New Religions
[Table of Contents]

The Fall of Renmonkyô[Glossary: renmon-kyo], and Its Place in the History of Meiji-Period ReligionsI


1. Introduction

Renmonkyô1 was established by Shimamura Mitsu[Glossary: shimamura_mitsu] in 1883 as a new religious group with nominal affiliation to the sectarian Shinto[Glossary: kyoha_shinto] organization Taiseikyô.II Within a decade of its establishment, Renmonkyô attracted some 900,000 adherents from throughout Japan, making it, together with Tenrikyô, one of the largest of the new religions. But today Renmonkyô is extinct, and virtually unknown. This study is an attempt to assess the reasons for the phenomenal growth of Renmonkyô, and its status within the religious history of the Meiji period (1868-1912).

Of the various new religious groups established from the late Tokugawa into the Meiji periods, Renmonkyô was the first to achieve a substantial following, but beginning in 1894 it was the subject of a concentrated campaign of criticism by the mass media, led primarily by the newspaper Yorozuchôhô. This attack on the Renmonkyô worked to consolidate public opinion against the group and to the eventual mobilization of police and other civil authorities (in particular, the Bureau of Shrines and Temples of the Home Ministry [Naimushô Shajikyoku[Glossary: shaji_kyoku]]). Renmonkyô's leader Shimamura was stripped of her Taiseikyô credentials, and the group was forced to accept externally imposed conditions of reorganization. The membership declined and the group was unable thereafter to recoup those losses, resulting in its slow demise.

But within this string of events lie a number of intriguing issues. First, in terms of its basic structure, the pattern exhibited in this episode of religious oppression was probably the first example of that comprehensive, organic mobilization of the entire society which would become a hallmark of later persecutions of Tenrikyô, Hito no Michi and Ômotokyô under State Shinto[Glossary: kokka_shinto]. Second, this episode involves issues of continuing relevance to the religious situation in present-day Japan, issues regarding the Japanese people's general distaste for the new religions, church-state relations, and relations between religion and the media.

By focusing on these issues, I also attempt to reevaluate the place of Renmonkyô within Meiji-period religious history. My primary goal is thus to discuss in detail the overall campaign of persecution against Renmonkyô, to analyze the process whereby that persecution came to function, in an organic way, as medium of the people's will, eventually leading to the call for action by national authorities.

I first want to consider two elements which provide the essential background for fulfilling my purposes as outlined above. Those elements have to do with the general history of the group Renmonkyô, and the reasons for its sudden growth. My version of Renmonkyô's history will largely be limited to a recapitulation of previous research. Inasmuch, however, as the purposes of this paper are not to explicate details of the group's history per se, and given the limitations of the length of this essay, I will restrict my comments to those necessary for the development of my primary themes.2 The phenomenal expansion of the group's membership I will consider primarily in relation to the spread of epidemic disease, cholera in particular.

2. Establishment and Development of Renmonkyô

A. Establishment

The foundress of Renmonkyô, Shimamura Mitsu was born on the eighteenth day of the third lunar month in 1831. She was the second daughter of Umemoto Rinzô, a farmer of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Toyoura-gun, Tabe Village (present-day Kikugawa-chô). Mitsu later moved to the city of Kokura, and in 1847 married Shimamura Otokichi, also from Kokura. Details of the sixteen years of her life until her marriage, however, remain unclear. One version of her biography states that she took a husband in order to carry on the family business in place of her sister, who died at an early age. That husband left her, however, due to Mitsu's infidelity, and she then went to live in Kokura, where she received training as a priestess medium from a woman named Oshizu who lived in a Nichiren-sect temple in the town. Mitsu drew popular attention for her ability to foretell trends in the rice market.3

According to the diary (Shuki) of Shimamura Fujisuke, Mitsu was afflicted with a serious illness around the beginning of the Meiji period, an illness which neither medicine nor religious intervention could heal. Around that time, a samurai of the Kokura domain, Yanagita Ichibei (also known as Sonyû4) became known for his teaching a "marvelous practice"III said to have miraculous efficacy. Mitsu received Sonyû's prayer treatments and was immediately healed of her serious illness. Mitsu subsequently began a life of dedicated religious training under Sonyû's guidance, attaining mystical insight and religious understanding akin to that taught in ShingakuIV, and ultimately becoming Sonyû's foremost disciple.

Sonyû died in 1877, and details of Mitsu's life from then until 1882, when she moved with her disciples to Tokyo, is not made clear in the group's documents. According to the newspaper Yorozuchôhô, after Sonyû's death Mitsu and her disciples established the Ji no Myôhô Keishinsho ("Marvelous Dharma of Phenomenal Things Deity Reverence Center"). Mitsu attracted many adherents through the expedient of faith healing and by extolling other benefits of the "marvelous dharma" of the Lotus Sutra. But she became particularly known for her practice of vigils or "seclusion" (okomori) on the thirteenth day of each month; this practice was viewed with suspicion as an affront to local morality, and the Kokura police ordered the church to disband, placing Mitsu in detention.

Following her release, Mitsu moved to reopen her place of propagation in autumn of 1878. Based on her previous experience, Mitsu now added to her message the political themes of "freedom and people's rights movement" (jiyû minken undô) and the establishment of a national diet, proclaiming her place of propagation to be a "school for political talks and training" (Seidan kôgakusho). But in her actual activities, she continued to preach the "virtues of the marvelous dharma," presenting holy water to believers and engaging in faith-healing.

Her center grew steadily, but not without contraversy; on one occasion the son of a wealthy Kokura resident died after Mitsu's failed attempt to cure him with holy water. The enraged parents reported the incident to the authorities, who had Mitsu incarcerated for several months again. Following her release she once again changed the name of her center, this time to Jindô kyôjusho (Center for instruction in the way of humanity), and continued her preaching of the "marvelous dharma," but since she could not expect any further expansion in the Kokura area, she decided in the spring of 1882 to move to Tokyo, and was accompanied there by four close disciples.5

B. Growth

Again according to the Yorozuchôhô, Mitsu and her disciples established a propagation center in Tokyo's Kanda Izumibashi district, and there began to steadily attract disciples, moving in June 1882 to the area of Shitaya Neribei-chô.

But a widespread epidemic of cholera struck the Tokyo area with particular severity that year. Mitsu and her disciples proclaimed their "holy water" was efficacious against cholera, and the number of her adherents quickly grew. Although the distribution of "holy water" was prohibited by the Shitaya authorities, Mitsu's group continued their practice; as a result, Mitsu and her chief disciple Honda Hachirô were arrested and forced to pay a misdemeanor fine, as well as being sentenced to ten days incarceration.6

Such experiences led Mitsu and her disciples to feel the strong need for a legal basis for their propagation activities. On July 24 1882 they affiliated themselves with Taiseikyhô, and Mitsu was officially ordained in the umbrella organization as an "assistant religious instructor" (kyôdôshoku[Glossary: kyodoshoku] shiho). The group's name was formally changed to Taiseikyô Renmonkôsha, and its propagation activities were officially legalized for the first time. This date was thereafter considered to be the date of Renmonkyô[Glossary: renmon-kyo]'s founding.7 With Mitsu as head and her son Shinshû as second in command of the organization, Renmonkyô rapidly expanded, establishing propagation centers throughout the Tokyo area.

In 1884, the religion's Kokura branch moved to Sakai-chô (in Kokura) and constructed there a great edifice of red-brick which occupied an entire town block (about 120 meters square), a religious structure which was monumental for its time. The building was called the "Central Shrine of Renmonkyô" (Renmonkyô Honshi). In the next year, a large-scale building similar to that of the Kokura branch was constructed in Tokyo's Shiba-district Tamura-chô, and that edifice was called the "United Central Temple of Renmonkyô" (Renmonkyô sôhon'in). In 1889 the Tamura-chô structure was renamed the "Renmonkyôin Honshiu,", while the church in Sakai, Kokura was called the Renmonkyôin Honbu.V Judging from the fact that the central shrine was now located in the Tokyo area, it can be assumed that the center of propagation activities was transfered there around the same time.

