Peter A Goldsbury
... considers itself both unique and average at the same time ...
Does this sense not sum up the essence of the peculiarly Japanese cultural chauvinism -- from at least the Kokugaku
"Uniquely capable of representing all of humanity ..."
It seems from Peter's account of education that an "inverse function" exists to the famous "nail that sticks up -- will be hammered down " metaphor. It seems that the exceptions on the low end of the scale are to be "pulled up" in some similar measure. I must admit one does not get this sense very easily from the outside. But it makes honne/tatemae
sense in the context of avoiding any causes of public shame.
So, psychologically speaking (hazarding entry into Ellis's domain), then the assumption of "beating down" that Ellis notes, might also be inverted (from what I have read so far of the TIE and comments it seems Ellis's position can only be an assumption, on the lack of direct evidence) -- a kind of "snatching up" of a child deemed on the low end of expectations.
One might wonder if Sokaku may have been as much a disappointment to his father in that sense -- and his father was engaged in "hauling up" a son deemed weak or failing -- and perhaps Sokaku had overcompensated in awe of his father's disappointment with him. His father was a sumo rikishi, and even today they are much taller than average. Sokaku was a very small man -- 150 cm or 4' 11" -- small even by Japanese standards of his time (late Edo period average height is between 159-160 cm - 5' 2" -5' 3") . The fact that Ellis' chief example of "torture" is the moxibustion episode seems to indicate this was the exact concern on the part of his father -- the traditional remedy was most typically used in cases where physical weakness was deemed a serious problem. It might also explain Sokaku's gravitation toward a more systematic exploitation of aiki