- Motoori, Norinaga
- (1730-1801)The pre-eminent kokugaku scholar in his own time and highly regarded by successive generations down to this day. Born near the Ise jingu and educated locally and then in Kyoto, he began his studies with Heian period literature but following a single inspirational meeting in 1763 with the kokugaku scholar Kamo no Mabuchi he turned his attention to pre-Heian texts, subsequently conducting philological studies of ancient Japanese sources particularly the Kokiji which he sought to have recognised as a reliable source of knowledge about pre-Buddhist Japan and the 'age of the gods'. Undismayed by finding little in the way of systematic theology in the ancient texts he asserted that although revelations about the kami went manifestly beyond reason, the truth of things was set out straightforwardly in the ancient texts and could intuitively be grasped by the sincere Japanese heart which is able to set aside intellectual doubts. He venerated the imperial line as divine and eternally inviolable and his view of the wider world was Japanocentric and frankly jingoistic, setting the tone for mainstream developments in Shinto thought through the Meiji restoration and into the twentieth century. As well as reviving interest and faith in the Kojiki and other ancient sources Motoori's studies, conveyed to a wide audience in a lifelong rigorous lecturing schedule emphasised particularly the non-rational, emotional character of Japanese literature in contrast to the formal, and in his view inauthentic, doctrinalism and moralism of Chinese and Buddhist approaches. As a result of Motoori's influence the classic Japanese work The Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari) for example was reappraised and newly valued for its evocation of the sensitive and emotional aspect of life rather than as a literary expression of Buddhist or Confucian dogma, and he encouraged poetic expression as an essential element in the scholarly life. Within the kokugaku 'lineage' he is claimed as the third great kokugaku thinker after Kada no Azumamaro and Kamo no Mabuchi. His greatest work, thirty-four years in the writing, was a 44-volume detailed study of the Kojiki entitled kojiki-den (1798). A great deal of modern Shinto theology depends heavily on the writings and ideas of Motoori, developed by Hirata, Atsutane.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.