Kokugaku (Japanese国学/国学, German " national studies; national school, country school" ) was an ethnocentric, literary, philological and philosophical school in Japan for the study of classical Japanese literature, which originated in the late 18th century.


The socio -economic transformation of this time was the cause of a crisis of Tokugawa society: the social circumstances were no longer compatible with the feudal system of the Tokugawa period. The Kokugaku studies of this period were a contribution to fill the intellectual gap that opened this crisis. As a result, the political order was questioned.

National scientists ( kokugakusha ) the Tokugawa period

One of the key figures of the movement was Motoori Norinaga ( 1730-1801 ). Other main representatives were Kada no Azumamaro (1669-1736, a lay priest at Fushimi Inari Taisha, goes back to the the neologism Kokugaku ), Kamo no Mabuchi (1697-1769), a disciple of Kada no Azumamaro, an expert on the Manyoshu and author of a 44 -volume commentary of the Kojiki, and Hirata Atsutane ( 1730-1843, a student of Motoori Norinaga and fierce critic of Buddhism, Confucianism and Christianity ). They are also referred to as the " Big Four " of Kokugaku movement. They have their own side shrines in Nagano shrine, where they are worshiped as kami: the Motoori -jinja for Motoori which Yakata -jinja for Hirata, the Agatai -jinja for Mabuchi and Azumamaro -jinja for Kada -no- Azumamaro.

National studies

The aim of the Kokugaku studies was to find an intellectual response to the crisis-ridden perceived changes in the Tokugawa period. This goal tried Kokugaku scholars through the exploration of the oldest Japanese culture to achieve. This ancient culture was idealized and used the newly invented idea of ​​a Japanese community, or even society of the foreign, especially to delineate the Chinese influences. The idea of a Japanese community was often create just in negation to these foreign influences.

This was done mainly through studies of the chronicles of the ancients, especially Nihonshoki, Manyoshu and Kojiki. For example Motoori Norinaga was the first scientist who discovered an ancient Japanese language in the Kojiki, with their reconstruction, he tried to restore the pure unadulterated Japanese values ​​of antiquity. Other constructs of other scientists glorified the origin of the Japanese people ( first mentioned kokumin and descended understood by the Kami ), the Japanese political system ( Kokutai ) and the Tenno.

Most Kokugaku studies also rejected Buddhism and Confucianism as a foreign religion. The scientists focused on the reconstruction of a putative original, pure faith of the Japanese. This was projected on the concept of Shinto. The Kokugaku localized the heyday of this belief and the Japanese Empire in particular in the period shortly before and during the Nara period.

Many of the studies presented Kokugaku the social reality of the Tokugawa period, and thus indirectly the rule of the Bakufu in question. For example, the relation between rulers and subordinates was re-examined, or public policy criticized as deficient. Even the Tennō a central role has been attributed ( in opposition to the rule of the shogunate ) in their theories. So put Norinaga on the thesis that the Tennō is direct executor of the will of the kami.

Supposed contradictions in their statements took out many of the Kokugaku scholars: So is understood that the Nara period perhaps one of the most from China dominated periods in the history of Japan was, and that the basic myths exist in two different versions.

From the Meiji Restoration, some scientists the Kokugaku studies were highlighted, while others were downright discriminated against as inferior by certain elites. This was necessary in order to create for the young Japanese nation-state a political ideology, which aimed to strengthen the national consciousness. To this end, certain ideas of Kokugaku debate the Tokugawa period were used, while others fell by the wayside.

The Kokugaku studies thus contributed to the theoretical legitimacy of the modernization of Japan in which declared the highest symbol of national unity, among others, the Tennō and the Japanese government has been redesigned as a family residence. The establishment of the State Shinto was based largely on the theoretical groundwork of Kokugaku.