Kokugaku (Native studies)

Kokugaku was an intellectual movement promoting Japanese ideals derived from Shinto beliefs and other native Japanese philosophies during the Tokugawa period from the 17th century to mid 19th century. Japan experienced influences from the Chinese culture (Confucianism), Indian culture (Buddhism), and Christian & Western belief systems. The military dictatorship which ruled Japan sought ways to diffuse what they considered predatory influences by unleashing Japanese beliefs.

The kokugaku-type nativism felt by today’s country-by-country push towards nationalism, patriotism, and tribalism, yields an antithetical reaction to foreign influences and external forces deemed dangerous to sovereignty and cultural identity. It propped up Japan for over 250 years at a time when communication technologies didn’t exist and societies didn’t peacefully intermingle, especially for trade, global migration, and democratic governance.

The cure for nativism lies in modern educational systems. Yet, only a small fraction of the world has access to modern systems. Social media usage (staring at the internet) doesn’t count, although it serves as a perfect tool for mass-brainwashing. Reading a hundred books, or even ten books a year, is a bit harder, but it does more good in opening minds. Inequality of all sorts prevents progress. Science-based education is woefully underfunded. So, more and more countries & societies are adopting nativism and tribalism in the manner the Japanese did over 150 years ago. Education is the world’s great equalizer, but it becomes a pain point when handled by ideologues seeking political fortune in the same manner the Tokugawa shogunate ruled Japan long ago.