the buildings from forceful invasion, the radical students with masked faces and armed with staves rushed at the glass doors, carried all before them, occupied the first building and proceeded to barricade it with chairs and desks from the classrooms.  These they threw down the stairs and piled up against the doors.  Then with typical Communist “doublespeak” they proclaimed the building a “liberated area”, though it was free only for themselves to go in and out.  It now became their stronghold or base of operations in their total strategy, not just for the occupation of Sophia University but for attack on the nearby Diet building and the offices of national government.


  During all this time I was acting as English secretary for the superior of SJ House, who was an Italian and who had asked me for my services in writing up the occasional community bulletins.  At the same time, the chancellor of Sophia, a German father who relied on his own command of English, was writing up his university bulletins.  Those he wrote up tended to emphasize the gravity of the situation, which hardly needed emphasis, it was so obvious to all but the most optimistic of doves.  By contrast, I preferred to lay stress on the humour of the situation.  It might be serious, I thought, but it was more conducive to sanity to stand apart and take a satirical point of view, such as might have been taken by Jonathan Swift or Evelyn Waugh.  After all, the behaviour of the radical students was so ridiculous, and in any case, as Shakespeare might have told them, such “violent fires soon burn out themselves”.  Moreover, in my studies of the Elizabethan controversies I had come across an Anglican critique of Puritan behaviour exactly corresponding to that of the radical students.  I even made a copy of a relevant page of the Anglican critique, from the pen of John Whitgift, while disguising its sixteenth-century derivation, and posted it on the notice-board of SJ House, so as to illustrate the truth of the French saying, “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” – “The more it changes, the more it stays the same.”  These two bulletins made their respective ways to Rome, where they came to rest on the desk of the General, Fr Pedro Arrupe, who had been my superior for the first eleven years of my sojourn in Japan.  Later on he told me how mystified he had been by these two reports on the same events told from such different points of view.  Anyhow, I hope my account gave him more grounds for hope, considering that – as Shakespeare shows in his plays – where there is more scope for comedy, there is less scope for tragedy.


   The next climax came on the eve of the Christmas vacation.  The radical students were now set to use the vacation to entrench themselves all the more securely in their occupied buildings, and perhaps even to make sorties out of the university campus.  Nor did there seem to be anything we could do about it.  The president, a layman who had replaced the former Jesuit president, now called a general meeting of teachers and staff in the largest room of Sophia House, in order to explain the situation as he saw it and to invite our comments and questions.  Immediately I put up my hand and vehemently insisted that we were no longer in a situation we might hope to solve by our own efforts.  Our only recourse was to call in the riot police – a proposal that had till then been regarded both here and elsewhere as taboo.  Still, when I finished speaking, there was general applause.  This was also, I later understood, what the president himself had in mind when calling the meeting, only he first wished to sound us out about it.  That very night, therefore, while everyone was asleep, the riot police secretly entered the campus, found a way into the occupied buildings, climbed the staircase to the top floor and proceeded from above to take the radical students by surprise before they could resort to any of their nefarious devices for armed defence.  These, as we later saw, included piles of heavy rocks on the roof of the first building to hurl down on any assailants, cans of acid to fling in their faces, and petrol poured over the floor of the university offices adjoining the first building, awaiting only a lighted match to set the whole building on fire.  Those radical students were indeed, as we now saw, nothing but a gang of murderers!


   Once the riot police had turned the radical students not only out of the occupied buildings but out of the campus as well, they forced all students, whether good or bad, to leave the campus and gather on the athletic field on the other side of the road beyond the main entrance.  Then, at the orders of the president, a proclamation of “lock-out” was made, to be effective for half-a-year.  The radicals could do nothing but vent their frustrated rage in the form of their processions of protest, while doing their best to win over the ordinary students to their cause.  On our side, it wasn’t enough to have proclaimed a lock-out, but we still needed the riot police to protect us from further invasion by the vengeful radicals.  We had to erect fortifications all round the campus to prevent their secret entrance, and this was soon done.  That Christmas vacation, however, was the most mournful one I have known.  Usually, on Christmas Eve we would have celebrations all over the campus, with Masses celebrated for many student groups, by no means all of them Christians.  Christmas parties, too, would continue all night until the trains began moving again in the morning.  That was indeed the climax of the school year, even at a university where hardly 5% of the students were Christian.  Or rather, it seemed as if the whole student body had become Christian on that one night of the year!


   The next problem was, once the vacation was over, what we would do about the end-of-the-year exams that normally fell in early February, and then about the more important entrance exams on which the continuity of the university depended.  During the lock-out we could hardly use the campus, but if we announced some other place outside the campus, the announcement would surely come to the ears of the radicals and they would at once disrupt the arrangements, according to their wont.  Somehow or other we managed it, but I forget precisely how, as I wasn’t personally involved.  There are, however, two things which I remember more clearly, as they concerned me.  One was the sailing of another floating university in mid-March, on which I was also taken aboard as one of the teaching staff – of which, too, I have more to say in a later chapter.  The other was a secret performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V by the Royal Shakespeare Company in our little theatre, which had only just been refurbished before all these troubles had broken out.  So I can at least say more about this performance, since it took place on campus during the lock-out under the very eyes of the authorities and in the very teeth of our adversaries.


   One day after my return from the above-mentioned voyage of the floating university, round various ports of South-East Asia, I received an unexpected telephone call from the new director of the British Council, Mr Duke.  He wanted to know if Sophia University would be interested in staging a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V by the RSC, who were already in Japan and who wished to present some of their repertoire to student audiences.  Of course, I assured him of my desire to welcome the actors to our university, but I explained that we were in a difficult situation and I would have to consult with our president, then an Italian Jesuit.  The latter answered that we should by all means go ahead, but without mentioning the matter to any other person in authority at Sophia.  Only, I should also find out how much the production would cost us in terms of finance.  When I returned the phone call to my friend at the British Council, he assured me that the expense on our side would be minimal.  Accordingly, I went ahead with the necessary arrangements through the kind offices of the American father who had supervised the student production of Macbeth during my hospitalization and who had since undertaken the refurbishing of our little theatre.  We told no one else at the university, so as to present them with a fait accompli when the time came, and when they could hardly offer any practical opposition to the plan.  We also managed to sell all the tickets for the limited accommodation in the theatre and to have the tickets recognized as means of authorized admission on the campus by the guards at our main entrance.  In this way everything went off smoothly, with no objections raised either by the university authorities or by the radical students.  The play turned out to be a great success.  Afterwards, the actor playing the title role, Michael Williams, told me that this performance, though (or because) given under such conditions, before such a small audience and at such close quarters, was the most satisfactory one they experienced during their whole tour of the country.  The Royal Shakespeare Company at Sophia University!  Such a famous company at such a small university, acting such a famous play on such a small stage!  It was incredible!  Yet it was true!  It seemed worth our while to have suffered so much at the hands of the radical students, to have received such an unexpected form of compensation – again in the inscrutable designs of divine providence.

 <- Prev *** Next ->