Motoori Norinaga (本居宣長)

Norinaga MOTOORI (June 21, 1730 - November 5, 1801) was a scholar of Japanese classical culture and literature, as well as a physician, in the Edo period. His childhood name was Yoshisada. However, his nicknames were Shunan and Suzunoya no Ushi. He succeeded in deciphering Records of Ancient Matters "Kojiki", which was then undecipherable, and wrote Commentaries on Kojiki "Kojikiden". In his book "Tamakushige Beppon", he recommended that the Kishu Tokugawa family adopt the policy of lenient punishment.

Biography

Norinaga MOTOORI was born in June 1730 as the second son of the Ozu family, who were cotton merchants in Matsuzaka, Ise Province (present Matsuzaka City, Mie Province). His childhood name was Tominosuke. He went to his uncle's store in Edo when he was 16 years old (1748) for the purpose of studying commerce, but he returned to his birthplace because he did not have any time to do reading and hated such life.
As he found that the available root maps to Edo were sloppy, he compiled a collection of materials called "Dainihon tenka shikai gazu" (he completed its transcription in January, 1752), which, he stated, 'covered all the mountains, rivers, seas and islands.'
He described his intention in the above as being 'to amend and clarify the location of castle towns, port towns, famous places and historical sites, and to show routes and post stations in detail.'

In 1748, once he had returned from Edo, he went to Kyoto to worship at shrines which was his first trip to Kyoto. Based on the information then obtained, he started writing "Toko Bassho" in 1746 as an original work (he continued the writing until about 1751). He succeeded the Ozu family upon the death of his elder brother. When he was 22 years old, he went to Kyoto in order to study medicine. In Kyoto, he studied medicine under Genko HORI and Kojun TAKEKAWA. He studied Confucianism under Keizan HORI, a Neo-Confucian scholar, and also studied Sinology and Japanese classical culture while lodging at his house. Around this period, he began to devote himself to the study of the classics of Japanese indigenous culture and literature; moreover, influenced by Sorai OGYU and Keichu, he decided that he would become a scholar of Japanese ancient culture and literature. Under the influence of that life in Kyoto, he longered for the cultures of the dynastic age more intensely.

When he returned to Matsuzaka, he started to practice medicine while lecturing on Tale of Genji "Genji Monogatari"and studying Chronicles of Japan "Nihon Shoki". When he was 27 years old, he bought "Sendai Kyujihongi" and "Kojiki", read KAMO no Mabuchi's book, and started studying Japanese classical culture. On July 5, 1763, he met Mabuchi, who was visiting Matsuzaka, for the first time. Taking this opportunity, he asked for Mabuchi's instruction regarding the commentaries of Kojiki, which he had decided to study. Mabuchi instructed him to begin with the commentaries on the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry "Manyoshu" in order to become familiar with a form of syllabary used in the Manyoshu. Prompted by Mabuchi, he made up his mind to study "Kojiki" earnestly. The above encounter with Mabuchi was described in his essays 'The History of My Study' and 'The Instructions of My Mentor,' which were compiled in a collection of essays "Tamakatsuma". The Norinaga's encounter with Mabuchi, which was reconstructed based on these two essays, was called 'A Night in Matsuzaka' and appeared in the Elementary School Japanese Reader "Shogaku kokugo tokuhon" used in the pre-war era.

He designated the design of his grave in his will. His grave was moved in 1959 to a small hill from which Matsuzaka City, a place Norinaga liked, can be seen. Further, 'Norinaga MOTOORI Grave' was constructed in 1999 in accordance with the design designated in his will.

Philosophy

Norinaga's most important works are "Kojikiden," a book compiling commentaries on "Kojiki" that took approximately 35 years to write; "Genji Monogatari Tama no Ogushi," commentaries on Genji Monogatari; and "Tamakatsuma." He advocated that the substance of literature should be the Japanese inherent feelings of 'Mono no Aware', sensitivity to things. He emphasized the natural feelings and spirit that had been inherited from ancient times, and criticized the imported teachings of Confucius, i.e., Chinese-mindedness called 'karagokoro', as teachings that were contrary to nature. Accordingly, he criticized Sorai OGYU, who respected Chinese culture and philosophy. Yet, it is also pointed out that he was greatly affected by Sorai's methodology of study, the study of ancient words. Epoch-making "Kojikiden" had an impact on people in those days, and eventually became the origin of the study of Japanese classical culture. Although he asked for Mabuchi's instruction, he insisted, without hesitation, that what he believed was right, even against his mentor, saying, "If I have a good thought later, I would dare to state that even if that thought conflicts with my mentor's view."

He had many disciples, including Nakatsune HATTORI; Tatsumaro ISHIZUKA; Mikamaro NATSUME; Masaki NAGASE; Michiakira TAKABAYASHI; Shigetoshi OGUNI; Naonori TAKEMURA; Chiaki YOKOI; a local governor Shichiemon (Hashihiko) MURATA and his son Harukado; a shrine priest Shigeki SAKAKURA; Naoki HITOMI; Saneki KURATA; Masahira SHIROKO; Arinobu UEMATSU; a shrine priest of Tenmokuichi-jinja Shrine in Yamaga of Higo Province, Choshu HOASHI and his son Misato HOASHI; Ohide TANAKA of Hida Takayama; Haruniwa MOTOORI (Norinaga's son); and Ohira MOTOORI (Norinaga's adopted son).

Norinaga also made a noteworthy proposal concerning law.
In his book 'Tamakushige Beppon,' which was given to the Kishu Tokugawa family, he recommended that the death penalty be commuted, stating as follows:
Even though the law requires, you must refrain from killing a person thoughtlessly, on the pretext of complying with the law; even when someone offends the law, it doesn't matter to commute a penalty by taking the circumstances into consideration.'

Personal Profile
Although Norinaga had initially assisted in the family business, he later appealed to his mother that he would not be suitable for life as a merchant and instead studied medicine. He practiced as a doctor for more than 40 years in his homeland of Matsuzaka. In 1792, he also became the medical officer of the Kishu domain and was entitled to the equivalent of an annual ten-man rice stipend. It is recorded that he treated patients until ten days before his death. It was norteworthy that he was also well-known as a pediatrician. The anecdote said that he, beyond necessity, examined mothers who were attending children, since he believed the cause of children's illness lay in mothers.

As an avid collector of bells, he owned many rare things like a replica of a station bell. He called his house 'Bell House'.

He was particular about the borrowing and lending of books as well as the manner of reading books.
In this regard, he wrote, 'Don't damage a borrowed book; when you borrowed a book, read it immediately and return it promptly; however, I hope good books will be read by many people.'

Norinaga's love affairs throughout his life were mostly disclosed by Susumu ONO.