Ichikawa Hakugen’s Critique and Lingering Questions for Buddhist Ethics


During the first half of the twentieth century, Zen Buddhist leaders contributed actively to Japanese imperialism, giving rise to what has been termed “Imperial-Way Zen” (Kodo Zen). Its foremost critic was priest, professor, and activist Ichikawa Hakugen (1902–1986), who spent the decades following Japan’s surrender almost single-handedly chronicling Zen’s support of Japan’s imperialist regime and pressing the issue of Buddhist war responsibility. Ichikawa focused his critique on the Zen approach to religious liberation, the political ramifications of Buddhist metaphysical constructs, the traditional collaboration between Buddhism and governments in East Asia, the philosophical system of Nishida Kitaro (1876–1945), and the vestiges of State Shinto in postwar Japan.

Despite the importance of Ichikawa’s writings, Imperial-Way Zen: Ichikawa Hakugen’s Critique and Lingering Questions for Buddhist Ethics, by Christopher Ives, is the first book by any scholar to outline his critique. In addition to detailing the actions and ideology of Imperial-Way Zen and Ichikawa’s ripostes to them, Ives offers his own reflections on Buddhist ethics in light of the phenomenon. He devotes chapters to outlining Buddhist nationalism from the 1868 Meiji Restoration to 1945 and summarizing Ichikawa’s arguments about the causes of Imperial-Way Zen.

July 2009 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3331-2 / $52.00 (CLOTH)