Master Imaizumi Teisuke was a prominent Shinto theologian and spiritual leader of Imperial Japan. By 1942, when he went on a 12-day tour of Korea lecturing on the Imperial Way to the colonial ruling class, he was an 80-year-old man who had personally witnessed the dizzying pace of change that Japan went through from a feudal backwater in the 1860’s to a sprawling empire in the course of a human lifetime. He had devoted his whole life to studying Kokugaku, which was a nativist Japanese academic movement which despised foreign thought, including Christianity, Buddhism, and Chinese philosophy, and advocated a return to Japan’s ancient Shinto roots. His flowing white beard gave him the look of an ancient sage.
He was so revered that his words were considered gospel truth by the ruling class of colonial Korea. This is why I am presenting an excerpt of the first article, in which he explains how one should conceptualize Japanese-Korean unification: as a relationship between husband and wife, and as a relationship between a horse and its rider. In the second article, he gives a radio address to the Korean people in a paternalistic manner, as though they were his children, and describes Japanese-Korean unification as a relationship between parent and child. His comments may sound ridiculous, but his teachings were seriously followed by the colonial rulers of Korea, who prominently published his abstruse speeches about Shinto philosophy over many days in the Keijo Nippo newspaper. They serve to provide us with a glimpse into the religious fundamentalist motivations that drove the colonial regime into brutally imposing State Shintoism on the Korean population. The third article is an announcement about Imaizumi which was published ahead of his tour of Korea, in which the colonial regime explains just how important Imaizumi is to their ruling philosophy.
But the strange thing is that this once heralded Imperialist philosopher is no longer celebrated among the Japanese neo-Imperialists today. His books are now out-of-print and largely forgotten, hidden in obscure corners of libraries. Why is that? Perhaps because he politically spoke out against the regime during the war? A Japanese Wikipedia article about him says that he criticized the Imperial Japanese military’s political policies during the war, which led to his works being censored. However, I could not find any online primary sources backing up this statement. My long-term project will be to do some off-line research where I can to figure out what he said against the Imperial military.
Imaizumi died on September 11, 1944. However, his obituary in the Keijo Nippo newspaper from September 12, 1944 is too blurred to read. The quality of the scans of the newspapers on Internet archive are often too poor to be legible. Just one of the many illegible newspaper pages that I’m curious about, I’m hoping to one day visit the National Library of Korea in Seoul to examine a hard copy of the newspaper to see how the obituary describes Imaizumi, or wait until the National Library of Korea gets around to releasing high quality scans of all the pages of Keijo Nippo in its archives.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 20, 1942
The True Meaning of the Imperial Way, by Imaizumi Teisuke
Generation and Development in accordance with Hakkō Ichiu
A nation of unity between the Emperor and His subjects
The Imperial Way Leading the World
In particular, the unification of the people of the Korean peninsula and the people of mainland Japan into “one body” has been preached daily for more than 30 years since the annexation of Korea. Although people often talk about “one body” today, the truth of this “one body” seems to be unclear to them. The easiest way to understand the concept of “one body” is to consider the example of a husband and wife. When the couple is seen as a man and a woman, they are counted as two people, but when they are seen as husband and wife, they are counted as “one body”.
Therefore, if the husband has done something wrong, the wife is not blameless. If the woman has done something wrong, the man is not said to be without responsibility, because the husband and wife are “one body”. The belief that they are two people [and not “one body”] leads to situations happening even to this day, where the husband harbors a secret and thinks that he can solve the problem by simply hiding his mistress from his wife. This is because they do not know the ethical truth of “one body”. If the couple believes that they are “one body” and not two people, then there is no way that the man and the woman can keep secrets from each other. This is because it is impossible to keep secrets within “one body”.
Making the leap towards becoming “one body”
Where else can one find such a thoroughgoing code of ethics as that of the Japanese people? In any other code of ethics, husband and wife are counted as two people. In the Chinese code of ethics, there is a concept of qin and se, two string instruments that play in perfect marital harmony. Whereas in China, they merely say that the couple are two string instruments that are well matched, in Japan, husband and wife are “one body”. In this way, two completely different beings, both in form and spirit, become “one body”. It is not a matter of combining one and one to become two. When a husband and wife become “one body”, one and one multiply to become five or eight. That is the meaning that I would like you all to consider in the case of Japanese-Korean unification.
Japanese-Korean unification does not mean that one and one come together to form two. True unification into “one body” means that one and one come together to make five or eight. When you are doing some work together with a common purpose, one man and one man combine to become “one body”. When two men combine to become “one body”, their combined power is not that of two people, but that of five or eight people.
Here, we must carefully consider things. When we describe a master horse rider, we say, “Without someone on the saddle, there is no horse under the saddle,” which means that man and horse are in harmony, but this is not a combination of one and one to form two. Neither can a horse jump alone, nor can a person run alone. However, when man and horse are in harmony, the heavenly horse can fly to the sky and travel a thousand miles.
With respect to the process of becoming “one body”, similar beings can become “one body”, or two completely different beings as a man and a woman can become “one body”. Either way is fine, but at any rate, two beings become one. There is no doubt that the power of this union is very great. (Speech stenograph)
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 25, 1942
The “Essence of the National Body” as explained by Master Imaizumi
Master Imaizumi broadcast his message to all of Korea yesterday
After finishing his lecture tour in Pyongyang and Hamhung, Master Imaizumi arrived in Seoul by train at 2:12 p.m. on November 24th. But before he could rest his old body, he broadcast a lecture entitled “The Essence of the National Body” to all of Korea from the Seoul Broadcasting Station at 7:00 p.m. Twenty minutes earlier, he had entered the broadcasting station and sat quietly in the waiting room meditating, not even moving his body so he could practice the draft of his speech. Soon thereafter, his voice came through the microphone as if he were a compassionate father who was patiently teaching his children.
