The following is a translation of Part 6 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the June 2003 (No. 414) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. Note: This translation may require further polishing and revision.
Part 6: “Suit Yourself!”
There was a great cholera epidemic in the Kinki Region of Japan in the early autumn of 1886. It was a contagious disease that was deeply feared by the populace since there was no appropriate treatment for it at the time.
Even in the town of Koriyama (currently known as Yamato-Koriyama City) the number of cases increased in a moments’ time and victims continued to die one after another. Kisaburo Inaba of Yata-cho had the great misfortune of having five of his six children (with the exception of a seven-year-old child) contracting the disease.
Upon hearing this news, Narazo Hirano immediately went to do o-tasuke (salvation work). The muck from the children’s vomit and diarrhea gave off an unspeakable stench. The situation was so bad that there was not even a clean place to sit down.
Narazo entered their room and prayed with all his heart to God the Parent. He chewed pieces of sacred konpeito candies in his mouth and fed it to them. He looked after the suffering children and cheerfully returned to his house in Dosenji-cho. His wife Tora came out to welcome him home. Upon looking at his face, she said with an astonished tone in her voice, “Dear, what’s that on your forehead?”
“What’s that? There’s something on my forehead?”
Upon feeling his forehead, his hand became covered in muck. It must have gotten there while was fervently praying at the Inaba household.
Narazo did not show the slightest concern for the cholera that stuck fear in the hearts of the populace, to the point where he did not even notice that he got diarrhea stool on his forehead. God the Parent responded to Narazo’s sincere prayers with a vivid instance of divine intervention. The five gravely ill children made a marvelous recovery and became devoted followers.
A few days after the Inaba household experienced their salvation, Narazo left for the home of another person suffering from cholera by the name of Yamashita in Minoyama 箕山 to engage in o-tasuke. The police got wind of this and sentenced Narazo to nine days’ detention for ignoring the law and entering a quarantined area to visit a person suffering from cholera.
On the day he was finally released, the chief of the Koriyama Branch Police Station summoned Narazo and severely reprimanded him, saying: “You’ve ended up here and had to eat smelly food because of your faith in Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. We’re letting you go today, but you’re better off stopping your belief in such rubbish. You’d better not do any more preaching for Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.”
Narazo calmly responded: “Tenri-O-no-Mikoto saved me from certain death. I walk to do o-tasuke to repay the blessings I received. Once I walk out this gate, I intend to go straight to do o-tasuke. If you’re telling me that I can’t, you might as well put me in the slammer for the rest of my life.”
The police chief scowled and gave Narazo a filthy look, but could only muster himself to sputter out the words, “Suit Yourself!”
Reference: Tenrikyo Koriyama Daikyokai, ed. Hirano Narazo den.
- Next installment in this series: 7. An Apology (Shimamura, Kikutaro)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Rev. Narazo Hirano 平野楢蔵 (1845–1907) later went on to become the first head minister of Koriyama Bunkyokai 郡山分教会 (branch church) in 1888. Now known as Tenrikyo Koriyama Daikyokai 天理教郡山大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 255 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 668 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Tenryu Brasil and Keiseki Brasil churches in São Paulo state.
Former branch churches of Koriyama Daikyokai include Chuwa, Shimagahara, Tsu, Kumamoto, Chuo, Hokuriku, Tsugaru, Tohi, Yamakage, Ikoma, Nakashiro, and Sanyo grand churches.
There also happens to be a movie based on the life of Rev. Narazo Hirano.
Further suggested reading
- Refer to Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo, no. 188 “Permanent Staff of the Residence” (p. 148) and no. 189 “The Hearts of Husband and Wife” (p. 149) for two more stories on Rev. Narazo Hirano.
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 147–151.