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ŌMOTOKYŌ . Founded at Ayabe, Kyoto prefecture, in 1892, Ōmotokyō constitutes a typical Japanese new religion under the modern emperor system. Ōmotokyō, absorbing folk religious traditions, Kokugaku (National Studies) teachings, and ideas from various modern thoughts, created a distinctive syncretic Shintō doctrine.

The founder of Ōmotokyō, Deguchi Nao (18371918), was the widow of a poor carpenter. On the lunar New Year, 1892, at the age of fifty-six, she was by her own account possessed by the kami (deity) Konjin. In this early religious experience, Nao, influenced by the teachings of Konkōkyō (an earlier new religion), conceived a powerful faith in the benevolent nature of the kami Konjin, a belief that contrasted with established notions of that deity's malevolence. The following year, however, Nao was confined to a room as insane. There, under the command of the kami, she began writing her Ofudesaki (The tip of the divine writing brush), which became a scripture of Ōmotokyō. Thereafter, Nao's healing powers began to win converts to Konjin, and she eventually left Konkōkyō to promulgate her own teachings.

Nao criticized the new materialistic society that caused suffering for poorer people, calling for a utopian age of peace and compassion. In Ofudesaki she proclaimed an eschatological viewpoint of world renewal (yonaoshi ), urging the realization of the ideal world of Miroku's (Bodhisattva Maitreya's) age and the salvation of the people.

Later, Nao's small following welcomed Ueda Kisaburō (later, Deguchi Onisaburō, 18711948), a religious practitioner, and together they created the Kimmei Reigakkai (Association of Konjin Believers and Spiritual Researchers).

Onisaburō was the son of a poor farmer in the suburbs of Kameoka in Kyoto prefecture. As a result of his many religious experiences, he was able to heal the sick and had mastered syncretistic Shintō teachings and shamanistic practices. Together, Nao and Onisaburō worked to systematize their religious insights.

Ōmotokyō proposed a myth of the withdrawal of the nation's founders. This myth emphasized faith in the two kami Kunitokodachi no Mikoto and Susano-o no Mikoto, holding that these founding kami, who were the original rulers of Japan, had been expelled by evil kami, causing chaos in the world. According to Ōmotokyō belief, however, the time will arrive when a legitimate government of the kami will be realized. This notion could be perceived as a challenge to the national myth that regards Amaterasu Ōmikami as the divine ancestor of the imperial line, thus denying the divine status of the emperor and the legitimacy of his reign.

In its early years, however, Ōmotokyō was beset by difficulties and dissention. The proselytizing activities of Ōmotokyō's leaders increasingly suffered from police interference and suppression, and by the beginning of the twentieth century the number of believers had dwindled. Internal strife broke out, and as a result of opposition to Nao and the old leaders, Onisaburō left Ayabe for Kyoto, where he became a Shintō priest.

In 1908, having broadened his viewpoint, Onisaburō returned to Ayabe with plans for the expansion of Ōmotokyō. Despite police oppression, the Kimmei Reigakkai grew into the Dainihon Shūsaikai (the Japanese Purification Society) and then the Kōdō Ōmoto (Great Foundation of the Imperial Way). With the beginning of World War I, Ōmotokyō leadership found the time ripe for a reorganization of the world and began intensive campaigns in the streets of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. The economic and social instability of the age made Ōmotokyō, with its opposition to capitalists, landlords, and the war, an attractive ideology to intellectuals, but prominent military and business figures also became followers.

Kōdō Ōmoto, in accordance with government policy, followed a Shintō-based doctrine that emphasized patriotism. Its members held strong eschatological views and preached rites of possession called Chinkon Kishin. The movement advocated a restoration of proper government by the kami during the Taishō era. This "Taishō restoration" would take place, the leaders prophesied, when Ayabe became the capital of the government they had envisioned.

