ONISABURO, DEGUCHI (Religious Movement)

Deguchi Onisaburo (1871-1948) was a co-founder with Deguchi Nao (1836-1918) of the Japanese new religion Omotokyo (f. 1892) (see Omoto). Born Ueda Kisaburo, he changed his name to Deguchi Onisaburo upon marriage to Nao’s daughter Sumi (18821953). Widely experienced in the religious world of his day, Onisaburo had undertaken mountain austerities, headed a confraternity dedicated to the rice god Inari, and had served as a Shinto priest. He systematized Nao’s on-going revelations to convey her message of world renovation to a wider, urban, educated spectrum of Japanese society, especially during and after World War One. Following the great loss of life in the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, an interest in spiritualism arose in Japan, which harmonized with Onisaburo’s interpretation of Nao’s teachings. He identified Nao’s god Ushitora Konjin as a Shinto deity and prophesied that this deity would displace the evil gods ruling Japan, and thereby restore the country to divine rule under an unbroken imperial line. He called for a reformation of society and politics in strong, apocalyptic language. Omoto published journals and purchased a national newspaper to promulgate Onisaburo’s prophecies, which provoked the state to suppress Omotokyo in 1921 on charges of lese majeste and violation of the Newspaper Law. At this time the religion was garnering many followers among the military and the educated middle class in response to its energetic proselytizing in the cities. Onisaburo and other group leaders were imprisoned.

After this first suppression, Onisaburo began to record his experiences in the spiritual world in Stories from the Spiritual World (Reikai monogatari), a massive work of more than seventy volumes, written in artful language and parables. Omoto was suppressed again in 1935, but this time more than 200 of its leaders were arrested, its facilities confiscated and destroyed, and Onisaburo was imprisoned until the end of World War Two. After his release, he dedicated himself to artistic pursuits and the theme of universal brotherly love.

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