Date of this Version

January 1999

Document Type


Publication Details

Masako Gavin (1999) Shiga Shigetaka (1863-1927): the forgotten enlightener

Preprint version

For further details, visit Google Book.

Copyright © Masako Gavin, 1999.



The late 1880's marked an upsurge in ideological activity in Japan. Widespread media coverage of unequal treaties signed with the Western powers without imperial permission had contributed to a sense of national humiliation and increased public awareness of Japan's predicament. The treaties ended the 270 years of self‐imposed feudal seclusion and forced Japan into free trade at selected ports where tariff autonomy was waived. As well as economic conflict and increased tension towards the West, this resulted in a strengthening of reverence for the Emperor. The second generation of the Meiji, who had received a Western education, criticised the government's indiscriminate Westernisation of Japan and its spineless attitude to the Western powers.

Shiga Shigetaka was one of the critics of the government's policies. Schools of thought, such as Shiga's Seikyôsha (Society for Politics and Education), Min'yûsha (People's Friends) represented by Tokutomi Sohô (1863‐‐1957) and the 'conservatives' comprised of jukyôshugi sha (Confucian scholars) dominated the debates over the course Japan should take.

Shiga, a geographer and journalist, was one of the few Japanese intellectuals in his time to visit Nan'yô (the South Seas). Most of his contemporaries, as might be expected, were focused on Seiyô (the West). Nan'yô jiji, an account of his first‐hand observations of Australia, New Zealand and other islands in the South Seas in 1886, became an instant best seller.



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