Confucianism deserves closer attention as a field of inquiry. A manysided phenomenon, this ‘family of doctrines’ has for a long time exercised a portentous influence in a number of Asian countries, including Japan. Although it may seem to have all but disappeared from Japan after the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), in fact its influence has remained strong in subsequent eras. Into the Heisei period of today, it has retained a prominent place in popular texts; I examine portrayals of Confucianism in popular historical literature and academic writings at a time at which, at the start of the 1990s, a novel about Confucius, Koshi by Inoue Yasushi (1989), tops the Japanese bestseller lists. In some detail, I consider a few portrayals of Confucianism in popular form found in the 1970s. The important point, however, is that these instances are not unusual, and that representations like these have been made continuously in postTokugawa Japan, and may well help to carry over Confucianism into the twenty-first century. Japanese history has unquestionably seen a growing dissemination of Confucianism over time as McMullen (1983:352) writes:
In Japan Confucianism has exercised a formative influence especially in the areas of education and ethical and political
thought and conduct, and assumed particular importance during the 6th to 9th centuries and during the Edo (1600-1868), Meiji (1868-1912), Taisho (1912-26), and early Showa (1926ca 1945) periods.