The following is a translation of an excerpt from Ishizue: Kashihara Genjiro no shinko to shogai (Cornerstone: The Faith and Life of Genjiro Kashihara) by Teruo Nishiyama. Note: This translation is a provisional one and may need to undergo further revision.
The first genuine step that Genjiro took as a Yoboku was in 1892, when he was 18. That spring, the Tenma family converted to Tenrikyo and was enshrining an altar. Eki’emon advocated the move. In Furukawa, seven households were converting to Tenrikyo at the same time.
There many changes for both the Tenma family and Genjiro that year. In the summer, the levee in front of the home broke. Up to 2,975 m2 (32,022 ft²) of the land on which they lived was submerged with water and a mountain of sand formed in the yard. Amid such trials, though Genjiro still did not cultivate an insight into what he felt was the divine will, he nevertheless sensed something was afoot.
Being the eldest son, Eki’emon naturally was in the position to inherit the household but his intention to live out his entire life as a farmer gradually weakened. His desire to make a name for himself by playing an active role in Tenrikyo and engaging in salvation work was stronger. When he passed the physical examination for the draft and was assigned to a barracks in Marugame (Kagawa Prefecture), he perceived it as an opportunity.
In the time frame before he was to report at the barracks on December 1, he came up with a bold plan to go on a missionary expedition to Kyushu.
In the years before and after 1892, Muya Branch Church was in the middle of a thriving effort to break new ground in Yamaguchi Prefecture — where Rev. Tosa was born — and toward Kyushu. Eki’emon rode the momentum, crossing the sea from Yamaguchi and aimed for Karatsu in Hizen (Saga Prefecture).
Karatsu was bustling town at the time since it provided a vital transport link to Korea. After learning several details through an acquaintance in his family’s indigo business, he announced a daring plan to organize 100 member households in the 100 days before he was to report to his barracks.
Genjiro could only feel astonished and envious as his brother blazed ahead accomplishing things that were unthinkable to him. He felt that he couldn’t do such things because of his poor health.
“Eki’emon, how lucky you are. I can’t do what you do because of my poor health.”
“Nonsense! You do not serve God with your body. You serve God with your heart. You can do it as long as you have the heart to.”
“Is it just like you say?”
“Even though I’m going, I have to come back in three months. I was thinking of asking you to take over after me.”
“Really? I’d sure like to try.”
An exchange such as this likely took place between the brothers. Then, the brave pioneer departed with his heart filled with hope.
In reality, things were not so easy. No matter how energetic he may have been, Eki’emon wasn’t able to fully communicate in a new land with an unfamiliar dialect. He first went to Imari but no one listened to him. He then turned his attention to Karatsu. He thereafter refused to yield an inch, giving his best effort, as he felt he would lose his honor as a man if he returned empty-handed. He finally converted Harufusa Kawashima, deputy mayor of Karatsu, and Tadakatsu O’oka, a former samurai. Eki’emon achieved some result with a “mission to the high mountains.” This gave him confidence and he returned after having converted seven member households in 100 days. Although things did not go as he expected, he achieved a decent level of success.
It is presumed that Eki’emon’s gained recognition at Muya Branch Church for his missionary work in Karatsu. This Genjiro made proud and he hungered for everything Eki’emon could tell him. Then, day by day, the feeling of not wanting to be bested by his older brother heightened in his heart.
Just as his inner passion was on the rise, a decision was made for Genjiro to become a live-in (sumi-komi seinen) of Muya Branch Church.
What did being a live-in amount to? Genjiro had not any preconceived notions or advance knowledge. This was only natural because Genjiro was Muya’s first seinen.
On November 12, Genjiro passed through Muya’s front gate.
- Next installment in this series: Unosuke Tosa