Yoshimoto Ishin (吉本伊信)

Ishin YOSHIMOTO May 25, 1916 - August 1, 1988) was the founder of Naikanho (or Naikan Therapy; one of the psychotherapies). He was born in Yamatokoriyama City, Nara Prefecture. He graduated from Nara Prefectural School of Horticulture. A former businessman, Yoshimoto was also active as a priest of Jodo Shinshu Kibe school, Kyokaishi (teacher to reform a criminal) at a prison, and an interview committeeman of charity.

What is Naikanho?

Naikanho is applied to psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine, and it is known as one of the representative Japanese psychotherapies along with Morita psychotherapy. Note that it is also called Yoshimoto Naikan psychotherapy to distinguish it from Hakuin's Naikanho.

The Naikanho (or simply Naikan) created by Yoshimoto is as follows:

It is divided into two steps: shuchu Naikan (concentrated Naikan) and nichijo Naikan (daily Naikan).

Shuchu naikan consists of a week of confinement in a training center or hospital to restrict communication with the outside in order to make a client reflect on his or her attitude against a person who had a deep relationship with him or her (specifically focusing on mother) from the following three perspectives:

What was received from that person
What was returned to that person
What was put that person into trouble.

These are called the three themes of Naikan (or three questions of Naikan). Once every one or two hours, an interviewer (therapist) visits a Naikansha (client) for an interview. The Naikansha repents and confesses what he or she reflected during these hours, and the interviewer listens attentively to it.

A distinctive point of this therapy is that the client sees him or herself objectively using the third person as a mirror instead of directly probing his or her mind. A week of concentrated Naikan often causes a drastic conversion in outlook on life and world, and many clients with mental or physical disorders are healed. The conversion of the framework of recognition is what Naikan therapy shares with cognitive therapies.

In daily Naikan, the client uses a technique of reflection that he or she learned at concentrated Naikan to reflect on him or herself through the three themes of Naikan for a certain period of time everyday in his or her daily life. Yoshimoto regarded this practice as very important.

Antecedent of Naikanho: Mishirabe

The antecedent of Naikanho is 'Mishirabe' (review of one's self) of Taikan an, a religious group in the line of Jodo Shinshu. Although some introduced Mishirabe as a traditional training method for priests of Jodo Shinshu Kibe school, it is not true. Mishirabe is sometimes confused with 'Kakure Nenbutsu' or 'Kakushi Nenbutsu' (secret Buddhist invocation), but they are unrelated. Of course it is completely absurd to describe Mishirabe as a training method for Zen priests.

In Mishirabe, a person reflects on him or herself under extremely severe situation where no food, sleep, or water is allowed, in order to see which seeds he or she has more than the other, the seeds to bring him or her to hell or those to heaven. This practice was also extremely secretive and exclusive, so even parents were not allowed to see their children who were in the process of Mishirabe. Through such extreme experiences, the participant attained some sort of enlightenment called 'Shikuzen kaihotsu' or 'Shinjin gyakutoku' and was convinced of salvation by Amida Buddha. Started in 1936, Yoshimoto repeated Mishirabe four times and attained "Shikuzen kaihotsu" in November 1937.

Reformation from Mishirabe to Naikan

Around 1940, Yoshimoto and his mentor Teishin KOMATANI started to reform Mishirabe by eliminating its secrecy and penance into Naikan, a method of mind cultivation for everyone. In 1941, an archetype of Naikanho was completed.
(For details, refer to Yoshimoto, I. 'Naikan eno shotai (Invitation to Naikan)' Toki Shobou.)

The greatest gist of this archetype is the importance of daily Naikan after a week of concentrated Naikan was completed. Three themes of Naikan had not been established yet.
A questions posed in this archetype was: "Reflect on yourself against a person. Which did you do more to that person, good things or bad things?"

Spread of Naikanho

At first, Yoshimoto was running his own business while offering Naikan therapy at his home to those who wanted to be clients, but in 1953, he retired from the business, established Naikan Dojo (later Naikan Kenshujo) in Yamatokoriyama City and devoted himself to teach Naikan therapy. From 1955 to 1964, he was a Kyokaishi to spread Naikan therapy at prisons and juvenile reformatories; by 1960, Naikan was introduced as an effective method to correctional institutions across the country. Some condemned criminals and bosses of Yakuza (Japanese mafia) became penitent, and such distinctive effects were covered by the media. In the course of gaining popularity, Yoshimoto eradicated religious aspects from Naikanho (because religious activities within correctional institutions are prohibited by the Constitution). It was controversial among people involved in correctional institutions as to whether Naikan was an act of religion, but the National Assembly of Governors of Prisons hosted by the Ministry of Justice in 1960 concluded that Naikan was not a religious act.

Around 1970, Naikan was introduced to the medical world. The pioneers of Naikan therapy include Rokuro ISHIDA, a practicing psychiatrist in Sukagawa City, Fukushima Prefecture and Nikichi OKUMURA, a professor of the Department of Psychiatric Neurology at Okayama University. Torijiro IKEMI, pioneer of psychosomatic medicine in Japan and a professor of Kyushu University, also showed an interest in Naikan. Psychologists who paid attention to Naikan were: Koji SATO, professor of Kyoto University; Ko TAKEUCHI, professor of Sinshu University; Takao MURASE, professor of Tokyo University; and Yoshihiko MIKI, professor of Osaka University. Naikan became popular in the realms of school and business education as well.

After years of trial and error, three themes of Naikan was established in 1967. Before 1970, the style of Naikan that is called 'Yoshimoto Genpo' today had been completed. In 1978, Japan Naikan Association was established.

Since then, many Naikan Kenshujo were opened across Japan and overseas. Yoshimoto hated to be called the founder of Naikan and said in his lectures, "I'm just a showy advertiser of Naikan."

He devoted himself to interview clients at the Kenshujo until shortly before he died of pneumonia on August 1, 1988. His body was donated to the Nara Medical University.

Yoshimoto was a round-faced, bold-headed man with very thick glasses. In addition to his comical appearance, he made his speeches in the strong Osaka dialect that outshone professional Rakugoka (comic storyteller), and the audience burst into laughter. Many tapes recording of such speeches still exist today. He also frequently appeared on TV and radio.
On the other hand, his pupils described him as 'stern' and 'frightening.'
Yoshimoto never raised his voice in anger, but he always came straight to their most vulnerable points. Some even said that they never saw him smile for six years. He was very strict about Naikan.

Yoshimoto was thoroughly particular about the basics, but quite flexible about the details. He was thought an extremely stingy man but suddenly donated hundreds million yen to build a nursing home. He was simply an extraordinary man.

1960 Medal with Dark Blue Ribbon
1975 Medal with Blue Ribbon
1988 the Fifth (Class) Order of the Sacred Treasure

[Original Japanese]