Cultural Identity and Modernization in Asian Countries

Their Growth and Significance


1. Early Modern and Modern in Japanese Cultural History -- Historical Circumstances of Kokugaku

[Glossary: kokugaku]

(1) Periodization of History (in the case of cultural history and literature-art history)

It was not until the Early Modern period that the significance of historical studies came to be realized in Japan, and only after the Meiji period, when the European philosophy of history and methodology of learning were first introduced, did the problems of historical views of culture and the periodization of history begin to be discussed. This does not mean, however, that there was no awareness of the value of historical studies before the Early Modern period in Japan. For example, in the Middle Ages, a historical view based on Buddhist and Shinto[Glossary: shinto] faith can be found in JIEN's Gukanshô and in KITABATAKE[Glossary: kitabatake_chikafusa]'s Jinnoô-shôtôki[Glossary: jinno_shotoki]. In the Early Modern period, under the influence of Confucianism, a naturalistic historical view began to appear. Indications of this awareness can also be found in the three-period doctrine or three-generation thought in the Buddhistic historical view. Even more definite thought about periodization can be found in ARAI Hakuseki's Dokushi yoron.

In the field of literature/art, we can find periodization as early as FUJIWARA Shunzei's Korai-futai-shô in the Middle Ages. He uses the divisions kami (upper) for the Man'yôshu period, naka-mukashi (middle ancient) for the Kokinshû and Gosenshô, and shimo (lower) for the Shuishû and Goshuishû.

In the Early Modern period, a three-period division of ancient waka poetry can be found in KAMO Mabuchi's introduction to his Man'yô-kô, and even more specific periodization can be found in the Riku unben by FUJITANI Nariakira[Glossary: fujitani_nariakira] and his son Mitsue[Glossary: fujitani_mitsue]. Their six periods continued to be applied to later studies in the history of waka.

But this traditional periodization is no longer used in cultural or literary/art history. The periodization now in use is based on an imported European philosophy of history.

(2) Early Modern in Japan and Modern in the West

Periodization in European cultural history has tended toward a trichotomy since the end of the 17th century, when the division was first made by Christoph Cellarius into "Historia antiqua" (1686), "Historia medii" (1688) and "Historia nova" (1696).

The concept of trichotomy in European historical studies seems to focus on the present age, viewing it as a revival of an ancient golden age which passed into long decline in the preceding middle ages.

This follows the ancient view that history repeats itself: the first period is the glorious past, the second is a period of decline, and the third is the present revival of the good old days.

In European history, the Renaissance was believed to be the revival of ancient culture and the harbinger of a good modern period. In religion, the divine right laws were believed to have been revived in the modern period through the Reformation, which was first a struggle against medieval restrictions. In short, the modern period in Europe was thought to start from some point during the Renaissance, between the 14th and 16th centuries.

Etymologically, "modern" is derived from "mode," and it originally means the present age of the same mode, that is, that of the same society, the same way of existence to which people belong. Accordingly, in Europe there was no distinction between Modern and Early Modern as found in Japan.

In contrast with this European three-part periodization, Japanese periodization puts Early Modern between the Middle and Modern periods as the third period.

(3) The Problems of Imported Culture and National Isolation

Japanese culture includes imported culture. In earlier times, Japan concentrated on importing Chinese culture, and in recent times, European culture, always attempting to catch up and surpass others. Japanese cultural history might be characterized as a history of the formation of a "complex-culture," the process of introducing and assimilating foreign cultures. This inevitably gives rise to such problems as how to distinguish the national culture from the imported foreign cultures and how to decompose Japanese culture into national and foreign elements, as well as the question of when medieval culture ends and early modern culture starts.

We should note again that the Early Modern period in Japanese cultural history is not equivalent to the European Modern. Why did this unique concept of Early Modern come about in Japan? Because of the Tokugawa policy of national isolation for nearly two hundred years. This happened just when European modernization was starting and East-West contact was beginning. This is one fact we must consider in any analysis of modernization in Japan.

Gunpowder (ca.1300), the compass (1302), and movable type (1445) are said to be the three great inventions of the modern West. The invention of gunpowder altered the art of warfare. The invention of the compass enabled navigation of the vast oceans and brought East and West together. Columbus discovered America in 1492; Vasco da Gama made his first voyage over the Indian Ocean in the years 1497 to 1499; Magellan of Portugal circled the globe in 1519. In 1541, the first Portuguese ship drifted ashore at Bungo; two years later, another Portuguese ship arrived at Tanegashima, bringing guns.

In 1403, Huss of Germany lit the fire of religious revolution. Martin Luther's religious revolt began in 1517. The Calvinist movement began in 1541. The missionary Francis Xavier landed at Kagoshima in 1549. This is the beginning of the propagation of Christianity in Japan. In 1560, the current bakufu (military government) granted Gasper Vilela and others permission to preach. That was the year ODA Nobunaga defeated IMAGAWA Yoshimoto at Okehazama; Japan was still in the midst of civil warfare. But the modern West was gradually making headway into Japan.

