Kokuiko (Thoughts on the Meaning of the Nation) (国意考)

"Kokuiko" is a literary work by KAMO no Mabuchi, a scholar of Japanese classical literature in the Edo period. Kokui' means Japanese spirit.


"Kokuiko" is one of the so-called "Goiko" (Five Ancient Matters), which is a record of Mabuchi's learning; an established theory has it that Mabuchi started writing it around 1764 and completed it around 1769.

Mabuchi wrote "Kokuiko" to refute an affirmation by Shundai DAZAI, who succeeded Sorai OGYU's teachings and wrote "Bendosho" (Book on Instruction), which especially blasphemed Shinto and advocated that there was no 'michi' (literally, the "way") in Japan during the reign of Emperor Jimmu and up until the reign of Emperor Kinmei, and that "Shinto" (Way of Gods) was established due to the advent of Confucianism.


It is generally known that, for years, Mabuchi intended to promote his research on ancient words through works such as Kaiko (Commentary on Poetry), Buniko (Commentary on Literature), and Goiko (Commentary on Language), and to set up the philosophy of ancient Shinto after perfecting the fundamentals; however, in consideration of his old age, he passed on his attempt to advocate Fukko Shinto (reform Shinto [prominent 18th century form of Shinto, based on the classics, and free from Confucian and Buddhist influences]) to his successor, Norinaga MOTOORI. "Kokuiko" represents a part of the sense of ancient Shinto as understood by KAMO no Mabuchi.

Mabuchi advocated that Shinto, or Kannagara no Michi (Shinto, way of Gods), was the main way of heaven, earth, and nature, as descended since ancient times, but it had become turbid due to Buddhism and Confucianism which were introduced later. The duty of a scholar of Japanese classical literature is to recapture the original purity of Shinto through research of Japanese classics. On that premise, "Kokuiko" is focused on the affirmation that teachings such as Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) should be eliminated and one must return to the original life and spirit of the Japanese. Kokui' refers to this Japanese spirit, and it is preached as being a circle consisting of a smooth arch instead of a multilateral rectangular like Shushigaku. Put simply, Mabuchi advocated that intrinsically, the minds of the Japanese people outweighed mitigation over incommodity, and tenderness over severity.

Furthermore, as is known by the words appearing at the end of his writing, such as 'everything in the world is small, but it's good that the Emperor reigns for years,' and 'a country under the reign of the Emperor,' the affirmation that the presence of the emperor is natural and good for Japan was taken up by the group of Fukko Shinto.


When in 1771, after the death of Mabuchi, Norinaga MOTOORI introduced Mabuchi's theory in "Naobi no Mitama" (The Rectifying Spirit), he rejected 'karagokoro' (Chinese-mindedness) even more strongly; thus "Kokuiko" itself became the target of a debate. When Kodai NOMURA of the Kogaku-ha (School of Ancient Learning) wrote "Doku Kokuiko" (On Reading Kokuiko) in 1781, Kairyo, a scholar of Japanese classical literature, presented his counterargument in "Doku Kokuiko ni kotaeru fumi" (Response to Doku Kokuiko); furthermore, in 1806, Inahiko HASHIMOTO, another scholar of Japanese classical literature, tentatively put an end to the debate with his "Bendoku Kokuiko" (Thoughts on reading Kokuiko). However, Norinaga MOTOORI's fighting attitude continued, and in 1830 "Kokuiko" was once again taken up, as the root of Norinaga's affirmation, in Noriyoshi NUMATA's "Kokuiko Benmo" (Corrected Misunderstandings on Kokuiko), and during the Ansei era, Sueshige KUBO refuted this in his "Kokuiko Benmo Zeigen" (Redundancy of Kokuiko Benmo).

Kokuiko was also used in Japan during the Pacific War for its idea of protecting the 'unbroken line of sovereignty in the hands of Emperors' as well as by being understood as the source of the 'reverence for the Emperor.'

[Original Japanese]