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date: 22 March 2018

The Reception of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in Meiji to Taishō Japan

Summary and Keywords

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were fascinated by Asian philosophies and religions. The two American philosophers discovered “Asia” in their own Transcendentalist views of nature and human ethics. Beginning with the works of Frederic Carpenter and Arthur Christy in the 1930s, American scholars have undertaken comprehensive studies of the ways in which Oriental ideas and religions, such as Neoplatonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Persian poetry, Confucianism, and Daoism, influenced American Transcendentalism. In this global age, Emerson and Thoreau, as transnational figures, have come to be given a great deal of attention.

Few scholars today realize that the works of Emerson and Thoreau were widely read by Japanese intellectuals during the Meiji and Taishō periods (1868–1926). The Japanese highly admired the spirit of independence and freedom advocated by the two Concordians. Although studies of their reception in Japan have been made, and many of their writings have been translated, the strength of Emerson’s and Thoreau’s influence on Japanese readers may not yet be fully understood.

Suzuki Daisetsu made a significant contribution to Western philosophical thought by bringing the teachings of Zen Buddhism to the attention of the Western world. He felt deep sympathy with Emerson’s and Thoreau’s views of nature. Influenced by Suzuki, some American and Japanese scholars have remarked on similarities between Zen Buddhism and American Transcendentalism. Until now, scholars in the West have tended to assume that Zen Buddhism was the primary medium of Japanese interest in Emerson and Thoreau, partly because Zen Buddhism was in vogue during the middle decades of the 20th century. While it is true that both Emersonian and Thoreauvian philosophies and Zen Buddhism center on a spirit of seeking the spring of universal spirituality within the inner soul, Suzuki’s emphasis on that similarity may be one reason for the current difficulty in understanding the diversity and complexity of both Eastern and Western philosophies and religions.

Keywords: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Meiji to Taishō Japan, Suzuki Daisetsu, Zen Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism, Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming, Lu Xiangshan

Emerson’s and Thoreau’s Literary Reception

Emerson’s Reception

Few scholars today realize that Ralph Waldo Emerson made an important literary and philosophical impact on Japanese culture during the late 19th and early 20th centuries—the Meiji period (1868–1912),1 the era of modernization and industrialization, and the Taishō period (1912–1926), the era of the liberal movement known as the “Taishō democracy.” While he was not the equal of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Leon Tolstoy, or Friedrich Nietzsche in terms of the depth of his influence, Emerson was nonetheless widely read and admired. Quotations from Emerson appeared in magazines and newspapers from these eras, and Emerson’s sayings even entered daily Japanese usage.2 In the 1870s, Kanda Naibu3 and Toyama Masakazu were studying at American universities. Kanda was deeply impressed with Emerson’s lecture at Amherst College in 1879. After he returned to Japan, Kanda taught English in various schools, and frequently read Emerson’s essays to his classes. Toyama later became a professor in the Faculty of Literature of the University of Tokyo. In 1882, he published Culture and Behavior, a reprint of two chapters from Emerson’s The Conduct of Life that Toyama intended to use for classroom reading.

In the 1880s, Emerson came to the attention of a small circle of Japanese intellectuals, and in the 1890s, his writings began influencing Japanese literary culture more widely. The first of Emerson’s works to appear in Japanese was a translation of “Compensation” by Nakamura Masanao in 1888, followed by “Civilization” by Satō Shigeki in 1890. These translations were intended to be read as warnings against the contemporary tendency toward uncritical admiration of economic and technological progress.

Tokutomi Sohō (1863–1957), a journalist, popular social commentator, and advocate of the national ideals of a modernizing Japan, played an important role in introducing Emerson to the public. In 1887, he founded the publishing house Minyūsha [Society of the People’s Friends], which put out Kokumin no tomo [The People’s Friend], a monthly magazine devoted to political, social, and literary topics. Tokutomi focused on the realistic and practical aspects of Emerson’s later thought. He printed Japanese translations of Emerson’s sayings under the heading “Ichigo senkin” [Golden Sayings] in Kokumin no tomo. In 1901, Tokutomi also published a translation of Charles E. Norton’s edition of Letters from Ralph Waldo Emerson to a Friend.

Kitamura Tōkoku (1868–1894), a poet, essayist, and leader of the literary group Bungakukai [Literary World], the first of avowedly “romantic” writers in Japan, was drawn more to the radical transcendental thought of Emerson’s early years. Reflecting this influence, between 1892 and 1894, Kitamura contributed numerous short essays on Emersonian themes to the literary magazine Bungakukai. He wrote about the mental conflict and agony that arose from his own exploration of nature and the potentialities of the individual self in his essay “Naibu seimei ron” [An Essay on the Inner Life] (1893), which has been regarded as the starting point of modern Japanese literature. Kitamura also published Emaruson [Emerson] in 1894, a critical biography of Emerson, in the Twelve Great Men of Letters series begun by Tokutomi Sohō.

Kunikida Doppo (1871–1908) and Tokutomi Roka (1868–1927), Sohō’s brother, must also be mentioned as influential romantic writers who admired Emerson, as were Uemura Masahisa (1858–1925) and Uchimura Kanzō (1861–1930), two prominent Christian leaders during the Meiji period. Between 1893 and 1897, Kunikida frequently referred to Emerson, as well as Thomas Carlyle and William Wordsworth, in his diary Azamukazaru no ki [My Never-Betraying Diary]. Uchimura went to America in 1884 to study at Amherst College, and after his return to Japan in 1888, he wrote in English How I Became a Christian: Out of My Diary (1895). He made many references to Emerson in his spiritual autobiography Kyūan roku [Record of My Search after Calmness] (1893) and in his succeeding writings. As an advocate of the non-church movement, Uchimura esteemed highly Emerson’s spirit of self-respect and independence.

Takahashi Gorō, a literary critic, translated The Conduct of Life in 1910 and Society and Solitude in 1913, and edited Emaruson genkō roku [A Chronicle of Emerson’s Words and Activities], a critical biography of Emerson in 1912. Togawa Shūkotsu (1870–1939), a literary critic and essayist, published Emāson ronbun shū [Collected Essays of Emerson], a translation of Emerson’s essays in two volumes, in 1911 and 1912. Mizushima Kōichirō translated English Traits in 1912. Emerson’s prestige in Japan reached its apogee in the Taishō period with the publication of the eight volumes of Emaason zenshū [Complete Works of Emerson] in 1917, translated by Hirata Tokuboku (1873–1943), an essayist and scholar of English literature, and Togawa Shūkotsu. Resting upon a foundation laid down over a period of more than thirty years of growing familiarity with Emerson in Japan, this translation reached a great number of readers and won Emerson many admirers among ordinary Japanese.

