1903 (April 22): The leader of Jiu, Nagaoka Nagako, later known as Jikōson, was born in Okayama prefecture.
1934 (September 20): Nagaoka received visions from “a supreme goddess.”
1941 (date unknown): Jiu 璽宇 was established. Members of Kōmanjikai Dōin 紅卍字会道院 (Red Swastika Society), as well as the famous Japanese chess player Go Seigen 呉清源, were included.
1943 (autumn): Makoto no hito 真の人 (True people) was published.
1945 (February 8): Police raided a house where Jiu’s leader and members lived, on suspicions of “world renewal” philosophies.
1945 (March 3): Nagaoka was released from prison. Police surveillance continued.
1945 (May 25): Nagaoka and members fled their house due to bombing.
1945 (May 31): Nagaoka received an oracle that marked Jiu’s “reestablishment” and defined its mission centering on Nagaoka.
1945 (July 12): Oracle announced that “Jikō” was the representative of Amaterasu Ōmikami sent to help the emperor; Nagaoka was called Jikōson 璽光尊 from this time forward.
1946 (May): The “MacArthur Incident ” occurred; police surveillance increased, and the press began to take interest.
1946 (November 27): Famous sumo champion Futabayama 双葉山 joined Jiu. Jiu moved to Kanazawa.
1947 (January): The “Kanazawa Incident” occurred.
1947 (May): Futabayama left Jiu.
1948 (November): Go Seigen and his wife left Jiu.
1983 (August 16): Jikōson passed away.
2008: Katsuki Tokujirō passed away.
2010 (July): Yamada Senta, a long-time supporter of Jikōson, passed away.
2014 (November): Go Seigen passed away.
Nagaoka Nagako was born in 1904 in Okayama prefecture. She married in 1925. By 1928, she began to suffer intense fevers and fell into trance-like states. She claimed that on September 20, 1934 she received a revelation during which she went on a journey and met a deity who told her to teach “the eternal unchanging truth, save the people and work for the nation in a time of dire need.” This spiritual awakening indicated the self-realization of a special mission to save the nation from calamity. Accounts of visionary journeys have long been part of Japanese religious consciousness, and these include Buddhist tales and other stories. Nagaoka’s experience, like similar accounts by other founders/leaders of new religions, mirrors the accounts of female spirit mediums from the Tohoku area who are usually called into sacred service later in life through revelatory visions or profound illness.
From around 1935, Nagaoka attracted a small circle of people due to her spiritual pronouncements and activities. Her marriage disintegrated and her husband left. Oomoto (a large prewar new religious movement that earlier used the names Ōmotokyō and Ōmoto) profoundly influenced her ideas and practices, including world renewal ideas and spirit writing, which Oomoto had promoted through its connection to the Chinese new religion and philanthropic organization Kōmanjikai (Red Swastika Society).
One famous member of Kōmanjikai (through its Japanese branch, Kōmanjikai Dōin) was the Chinese-born Go Seigen, widely considered to be one of the greats of the game of go (Japanese chess). Go and his wife became trusted members of Nagaoka’s inner circle until late 1948, when they left the group.
Kōmanjikai Dōin dissolved in 1940 as it became impossible for members in Japan to maintain a relationship with Kōmanjikai in China in the midst of Japan’s imperialist policies and colonization. A number of the members joined Kōdō Daikyō 皇道大教, a Shinto-based study circle unaffiliated to an officially recognized sect. Its founder, Minemura Kyōhei, a businessman with mining interests, believed in world renewal ideas. The main spiritual inspiration for Kōdō Daikyō came in the form of oracles (shinji) through a medium. The group used these oracles to guide mining development activities.
In 1941, the name Kōdō Daikyō changed to Jiu. Minemura commissioned Nagaoka to conduct rites between 1936 and 1942 to improve the fortunes of his flagging copper mine. Her popularity as a medium grew amongst his circle, to the extent that she was eventually entrusted with taking over the task of spiritual guide and interpreter of revelations.
