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Unformatted text preview: ale of Genji in the search for a true and original
Japanese spirit untainted by those alien systems of thought and behavior,
including Buddhism and Confucianism, that had been introduced to
Japan from China during the previous thousand years (see the discussion
of this in Chapter 1).
Despite its inflammatory appeal to later imperial loyalists, the National
Learning movement in its origins was not a radical or aberrant phenomenon at all but a logical development in Japanese intellectual history that
owed much to the various schools of Tokugawa Confucianism. The forerunners of the movement, participating in the general upsurge in scholarship stimulated by Confucianism in the seventeenth century, undertook
philological studies into the origins of the Japanese language that paved
the way for the subsequent work of the two leading National Learning
scholars of the eighteenth century, Kamo Mabuchi (1697–1769) and
Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801).
Kamo Mabuchi, the son of a functionary at a Shinto shrine who rose
to become lecturer to the head of a branch family of the Tokugawa, was
much taken with the Man’yòshû and asserted that the poems of this
eighth-century anthology were imbued with the true spirit of the Japanese. He identified this spirit as one of pure naturalness, spontaneity, and
manly vigor, and charged that the influx of Chinese culture into Japan
had perverted it to a way of life, exemplified by the courtiers of the Heian
period, that was both artificial and effeminate. Mabuchi urged people to
compose poems in the manner of the Man’yòshû and thereby seek to recapture or “restore” the native temper of ancient times. As we have seen,
restorationism—that is, the desire to return to an earlier, golden age in
history—was also a strong sentiment among scholars of the Ancient
Studies school, although some Sinophiles among them, like Ogyû Sorai,
may have wished to revive only the conditions of ancient China. Kamo
Mabuchi, on the other hand, insisted unequivocally that the golden age
to be sought in the past was a Japanese age.
Although he only met Kamo Mabuchi once, Motoori Norinaga
claimed to be his...
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- Spring '13