Miyazawa Kenji (1896–1933), a poet, author of children’s literature, and agricultural scientist in northeastern Japan, read Togawa’s translation of Emerson’s essays. He is known to be influenced by Emerson’s ideas, especially on poetry, art, and the Over-Soul, in developing his pantheistic view that all beings can embody the nature of the Buddha and teach their dharma here and now, based on the Lotus Sutra, one of the most important scriptures of Buddhism.4

Although Emerson’s writings continued to be read and translated from the Shōwa period (1926–1989) to the present Heisei period (1989–), he has never been as widely embraced by the Japanese public as he was during the Taishō period. A brief revival occurred just after the World War II, when Emerson gained attention as a philosopher of American democracy. However, since this minor revival, Emerson has been read and studied mainly by a small circle of scholars of English and American literature.

Thoreau’s Reception

During the Meiji and Taishō periods, Thoreau was not as enthusiastically admired as Emerson and Walt Whitman. He was generally accepted as a poet-naturalist and author of Walden, or Life in the Woods; Thoreau as the author of Civil Disobedience was not yet widely known.

Uchimura Kanzō was much impressed with Walden and held Thoreau in high esteem as a nature poet in 1899. In 1907, Kaneko Kiichi introduced Thoreau as a critic of civilization in the magazine Kan i seikatsu [Simple Life]. In 1911, Mizushima Kōichirō published Shinrin seikatsu [Life in the Woods], the first attempt to translate Walden into Japanese, which became a bestseller. Mizushima studied under James Murdoch, a Scottish scholar and journalist, who worked as a teacher in Japan from 1889–1893 and 1894–1899 and introduced Thoreau and Emerson to Mizushima. Yamagata Isoo, president and chief editor of the Seoul Press, noted in the preface to this book:

I hope Shinrin seikatsu will be carefully read by many Japanese, because this book was written by one of the greatest American thinkers, and the unworldly and remarkable thought shown in this book made a great contribution to the formation of the present American way of thinking. The thought of this book shows that a large majority of Americans still put more emphasis on spirit of justice and independence than on fame and wealth and manage their country without losing sound common sense, though they are tossed about by the wind and waves of present-day money worship and live in luxury and vanity.5

In 1917, Shioya Sakae published Rinkan seikatsu [Life in the Woods] in Eigo seinen [The Rising Generation], a magazine for researchers and students of English and American literature and language. In 1922, Shinoda Kinsaku annotated Walden in a series of Kenkyusha’s Library of British and American Literature, and in 1925 Imai Yoshio published Mori no seikatsu [Life in the Woods].

In 1905, Minakata Kumagusu (1867–1941), a naturalist, biologist, and folklorist who studied in America and England from 1887 to 1900, translated Hōjō-ki [Record in a Ten-Foot-Square Hut] into English with F. Victor Dickins, a British orientalist, barrister, and university administrator. Hōjō-ki, an essay conveying from a Buddhist view of life the vanity of human effort and the impermanence of worldly things, was written by Kamo No Chōmei (1155–1216) in 1212. Chōmei was a poet, essayist, and son of a Shintō priest during the late Heian and the early Kamakura periods, and lived as a hermit in the suburbs of Kyoto, in the same way Thoreau lived on the shore of Walden Pond. Minakata called Chōmei “a Japanese Thoreau in the twelfth century.” In 1912, Nishikawa Kōjirō, a socialist speaking out against the Russo-Japanese War, edited Torō genkō roku [A Chronicle of Thoreau’s Sayings and Activities], a critical biography of Thoreau. In 1921, Yanagida Izumi published Shizen jin no meisō [The Contemplation of a Man of Nature], including translations of Civil Disobedience as well as Thoreau’s essays and poems.

Thoreau has been enthusiastically studied in Japan since the 1970s. Since the 1990s, however, he has come to public attention as a pioneer of environmentalism, and translations of almost all of his essays, poems, and journals, as well as various translations of Walden, have been published. Thoreau has come to be accepted as an abolitionist, a self-reliant democratic citizen protesting against the government, and an environmental scientist, as well as a poet-naturalist and philosopher.6

Emerson’s and Thoreau’s Reception from a Zen Buddhist Perspective by Suzuki Daisetsu

Suzuki Daisetsu Teitarō (1870–1966) is well known as a Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher and scholar. He made a significant contribution to Western philosophical thought by bringing the teachings of Zen Buddhism to the attention of the Western world through his numerous books in English and lectures made in America and European countries. Suzuki was undoubtedly the principal figure driving the popularization of Zen in the West in the middle decades of the 20th century.

In his college days, when he began to develop his own Zen ideas, Suzuki turned to reading Emerson’s essays. The first essay he wrote was “Emāson no zengaku ron [Zen Theory of Emerson]” (1896). In this essay, he deeply sympathized with Emerson, exclaiming, “It is becoming clearer that Emerson preached on the cultivation of the mind in the same way Zen does!”7 In his book Zen and Japanese Culture (1959), Suzuki pointed out the affinity of Emersonian Transcendentalism and the Zen concept of emptiness (kū/kong):

Emerson’s allusion to “sky-void idealism” is interesting. Apparently he means the Buddhist theory of śūnyatā (“emptiness” or “void”). Although it is doubtful how deeply he entered into the spirit of this theory, which is the basic principle of the Buddhist thoughts and from which Zen starts on its mystic appreciation of Nature, it is really wonderful to see the American mind, as represented by the exponents of Transcendentalism, even trying to probe into the abysmal darkness of the Oriental fantasy. I am now beginning to understand the meaning of the deep impressions made upon me while reading Emerson in my college days. I was not then studying the American philosopher but digging into the recesses of my own thought, which had been there ever since the awaking of Oriental consciousness. That was the reason why I had felt so familiar with him—I was, indeed, making acquaintance with myself then.8

About fifty years later, at the age of seventy-seven, Suzuki recollected in Tōyō teki na mikata [Oriental Points of View] his first experience of reading Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance”:

I was deeply moved when I first read this essay. This is self-reliance! This is truefreedom! This is true independence! We don’t need to feel mean only because we are little. We can express anything we have regardless of our great or little ability. This is sincerity! In this way I was deeply impressed.9

Suzuki, discovering the remarkable affinity between the Zen spirit and the Transcendentalism of Emerson, had a feeling of great intimacy with Emerson throughout his life.10

Suzuki reveals that Thoreau as well as Emerson enthusiastically studied Oriental philosophies and religions, and that Thoreau was like “an Oriental hermitphilosopher.” In his lecture “Zen to nihonjin no kishitsu [Zen and the Japanese Aptitude]” (1935)11, he quoted this passage from Walden:

In the midst of a gentle rain, while these thoughts prevailed, I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in Nature, in the very pattering of the drops, . . . I was so distinctly made aware of the presence of something kindred to me, even in scenes which we are accustomed to call wild and dreary, and also that the nearest of blood to me and humanest was not a person nor a villager, that I thought no place could ever be strange to me again.12

Furthermore, in Zen and Japanese Culture, Suzuki writes about the affinity of the poetic feeling toward Nature between Thoreau and Japanese poets such as Saigyō (1118–1190), a Buddhist priest and poet during the late Heian period, and Matuo Bashō (1644–1694), a haiku [Japanese poem of seventeen syllables] master during the early Edo period who was strongly influenced by Zen:

The same can be said of Thoreau. Who would not recognize his poetic affinity with Saigyō or Bashō, and his perhaps unconscious indebtedness to the Oriental mode of feeling toward Nature?13

Suzuki points out that wabi leads to Thoreau’s spirit of simple and solitary living away from human society on the shore of Walden Pond:

Here we have an appreciation of transcendental aloofness in the midst of multiplicities—which is known as wabi in the dictionary of Japanese cultural terms. Wabi really means “poverty,” or negatively, “not to be in the fashionable society of the time.” To be poor, that is, not to be dependent on things worldly—wealth, power, and reputation—and yet to feel inwardly the presence of something of the highest value, above time and social position: this is what essentially constitutes wabi. Stated in terms of practical everyday life, wabi is to be satisfied with a little hut, a room of two or three tatami (mats), like the log cabin of Thoreau and with a dish of vegetables picked in the neighboring fields, and perhaps to be listening to the pattering of a gentle spring rainfall.14

Greatly influenced by Suzuki’s writings, some Japanese and American scholars have assumed that Zen Buddhism is chiefly responsible for Japanese interest in Emerson’s and Thoreau’s thoughts, and that American Transcendentalism has much affinity with Zen Buddhism. Van Meter Ames, who called Emerson “an American Bodhisattva,” wrote: “Such a parallel between Zen and Emerson would account for his appeal in China and Japan, though he was more familiar with the thought of India. . . . Daoism, and the combination of Daoism and Buddhism which led to Zen, seems closer to him than Hinduism.” He further called Thoreau “a Daoist in America,” and added: “If they can learn, with or without Thoreau, the secret of Daoism and Zen, they will not miss the sound of trumpets.”15

The Difference between Emerson’s and Thoreau’s Transcendentalism and Suzuki’s Zen Buddhism

Suzuki felt deep sympathy with Emerson’s and Thoreau’s Transcendentalism. Suzuki’s writings offer expressions that are comparable to Emerson’s “God within” and “Self-Reliance,” including: “If you wish to seek the Buddha, you ought to see into your own Nature (hsing); for this Nature is the Buddha himself.”16 It is true that Suzuki’s Zen and Emerson’s and Thoreau’s thoughts, both grounded in their mystical experiences of the unity of the self and nature, center on a spirit of truth-seeking, and show an attitude of trying to find the profound truth within the inner soul apart from any outer traditional authority, institution, or form. Yet a significant difference can be observed between Suzuki’s “original self” and Emerson’s “inner self.” As Andō Shōei pointed out: “To recognize two selves in man and to seek reality by penetrating into inmost self, —this attitude toward truth-seeking is also found in Zen, but in point of the connotation of the concept of two selves in man there is a remarkable difference between Zen and Transcendentalism.”17 The original self of Zen is revealed when a person surrenders all attachments. As long as one clings to anything, one cannot enter the state of absolute freedom. “Satori,” the sudden flashing into consciousness of a new truth, consists in acquiring a new viewpoint for penetrating into the essence of the nature of the human mind. Suzuki’s view is based on the Mahāyāna Buddhist doctrine of emptiness—that all things in the phenomenal worlds, existing only in relation to other things, have no immutable substance of their own.18 Denying the real existence of the human soul, he also explains “no-mind” by quoting the sayings of the Zen master Huángbò Xīyùn: “The Mind means ‘no-mindness,’ to attain which is the ultimate end of the Buddhist life. . . . This Mind has no beginning, was never born, and will never pass away.”19

In contrast to Suzuki, Emerson’s thought entails a concept of awareness of both the outer self and the inner self, as he expounded in his sermon “Religion and Society”: “I recognize the distinction of the outer self and the inner self,—of the double consciousness.”20 In Walden, Thoreau likewise confessed that the double nature of the self can be detected in his own mind: “I found in myself, and still find, an instinct toward a higher, or as it is named, spiritual life, as do most men, and another toward a primitive rank and savage one, and I reverence them both.”21 Humans can be in touch with what Emerson called “the eternal One,” or the super-personal “Over-Soul,” and Thoreau “the perennial source of our life,”22 or “a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we call reality,”23 but only by overcoming the outer self and transcending individuality through self-purification and self-denial.

Suzuki’s freedom of the self, accomplished through “satori,” connotes the meaning of “mindlessness.” Suzuki’s “original self” dissolves into oneness with nature, abandoning its personality. This is distinct from Emerson’s and Thoreau’s dualistic notion of freedom of the self, which only an individual, entirely self-reliant and independent, can pursue and enjoy. Suzuki failed to observe that the Zen concept of emptiness—though it has a transcendent and supersensible aspect—cannot be understood as supernatural in the sense of Emerson’s “Reason” and “Over-Soul” and Thoreau’s law and reality. Although some noticeable similarities and mystical aspects exist, Suzuki’s Zen, which is based on the concepts of emptiness and “no-mind,” is essentially different from Emersonian and Thoreauvian thoughts.24

Emerson’s Reception from Neo-Confucian Perspectives by Japanese Intellectuals

The belief among some Japanese intellectuals that Emerson’s and Thoreau’s philosophies were almost identical to Zen Buddhism—a characteristic recognizable since the late 19th century—may have hindered their recognition of the supernatural, complex, and many-sided casts of American Transcendentalism.25 But one of the reasons Emerson was embraced with enthusiasm by Japanese intellectuals during the Meiji and Taishō periods may have been that they found similarities between Emerson’s ideas and the doctrines of Neo-Confucianism, a system of ideas and ethical values in which Japanese culture had been steeped for several centuries. In the broadest terms, Emerson’s thought pursues an integration of inner-oriented transcendental metaphysics and outwardly direct ethics that is also a hallmark of Neo-Confucian thought. Most Japanese intellectuals of this period were already familiar with related concepts from Neo-Confucianism, such as Tian Li (Heavenly Principle), li (principle) and qi (generative or material force), yin (passive generative force) and yang (active generative force), and inner-oriented ethics: ren (benevolence) and sheng (sincerity). Because of Japanese familiarity with these doctrines during this period, Emerson would not have struck Japanese readers as entirely foreign.26