The establishment of Renmonkyô churches essentially ended by 1894, at which time the number of branch churches was thirty-four, according to notices issued to the Taiseikyô,8 while the Yorozuchôhô counted thirty-seven.9 According to the aforementioned diary of Shimamura Fujisuke, however, ninety-two churches had been established. The location of the churches extended from Nemuro in Hokkaidô to Kagoshima in Kyûshû, and the diary notes that churches were established in Hong Kong and Shanghai as well. It was said that for a brief period, the number of believers grew to some 900,000.10

The growth in the group's strength was evidenced not only by the number of churches in existence, but as well from the rise in the status of the group's leader, Mitsu. According to currently extant certificates of appointment, after receiving the aforementioned status of "assistant religious instructor" on July 24 1882, the Ministry of Home Affairs appointed Mitsu to the rank of sub-lecturer (shôkôgi) on February 27 1883, and on February 26 of the following year gave her the appointment of assistant middle-rank lecturer (gonchûkôgi). This rise in ranking continued as the Minister of the Taiseikyô apppointed Mitsu to the rank of middle-rank lecturer (chûkôgi) on October 1 of the same year, upper-rank lecturer (daikôgi)on January 10 1885, followed by sub-master (gonshôkyôsei) on the 27th day of the same month, assistant-master (chûkyôsei) on April 29 1886, assistant chief-master (gondaikyôsei) on December 24 of the same year, and the top rank of chief-master (daikyôsei[Glossary: daikyosei]) on October 31 1890. In short, Mitsu had achieved the top rank within the Taiseikyô only eight years after the founding of her religion. Among the ranks of sectarian-Shinto groups, extremely few were recognized in this way, a fact pointing to the almost abnormal strength of Renmonkyô. The next few years represented the peak of Renmonkyô activity.

C. Decline

Social concern and criticism of Renmonkyô was growing even during the period from 1887 to 1893 when the group was most active. That criticism included official pressure and interference with the group's use of "holy water" for healing, as well as criticism from intellectuals, the media, established Buddhist sects and other groups within sectarian Shinto. Much of the criticism was directed at the "licentious" nature of the group's evening "vigils" (okomori), and the group's "spurious teaching not fit for a Shinto group."

The greatest wave of criticism came in the context of the concentrated attack launched by the Yorozuchôhô and other newspapers in 1894. The failure of the group to respond to these attacks led to a general public belief that the Renmonkyô was a "bogus religion" (inshijakyô). The number of adherents dropped, and the group's activities quickly declined. The group established no new centers for religious propagation after 1897, and a number of those established previously were closed.

From the standpoint of the group, an even greater blow came in 1897 with the death of the group's second in command, Shinshû at the young age of thirty. Although Shinshû's son Senshû was the proper successor to group leadership, he was a mere three years old at the time. Mitsu acted as guardian to Senshû and attempted to restore the group's fortunes, but she died in 1904 at the age of 73. Subsequently, a dispute arose regarding succession to church leadership. While the Taiseikyô appointed the Kokura branch's Uemura Kôshirô as head of the group, this appointment conflicted with the insistence of the Shimamura family that the position of church head be left vacant until Senshû reached his majority.

The confrontation became even more convoluted, expanding to include issues of Renmonkyô finances and its independence from the Taiseikyô. On May 19 1911, twenty-four clerics of the Shimamura faction were removed from their official positions by the Taiseikyô.11 On the eighteenth day of the same month these twenty-four shifted their allegiance to the Shintô Honkyoku[Glossary: shinto_honkyoku_also_shinto_taikyo],VI establishing a new organization which they called the Shintô Renmon Kyôkai.12 Together with the Renmon Kyôkai still affiliated with the Taiseikyô, there now existed two Renmonkyô organizations.

This event shook the entire contemporary Shinto world. The Taiseikyô argued that the conflict between the two groups for allegiance of clergy and ownership of churches threatened the orderly existence of all Shintoists, and that it represented interference in the internal affairs of other religious groups. Taiseikyô thus filed a legal suit to force the Shimamura group to vacate the central shrine in Tamura-chô, within which it had entrenched itself. But the Taiseikyô's attempt to forcefully evict the Shimamura group ended in failure, and newspapers and intellectuals cricitized the umbrella organization for its high-handed attitude.

The Shimamura faction won the first ruling in the suit, but the Taiseikyô faction won the appeal. The appeal ruling stated that the Renmonkyô was an affiliate of the Taiseikyô, and that the latter thus held authority for appointment of the group's leadership. The ministers who had been dismissed were denied any right to perform worship at the central shrine, and Shimamura Senshu, being a minor, was decreed to possess no qualifications as a minister of the group.

The Shimamura faction then appealed to the Great Court of Cassation (Daishin'in), but that appeal was rejected in July of 1914, thus finalizing the earlier victory of the Taiseikyô.

In sum, the Shimamura faction was forced to vacate the central shrine and decided to shift their allegiance to the Fusôkyô[Glossary: fuso-kyo],VII which demanded as a condition of affiliation that the group drop the "Renmon" from its name. As a result, the new group simultaneously changed its name to Shintô Tôitsukyôkai (Shinto Union Church). Shimamura Senshû was physically frail, possessed no unifying leadership powers, and did not serve in an actual leadership position. In the early 1920s, the activities of sect ministers waned, and outside the efforts was of the group's vice-head Shimamura Fujisuke to preserve the central shrine in Kokura, religious activity virtually ceased. Senshû died childless in 1931 at the age of 37, and with the death of Fujisuke in 1961, the legitimate lineage of Renmonkyô ceased to exist.

On the other hand, within the Taiseikyô-affiliated Renmonkyôkai, the Tokyo-born Makinose Yukimitsu, who had long served as lay representative for the group, came to hold the simultaneous posts of representative for both Renmonkyô Jimyôhôshiu (formerly Renmonkyôin Honshiu), and the Renmonkyôkai Honbu located in Tokyo's Yotsuya ward. But number of churches nationwide had not declined to a mere fourteen.

From the 1920s, the deaths of branch-church founders became a significant concern, and with their deaths, numerous churches disappeared. Around 1930-1931 only three churches were still active, and by 1935 the Fukukawa Branch Church (Fukukawa Bunkyôkai) was the last in existence. The central shrine (Renmonkyô Honshiu) came under the management of the Taiseikyô. Thereafter, Shôji Fujie opened the Taiseikyô Wada Confraternity (Taiseikyô Renmon Wada Kôsha) in Chiba Prefecture, but in 1963 he requested to be released from his post due to advanced age, whereupon the lineage of Renmonkyô ceased totally to exist.13

3. Reasons for Renmonkyô's Growth

Numerous new religions came into being within the period of transition from the feudal society of Tokugawa to the capitalist system introduced from the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Renmonkyô was the earliest established and fastest growing of such groups to achieve the status of a major organization. In this section I want to consider reasons for that rapid growth.

As I will discuss out later, the Yorozuchôhô criticized the Renmonkyô's religious organization on numerous points. The newspaper particularly focused on Mitsu's use of prophetic utterances in her sermons, the slick way in which believers were entertained, and the use of numerous wealthy debutantes and popular personalities to attract ordinary believers. And it must be admitted that all of these techniques were certainly effective means of proselytization.

But to one extent or another, the same methods were used as well by other religious groups of the day, and they cannot be considered definitive reasons for Renmonkyô's rapid expansion. From my perspective, what is more important is the central role played by the "this-worldly benefit" of healing within Renmonkyô proselytization, and the fact that among the various techniques of healing, the korera fûji) or "sealing up of cholera" was particularly extolled.

