Tenri Forum Presentation on July 17, 2006

Taking Cues from Oyasama’s Divine Model in Creating an Environmentally Conscious Culture

(This is my manuscript from my presentation at Tenri Forum 2006 at the Section Meeting Tenrikyo and Its Approach to the Environment)


Hello everyone. Although I fear that I am by no means an expert and lack a background in environmental activism which our two previous presenters—Mr. Cedric Noto and Ms. Amira Dali—have, I hope to use the best of my limited background in what I call “Tenrikyology,” or Tenrikyo studies, to approach the subject of this section meeting.

The terms “sustainability” and “sustainable consumption” have become buzzwords in environmental circles. In Tenrikyo, the Hinagata, or Oyasama’s Divine Model, must be considered one of our most precious assets. In this presentation I will argue that in Her role as the Parent of the Divine Model (Hinagata no Oya), Oyasama shows a way of life that is environmentally conscious, a kind of “sustainable living” which we should emulate as closely as possible. I will then speak briefly on aspects of the exemplary life of the Honseki Izo Iburi that touches upon the issue of sustainability and if time allows, I will introduce five ministers who have taken cues from Oyasama’s Divine Model and have made themselves exemplary models of “sustainable living.”

Examples of “Sustainable Living” Found in Oyasama’s Divine Model

We can find a number of stories in Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo which can be considered environmentally conscious aspects of Oyasama’s Divine Model. According to Anecdotes 45, “Wrinkles of the Mind,” Oyasama did not even waste one sheet of paper. She regularly smoothed the wrinkles out from pieces of wastepaper and placed them under Her pillow to be used again. While the point of this anecdote is to encourage us in salvation work to smooth out the minds of others like we would smooth out paper, we should not ignore Oyasama’s practical lesson teaching us the importance of conserving our material resources.

For when Rin Masui was about to go to Tanbaichi to purchase some paper so she could copy the Ofudesaki, Oyasama stopped her and took out several sheets of paper from under Her pillow. Selecting sheets that had no writing on them, Oyasama bound them together and handed the booklet to Rin. Oyasama did not appear concerned that the sizes of the sheets were not the same. Rin wrote down the Ofudesaki verses as Oyasama read them aloud. This copy of Part Four of the Ofudesaki is presently preserved just as Oyasama had bound them, with the paper irregular in size.

Compared to today where it is relatively cheap and easy to buy paper in large quantities, paper was a commodity that was expensive and harder to come by in Oyasama’s day and age. So it is possible to surmise that She conserved paper because of this. But when we consider that Oyasama had Rin Masui copy a Part of the Ofudesaki—a treasure for all of humanity—on used paper that was irregular in size, Oyasama is showing us through Her Divine Model the importance of conserving our resources and utilizing them to their utmost potential. In Anecdotes 26, “The Story of Linen, Silk and Cotton,” it is described how Oyasama expressed a preference for cotton over other kinds of cloth, precisely because cotton was “useful until its original form no longer remains” (p.21).

Anecdotes of Oyasama (138, “You Must Treasure Things”) also relates that during an imprisonment Oyasama once made paper strings out of a piece of writing paper and wove these strings into a net basket. Giving this to Gisaburo Nakata, She said to him:

You must treasure things. You must make good use of everything. Everything is a gift from God (A p. 112).

Then we must also consider the episode related in The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo when Oyasama blew out an oil lamp after sunrise during Her final imprisonment at Ichinomoto Branch Police Station. A policeman who was dozing nearby awoke with a jolt and demanded what She was doing. Oyasama responded with the following:

The sun is already up but your lamp was still lit. It is wasteful, so I put it out (L p. 208).

When we consider that Oyasama showed such a concern for conserving lamp oil despite She was in the middle of enduring an imprisonment during the coldest winter in Yamato in over 30 years, She once again shows through Her own example the importance of conserving our resources. According to Anecdotes 124 (“A Drawstring Made of Wood Shavings”), Oyasama showed Hisa Kajimoto how to braid a drawstring from wood shavings. This is the amount of care She put into recycling material one would normally throw away. Oyasama also has once said:

Do not waste even a single vegetable leaf. Leftovers will nourish you. It is not gluttony (A p. 94).

