Brief History 1

I.    Opening and Closure of the ILO Tokyo Branch Office (1919-1939)

ILO Director-General: Mr. Albert Thomas (1920-1932) / Mr. Harold Butler (1932-1938) / Mr. John G. Winant (1939-1941)


 Japanese delegation to the 1st Session of the International Labour Conference

In 1919, as part of the post-war process of World War I, a peace conference took place in Paris and then in Versailles, and as one of the victorious countries, Japan also participated in the conference. With the adoption of the Treaty of Versailles, the peace conference decided to establish the International Labour Organization (ILO) under the League of Nations. Japan sent a large delegation consisting of nearly 60 members to the 1st Session of the International Labour Conference held in Washington D.C. from October to November of the same year.

In November 1920, the Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organizations was established in Geneva for liaison activities with the ILO. At the 4th Session of the International Labour Conference in 1922, Japan officially became a permanent member of the ILO Governing Body as one of the eight major industrial countries. In the same year, it ratified two ILO Conventions: the Unemployment Convention, 1919 (No. 2) and the Placing of Seamen Convention, 1920 (No. 9). These were the first ILO Conventions ratified by the country.

The 18th Session of the ILO Governing Body held in April 1923 decided to open a branch office in Tokyo. Based on this decision, the ILO Tokyo Branch Office was established in November 1923, and Mr. Junshiro ASARI, who had been sent by the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce to the ILO Headquarters as its staff member, became the first Director of the Office (1923-35). The ILO Tokyo Branch Office started operation at Bosuiro Omori Hotel in Omori in January of the following year. It strove to make ILO activities in Japan known to the Japanese people through the issuance of publications and other sorts of publicity work.

At first, Japan’s Worker member was appointed by the Japanese government, which was often considered as problematic at the International Labour Conference, but in 1924, Mr. Bunji SUZUKI, President of the General Confederation of Labour of Japan (SOUDOUMEI), attended the 6th Session of the International Labour Conference as Japan’s first Worker member that had been appointed through formal procedures. In the same year, in accordance with the ILO Constitution, the Japanese Seamen’s Union filed a complaint---the first of its kind in the country---with the ILO against the Japanese government concerning non-observance of the ratified Placing of Seamen Convention, 1920 (No.9), but the Governing Body adopted the conclusion that the Japanese government’s explanations were satisfactory.

In November 1928, Mr. Albert Thomas, the first Director-General of the ILO visited Japan, exerting tremendous influences upon various circles. During the 1930s, Japan became increasingly isolated in the international community, and in 1933, it finally withdrew from the League of Nations. It was pointed out that behind the remarkable economic growth of Japan was the so-called “social dumping,” but in 1934, following his investigative mission to Japan, Mr. Fernand Maurette, Assistant Director of the ILO, put together a report that was favorable to Japan.

In July 1935, Mr. ASARI passed away, and Mr. Iwao AYUSAWA, an ILO official working at the Geneva Headquarters, succeeded him as Director of the ILO Tokyo Branch Office (1935-1939). In November 1938, Japan finally notified the ILO of its withdrawal (which took effect two years later).

Following Japan’s withdrawal from the ILO, the Tokyo Branch Office was closed in May 1939.