Ancient Postmodernism


  • Takeshi Umehara


Takeshi Umehara, director general of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, is Japan's most famous philosopher, controversial for his idea of Japanese “uniqueness.” Umehara, also a playwright, is author of such books at The Concept of Hell, The Exiling of the Gods and Japan's Deep Strata.

Back in 1990, I sat down with him in his office amid the bamboo forests that cover the hills surrounding Kyoto to get an Eastern view of the theme raised by Western thinkers from Arnold Toynbee to Lewis Mumford: the central role of the religious imagination in the rise and fall of civilizations.

Here, he sets out his ideas in an essay tracing his disillusionment with Western philosophy and his rediscovery of Japan's Shinto roots. Our conversation follows.