Noe Itō (伊藤 野枝, Itō Noe, January 21, 1895 – September 16, 1923) was a Japanese anarchist, social critic, author and feminist.
Itō was born on the island of Kyushu near Fukuoka, Japan on January 21, 1895. At 14 she went to work for the post office; the next year she moved to Tokyo to enter the Ueno Girls' High School.
In the summer of her fifth year at Ueno, Ito's uncle arranged for her to marry a man named Fukutaro; she agreed to the marriage because Fukutaro had just returned from America, where she hoped to go. She confided in her sister that when they reached America she would leave him. That never happened, they remained in Japan, and Itō's displeasure deepened when her husband did not support her educational interests—which had been part of the wedding arrangement.
While attending Ueno, Itō formed a friendship with her English teacher, Jun Tsuji. He had been her confidante during her marriage, and he let her stay with him when she was to be sent back home with her husband, which would have disrupted her education. With his support she ended her marriage and continued her education.
In March 1912, Itō graduated from Ueno Girls' High School. She joined the Bluestocking Society (青鞜社 Seitō-sha), producer of the feminist arts-and-culture magazine Seitō (青鞜) in 1915, contributing until 1916. In her last year as Editor-in-Chief, she practiced an inclusive attitude towards content; she "opened the pages to extended discussions of abortion, prostitution, free love and motherhood".
Under Itō's editorship, Seitō became a more radical journal that led the government to ban five issues of Seitō as threatening the kokutai. The February 1914 edition of Seitō was banned by the censors because of a short story Itō had published in the journal titled Shuppon ("Flight") about a young woman who escapes from an arranged marriage and is then betrayed by her lover who promised to escape with her from Japan. The June 1915 edition of Seitō was banned for an article calling for abortion to be legalized in Japan. Three other editions of Seitō were banned because of an erotic short story where a woman happily remembers having sex the previous night; another edition for a short story dealing with the break-up of an arranged marriage, and another edition for an article titled "To The Women of the World" calling for women to marry for love. Ito had Seitō become more concerned with social issues that it had been before, and in 1914-16, she engaged in a debate on the pages of Seitō with another feminist, Yamakawa Kikue, about whether prostitution should be legalized or not. Ito argued for the legalization of prostitution for the same reasons that she favored the legalization of abortion, namely that she believed that women's bodies belonged only to them, and that the state had no business telling a woman what she may or may not do with her body. Furthermore, Itō argued that the Japanese social system did not offer many economic opportunities to women and that most Japanese prostitutes were destitute women who turned to selling sex in order to survive, which led her to the conclusion that these women should not be punished for merely seeking a means to live. Itō wrote social criticism and novels, and translated writings of Emma Goldman (The Tragedy of Woman's Emancipation, etc.). In February 1916, Seitō published its last edition due to a lack of funds, as the government had prevented distributors from carrying the magazine.
After graduation, Itō's relationship with Tsuji became romantic and they had two sons, Makoto (born on January 20, 1914) and Ryūji (born on August 10, 1915). They were officially married in 1915. Their relationship lasted about four years before she was captivated by Sakae Ōsugi. Ōsugi, who was already married, engaged in simultaneous relationships with Itō and another feminist, Ichiko Kamichika, taking the viewpoint that he loved all three women equally and should not have to choose which one he loved the most. The three women he was involved with did not feel the same way, and each wanted him only for herself, which caused considerable problems. Itō's passion for Ōsugi became evident in February 1916, when she went walking with him in a Tokyo park, holding his hand and kissed him in public; at the time, kissing in public and couples holding hands in Japan were considered to be deeply immoral acts that no decent person should ever engage in, and many people in the park chided the couple for their behavior. Later that same day, when Ōsugi met Ichiko, he told her that he had kissed a woman in public for the first time in his entire life, which, as the woman in question was not Ichiko, caused a very heated scene. Itō, who was hoping to see Ōsugi again, had followed him to Ichiko's apartment, was listening in, and chose to knock on the door to involve herself in this conversation. This in turn caused an angry scene between the two women over who loved Ōsugi the best, while Ōsugi insisted he loved both equally. Ōsugi continued to live with his wife while seeing both Ichiko and Itō until November 1916, when in a moment of jealousy Ichiko followed Ōsugi and Itō to a countryside inn; upon seeing that they had spent the night together, she attacked Ōsugi with a knife as he emerged out of his room in the morning, stabbing him several times in the throat. Ōsugi was hospitalized as a result of his wounds and his wife left him during his stay in hospital.
Beginning in 1916, Ito lived and worked with Ōsugi, and continued to rise in the feminist group while showing growing leadership potential. As an anarchist, Itō was highly critical of the existing political system in Japan, which led her to call for an anarchism to exist in "everyday practice", namely that people should in various small ways seek routinely to undermine the kokutai. Itō was especially critical of the way that most Japanese people automatically deferred to the state and accepted the claim that the emperor was a god who had to be obeyed unconditionally, leading her to complain that it was very difficult to get most people to think critically. As someone who had challenged the kokutai, Itō was constantly harassed by the police to the point that she complained of feeling that her home was a prison, as she could not go out without a policeman stopping her.
In the chaos immediately following the Great Kantō earthquake on September 16, 1923, according to writer and activist Harumi Setouchi, Itō, Ōsugi, and his 6-year-old nephew were arrested, beaten to death, and thrown into an abandoned well by a squad of military police led by Lieutenant Masahiko Amakasu. According to literary scholar Patricia Morley, Itō and Ōsugi were strangled in their cells. Noe Itō was 28 years old.
The killing of such high-profile anarchists, together with a young child, became known as the Amakasu Incident and sparked shock and anger throughout Japan. Director Kijū Yoshida made Eros + Massacre in 1969, about Sakae Ōsugi; Itō features prominently in the film. Amakasu served only two years in prison for the murders before being pardoned by the Showa Emperor in 1926, and was released as a national hero.