Encyclopedia of Shinto

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カテゴリー1: 7. Concepts and Doctrines
カテゴリー2: Doctrines and Theories
The common appellation given to a branch of Edo-period scholarship and thought that had the interpretation of Japanese classics and ancient literature as its subject. At times it also displayed a discourse that aimed at restoring the classical world of ancient Japan. Analogous concepts are kodō (ancient Way; ancient moral teachings), kogaku (ancient learning; classical studies), hongaku (true learning), wagaku (Japanese learning), as well as fukko shintō (Restoration Shinto). Moreover, as most of those who are commonly referred to as kokugaku scholars did not refer to their own scholarship as kokugaku, the term is somewhat problematic to conceptualize. As an approximate understanding, wagaku has a wider meaning than kokugaku; while kodō, kogaku, hongaku and fukko shintō form part of broadly defined kokugaku. Furthermore, the term kokugaku itself was already in use with a different meaning before the emergence of the Edo-period movement. In the Nara and Heian periods the term referred to schools established in every province for the education of sons of powerful regional families to contrast them with the Daigakuryō, an institution for the training of public servants located in the capital. In the Kamakura period, kokugaku was used as a word designating Japanese scholarship and arts (this usage occurs for example in the work Genkō shakusho). However, the term kokugaku as it is discussed here should be distinguished from these Kamakura and Nara period usages.

