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Home » 8. Schools, Groups, and Personalities » Personalities
Kumazawa Banzan
(1619-91)
Confucian scholar of the early Edo period. His formal name was Hakukei (also read Noritsugu), his style was Ryōkai, and his common name was Sukezaemon. As epistolary names he used Sokuyūken and Banzan [also read Shigeyama]. Born in Kyoto as the eldest son of Nojiri Kazutoshi, he was later adopted by Kumazawa Morihisa, retainer of the Mito Domain. At the age of sixteen, Kumazawa entered the service of Ikeda Mitsumasa, lord of the Okayama Domain, but only for five years. Thereafter, he became a student of Nakae Tōju to pursue Confucian learning. He once again entered Ikeda's service at the age of twenty-seven, and distinguished himself in projects of river and mountain conservancy, and by implementing famine countermeasures. He retired to live in seclusion at age thirty-nine, but continued to actively associate with high shogunate retainers and members of the aristocracy, and his academy flourished. Kumazawa's success, however, invited official suspicion, and he was obliged to change residences, between provincial areas such as Mount Yoshino (in present-day Nara Prefecture), Akashi (present-day Hyōgo Prefecture) and Yamato-Kōriyama (Nara Prefecture).
       Finally, his work Daigaku wakumon (Questions on the Great Learning) incurred the censure of the Tokugawa shogunate, and he was placed under house arrest in the town of Koga (in present-day Ibaraki Prefecture), where he died. His scholarship is classified as part of the Wang Yang-ming school (Jp. Yōmeigaku), but his writings had a strong practical and political bent, and advanced various suggestions regarding government, economics, education and religion. His theory of Shinto reflects the influence that the Nakae Tōju school had in his day and region, based on the theory of ji-sho-i, namely, one in which the propriety of decisions was based on concrete circumstances of "time, place and social position." The arguments he advances in works such as the Miwa monogatari (Tale of Miwa) and the Shintō daigi (Great Treatise on Shinto) are characterized by their attempts to reconcile Shinto and Confucian ideas, as well as by their strong anti-Buddhist rhetoric. The administration policies of Shinto shrines in the Okayama Domain were said to have been based on his ideas. Kumazawa Banzan died on the twenty-seventh day of the eighth month of 1691, at age seventy-three.

- Yazaki Hiroyuki
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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