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.
“Do Not Forget Your Straw Sandals”
Genjiro put a strong emphasis going on mission tours to Kyushu and Yamaguchi Prefecture. Genjiro was intimately connected to Kyushu due to his missionary expedition in Karatsu, and missionaries belonging to the Hofu and Shuto lineages were in the midst of a desperate struggle in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Missionary work in Yamaguchi became a reality in 1894. As Rev. Tosa of Muya was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture, it was a pending issue for the church to gain ground there. Myodo responded to the demand by sending six people — the four seinens Tajuro Furukawa (future first head minister of Hofu), Tadatsugu Iwata, Juzaburo Kurochi, and Hanjiro Shinohara as well as the two missionaries Minejiro Kangawa and Bunpei Miura (future first head minister of Shuto).
In the beginning, they had no success. Ultimately, Kurochi and Iwata lost heart and returned to Myodo. When Tomokichi Kashihara saw them, he scolded them: “I cannot let you, who gave up midcourse, to stay here even one night. Go back at once and spread the path, even if it costs you your lives. If your missionary efforts fail to bear any fruit, apologize to God by throwing yourselves into the Seto Inland Sea!”
After encouraging them, he sent them back that very day. After this, they kneeled in front of God’s altar deep in prayer and cried a river of tears.
Oppression from the Secret Directives and people’s misunderstanding of the new faith made the situation everywhere extremely difficult. Missionaries and followers longed for the voice of their Parent.
While Genjiro was still a seinen at Myodo, he generally went along on mission tours done by Muya church officers. He learned everything about the ideal frame of mind to have on mission tours. The mission tours he went on were nothing like how they are done today. Travel was inconvenient in many places and there were often no accommodations in the places he visited. Sometimes on his tours he merely visited followers’ homes one by one. He would carry the luggage of the officers he accompanied on his small frame and climbed mountain trails and traveled down rivers. Sometimes it took three to four days just to reach the home of a follower.
How many days out of the year did he spend on his mission tours after he became head minister? Although no one knows the full extent of his mission tours in detail, Genjiro himself left records from 1908 and after. I will present here some of the numbers between 1921 and 1926, that is, the years leading up to the 40th Anniversary of Oyasama:
- 1921: 235 days
- 1922: 243 days
- 1923: 246 days
- 1924: 275 days
- 1925: 212 days
- 1926: 210 days
That is, some years he spent more than two-thirds of the year on the road on a mission tour. There were times he did not return to Myodo for up to 90 days.
While it was distinctive that Genjiro spent so many days on his mission tours, they were also distinctive in another way. That is, he often walked. He ordinarily walked between 40 and 48 kilometers (24.5 and 30 mi.) a day. If he had no reason to hurry, he even walked where there were steam trains running. He never rode a rickshaw. He continued this policy even after he became a headquarters executive official. He remained true to the words, “Never forget your straw sandals.” He refused to ride a car with a hired driver. Even after travel became convenient, the most he did was to ride on the back of a bicycle.
After Genjiro became head minister, he would schedule his mission tours from the year before and let people know in advance so they could be mentally prepared. When he planned things this way, mysteriously, an illness or other trouble would emerge at the place he was scheduled to visit and he often administered the Sazuke when he arrived. There were many head ministers, missionaries, and followers he helped save, so the people he visited often would become very spirited and their spiritual bonds would become strong and resilient. This was the foundation on which Myodo gradually grew as a church.
- Next installment in this series: A Parent’s Love and Strength