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In Search of the WayThought and Religion in Early—Modern Japan, 1582-1860$
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Richard Bowring

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795230

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795230.001.0001

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In search of times past

In search of times past

(p.255) 17 In search of times past
In Search of the Way

Richard Bowring

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces how Motoori Norinaga built on the base provided by Kamo no Mabuchi, extending the study of the past from poetry to the Record of Ancient Matters (Kojiki). Norinaga devoted his life to deciphering this text, because he believed it contained the essence of a Japan that had been lost after the introduction of things Chinese. Xenophobic to the core, Norinaga thought it was possible via this kind of scholarship not only to discover Japan’s origins but even to generate a return to a ‘prelapsarian’ state of harmony. The anti-Chinese rhetoric was not accepted by all and had no discernible influence on Tokugawa foreign policy, but it certainly led to a flourishing tradition of ‘Japanese studies’ that challenged the high status previously enjoyed by the study of classical Chinese.

Keywords:   Motoori Norinaga, Record of Ancient Matters, Kojiki, nostalgia, golden age, Tale of Genji, Japanese grammar, Shintō

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