Masuho Zankō's Thought on Kōdō(公道) and Shinto
55 , 2015-03-31 , 東京大学文学部宗教学研究室
Masuho Zankō is known as a narrow-minded Shintoist or an extreme nationalist of eighteenth century Japan, so it may be surprising that he often suggested in his writings that Shinto cosmology was invention rather than fact. Furthermore, the details of his understanding of Shinto were not loyal to any traditional Shinto schools or authoritative classics but the product of his own theory about religions. According to Zankō, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shinto are all systems invented by ancient wise leaders to administer countries and support the people; each system was originally designed to meet the specific need of a particular country. Zankō called these systems “Kōdō” and emphasized that all the people should believe firstly their own Kōdō (e.g., Shinto for Japan), as pluralism would confuse the people and lead to relativism and the loss of faith. Zankō also emphasized the need for statues or icons of gods, easily comprehensible myths, the idea of divine help to encourage moral life and so on: aspects of religion that most intellectuals contemptuously considered superstitions. Because “Kōdō” was invented mainly for the ignorant masses, Zankō wrote, intellectuals must suppress their critical discourse of “Kōdō” so that it could fulfill its function of moralizing the people. Considering these aspects, we must regard Zankō as a self-aware reformer who tried to make an unprecedented Shinto.