chapter
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Continuity and family unity

Answering the call of the Rescript on Education, Japanese child­ ren in primary and secondary schools were taught, increasingly so through various revisions of the history books and moral training books, that Japan was a divine nation originating from Amaterasu O Mi Kami. All people were essentially children of the divine

There were various movements which worked for the strength­ ening of the traditional morals. The National Purity Society, founded in 1919, and the National Foundation Society, founded in 1924, promoted the nationalist sentiments with the Emperor and the kokutai as central concepts. But special mention must be made of the Hotoku Movement (repayment of virtue) which gained many adherents from the late 1880s onwards, notably in the rural areas, but spread in the 1920s also to the cities and was supported by both the government and the large businesses. This movement was based on the teachings of Ninomiya Sontoku, a peasant philosopher and agricultural self-styled reformer of the late Tokugawa period. He had successfully reformed his own village and later also one of the han, with the aid of his pragmatic approach and his philosophy based on Shintoist, Buddhist and Confucian ideas. According to him there were two ways: the heavenly and the human; the former being unchangeable and universal and the human way containing the pragmatic daily affairs, notably economic. But the human way had to conform and be subjected to the heavenly way. The Emperor belonged to the heavenly way. Each individual was to strive with hard work, thrift and 'giving way to the others' to pursue the human way, with the goal of achieving perfect harmony. The goal of the human way (economic activity) was to 'pass things on to others', which was part of the heavenly way of which the Emperor showed the best example. This Hotoku Movement spread so that, by 1911, there were 278 Hotoku groups in Japan; and its ideas gained a strong foothold in schools. Ninomiya Sontoku's statue was erected in all primary schools as an example of diligence and Japanese-style morality. In 1906 the Hotoku Society was es­ tablished, with considerable subsidies from both the Ministry of Education as well as the leading zaibatsu.