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Deguchi Nao : modernization and new religions Miyata, Mami


Japan experienced drastic economic, political, and social changes during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her modernization process has many notable charactertics. In this paper, I discuss an ideology which governed all aspects of the Japanese people's lives between 1868 and 1945 and the people's reaction to it. This ideology , which is now called Tennōsei ideology (the ideology of the Tennō system), was based on the myth that emphasized the divinity of the Tennō (emperor). The Meiji government developed and cultivated Tennō-sei ideology as the theoretical backbone of the government's modernization policy. When one studies the problems of modernization in Japan, Tennōsei ideology and the people's reaction to it should not be overlooked. However, it is quite difficult to know how common people, especially those of the lower social strata, reacted to the changes in their lives which were caused by modernization. During the period between the late Tokugawa era and the late Meiji era, many new religious movements were born. Most founders' of those new religions experienced many difficulties firsthand and expressed critical views of modernization. They attracted people who suffered from the economic, political, social, and religious changes occuring during the rapid modernization process. This paper focuses on examining the religious teachings of Deguchi Nao, the founder of Omoto-kyō, because her writings, called Ofudesaki (Tip of A Writing Brush), contain the sharpest criticism against the Meiji government's policies and the Tennō. I examine religious currents in the late nineteenth century to find out why a large number of new religious movements developed during this period. Also the background of the Tennōsei ideology and how the Meiji government systematically made the ideology penetrate into Japanese people's minds are discussed in Chapter One. In Chapter Two, Deguchi Nao's life experiences as the background of her religious teachings are examined. For the purpose of clarifying Nao's religious ideas, I analyze her early Ofudesaki in chapter three. Through Ofudesaki, the Kami, Ushitora-no-Konjin, warned the people that the present world would be demolished unless they repented their sins quickly. Nao used only simple and unsophisticated expressions when she wrote Ofudesaki, but in it one can find her original mythology and view on salvation. In 1899, a man named Ueda Kisaburō (later changed his name to Deguchi Onisaburō joined . Nao's group. Although Onisaburō is considered by present Omoto-kyō followers as a co-founder of the organization, there were fundamental differences between Nao and him. Onisburō's religious and social background are discussed in chapter four. In chapter five, those ofudesaki written between 1896 and 1899 are analyzed, especially focusing on a series of pilgrimages, called Shussu, led by Nao. I also discuss whether it is appropriate to categorize Nao's religious group as a millenarian movement. Since the Meiji government was maintained by the myth of a 'divine' Tennō, the existence of a new religion which held an independent mythology could be considered a serious threat to the Tennō and his government. In conclusion, I re-examine the struggle between the Meiji government and the new religious movements as an important element of Japan's modernization process.

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