In the prewar period, the police investigated groups that promoted world renewal on the grounds that their teachings might conflict with the state-imposed ideals and appropriations of Shinto. Oomoto, Tenri Honmichi, and a number of other groups were disbanded by the authorities in the mid-1930s. While world renewal ideas that were not state-sanctioned may have contributed to this, bureaucrats were also concerned that new religious movements had the ability to mobilize people outside their authority.
On February 8, 1945, the police raided a house in Yokohama where Nagaoka and a number of others lived. Although this was ostensibly to investigate business activities, the raid uncovered a copy of a pamphlet, Makoto no hito (True people), which contained references to world renewal. Nagaoka was immediately arrested and imprisoned for some weeks. She returned to the house but was forced to leave for Tokyo with ten other members on May 25, 1945 due to Allied air raids. After the war ended, the police continued to watch the group closely.
On May 31, at the new temporary residence in Tokyo, Nagaoka delivered an oracle that declared a new era for the group. It marked the beginning of an intense period of tension within the group itself. It called for the members to take Nagaoka’s message of world renewal to the outside world. Nagaoka identified with a deity that she believed would save the world. Her followers began referring to her as Jikōson. Virtually all courses of action and activities Jiu attempted from then on were based on oracles. The central themes included the design of world renewal under the kami, blueprints on post-world-renewal society and its administration, detailed directions for the day-to-day activities of the members, as well as leadership roles and plans for building a financial base for future activities.
These oracles became the dominant part of Jiu’s spiritual activities and direction. They demanded that each member participate in activities to promote world renewal, such as circumambulating the imperial palace to warn the emperor and his family about forthcoming calamities if they did not take world renewal seriously. The war had not yet ended, and this was still a radical position to take at that time. Jiu members believed they were charged with a special mission to save the world and this inspired them and solidified their sense of belonging and self-worth. At the same time, Jiu essentially isolated itself from the outside world, refusing for the most part to allow outsiders to enter into their world.
The oracles demanded that a “Jiu cabinet” be formed, comprising of various leading figures of the day. One of them was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, General Douglas MacArthur. Jiu members claimed that they actually met MacArthur, which would have been extraordinary given that he had little direct physical contact with ordinary Japanese people during his stay in Japan (August 30, 1945 to April 16, 1951). Whether they did meet MacArthur or not, the Japanese police stepped up surveillance of the group after this period.
The centralized wartime system of police networks was still in operation during the initial years of the Occupation, and the police were required to report to the Public Safety Division and inform them of “suspicious groups.” This division was established by SCAP, the acronym used to refer to the post-1945 Allied Occupation regime collectively known as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. The Public Safety Division’s American officers often relied on the judgment of the Japanese police, who were gathering information on the ground. Given that those judgments were made by officers trained in prewar methods of control, it is likely that they put extra pressure on Jiu given its history. The police presented the group as potentially injurious to public safety. In response to the information supplied by the police, Public Safety Division officially sanctioned the Japanese police to carry out surveillance on the group.
The press began to take interest at this time, and Jiu’s public ceremonies at their headquarters were reported in some papers. SCAP’s Religions Division officials also investigated, and they interviewed Go Seigen and Jikōson to determine the group’s doctrines. However, despite some concerns over the group’s blatant references to Christianity, which officials viewed as opportunistic, the Religions Division did not find anything ultranationalistic about the group and did not see it as posing a potential threat to the public. (During the Occupation, SCAP enforced comprehensive censorship of published material on subjects including “ultranationalistic thought” ).
Press reports began to take note of Go’s participation in Jiu. After a number of years’ retirement from his profession, he resumed his playing career in July 1946. The major newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun sponsored a series of ten matches (which he eventually won). The Yomiuri did not run stories on Jiu but another widely read newspaper, Mainichi Shimbun, reported that “the authorities” were having trouble with Jiu. The story claimed that despite the group promoting questionable practices, the authorities launched inquiries but their hands were tied due to the lack of legal options.
