Sata Kaiseki (佐田介石)

Kaiseki SATA (May 12, 1818 to December 9, 1882) from Higo Province was a Jodo Shinshu sect monk of Hongan-ji school (In his later years, he was a Tendai sect monk) from the end of the Edo period to the beginning of Meiji period. He was a leader of the Joi Movement (the Movement advocating the expulsion of foreigners) and the Bonreki (Buddhist calendar) movement. His Buddhist name was Toshosai (等象斎).

Kaiseki was born in Taneyama-mura, Yatsushiro-gun in Higo Province (Yatsushiro City, Kumamoto Prefecture of today) as the son of Jihaku HIROSE, a chief priest of Joritsu-ji Temple. His childhood name was Kanryo (観霊). Later he was adopted by the Sata family, who served as the chief priest of Shosen-ji Temple in Akita-gun, Higo Province. In his childhood, he studied Confucianism at Hanko (a domain school) of the Kumamoto Domain, and after that, underwent ascetic training at Nishihongan-ji Temple.

#At the end of the Edo period, when Japan put an end to its isolation and cultural ideas and products poured into Japan from the West, Kaiseki started to worry about the future of Japan. He was especially interested in economic difficulties and inflow of western learning associated with the initiation of trade after Japan opened its country. He was particularly feared that spread of the Copernican theory might destroy Buddhism itself; the theory was directly opposed to the universal order described by Buddhist scriptures, saying that Mt. Sumeru (in Buddhism - said to be the highest mountain rising in the center of the world) was the center of it. The world of Buddhism at the time was too indifferent to Butsureki (Buddhist calendar). Therefore, Kaiseki returned to his hometown and concentrated on studying Buddhism astronomy by himself in order to master it.

In 1862, Kaiseki wrote "Tsui Chikyu Ryakusetsu (鎚地球略説, Outline of the Earth)"
#In the book, he advocated 'the theory of Shijitsu Tosho' (視実等象論, "the theory of the spheres"). The theory explained that what the astral body looked was different from what it really was and that there was a fixed rule in the difference. That is to say, he explained the two laws; Law of Suiko (although the sky is originally flat, from the eyes of an observer, it looks as though it hung down in four directions with the space above the observer as the center, and it also looks like a semicircle); and the Law of Shukusho (the observer has an illusion that the area near his/her head looks spacious and the area near the ground looks narrow). Kaiseki asked Hisashige TANAKA, a famous inventor to create "Shijitsu tosho gi" (a globe of shijitsu tosho), which materialized the Shijitsu tosho universe theory and tried to spread his theory. Kaiseki's theory was non-scientific, compared with western astrology, but his ability to establish such theory only from Buddhist scriptures and his own originality was worth praising.

In the political field, he was against the Choshu conquest by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), submitted a report in order to stop it, and went to the Choshu Domain with the title of Kosho-ji monzeki to mediate between Choshu and Bakufu.

Entering the Meiji period, he expressed "Saibai Keizairon" (literally, "the theory of cultivating the economies") and severely criticized cultural enlightenment, asserting agricultural fundamentalism, national seclusion and the use of domestically produced goods. Although these assertions were theoretically developed through the analysis of the actual economic situation, his excessive demand for the use of domestic products and the exclusion of foreign goods resulted in a sort of meaningless claims, including "a theory that lamps will destroy our country," "a theory that railroads will perish our country," "the curse caused by milk," "the four curses caused by umbrellas," "boycott of the solar calendar," and "a theory about uselessness of bookkeeping."

In the field of astronomy, he was completely against Western astronomy by writing "Seigaku gimon" (literally, "questions of studies of stars" (1874) and "Tenchiron seiron"(1881). The Meiji government feared his words and actions would hinder the political movement to establish Shinto as a state religion and prohibited the Mt. Sumeru theory in 1876.

However, even after that, Kaiseki positively continued his activities. Around that time, Kaiseki established a friendship with Yuiga Shoshun, who was a Tendai Sect Buddhist monk, and became a follower of the sect and was appointed to Chief Priest of Honko-in Temple located at Asakusa Shinbori. In 1882, he unexpectedly passed away while giving a lecture at Takada (Joetsu City of today), Niigata Prefecture. Koson OTANI, the head of the Hongan-ji School, favoured Kaisei, mourned Kaisei's passionate life and, even though Kaisei had left the school before his death, gave him the posthumous Buddhist name "Shogetsuin"; Koson also wrote the inscription on Kaisei's gravestone, which Sohaku ASADA, a doctor of Chinese medicine, established at Asakusa-ji Temple. Although Kaisei's theory of trade has some logical problems, some evaluate the theory, saying that it went ahead of Japanese trade protectionism.

However, with Kaisei's death, Bonreki (Buddhist calendar) movements and Buddhist astronomy finished their historical roles.

[Original Japanese]