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Twin Flickers of Hope in Wartime Japan: Yanaihara Tadao and Tsukamoto Toraji

Sun, June 26, 8:30 to 10:20am, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 115


"Hope springs eternal in the human breast," wrote Alexander Pope in 1732, but for two Japanese mukyoukai (Non-Church) Christians, Yanaihara Tadao (1893–1961) and Tsukamoto Toraji (1885–1973), caught up in Japan's last war, the struggle to maintain hope was all consuming and took them on very different paths. Yanaihara opposed the militarist policies of contemporary Japanese government, while Tsukamoto, leader of the largest mukyōkai group, acquiesced in them. Yanaihara’s writings on Christian faith underscored the inevitability of "suffering" and "sorrow" in this-worldly life, underpinned by hope for the next. Tsukamoto's were permeated with the language of "victory" and "conquest" of the Truth, thus manifesting hope for this world. Their Christian idea of hope rests on faith that no matter how disastrous contemporary political and social situation may appear, it always results from divine providence. They saw Japan's destiny entirely in God's power, subject to divine judgment. Yanaihara's Justice was transcendental and absolute. Peace was one such ideal. He privileged manifesting truth publicly as a Christian duty; "suffering" persecution was inevitable, but hope for divine Justice remained beyond this world. Tsukamoto's "victory" of Truth was linked to Japan’s involvement in war. He argues that military victory is indifferent to spiritual victory–sometimes even dangerous to it– but he saw no unbridgeable chasm between peace and war as Yanaihara did. Tsukamoto underscored individual's inner struggle with their sins rather than their engagement with public issues, because for him their spiritual perfection would automatically result in their perfection as Japanese and Christians.