Publication Date

Fall 9-1-2011

Journal

Japan Review: Journal of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies

Volume

23

First Page

225

Last Page

246

Abstract

This article focuses on several key philosophical themes in the criticism of Sakaguchi Ango (1906–1955), one of postwar Japan’s most influential and controversial writers. Associated with the underground Kasutori culture as well as the Burai-ha of Tamura Taijirō (1911–1983), Oda Sakunosuke (1913–1947) and Dazai Osamu (1909–1948), Ango gained fame for two provocative essays on the theme of daraku or “decadence”—Darakuron and Zoku darakuron—pubished in 1946, in the wake of Japan’s traumatic defeat and the beginnings of the Allied Occupation. Less well-known is the fact that Ango spent his student years studying classical Buddhist texts in Sanskrit, Pali and Tibetan, and that he at at one time aspired to the priesthood. The article analyses the concept of daraku in the two essays noted above, particularly as it relates to Ango’s vision of a refashioned morality based on an interpretation of human subjectivity vis-à-vis the themes of illusion and disillusion. It argues that, despite the radical and modernist flavor of Ango’s essays, his “decadence” is best understood in terms of Mahāyāna and Zen Buddhist concepts. Moreover, when the two essays on decadence are read in tandem with Ango’s wartime essay on Japanese culture (Nihon bunka shikan, 1942), they form the foundation for a “postmetaphysical Buddhist critique of culture,” one that is pragmatic, humanistic, and non-reductively physicalist.