The following is an excerpt from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 22–27) by Koji Sato (佐藤浩司), assistant professor at Tenri University and instructor at Tenri Seminary. Note: This translation is tentative and may require further revision.
Genjiro Fukaya 深谷源次郎 (the first head minister of Kawaramachi Grand Church 河原町大教会) was a blacksmith in Kyoto. He was by nature an honest man and especially enjoyed anything he found cheerful.
Genjiro’s craftsmanship was highly regarded and he had a well-established reputation for reasonable prices that he received many orders outside Kyoto. Yet Genjiro did not consider himself a businessman, so when a customer would try to haggle with him and bring down the price, he usually refused, saying: “All’s well. You don’t have to buy it.”
Genjiro was attracted by Tenrikyo, “the cheerful singing and dancing religion,” and had joined the faith at an early stage. Yet he considered the path as only one of the many faiths that were around at the time.
The turning point came in 1882. He was working at the forge when a stray piece of red-hot steel flew into one of his eyes. He prayed single-heartedly to God, and resolved that he would serve the faith for the rest of his life if he were saved. He experienced the blessings of a full recovery and devoted himself to the faith with burning intensity from that day.
He especially came to perceive the truth of God’s workings and started to find joy in every situation. No matter how troubling things seemed, he would always say, “All’s well,” and came to be known as “All’s well Gen” (Kekko Gen-san).
During one particularly rainy season, it had rained in Kyoto for two consecutive months. A group of youngsters decided to have some fun, thinking to themselves: Surely even Genjiro could not say “All’s well” and approached him about the recent weather.
“Hey, Gen-san, it’s been raining a lot, hasn’t it?”
“That’s true, but all’s well!”
“What do you mean ‘All’s well’!? It’s been raining for 60 days straight!”
“All’s well! Imagine if all this rain came down in a single day! The whole city of Kyoto would be submerged underwater! All’s well, how truly fortunate we are!”
* * *
Words offer us an important means of communication. We are able to convey our thoughts to others with the benefit of words. But then again, one of the main features of the spoken word is that a person’s state of mind and the place where he or she was born and raised can influence the meaning of particular expressions in complex ways.
Japanese is notable for being a language that uses many ambiguous expressions, as there is an overall tendency to say things in an indirect manner and avoiding an explicit “Yes” or “No.” Yet even among the Japanese, the Kyoto dialect is especially known for its elusiveness.
Mystery novelist Kyotaro Nishimura 西村京太郎 is well-known for his love of Kyoto. Although it has been over 20 years since he moved to the city, he writes that the dialect still confounds him to this very day.
One example is the word “Okini.” Along with the standard expression “Arigato” (Thank you), it may be used in an affirmative or contradictive fashion.
Nishimura writes that in the case of “Arigato,” one can differentiate the two uses according to the intonation or mood of the speaker, but there are many cases when the same cannot be done for “Okini.”
There was a time Nishimura was walking through town in his wooden clogs when a man told him, “Those are nice clogs.” Although he first thought it was a compliment, he was actually being scolded for making a racket walking in his clogs.
* * *
Oyasama instructed us that there should be no difference between our hearts (our thoughts) and mouths (the words we say). This is because God will give us a return according to what we say whether we mean it or not.
Genjiro inquired for Divine Directions (Osashizu) on several occasions. In fact, there are more than 60 Directions that are God’s replies to his various requests for guidance.
Among them were instructions along the lines of:
“Settle an open mind” (June 21, 1887).
“Resolve your mind so it appears you are rejoicing” (October 1887).
“Possess a mind that endures” (February 5, 1888).
“Do not allow your mind to simmer over trivial matters” (September 4, 1890).
“It weighs on your mind… [but] make sure you give a person an ounce of satisfaction” (March 25, 1899).
At first glance, we may wonder why Genjiro, who always rejoiced, saying, “All’s well,” at how things turned out, should receive so many Directions like these.
The answer, as it turns out, was Genjiro’s reason why he was so troubled. His mind was constantly occupied with thoughts on how to guide his followers.
It was quite possible that Kyoto’s local character exacerbated Genjiro’s worries. God the Parent saw this and gave such instructions accordingly. Though we tend to attribute Genjiro’s habit of saying “All’s well,” to his inherent, cheerful disposition, I believe the Divine Directions reveal that, regardless of his natural cheerfulness, it required a tremendous amount of effort on his part to do this on a consistent basis.
“Ten no ri ji no ri” 「天の理・地の理」 In Kashiwagi Kuraji kyowa shu, volume one 『柏木庫治教話集（一）』. Tenrikyo Doyusha.
“Hanashi no shozoga—Nishimura Kyotaro-san.” Sankei shinbun 2001 April 4, evening edition.
- Next installment in this series: A Thing Lent, A Thing Borrowed
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
I’d thought to add that there is a movie based on the life of Rev. Genjiro Fukaya.