Masuho, Zanko

Masuho, Zanko
   A remarkable Shinto populariser who used 'soapbox' techniques and vulgar anecdotes to instil an appreciation of Shinto and the superiority of 'the Japanese way' in his large audiences. Also known as Masuho, Nokoguchi, he was probably born in Oita, Bungo province (Kyushu). He first became a Pure Land monk, then converted to the Nichiren school of Buddhism. At the age of 43 during the Genroku era (1688-1704) when the Nichiren sects were repressed by the bakufu he left the priesthood, travelled to Kyoto and Edo and turned to Shinto. He was well known for both his Shinto theories and his intimate knowledge of the red-light districts of Japan, distilled in his popular work of 1715, Endo tsugan (A comprehensive mirror on the way of love). He fiercely attacked Buddhism and Confucianism, though both of these traditions as well as the influence of Ise (Watarai), Suiga and especially Yui-itsu Shinto are evident in his teachings. He distinguished from 'foreign ways' a 'Japanese way' which he also called wa no michi (the way of harmony), makoto no michi (the true way) and kodo (the way of the lord, or the public way). He punned on the word 'shin', interpreting shinto to mean the way of the kami, of the body and of the heart. Celebrating the 'harmonious union of yin and yang [between men and women] and the divine transformation' he was exceptional in rejecting the 'Chinese' view that men and women were unequal. In Confucian fashion he exhorted people to fulfil the requirements of their status in life and argued that all Japanese, regardless of their actions, were divinely endowed with all necessary virtues especially 'straightfor-wardness' like Amaterasu, purity like Hachiman and compassion like Kasuga myojin (see Sanja takusen). Figures like Zanko were responsible for making rarefied Shinto theologies like suiga and yui-itsu accessible to a wide public, paving the way for the popularity of later kokugaku.

A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. .

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