A. The Formation of Kokugaku

In the early modern period, when Confucianism became the main current of scholarship and arts, military strategists (heigakusha) gave the appellation kokugaku to the investigation of a specifically Japanese tradition and thought by means of Japanese documents. This was done to contrast it with the study of Buddhist writings or Confucianism based on the Chinese classics. Eventually, the philological investigation of Japanese historical works or classical literature came to be referred to as kokugaku. Such investigations were also called wagaku or kogaku, and people with an educational background in kokugaku who produced waka-poetry and texts imitating classical style were also considered to be kokugaku scholars. Thus, these activities, too, are included in a broader definition of kokugaku. However, in its more common usage, kokugaku does not merely refer to investigations of documents, but rather to a form of scholarship whose pivotal aim is to elucidate the ancient Way of kamiyo (the Age of Gods) as well as the method of thought and the moral standards peculiar to Japan before the arrival of foreign ideas. The people typically considered formative members of the main current of kokugaku scholarship tended to avoid the term "kokugaku" and called their activities kōchōgaku (imperial studies), kogaku, shingaku (study of kami; theology), honkyōgaku (study of the original teaching) and so on. The term kokugaku was probably deliberately avoided either in order to distinguish their own scholarship from ancient kokugaku and a broadly defined kokugaku, or to face up to Confucianism. In practice, however, during the early modern period this form of scholarship was also commonly regarded as kokugaku, and the authors involved in it must have been aware of this fact.
Early modern kokugaku began with reclusive scholars such as Kinoshita Chōshōshi, Toda Mosui and Shimokōbe Chōryū, who sought an independent standpoint that differed both from dominant social norms as well as from the traditional rules of versification and interpretation of literary works. They found an ideal of human nature in Man'yōshū and rediscovered its literary value in opposition to the eight anthologies (hachidaishū, the eight waka anthologies from Kokinshū to Shinkokinshū) that had been the focus of traditional poetry studies. The Buddhist monk Keichū, who was active mainly during the Genroku era (1688-1704) in Kyoto and its vicinity, studied Man'yōshū inspired by his interactions with Shimokōbe Chōryū. He undertook the task of writing a textual criticism and annotation of all its poems by applying the philological methods used in Buddhist Sanskrit studies. In doing so, he was able to excise elements founded on Buddhist or Confucian values and pioneered a kokugaku methodology of interpreting and appreciating the classics based on a philological approach. Based on the native Japanese pronunciation (kundoku) of the Man'yōgana (phonetically used Chinese characters applied in Man'yōshū and other ancient works), awareness of the historicity of the Japanese language as sensed in the changes of phonemes and of kana orthography usage grew. In connection with this trend, attention was also turned towards differing interpretations of Man'yōshū, which treated the dominant Buddho-Confucian ethical concepts of Keichū's time as relative, and he applied this new way of interpretation and assessment also in the case of other classical works. Further, using inductive language research as the central method of study made it easy for many people to participate in these activities and this later became a major factor in the spread of kokugaku. Although Keichū raised society's interest in classical literature, he did not found an organized school of thought. He also did not, as kokugaku scholars would later do, assert that literary value depends on the extent to which a work is perceived to be based on the pure ancient Japanese Way (kodō).
Kada no Azumamaro, who came from a family of hereditary shrine priests serving at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, also focused in his studies on Man'yōshū and other classics. Keichū had a background in studies of the way of the kami (jingidō) and poetry, a hereditary activity of his family. However unlike him, Azumamaro sought the establishment of an organized school of thought and social recognition for wagaku (Japanese learning). Azumamaro's commentary on Nihon shoki was written from the standpoint of the hereditary learning of the Kada family and also featured theological inquiries. He also had the plan to systematize history, knowledge of ancient court practices (yūsokukojitsu), the study of kami-related matters and other fields of study under the moniker wagaku. In Azumamaro, the Shinto thought and philological "evidential learning" (kōshōgaku) that formed part of his family's tradition of learning combined with the linguistics and hermeneutics of classical literature of people such as Keichū to develop into kokugaku. By centering his activities on Edo, taking Shinto priests (shinshoku) as his main disciples and lecturing Shogunate retainers, Azumamaro raised kokugaku's social status. His nephew Arimaro succeeded the family's hereditary learning of legal history and ancient court and military practices and was also employed by the Shogunate, as Azumamaro had desired for himself. Kamo no Mabuchi from Hamamatsu in Tōtōmi initially studied under local disciples of Azumamaro, and in Azumamaro's last years directly studied Man'yōshū and the ancient Way (kodō) under him. Mabuchi, who was mainly active in Edo and gathered many disciples from among the Shinto priesthood, the samurai class and urban commoners (chōnin), was later instrumental in spreading kokugaku-style education into the general public. Mabuchi's research concentrated on Man'yōshū and, as part of it, he also conducted research of norito (Shinto liturgical prayers). Mabuchi strived to achieve the point where he had mastered the ideal of the ancient Way through the proper understanding of the ancient language and was able to personally give expression to this ideal in poetry. The discourse on the ancient Way that emerged out of this was, however, not merely a means of literary appreciation and a product of deep emotion, but was tinged with an anti-Confucianist intellectual depth based on the principle of imperial rule (kōkokushugi). Nevertheless, these ideas also contained Daoist elements and only expressed Mabuchi's interiority and poetic sensibilities. In Mabuchi's thought, antiquity was not something that would come into conflict with the existing social system. Also, his thinking did not develop into an organized system of thought or a theology directly derived from the classics. At least intellectually, he did not restrain his disciples. Murata Harumi, the Edo faction's pivotal figure and Mabuchi's leading disciple, did not ostracize Confucianism from his thought and unlike Mabuchi's esteem for Man'yōshū, preferred Kokin wakashū.

