The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 4

The following is a translation of Part 4 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the April 2003 (No. 412) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35.

Part 4: The Conversion of Tokichi Izumita (1 of 2)

Tokichi Izumita (also known as Kumakichi, literally “Lucky Bear”) went to Jiba to worship in the 2nd lunar month of 1871 on his way home from seeing the water-drawing ceremony at Nigatsudo in Nara.

While he was impressed with the teachings as conveyed to him by Ryosuke Yamazawa, he did not make the faith a part of his daily life at the time. However, circa the summer of 1877, his son became sick and he himself was suffering from stomach cancer. Ihei Yamamoto came to visit and recommend him to have faith in God. Ihei also gave Tokichi Izumita the following instruction, before offering his prayer, “What you love is your enemy, you must quit what you love.”

After a week, his health completely recovered. Until then, Tokichi Izumita loved his sake, drinking up to 5.4 liters (nearly half a gallon) a day. He lived an unsettled, vagabond life for his love of liquor and was nicknamed “Mud Bear” because he often went on drunken rampages. Yet after he experienced this salvation, it is said he stopped drinking cold turkey and never drank another drop for the rest of his life.

After he was saved, he had a sudden yearning to go to Jiba and returned with Ihei Yamamoto. Tokichi Izumita was 38 years old at the time. He was immediately convinced of Oyasama’s talks on various matters. From that time onward, he concentrated his efforts spreading the fragrance of the teachings and visited the homes of the sick to pray for them while running a business on the side.

Police interference of the path was severe during the time. Oyasama’s son Shuji had obtained a license to run a steam bath and inn to accommodate followers who came to worship while putting up a sign that said worshipers were not allowed inside. Unable to worship openly, Tokichi would leave Osaka in the evening and reached Jiba at around one or two in the morning.

After sleeping at the Residence for about one or two hours, Oyasama would instruct him on a few matters. When dawn broke he would depart Shoyashiki Village for Osaka. As he repeated this daily routine, his faith became stronger and began to neglect his business to engage in salvation work.

His business was selling steamed sweet potatoes, and he was nicknamed “Sweet Potato Bear.” Because he absorbed himself with salvation work, he didn’t put much attention toward selling sweet potatoes. Although he gained a reputation for his excessively cheap prices, it didn’t even earn him a cent.

He would also leave his pullcart on the street as he went around saving others and when he came back there wouldn’t be a single sweet potato left as children had come and taken them away. His wife worked hard to make ends meet. Although he dedicated himself in this way for approximately three years, he was unable to convert any followers.

Tokichi Izumita then reflected and convinced himself that his efforts bore no fruit because he had become too accustomed to the presence of the Parent by being so close to Oyasama’s side. He decided to leave for a distant place.

Taking his inkpad and other possessions to sell along the way, he traveled to this place and that but things did not turn out as he expected. After spending all the traveling expenses that he had prepared, after walking all day, he slept in cemeteries at night and would break flower vases to cook rice in.

He finally reached the province of Echigo (present-day Niigata Prefecture) after about 25 days. Although he walked the streets, the fragrance of the teachings failed to reach people, and even when he was able to find sick people to pray for, they all would end up passing away. As he spent the days in this manner, autumn passed, and winter came. The snow fell day after day, and the thought of when he ought to quit did not even arise in his mind. (To be continued)

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 支教会 (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. Note: The romanizations of the Korean church names are rough guesses.

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