The Development of Neo-Confucianism in China and Japan

Neo-Confucianism emerged in Song-dynasty China (960–1279) with the support of a rising class of bureaucrats who sponsored the doctrine as an alternative to Buddhism and Daoism, both of which had exerted a strong influence during the long medieval period of the Sui (581–618), the Tang (618–690, 705–907), and the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907–960). The teachings of Neo-Confucianism preserved the human and social morality of Confucianism, while criticizing Daoism for promoting natural idleness and Buddhism for devaluating the human duties necessary to ordinary family life and social relationships. At the same time, Neo-Confucianism borrowed elements of Buddhist metaphysics and Daoist cosmogony in a new formation of ethical philosophy that was clearly distinguished from Buddhism and Daoism.27 Zhu Xi (1130–1200), East Asia’s foremost philosopher after Confucius and Mencius, turned to the Confucian tradition and synthesized the philosophies of the Neo-Confucianists of the early Song dynasty. In Zhu’s philosophy, li permeates the universe and unities all things. In addition to sharing in this universal Tai Ji (Supreme Ultimate), each thing possesses a particular principle of being, or xing (nature), of its own, and bodily form is invested with qi. Zhu reaffirms the Confucian emphasis on scholarship with his teaching that human nature is fundamentally good and individuals can extend their knowledge through objective scholarship. Zhu’s teachings were widely accepted as orthodox throughout the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties. They spread far beyond the boundaries of China to Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.

Lu Xiangshan (1139–1192), Zhu Xi’s foremost contemporary rival, advanced the concept that the mind is principle, vehemently opposing Zhu’s view that nature is principle. He insisted that the mind is not distinct from human nature and feelings but rather should be understood as an integrated whole. Wang Yangming (1472–1528), an official, educationist, and general during the Ming dynasty, is regarded as the most important Neo-Confucian thinker after Zhu Xi. Substantially extending Lu Xiangshan’s teachings, Wang denied the rationalist dualism of the orthodox philosophy of Zhu. He professed such idealistic and monistic doctrines as the mind as principle, the unity of knowledge and conduct, and the extension of the innate knowledge of good. Wang’s dynamic and vital philosophy offered a serious challenge to that of Zhu and exerted a strong influence on Chinese and Japanese thought.

Neo-Confucianism was first introduced to Japan in the early years of the Kamukura period (1185–1333), but Buddhism and Confucianism were not considered mutually exclusive until the 16th century. Beginning with Fujiwara Seika (1561–1619), however, the otherworldly teachings of Buddhism and the socio-ethical teachings of Confucianism were clearly distinguished. In 1607, the Tokugawa shogunate employed Hayashi Razan (1583–1657) as the shogunal Confucianist.

During the Edo period (1603–1867) in Japan, the doctrines of Zhu Xi, known as Shushigaku, were promulgated by the Tokugawa shogunate for the purpose of establishing and maintaining the feudal system. Shushigaku took deep root in certain strata of Japanese society; the samurai, or military class, eagerly studied this philosophy, and distinguished scholars of the Zhu Xi school emerged. The teachings of Wang Yangming, known as Yōmeigaku, also spread not only to the samurai class but also to the common people. Yōmeigaku was embraced as an ethical and political philosophy that put a greater emphasis than Zhu’s upon practical conduct.

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and the commencement of efforts to adopt Western science and technology, the Japanese government designated Shintō, Japan’s indigenous belief system, as the official state religion. Aspects of the philosophy of Zhu Xi were incorporated within Shintō; the Meiji government used these, for instance, in the Imperial Rescript on Education of 1890 to inspire patriotic sentiment as well as reverence for the emperor. The Yōmeigaku movement became prominent from the late 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. The movement stimulated, if indirectly, democratic sentiment: many nongovernmental associations were organized and such bulletins as The Yōmeigaku were published. Given the extent to which Neo-Confucianism had been fostered in the Japanese mind, it is not surprising that a Neo-Confucianist ethos persisted in Japan not only after the Meiji Restoration but as late as post–World War II, by which time Confucianism had come to be widely considered feudalistic and pre-modern.

Emerson’s Reception from Neo-Confucian Perspectives by Japanese Intellectuals

Nakamura Masanao, Iwano Hōmei, Yamaji Aizan, and Takayasu Gekkō were influenced by both Emersonian thought and Neo-Confucianism. Each of these thinkers considered the affinities between Emerson’s thought and Neo-Confucian doctrines, especially Wang Yangming’s teachings.

Nakamura Masanao

Nakamura Masanao (1832–1891)28 stands first among Japanese intellectuals meriting attention in any consideration of the relation between Emerson and Neo-Confucianism. Since reverence for Heaven aligns more closely with monotheistic Christian values than with atheistic Buddhism or polytheistic Shintō, Nakamura’s strong grounding in Confucian education and scholarship supported the leading role he played in Japanese acceptance of Western Christian culture from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries.

Nakamura was born to a samurai family in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1832. In 1848, he entered the Shōheikō, the official shogunate academy of Confucian studies, where he won distinction for the brilliance of his studies. The Tokugawa government selected him in 1866 to study in Great Britain—and to supervise a party of other Japanese students doing so as well. The piety, self-reliance, perseverance, devotion to duty, and sincerity of the British common people impressed Nakamura strongly. He concluded that Christianity formed the moral foundation of what he considered the superior politics, economy, and culture of the West, and that Japan needed to discard its traditional beliefs to strengthen the nation.

The historic Meiji Restoration obliged Nakamura’s party to return to Japan in 1868. Nakamura’s experience of studying in Great Britain came to bear fruit with the success of his translations of Samuel Smile’s Self-Help [Saikoku risshi hen, 1871] and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty [Jiyū no li, 1872]. Nakamura’s writings stand with Fukuzawa Yukichi’s (1835–1902)29 Seiyō jijō [Affairs in the West] and Gakumon no susume [An Encouragement of Learning] as widely read introductions of modern Western ideas to the younger generation that greatly influenced the democratic movements of their day.

