The Power of Writing in Deguchi Nao’s Ofudesaki

Part of the Palgrave Studies in New Religions and Alternative Spiritualities book series (PSNRAS)


(from intro): In 1892 Deguchi Nao (1837–1918), an impoverished Japanese widow who had suffered for decades in an arranged marriage with an alcoholic husband, began hearing voices and channeling spirits. She was told that the world was about to be destroyed for its disobedience to the gods called kami in Japanese, that she had been chosen to be the medium of a kami named Ushitora no Konjin, that Konjin would try to save as many people as he could from the cataclysm and usher in a golden age, and that her little village of Ayabe would become the center of the world. For several years, Nao attracted the scorn of her neighbors, was imprisoned, and continued a life of poverty with no visible blessings from the kami. But in 1899, an itinerant spiritualist named Ueda Kisaburō (later Deguchi Onisaburō, 1871–1948) somehow became attracted to her cause. Even as he attempted to change the direction of her mission, through new revelations, he was woven into a divine message much larger than his own, and despite Nao’s lack of education or social standing, she ended up becoming the co-founder of a major religious movement named Oomoto. She accomplished all this principally through a single tool: words from the kami, which her unlettered but firm hand recorded on scraps of paper. This chapter aims to build on preexisting studies by focusing on how the writing Nao produces becomes powerful, including the power that inverts her gendered relationship with Onisaburō and gives her spirit authority over his. Although the text is sometimes repetitive, the statements most often repeated are actually the most interesting and insightful—the work of a creative imagination that deserves scholarly attention.


Deguchi spiritsSpirit authorityAuthority powerPower writingWriting 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TokyoTokyoJapan

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