1. Early Modern Society, Medicine, and Epidemics

Next, I want to pay some attention to contemporary conditions of medical care and epidemic outbreaks, cholera in particular.

Throughout the late Tokugawa era large numbers of farmers abandoned their land and flowed into urban areas, a trend which only increased into the Meiji period. The increase in the Meiji urban populace was in part stimulated by the "land tax reform" (chiso kaisei) introduced in 1873. As a result of this reform, the fiscal basis for the Meiji government was placed in land taxes, leading to numerous changes in taxation. Taxes themselves changed from payment in kind to payment in cash, the object of taxation moved toward a unified nationwide standard of land value, and the tax burden was steadily transferred from the land cultivator to the land owner. These policies resulted in increasing losses of land by marginal farmers and the subsequent concentration of land in the hands of wealthy landlords, which in turn led to the increasing movement of farming families to urban areas.

As part of the general transformations occurring in the period, former craftsmen found themselves relegated to menial wage labor, former low-level warriors fell into deepening poverty, and the period witnessed a rash of peasant uprisings (ikki) and rebellions by impoverished former members of the warrior class. These poor classes accumulated within the cities as the result of the government's hasty modernization policies and the resulting distortions of its capitalist economics.14 From the perspective of this new class of urban poor, physical illness represented a tremendous source of anxiety, and that anxiety was focused particularly on epidemic disease.

A report15 issued by the Dajôkan (Grand Council of State) in 1871 announced the government's decision to adopt Western medical practices, based on the current policy of "a rich nation and a strong military" (fukoku kyôhei). But the actual degree to which Western clinical practice was implemented was minimal; even after 1875 the number of individuals passing the private medical licensing examination each year hovered at around two-thousand, or increased only slightly, and the absolute numbers of private physicians remained insufficient. Medical expenses, including the cost of pharmaceuticals, were quite high.16

Hospitals and other medical facilities for the poor included seven imperial and sixty-four national facilities in 1876, but the initial purpose of these institutions changed to become "places for the treatment of nobles and others of the middle ranks (chûtô) and above." Treatment of the poor was thus made the province of private doctors, and with increasing inflation, the conflict between public hospitals and private doctors became a serious issue bearing on the right to maintain a livelihood.17 The critical insufficiency in absolute numbers of hospitals and doctors meant that in practice, the government found itself continually struggling for resources in the treatment of the poor.

And the problem of providing adequate health care for the indigent poor became an even more serious social concern as the result of frequent widespread outbreaks of epidemic disease. As a result, a Bureau of Health (Eiseikyoku) was installed within the Home Ministry, and given the task of developing countermeasures to such epidemics. Epidemic prevention guidelines were established in 1880, and the "six epidemic diseases" shown on the accompanying table18 were singled out for particular attention. As the table makes clear, of these six diseases, neither diptheria nor typhus fever appeared in particularly significant outbreaks, but the other four frequently occurred in epidemics resulting in excess of ten-thousand deaths. And of those four, I want to give particular attention here to cholera.

Epidemics of cholera attended by more than ten-thousand deaths each occurred in the years 1879, 1882, 1885, 1886, 1890, and 1895. My concern with cholera here is due both to the high absolute number of deaths which occurred, as well as to the high rate of death (greater than seventy percent) of all those who contracted the disease. In short, for the people of the time, to contract cholera meant virtually to be given a death sentence. And as a result, the Home Ministry's measures against epidemic disease also naturally focused on the prevention of cholera. At the time, no fundamental cures for cholera were known, and the only preventative measures available were those in the area of public hygiene. Those measures included (a) public sanitation; (b) quarantine of ships entering port; and (c) decontamination and isolation following the outbreak of an epidemic.19 In addition, carbolic acid was the only method of decontamination known. Make-shift "quarantine hospitals" were established in various areas to hold cholera patients, but such institutions aimed more at the mere isolation of epidemic victims than treatment, with the result that being admitted to a quarantine hospital was perceived as equivalent to being given up for dead.

As a means of enforcing public isolation measures, doctors were made legally responsible for reporting any cases of cholera they diagnosed, but the fear of being admitted to a quarantine hospital led many patients to bribe their physicans in order to avoid the reporting requirement. The situation even led to a revolt of farmers against cholera prevention measures between 1877 and 1879.

In any year of a cholera epidemic, newspapers carried daily reports from April to the year's end listing the names of new patients and the number of deaths, and transmitted news of the threat posed by the disease. The Home Ministry's Bureau of Public Health issued a weekly "Bureau Report" detailing that week's epidemic victims nationwide and reporting the nationwide epidemic status. The public dread of epidemic disease at that time was something almost incomprehensible to us moderns.

2. Epidemic Disease and the Spread of Renmonkyô

In this section I want to consider the situation of epidemic disease as outlined above in conjunction with the spread of Renmonkyô, in an effort to determine what relationship might exist between the two.

During the period 1877 to 1879 Renmonkyô established its "Marvelous Dharma of Phenomenal Things Deity Reverence Center" in Kokura and attracted believers through healings and "vigils" (okomori), likewise distributing "holy water" at its "school for political talks and training." Not surprisingly, this period coincides generally with large outbreaks of cholera, and represents a period in which the group experienced steady growth.

The next great outbreak of the disease was in 1882. It is said that Mitsu and her group were placed in detention in Tokyo that year and fined for their distribution of holy water as a cholera remedy, just prior to their becoming affiliated with the Taiseikyô.

Thereafter, Renmonkyô continued to grow steadily together with the rise in Mitsu's official status within the Taiseikyô. A moderate outbreak of cholera occurred in 1885, and in that year Renmonkyô established its Hon'in in Tamura-chô, and reported that two new branch churches had been established.

In the three years following the great epidemic of 1886, Renmonkyô established branch churches from Nemuro in the north to Fukuoka in the south, expanding to a religion of nationwide proportions. In 1889 seven new churches were reported, including the group's Central Shrine (Honshi) which was moved to Tokyo's Tamura-chô. On October 12 of the same year, the thirteenth anniversary of the death of Yanagita Ichibei was celebrated, and a monument honoring him was erected at the Kokura Hon'in. This was a huge memorial pillar more than five meters high, and on its base were inscribed the names and donations of believers from throughout the country, including a number of prominent figures.20

Notices of the establishment of new branch churches continued to appear for several years as an effect of the great epidemic of 1890, and it was that period which represented Renmonkyôs greatest pinnacle of growth. Cholera ceased to appear in massive epidemics following the outbreak of 1895, and the group appears to have been unable to use this last epidemic as a springboard for further expansion, engaging in virtually no proselytization activity. Renmonkyo's passivity in this period was likely due both to its inability to respond effectively to the increasing level of attacks from every quarter, and instructions21 issued by the increasingly sensitive police authorities to prohibit the distribution of "holy water for the purpose of healing."

Based on these facts, a statistical tendency appeared for notifications of the establishment of new churches to be issued one to two years following an epidemic of cholera. Needless to say, it is fully possible that some member organizations sent their notifications to the Taiseikyô substantially later than the date the new churches were actually established, and of the ninety-two churches noted in Fujisuke's "Diary," some were likely small groups not reported to the Taiseikyô at all. Overall, a strong relationship between outbreaks of cholera and growth in church strength can be detected.

As a natural result of the high rate of deaths resulting from epidemic disease - and cholera in particular - the urban poor and others living in areas with poor medical facilities experienced terror with each outbreak. Given the impotence of medical science, the common people were quick to put faith in the new religions, particularly in Renmonkyô, since it emphasized the healing of cholera and other epidemic diseases.22 Aside from other donations, Renmonkyô's "holy water" (goshinsui) could be purchased for two sen per month, a price which was far cheaper than the cost for contemporary medical treatment. In the face of the panic of epidemic disease, "holy water" played the role of a divine physic which also worked psychologically to relieve anxiety. Skillfully accepting and responding to the longings of the common people in this way, Renmonkyô grew with explosive speed.

