Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Oct 14 Meeting and Sept. 9 review of Kate W. Nakai speech on the 1932 Sophia U vs Yasukuni Shrine Incident

Dear friends and members of the Fellowship,
Our next meeting on October 14th we have invited the Rev. Tet Gallardo from the Unitarian church in Manila.
The exact title of her talk will come a bit later.
On Sept 9 we had a very scholarly paper read by Kate W Nakai (professor emerita of Jochi/Sophia University).
By giving us a detailed and reasoned account of the 1932 incident as well as the earlier background from the Meiji period we learned much about religion and the state in Japan.
There was never in the 1932 confrontation of the small Catholic men's college (Sophia/Jochi) and nearby Yasukuni shrine (flush from ceremonies memorializing the dead in the preceding years' Sino-Japanese war) any discussion of anti war or anti-imperialist ideas/beliefs or even actual theological debate.
In broad strokes to summarize, the Catholic church bent to accommodate the Japanese state in joint declarations that visits especially by school groups to "show reverence at shrines including Yasukuni" was a civil and educational act of patriotism NOT a RELIGIOUS activity. Such sampai visits would not impinge on Catholic values or beliefs. Before this catholics had been prohibited to take part in any shrine/temple events or household ancestor worship.
Jochi Uniiversity in order to attract students to survive financially (only 10% of its student body were catholics at the time) needed (like every school wanting to be accredited) the Military presence of a training officer (equivalent of the American ROTC program). In the incident of 1932 he had been removed after the college protested about his taking a student group to Yasukuni..After the Catholic change he was reinstated a year later ensuring the college could continue..
The accommodating idea/language of "civil not religious" (encouraged it appears by the shrewd Apostolic Delegate (1934-48) to Japan, Paolo Marella, without pre-approval from his superiors in Rome) actually was pushed through on the government side mainly by competing bureaucrats especially in the Ministry of Education who did not want to lose power to the Military or Home Ministry.
Tied up in all of this were issues of state control over shrines under competing government ministries including the Education Ministry which had come to consider them "civil" entities. Under 1900 regulations and certainly by the 1930's, shrines were considered by the bureaucracy to be local community and educational organizations for patriotism and social cohesion not "religion")..
At first in the Meiji period, shrines were favored over Buddhist institutions which in the 1870's were seen by most in government as corrupt and impeding the growth of a modern nation state. As Buddhist institutions re-grouped and western missionaries came to Japan the government sought not only to regulate them but also to re-control shrines (prohibiting them for example from holding funerals).But from 1900 (eventually taken completely into the Ministry of Education hands) there was a Bureau of Shrines and a Bureau of Religions.
From early Meiji , Article 28 of the Meiji Constitution had, by the way, while ensuring "freedom of religious belief" excluded shrine worship from "religion" and included it under "duties as citizens".
Discussion veered off on the intertwined nature of shinto and buddhist beliefs and institutions (where every temple has had a corresponding shrine(s) and honjisuijaku meant every kami had a form as a Buddhist god and vice versa).
Most shrine complexes since the 1870's have lost their Buddhist temples-- Yasukuni and Meiji shrines never had a visible buddhist affiliation to begin with. Most Buddhist temples/institutions still encompass shinto shrines and gods within their precincts or at least next door.
What is civil? what is religious? are still part of debates about Yasukuni.
Nakai noted that "State shinto" as a term/concept only developed post WWII and is seen by many scholars as being implemented from the 1930's.
In the prewar years (as appreciated by more scholars today) many in the shinto world had actually resisted being considered "nonreligious".
Yasukuni, Meiji and Ise Great Shrines (jingu) however, in part because of their civil, or "nation-building" roles, as well as wealth, continue outside of the Shrine Association that supervises and supports all other shinto establishments today.

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