During the mid-1930s, in the cases of new religions like Oomoto and Hito no Michi, elements of the press had not only criticized these groups for irrational beliefs and anti-state sentiments but had also reprimanded the authorities for not doing enough to control them. In the immediate postwar period when the balance of power ostensibly changed from the Japanese to the Occupation authorities, the situation was quite different. The Mainichi suggested that with the new legal framework in place, the authorities were struggling to come to terms with new religions, particularly those that operated outside normative behavior. “The authorities” mentioned in the article refers to Japanese authorities such as the police and the Home Ministry as the press was not allowed to directly refer to the Occupation or its policies during the time of censorship.
This media interest presented Jiu with the dilemma that is faced by new religions on the cusp of fame (or notoriety) that receive media attention. On the one hand, media interest provides an opportunity for groups to promote their message to a wide audience. Jiu was certainly interested in promoting Jikō son ‘s vision at this point. On the other hand, allowing closer scrutiny by the media presents great risks for such religious groups, as they are generally unable to control and manipulate their image or the way that the media portrays them, to their advantage.
Two journalists from another paper, the Asahi Shimbun, made direct contact with Jiu members in October 1946. Although Jikōson’s trusted lieutenant Katsuki Tokujirō claimed that Jiu were aware of the potential problems media attention could cause, the journalists were allowed into the house. Ultimately, the journalists presented quite a damning portrait of the group, and particularly Jikōson, which impacted on the group’s public image. Furthermore, the Mainichi published a series of articles investigating new religions and included Jiu among what was described as “unwholesome religions.” It was at this point that Jiu came into contact with Futabayama Sadaji, one of the greatest sumo wrestlers of the twentieth century. Although his participation brought the group instant national recognition, it also triggered disaster for the group.
Futabayama is still a household name in Japan; he won sixty-nine consecutive bouts during his career, and was a national hero. He was also an ardent nationalist during the war who worshipped the emperor and was apparently devastated by Japan’s defeat. “The age of Futabayama” ended when he retired from active competition on November 19, 1946.
Retirement had little effect on his positive public image. He was widely expected to remain involved in sumo after his retirement. The powerful Japan Sumo Association established plans for him to start training young disciples in Kyushu. Instead he chose to get involved with Jiu. This extraordinary decision came as an unexpected shock for the Sumo Association, his fans, and his associates in the media. His brief involvement in Jiu had an enormous impact on his public image, which degenerated rapidly in the press from great sporting hero to deluded religious fanatic. Jiu never recovered from the press criticism it sustained for its connection to this national hero.
Futabayama met Jikōson on November 27, 1946, just eight days after his retirement from active sumo competition, and immediately decided to follow her. They decided to relocate to the town of Kanazawa, although Futabayama joined them a few weeks later. The oracles, through Jikōson, presented dire warnings of calamities such as floods and earthquakes.
Life in Kanazawa was difficult for the group. They moved from house to house, and the strain of constant travel and the increasingly severe predictions in the oracles exhausted everyone. The members marched the streets, urging citizens to follow Jikōson or face the consequences of various calamities. As soon as Jiu arrived in Kanazawa the press continued to cover the story.
When Futabayama rejoined the group, he was immediately elevated to Jiu’s higher circle of leaders. He often led the group through the streets, marching alongside Go. The sight of two major celebrities leading the marching had an immediate impact. News of Jikō son ‘s predictions of natural disasters spread quickly. A devastating earthquake had occurred in Fukui prefecture just before Jiu reached Kanazawa, and for some this occurrence lent credence to Jiu’s claims. The widespread rumors of Jikōson’s predictions reached a climax on January 19, 1947. In order to calm the public mood, the Kanazawa weather bureau felt compelled to issue a statement that the likelihood of an earthquake in the area was very slim.
