SENSEI AND HIS PEOPLE: The Building of a Japanese Commune by Yoshie & David W. Plath Sugihara

SENSEI AND HIS PEOPLE: The Building of a Japanese Commune

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Told by a Japanese woman, translated, abridged, and introduced by an American scholar, this is the story of Shinkyo, the commune which formed in 1937 around Ozaki Masutaro, known to his followers as Sensei (trusted master). Originally a missionary of Tenri, one of Japan's modern religions, Ozaki was driven by personal crises into a break with the cult. He took with him his closest supporters, including the author, who, after a round of idolsmashing, were persecuted by the police and the village boss, ostracized by their fellow villagers, and forced into communal living. Their subsequent tribulations--wartime pioneering in Manchuria, their arrests upon returning to Japan, their contributions to the ungrateful village--and their ultimate vindication through the establishment of a highly successful communal enterprise--are recorded, as are, incidentally, the factional struggles and social codes typical of Japanese rural life. In an Afterword, Dr. Plath sheds some light on this culture (generally neglected by social scientists who focus on urban Japan), describes Shinkyo as he saw it, and analyzes the leadership of Ozaki, noting his ability--common to charismatic figures--to translate personal dilemmas (in this case, guilt over his father's early death, and a desire to atone) into ideals which are meaningful to others (in Shinkyo, an informal but intense ethic of work, duty, and repayment). While interesting, these explanations are too sketchy to fill out the background for the general reader, who will be out of his element in this unfamiliar world. But the book will be valuable for students of Japanese life ways.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1969
Publisher: Univ. of California Press