A great straight-forward history of how the Japanese Army, beginning around 1910, worked to incorporate rural villages and hamlets into the national a...moreA great straight-forward history of how the Japanese Army, beginning around 1910, worked to incorporate rural villages and hamlets into the national and military project through the creation of local reserve corps, youth leagues, and women's associations that worked on local projects (public works, firefighting, disaster relief) as well as a wide-array of 'patriotic' activities (patriotic lectures, patriotic military drills, patriotic sports tournaments, etc). These various groups integrated the military into the daily life of rural people, setting the state for full-mobilization in the 1930s, both for war and for sending settlers to the colonies, particularly Manchuria.
The mastermind of these rural associations was Tanaka Giichi, an Army General and known Mussolini enthusiast, who promoted further incursion into Manchuria and suppression of dissidents in Japan during his tenure as Prime Minister in the late 1920s. Tanaka was a protege of Yamagata Aritomo, the samurai from Choshu who founded the modern Japanese army. Yamagata, like many successful revolutionaries, became obsessed with fostering unity and suppressing dissent in the new nation-state he helped to create. He, and then Tanaka after him, saw rural village communities as the foundation of Japanese identity and morality. However, in the early Meiji period most rural villages resented the state's incursions into their lives, via conscription, education and increased taxes, and so began their machinations to bring village and nation together.(less)
Ninomiya Sontoku never wrote down any of his teachings (too busy farming and saving poor people and spreading his sagacity around, I guess) so all wri...moreNinomiya Sontoku never wrote down any of his teachings (too busy farming and saving poor people and spreading his sagacity around, I guess) so all written accounts of his philosophy and works were done by disciplines, hence the hagiographic quality of these works.
This volume is short parables apparently told by the Sage in evening talks with his disciples, covering his usual topics of how to be prosperous, how the village can succeed, how to be a good leader. Ninomiya's teachings stem from syncretic philosophy, which brought together Shinto, Buddhism and Confucian principles together combined them into a worldview that espoused prosperity through hard work, benevolence, and simple living.
Ninomiya's teachings became especially popular after the Meiji Restoration, and remained popular well into the 20th century. The 1937 English language introduction by a Ninomiya follower, Count Tadamasa Sakai, is quite brief but contains several revealing statements about the "morality" of agriculture in the East, and ends with a critique of capitalism. "Today when the civilization starting from from and standing on the basis of capitalistic commerce and industry has reached its apex and a way of exit from the labyrinth it has entered is being sought everywhere, we shall feel thankful if this book will serve even to a small extent as a guiding post to the way of salvation of the distressed people of the world."
Tortuous syntax aside, Sakai's statement about "exiting the labyrinth" of capitalism points to the continued popularity of Ninomiya's teachings as a way to explain away the contradictions and unevennesses inherent in capitalism. I think its this aspect of his teaching, the way it could read as a recipe for prosperity for all without directly challenging existing power structures, that accounts for his post-Meiji popularity despite being Ninomiya being a pro-bakufu figure. (less)