In 1868, Nakamura wrote “Keiten aijin setsu” [An Essay on Revering Heaven and Loving People] in classical Chinese. The first work that Nakamura completed after his return from Great Britain, this essay comprises an important literary record of Nakamura’s acceptance of Christianity and his interpretation of the Christian God from the viewpoint of Confucian Heaven:

The way of Heaven is never off course in bringing fortune and misfortune, though there are sooner or later turns in the path in its manifestation. Li gives life to Heaven, and hence, the mind, which is different from corporeal matter, exists. Life favors benevolence. People are able to love one another because of the benevolence of mind. Benevolent conduct therefore makes the mind peaceful and pleases the mind of Heaven, while malevolent conduct does not make the mind peaceful and offends the mind of Heaven. This can be discerned not by the bodily eye but by the eye of reason. Why do we gain nothing when we hold Heaven in reverence, thinking that Heaven knows everything? From ancient times, virtuous men have been sincere in their conduct, benevolent in their associations with people, just in carrying out their duty according to circumstance, and, based on judgments of right and wrong passed by their conscience, solicitous of the permission of the mind of speechless Heaven.30

Nakamura’s belief that God’s law is inscribed upon each person’s conscience can be traced to his background as a Confucian scholar. He taught that people should respond to the mind of Heaven by holding invisible Heaven in reverence, obeying the inner voice of conscience, and being benevolent in their associations with others, because the mind of Heaven and the human mind correspond. He equated the traditional Confucian concept of tendō (the Way of Heaven) with the Christian concept of God, and the Confucian concepts of humanity and benevolence with the Christian concepts of God’s love and love of one’s neighbors. In Nakamura’s view, Japan would become a strong and prosperous nation only if each individual Japanese listened to God’s voice within and acted accordingly.

In 1875, Nakamura published “Shōbatsu kiyo ron” [An Essay on Reward and Punishment, and Praise and Censure] in Meiroku zasshi [Meiroku Journal].31 The expression “One should ask for permission from one’s conscience for one’s conduct,” which appears near the end of the essay, has an affinity with Emerson’s thinking as expressed in “Self-Reliance” and “Compensation,” suggesting that Nakamura was approaching Emersonian thought.

In 1888, after giving a lecture on Emerson’s “Compensation,” Nakamura translated it into classical Chinese, rendering the title “Hōshō ron” [An Essay on Retribution], which he published in Gakushi kaiin zasshi [The Journal for the Members of the University Graduates’ Society]. Nakamura’s translation, the first rendering of Emerson’s works in Japanese, clearly shows that he was an ardent admirer. Yet since Nakamura had been interested in the doctrine of retribution throughout his life, the translation of “Compensation” may be approached as an extension of his own thinking in “Keiten aijin setsu” and “Shōbatsu kiyo ron.” The following is from his introduction to “Hōshō ron”:

Just as shadows conform to a shape and an echo responds to a voice, good outcomes accompany goodness and evil outcomes accompany vice. From ancient times, good rewards have been said to come to inner virtue, and evil rewards to superficial virtue. The principle of retribution, a natural law of Heaven, is never violated. . . . In search of a trustworthy doctrine of retribution, applicable in this world and rich in concrete illustrations from the universe, I came at last to the theory of compensation developed by Emerson, an American literary man. There is no exaggeration in his saying that in the darkness of night, the light of a star will not divert people from the rightful course.32

The rational Confucian doctrine of retribution applicable to this world that Nakamura pursued throughout his life is one reason for his movement from orthodox Christianity to admiration of Emerson. Like Emerson, Nakamura denied the trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ, fundamental Christian doctrines, and accepted Unitarianism. Nakamura had faith in the Christian God as an extension of Confucian Heaven, but he didn’t venture so far as faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Hence, he never accepted such doctrines as original sin, the atonement and resurrection of Jesus, and the Last Judgment.

Nakamura understood the Christian doctrine that God created all things from nothingness, as well as the clear distinction in Christianity between God the Creator and human beings as his creatures, but he never accepted these beliefs. Nakamura was greatly influenced by, and indeed moved toward, Christianity, but he maintained a pantheistic view grounded in the Neo-Confucian doctrine of the generative function of yin-yang and the five natural agencies (fire, wood, earth, metal, and water). This explains why his embrace of Emerson’s views was centered on those of the divine immanence in man and nature and of compensation, which resemble Neo-Confucian doctrines. Nakamura could not step beyond this understanding of Emerson, for all that he came to be known as “the Emerson of Japan.”

Iwano Hōmei

Iwano Hōmei (1873–1920), a naturalistic poet, critic, and novelist, looked beyond the analogies Nakamura Masanao saw between Emerson and Zhu Xi to investigate Emerson’s affinities with the teachings of Wang Yangming, a protester against Zhu Xi’s doctrines in Ming-dynasty China. Kitamura Tōkoku had already drawn the connection between Emerson and Wang in his book Emaruson [Emerson] in commenting, “Emerson, having a similar thought with Yangming’s, placed himself in the quietude of Tao Yuanming”;33 however, Iwano pursued it substantially in his life and writings.

Whereas well-known admirers of Emerson such as Tokutomi Sohō, Kitamura Tōkoku, and Kunikida Doppo, all converts to Christianity like Iwano, viewed Emerson from a Christian viewpoint, Iwano approached Emerson from a different perspective. Iwano was troubled by doubts about the Calvinistic view of God and turned to reading Emerson in place of the Bible.

In 1906, Iwano published Shimpiteki hanjū shugi [The Principle of the Mystic Demi-Animal], which describes a philosophy he termed “demi-animalistic momentalism.” Influenced by Western mystics including Emerson, Maurice Maeterlinck, and Emanuel Swedenborg, Iwano rejected a dualistic view of life—including the drawing of such oppositions as flesh and soul, and subjectivity and objectivity—and instead emphasized the instinctive, nonrational element in humanity. According to Iwano, each human being should strive to live fully and intensely at every moment. Through an analytical consideration of Nature, he presented a naturalistic view that he distinguished from Emerson’s idealistic symbolism:

I mentioned before that in true spirituality the external physical world is not necessarily denied. Emerson, however, thought of nature as the symbol of the soul, interposing the concept of law. . . . According to my theory, as stated above, “Phenomena are identical with substance,” . . . and the soul can be considered identical with nature. I will insist that nature is identical with the soul.34

In 1910, Iwano published an essay “Ōyōmei to Emason” [Wang Yangming and Emerson] in Bunshō sekai [The World of Letters], in which he wrote of the affinity he saw between Wang Yangming’s philosophy and Emerson’s Transcendentalism:

Yangming’s monism is comparable to Emerson’s pantheism. Yangming’s theory of the development of sincerity in the human mind is comparable to Emerson’s theory of the immanence of nature. What Yangming calls “empty spirit” and “the innate knowledge of the good” is comparable to what Emerson calls “spirit” and the “compass” of the human inner self.35

Iwano also pointed out resemblances between the three fundamental doctrines of Wang Yangming—“the mind is principle,” “the unity of knowledge and conduct,” and “the extension of innate knowledge”—and Emerson’s spiritualistic ideas:

Firstly, “the mind is principle” is a spiritualistic view of the universe. Emerson stated that spiritualism is fitting for the consideration of natural things, maintaining that the universe is the manifestation of the great Spirit and the great Soul . . .

