- 'National Learning'. Initially in the seventeenth century a form of scholarly textual study which focused on Japanese sources with a view to identifying specifically Japanese modes of thought and expression in contrast to Kangaku (Chinese, particularly Confucian, studies) and Yogaku (Western learning). Over the course of the Edo period the purpose of kokugaku shifted from the scholarly and philological study of ancient Japanese texts to a more active ideological pursuit of 'native' (i.e. non-Buddhist, non-foreign) cultural traits more or less identified with Shinto. Four scholars—Kada no Azumamaro, Kamo no Mabuchi, Motoori, Norinaga and Hirata, Atsutane—are cited by later kokugaku as the main orthodox exponents of the tradition. Kokugaku heavily influenced subsequent Meiji government policies on Shinto, continuing until the second world war in various forms such as the elucidation of the kokutai concept. Arguably it has survived in the pseudo-academic 'nihonjin-ron' or 'Theory of Japaneseness' output of the late twentieth century.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.