Although ODA Nobunaga had tolerated Christian missionaries, his successor, TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi, issued a prohibition on their activities in 1587. TOKUGAWA Ieyasu became Seii-Taishôgun, or Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force Against the Barbarians, in 1603, signaling the official inauguration of the Tokugawa bakufu. Ieyasu encouraged foreign trade, but continued to prohibit Christianity.

The Shimabara revolt occurred in Kyushu in 1637. It was suppressed early the following year, and the bakufu issued another edict against Christianity later in 1638. The official policy of isolation was adopted in 1639, and all trade was banned except for that with China and Holland. The doors to the country remained closed until the ratification of the amity treaties with the U.S., Britain, and Russia in 1854. For 215 years there was virtually no interaction with the West.

This is why Japan's modernization was delayed for so long, resulting in the drastic "modernizing-is-westernizing" of the Meiji Era. This is the age in which early modern Kokugaku[Glossary: kokugaku] was born and developed and the way was paved for the formation of New Kokugaku.

2. From Early Modern Kokugaku to Modern Kokugaku (Preconditions for the Development of New Kokugaku)

(1) The Essence of Early Modern Kokugaku and Its Development

The period when early modern Kokugaku was born and developed ranges over 250 years, from 1640, the year when Keichu[Glossary: keichu] was born, to the early years of the Meiji Era. It, in fact, covers the whole period of the early modern during which Japan was, as a result of that isolation policy, excluded from any contact with the West except the Dutch. During this period there appeared so many Kokugaku scholars, some distinguished and some obscure, that we cannot treat each of their achievements here. I will mention just a few of the most distinguished scholars and some representative schools.

  1. KEICHU (1640-1701) and his methodology
    (Philological study of Japanese classics -- Interpretative study of classical language and of Man'yôshû)

  2. KADA no Azumamaro[Glossary: kada_no_azumamaro] (1669-1736) and his methodology
    (Theological study of ancient teachings and faiths--Shinto studies, study on ancient court and military practices, interpretative study of classics)

  3. KAMO no Mabuchi[Glossary: kamo_no_mabuchi] (1697-1769) and his school
    (Interpretative study of waka (poetry) -- Interpretative study of classical language, Man'yôshû, study on ancient morality)

  4. MOTOORI Norinaga[Glossary: motoori_norinaga] (1730-1801) and his school
    (Philological study of ancient morality -- literary criticism of Genji monogatari, study of ancient morality centered on Kojiki[Glossary: kojiki], Shinto studies, study of Japanese language)

  5. KATO Chikage (1735-1808) and his school
    (Study on literature and arts -- literary review of Man'yôshû, critical study of literature and arts, artistic production)

  6. HIRATA Atsutane[Glossary: hirata_atsutane] (1776-1843) and his school
    (Political study of Shinto -- Shinto studies, the doctrine of "national character," study of ancienthistory and morality, faith in reikon (holy spirits))

It is difficult to describe the features of each school in a limited space, but we may at least suggest the main trends in early modern Kokugaku. These six scholars are listed in chronological order, but gaps of some thirty to forty years may be noticed. Nor does their order indicate any sort of lineage of a particular school of thought.

Direct relationships may be found between (B) and (C) and between (C) and (E). (C) and (D) met once, and MOTOORI even went so far as to apply to KAMO's school, but their ultimate relationship was solely through written correspondence. In terms of influence, (C) integrated the thought of (A) and (B) to form the mainstream of early modern Kokugaku, and passed that integrated system of thought on to (D) and (E). Direct disciples of (C) included (E) and his Edo school, but it was rather (D) who carried on the mainstream tradition. After that point, Kokugaku split into two branches, the Edo school and the Hirata school ((E) and (F)).

The fields of Kokugaku may be broadly classified as studies in the ancient Shinto Way (religion and thought) and cultural studies in literature and the arts. I refer to the former as classical Kokugaku scholarship and to the latter as aesthetic Kokugaku criticism (or cultural Kokugaku studies). Together, they form the essence of traditional Kokugaku. In this essential early modern Kokugaku we can distinguish three academic features:

  1. classical - cultural studies of the historical ethnicgroup;
  2. spiritual - studies of faith in the religious Shinto Way;
  3. syncretic - comprehensive research methodology.

The classical scholarship is represented by (B), (C), (D), and (F); the aesthetic criticism, by (A), (C), (D), and (E). (C) and (D) combined both aspects and can rightfully be called scholars of the essential mainstream Kokugaku, although (C) tended more toward the classics and (D) more toward aesthetic criticism. It was (C) who influenced the later Edo school (E), while the influence of (D) is stronger with the Hirata school (F).

(2) Division of Kokugaku into the Edo School and the Hirata School (Two Traditional Schools of Kokugaku)

Among other Kokugaku schools, the Edo school and the Hirata school, which were both formed at the end of early modern Kokugaku's development, are most distinguished by striking contrasts.

The Edo school, represented by KATO Chikage and MURATA Harumi[Glossary: murata_harumi], developed in the social and cultural circle of Edo's shitamachi (downtown), the most typical commercial town in Japan's period of isolation. This community was characterized by an artistic, petibourgeois flavor. The Edo school which developed in these circumstances naturally put more stress on applying scientific methods to the study of modern culture, instead of an interpretative approach to classical studies.

