The following is a translation of an excerpt from the writings of Eitaro Imamura (1894–1969), who held several positions throughout his career as a Honbu-jun’in (senior official of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters), such as superintendent of Aomori, Akita, Iwate, and Wakayama dioceses, president of Doyusha, head of Publications Approval Office, and first head minister of Jibun Branch Church.
68. Stone Steps to the Cemetery
It is too early to tell whether the rainy season this year (1963) will be a long one or short one. But June is usually a rainy month.
In the past, it was extremely difficult to go to the Cemetery (Bochi) when it rained. At the middle of the pathway where it curves to the east, there was a very steep slope leading to Oyasama’s gravesite. Small children and elderly people had a tough time going up this slope as it was. The rain would make the red, clay-like dirt that is particular to the Cemetery grounds extremely slippery. I would sometimes see followers who took off their wooden clogs and walked barefoot.
On sunny days, it was exciting to run down the slope. So, as a child I enjoyed going up and down the slope over and over with my friends, occasionally sliding down. But when it rained, instead of being exciting, if you lost your footing, you would get a scolding from your parents for getting your clothes dirty.
Because so many followers were having a hard time visiting the Cemetery, stone steps were added along the pathway. I don’t remember the exact year, but it must have been late in the third decade of the Meiji period (about 1904–1906) when they were built.
I remember even as a child how my heart danced not only because the stone steps made it easier to go to Oyasama’s gravesite on rainy days without getting my wooden clogs stuck in the mud or my clothes dirty anymore but also at how the pathway changed into a beautiful path laid with gravel.
I discovered later that the stone steps were built because the Honseki wished to alleviate the difficulties of the followers visiting the Cemetery. The construction funds came from the money Yoboku gave as tokens of appreciation to the Honseki for receiving the truth of the Sazuke. It truly is a wonderful, heartwarming story.
(Adapted from Ojiba konjaku banashi by Eitaro Imamura pp. 85–86, 91)
- Next installment in this series: 69. “As Free As the Wind”
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.