SDHF Newsletter No.378 Japan Awakened Asia Part 3, Chapter 2: Tagore and Okakura Tenshin
Japan Awakened Asia―A Miracle of the 20th Century
The Road to the Independence of India
―A Story to Be Passed Down to the Next Generation
Part 3, Chapter 2: Tagore and Okakura Tenshin
Tagore was born in 1861 in Calcutta in West Bengal under the British rule and died in 1941 soon after the Greater East Asian War broke out. The Tagores were a very wealthy family, having succeeded in various businesses, including trading with Britain. Since his grandfather’s generation, they had also been ardently working for the modernization of India. At the Tagore house, many Bengal poets, musicians, literary men, painters, and religionists were welcomed.
Tagore was brought up in this rich and favorable environment which allowed him to obtain both modern and traditional Indian education. He studied in London, and the difference between the occidental and Oriental civilizations, their merits and demerits led Tagore to his universal thinking. He was not merely a poet but also a great, multi-talented genius. He acquired profound knowledge widely covering music, novels, children’s literature, musical plays, art, education, thought, politics, philosophy, nature, religion, human rights, Oriental thought, farmers’ economy, history of the ancient Indian world, international exchanges and founding of a school. He was an omnipotent genius, well deserved to be called “Modern Renaissance man.”
Tagore and his contemporary Bengal intellectuals started a movement called “Bengal Renaissance,”
aiming to restore their land’s own tradition and culture. Okakura Tenshin’s twice visiting India and his book Ideals of the East written in English during his stay there greatly influenced the Indian independence fighters’ views on culture, thought, politics and other issues.
In 1913, Tagore was presented with the Nobel Prize in literature, the first time an Asian received the award, which regrettably Tenshin could not know since he passed away in September 1913. Tagore’s Nobel Prize had a great impact on Japan. It increased the interest in him not only of intellectuals and artists, but also of the ordinary people. In 1916 Tagore visited Japan and met various types of Japanese and gave lectures to these people.
When he visited Japan in 1924, he spoke about the influence of Okakura Tenshin in his lecture:
“Some years ago, I had the real meeting with Japan when a great original mind, from these shores came in our midst. He was our guest for a long time and he had immense inspirations for the young generation of Bengal in those days which immediately preceded a period of a sudden ebullition of national self-assertion in our country.
“I am glad to confess to you today that one of the inspirations which acted towards the awakening of spirit in Bengal had its source in that great man, Okakura, and I am especially grateful that this wonderful period of our modern history had its association with Japan.”
MOTEKI Hiromichi, Chairman
Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact