The following is a translation of Part 5 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the May 2003 (No. 413) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35.
Part 5: The Conversion of Tokichi Izumita (2 of 2)
One day, Tokichi Izumita (also known as Kumakichi or “Lucky Bear”), who was staying at a cheap lodging house, went to the fields that were already buried in three meters of snow. He stripped off his clothes, sat facing Jiba with the snow still falling on him and prayed, “If I am not allowed to save anyone, please take this worthless life of mine in a week.”
In the midst of his fervent prayer, the snow continued to pile on top of him. The cold finally took its toll as his body temperature dropped and he lapsed into unconsciousness. In a matter of time he was completely buried in snow while still sitting in prayer position.
The people at the lodging house where he had stayed were greatly worried over how their customer went out on such a snowy day and still had not come back by nightfall. They split up and looked for him but had no idea where he might have gone. They were wondering what could have happened to him when a traveling salesman came by to stay the night mentioned: “Actually, I saw a naked man praying passionately in the fields over there in the falling snow. He must have had a lot to pray for. There sure are some strange people in the world.”
The people of the lodging house thought to themselves that it had to be Tokichi and rushed to the scene and found him buried in snow and cold to the touch. Astonished, they frantically brought him back to the lodging house and warmed him up slowly with a fire fueled by straw. Tokichi miraculously breathed again under everyone’s care, even astonishing the locals who thought they had seen everything. Tokichi Izumita became energized at the thought that God still had use for a person such as himself and went out to nioigake (spread the fragrance).
Tokichi strove to spread the fragrance to a person suffering from an incurable illness. He visited the person daily but there was no sign of any improvement. Many days passed, but his efforts seemed to be in vain. Then, one night, on his way back after visiting the person again as he always did, he came to the pier along the river. There was no boat there. Tokichi stripped off his clothes and took an unexpected plunge into the river and swam to the other side. When he did so, a woman had jumped into the river and followed after him. Looking closely, he saw that it was someone from the sick person’s family. Tokichi said: “Well done, well done! That’s the spirit, that’s the spirit! If everyone in your family becomes of the same mind, the sick person will be saved. I tested you to see how much heart you had.”
The person in question subsequently made an admirable recovery. After having an ill person saved in this way, Tokichi was filled with gratitude for Oyasama and yearned after Her. He ended his long missionary journey and returned to Jiba. Just then, Oyasama was smoothing out wrinkles out of small pieces of paper on Her lap. She said to him:
“Kumakichi, even crumpled pieces of paper like these become neat and can be used again if you gently smooth them out. There is nothing that is useless.”
Tokichi became spirited upon hearing Her words and embarked to do missionary work upon returning to Osaka. This marked the beginning of Tokichi Izumita’s career as head of the Fourth Ten’e Confraternity during which he became known as a famed healer and as the great missionary of Osaka.
Reference: Takano Tomoji 高野友治. Gozonmei no koro.
- Next installment in this series: 6. “Suit Yourself!” (Hirano, Narazo)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
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 on my part.
Further suggested reading
- Oyasama’s above instruction to Rev. Tokichi Izumita is also quoted in Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo, no. 64 “Smoothed Out Gently” (p. 56). Refer also to no. 114 “You Went Through Much Difficulty” (p. 95) for another story involving Rev. Izumita.
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 45–50.
Rev. Tokichi Izumita is quite a character; he’s always taking off his clothes for some reason or another! Someone should make a movie on him and have some ripped, macho Korean actor play him. There certainly is no harm in having more women becoming interested in Tenrikyo in this way! Whooo!