Publication Date

Spring 3-24-2014


Politics, Religion & Ideology





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In the early decades of the twentieth century, as Japanese society became engulfed in war and increasing nationalism, the majority of Buddhist leaders and institutions capitulated to the status quo. At the same time, there was a stream of ‘resistance’ among a few Buddhist figures, both priests and laity. These instances of progressive and ‘radical Buddhism’ had roots in late Edo-period peasant revolts, the lingering discourse of early Meiji period liberalism, trends within Buddhist reform and modernisation and the emergence in the first decade of the twentieth century of radical political thought, including various forms of socialism and anarchism. This essay analyses the roots of ‘radical Buddhism’ in Japan by analysing the life and work of three distinctive figures: Tarui Tōkichi (1850–1922), Takagi Kenmyō (1864­–1914), and Uchiyama Gudō (1874–1911). While noting their differences, I argue these three collective represent both the problems and possibilities of radical Buddhism in an East Asian and specifically Japanese context.