Secondly, “the unity of knowledge and conduct” is a view of life which resembles, even at the deepest level, my “unity of soul and flesh.” Though Emerson says, “Action is the perfection and manifestation of thought,” he doesn’t seem to hold that knowledge and conduct should proceed simultaneously. If we examine his philosophy more closely, however, we see that he teaches, like Lu Xiangshan and Wang Yangming, that one should do what one knows in one’s mind, because the mind is the foundation of the human being . . .

Thirdly, “the extension of innate knowledge” is a view of morality concerned with conscience. “Innate knowledge” is the “compass” of the human inner self. The mind, endowed with this compass, can grow from within to without as trees and plants grow. Since the mind grows with righteousness and sincerity, it does so free of the interference of others. Wang says, “When a good thought is retained, there is the Heaven Principle.”36 Emerson expresses a similar idea in his essay “Self-Reliance.”37

Iwano had a high regard for Emerson and Wang Yangming as spiritualists and free thinkers. He admired Emerson for resigning from the ministry of the Unitarian church and developing transcendental thought despite its rejection by the orthodox Christian church, and Yangming vehemently opposing Zhu Xi’s doctrines despite their official status during the Ming dynasty. This entailed, in Iwano’s view, challenges and perseverance:

Many spiritualists and free thinkers are inclined to dissipation. Emerson once sank down into the depths of pessimism. In reaction, he came to a very optimistic view. According to Gyōjōki [My Life Record], Yangming similarly lost himself in “the five indulgences”: “First I was indulged in chivalry, second in equestrian archery, third in poetry and prose, fourth in supernatural beings, and fifth in Buddhism. But in 1506, I came back to the right path of the Confucian teachings of the sages.”38

Iwano, furthermore, refers to the fortitude of the two thinkers in withstanding the conservative establishments of their time. He describes the challenges they faced, comparatively, as follows: “Just as Emerson was abused as a heretic, Yangming . . . was censured as ‘a Confucianist in the guise of a Buddhist.’”39 Lastly, it bears noting that the figure Iwano regarded as “the Emerson of Japan” was Nakae Tōju (1608–1648), the founder of the Wang Yangming school in the Edo period.

Yamaji Aizan

Another literary figure of the Meiji period, the journalist, historian, and literary critic Yamaji Aizan (1864–1917), considered the resemblance between Emerson’s philosophy and the Neo-Confucian thought of both Lu Xiangshan, Zhu Xi’s foremost contemporary rival, and Wang Yangming. In “A History of Chinese Thought,” a serial history published from 1906 to 1907 in Dokuritu hyōron [Independent Review], Yamaji presented a survey of Chinese philosophy from ancient to modern times. One chapter in this series discusses Lu Xiangshan and the affinities between his and Emerson’s views, including those on the identity of the universe and the human soul, and the correspondence between moral law and cosmic law:

“The affairs of the universe are my own affairs. My own affairs are affairs of the universe.” . . . Lu’s idea is no different from Emerson’s idea that the whole of history is contained in every individual. In this respect, Emerson saw most clearly into the principle of pantheism, and he believed in this most definitely. . . . If the law of Heaven and Earth subsists in the soul, then the soul must be identified with Heaven and Earth. . . . In this respect Lu Xiangshan resembles Emerson.40

Yamaji then exhorts, “Listen to your mind, and examine your mind,” and explains that Xiangshan’s restoration of the original state of the mind can be accomplished by listening to the mind without reliance on books and learning; that is, by returning to the innate self. Yamaji returns to Emerson in another chapter in this series on Wang Yangming’s philosophy. Yamaji explains to Japanese readers his understanding that Wang Yangming’s doctrine of the mind as principle, descending directly from Lu Xiangshan, differs from the doctrine of the Zhu Xi school, which distinguishes mind from principle and locates principle in outward material things. Yamaji then points out similarities between Wang Yangming’s view that morality originates in the human mind, and Emerson’s that each individual is responsible for the moral growth and cultivation of his or her soul:

Moral quality develops in the human heart. It unceasingly grows outward from the ever-active human heart, just as a trunk of a tree grows from a seedling, and a branch from a trunk. . . . In this respect, just like Lu Xiangshan, Wang Yangming resembles Emerson.41

Yamaji, moreover, argues that Wang Yangming’s philosophy, in which moral sentiment is apparent in conduct based on the strong will of the decisive individual, and which preaches the love of people for one another, differs significantly from Buddhism. In contrast to Wang’s philosophy, according to Yamaji, Buddhism dismisses human ethics, denies the distinction between good and evil, and attends only to the mind. Opposing the censure of Yangming as “a Confucianist in the guise of a Buddhist,” Yamaji additionally states that Wang’s “innate knowledge of the mind,” unlike what he considers the blind mind of Buddhism, has the moral power of loving good and hating evil, and of distinguishing right from wrong. For Yamaji, this innate knowledge is the same as Mencius’s “goodness of human nature,” the Neo-Confucian “Heavenly Principle,” and Emerson’s “moral sentiment” and “God within.”

Takayasu Gekkō

Takayasu Gekkō (1869-1944), a playwright, poet, and translator, was also cognizant of parallels between Emerson and Wang Yangming.42 In a 1916 article, “Emāson to Ōyōmei” [Emerson and Wang Yangming], Takayasu wrote of the resemblance between the philosophies of the two, offering the following comparison:

Emerson, advocating the independence of the spirit, said in his essay

“Spiritual Laws,” Belief and love, ―believing love will relieve us of a vast load of care. O my brothers, God exists. There is a soul at the centre of nature and, over the will of every man, so that none of us can wrong the universe.43

Emerson’s God is the God of the universe, and this comes from Christianity. . . This is quite similar to Wang Yangming’s understanding. Yangming, who began by studying Confucianism, became fascinated by Zen Buddhism, but then moved away from that as well. Eventually, changing his thinking completely, he came to consider every man to have “innate knowledge of the good,” or a still and immovable essence, and equated this to the Heavenly Principle.

The innate knowledge is one. Its mysterious function is called essence, its generating and changing is called ethereal force, and its gathering is called spirit.

