JJRS 48/2 We are Warriors for the Movement: Misogi Training in the Imperial Rule Assistance League

Helen Hardacre

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Based on trainees’ testimonies published in 1941 by the Imperial Rule Assistance League, this article examines the spectrum of identification seen in an early 1940s spiritual cultivation regimen of cold-water purification (misogi) aiming to enhance popular commitment to such national projects as Japan’s war in China and the eradication of liberalism. The revival and ritualization of misogi within modern Shinto was initially led by Kawazura Bonji and later taken up with government sponsorship by a variety of influential Shinto figures, who promoted it within the league. While the league’s misogi programs conveyed a distinctive notion of identity for Japanese men, and while trainees’ testimonies show that they affirmed and identified themselves with it, it is also clear that the training regimen failed to meet their expectations in significant respects. In addition, a 1942 doctrinal dispute greatly undermined the intellectual coherence of misogi training and its concept of identity.