4. The Dissolution of Renmonkyô

1. Initial Media Attacks on Renmonkyô

Ozaki Kôyô and the Kôhaku dokumanjû

Whether he realized it or not, the popular author Ozaki Kôyô was the pioneer critic of the Renmonkyô. Between October and December of 1891 Ozaki published a serialized novel in the Yomiuri shinbun which he called "Kôhaku dokumanjû" (The red and white poison dumpling) and which was modeled after the Renmonkyô. The name of the religious group depicted by Ozaki was "Gyokurenkyô"; in three short episodes the group is portrayed as distributing "holy water," entertaining important members at brothels, and undertaking a variety of other means to attract believers. Izumi Kyôka recalled that in those days "there were signs raised at every street corner displaying pictures [from Kôhaku dokumanjû]..."24 Whether the result of newspaper companies' publicity efforts or no, one can judge that readers' interest was quite high. That means, in turn, that behind the appearance of this serialized story, news of Renmonkyô was already spreading through the public and becoming the material of rumor. The story's importance can be seen as well from the fact that the Yorozuchôhô also later makes reference to its contents.

The Yorozuchôhô25

The Yorozuchôhô was first published by Kuroiwa Ruikô in 1892 as a popular-level newspaper aimed at the masses. In the context of the then-rampant competition among small newspapers, the Yorozuchôhô offered a cheaper newsstand price, easy-to-understand language, and an editorial policy geared toward responding to the desires of its readership. Kuroiwa had confidence in his paper's reportage, which received support through the creation of "news-making" stories that captured reader interest, and in 1894 he began a campaign to expose Renmonkyô, which for several years had been the subject of popular rumors.

On February 12 the newspaper began a series of articles entitled "High-class harlot - the Renmon Church" ("Kôtô jigoku - Renmonkyôkai (1)"). The reasons given in the lead article for the attack on the Renmonkyô were as follows:

The new freedom of religion introduced since the beginning of the Meiji period has spawned numerous bogus religions, but none so immoderate and pernicious as Renmonkyô. What sets Renmonkyô apart from the others is the fact that among its adherents are many middle- and upper-class individuals, with the result that its poisonous effects on society are incomparably worse than those of other groups. In addition, the activities which go on at the group's Tamura shrine are like those of a brothel, making the religion equivalent to a "high-class harlot."

For these reasons, the newspaper claimed it would act in the public interest by exposing the bestial and indecent nature of the group. The article drew great public response, and the paper received requests for more information, together with demands for retractions from the Renmonkyô. As a result it launched out on further investigative reporting and planned further articles.

On March 28 the newspaper began a ninety-four part series "The immoral religion of Renmonkyô" ("Inshi Renmonkyôkai"). The overall series itself lasted until October 13 of that year, but articles could be found on virtually a daily basis until the end of June. The articles were featured on the front or second page of the paper, including its special editions, and represented the devoted energies of the entire newspaper staff.

The series began by outlining the history of Renmonkyô and exposing the "hidden past" of its founder Mitsu. It continued by pointing out the "conniving techniques" used by the group to attract members, together with frequent episodes of alleged scandals, thus castigating Renmonkyô's "evil" and "immoral" nature. For example, the newspaper's daily and sensationalistic coverage included allegations of sexual improprieties linked to Mitsu's leaving her home, and occasions when she had been detained by police. It also listed various proselytization methods used by the group in Tokyo, clever use of church regulations to increase donations, cases of people who had died following the use of "holy water" and religious rituals, the use of church physicians and purchase of grave plots in Aoyama and Yanaka as a means of covering up such deaths, and scandals alleged to have occurred between members and religious instructors of the group.

The newspaper's campaign did not end there. It also exploited the immediacy of journalism to report responses and reactions to the series by the Renmonkyô, other journalists, society and readers. It also attacked the group by noting that its doctrines and rituals resembled those of Nichiren Buddhism, and that the "marvelous dharma" practiced at the group's main shrine was a heresy inappropriate for Shinto.

Finally, the newspaper began expressing its own editorial position in installments from the end of April into May, occupying the entire first page on a daily basis. These editorializing pieces included such titles as the three-day series "What will become of Shinto if immoral religions are not disbanded?" ("Inshi wo kaisan sezumuba Shintô o ikan sen"); "Doesn't the Taiseikyô have the courage to cut off its own arm?" ("Taiseikyô wa kaiwan no yû nakika"); "The true face of paganism" ("Jakyô no shinsô"); "The Renmon church will inevitably be disbanded" ("Renmonkyôkai wa iyoiyo kaisan sezaru bekarazu"); "Why don't they disband the Renmonkyô?" ("Nani yue ni Renmonkyô o kaisan sezaruya"); "Is dismissal of the group's leader sufficient to make up for the sins of an indecent and bewitching religion?" ("Kyôchô no menshoku wa motte inshi yôkyô no tsumi o ou ni taruya"); and the two-day series "Why should Renmon be protected?" ("Nani yue ni Renmon o hozon suruya"). The overall theme of the campaign was distilled in the first installment, "What will become of Shinto if...":

Shinto is the Way enshrining the spirit of Japan's imperial ancesters; our people do not revere Shinto because it is a religion, but because it is the Way which deifies the imperial house and reveres the national polity. As a result, for Shinto to be injured is for the national polity and the imperial house to be injured, and for the noble spirits to be defiled.

Here we have one branch of Shinto called Renmonkyô. This group "borrows the name of Shinto and sets up absurd formulas, deceives the ignorant populace, sets morals in disarray, makes illicit gains, interferes with people's health, misuses people's daughters and makes them the object of its own carnal pleasure. Whether in matters of doctrine, ritual, or management," no part of it can be called Shinto. To allow an immoral religion to continue in existence "is to allow the spiritual basis of Shinto to be destroyed, to damage the dignity of the imperial ancestors, and to despoil the entirety of the imperial dignity and the prestige of our national polity." For this reason, "this evil religion should immediately be denied the name of Shinto," and "to quickly disband this evil religion and save 900,000 good citizens from its snare is the [urgent responsibility] of the internal authorities."

The mechanism at work begins by placing emphasis on the "immoral" nature of the Renmonkyô, thus arousing public opinion and placing pressure on the authorities to have the Agency of Shrines and Temples (in the Home Affairs Ministry) force the group to disband. As a result, while the Yorozuchôhô on the one hand exposed the essence of the group through its series "The immoral religion of the Renmonkyô," it also used its special editorials to point out the "evil" nature of Renmonkyô from a more theoretical stance.

Trends among Other Newspapers

The first response to the Yorozuchôhô series came from the Niroku shinpô. Beginning the day following the Yorozuchôhô's first installment, the Niroku shinpô ran a three-day series entitled "A world of persistent error: the Renmon Church" ("Meishû no sekai: Renmon Kyôkai"). From then until May 3, the paper ran a total of ten articles dealing with Renmonkyô.

The Yomiuri shinbun began its coverage on April 7 with an article entitled "Be on guard of the Renmon Church" ("Renmon Kyôkai no keikai"), in which it was reported that members had begun negotiations against Mitsu; it then followed that article with eight others describing events as they changed.

The coverage by other newspapers was similar in nature, dealing largely with the confrontation between Renmonkyô and the Yorozuchôhô, lending encouragement to the latter and detailing each response of the religious group. Articles in other papers expressing envy of the "bonanza" enjoyed by the Yorozuchôhô were reprinted in full by the latter, under such titles as "The Renmonkyô and the newspapers," ("Renmonkyô to kaku shinbun"), and "Articles in various newspapers about the Renmon Church" ("Renmon Kyôkai ni tsuki kaku shinbun no hitchû"). These reprints extended over some twenty-two issues, and the reprinted articles themselves represented some thirty-four newspapers, eight general magazines, and four religious newspapers and journals.27 The geographical area involved extended from Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan to Saga Prefecture in Kyûshû.

