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Takeshi Umehara (梅原 猛 Umehara Takeshi?, born March 20, 1925) was born in Miyagi Prefecture in Tōhoku and graduated from the philosophical faculty of Kyoto University in 1948. He taught philosophy at Ritsumeikan University and was subsequently appointed president of the Kyoto City University of Arts. Noted for his prolific essays on Japanese culture, in which he endeavoured to refound the discipline of Japanese studies along more Japanocentric lines, notably in his programmatic book, in collaboration with Shunpei Ueyama, Nihongaku kotohajime(日本学事始) 1972. Aside from his voluminous academic essays on numerous aspects of Japanese culture he has also composed theatrical works on figures as varied as Yamato Takeru and Gilgamesh.
He was appointed in 1987 to head the controversial International Research Center for Japanese Studies, otherwise known by the abbreviation of Nichibunken, established by Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone to function as both a centralized academic intelligence body collecting and classifying all available information about Japanese culture, both within Japan and abroad, and as a center for the creative theorization of the alleged Japanese "uniqueness". He retired as head administrator of Nichibunken in 1995.
His mother Chiyo Ishikawa died early while Umehara was being breast-fed, and his father was still a student at Tohoku University. Arrangements were made to have him looked after by relatives, and over New Year 1927, aged 1 year nine months, Umehara was adopted by his father’s brother Hanbei Umehara and his wife Toshi, and raised as their foster child.
Throughout his education, from primary through to tertiary level, Umehara was by his own account an indifferent student. He was in his primary school years somewhat of a daydreamer, preferring play to study. After graduating from Tokai High School in Nagoya, he gained entry in 1942 to the Hiroshima Higher Normal School, but withdrew after only two months, and, in the following year, the managed to obtain a place at the Hachikō (Eighth Rank) High School in Nagoya, under its Principal Itō Nikichi (伊藤仁吉). Over the following two years he developed a passionate interest in the philosophies of Nishida Kitarō and Tanabe Hajime, the intellectual leaders of what was known as the Kyoto School (Kyōto Gakuha), a circle of conservative modernists who gave substantial theoretical backing to Japan’s imperial outreach during the period known as the 15 year war. Umehara was also attracted by the philosophy of ethics being worked out by Nishida and Tanabe’s former colleague, Watsuji Tetsurō, who had now shifted to Tokyo University. Reading their work made Umehara resolve to dedicate his life to philosophy. On graduation from his secondary schooling, Umehara won a place at Kyoto University – the war had destroyed the lives of many other young men of his generation with academic aspirations and better credentials. By that time, both Nishida and Tanabe had retired, and Umehara’s father, a practical man with a career in the Toyota company, initially opposed the idea of him studying philosophy. At his son’s insistence, however, he relented and gave his permission. Soon after his admission however Umehara was conscripted into the army, and only managed to return to his studies in September of that year. He graduated in 1948.
Revival of Noh
In 2008 Umehara began to publish modernized version of Noh theatre.
- Umehara Takeshi, Nihonjin no「ano yo」kan ChūōKōron, Tokyo, 1991 p.164
- Yuka Nishimoto'Philosopher Takeshi Umehara creates modern-day Noh for today's audiences,' Asahi Shinbun, January 11, 2013