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Home » 7. Concepts and Doctrines » Doctrines and Theories
Shinkokugaku
"New kokugaku ." A movement for the revival and rebirth of kokugaku in the modern period. The term refers in particular to the discipline of folklore-based studies of Japanese culture, as advocated in the postwar period by Yanagita Kunio and Orikuchi Shinobu. According to Orikuchi, two such new kokugaku movements also occurred during the Meiji era.

A. New kokugaku in the Meiji period
The first of these Meiji-era movements was an intellectual movement that began with the publication of Kokugakuin University's alumni magazine Shinkokugaku in 1896. The magazine sought to reaffirm that the meaning and main principle of kokugaku lay in the elucidation of the country's central philosophy (taidō) and its eternal (tenjō mukyū) national polity (kokutai). The kokugaku tradition of the early modern period, although remaining alive in "evidential learning" (kōshōgaku) and waka poetry, was at that time in the process of being dissolved into the various fields of modern scholarship. Thus, the kokugaku faction, which represented kokugaku learning in higher education in opposition to the Chinese studies (kangaku) faction, had already ceased to be a major influence in the academic world. Against this background, the magazine Shinkokugaku expounded the necessity of a "new (or true)" kokugaku to the alumni of Kokugakuin University, who belonged to the university-based kokugaku faction. It was therefore a movement that sought to increase solidarity and thus achieve a revival of kokugaku thought. Shinkokugaku was mainly engaged in praising kokugaku scholars, but before long was discontinued; since 1894 the magazine Kokugakuin zasshi was also already being published for the purpose of research and promulgation of national history and literature. The second movement came in 1908, when the Kokugakuin alumni bulletin Dōsō was renamed Shinkokugaku. Publication was ceased after two issues, but young researchers such as Orikuchi Shinobu and Takeda Yūkichi were engaged in the magazine's editing and writing process. They did not seek to restore early modern kokugaku, but were instead searching for a methodology that would fit a "new" kokugaku. Orikuchi in particular aimed at elucidating life in antiquity employing modern methodology, emphasizing literary methods and forms of writing. Since the publication of his Iyaku kokugaku hitori-annai of 1920, Orikuchi further developed kokugaku methodology and clarified that his intention lay in a "resuscitation" of kokugaku as well as in a break from and a reform of early modern kokugaku. Orikuchi held that there were several indispensable conditions for a kokugaku scholar. The first was to refrain from copying the ancient poetic style as early modern kokugaku scholars had done in their waka poetry and instead to express the life of modern man from the vantage point of each individual. The second was to relive for oneself the birth of ancient literature and the third was to participate in the creation of a tradition. It can thus be said that this new kokugaku movement was a literary movement that aimed at a study of antiquity in which the author sought to experience the ancient spirit while simultaneously leading a modern life. While Orikuchi emphasized that the issues of Shintō and belief were inseparable from kokugaku, he saw the restoration of ancient political forms as anachronistic and distinguished his own position from the majority view of the time, which stressed the importance of kokugaku and Shintō as expressed in state Shintō (Kokka Shintō) and national morality. Further, he made the existence of a notion of ethics (how to achieve the salvation of society) the distinguishing factor between kokugaku and wagaku. According to Orikuchi, it was kokugaku that displayed a sense of unfettered morality (he used the term "moral sense"). He saw the new kokugaku as capable of realizing the morality held by the Japanese people and saw its significance in the revival of literature as an aid in the people's way of life. Yanagita Kunio's considerable influence is visible in this position. Yanagita criticized the philologico-historical study of Shintō history — the main current of Shintō research during his days — in his Shintō shikan of 1918. He advocated a study of Shintō based on a methodology taken from folklore studies: a "burgeoning scholarship indispensable for the country" that responds to "the desire of the people." Before and during the war, however, Yanagita avoided contact with the Shintō of the Hirata group (see Hirata Atsutane), that of the Department of Divinities (jingikan) and the Shintō of the Kokugakuin faction, and did not make Shintō and kokugaku direct topics in his work.

B. New kokugaku after the War
The third, post-war new kokugaku movement began to be actively advocated after the publication of Yanagita's 1946 work Shinkokugaku dan, saijitsu. The following year, Orikuchi published his article "Shinkokugaku toshite no minzokugaku" ("New kokugaku as Folklore Studies"). The new kokugaku advocated by both Yanagita and Orikuchi was based on a fundamental reconsideration of prewar and wartime Shintō and scholarship. They held that the new kokugaku should become a guiding beacon to the people shaken by the disintegration of values created by the lost war. Their vision of constructing a new scholarship for the creation of a new nation was rooted in a consciousness founded on the concept of "national administration and relief" (keisei saimin). Based on a method different from traditional kokugaku and philological inquiries into Shintō history, they sought to give evidence of a historical continuity in Shintō from ancient to modern times. Yanagita traced the mentality that he thought the Japanese had possessed from ancient times by depicting Shintō shrines as folk belief, focusing in particular on belief in tutelary deities (ujigami) and ancestral spirits (sorei). He also aimed at a reformation of State Shintō-influenced views of Shintō. His methodology was taken from folklore studies. In contrast to Yanagita's approach, Orikuchi's new kokugaku saw folklore studies as a combined scientific method, utilizing findings from philosophy, history and literary studies, and gave priority to studies of Japanese literature rather than to folklore studies. Furthermore, a strong motive for Orikuchi in the construction of a new kokugaku was his questioning of his former identity as a kokugaku scholar who had seen the foundation of kokugaku in ethics. This occurred in overlap with a focus on Shintō religiosity and an attempt at the edification of humankind based on Shintō. Orikuchi did not see the reform of Shintō — which he described as "the mythology that has long maintained a religious system," "the source of religion," "the unformed religion" — away from a prewar morality to lie in connecting to a discourse on national mentality, but rather in seeing it in connection to religion. The establishment of a Department of Religion at Kokugakuin University and the foundation of the Society of Shintō Studies (Shintō shūkyō gakkai) were the result of a compromise between Yanagita and Orikuchi, who defined the new kokugaku around the concept of Shintō. However, the new kokugaku movement did not make much progress. One can imagine various factors and causes for this, such as Orikuchi's death in 1953 and the question of the scientific base of folklore studies. The differing interpretations of the two scholars concerning postwar Shintō can probably not be ignored either. Later, in 1975, on the occasion of the commemorative symposium "Nationality (Ethnicity) and the Academic Mission — The Attempt of Comparative Kokugaku Research" for the twentieth anniversary of Kokugakuin University's Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Uchino Gorō, then the head of the institute, argued for the possibility of the new kokugaku's succession by and development into comprehensive cultural studies. Further, in January 1983, the notion of a "comparative kokugaku" was advocated in the framework of the international symposium "Asia's Modernization and the Discovery of Ethnic Culture" held at the same institute and also expounded in the conference's proceedings: Ajia bunka no sai-hakken ("The Rediscovery of Asian Culture"). It can be said that this was a logical development of the new kokugaku.

— Mori Mizue
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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