Inoue Enryō (1858–1919) was an Ōtani-branch Jōdo Shin philosopher and educator. Born into a Jōdo Shin family in Japan's Niigata region, Inoue eventually studied philosophy with Ernest Fenollosa, graduating with a degree in that subject from Tokyo Imperial University in 1885. Inoue was highly critical of the Buddhist clergy of his day and decided that the best way to work for the revitalization of Buddhism in Japan was as a layman. He renounced his status as a Shin cleric in the late 1880s.
Inoue was convinced that philosophy was the key to understanding absolute truth and that Buddhism, properly understood, was consonant with both Western philosophical and modern scientific understandings of the world. To promote the study of philosophy, particularly his Hegelian-tinged, Buddhist philosophical rationalism, Inoue founded the Tetsugakukan (Academy of Philosophy; later Tōyō University) in 1887. An ardent nationalist and opponent to Christianity in Japan, Inoue was a vigorous apologist for Buddhism. Inoue argued that Buddhism provided the best ideological support for modernizing the Japanese nation-state and served as a bulwark against Western missionaries, offering its emotional dimension (the Pure Land traditions) to the masses and its profound intellectual facets (Tendai and Kegon thought) to the elite.
In an effort to uplift those he viewed as the ignorant masses (gumin) and combat Christian missionary influence, Inoue promoted various Buddhist social reform activities, including the founding of orphanages, reform schools, and hospitals, as well as more active proselytization efforts by Buddhist organizations. Ever the rationalist, Inoue also embarked on an ambitious project to catalogue and analyze numerous accounts of supernatural phenomena throughout Japan with an eye to debunking empirically the supernatural tales that loomed large in Japanese popular culture.
Figal, Gerald. Civilization and Monsters: Spirits of Modernity in Meiji Japan. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1999.
Snodgrass, Judith. "The Deployment of Western Philosophy in the Meiji Buddhist Revival." Eastern Buddhist 30/2 (1997): 173–198.
Richard M. Jaffe