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.
Seinen No. 1: Muya’s First Live-In
Unosuke Tosa began his missionary work in Osaka, but he returned to Muya-cho a short time later and lived at the depths of poverty with his wife Masa. Circa 1882, the number of followers increased. By circa 1884, roughly 1,000 households in Awa Province were members. In addition to being strained financially, Unosuke’s eldest daughter Hatsu passed away, just one of several tests that caused his iron will to waver.
Circumstances were especially dire in 1884, as the Muya Police began applying pressure by arresting all followers in the prefecture in a single swoop. This resulted in the so-called “Shusei-ha incident,” a greatest source of Unosuke’s anguish.
At the time, Kuniteru Nitta, a native of Tokushima Prefecture, was the superintendent of the Shinto Shusei-ha. As Nitta struggled to spread the Shusei-ha in his home prefecture, the predicament of Tenrikyo followers caught his attention. He encouraged them to join his organization in name only. Doing so would allow Tenrikyo followers to freely practice their faith since the Shusei-ha had legal status. All the followers except Unosuke rushed to join the Shusei-ha.
Although Unosuke was the only one in opposition, he realized that if he remained separated from his followers, he could not to continue to nurture them. He then became a member and a Shusei-ha instructor on the condition that his followers would be free to disaffiliate themselves if Tenrikyo ever gained legal status.
However, those in Jiba misunderstood the situation and considered Unosuke a double-dealer who left the path because he could not endure government oppression. Unosuke did not try to justify his actions. He merely held back his tears and endured the bitter experience. Only Oyasama showed any sympathy, for She bestowed him Her red clothes during this time.
Whatever others may say; God is watching, so be at ease!1
Unosuke savored the precious meaning of this Mikagura-uta verse from the bottom of his heart. As he was assailed from all sides, he polished his faith while relying on Oyasama alone. However, in 1887, Oyasama withdrew from physical life at age 90. He was not even allowed to take part in the funeral ceremony. Yet in autumn 1888 the record was finally set straight regarding the Shusei-ha.
Muya Auxiliary Church was established in 1889 and Unosuke became its first head minister. Sanctuary construction began in 1890. Muya was promoted to a branch church in 1892. Subsidiary churches such as Myodo, Nan’a, Mihai, and Akizuki were also established one after another.
When Church attendance finally bloomed, Rev. Tosa was a mature 38 years old. It was at this time when Genjiro was chosen to live and work at the newly constructed branch church. In other words, he began on a course that would make him a specialist and instructor of the path.
Yet Genjiro’s daily schedule was filled with odd jobs such as fetching water, cleaning oil lamps, mopping, working the mortar-pestle machine to hull grain, and preparing the bath. Genjiro did not have any chance to do what he wanted to do most: to hear talks about the teachings.
Such a routine was similar to the training apprentices at kendo dojos underwent in the past. For a number of years these apprentices were not even allowed to hold a wooden sword. Yet as they were exclusively pushed to odd jobs they built a fundamental level of physical strength, established the right frame of mind, and developed adoration for swordsmanship. Nothing taught after such training goes to waste, the essence of the whole becomes second nature for the apprentice.
It is unknown whether or not Genjiro set about his tasks with such an awareness. Nevertheless, he came to consider this was what being a live-in in a church amounted to and served earnestly without harboring any dissatisfaction or doubt. Although it was by no means easy for Genjiro, as frail as he was, it was fortunate for him in the long run that physical work was a main part of his training.
Genjiro proved to be a model worker and gained the reputation of an earnest and reliable young man. In fact, it didn’t do any favors for anyone who followed in Genjiro’s footsteps as they found themselves constantly compared to “seinen No. 1.”
- Next installment in this series: His First Sermons
- Mikagura-uta Song Four, verse 1. ↩