TRAINING CENTRE & STATE SCRUTINY
Copyright © 2007 James Deacon
Meiji-era had been a time of unprecedented change, upheaval (and
instability) in Japan - a time of rapid growth and modernization.
"For the good of the nation" the Meiji Government had
recognized a need to monitor and regulate the activities of all
group and organizations (political, social, & spiritual), lest
they disseminate 'dangerous thoughts' - ideas in any way conflicting
with, or critical of, the official views and doctrines of the State.
'big brother' style approach was not really anything new; rather
- particularly in relation to spiritual/religious groups - it was
in many ways simply a continuation of policies implemented during
the pre-restoration eras. (For example the Genroku period has seen
the forceful prohibition of "new doctrines & deviant sects")
during the Meiji era required that the tenets and principles of
all spiritual/religious groups must in no way contradict (or even
appear to contradict) the doctrines of the Imperial Cult ('State
Shinto') central to which was a belief in the divinity of the Emperor,
and the veneration of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu.
the State ethos was seen as paramount, and this focus on the prevention
of 'Thought Crime' was a trend that continued into and throughout
the reign of Meiji's successor: the Emperor Taisho.
in 1925, the Taisho Government passed the Chian Iji Ho (Peace
Preservation Law/ Public Security Act), primarily with the intent
of stemming the spread of Socialist thought. However this Law was
also implemented to control the growth and activities of religious
and spiritual groups - both large and small.
All such groups
had to be legally approved by the Bureau of Religion - a department
of the Ministry of Education.
did not achieve legal sanction -i.e. did not achieve the status
of officially recognized organizations - were viewed with high levels
of suspicion and held in great contempt by the authorities.
In many cases,
deemed ruiji shûkyô ('quasi/pseudo-religious
organizations') these unsanctioned groups fell under the jurisdiction
of the Home Ministry and were subjected to persistent police monitoring
and frequent, rigorous, inspection and scrutiny.
It is quite likely that a spiritually-orientated group such as Usui-sensei's
would have been classified as ruiji shûkyô...
We are told that in Apr 1922 Usui-Sensei opened his first training
centre in Harajuku, Aoyama, Tokyo.
Over the next
two years, the number of people studying with Usui-sensei grew to
the extent that in Feb 1924 Usui-Sensei moved his Centre to larger
premises in Nakano.
The fact that
this group was increasing in number was presumably carefully noted
by the authorities.
As the group
continued to grow this would have led to greater interest from officials
at the Home Ministry.
We know from
the Memorial Stone in the Saihoji Temple graveyard that Usui-sensei's
fame had spread far and wide, and this would no doubt have been
a cause of considerable concern for the authorities, who would need
to be reassured that there were no elements of Usui-sensei's teachings
which might be deemed to be in any way critical of, or contrary
to, official State doctrine.
We are also
told that in 1925, about twenty Officers of the Imperial Navy (including
2 Admirals) joined Usui-sensei's Centre - that it was under their
influence that the chanting of gyosei poetry - penned by
the Meiji Emperor - first began to be used at the start of the meetings;
and that within days of their arrival, there was a sudden shift
in the nature and structure of the training being provided at the
as if the Centre was actually being taken over by the Naval
Had they perhaps
been assigned the task of 're-aligning' the activities, aims and
objectives of the Centre?
also, been tasked with discovering ways in which Usui-sensei's skills,
teachings and training (like that of many others) could be 'appropriated'
for the greater good of the State?