In the Edo period, there was an increase in people who started to question what it meant to be Japanese. This kind of cultural identity can be seen in thoughts on Japan as “Shinkoku” (“the land of the kami/gods” or “Divine Land”), “Kōkoku” 皇国 (“Imperial Country”), “Bukoku” 武国 (“Martial Country”). All three emphasised what made Japan special compared to other countries. Shinkoku thought was the vaguest of the three, and implied that Japan is the country protected, and/or inhabited by the kami. In Kōkoku thought we find a notion of Japanese superiority because of the uninterrupted imperial bloodline which goes back to the kami. In Bukoku thought Japan's military rule and martial abilities were emphasised. In this paper, I will compare Shinkoku, Kōkoku, and Bukoku thoughts and show how they relate to each other, and what similarities and differences they have. To do this I have chosen two texts, Chūchō jijitsu 中朝事実 (“Actual facts about the Central realm”) by Yamaga Sokō 山鹿素行, and Seji kenbunroku 世事見聞録 (“A witness account of matters in the world”) by Buyō Inshi 武陽隠士. The former contains typical elements from Kōkoku thought, and the latter presents views typical of Bukoku thought. The common understanding has been that the idea of Japan as Bukoku emerged early in the Edo period and was later weakened as a result of the increasing popularity of Kōkoku. However, the two texts shows Kōkoku in a time where Bukoku thought were more common, and vice versa. This implies that there were several intellectual layers that differ from what has been accepted as the mainstream in the Edo period history of ideas.
Keywords: Edo period, cultural identity, Shinkoku, Bukoku, Kōkoku, tendō, Yamaga Sokō, Chūchō jijitsu, Buyō Inshi, Seji kenbunroku.