Because Oyasama went so far to treasure and conserve things, the second of the “Three Promises” of the Boys and Girls Association is a promise to use things with care (mono o taisetsu ni shimasu). Those of us who are familiar with Oyasama’s Divine Model are aware how She lived a frugal physical existence. Anecdotes 181 (“Oyasama’s Rice Bowl”), describes that She regularly used a rice bowl and a flat dish that were chipped and repaired. She also ate relatively simple meals. There was one occasion when Izo Iburi was served a special meal, he shed tears as he said that Oyasama never ate such delicacies in Her physical lifetime (T p. 98–99). I feel it is appropriate that I also bring up Izo Iburi, the Honseki, because there are cases in the Osashizu, the where the word hinagata also can refer to his exemplary life (S p. 35–39).

The Exemplary Model of the Honseki Izo Iburi

As the Honseki, Izo Iburi uttered the words of God in Oyasama’s place in the 20 years following Her withdrawal from physical life. He was also responsible for bestowing the Sazuke to followers in Her place. As Oyasama’s most esteemed disciple, the Honseki himself demonstrated an attitude similar to Oyasama’s where he treasured and conserved material resources. This is not surprising since he was the only follower besides Shuji and Kokan who was in constant contact with Oyasama. Therefore, he had the most opportunity to receive Her direct instruction compared to other followers. He not only worshipped at the Residence daily for almost 20 years, but he was the first follower to do sumi-komi, or to move into and live at the Residence.

It has been said that for the most part, the Honseki ate simple meals like Oyasama did, for he saw firsthand how She, Shuji and Kokan sometimes had nothing but pickled vegetables and water to nourish themselves. The Honseki’s meals largely consisted of pickled plums, rice gruel seasoned with salt and sesame, and occasionally pickled vegetables. The Honseki also preferred to wear cotton, a reusable material, over other types of cloth.

The Honseki was also known to have conserved charcoal. After using a lit charcoal just to heat his hands, he would cover it with ash so it could be used later. Once he told Keitaro Nakayama, the grandson of Masa Nakayama and great-grandson of Oyasama, the following:

Ultimately, charcoal is something that we receive from God. So we must learn how to use it well. If we let it burn until it emits flames, it will quickly turn into ash. However, if we cover the charcoal with ash, an amount that would normally last for one hour can be extended to three to four hours. If we use two hours’ worth of charcoal in one hour, it is like throwing away an hour’s worth of God’s blessings. Everything in this universe belongs to Heaven, to God. So it is important to use things as preciously and as long we can (T p. 88).

The Honseki’s tendency to conserve material resources was also evident in how he practiced calligraphy. When he began practicing calligraphy at the age of 60, he first practiced on a glass plate and cleaned the ink off each time since he thought it was wasteful to actually practice with paper. Even after his writing skills improved, he would practice on the back of wrapping paper and write on the same piece of paper several times. The Honseki also often said:

It is important to have a mind that does not allow things to go to waste or to spoil. It is against the Reason of Heaven (Ten no ri) to use things carelessly (T p. 44, 145).

Lastly, the Honseki always turned off the oil lamp in his room whenever he went out. Even when he knew he would immediately return to his room, he was nevertheless concerned with conserving even the slightest amount of lamp oil. Such an attitude reminds us of how Oyasama blew out the policeman’s lamp at the Ichinomoto Police Station when the sun came up.

The Exemplary Efforts of Five Ministers

Next, I will introduce five Tenrikyo ministers who, in their own personal ways, have implemented environmentally conscious aspects of the teachings and Oyasama’s Divine Model in their lives. It is my hope that describing the efforts of these ministers will encourage followers to keep themselves informed of environmental issues and take part, however small, toward resolving these issues in their respective communities.

1. Rev. Hiroshi Matsuoka

First is Rev. Hiroshi Matsuoka, the former head minister of Bingo Ohiraki Branch Church (Chuka) in Okayama Prefecture. In his daily effort to become intimate with the teachings, he came to a point where he places an emphasis on using water sparingly. As we know, in the Mikagura-uta, it says, “God, the same as water, washes away the dirts from your minds” (Song Five, verse 3) and in the “ten aspects of the complete providence,” Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto, which provides the blessing of water, comes first before all the others. There is also the teaching that claims that “we cannot repay the blessings water provides” (mizu no go-on o kaesenai).

Thus Rev. Matsuoka uses only three washbowls’ worth of water to wash and rinse his body when taking a bath. He also waters his fields with collected rainwater, fertilizes his fields with compost made from raw garbage, and uses ocean sand as a weed killer. Rev. Matsuoka’s daughter Akemi Hayamizu claims that her father’s way of life came about naturally out of his practice of faith and was common among the faithful of previous generations.