The Hirata school on the other hand, was based in the Yamanote (uptown) section of Edo, which was the residential area of the samurai class. Their interests ranged from ancient history and morality to Confucianism and Buddhism. They also emphasized the superiority of the Empire of Japan. This consciousness of foreign culture was a factor in the development of New Kokugaku.

(3) Modernization in the Early Meiji Era and Germination of New Kokugaku

The new government of Meiji attempted to put the teachings of Kokugaku in the center of its education policy and to abolish the old institutions of the Tokugawa regime which emphasized Confucianism and Buddhism. This attempt ultimately failed due to various kinds of resistance and internal struggles between the Kokugaku schools, but it gave a stimulus to the movement of Westernization-modernization The early years of Meiji saw the rapid and abundant importation of Western cultures into Japan, which, in fact, stimulated the people to reflect and reconsider their own national culture and the revival of the Kokugaku movement. A Course of Classics was established at Tokyo University, as well as the Institute of Royal Classics, Kokugakuin University[Glossary: kokugakuin_daigaku], and the Jingu-Kogakkan School[Glossary: jingu_kogakukan]. The foundation of these institutions marked the first step toward the establishment of New Kokugaku Studies focusing on the national culture.

3. Formation of New Kokugaku and the Significance of Studies of National Culture (The Future of New Kokugaku)

(1) New Kokugaku as a Form of Folklore (Yanagita Studies and Origuchi Studies)

The germination of New Kokugaku as a systematic study can be found in HAGA's introduction of German "philologie" and advocation of Japanese philology (study of Japanese literature). In the later years of Meiji and early years of Taisho, the discipline of kokubungaku (study of Japanese literature) and its name were basically settled; its method was a combination of the old Kokugaku (early modern Kokugaku) and German "philologie," giving birth to New Kokugaku in its broader sense.

In the narrower or proper sense, however, New Kokugaku is the folkloristic New Kokugaku advocated by both YANAGITA Kunio[Glossary: yanagita_kunio] and ORIGUCHI Shinobu. This new type of Kokugaku is a new movement to breathe new spirit into the early modern Kokugaku and to declare a new method of learning.

YANAGITA first began to develop his theory of a New Kokugaku around 1935, but the first formal use of the term was in the postwar publication of his three-part Talks on New Kokugaku. When we attempt to compare and contrast Old (Early Modern) Kokugaku and New Kokugaku, we find that Old Kokugaku is a discipline that developed in Japan's period of isolation from the international scene; it was pursued without conscious recognition of foreign influence. Its scholars therefore concentrated on the revival of studies of the indigenous Shinto faith; it is a pure study of ancient Japanese culture. Its methodology is based on primary sources to illuminate the historical study of that one faith. Folklore, on the other hand, is a modern Western science, a discipline which seeks to discover the fundamental folk culture in modern daily life. It is the study of folk culture, and its methodology includes the treatment of popular legend as primary data.

Thus we might say that Old Kokugaku is more ethnocentric, with more emphasis on archaic sources, while New Kokugaku takes a more modern, comparative, folklorist approach.

(2) Shinto came close to extinction after the Second World War.

According to the Occupation Forces' decree concerning Shinto, both State Shinto[Glossary: kokka_shinto] and Shrine Shinto were banned, and not only chairs in Shinto studies at Tokyo University but all public institutions associated with Shinto, such as the Institute of Royal Classics and the Jingu-Kogakkan School, were closed. Kokugakuin survived only because it was a private institution for academic research in Shinto as a religion. But professors of Shinto studies were purged from their positions, and thus with no staff, the continued existence of the department was severely threatened.

It was YANAGITA and ORIGUCHI and their new discipline of Shinto studies, New Kokugaku, that provided the academic and theoretical support for the maintenance of Shrine Shinto and the rebuilding of the Department of Shinto Studies at Kokugakuin. They were virtually the only two educators involved either in statements outside or lectures within the circle of Kokugakuin classes or Shinto shrines. Their New Kokugaku might well be called New Shinto Studies. From around 1950 to around 1965, YANAGITA lectured on theoretical Shinto studies at the graduate school of Kokugakuin. Needless to say, this was at ORIGUCHI's recommendation.

ORIGUCHI had begun lectures on such topics as "New Kokugaku," "Survey of Kokugaku," and "Survey of Shinto" as early as 1938. After the war, his lectures were broadcast on radio shows. Advocating Shinto as a religion, he became a professor in the Department of Shinto Studies to aid in its revival; he also invited YANAGITA to help save Shinto studies from isolation.

After ORIGUCHI's death, YANAGITA continued to direct his energy along the same channels, and in his last years was a great source of inspiration in the early days of the founding of the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics.

(3) The Future of New Kokugaku as a Study of National Culture

In YANAGITA's later years, as studies in the folklore of one country often develop into comparative folklore, so his methodology, too, found close connections with ethnology. His theory of New Kokugaku went beyond new national studies or studies in folk Shinto and developed into comparative cultural studies focusing on one particular country. This is especially clear from the academic foundations of the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, into which he poured so much energy in his later years.