In recent years, research on modern Buddhism, i.e., Buddhism from the Meiji Restoration (1868) onwards, has been flourishing in Japan. Drawing on existing scholarship, this paper attempts to elucidate the characteristics of the first stage of modern Japanese Buddhism. In the premodern period, Buddhist priests had been the only people able to articulate Buddhism. In the modern period, Buddhist intellectuals with Western academic knowledge re-articulated Buddhism, linking and negotiating between those inside and those outside the Japanese Buddhist world. I will focus on four Buddhist intellectuals and try to understand their involvement in politics, education, and public discourse, their resistance to the expansion of Christianity into the country, and their call for the institutional reform of Buddhism. These activities contributed significantly to the first stage of the development of modern Buddhism.