What was the response of Soto Buddhist priests to the social situation facing Japan at the beginning of the twentieth century? What influence did their religious background have on their responses to the modernization of Japan? This article examines the lives and thought of two Japanese Soto Buddhist priests-Takeda Hanshi and Uchiyama Gudo-both with the same religious training and tradition, yet who chose diametrically opposite responses.

Takeda Hanshi supported Japan’s foreign policies, especially in Korea; Uchiyama opposed Japanese nationalism and militarism, and was executed for treason. What led them to such opposite responses, and what conclusions can be drawn concerning the influence of religious traditions on specific individual choices and activities?