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Meiji-period kokugaku: activities of Hirata-school scholars, Iida Takesato and the Oyashima-gakkai
March 22, 2004 / 6.30 p.m
Michael Wachutka, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
It is well known that Shintoists and kokugaku scholars were a major force in the restoration movement. But in spite of having initially been instrumental as basis for the new government’s structure, soon after, kokugaku ideology was dismissed in politics as unfitting the times.Due to the overwhelming image of Meiji being a time of “Westernization”, research concerned with kokugaku in this period is virtually non-existent compared to the Edo-period kokugaku of Motoori Norinaga and Hirata Atsutane, and also the new kokugaku (shin-kokugaku) of Yanagita Kunio and Orikuchi Shinobu starting to rise in different stages as early as around 1900. But what happened with kokugaku in between?
Focusing on the activities of various Hirata school scholars, the first part of the presentation gives a broad outline of how throughout the early and middle Meiji-period “kokugaku” was transformed from a political and religious movement into an educational and academic discipline, the legacy of which are the diversified studies of kokubungaku (national literature), kokushigaku (national history), or kokugogaku (national language) to name but a few.
The second part will exemplify this trend by looking at the ideas and agenda for establishing the “Historiological Association” (Shigaku-kyokai; 1883), its successor, the “Great-Eight-Island Academic Society” (Oyashima-gakkai; 1886), and the private educational institution of this academic group, Oyashima-gakko. The driving force behind these groups were the leading names encountered already in part one, especially Iida Takesato (1828 – 1900), an expert on the national classics and ancient institutions and best known for his exhaustive research on Nihon-shoki.The example of Oyashima-gakkai with its nearly four thousand subscribed members and its own school — which besides its 50-60 pupils per class was regularly attended by many other elementary school teachers — clearly shows how besides all the labels of “Westernization” and “modernization” commonly used for the Meiji period, nativist thoughts still were actively spread into wide parts of the population, hence laying the grounds for later developments.
My ongoing research on which this presentation is based, thus tries to bridge the gap existing between research of the “original” early modern kokugaku at the one and the “new” shin-kokugaku at the other end of the Meiji-period.