The Public Safety Division closely observed the events in Kanazawa, and a member of SCAP’s Counter Intelligence Corps unit approached a young psychologist to investigate Jikōson and other members of the group. His findings that “this group is a socio-pathological phenomenon centered on a person presumed to have certain pathological tendencies” were used to justify the actions of the authorities.
A journalist for the Asahi Shimbun who Futabayama knew managed to stay with the group for three days. He wrote a series of articles that were quite damning of the group. His involvement represents the dilemma that groups such as Jiu face when dealing with the media. On the one hand, Jiu were wary of outsiders, particularly the press, because they were fearful of the negative press that could follow. On the other hand, the media gave them a chance to promote their agenda. In this case, the publicity turned out to be highly damaging to the group.
On January 18, 1947 the local police in Kanazawa raided Jiu’s premises and searched through the belongings of believers. Jikōson refused to meet with them. On January 21, the police issued an order for her to appear at the police station in Tamagawa that day warning her that she would be arrested if she did not comply. At the same time, they commissioned the psychologist mentioned above to carry out tests on Jikōson and other Jiu leaders. This was merely a formality, a show for the media staged to provide concrete medical evidence of Jikōson’ s insanity.
Later that night, around twenty officers raided the headquarters and arrested the remaining leaders, including Futabayama. Journalists and cameramen were on hand to record the dramatic scenes at the house. Jikōson came down the stairs and walked to the doorway with Futabayama by her side. Officers tried to take her by the arm but a scuffle ensued involving the sumo champion and several police officers. The commotion was over in minutes, but the effect of the press photographs of the tussle was significant.
Futabayama was bundled into a police vehicle and taken to the station, but he was not arrested. He left the group after that, and a few weeks later he apologized to the public through the media for his actions. He then rejoined the sumo world and became a respected stable master.
The police were reported in the press as stating that their actions were made out of concerns for public safety, and also because Jiu was aiming to reorganize the world under the control of the emperor. They specifically mentioned that Jiu’s actions were against the Potsdam Declaration. Part of the declaration aimed to eliminate “the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest,” and the police interpreted Jiu’s aim of world renewal within that category. The police also suspected the group of scamming the public.
The police and SCAP’s Public Safety Division decided that Jikōson presented no physical threat to the public. She was released from custody with no charges laid against her; other members were all released soon after. Media attention faded dramatically after Futabayama left. Go Seigen’s departure in late 1948 was devastating for the group. He went back to playing go.
Jiu moved to a house that belonged to a believer in Yokohama, where a small group of followers lived a relatively quiet existence, at least from the outside. Jikōson continued to send messages to a number of influential and famous people. They included former silent movie voiceover star and radio personality Tokugawa Musei, and the president of the Heibonsha publishing company, Shimonaka Yasaburō. Some of them became Jiu’s supporters and benefactors. Nevertheless, from then on the main coverage Jiu received was related to retrospectives on Futabayama, Go Seigen, or occasionally postwar new religions. It was limited predominantly to weekly magazines (shūkanshi) and not newspapers.
One supporter of Jikōson, Yamada Senta, met her in 1957, moved to London in the early 1960s, and established an Aikidō school. When in Japan, Yamada lived with the group in Yokohama. He believed that Jikōson was a living god and made efforts to introduce some of his students and other overseas contacts to her. When Jikōson passed away in 1984, Katsuki Tokujirō took over as leader of Jiu. Yamada left Yokohama after a rift with Katsuki surfaced. He continued to talk about Jikōson to various people until his own death in 2010. Katsuki himself passed away in 2009, effectively signaling the end of Jiu.
