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The 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.

Though, this '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")

Laws passed 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.

Conformity to 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.

For example, 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.

Groups that 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 Centre.

This sounds as if the Centre was actually being taken over by the Naval Officers?

Had they perhaps been assigned the task of 're-aligning' the activities, aims and objectives of the Centre?

And perhaps 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?


(to be continued…)

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