2. Rev. Tadayuki Oyama

Rev. Tadayuki Oyama is the successor1 of Tamago Branch Church (Ushigome) and the chairperson of the Tenrikyo Young Men’s Association in his district of Northern Musashino in Tokyo Prefecture. He is active running the monthly “Heart-Clean Campaign” in his area. Due to his participation in a monthly hinokishin activity cleaning public places, he was inspired in the 70th anniversary of All Tenrikyo Hinokishin Day to organize an aluminum can recycling drive. The revenue generated by the recycled cans was donated to a local center treating Hansens’ disease. The district Young Men’s Association have held gagaku concerts at this very center and used the occasion to talk about their recycling activity and thus provided an excellent opportunity for nioigake.

Because the Young Men’s Assocation of his church and district is conscious of the importance of recycling and waste reduction, someone brought up the suggestion to stop using disposable utensils at the meal following his church’s Young Men’s convention. So it was decided that they replace disposable utensils with reusable plastic ones. Along with encouraging members to pick up trash they found along the road coming to the convention, they also distributed “an eco-bag” or a reusable shopping bag as a commemorative gift. Though Rev. Oyama imagined that washing, wiping, and putting away the plastic utensils would be a bother for the participants, he was instead surprised at how spirited the members were upon implementing their decision to help reduce the waste generated at the convention.

3. Rev. Yoshiichi Shiozawa

Rev. Yoshiichi Shiozawa, head minister of Harajuku Branch Church (Koga) is also the former president of the Shiozawa Corporation, a paper supply company. In 1989, Rev. Shiozawa was inspired by Oyasama’s Divine Model where She smoothed out the wrinkles of used paper. So he embarked on a plan for his company to begin collecting paper for recycling. Many of his workers, his bank and customers were initially against the idea. His company was in the red for the first eight years of this project. But his persistence in wanting to implement Oyasama’s Divine Model paid off and his company was in better shape because of it. As of the year 2000, his company was the only paper supply company in Japan that collected and recycled paper. Rev. Shiozawa demonstrates that an environmental ethics based on Oyasama’s Divine Model can be applied to businesses and make a large impact toward conserving our natural resources.

4. Rev. Yoshiko Takayama

Rev. Yoshiko Takayama is the head minister of Shibakari Branch Church (Asakura) in Mii County, Fukuoka Prefecture. Rev. Takayama is especially sensitive to environmental issues since she became a victim of dioxin poisoning in the late 1960s soon after her graduation from college. She has been active in a variety of social causes such as supplying shoes to prevent tetanus among children in Africa, chronicling images of mountain villages about to be submerged by the building of dams, and helping giving voice to victims of dioxin poisoning and radiation poisoning. However, Rev. Takayama’s most personal cause is her local nature-watch group in which she teaches children the importance of clean water in local river habitats. By showing how living organisms such as tadpole shrimp can only live in habitats with clear water, she helps raise interest and awareness to environmental issues on the local level.

5. Rev. Makoto Watanabe

Rev. Makoto Watanabe is the head minister of Ryuyo Branch Church (Uryu) in Sapporo, Hokkaido. He helped co-found a local citizen’s group that is active in educating the public of environmental issues. He also has local children participate in a “Children’s Earth Summit” (Kodomo Chikyu Samitto) and on one occasion a number of these primary school-age children wrote letters to the mayor of Sapporo to inform him of some of the environmental problems they learned and invited him to an upcoming seminar, which the mayor attended.

Rev. Watanabe is also helping to spread the “my chopstick movement” (mai hashi undo). To elaborate, Rev. Watanabe once appeared on a radio program and said that 25 billion pairs of wooden chopsticks are thrown away in Japan each year. He further explained that amount of wood is equivalent to the lumber used to make 20,000 wooden houses. Rev. Watanabe encouraged the radio audience to carry their own pair of chopsticks (“mai hashi”) instead of using a pair provided at restaurants. His goal is spread the movement throughout Japan so that the wood equivalent to 10,000 houses can be conserved and alleviate the consumption of the other 10,000 homes’ worth of wood through planting trees. Rev. Watanabe and the radio program’s directors were amazed when the radio station was deluged by phone calls and faxes responding to his plea for everyone to carry their own pair of chopsticks.

Considering how many disposable chopsticks are used at the naorai of all churches, if every Tenrikyo follower owned a pair of his or her own chopsticks, the amount of wood conserved each year would be significant indeed.2 Rev. Watanabe shows us that for better or for worse, changes in our consumption patterns make an impact upon the environment. Rev. Watanabe has noted that Tenrikyo ministers and followers are not as informed on environmental issues as they should be. He himself considers resolving environmental issues as an indispensable part of his o-tasuke or salvation work.