In a voice so bright and clear that it was hard to believe that he was 80 years old, he was now exhorting the 24 million people of the Korean peninsula about the incomparable essence of our national body and the Great Way of Japanese-Korean Unification. Moreover, his voice was gentle as he explained the pure and fervent national body, and each word seemed to penetrate from the ear into the heart. As he proceeded to explain the Way of the gods, that is, the Way of the Emperor, his voice finally grew passionate, and he said the following:
“In our nation, the gods have given us the Three Sacred Treasures as a spiritual gift, and the Ears of Rice as a material gift. We cannot save humanity unless we cultivate both the material and the spiritual. We cannot be saved by merely teaching spiritual salvation, as is done in other countries, because eating is an essential part of human life.” He went on to describe how the Japanese way of thinking, which has continued to flow for 2600 years, and the foreign way of thinking, represented by Christianity, differ in many ways.
“The love between parents and children in Japan is unparalleled in other countries. A family cannot exist without sincere contact by both the parents and the children.” He explained the superiority of the ancient Japanese family system in terms of the affection between the parents and the children, saying,
“In the Meiji Era, the people of mainland Japan and the people of the Korean peninsula were united into ‘one body’. In order for both sides to be truly happy, they must be able to relate to each other with the same love and affection that real parents and their children would have. This is where the Great Way of Japanese-Korean Unification can exist.“
After returning to the waiting room, the Master chatted with his attendants and wrote in flowing brush strokes the four Chinese characters “神人感應” (God and man are in harmony) in the calligraphy book provided by the staff. At 8:20 p.m., he returned to his lodgings, braving the cold wind. [Photo: Master Imaizumi during his broadcast]
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 10, 1942
Igniting the Torch of the Japanese Soul
Master Imaizumi, an authority on Kokugaku
Lecture events evangelizing the Imperial Way are fast approaching
Governor-General Koiso came to office proclaiming the “Penetration into the True Meaning of the National Body” and the “Establishment of Righteous Korea”. This was the voice of heaven that cried out loudly to the 24 million people of the Korean peninsula from that day on. Only when we are committed to the true meaning of the national body and live by the Imperial Way can we become true Imperial subjects. From there, total power will be born. We can then expand our productive capacity. Righteous Korea will be brilliantly established. Be penetrated into the true meaning of the national body! Live the Imperial Way!
This must also be the direction of the movement of the newly launched Korean Federation of National Power. To further spur on this surging momentum on the peninsula, Keijo Nippo invited Master Imaizumi Teisuke, the greatest authority on Kokugaku, to give a “Great Lecture Event Evangelizing the Imperial Way” in all the major cities of Korea. The aim is to ignite the fire of the Japanese spirit in the hearts of 24 million people of Korea.
Master Imaizumi will leave Tokyo on the 15th, land in Busan on the 17th, and arrive in Seoul on the same day. He will participate at 3:00 p.m. on the 18th in the main auditorium of the Seoul Citizens Hall in order to establish a Righteous Korea. He will preach the dignity of the Imperial Way to the masses and teach them the way to grasp the Japanese spirit. On the following day on the 19th, he will speak about the Imperial Way to the ruling class as well at the Hasegawa Bank meeting hall. Departing from Seoul on the 20th, he will speak about the Great Way of the Japanese spirit with fiery speeches at Pyongyang Public Hall on the 21st, Hamhung on the 23rd, Daegu on the 25th, and Busan on the 27th.
For 12 days from his landing in Busan to his departure from Korea, this Master who is thoroughly committed to the true meaning of the national body, will travel around the Korea peninsula where the cold weather is intense, despite having an old 80-year-old body, to devote himself to the National Structure Clarification Movement for evangelizing the Imperial Way. This must be an exaltation of his spirit of martyrdom.
He was born in Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture, in 1863 as an Imperial subject. He studied Kokugaku at an early age and lived through the Meiji era and the Taishō era. During this time when the vast Western civilization was being praised, he never stopped advocating for the penetration into the true meaning of the national body, and for evangelizing the Imperial Way.
Ceaselessly working to make sure that the study of the national body remained true to its principles, he became absorbed in studying the literature until his eyes became bloodshot. He is not averse to discussing the national body from a scientific standpoint, but he is more concerned with discovering the “soul” that resides in our national body, which is unrivaled by any other nation, from a higher spiritual standpoint. From there, he has been developing a nationwide National Structure Clarification Movement.
The Imperial Way Society, which he presides over, counts among his great followers the Generals Araki Sadao, Hayashi Senjūrō, Yamamoto Eisuke, and Yonai Mitsumasa of the Imperial Army and Navy, Hiranuma Kiichirō and other top military leaders and both Houses of the Diet, as well as Ogura Masatsune, Kurimoto Ryūnosuke, and Tadayoshi Obata, who are leaders in the Japanese business world.
He has recently written “A Collection of Recent Essays on the Imperial Way”, and he has devoted himself to evangelizing the Imperial Way and clarifying the National Structure by spending four or five days a month in the Kansai region to lecture on the true meaning of the national body to those in the business world who are said to be from the old regime.