Cornerstone: Chapter 2-1

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.

Unosuke Tosa

Muya Branch Church was located in Saita, Muya-cho (presently part of Naruto City). In 1925, the church was relocated to the suburbs in Kizu. The spot where Muya was originally located is now occupied by Naruto Branch Church. It is said that the premises have not changed much since. The building is plain, its gate small, roof low, and pillars thin. However, with Rev. Unosuke Tosa at the center, a disciplined and unwavering faith burned here.

His tutelage under Unosuke Tosa became a major source of inspiration for Genjiro in his later years. Here, a short introduction is in order.

Unosuke Tosa was born in 1855 in Nakanoseki, Saba County, Yamaguchi Prefecture. He was the second son of Takizo Shirai. The Shirai clan had quite a distinguished lineage, but it had fell on bad times and worked as seamen. Takizo passed away when Unosuke was 10 years old. Rough times lay ahead. Not willing to be undone by these circumstances, at age 15 Unosuke began working as a porter for a sailing ship that traveled to Hokkaido to help the family finances. Since he was smart and had twice the strength of an average person, he was promoted an office at age 18.

Circa 1877 he became an adopted son after marrying Masa, foster daughter of 柳誠1 Tosa of Okazaki, Muya-cho. He then rode a ship named the Kannon Maru that went back and forth to Hokkaido for the Yamanishi Shipping Company. At age 24, he came to suffer from wet beriberi, which may have come about due to an overconsumption of alcohol. While he was recuperating in Muya, his doctors abandoned him.

“Although I might be a goner, I want to be treated by the best doctor in Japan. I’ll be satisfied even if I die.” The best doctor in Japan at the time was a disciple of Koan Ogata (a Dutch studies scholar who founded Tekijuku in 1838, a school that produced renowned graduates such as Yukichi Fukuzawa, Masujiro Omura, and Sensai Nagayo). Yet Unosuke’s case was declared to be beyond help.

When Unosuke was in an abyss of misery, a proprietress of an inn in Sangenya, Osaka named Uchida recommended that he see Tojiro Hakata from the Shinjin-gumi Confraternity to hear the teachings of Tenrikyo. Unosuke thereby received God’s vivid protection.

The next year, in the spring of 1879, he returned to Jiba for the first time. Since there were but a few buildings standing then, Jiba was an extremely meager sight. Unosuke was surprised that the origin of the faith that granted him with wondrous protection was located in the middle of the countryside and surrounded by rice paddies. He then said to the intermediary, Ryosuke Yamazawa that he would gladly donate anything they might need in appreciation of having his life saved.

Ryosuke Yamazawa then said: “You offered to donate a gate or a lantern. Although we appreciate your thought, the faith we believe in is not like others you will find that may require an ornamental gate at the entrance. We believe in God, who created human beings. You can call God our Parent. We call God Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. Because God is the Parent of human beings, God does not want our money or an ornamental gate. All God seeks is that we all live the Joyous Life. If you really wish to return the favor of having been saved, save people so that others may savor that joy.”

Unosuke then thought, “Is that what kind of faith this is? If that is how amazing this faith is, I will return the favor by spreading the faith and saving others.” He made a resolve to do missionary work.

While Unosuke’s adoptive parents were not against his faith, they were dead set against him doing missionary work. But God hastened him to carry out his resolution.

In 1880, he was in danger of being shipwrecked near Okushiri Island off the coast of Hokkaido. Unosuke recalled how greatly indebted he was after having been saved from certain death. He repented at his hesitancy and weakness due to the opposition from the people around him. When he firmly resolved to do missionary work despite what opposition he might face, he narrowly escaped death.

He began missionary work just as he resolved when he returned to Muya, but his adoptive parents called him a delinquent son for abandoning the family business to missionary work. Thus began some bitter times for him. At one point he left the Tosa household and lived alone, renting a room in Osaka to do missionary work.

Translator’s note

  1. I am unsure how this name is read. Possibly Yanaginobu or Ryusei Tosa.

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