Section 8 | Religion and History of Ideas | Session 6

Shiratori Kurakichi : the transition in his theory about Yamataikoku between 1910 and 1942

Yoko Takau-Drobin, Göteborg University

Shiratori Kurakichi was one of the most prominent historians of the Meiji Period. His contribution to establishing the academic subject of history in Japan was enormous and he was called a father of Tôyôshi (the history of the East). One of the most provocative subjects Shiratori engaged was the Yamataikoku problem. Yamataikoku is an ancient state of Japan, which had been named only once, in the Chinese chronicle, Wei –Chi. In 1910, Shiratori wrote an article on this ancient state and its queen Himiko. This article was responded to immediately by his counterpart Naito Konan and shortly the the newly established academic society of history was involved in polemics. Naito soon left the subject behind him. Shiratori, however, continued to engage the subject and in 1942 he dictated his last article on this matter to one of his disciples.

Takagi Kenmyo: A Japanese Shinshû martyr and misfit of the Meiji era

Paul Swanson, Nanzan University

Takagi Kenmyo (1864-1914) was a Shinshu Otani-branch Pure Land Buddhist priest who was arrested by the Japanese government on trumped-up charges as part of a crackdown on "socialist elements" in 1910, known as the Taigyaku Incident (taigyaku jiken). He was identified as a troublemaker by the government due to his social activism for anti-discrimination and anti-war (Russo-Japanese war) causes. He was immediately renounced by the Shinshû hierarchy, with his ordination rescinded, and his family driven from their temple and home in Shingu, Wakayama. Takagi himself was sentenced to be executed, but died in prison in 1914, reportedly by his own hand. His honor was finally restored in 1996 with an official apology by the Otani-ha organization and a restoration of his priestly rank. Takagi’s experiences and writings represent one of the very few Buddhist priests who conscientiously opposed the official policies and social pressures of early 20th century Japan.

The militarization of the Pure Land in modern Japan

Brian Victoria, Binghamton University (SUNY)

Until recently, Buddhism in general, and the Pure Land school in particular, have been viewed as a religion of peace. After all, the very first Buddhist precept, valid for laypersons and clerics alike, proscribes the taking of life. Given this, how was it possible for leaders of the True Pure Land sect in Japan, beginning with the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5, to invoke Pure Land doctrine in support of Japan ’ s repeated military engagements up through the end of the Asia-Pacific War in August 1945?

For example, what are we to make of Sato Gan'ei, military chaplain of the Hompa Honganji, who wrote the following in a 1902 sectarian booklet entitled Bushidô:

As a living bodhisattva filled with the Buddha’s compassion, you pitch camp; take up the sword overflowing with compassion in your compassionate hand and together with Amida Buddha, thrust your sword home, dispatching both friend and foe to the Pure Land in the West.

Or Osuga Shudo, True Pure Land scholar-priest, who wrote the following in 1905 in A General Survey of Evangelization during Wartime (Senji Dendô Taikan):

Reciting the name of Amida Buddha makes it possible to march onto the battlefield firm in the belief that death will bring rebirth in paradise. Being prepared for death, one can fight strenuously, knowing that it is a just fight, a fight employing the compassionate mind of the Buddha, the fight of a loyal subject. Truly what could be more fortunate than knowing that, should you die, a welcome awaits in the Pure Land?

Following the introduction of quotations like the above, this paper will seek to identify those doctrinal elements within the True Pure Land school that enabled it to endorse state-supported military aggression ultimately leading to its fervent support for Japanese militarism in the 1930s and 40s. The paper will conclude with a preliminary attempt to determine whether those sectarian leaders who endorsed Japanese aggression were faithful to the tenets of their faith.

EAJS 05, Programme