Hardcover
Release Date:31 May 2004
ISBN:9780824827526
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Practical Pursuits

Religion, Politics, and Personal Cultivation in Nineteenth-Century Japan

University of Hawaii Press

The idea that personal cultivation leads to social and material well-being became widespread in late Tokugawa Japan (1600–1868). Practical Pursuits explores theories of personal development that were diffused in the early nineteenth century by a network of religious groups in the Edo (Tokyo) area, and explains how, after the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the leading members of these communities went on to create ideological coalitions inspired by the pursuit of a modern form of cultivation. Variously engaged in divination, Shinto purification rituals, and Zen practice, these individuals ultimately used informal political associations to promote the Confucian-style assumption that personal improvement is the basis for national prosperity.
This wide-ranging yet painstakingly researched study represents a new direction in historical analysis. Where previous scholarship has used large conceptual units like Confucianism and Buddhism as its main actors and has emphasized the discontinuities in Edo and Meiji religious life, Sawada addresses the history of religion in nineteenth-century Japan at the level of individuals and small groups. She employs personal cultivation as an interpretive system, crossing familiar boundaries to consider complex linguistic, philosophical, and social interconnections.

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