In conclusion, I hope I have shown that, altogether, Oyasama’s Divine Model, the exemplary lives of the Honseki and the efforts of the five ministers I have just described demonstrate that a proactive Tenrikyo lifestyle already incorporates the “four R’s” of sustainable consumption (reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse).3 I believe that it is the mindset of tsutsushimi or moderation is the foundation of this proactive Tenrikyo lifestyle. Regarding the “four R’s,” we should remember that Oyasama once taught Yoshie Iburi:

Do not waste even a single vegetable leaf. Leftovers will nourish you. It is not gluttony (A p. 94).

The food we eat is nurtured by the blessings of God the Parent and is brought to us through the efforts of many nameless individuals to cultivate, transport, and prepare it. We must not allow ourselves to throw away God’s blessings and the sincerity of others. Oyasama’s above lesson to Yoshie encourages us to make efforts to reduce the amount of waste we produce and reduce the amount of daily resources we use. Our modern comforts—running water, electricity, gas, etc.— are possible because of the blessings of God the Parent. God the Parent trained human beings in wisdom for 6,000 years (D p. 23), giving us the ability to harness these natural resources. We must cultivate the mind that treasures our daily resources, every drop of water and petroleum, every charge of electricity. We must keep in mind Oyasama’s Divine Model of blowing out the policeman’s lamp at Ichinomoto Police Station. The Honseki was careful about the amount of charcoal used at the Residence and practiced calligraphy on a glass plate. We can similarly reduce the waste we produce by following the other R’s by reusing and recycling our material resources.

Oyasama took wrapping paper and smoothed out the creases so it could be reused later. Even though we may easily and cheaply buy paper, we ought to give consideration to Oyasama’s Divine Model and reuse the backs of envelopes as scratch paper. Oyasama also recycled writing paper into a net basket and wood shavings into drawstring. Both Oyasama and the Honseki preferred cotton over other types of cloth because it could be recycled into rags.

Lastly, I believe the last of the “four R’s,” “refuse,” is most representative of the Tenrikyo ideal of tsutsushimi or moderation.4 We should avoid using disposable products such as styrofoam cups and plates that are harmful to the environment. We should be encouraged by Oyasama’s example and refuse to take part in an extravagant lifestyle. Oyasama expresses the ideal of living frugally in Anecdotes as follows:

Those who live in this Residence—if they want to eat good food, wear good clothes, and live in good houses, then they will not be able to stay in this Residence.

If only they do not think of eating good food, wearing good clothes, or living in good houses, will every daily need be met in this Residence. This is the real ‘rich man’s residence’ in the world (A p. 66–67).

I believe we ought to take the time to reflect upon these words of Oyasama and ask whether our mission headquarters, mission centers and churches have more things than we need. Tenrikyo places of worship should indeed reflect most of all the virtue of ‘moderation.’

I wish to close my presentation by mentioning that there are recent signs of other religious organizations cooperating with environmental groups (Gardener). However, since both types of groups have shown a signs of extremism, I believe that Tenrikyo’s most significant and unique contribution to environmental activism is this virtue of ‘moderation.’ Rev. Hirokuni Funatomi of Izutaka Branch Church (Izumi) has written:

“The conservation of our natural resources and the protection of the environment ought not to be enforced by laws or religious commandments. There is neither joy in clenching one’s teeth in a self-imposed life of discomfort nor is it possible to continue it for any long period of time. It is here that the virtue of moderation which Oyasama taught us then emerges for each of us to ponder and implement as we reflect upon our personal innen or causality” (Funatomi 2004, p. 13).5

It is my personal belief that the future success of the conservation movement depends upon on the ability of Tenrikyo followers to spread Oyasama’s teaching of “moderation” that becomes the basis of an environmentally conscious, sustainable lifestyle. This ends my presentation. Thank you very much for your attention.



