Kokugaku

Doctrines Kokugaku 'National (i.e. Japanese) Learning' refers to an intellectual trend which rejected the study of Chinese and Buddhist texts and favoured philological research into the early Japanese classics. The findings of kokugaku scholars inspired a popular movement for the restoration of a Japanese 'golden age', paved the way for the return of imperial rule, and have underpinned the development of Japanese nationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The main teachings of kokugaku, as popularly understood, were that Japan and the Japanese people constitute a distinctive national entity (kokutai) marked by spontaneity, natural goodness and innate divinity. These unique characteristics are revealed in early Japanese works such as the Kojiki, Nihongi and Man'yoshu which predate the foreign and polluting influences of Buddhism and Chinese thought.

History Kokugaku began in the seventeenth century as a tradition of textual study focusing on specifically Japanese sources, in contrast to Kangaku (Chinese studies) or Yogaku (Western, mainly Dutch learning). Four scholars in particular (each with their many disciples) are identified as significant in the development of kokugaku: Kada no Azumamaro (1669-1736), Kamo no Mabuchi (1697-1769), Motoori, Norinaga (1730-1801) and Hirata, Atsutane (1776-1843). Over the course of the Tokugawa period the aim of kokugaku studies shifted from the scholarly and philological study of ancient Japanese texts to the quest for a unique native ethos and spiritual identity free of Buddhist and other foreign traits and identified more or less with Shinto. This quest implied the rejection of Buddhist and Confucian institutions, including the Buddhist priesthood and the rule of the Shoguns which was founded on Neo-Confucian ideas. Outspoken kokugaku thinkers, some of whom became martyrs, called for the overthrow of the shogunate and restoration of direct rule by the divinely-descended emperor, an objective achieved in the Meiji restoration, though Meiji government thinking soon parted from the more nostalgic and conservative strands of kokugaku ideology. Kokugaku thinking, particularly that of Hirata, heavily influenced Meiji government policies in relation to Shinto and have remained influential up to the present day, for example in the pseudo-academic 'Nihonjin ron' or 'Theory of Japaneseness' literature popular in modern Japan.

Symbols Kokugaku does not identify itself through the use of symbols.

Adherents It does not make sense to talk of adherents since Kokugaku is a school of thought rather than a sect, though many conservative Japanese would identify with the Kokugaku claim that Japan is a special divine land.

Headquarters/
Main Centre
 Kokugakuin University, Tokyo is the main Shinto university and seminary for Shinto priests in modern Japan. It was originally established in 1882 under the name Koten kokyusho (Research Institute for the Japanese Classics) as a centre for 'Japanese Studies' in the kokugaku tradition, although it is now a modern educational institution fostering Japanese studies.