In the face of these developments, only the Kaishin shinbun opposed the Yorozuchôhô and took up the defense of Renmonkyô. Each newspaper charged the other with receiving bribes from the Renmonkyô, and the papers carried mutual denouncements.28 Other papers bemoaned the appalling state of bickering between the two principals. The conflict took a new turn on April 30 when Mitsu's credentials as religious instructor were revoked and the Kaishin shinbun found itself caught in a disadvantageous position. It sought an accommodation with the Yorozuchôhô and agreed to retract all of its previous articles. This reversal of position resulted in growing distrust among readers of the Kaishin, leading to its eventual demise.

Almost all newspapers ceased their coverage of the Renmonkyô case in May as the Renmonkyô agreed to conditions for its reorganization, but the Yorozuchôhô and the Mezamashi shinbun continued to follow movements within the organization.

Public Response in the Press

The general public reaction to the coverage in the Yorozuchôhô was swift and sharp. Particularly noteworthy was the activity by local "rednecks." At the end of the first week of continuous coverage by the Yorozuchôhô, twelve armed men visited the Renmonkyô's Central Shrine and demanded that the religion disband. Renmonkyô appealed to the police for protection, and two patrolmen were thereafter stationed outside the group's front gate. Regional churches as well experienced continual intimidations, violence, and thefts at the hands of thugs, and public meetings frequently denounced the church and demanded the return of financial donations. In the midst of these disturbances, the Preventative Detention and Observation Ordinance (Yokairei) was applied, resulting in the arrest of numerous troublemakers.29

On the other hand, members of the general public also held meetings and lectures in various locations with the purpose of denouncing the Renmonkyô. A somewhat unusual development was the presentation of speeches, dramatic productions, puppet plays, and amateur plays with characters modeled after Mitsu.

On almost a daily basis, newspapers published letters expressing thanks and encouragement to the press for their attacks on the Renmonkyô, comments, insider revelations said to be written by former members of the group, humorous and "wild" poetry, Chinese-style poems, and parodies.

Publication of Books Critical of Renmonkyô

In line with this campaign, a number of books appeared critical of Renmonkyô. The first appeared in May during the heat of the controversy, and was called Inshi jakyô Renmon sôdan (Collected stories about the illicit religion of Renmon).30 According to an advertisement in the May 4 edition of Yorozuchôhô, twenty-thousand volumes had been prepared in response to pre-publication orders. This large number alone points out the degree of general interest in the issue.

The next work to appear was Inshi jûichi kyôkai (Eleven immoral churches),31 which was published in September of the same year. This work dealt with twenty new religious groups then current, but Renmonkyô was its principle subject of attack, with several times the number of pages being dedicated to it as were allotted to the other groups. The book's contents were composed entirely of quotations from articles published in the Yorozuchôhô and other newspapers to that time. What must be considered noteworthy about this book, however, is its "remarks to the leaders of the Shinto sects," together with the comments in its commentary notes, which express claims identical to those found in the Yorozuchôhô. The final book was Shintô no fuhai, daiippen: Maruyamakyô to Renmonkyô (The decay of Shinto, part 1: Maruyamakyô and Renmonkyô). This book was issued by Yôtôkan in September 1895.

Responses from Other Religions

Responses to the controversy from the world of established Buddhism can be ascertained from comments published in the respective sectarian journals, newspapers and other organs. The Jôdokyôhô (Pure Land news)32 issued by the Jôdo sect carried continual attacks on the Renmonkyô in its April 15 (No. 177) to May 15 (No. 180) issues. In particular, issue No. 179 (May 5) contained a three-page editorial entitled "The eradication of a superstitious religion" ("Yôkyôtaiji"), which claimed that "it is a Buddhist responsibility to defeat this kind of evil religion, but it is necessary also to warn the Shinto sects that they must control this kind of thing."

In the Tendai sect, the problem was raised in issues 76 and 77 of the sect's publication Shimyôyoka.33 Issue 77 featured an article entitled "Geneaology of superstitious religions" ("Yôkyô no keitô") and which insisted that "the appropriate authorities speedily eradicate this kind of spectre and thus eliminate the spread of its disease."

In Hansei zasshi (Reflection magazine),34 editorials from other Buddhist periodicals, including Mitsugon kyôhô, No. 110 and Sanbô sôshî No. 121 were reprinted, arguing for the "extermination" of Renmonkyô.

The magazine Kyôrin35 published an open letter of gratitude to the Yorozuchôhô as early as April 4, and the journals Bukkyô36 and Nisshû shinpô37 added their criticism of the Renmonkyô, sending kudos to the Yorozuchôhô. In addition to these, the Meikyô shinshi38 reprinted verbatim accounts carried by general newspapers, and attacked Renmonkyô through its series of editorials by Katô Totsudô.

Katô's editorials expressed the opinion that religions existed under the authority of the nation, and it was the nation's natural supervisory duty to order a religion to disband if it came to interfere with the nation's existence. Katô further called for pressure on Renmonkyô from the Shinto community, and argued that the Ministry of Home Affairs's Bureau of Shrines and Temples should order the dissolution of Renmonkyô. In this way, the newspaper attempted to apply pressure on the government by stirring up public opinion.

From what can be learned from reports in the Yorozuchôhô, the movement of the Shinto community was greatest within groups of sectarian Shinto. On April 15, it was reported that the young men's association (Seinenkai) of the group Misogikyô organized lectures and demanded that the central headquarter of the Taiseikyô take resolute action against Renmonkyô.

On the front page of its April 27 edition, the Yorozuchôhô reprinted an article of the Misogikyô's young men's group entitled "Appeal for the prohibition of the immoral religion Renmonkyô" ("Inshi Renmon kinsei no geki"). This article stated that as a result of Renmonkyô, the religion of Misogikyô had been "subjected to constant insults, and was ashamed to be under the same Shinto as them." The article went on to call "on the authorities to order the disbanding" of Renmonkyô "for the sake of Shinto, for the sake of the nation," and "in order to eradicate offensive religions and exterminate bogus believers, thus clearing away the stain from peerless grandeur that is Shinto". In the April 29 edition it was reported that activists of the groups Jingûkyô[Glossary: jingu-kyo] and Shinshûkyô[Glossary: shinshu-kyo] had sent similar appeals.

In sum, identical demands were being made by representatives of established Buddhism and sectarian Shinto. And in turn, those demands were surprizingly similar to the ones made in the pages of the Yorozuchôhô. Coming as they were from every direction, these demands for the dissolution of Renmonkyô eventually forced national authorities to react.

2. Responses by Renmonkyô and Actions of the National Government

In response to this media "event" manufactured by the Yorozuchôhô, Renmonkyô's first action was to send each newspaper a rebuttal together with demands for retraction of errors.39 These demands were published in the newspapers alongside the newspaper's articles related to the group, and presented a somewhat bizarre spectacle as the Renmonkyô attempted to play "catch up" with the new articles being published each day.

Next, a rumor was reported in the Tôkyô Asahi shinbun and the Yorozuchôhô to the effect that around March 8 the Renmonkyô had attempted to retaliate against the Yorozuchôhô by using a small newspaper company, the Chûô Tsûshinsha, and acquiring other newspapers.40 Whether fact or fancy beside the point, this episode can be taken as a symptom of the chaotic atmosphere surrounding the Renmonkyô at that time.

Unusual for its time, the Renmonkyô retained its own legal counsel, and they initiated a strategy of legal action, filing a suit for libel on April 12. Beginning April 19, the group twice placed advertisements in various newspapers, including the Yorozuchôhô, entitled "An Announcement to Members of Renmonkyô" ("Renmonkyô shinto shoshi ni tsugu"), attempting to explain the reasons for the group's legal action against the "frame up" fabricated by the Yorozuchôhô.

