Educating for a new Japan: Shiga Shigetaka's criticism of the imperial education system

Masako Gavin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


[Extract] The late 1880s saw an upsurge in ideological activity in Japan. Widespread media coverage of the unequal treaties had contributed to a sense of national humiliation and increased public awareness of Japan's situation. The second generation of the Meiji, who had been taught under Western education principles, criticised the government's indiscriminate Westernisation of Japan and its spineless attitude to Western powers. Five main approaches dominated the debates over the course Japan should take. First, the Seikyösha (Society for Politics and Education), of which Shiga Shigetaka (1863- 1927) was a member, advocated kokusui shugi, which called for preservation of what had been unique to Japan while modernising the country. Second, journalist Tokutomi Sohō (1863-1957) and his group, Min'yusha (Friends of the People), argued for Nihon bunshi daha shugi (eliminating Japanese traditional elements), or heimin shugi (total modernisation/Westernisation of Japan from the grassroots). This called for construct- ing a productive, democratic society and for reforming the feudalistic, militant one. Third, a group made up of intellectuals such as jukyo shugi sha, Confucian scholars, and kokugaku sha, scholars of National Learning, supported Nihon kyubunshi iji shug (maintenance of Japanese traditional elements). Fourth, another cadre advised setchū shugi (syncretic or eclectic approach, 'the blend of matter and spirit through which the scientific ethos of the West could be synthesised with the moral values of the Orient')- 6 The fifth group was represented by the government, whose policies for the indiscrimi- nate Westernisation of Japan were criticised by most of the other groups as nutakuri shugi (disguising with coats of paint). Although differing in their advocacy, the Meiji intellectuals all believed that the Emperor should be the spiritual leader to whom popular solidarity should be directed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-294
Number of pages14
JournalJapanese Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1998


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