Nagaoka ‘s ideas on world renewal were similar to those promoted by Oomoto before that group’s second persecution in 1935. Nagaoka firmly believed in the religious authority of the emperor, and she participated in rituals involving emperor worship. She shared with other members of Jiu the conviction that Japan had a special mission to save the world under the emperor. This nationalistic kind of world renewal, which placed Japan at the center of the universe, was not particularly at odds with official versions of the prewar status quo, although groups that promoted such ideas attracted the authorities’ suspicions. Jiu was eventually accused in the postwar period of promoting ideas that were against democracy.
A pamphlet of Nagaoka’s teachings, Makoto no hito (True people), published by the group in the autumn of 1943 was a significant publication that indicated Nagaoka’s strengthening role within the group, particularly in terms of spiritual ideas and philosophy. The pamphlet proclaimed that after the present dire circumstances had passed, a period of world renewal would begin but that people would need to give up individualism, liberalism, and materialism and become “true people.”
In the last days of the war, Jiu continued to hold high hopes for the emperor to lead the holy mission of world renewal. Jikōson was convinced that she was sent to act as assistant to the emperor in order to fulfill the wishes of the sun goddess to bring about a “restoration of imperial power” (kōiishin). An oracle, delivered and recorded on July 12, 1945, held that “ Jikō” was the representative of Amaterasu Ōmikami sent to help the emperor.
Jiu saw Japan ‘s worsening domestic situation toward the end of the war as a sign of divine punishment. The members believed that the gods had abandoned the nation and that the destruction surrounding them indicated that the time for world renewal had arrived.
In Jiu’s worldview, humans were divided into four categories. The first, tensekisha 天責者, were thirty individuals (including MacArthur) who would help with world renewal. The second, chisekisha 地責者, were three thousand people who would help the tensekisha. The third, jarei 邪霊, were ordinary people who would be easily influenced by the fourth category of people, marei 魔霊, who were the source of various evils and numbered 3004. Some Jiu members, including Go Seigen and his wife, were designated marei when they left the group .
A key issue concerning Jikōson is one that affects many charismatic leaders of religious movements. Did she dominate her followers to the extent that they simply obeyed her dictates, or was she a spiritual leader whose guidance they sought freely? Did they view her as a living god (ikigami), which is how the postwar press portrayed her? The memoirs of the people closest to her reveal conflicting opinions. After he left the group, Go Seigen made some remarks that were repeated in the press implying that Jikōson led the group with absolute spiritual authority. This view was quite the opposite of Katsuki Tokujirō and Yamada Senta. To Yamada, Jikōson was a living god, the manifestation of the universal light that could shine on all humanity.
The two main rituals of Jiu were chanting of the phrase tenjishōmyō 天璽照妙, which was translated by a SCAP Religions Division officer as “The Celestial Jewel Shines Mysteriously.” The other ritual was spirit writing. Tenjishōmyō was derived from the name of the deity Jiu members believed was making pronouncements through Jikōson. Members would chant this phrase and write it on banners as they marched the streets.
Spirit writing was a method of recording oracles that was influenced by Oomoto’s rituals that it adopted through its connections with the Chinese group Kōmanjikai Dōin. Spirit writing is a technique of revelation among many that have been used in Chinese religious history. It differs from spirit possession because of its literary aspirations. While groups employing these revelations focused on spiritual and physical healing, they were also concerned with reforming the world. From the perspective of the Japanese authorities they were highly problematic because the allegedly divine statements could undermine the official status quo. In the early twentieth century when Taiwan was under Japanese occupation the Japanese regime banned spirit writing there. As this activity raised questions about the social and political circumstances through world reform, spirit writing was potentially subversive and destructive to the regime’s controlling agenda.
In Jiu’s case, spirit writing and recording followed the same basic pattern. Nagaoka (Jikōson) first offered prayers in front of the shrine to various deities. Go’s wife Kazuko and her younger sister Kanako acted as mediums and transmitted the messages or guidance from the deities. Kazuko then fell into a trance-like state after emitting high-pitched sounds and began to receive messages from the deities. Kanako held out a piece of paper while Kazuko used a pen to record the messages or instructions from the deities. On other occasions Kanako would record the messages, or Kazuko would write them down without Kanako’s help. Although Nagaoka did not verbalize or record the messages, she always took spiritual leadership because she called forth the deities.