On April 23 Renmonkyô lawyers filed Japan's first civil suit for an "injunction on publication and restitution for defamation."41 On April 26, the Tokyo Court of Appeals issued a temporary injunction on publication of the Yorozuchôhô, thus interrupting its series "The immoral religion of Renmonkyô."42 Great criticism was expressed against the church's action, however, since it was considered unbecoming a religious group at that time, relying on legal rather than doctrinal grounds to obtain the injunction against the newspaper. This led to further concentrated attacks on the group, with the result that the suits were entirely counterproductive in their effects. Just two days after the injunction began, Renmonkyô withdrew all its suits. This string of uncoordinated responses led to a quick loss of trust in Renmonkyô.

During this period, newspapers reported that the number of believers gathering at local churches on worship days "to receive holy water" was starting to decrease, and believers gathering at the Tsukinami no Matsuri[Glossary: tsukinami_no_matsuri] on April 13 numbered about one-third their normal strength. Dropouts were particularly noticable among upper class and women members, and the lines of carriages which once lined the road outside the shrine's main gates disappeared completely. There were increasing disruptions during sermons, and former believers demanded to have their donations returned.

As the situation came to a head, the national authorities finally decided to act. On April 14 the Yorozuchôhô reported that the superintendant general of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) had directed its local bureaus to investigate the truth of press allegations against the church. Next, a conference was held between the MPD and the Home Ministry's Bureau of Shrines and Temples regarding policies to be taken toward Renmonkyô. On April 19, the Home Ministry subpoened both the director of the Taiseikyô and representatives of Renmonkyô for an interrogation regarding the truth of the published allegations, and simultaneously rejected the church's pending application for independence from the Taiseikyô. On the other hand, actions by the Metropolitan Police Department paralleled those of the Home Ministry, as the MPD began its own independent interrogations of church members.43

The Taiseikyô was thus forced into an unpleasant predicament between the Renmonkyô and the Bureau of Shrines and Temples, and summoned representatives of Renmonkyô several times, both transmitting Home Ministry directives to the church and forwarding the church's defense arguments to the Home Ministry.

The MPD's independent investigations continued to progress, and on April 28 the Fukugawa police station confiscated holy water from the Fukukawa branch church of Renmonkyô. The water was tested at a laboratory and determined to contain ammonia, with the result that it was considered unsafe for drinking, and on May 7 use of "holy water" by the entire church was prohibited.44

Within this rapidly escalating situation, the Taiseikyô could no longer continue protecting the Renmonkyô. On April 30 notice was made to the Home Minstry that Mitsu had been stripped of her ranking as "Daikyôsei".45 But against all expectations that this move would blunt the attacks that now came from every quarter against the Renmonkyô, it had the contrary effect of stimulating their intensity. For this reason, and in order to clarify the reasons behind Mitsu's defrocking and the church's withdrawal of its lawsuits, Renmonkyo published three advertisements in all newspapers except the Yorozuchôhô, entitled "Announcement to all believers to dispell suspicions" (Yo no gi o tokite shinto shoshi ni tsugu). But this series of advertisements was itself confuted by the Yorozuchôhô, and produced no positive results.

On May 8 the Taiseikyô forced the Renmonkyô to accept a writ of "provisions for church reform" (kyôdan kaikaku jôkô).46 The crux of those reforms included "cessation from use of the Tachibana crest" and meetings on the thirteenth day of the month (both of which were considered evidences of disaffiliation from the Nichiren sect); abolition of "holy water" and "the prayer of the marvelous dharma of phenomenal things"; abolition of the practice of the "vigils" (okomori) that had led to unsavory rumors - in other words, a total ban on rituals after 3:00 P.M., and sermons and meetings during evening and night hours. By its acceptance of these provisions, Renmonkyô in essence lost its identity as a religious group.

From this point on, former believers virtually stopped appearing at the church's meetings. Conflicts and schisms rose within the group regarding future policies, and clergy which had been with the church since its inception began defecting to other groups. Mitsu stolidly waited for public opinion to subside and tried numerous times to be reinstalled with her religious ranking, but each occasion was reported in the media and ended in failure. In October Mitsu used the opportunity of the Sino-Japanese War to engage in fund-raising efforts with Shinshû, and she was appointed a special member of the Japan Red Cross. She used her new appointment as reason to appeal to the Taiseikyô, and on October 12 the Taiseikyô reinstated her religious ranking, but the Home Ministry's Bureau of Shrines and Temples rejected the reinstatement.47

In turn, the lenient attitude of the Taiseikyô resulted in public disapprobriation. Isobe Yoshinobu, director of the Taiseikyô, was forced to accept responsibility for the affair, and was pressured to submit his informal resignation. He was dismissed from his post by the Home Minister on November 16, and this episode put a final end to Mitsu's attempts for reinstatement.

5. The Place of Renmonkyô in Meiji Religious History

Only six weeks after the start of the Yorozuchôhô's serialized expos, Renmonkyô was forced into accepting provisions for church reorganization. And the sheer speed with which this event developed points out, first of all, the importance of the role of the mass media.

Within the context of what Murakami Shigeyoshi calls the religio-political institution of State Shinto, Renmonkyô stood apart from national aims. Proclaiming social justice and the censure of social evils, however, the Yorozuchôhô launched a concentrated campaign which resulted in explicit scrutiny being directed toward something which had heretofore been implicitly accepted. By the concerted response of other members of the media, the entire society became involved in the affair, resulting in the production of a kind of social and media "event". In this way, the newspaper series "immoral religion of Renmonkyô" drew public opinion to the Yorozuchôhô's position, namely that "the nation must force Renmonkyô to disband," in that way placing pressure on the church itself, as well as on the Taiseikyô and the Home Ministry's Bureau of Shrines and Temples. Within this ambience of heightened public scrutiny, the actions of the national authorities found their legitimation, allowing police and Home Ministry to apply concrete external sanctions in the form of prohibitions on the use of "holy water," as well by as making administrative restrictions in the form of guidance and monitoring authorities vis-a-vis the Taiseikyô. In these two ways, the Renmonkyô was for all practical purposes deprived of life. The mass media operated as one link in this mechanism, and served the role of supporting the established authorities.48

A generalization of this process of oppression of new religions might be outlined as follows:

A new religious group is at variance with the implicit assumptions of a State Shinto institution, and gradually triggers friction with its surrounding society, thus becoming the object of rumor.

At that point, the mass media steps in, discovering the scandal value of the group and raising it to the status of a popular topic. When a series of media articles is greeted with popular approval by readers, it gradually evolves from mere scandal-mongering into a campaign with its own self-legitimating claims or themes. And given the basic nature of the mass media, that campaign naturally takes the form of a censuring of social evil.

The campaign then exposes the group as an "immoral religion" (inshi), raising the dogma of national polity (kokutai) to censure the evil. The campaign arouses public opinion against the group, transforming itself into a media event centering on public opinion itself.

As public opinion coalesces around the demand that the group be disbanded, the public's unified will seeks the intervention of state authorities, thus resulting in a further escalation of the "event." Police and other state authorities begin to intervene and initiate oppression of the group against the positive background of overwhelming popular support. In this way, the event reaches its high point and proceeds towards denouement.

As the first example of a comprehensive pattern of oppression, the events of 1894 formed a precursor of the persecution of Tenrikyô in 1896. And it is also without doubt that this event was one element which stimulated the formation of official government policies regarding the new religions. On the social level, it was also characteristic of the common Japanese view of new religions as bogus or spurious religions.

As a model of state oppression of religion, the case of Renmonkyô may prove valuable as a prototype of the adaptation or growth and decline of a new religion in the context of Japan's unique form of state oppression. Of course, when considering the issue of change or adaptation, it is also important to think of those various factors internal to the religious group in question as well, but the strength of powerful external factors of state oppression tend to isolate and more clearly expose such internal factors, thus forming another valid reason for undertaking such a study.

