When Tengu Talk
Hirata Atsutane's Ethnography of the Other World
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
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This book is the culmination of work first conceived in my master’s program more than a decade ago at the University of Colorado. As such I need to start my acknowledgments by giving thanks to Edmund Gilday, who encouraged me then and continues to support my efforts. Because of that start I was able to continue my studies at Stanford University under ...
Introduction: A New Medium for an Old Message
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The Japanese religious academician Hirata Atsutane (1776–1843) has been the subject of hundreds of scholarly studies undertaken by Japanese intellectuals of varying types beginning not long after his death and continuing into the twenty-first century. Atsutane’s prodigious output of written text and transcribed lectures still leaves room for, in fact begs for, new ...
CHAPTER 1 Constructing Japanese Identity: Senkyō ibun
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Carmen Blacker’s translation of Senkyō ibun is “Strange Tidings from the Realm of Immortals.” The word “immortals” is one standard translation for the Chinese character sen commonly found in combination in Japanese as sennin.1 The tradition of the so-called immortal comes from classical Daoism. In its most general sense, it refers to a man who may or may ...
CHAPTER 2 The Medium Finds a Promoter: Torakichi and Atsutane
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Although Atsutane placed himself in a genealogy of nativist scholars whose scholarship depended on philological method, he claimed to dislike learning that focused on the organized study of classics. Clearly, by his choice of method in Senkyō ibun, Atsutane had begun to experiment with an alternative he hoped would be a superior means of acquiring knowledge and, not coincidentally, ...
CHAPTER 3 Manipulating the Medium: Separating the Sanjin from the Tengu
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Senkyō ibun opens with a conversation between Atsutane and his elder confidant and friend, Yashiro Hirokata, in which the existence of a mysterious and supernatural Other World is a premise accepted by both parties. As explained earlier, for Atsutane, the Other World had the meaning of the normally invisible half of a universe made up of two worlds, one seen and one unseen.
CHAPTER 4 The Critique of China and Defense of Native Culture
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Atsutane’s overall objective in his research was to rediscover what was originally Japanese and to rid Japanese culture of all foreign influences so that native culture could be revalued and understood as superior to other cultures. However, in pursuing this objective he had a habit of appropriating his so-called original and native Japanese ideas from foreign cultures.
CHAPTER 5 The Critique of Buddhism and Defense of Native Religion
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Senkyō ibun is filled with anti-Buddhist rhetoric, as are many of Atsutane’s writings. The usual way Atsutane countered Buddhist discourse was by direct criticism and slander of Buddhist beliefs and practices as well as the believers and practitioners. The new method of attacking Buddhism in Senkyō ibun was the creation of an alternative religious virtuoso that equaled or surpassed the champions of Buddhism.
CHAPTER 6 The Critique of the West and Defense of Native Knowledge and Ability
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Atsutane’s attitude toward Western knowledge was one of respect, but he was also compelled to remind his audience that no matter how fine Western knowledge was, the Westerner’s character and habits were bestial at best and they were therefore not to be admired or emulated. Nevertheless, he felt that Western knowledge and technology could and should be appropriated ...
Conclusion: The Medium Is the Message
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I chose the Marshall McLuhan reference in the title of this chapter to emphasize the focus of this particular study, which is the importance of the medium in Atsutane’s message.1 That message in Senkyō ibun is ultimately no different than Atsutane’s standard offering, which he usually delivered through a textual medium. Its import was, of course, that the Japanese ...
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Publication Year: 2008