From May 31, 1945 the oracles were delivered with increasing frequency, sometimes at the rate of four or five per day. These were all recorded in notebooks and continued to be written down until November 1946 when Jiu moved to Kanazawa.
The undisputed spiritual leader of the group was Jikōson, although the police told the media that they suspected Katsuki Tokujirō of being the main force behind the group. When he was arrested in Kanazawa, the charges against him involved fraud and embezzling rice, a highly precious commodity in the immediate postwar years. As to the question of Jiu’s organization, it appeared to be quite chaotic and highly sensitive to Jikōson ‘s physical and mental issues. While Jikōson had various followers and supporters amongst well-off business people who allowed them to live in their homes, the group showed no particular skill (or interest) in organizing itself efficiently. The oracles were unquestioned, and they ruled the members’ lives.
Katsuki took charge of the group after Jikōson ‘s passing, and I was told by his supporters that he was a living god himself. Katsuki stated that Jikōson was a special person, a living god. This was also Yamada Senta’s view.
Jiu was not the first Japanese new religion to receive significant media attention but its case raises important questions regarding media. The first concerns a public relations issue that many religious groups face, particularly new ones that strive for change by going public with their cause. The involvement of celebrity figures in new religious movements can be controversial because celebrities are often considered to be part of public property by the nature of their fame in their main professions. Yet the groups also may feel the need to protect their doctrines or practices.
Jiu was quite insular in that it generally restricted access to Jikōson and the group. This appeared to change when the group came into contact with Futubayama, one of the most prominent media stars of the day. It demonstrated what appeared to be blatant promotion of its messages through its famous celebrities. By vacillating between these two extremes, Jiu exacerbated the situation in Kanazawa that resulted in the arrests of its top figures. The trifling nature of the charges and the way the incident was conducted indicates that rather than any specific problem the group was causing, the main aim of the police actions was to separate Futubayama from the group (he was the key figure in the incident). Jiu contributed to its public downfall in three ways: (1) it maintained an insular perspective at a time when the press and the authorities were showing the greatest amount of interest; (2) it ignored the changing circumstances of Occupied Japan, including the roles of the various authorities; and (3) it attempted to cultivate high profile supporters whose image as celebrities and public favorites was extremely valuable to other interests.
This leads to the question of press and police collusion in the immediate postwar period. In the prewar period, the press played a key role in either goading the authorities for not doing enough about dealing with “suspect” new religions or praising their actions in clamping down on their activities (such as the case of Oomoto). In the postwar period, when the police did not have the legal capacity to suppress religious groups, given the new laws introduced by the Occupation, the Jiu case indicates that the press worked with the police in dealing with new religions that challenged social values. Although the police grew more cautious in the years that followed as religious groups became empowered to speak out under the new laws, the incidents involving Jiu occurred at a crucial time between regime changes.
Another issue that requires consideration in Jiu’s case is that Jikōson was, like the leader of Tenshō Kōtai Jingū Kyō, a woman. Female leaders of new religious movements, especially ones that advocate radical social change, have often been the targets of particularly harsh press criticism. In not only representing views that challenged spiritual values, they also challenged gender roles in a society based on patriarchal authority that often considered women outside the home were considered to be sexually dangerous. In Jiu’s case, the hostility this generated in the media, within the local community surrounding the group, and amongst Japanese and SCAP authorities, further contributed to Jiu’s problems and was certainly a factor in its decline.
** This profile draws in particular from Benjamin Dorman’s book Celebrity Gods: New Religions, Media, and Authority in Occupied Japan ( Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012) which examines media-new religions relationships in the immediate post-war era in Japan, focusing on Jiu and Tenshō Kōtai Jingū kyō.
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