chapter  5
28 Pages

Mid- and late Tokugawa anti-Christian discourse: continuity and change Putting down the cudgels: The mid-Tokugawa anti-Christian

Because there is no one who has seen a Christian book, today there is no one who possesses the knowledge to even say what kind of thing that teaching is.1

This was how Ogyū Sorai, the Tokugawa period’s most influential Confucian scholar, famously summarized Japan’s contemporary discussion of Christianity in the third decade of the 1700s – scarcely more than half a century after the boom in anti-Christian publications of the 1660s. After peaking in the midseventeenth-century, writing on Christianity, including anti-Christian discourse, had virtually disappeared from Japan’s intellectual landscape by the eighteenth century. Anti-Christian discourse would not again play a central role in Japanese political or cultural life until a second surge of anti-Christian writing took place in the nineteenth century. This fresh surge began in the last decades of Tokugawa rule and continued uninterrupted through the fall of the shogunate and into the Meiji period, evolving as it did so to play an important role in the formation of the ideology of modern Japan.