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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Michael Wachutka

Japanese Studies, History
Since November 2001
(PhD Students, November 7, 2001 - September 30, 2002)

Research Topic


This Dissertation is a biographic-historiographic research on the life, thought and influence of the late Tokugawa/early Meiji kokugaku-scholar Iida Takesato who is mostly known today for his 70- volume Nihonshoki-tsūshaku, the largest commentary work on Nihongi ever written. Being a kokugaku scholar of the Hirata-school, Iida Takesato throughout his life was head-priest at different important Shintō-shrines during the Great Promulgation Campaign; educator of shrine-priests at the official ”Great Teaching Institute” Daikyōin; lecturer on Japanese Classics at the school of his home province Takashima; employed as expert on them by the Japanese Imperial Court; affiliated with Tokyo University and its Historiographic Institute as well as Kokugakuin and Keio University; and acquainted with prominent figures such as Iwakura Tomomi and others. Moreover, Iida was the founder of the “Great Japan Academic Association” Ōyashima-gakkai, among the prominent members being inter alios Motoori Toyokai, Kume Motobumi, Yano Harumichi, Kurokawa Mayori, Mozume Takami or Kimura Masakoto.

In my dissertation I contextualize these scholars’ lives and work within the broader framework of the intellectual, social and political milieu at the late Edo and early Meiji period, as it clearly exemplifies the change, redefinition and continuing use of kokugaku ideology in turbulent times of transition and self-discovery in Japan. The examples of the Ōyashima-gakkai scholars clearly show how in early Meiji period nativist ideology was actively spread into wide parts of the population by specific promotion through the new government.

However, when looking for instance at Iida’s writings a more diversified picture emerges. In there we find an attempt to juxtapose and combine the official kokutai and shinkoku ideology in which he was educated with ”opposing” research based on Western methodologies by early Western Japanologists in Japan, whom he personally knew and sometimes closely cooperation with. In life and work of Iida Takesato and his only marginally researched scholarly group, the personal dimension of lesser-known but active and influential (background) participants in historic events can be felt. Their sometimes-ambivalent dealing with the inner dilemma and ”confusion” that can be told from for instance Iida’s writings, helps to demonstrate and explain the often-necessary tightrope walk of intellectuals and academics of a whole epoch. A closer examination of Iida, his “Great Japan Academic Association” and their ideas is not only necessary but certainly also very fruitful. The aim of this study therefore is to reveal to what extent the dichotomy of Iida Takesato’s education in Hirata-ideology during the late Tokugawa-period and his later exchange with Western scholars in the Meiji-period are reflected in the changing concepts of his many works and essays; and to what extent the (academic) discourse on nation, religion, proper history and politics among the members of Ōyashima-gakkai (many being Politicians or important Professors) was transferred to possibly influence Japanese politics or society at large.

This Ph.D. project shall foremost be the first in-depth biography of the immanent scholar Iida Takesato in a western language, as well as secondly provide a contribution to the analysis of kokugaku thought and the reciprocal relation between academic discourse and state-ideology in early Meiji-period.


Academic Memberships

• Association for Asian Studies, AAS
• European Association for Japanese Studies, EAJS
• Gesellschaft für Japanforschung, GFJ [(German) Association for Japanese Studies]
• Deutsche Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens, Tōkyō [OAG, German East-Asian Society]
• Akademische Verbindung Cheruskia, Tuebingen/Germany  [Academic Society]
• Akademische Verbindung Edo-Rhenania, Tōkyō  [Academic Society]