The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 2

The following is a translation of Part 2 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the February 2003 (No. 410) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35.

Part 2: “I’m Not Doing the Saving”

In 1882, Tokichi Izumita established the Fourth Ten’e Confraternity in Minami Ward of Karahori. After converting to the faith in 1877, he spent some time engaging in missionary work in the Hokuriku region of Japan. After building his confidence after spending many snowy days there, he returned concentrate his missionary efforts in Osaka.

Cholera was prevalent in Osaka in 1882. In fact, the cholera epidemic was not limited to Osaka; it was rampant in many areas of Japan. The famous agriculturalist Naozo Nakamura from Yamato Province contracted cholera and died the same year.

One day, as Tokichi Izumita walked down Sakai Boulevard toward Kawaracho selling steamed sweet potatoes as he normally did with his pullcart, he found that his pot had ran out of water. So he headed toward the well on the property of Komatsu the carpenter as he always did do fetch some water. When he entered, he found the house to be unusually silent. Tokichi peeked inside and saw the faces of Mr. And Mrs. Komatsu, which were pale as ashes. When he turned his head and saw the face of their son Komakichi, who was sleeping nearby, he realized, “Ah, it’s cholera.”

Tokichi then stripped naked and drew a single bucketful of water from the well in the back of the house and placed it aside. He then poured many bucketfuls of water over himself. He turned to the first bucketful of water he drew and offered a prayer. He then announced to Mr. and Mrs. Komatsu that he was going to pray to “Tenri-san.” He sprayed water from his mouth on the sick Komakichi and began a prayer service. After Komakichi contracted cholera, he lost consciousness, and his parents had by then started to think that there was no hope for his recovery.

When someone contracted cholera, turmeric was hung outside their home and the police patrolled the streets to ensure no traffic passed there. Komakichi’s parents were distracted by various thoughts and overcome by grief by this time.

Tokichi Izumita prayed with great intensity, pouring water himself over and over between prayers. Even though they did not have the slightest idea what was going on, Komakichi’s parents were moved at Tokichi’s fervent praying and called out, “Tenri-san, Tenri-san!”

This continued for three hours. The ill Komakichi finally regained consciousness. Tokichi then said, “Everything is going to be all right, so put your minds at ease.” When he stepped outside, he found the neighborhood children and their sitters had eaten all the steamed sweet potatoes from his pullcart. Komakichi recovered and visited Tokichi Izumita the next night to express his thanks with his father. They brought some rice as a token of their appreciation.

Seeing this, Tokichi Izumita became quite angry and shouted in a loud voice: “I’m not doing the saving! If I was the one doing the saving, I wouldn’t be a steamed sweet potato vendor! It was God who saved your life. I also was saved from death. I walk to repay God’s blessings. My efforts to repay God’s blessings will amount to nothing if I accept what you’re trying to give me!”

Then, with a gentle voice, he continued, saying: “Because God, named Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, descended upon the old lady of Yamato as the Shogun of Heaven, all incurable illnesses can be saved. If you are thankful, I’ll take you with me tonight to do salvation work so you can repay God’s blessings.”

Reference: Takano, Tomoji 高野友治. Gozonmei no koro.

*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.

Supplemental information

Rev. Tokichi Izumita 泉田藤吉 (1840–1904) later went on to become the first head minister of Nakatsu Fukyojimu-Toriastukai-sho 中津布教事務取扱所 (precursor to “fukyosho“) in 1893, which was elevated to a shikyokai (branch church) in 1895. Now known as Tenrikyo Nakatsu Daikyokai 天理教中津大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 72 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 70 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Busan Gyohae (church), Gwangsun Gyohae 關鮮教会, and Powon Gyohae 宝元教会 in South Korea.

The person Rev. Izumita prayed for, Rev. Komakichi Komatsu 小松駒吉 (1865–1934),  became the first head minister of Mitsu Shikyokai 御津支教会 (branch church) in 1891. Now known as Tenrikyo Mitsu Daikyokai 天理教御津大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 94 bunkyokai and 133 fukyosho.


The description of Tokichi spraying water from his mouth on the ill Komakichi is certainly strange, but appears to have been in practice, at least on a small scale. The above narrative is at least the third instance that I’ve read of a Tenrikyo missionary doing this in various literature.

I’ve never read anything so far that suggests Oyasama did anything of the sort. There are some surviving stories where she applied Her spit on the sores of people who came to Her, but its difficult to imagine Her spraying water from Her mouth. I suspect the practice to be derived from Shugendo 修験道, the shamanistic religion that is a blend of Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist elements. I’m no psychoanalyst (Freud was a fraud!), but this spraying water seems like a male thing to do, kind of like “ejaculating” spiritual power. (Geez, if my comments weren’t potentially offensive enough with the jibe at Freud!)

The romanizations of the Korean church names are my rough guesses.

Further suggested reading