Book: Exploring Shinto
Chapter: 2. Essentialism in Early Shinto Studies
In earlier years Western ideas on Shinto were strongly influenced by “nativist” (kokugaku) ideas on the subject emanating from Japan and hence tended to showcase a very “essentialist” view of Shintō. This paper critiques various Western writers whose writings were typical of this approach. However the paper also explores how this attitude had a reverse influence on pre-war Japanese thinkers. This was especially the case with Hiraizumi Kiyoshi, a scholar who became a major figure in the production of the extreme imperialist ideology of the early Shōwa period. He was also a major source for discourses comparing the Japanese spirit to Nazi ideals, which were created mostly by contemporary German scholars. The origins of this process can be seen in Hiraizumi’s sojourns in Europe, especially in France, Germany and England, from 1930 to 1931.