Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Goodybe Oomoto, Hello Verda Majo

Author: David Poulson
Published on: June 9, 2000

Introductory note for new visitors to the Esperanto Topic.

If you have only just begun to take an interest in Esperanto and wish to know some basic information about this fascinating subject, please start your reading at the first article of this series. Having already completed 61 articles, I am now at the stage of writing articles for those readers who have learned quite a lot about the Esperanto language and movement already, and who are now wanting to find out more than just the basic introductory information. To get to the beginning of this series

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This Topic article will, for once, be a relatively short one. I have just received an invitation to go to Thailand early next month to teach a short course to prospective PhD students and, as inevitably happens, the notice is very short. So it's been a bit of a scramble during the last five days and if the article which follows seems a bit disjointed, well it matches my present state of mind. Hopefully, things will be back to normal soon.

The Second Oomoto Incident

To conclude this discussion of Oomoto, I want to describe another unsuccessful attempt made by the Japanese government, instigated by the military authorities, to annihilate this slightly odd, but gentle and peaceful sect. "The Second Oomoto Incident", as it is now known, began in the early morning of December 8, 1935, with a surprise police raid on the Spiritual Centers at Ayabe and Kameoka, both of which were completely destroyed. The most sacred site at Kameoka, The Lunar Palace, (Gekkyu-den) was blown up with dynamite. Armed police also made a surprise raid on the local Oomoto chapter at Lake Shinji, in Matsue, Shimane prefecture, where Co-Founder Onisaburo Deguchi was staying.

The attacks continued as the authorities destroyed thousands of Oomoto's spiritual centers throughout the country and confiscated the lands upon which they had been built. Police arrested more than 3,000 Oomoto followers, 16 of whom died in prison after being tortured and maltreated.

Those arrested were charged with violation of Japan's Act for the Maintenance of Public Order and also with lese majesty. Although detained for years, nobody was ever convicted and before the end of the Second World War, all charges had been dropped. (Onisaburo, Sumiko and Uchimaru Deguchi were released on bail in 1942 ). Of course, despite the acquitals, Oomoto suffered tremendous damage from this governmental onslaught. The extent of the repression is indicated in this quotation from a press interview given by Onisaburo on December 30, 1945. Onisaburo said:

"I was under arrest since before the China Incident until the end of the Second World War." (Onisaburo, Sumiko and others were detained pending trial from, 1935 until July of 1942). "Beginning with our headquarters in Ayabe, over 4000 of Oomoto's local chapters across the country were demolished. However, since our followers have continued to believe in the Oomoto doctrine, already -- without any reconstruction -- our organization is rebuilt."

Because Oomoto was virtually destroyed in this way in 1936, it is said that Oomoto is the only Japanese religious organization that lent no support or cooperation to Japan's war efforts.

Despite this crippling damage to the sect, Onisaburo, did not ask for reparations from the government. He said, that such compensation money from the government would basically be "blood taxes taken from a defeated people."

The Second Oomoto Incident officially came to an end on September 8, 1945, when, in accordance with the Supreme Court's judgment, it was announced that Oomoto was innocent. And, as anyone who visits the Oomoto web site will discover, the attempt to destroy it was a complete failure. To find out about Oomoto in the English language, follow this link:

http://www.oomoto.or.jp

And the Esperanto-language part of their web site is here:

http://www.oomoto.or.jp/Esperanto/index-es.html

From this link you can also download the latest issue of their journal in pdf format. (You may remember that we started this discussion with an anecdote about Julio Baghy reading an issue of this journal more than 60 years ago).

Onisaburo Deguchi himself, after his release from prison, led a quiet life and spent much of his time making pottery. (For some samples of his work, see:
http://www.oomoto.or.jp/Esperanto/esArt/yowan1.html).

He died in 1948 in his late seventies.

Of course, the religious centres of Oomoto are not the only places in Japan where Esperanto has gained a foothold. In the next topic article, I will be staying (briefly) in Japan and introducing you to another very interesting personality from Esperanto's colourful history - Verda Majo. I hope you will join me then.

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