B. Norinaga and Atsutane

Motoori Norinaga, who also joined Mabuchi's school, established his research methods by departing from his interest in the literature of the middle ages and being influenced by Keichū's works. Further, apart from his research on the literature of the Heian period, he worked under Mabuchi's guidance on the task of producing a comprehensive commentary on the complete Kojiki. Based on studies of the ancient language, his commentary aimed at a reconstruction of the ancient world in such diverse fields as history, court or military household etiquette, poetry and topography. As a result, several fields affiliated with the categories of wagaku and kokugaku became systematized around the concept of the kodō (the ancient Way) (see also uiyamabumi). Further, alongside his enterprise of publishing Kojiki-den, a nation-wide organization of disciples was created. The number of kokugaku scholars increased and kokugaku attained great success, even being acknowledged by scholars various domains and court nobles. After Norinaga, however, while still recognizing the study of kami-related matters (shingaku) as the most essential field of inquiry, his disciples established their specializations and differentiated their scholarship from one another. Especially with Hirata Atsutane's emergence as a posthumous disciple of Norinaga, the method of study broke up into an "evidential learning" (kōshōgaku) faction and a kodō (ancient Way/ancient moral teachings) faction, leading to disputes among the two groups. At that time, Keichū, Mabuchi and Motoori were in general considered as kokugaku's main intellectual lineage in terms of philological methodology. Atsutane, on the other hand, did not investigate works such as Kojiki and Nihonshoki according to an existing historiographical tradition concerning ancient history, but aimed at the unification of the differing narratives and thus a revision and restoration of ancient history as it ought to be. Based on a cosmology (uchūkan) centered on Japan and focusing on issues related to spirits (reikonkan), he even actively used Chinese or Indian literature as reference materials for the restoration of ancient history. Thus, Atsutane deviated from the method of traditional kokugaku, but by exchanging Keichū with Azumamaro as kokugaku's founder and emphasizing the study of the imperial way (kōkoku no michi), he positioned himself as an orthodox kokugaku scholar. Furthermore, at the end of the Edo period, Ōkuni Takamasa, a member of the Hirata group, recognized Christianity as a source of the strength of the western powers. As a means of resistance, he sought Japan's spiritual foundation in Shinto. From the standpoint that sees the principle of imperial rule as kokugaku's essence, Ōkuni set forth the notion of "the four great kokugaku scholars" (kokugaku yondaijin) that defined Azumamaro, Mabuchi, Norinaga and Atsutane as the main intellectual lineage of kokugaku and thus had a crucial influence on later views of kokugaku. Beginning with the Shinto priesthood in the countryside and wealthy farmers, the Hirata faction expanded nation-wide during the end of the Edo period and the first years of the Meiji era. It constituted a great force in political movements such as the sonnō jōi (calling for reverence for the emperor and the expulsion of foreigners) or shinbutsu bunri (the separation of kami and buddhas) movements, and kokugaku came to be almost completely identified with Restoration Shinto. However, the Hirata faction's activities as a political movement came to an end soon after the Meiji Restoration. Instead, it pursued an educational direction and founded schools of higher learning in Kyoto and Tokyo. However, frictions with the Chinese studies (kangaku) faction ensued at the Tokyo school and ultimately the kokugaku faction lost its influence in higher education. However, kokugaku scholars such as Konakamura Kiyonori and Kume Kunitake, who belonged to the Edo and Motoori faction that mainly conducted "evidential learning" (kōshōgaku) and linguistic research, participated in the foundation of the University of Tokyo's Faculty of Letters and the project of compiling Dainippon shiryō, a compilation of historical materials covering the period from the late ninth century until the Edo period. They reorganized kokugaku as kokubungaku (the study of Japanese literature) and kokushigaku (the study of Japanese history) and trained successors such as Haga Yaichi and Ueda Kazutoshi, who became central figures to the state's educational policies. It can be said that in this way they sought to carry out a reevaluation and liberation of kokugaku from its image as a restorationist group. Further, out of a critical reflection on the rapid westernization of Japan arose a revival movement of scholarship in the tradition of early modern kokugaku self-cultivation. This development is also directly related to the foundation of the Research Institute for the Japanese Classics (Kōten kōkyūsho) and of Kokugakuin University in the field of education. Besides Shintoists, Kokugakusha denki shūsei (published in 1903) lists as kokugaku scholars persons from fields that were generally considered to belong to kokugaku in early modern times such as linguistics, history, ancient court and military practices, poetry etc.
See also Shinkokugaku, Fukko Shintō
— Mori Mizue

Pronunciation in Japanese/用語音声

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Genealogy of Disciples in Kokugaku