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Japanese Buddhist Youths and Their Struggle with Violence in the Military Before and During WWII: The Case of Hirose Akira (1919–1946)

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Title: Japanese Buddhist Youths and Their Struggle with Violence in the Military Before and During WWII: The Case of Hirose Akira (1919–1946)
Authors: Terasawa, Kunihiko
Keywords: World War II
Shin Denomination
rank-and-file soldier
show 4 moreJapanese army
Japanese countryside
resistance to ultranationalism and militarism

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Issue Date: 21 Mar 2014
Abstract: Previous research has already contributed to expose the extent of Japanese Buddhist leaders’ ethical responsibility in collaborating with the state’s war effort. This paper rather examines the struggles of ordinary lay Buddhist youths who had to deal with war and militarism during WWII. I will focus on the case of an unknown young Shinshū Buddhist soldier, Hirose Akira. Hirose was born as the son of a priest belonging to the Ōtani Branch of Shinshū. Shortly after graduating from Ōtani University in 1942, Hirose was drafted into the military at the age of 23 and when he came back in January 1945 he became a priest in his hometown and created a Buddhist youth group. As a result of his critical examination of Buddhism throughout his war experience he also cultivated land for a community farm in order to supporter the farmers’ lives. Yet, due to his physical weakness and to the exhaustion resulting from time spent in the army, Hirose died in 1947 at the age of 28. While on military duty, Hirose kept writing diaries about his inner journey. I will explore his diaries showing how—despite of the Shinshū leaders’ pro-war stance and its prominent preacher Akegarasu Haya’s war propaganda—one young Shinshū Buddhist struggled for his faith, denunciated military violence, and reached a point where his own understanding of Shinshū and Buddhism as a whole underwent a complete transformation.
Description: Presented at the Numata Conference in Buddhist Studies / “Violence, Nonviolence, and Japanese Religions: Past, Present, and Future,” held in Honolulu, Hawaii, March 20–21, 2014
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
Appears in Collections:Conference on Violence, Nonviolence, and Japanese Religions

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