In the late 1800s, as Japanese leaders mulled over the usefulness of religion in modernizing their country, they chose to invite Unitarian missionaries to Japan. This book spotlights one facet of debates sparked by the subsequent encounter between Unitarianism and Buddhisman intersection that has been largely neglected in the scholarly literature. Focusing on the cascade of events triggered by the missionary presence of the American Unitarian Association on Japanese soil between 1887 and 1922, Michel Mohr’s study sheds new light on this formative time in Japanese religious and intellectual history.
Drawing on the wealth of information contained in correspondence sent and received by Unitarian missionaries in Japan, as well as periodicals, archival materials, and Japanese sources, Mohr shows how this missionary presence elicited unprecedented debates on “universality” and how the ambiguous idea of “universal truth” was utilized by missionaries to promote their own cultural and ethnocentric agendas. At the turn of the twentieth century this notion was appropriated and reformulated by Japanese intellectuals and religious leaders, often to suit new political and nationalistic ambitions.
About the Author
Michel Mohr is Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.
Table of Contents
List of Figures ix
Note on Conventions xxi
Timeline of Unitarianism in Japan xxii
Part I Seeds and Transplant 1
1 Setting the Stage 3
2 The Advent of the Unitarians in Japan 18
3 The Wavering of Early Japanese Support 38
Part II Bloom and Tensions 61
4 Inspired Buddhist Intellectuals 63
5 Japanese Students at Harvard and the Waseda Connection 86
6 Involvement in the Labor Movement 111
Part III Fracture and Rebuttals 141
7 Dispatching the Hatchet Man 143
8 Discordant Voices 183
9 The Counterexample of Shaku Soen 209
Epilogue: Reexamining the Universalizing Channels 237
List of Characters 257