This is Emerson’s “Spirit.” Yangming too regarded spirit as the lord of the person, and its essence as the supreme good. This ultimate of the pure Heavenly Principle, knowing no good and vice, is not influenced by the generative force . . . Yangming did not acknowledge the contradiction between nature and the human mind. He taught in the mountains rather than in a hall, and sometimes he suppressed rebellions from the back of a horse. He said,

It is easy to conquer the rebels in the mountains, but difficult to conquer the rebels in the mind.

Emerson likewise synthesized Plato, Boehme, Swedenborg, and Pascal, and taught that even if a man leads a simple life,

The whole of history is in one man.44

This is the same as Yangming’s notion,

To travel through all of history in a day is the best . . .

Both Emerson and Yangming equated nature with decree. Could they not perceive the strength of human nature opposing the Heavenly decree? Yes, Emerson said in his essay “Self-Reliance,”

A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition as if everything were titular and ephemeral but he.45

Yangming said,

A man devoid of selfish desires truly knows that Heaven is the Supreme Ultimate.

He has no sense of the individual:

The aspiring mind that fills the Heaven and Earth and all the myriad things is one with my body.

The Great Vacuity is the great fullness. This is universal and isn’t concentrated and crystallized into the individual, as ancient Oriental thought generally teaches. Emerson, spreading the strong will of the Stoic school, foretells the appearance of the modern individualist.46

Takayasu further maintained that Emerson’s “Over-Soul” is closely related to Wang Yangming’s innate knowledge of the good and Great Emptiness. However, it should be noted that Takayasu also pointed out differences between the two philosophers, arguing, for example, that Emerson’s senses of individual self and inner agony have no equivalents in Wang Yangming.

Further Reading

Buell, Lawrence. Emerson. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2003.Find this resource:

Carpenter, Frederic I. Emerson and Asia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930.Find this resource:

Chan, Wing-tsit, trans. Instructions for Practical Living and Other Neo-Confucian Writings by Wang Yang-ming. New York: Columbia University Press, 1963.Find this resource:

Chan, Wing-tsit, trans. Reflections on Things at Hand: The Neo-Confucian Anthology. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967.Find this resource:

Chan, Wing-tsit. Chu Hsi: New Studies. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989.Find this resource:

Christy, Arthur. The Orient in American Transcendentalism: A Study of Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. New York: Columbia University Press, 1932.Find this resource:

Fung, Yu-lan. A History of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 2. Translated by Derk Boode. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953.Find this resource:

Gardner, Daniel K., trans. The Four Books: The Basic Teachings of the Later Confucian Tradition. Indianapolis, IN, and Cambridge, MA: Hackett, 2007.Find this resource:

Jackson, Carl T. The Oriental Religions and American Thought: Nineteenth-Century Explorations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981.Find this resource:

LaRocca, David and Miguel-Alfonso, Ricardo, eds. A Power to Translate the World: New Essays on Emerson and International Culture. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Shimada, Kenji. Shushigaku to Yōmeigaku. Tokyo: Iwanami-shoten, 1967.Find this resource:

Takanashi, Yoshio. “Emerson, Japan, and Neo-Confucianism.” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance 48.1–2 (2002): 41–69.Find this resource:

Takanashi, Yoshio. “Emerson and Zhu Xi: The Role of the Scholar in Pursuing ‘Peace.’” Japanese Journal of American Studies 20 (2009): 113–120.Find this resource:

Versluis, Arthur. American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.Find this resource:


(1.) The author follows the Japanese practice of referring to historical periods in terms of the imperial periods, which reflects the interrelatedness of cultural, intellectual, and imperial history. The author expresses his thanks to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for supporting this research.

(2.) For Emerson’s reception in Japan, see Sadoya Shigenobu, “Nihon ni okeru Rarufu W. Emason,” Seinangakuin daigaku eigoeibungaku ronshū 12.1–3 (1971–72); Kamei Shunsuke, “Emerson, Whitman, and the Japanese of the Meiji Era (1862–1912),” Emerson Society Quarterly 29.4 (1962), 28–32; Saitō Hikaru, Emason (Tokyo: Kenkyūsha, 1957); and Jugaku Bunshō, A Bibliography of Ralph Waldo Emerson in Japan from 1878 to 1935 (Kyoto: Sunward Press, 1947). See also Takanashi Yoshio, Emerson and Neo-Confucianism: Crossing Paths over the Pacific (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 27–29.

(3.) The author follows the Japanese tradition of giving names in the order of family name-given name.

(4.) See Itasaka Gen, ed. Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, 9 vols. (Tokyo: Kodan-sha, 1983–86), s.v. “Miyazawa Kenji.” See also Nobutoki Tetsurō, “Miyazawa Kenji to Emāson―shijin no tanjō,” Hikaku bungaku 34 (1991): 131–150.

(5.) Yamamoto Shoh, “Shoki no Sorō jyuyō,” Henry Thoreau Kenkyu Ronshu 30 (2004): 160. The translation is mine; hereafter, all translations are mine, except as noted.

(6.) For Thoreau’s reception in Japan, see Kamioka Katsumi, “Nihon ni okeru Sorō jyuyō shi,” Henry Thoreau Kenkyu 31 (2005): 27–28; and Katsuhiko Takeda, “Thoreau in Japan,” Thoreau Abroad: Twelve Bibliographical Essays, ed. Eugene F. Timpe (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1971), 165–181.

(7.) “Emāson no zengaku ron,” Zen shū 14, separate vol. 1 of Suzuki Daisetsu zenshū 32 vols. (Tokyo: Iwanami-shoten, 1968–70).

(8.) Suzuki Daisetsu, Zen and Japanese Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959), 343–344.

(9.) Suzuki Daisetsu Teitarō, “Meiji no seishin to jiyū,” in Tōyō teki na mikata, ed. Ueda Shizuteru (Tokyo: Iwanami-shoten, 1997), 277. This is a new edition; the original is dated 1947.

(10.) For Emerson and Zen Buddhism, see John G. Rudy, Emerson and Zen Buddhism (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001); Stephen Morris, “Beyond Christianity: Transcendentalism and Zen,” The Eastern Buddhist 24.2 (Autumn 1991): 33–68; Hakutani Yoshinobu, “Emerson, Whitman, and Zen Buddhism,” Midwest Quarterly 31 (Summer 1990): 433–448; Andō Shōei, Zen and American Transcendentalism: An Investigation of One’s Self (Tokyo: Hokuseidō, 1970), 136–146; Van Meter Ames, Zen and American Thought (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1962); and Robert Detweiler, “Emerson and Zen,” American Quarterly 14.3 (Autumn 1962): 422–438. And for Emerson and Suzuki Daisetsu, see Alan Hodder, “Asia in Emerson and Emerson in Asia,” in Mr. Emerson’s Revolution, ed., Jean McClure Mudge (Open Book Publishers, 2015), 375–405; Palmer Rampell, “Laws That Refuse To Be Stated: The Post-Sectarian Spiritualities of Emerson, Thoreau, and D.T. Suzuki,” New England Quarterly 84.4 (December 2011): 621–654; and Takanashi, Emerson and Neo-Confucianism, 3–4; and Lawrence Buell, Emerson (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2003), 196–197.

