Takagi Kenmyo (1864-1914) was a Shinshu Otani brach Pure Land Buddhist priest who was arrested in 1910 by the Japanese government on trumped-up charges of plotting to assassinate the emperor, as part of a crackdown on “socialist elements” known as the “High Treason” affair.  He was identified as a troublemaker by the government on account of his social activism for anti-discrimination and anti-war (Russo-Japanese war) stances.  After his arrest he was immediately renounced by the Shinshu hierarchy, with his ordination rescinded and his family driven from their temple and home in Shingu, Wakayama prefecture.

Takagie himself was sentenced to be executed but died in prison in 1914, reportedly by his own hand.  His honor was finally restored in 1996 with an official apology by the Otani organiztion and the posthumous restoration of his priestly rank.  In this essay I will look at the life and times of Takagi Kenmyo and examine his experiences and writings (mainly his essay “My Socialism”), as one of the few Buddhist priests who was conscientiously opposed to the militaristic-imperalistic tendencies at work in the Japanese government and society at the time, and who resisted the social pressures to conform in early twentieth-century Japan.

Paul Swanson

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