  • A: Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, 1978.
  • D: The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, second printing, revised edition. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, 1995.
  • L: The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, third edition. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, 1996.
  • S: Selections from the Osashizu, revised edition. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department, 1990.
  • T: Ten no jogi: Honseki Iburi Izo no shogai. Tenri: Tenrikyo Doyusha, 1997.
  • Funatomi Hirokuni. 2004. ” ‘Akunaki yokubo’ kara no dakkyaku o mezashite.” Yoki 664 (August 2004), p. 9–14.
  • _____________. 2006a. “Hikari to mizu to kaze to: kankyo tasuke 1 — Kankyo mondai no shinkoteki shian.” Yoki 681 (January 2006), p. 40–45.
  • _____________. 2006b. “Hikari to mizu to kaze to: kankyo tasuke 4 — Shinrin wa naze hitsuyo ka.” Yoki 684 (April 2006), p. 40–45.
  • Gardener, Gary. 2002. Invoking the Spirit: Religion and Spirituality in the Quest for a Sustainable World (Worldwatch Paper 164). Danvers, MA: Worldwatch Institute.
  • Kaneko Akira. 1999. “Kankyo rinri no shomondai: jinrui no rinri.” In Tenri ningengaku sosetsu. Kyoto: Hakubasha, p. 179–207.
  • Nakayama Zenji. 1998. Instruction One Tenri: Translation Section, Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department.
  • Oyama Tadayuki. 2004. “Risaikuru no shi dai chosho.” Yoki 664 (August 2004), p. 15–19.
  • Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion, Tenri University. 2003. “Environmental Issues and Tenrikyo” (includes translation of Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyusho 2001). Tenri Journal of Religion 31 (March 2003). Tenri: Tenri University Press.
  • Saito Kazuyoshi. 1990. “Tenrikyo to rika kyoiku no shiten III: gendai bunmei to kankyo hakai.” Tenrikyogaku kenkyu 29, p. 3–31.
  • Sawai Yoshitsugu. 2001. “Tsutsushimi ga ri, tsutsushimi ga okan: kankyo mondai to rinri.” In Kankyo mondai to Tenrikyo: 1999nen do kokai kyogaku koza (Dendo sanko shirizu XII). Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyusho, p. 37–47.
  • _____________. 2003. “Tsutsushimi is the Virtue, Tsutsushimi is the Broad Path: Environmental Problems and Ethics” (translation of Sawai 2001). Tenri Journal of Religion 31 (March 2003), p. 41–52.
  • Shiozawa Yoshiichi. 2000. “Kankyo mondai to hinagata no michi: watakushi no kigyo keiei dogaku.” In: Moto no ri to chi mizu hi kaze: kankyo mondai o kangaeru. Tenri: Yamato Bunka Kaigi, p. 13–22.
  • Takayama Yoshiko. 2004. “Hikari to mizu to kaze to: mizu kara manabu kankyo mondai (1-5).” Yoki 664–668 (August-December 2004).
  • Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyusho. 2001. Kankyo mondai to Tenrikyo: 1999nen do kokai kyogaku koza (Dendo sanko shirizu XII). Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyusho.
  • Tenri Kokusai Shinpojiumu ’98 Jimukyoku, ed. 2000. Moto no ri to chi mizu hi kaze: kankyo mondai o kangaeru. Tenri: Yamato Bunka Kaigi.
  • Ueda Eizo. 1995. Shinpan Iburi Izo den. Tokyo: Zenponsha.
  • Watanabe Makoto. 2005. Shizen kara no messeji: kodomo to manabu kankyo mondai. Sapporo: Watanabe Makoto (Not in trade). Originally published in Yoki 669–674 (January–June 2005).

*Interview with Akemi Hayamizu conducted on May 30, 2006.


  1. Rev. Tadayuki Oyama has since received sanction to become the head minister of his church on March 26, 2007.
  2. According to Rev. Hirokuni Funatomi, the issue is not the use of disposable wooden chopsticks (wari-bashi) per se, but the fact that 90 percent of wari-bashi used in Japan are imported from China, a majority of which are made from trees cut solely for the purpose of making chopsticks. Rev. Funatomi places wari-bashi as an important aspect of Japanese culture which originally came out of a desire to utilize the wood leftover from construction materials. Refer to Funatomi 2006b, p. 44–45 for more information.
  3. There are several versions of the “four R’s” on the internet. This particular list is from Rev. Funatomi who writes they are the “four R’s” of the European Union (2004) but I have been unable to confirm this as of writing.
  4. Yoshitsugu Sawai has described tsutsushimi as follows: “As a general social concept, tsutsushimi has the moralistic connotation of being humble and self-restraining… Tsutsushimi as taught in Tenrikyo, however, not only carries such moralistic connotation but also represents a mental state or attitude that is based on gratitude for being kept alive by God the Parent’s workings” (Sawai 2003 p. 43).
  5. Yoshitsugu Sawai has similarly written that “the lifestyle of tsutsushimi has useful hints for resolving environmental problems” (2003, p. 45–46). Unlike Rev. Funantomi, however, he recognizes the benefit of regulations and restrictions on national and international levels to address environmental problems. Refer to Sawai 2001 for more information or Sawai 2003 for an English translation.