In this study, however, I have deliberately placed my primary emphasis on uncovering the overall sequence of events, with the unavoidable result that I have said little about those internal factors (doctrines, organization, etc.) which played themselves out in the context of persecution, and which might be relevant to the group's eventual dissolution. I hope to leave such a consideration of the Renmonkyô group itself to another opportunity. Aside from that, numerous other issues remain for future study, including a comparison of this pattern of persecution with that seen in the cases of other groups.


1. Called Renmon Kyôkai ("Renmon Church") in Taiseikyô documents. This is the same name found in other contemporary media accounts, although the group called itself merely Renmonkyô (the Renmon religion).

2. I have written elsewhere regarding the history of this group; see my "Nihon kindai ni okeru shinshukyô kyôdan no tenkai katei - Renmonkyô no hôkai yôin no bunseki o tôshite," [The development of a new religion in Japan's early modern period, studied through an analysis of the factors involved in the fall of Renmonkyô], Taishô Daigaku daigakuin kenkyû ronshû [Research reports from the Taishô University Graduate School], 8 (1984); "Nihon kindai no shinshûkyô tenkai katei" [The process of development of a new religion in early modern Japan], Bukkyô ronsô [Essays in Buddhism], 27 (1983); and "Yorozuchôhô ni yoru Renmonkyô kôgeki kyanpeen" [The campaign against the Renmonkyô by the newspaper Yorozuchôhô], Kokugakuin Daigaku Nihon Bunka Kenkyûjo kiyo [Transactions of the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics], 63 (1989).

3. Few documents are available relating to the establishment of Renmonkyô. At present, the most detailed accounts can be found in Murakami Shigeyoshi, Nihon shûkyô jiten (s.v. "Renmonkyô"); Oguchi Iichi and Murakami Shigeyoshi, "Kindai shakai seiritsuki no shinshûkyô" (New religions in the period of the formation of early modern society), Nihon shûkyôshi kôza, v.2, 227-230.

For conditions in the Meiji period, that part of Itô Yôjirô's book Inshi jûichi kyôkai [Eleven immoral churches] entitled "Inshi Renmon kyôkai" [The immoral Renmon church] has detailed information. See note 31 for a full citation. Itô's work, however, is composed totally of accounts which appeared in the Yorozuchôhô and other newspapers. Murakami appears to have composed his history of the group based on this work, thus repeating the errors contained in the original (for example, listing the name of Mitsu's husband as Kôkichi instead of the correct Otokichi). At present, the only extant direct material on the group is the 1954 "diary" (Shuki) of Shimamura Fujisuke, who served as assistant leader of the Shintô Tôitsu Kyôkai from the time of Renmonkyô's breakup until his own death in 1961 at the age of 76. Even this work, however, contains no material on Mitsu's youth, or activities during the period when the church was located in Kokura.

4. Yanagita Ichibei (Sonyû), 1794-1877. According to the 1866 register of special rice allotments (kirimai) for samurai of Kokura Domain, Yanagita had a stipend of ten koku and three servants, and he was among those defeated in the battle against Chôshû that year, moving to Toyozu in 1870. According to a later register of special rice allotments for samurai of the Toyozu domain, Yanagita was a "criminal investigator" (kikugoku) with stipend of 13 koku and three servants. In addition to his domainal duties, it is said that Yanagita lectured on the Lotus Sutra and taught that branch of Confucian learning known as Jitsugaku; according to one theory, he was a member of the then-prohibited "Fujufuse" ("no receiving, no giving") branch of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism (see above, Murakami, "Kindai shakai seiritsuki no shinshûkyô, p. 228). That hypothesis, however, has no solid evidence to back it up, and it is difficult to imagine that a "criminal investigator" responsible for handling felons would have belonged to a prohibited religious group. Within Renmonkyô, Yanagita was referred to as Senshi ("master").

5. "Inshi Renmon kyôkai" [The immoral Renmon church] (installments 3-5), Yorozuchôhô, March 30 to April 1, 1894. In response to these articles, Renmonkyô demanded a retraction, claiming that the account of Mitsu's police detention were totally false. But the church's own documents contain materials pointing to such detention in Kokura. The account of Mitsu's coming to Tokyo in the spring of 1882 is supported by Shimamura's Shuki.

6. Yorozuchôhô, April 1-3, 1894. This punishment corresponds to Article 27, Paragraph 12 (misdemeanors) of the criminal law that had been promulgated on January 1 of that year: "To seek for personal profit by leading people astray through the spreading of groundless prophecies, fortunes, or magical incantations."

The disposition was apparently an exception to the Penal Procedures Law (Chizaihô), equivalent to the current Criminal Procedures Act (Keiji Soshôhô), whereby local police stations were authorized to take immediate measures to determine guilt and execute punishment. For details regarding laws and ordinances (and changes in their application) aimed at Meiji-period new religions, see the abstract of my presentation "Meiji hôseishi ni okeru shûkyôhô" [The place of laws relating to religion within the history of Meiji legal institutions] delivered before the 41st Conference for the Association of Religion (Shûkyô Gakkai), and found in Shûkyô kenkyû [Religious Studies], No. 255 (March, 1983), 32-25.

7. A demand for retraction of errors is printed in the Yorozuchôhô on April 6, sent by someone with the name Makinose Yukimitsu, member representative for Renmonkyô; part of that demand reads, "Our religion was started on July 24 1882."

8. Kyôkaimei, basho oyobi setsuritsu nengetsu ichiranbo [List of church names, locations, and dates of establishment], in possession of Taiseikyô. The various fluctuations in dates of church establishment is based on this document.

9. Yorozuchôhô, January 3 1894.

10. Figures according to Yorozuchôhô and other newspapers, and the Shuki by Shimamura.

11. The "Notice of dismissal from office" (Menshoku no kokuchi) including the twenty-four names was listed in various newspapers on May 25.

12. Kokuchi [Notice], listed in various newspapers on May 26.

13. This record is based on the Kyôkai kôsha fukenbetsu sakuin genbo [Original register of churches and confraternities indexed by prefecture], and Shokuin ninmenroku Shôwa kyûnen sangatsu itaru Shôwa sanjûgonen [Record of official appointments and dismissals from March 1934 to 1960].

14. See Yoshida Kyûichi, "Meiji ishin ni okeru hinkon no henshitsu" [The changing nature of poverty in the Meiji Restoration], in Nihon no kyûhin seido [Social relief systems in Japan] (Keisô Shobô, 1960), 3-4, 10-35.

15. "While Western medical technology has been previously opposed, its beneficial aspects shall henceforth be employed" (3th day of 3rd month, 1870).

16. See Kawakami Takeshi, Gendai Nihon iryôshi [A history of modern Japanese medicine], (Keisô Shobô, 1965), 32.

17. Ibid, 143-144.

18. Isei hachijûnen shi [80 years of medical institutions] (Kôseishô Imukyoku [Ministry of Health, Bureau of Medical Affairs], 1955), 790-791.

19. Contemporary newspapers commonly carried advertisements for cholera remedies. For example, the Yomiuri shinbun for 1877 carried advertisements for "Government-approved cholera preventative. Purveyors to the Home Ministry"; "Calcium-carbonate cholera disinfectant and preventative"; "Government-approved cholera-preventative calcium carbonate soap."

20. Yonezu Saburô, "Renmonkyô ni tsuite" [About the Renmonkyô], Kiroku [Records] 20 (1980), Kokura Kyôdokai.

21. Yorozuchôhô August 1, 1895: "The police department gives official instructions to each church."

22. Tenrikyô focused on healing rituals as well, but it appears that not many people entering the religion during this period did so out of the desire for protection from cholera. According to Oguri Junko, out of 240 members who entered the religion between 1877 and 1894, only 2.5% did so out for reasons of cholera or other epidemic disease (1877: 2; 1879:1: 1885: 1; 1886: 2). Nihon no kindai shakai to Tenrikyô [Modern Japanese society and Tenrikyô] (Hyôronsha, 1969), 51-64.

