Remembering Paradise studies three major eighteenth-century nativist scholars in Japan: Kada no Azumamaro, Kamo no Mabuchi, and the celebrated Motoori Norinaga. Peter Nosco demonstrates that these scholars, frequently depicted as the formulators of rabid xenophobia, were intellectuals engaged in a quest for meaning, wholeness, and solace in what they perceived to be disordered times. He traces the emergence and development of their philosophies, identifying elements of continuity into the eighteenth century from the singular Confucian-nativist discourse of the seventeenth century. He also describes the rupture between nativism and Confucianism at the start of the eighteenth century and the quest for ancient, distinctly Japanese values.
The emphasis on patriotism and nostalgia in the works of these three scholars may have relevance to the kind of nationalism emerging in Japan in the 1980s, manifested in a renewed interest in visiting one’s home place and in the history and culture of the seventeenth through mid-nineteenth centuries. The current fusion of nationalism and nostalgia can perhaps be better understood through Nosco’s analysis of comparable sentiments that were important in earlier times.