The following is an excerpt from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 59–61) 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.
The Monthly Period is the Flower
I am sure there is no one today who considers menstruation to be unclean. Yet until the modern period, the bleeding that accompanied childbirth and menstruation was seen as unclean and thus abhorred as “defiled blood” and was a cause of discrimination against women in Japan.
During such an age, Oyasama said the following to a male follower:
[A woman’s] monthly period is the flower. Without the flower there is no fruit. Understand this well.
There is no precedence of bearing fruit without any flower. Ponder deeply. There is nothing unclean about it.
Because knowledge regarding menstruation at the time was poor, it was simply considered unclean by society at large. In all likelihood, the male follower to whom Oyasama spoke the above words held this belief as well.
Oyasama explained in a clear and understandable manner that a woman’s monthly period is an important provision that enables the conception of a child through using the metaphor of a flower.
A possible reason one can give that explains why menstruation came to be seen as unclean is there was no sufficient way to cope with menstrual bleeding.
The first menstrual pads that came to market in 1961 spread quickly in Japan not only because that they were highly absorbent and leak-proof, but also because they were brilliantly named napukin (i.e., “napkins”). The availability of these napukin gave women the freedom to be active during their monthly period. Society’s view of menstruation therefore changed from a negative image to a positive one.
Yet one also hears complaints that a woman’s right to menstrual leave is no longer recognized as it once was. The severity of menstrual cramps varies among individuals, but those with the most severe symptoms are said to have difficulties moving about. The situation as it is today for working women is that it is not easy for them to request menstrual leave at the workplace. I feel that there is a necessity here to seriously consider and ponder the implications of Oyasama’s instructions to “Understand this well” and “Ponder deeply.”
- Next installment in this series: Rising Early, Honesty, and Hard Work
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.