Onisaburō was ambiguous about whether he should be the supreme leader, who is the Buddhist savior Miroku or the Japanese emperor (Ten'no ) would be the savior. But he clearly advocated a wholesale restructuring of society and Japan's supreme leadership in the coming world. In 1921 the Kyoto prefectural police raided the Ōmotokyō headquarters in Ayabe, and the leaders of the movement were arrested on charges of lèse majesté. The central sanctuary, a Miroku hall built the previous year, was destroyed, and Nao's tomb was ordered reconstructed because it resembled that of an emperor. The charges against the religion were later dismissed in the amnesty at the time of the funeral of the Taishō emperor.

After surviving its first persecution, Ōmotokyō entered a new stage of development, expanding its activities both within and outside the country. Onisaburō dictated the large scripture Reikai Monogatari (Tale of the spirit world; 1922) and while out on bail secretly traveled to Mongolia, where he unsuccessfully attempted to create a separate state by calling himself a living buddha. Ōmotokyō, in consonance with postWorld War I international humanist thought, urged the adoption of Esperanto and advanced the notions that all religions have the same origin and that all men are brothers. It cooperated in the Chinese charitable religious organization Dao-yüan (Doin ), developing the Federated Association of World Religions at Beijing. Within Japan it formed the Jinrui Aizenkai (Association of Benevolence for Mankind).

In 1934 Ōmotokyō formed the Shōwa Shinseikai (Shōwa Sanctity Society), and under the leader Onisaburō it proceeded to the practical implementation of political reform. Taking right-wing politicians as advisers, they called for an end to parliamentary government and urged reconstruction of the state under the supremacy of the emperor. These political views were understandably alarming to the government, which was simultaneously confronted by a series of plots by rightists and young army officers. On December 8, 1935, armed special police made surprise attacks on Ōmotokyō's headquarters at Kameoka and Ayabe, arresting 210 administrators. A nationwide search also was conducted by the commander of the Police Bureau of the Home Affairs Ministry. In the following year sixty-two officials of Ōmotokyō were indicted for the crime of lèse majesté and for violation of the Peace Preservation Law; the Ministry of Home Affairs immediately proscribed Ōmotokyō. In the aftermath of this action the government ordered the destruction of Ōmotokyō facilities.

In 1942, after a long court battle and more than six years in jail, the officials were released on bail. Bitterly resentful of the violent oppression by the authorities and convinced of the inevitability of Japan's defeat, Onisaburō criticized the war and preached a faith to the believers who secretly visited him, revealing that his failure to participate in the war effort was a manifestation of divine will. Following the war, Ōmotokyō was reconstructed as Aizen'en and took as its historical mission the establishment of world peace. It was for the foundation of this new world, Onisaburō claimed, that the kami had allowed Ōmotokyō to survive the war. Onisaburō died in 1948, and the group returned to its former name Ōmoto in 1952.

In 1949 Ōmoto joined the World Federation movement, and the peace campaign became an important part of its activities. Ōmoto played a major role in the protest movement against the nuclear weapons experiments in the 1950s and the early 1960s. Ōmoto continues to be active in the World Federation movement, but its emphasis on peace has weakened. In the 1990s Ōmoto announced its official view on bioethics. It is critical of the notion of brain death and of research using human embryos. Ōmoto's importance in the religious history of modern Japan is emphasized by the fact that many new religions, including Seichō no Ie and World Messianity, were heavily influenced by Ōmoto. In 2002 Ōmoto's official membership within Japan was 172,000 persons.

See Also

New Religious Movements, article on New Religious Movements in Japan.


Deguchi Nao. Ofudesaki, the Holy Scriptures of Oomoto. Translated by Hino Iwao. Tokyo, 1979.

Iwao, Hino. The Outline of Oomoto. Kameoka, Japan, 1968.

Murakami Shigeyoshi. Japanese Religion in the Modern Century. Translated by H. Byron Earhart. Tokyo, 1980. Originally published as Kindai hyakunen no shukyo.

Oomoto and Universal Love and Brotherhood Association. Oomoto. (1956). An English-language periodical, issued bimonthly.

Ooms, Emily Groszos. Women and Millenarian Protest in Meiji Japan. Ithaca, N.Y., 1993.

Yasumaru Yoshio. Deguchi Nao. Tokyo, 1977.

Murakami Shigeyoshi (1987)

Shimazono Susumu (2005)