23. It might be noted in comparison that in 1887, a newspaper cost 1 sen, 5 rin, while a bean-jam dumpling (manju) cost about 1 sen.

24. Conversation between Izumi Kyôka and Oguri Fûyô, "Kôyô sensei" [Our teacher Kôyô], Ozaki Kôyôshû, [The collected works of Ozaki Kôyô], Meiji bungaku zenshû, 18 (Chikuma Shobô, 1965), 363.

25. The Yorozuchôhô delivered even more personal attacks against members of upper-class society and the government bureaucracy. The fact that those articles were published on page three of the newspaper led to the use of the term "page-three articles" to describe their tabloid nature. From 1897 the newspaper was printed on thinly red-colored paper, leading to the term "red newspaper," an expression which became a synonym for a newspaper devoted to sensationalistic reportage. The upper classes of Japanese society feared the Yorozuchôhô, but it was popular among readers, and for a long time maintained the largest circulation of all Japanese newspapers.

26. Since members of Renmonkyô refused the ministrations of medical doctors, ordinary physicians refused to sign certificates of death for the group, leading to repeated trouble. It is said that the group maintained its own physicians for this reason.

27. Of these, I have been able to confirm the orignal documents in the case of twenty-six newspapers, three magazines, and five religious newspapers. Each of these reproduced the articles accurately and in full.

28. The Yorozuchôhô dedicated its full front page to these attacks; their surprising viciousness and lack of taste were evident from the headlines alone. They included "Kaishin shinbun and Renmonkyô"; "Yorozuchôhô and the Kaishin shinbun"; "Corruption of the Kaishin shinbun"; "Look at the indecency of the Kaishin shinbun, drunk on money from the Renmon paganism"; "Stinking bribery"; "Bribe-taker!" and "Kaishin shinbun, slave of Renmon."

29. These indicate the various newspapers up until May 3. The Yokairei was designed to preserve public peace and order and regulate private organizations and public gatherings, and legitimated the suppression and dispersion of any mass public street demonstrations.

30. Inshi jakyô Renmon sôdan [Talks on the immoral heathenism of Renmon] (Tokyo: Yôtôkan).

31. Itô Yôjirô (Rensô), Inshi jûichi kyôkai [Eleven immoral churches], (Aichi: Kichûdô, 1894).

32. Jôdokyôhô [Pure Land religious news], Jôdokyôhôsha, published three times monthly.

33. Shimyôyoka, Tendaishû Shûmusho Bunshoka (Tendai Sect Business Offices, Documents Division).

34. Hansei zasshi (name later changed to the present Chûô kôron), ninth year, number 4 (Hansei Zasshisha); Mitsugon kyôhô [Ghana-vyûha news] (Mitsugon kyôhôsha, Shinshû Honganjiha); Sanbô sôshi [Journal of the three jewels] is the later name for the Ryôchikai zasshi issued by Shimaji Mokurai.

35. Kyôrin (Kyôrinsha).

36. Bukkyô, No. 90 (non-sectarian Buddhist journal), Kaji Hôjun.

37. Nisshû shinpô [Nichiren sect news].

38. Meikyô shinshi, Meikyôsha (non-sectarian Buddhist newspaper), issued on even-numbered days, April 6 to June 22, 1894.

39. Article 13 of the Newspaper Ordinance of 1889 stipulated that newspapers must carry corrections and rebuttals offered by interested parties, regardless of the presence of any factual evidence. As a result, each newspaper company was under obligation to print such articles, and their titles were things like "Demand for retraction of prices," or "Formal correction."

40. Tôkyô asahi shinbun, April 10; Yorozuchôhô, April 11.

41. On the following day, the Yorozuchôhô criticized the event as an "a strange lawsuit without precedent."

42. With regard to the injunction against publication of the articles, the Yorozuchôhô editorialized on the 28th that this injunction was "the first such example since the beginning of the media," arguing for both the freedom of religious belief and for the freedom of criticism of religion, and complaining that religious groups were "hiding behind the law."

43. See Yorozuchôhô, Tôkyô nichinichi shinbun, and Yamato shinbun, all for April 17-21.

44. Yorozuchôhô, April 29, May 9-10.

45. The notice states, "In connection with the dismissal from office of Daikyôsei Shimamura Mitsu, this notice extends to an unspecified future date and time, and enjoins her to engage in religious activities only with strict circumspection."

46. Limitations of space make it impossible to include all the articles of reform; their crucial passages, however, include the following:

47. Details can be found in Tôkyô asahi shinbun, October 19; Yorozuchôhô, October 20; and in "Renmonkyôkai Shimamura Mitsu fukushoku no riyû" [Reasons for the restoration of Renmonkyô's Shimamura Mitsu to her previous religious status], Mezamashi shinbun, October 19 to November 8.

48. With regard to the role of the mass media, see Nakano Osamu and Hayakawa Zenjirô, eds., Masukomi ga jiken o tsukuru; jôhô ibento no jidai [The creation of sensational news by the mass media; the age of communication events] (Tokyo: Yûhikaku, 1981).

Translator's Notes

I. This article originally appeared in Japanese as "Renmonkyô no hôkai katei no kenkyu - Meiji shûkyôshi ni okeru Renmonkyô no ichi," Nihon Bukkyô [Japanese Buddhism], No. 59 (1983).

II. Taiseikyô (or Shintô Taiseikyô) was begun by Hirayama Seisai[Glossary: hirayama_seisai] (1815-1890), a warrior from the Miharu domain who served as a minister for the Tokugawa government in the area of foreign relations. Hirayama founded Taiseikyô as an umbrella organization for numerous smaller independent religious groups (one of which was Renmonkyô) that shared the same Shinto ideals. This kind of supra-organization was one means of coordinating Shinto activity in the face of new religious freedom during the early years of the Meiji period.

III. The expression "marvelous practice" (myôhô) is a synonym for the "marvelous dharma" of the Lotus Sutra, a fact which is obviously important in Shimamura's subsequent religious career.

IV. Shingaku was the "teaching of mind," an early new religion or popular philosophy spread by Ishida Baigan (1687-1744) in the mid-Tokugawa period. It combined a system of personal ethics with training in meditation and mental quieting. See Robert Bellah, Tokugawa Religion - The Values of Preindustrial Japan (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1957).

V. Respectively, the "universal shrine of the Renmonkyô temple" and the "headquarters temple of the Renmonkyô."

VI. Shintô Honkyoku originated with the Shintô Jimukyoku [Shinto Office], an organization established in March 1875 to coordinate Shinto shrine activities. As various new religious groups of Shinto orientation were permitted increasing independence, however, the Shinto Office's own official status was cancelled in 1882, after which it was treated as an independent sect of Shinto. It changed its name to Shinto Honkyoku in 1886.

VII. The Fusôkyô originated early in the Meiji period as a religious group devoted to Mt. Fuji, but it included a strong current of nationalistic Restoration Shinto[Glossary: fukko_shinto] beliefs, including a triune creator deity. The sect took its current name in 1877.
Cholera Dysentery Typhoid Fever (enteric) Smallpox Typhoid Fever (spotted) Diptheria
1896  85,87622,35642,5059,17410,7043,38892288,6133,295
1897  91,07723,76326,9985,69741,94612,276582315,4885,579
1898  90,97622,39225,2975,6971,752362411519,6926,453
1899  108,71323,76327,6736,4521,215245551321,0336,667

[Source: Isei hachijû nen-shi (A history of eighty years of medicine)]

[Table of Contents]

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