The “Ise” & Japan Study Program officially began day. Everything went smoothly without any problems. Today consisted of three basic parts: learning about the history of Kōgakkan University 皇学館大学, a brief tour to orient us with the campus facilities, and a lecture about Ise’s local expressions. Here’s a little bit about the university’s history.
Fukatsu-sensei 深津睦夫, the head of literature department, gave us the lecture on Kōgakkan’s history. The university opened in 1882 during the Meiji period 明治時代 (1868-1912). This is the period when Japan was “opened” to the west after more than 200 years of a closed-border policy banning foreigner visitors as well as banning Japanese people from going abroad. In the Meiji period a flood of American and European culture came pouring into the country. Kōgakkan seems to have been started as a way of preserving Japanese culture in the face of this rapid influx of new fashions and worldly culture. “Ise Shintō” 伊勢神道 is one of the three main types of Shintō 神道 (the other two being Ryōbu Shintō 両部神道 and Tendai Shintō 天台神道). Shintō is believed to be the religion of the Japan’s native people, so it made sense to open a university preserving Japanese heritage in Ise, which is why Kogakkan is here.
Of course the university suffered during WWII and in 1946 after the war GHQ closed the university. In the early 20th century the Japanese powers that be manipulated Shintō and used it as a tool to promote nationalistic fervor, especially when invading neighboring countries and when going to war with Russia, so it is not surprising that GHQ would see the university as threatening to a new order.
In 1962 the university re-opened. Today it has robust Japanese literature, cultural studies, and history programs and is also known for training about half of the country’s Shintō priests. The first class to re-open the university in 1962 was made up of approximately 100 men. I’m curious to know when it became co-ed. I’ll have to ask tomorrow.