After the Fall

Tsuji Zennosuke and the Creation of Bukkyōshugi kokushi

In: Journal of Religion in Japan
James Mark Shields Bucknell University USA Lewisburg

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Tsuji Zennosuke 辻善之助 (1877–1955), the dominant figure in Buddhist historical scholarship in Japan from the 1930s until the mid-1950s, is known to have employed a broad range of sources in order to provide a comprehensive analysis of his subject. This essay examines Tsuji’s conception of Buddhist history in relation to the emergence of both National Historical Studies (kokushigaku 国史学) and so-called State Shintō (kokka shintō 国家神道) and argues against the image of Tsuji as an “objective historian” resistant to nationalist trends in historical scholarship. In fact, Tsuji was involved in the creation of an alternative, “Buddhistic” national history, or bukkyōshugi kokushi 仏教主義国史的. In particular, comparisons are drawn between Tsuji’s conception of Buddhism and the earlier arguments of New Buddhism (shin bukkyō 新仏教) and the Daijō hi-bussetsuron 大乗非仏説論, in addition to his more general conception of the contributions of Buddhism to the humanitarian spirit of Japanese leaders—both emperors and military warlords. Can there be—should there be—an objective history of religion? What is the significance of sacred history—and the history of Buddhism more particularly—to the still-emerging “modern” nation of Japan? How does Buddhism, a pan-Asian and “borrowed religion,” fit with the “Japanist” ideology of national uniqueness? These are some of the questions posed by Tsuji in his writings.

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