35. The Awe-Inspiring Honseki
The following is an anecdote written by Yoshimatsu Shimizu (1872–1958), the third head minister of Heishin Grand Church, who served as the Honseki’s attendant together with Tamizo Ueda:
“I consider it a great honor to have had the opportunity to serve and be in daily contact with the Honseki for seven calendar years from September 1901 to June 1907 when he passed away for rebirth.
“It was awe-inspiring to see how the Honseki was extremely serious when it came to serving God and how he always observed Oyasama’s lesson of ‘early rising, being honest, and working diligently’ in all his daily tasks. Also particularly awe-inspiring was his habit of always saying: ‘Be sure to remember the past,’ and showing his frugality by being content with simple meals and plain clothes.
“His meals were prepared at the Nagao Residence by his daughter Yoshie. Regarding his meals, he said: ‘There is nothing in particular that is my favorite. If I had to say what I would like, it would be salt and sesame.’
“Thus salt and sesame came with all his meals. For breakfast he would only have either picked plum or egg with rice gruel. I also remember that he would only have one or two cups of sake at the most.
“When he was not busy with church affairs, delivering Divine Directions, or worshiping, the Honseki would usually be in his room practicing calligraphy or playing Japanese chess and go. Other times he liked to take a short stroll.
“The seeds of hardship sown in his youth sprouted and gave him a tranquil life in his late years. But as I mentioned, his determination to always remember the past was the source of his self-discipline in which he never allowed himself to waste anything.
“For instance, he would practice calligraphy on a blank sheet of paper until it was pitch black. He would then tear it up into small pieces and soak them in water. After a few days he would take the pulp to recycle and make it into toilet paper. He would also use an ink stick in a precious manner, until he could no longer hold it in his hands and would need to use a pair of charcoal tongs to grind it into ink.
“Such was the frugal way the Honseki lived each day. He was deeply considerate and treated people with kindness in all matters. But once he was about to deliver the Divine Directions, his usual gentle expression would change instantly. He would have a piercing look in his eyes and speak in a voice with such profound majesty that those who were sitting across from him would be overwhelmed, causing them to bow and tremble in reverence. Before it was time to deliver the Divine Directions, he often suffered from a serious disorder of the body and would seem very fatigued when the Directions were completed.
“The way the Honseki worshiped also made a deep impression on me. There were times when he would bow toward the Kanrodai for two hours or more. He would often say: ‘You may wonder what I am doing when you see me bow for such a long time, but I have many things to pray for, such as matters concerning Church Headquarters, our missionaries, the nation and the world.'”
(Adapted from Shinpan Izo Iburi den pp. 128–129, and Ten no jogi pp. 86–87)
- Next installment in this series: 36. “All That We Have Today We Have Because of Oyasama”
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.