(11.) Suzuki Daisetsu zenshū, vol. 16, 92–97.

(12.) Henry David Thoreau, The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906), 2: 146. This passage is also quoted in Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, 342–343.

(13.) Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, 344.

(14.) Ibid., 22–23.

(15.) Ames, Zen and American Thought, 67–69, 94.

(16.) D.T. Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism: First Series, ed. Christmas Humphreys (London: Rider, 1970), 233.

(17.) Andō, Zen and American Transcendentalism, 138–139.

(18.) For the differences between Emerson’s thought and Zen Buddhism, see Hakutani, “Emerson, Whitman, and Zen Buddhism”: “In Zen, one must destroy not only individuality but God, Buddha, Christ, any prophet, or any idol because it is only the self, no one else, that can deliver the person to the state of mu. To Emerson and Whitman, on the contrary, one destroys neither God nor individuality; . . . Emerson’s self-reliance, therefore, is opposed to Zen’s concept of the state of the nothingness” (447); and Detweiler, “Emerson and Zen”: “In Zen, the Buddha-infusion of all results in a complete interchangeability of all components of existence and in an absolute denial of any transcendental mode of being by Buddha. Buddha is not only found in this or that; he is the thing. Thus there is the total identity of mind and matter and, negatively, the sunyata―the impermanence and unreality of all individual forms―until they reach the ‘suchness’ of the Buddha-nature. Emerson would not go so far . . . God remains for him an objective and therefore ultimately transcendent ‘other’” (426–427). See also Takanashi, Emerson and Neo-Confucianism, 4.

(19.) Huángbò Xīyùn (?–850) was an influential Chinese master of Zen Buddhism in Tang-dynasty China. This quotation is taking from Suzuki, The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind: The Significance of the Sūtra of Hui-neng (Wei-lang), ed. Christmas Humphreys (Newburyport, MA: Weiser Books, 1972), 129.

(20.) The Complete Sermons of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 4 vols., eds. Albert J. von Frank et al. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989–92), 4:215.

(21.) Thoreau, The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, 2: 232.

(22.) Ibid., 2:148.

(23.) Ibid., 2:108.

(24.) See Takanashi, Emerson and Neo-Confucianism, vii, 3–5.

(25.) This section: “Emerson’s reception from Neo-Confucian perspectives by Japanese intellectuals” is mainly grounded in Takanashi, Emerson and Neo-Confucianism, 17–39.

(26.) For comparative investigations on Emerson’s thought and Neo-Confucianism, especially Zhu Xi’s doctrines, see Takanashi, Emerson and Neo-Confucianism, especially ch. 2: The Fundamental Principle and Generation of the Universe, which offers comparisons of Zhu Xi’s and Emerson’s parallel conceptions of Tian Li (Heavenly Principle) and “Unity universal,” li and Reason, Tai Ji (Supreme Ultimate) and “Over-Soul,” and “production and reproduction” and “revelation”; ch. 3: Cosmic Law and Human Ethics, which explores “equilibrium and harmony” and “peace,” “the investigation and perfection of knowledge” and “correspondence,” “seriousness” and “moral sentiment,” and the Dao (Way) and “moral law,” and “blessing the good and punishing the bad” and “compensation”; and ch. 4: Realization of the Self, which explores “sage” and “scholar,” zin (heart-and-mind) and “soul,” and “subduing the self and returning to propriety” and “Self-reliance.”

(27.) For Neo-Confucianism, see Zhang Dainian, Key Concepts in Chinese Philosophy, trans. and ed. Edmund Ryden (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002); Wing-tsit Chan, trans. and comp., A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 460–691; Carsun Chang, The Development of Neo-Confucian Thought (New York: Bookman Association, 1957); and Fung Yu-lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 2, trans. Derk Boode (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953), 407–629.

(28.) For Nakamura Masanao, see Miura Tetsuo, A Note on Nakamura Masanao (Tokyo: Sekibundo, 2001); and Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, s.v. “Nakamura Masanao.”

(29.) Fukuzawa Yukichi, a writer, teacher, translator, and entrepreneur, is regarded as one of the founders of modern Japan.

(30.) Meiji keimō shisō shū, ed. Ōkubo Toshiaki, vol. 3 of Meiji bungaku zenshū (Tokyo: Chikuma-shobō, 1967), 280–281.

(31.) A social-criticism journal published by Meirokusha from 1974 to 1975. This journal exerted a great influence on Japanese intellectuals during the period of “bunmei kaika” [civilization and enlightenment].

(32.) Meiji keimō shisō shū, 334–335.

(33.) Kitamura Tōkoku shū, ed. Otagiri Hideo, vol. 28 of Meiji bungaku zenshū (Tokyo: Chikuma-shobō, 1976), 269. Tao Yuanming (365–427) is a Chinese poet of the Six Dynasties period.

(34.) Iwano Hōmei shū, ed. Yoshida Seiichi, vol. 71 of Meiji bungaku zenshū (1965), 342.

(35.) Iwano Hōmei, “Ōyōmei to Emason,” Bunshō sekai 5 (1910): 190. In this quotation, for “Yangming’s monism,” see the brief explanation of Wang Yangming’s philosophy in the subsection “The Development of Neo-Confucianism in China and Japan,” and the “compass” here means a guiding principle.

(36.) Wing-tsit Chan, trans. Instructions for Practical Living and Other Neo-Confucian Writings by Wang Yang-ming (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), 1:43.

(37.) Hōmei, Bunshō sekai, 191–192.

(38.) Ibid., 194.

(39.) Ibid., 195.

(40.) Yamaji Aizan shū, ed. Ōkubo Toshiaki, vol. 35 of Meiji bungaku zenshū (1965), 233–234.

(41.) Ibid., 238.

(42.) Takayasu also introduced the dramas of Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906) to Japan, and reformed Kabuki, the traditional Japanese drama, by infusing it with a modern spirit.

(43.) Alfred R. Ferguson, Joseph Slater, Douglas Emory Wilson et al., eds., The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 10 vols (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971–2013), 2:81.

(44.) Ibid., 3.

(45.) Ibid., 30.

(46.) Takayasu Gekkō, “Emāson to Ōyōmei,” vol. 1 of Tōzai bungaku hikaku hyōron (Tōkōkaku, 1916), 116–119.