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 presently incomplete.
Myodo Grand Church Burns to the Ground
World War II was a massive pair of gears that turned lives upside down. Tenrikyo Church Headquarters was not an exception, as all church followers dormitories were used as camps by pilots for the Japanese Navy’s Preparatory Flight Training Program. In a blink of an eye, Jiba was transformed into a military base.
Myodo Followers Dormitory was used as Air Headquarters. Only the head minister’s residence was left unoccupied.
Around this time, Yoshiro headed to Southeast Asia. His troopship sank in the Strait of Taiwan. He barely crawled onto the shore of Kaohsiung. His regimen also came under attack in the Philippine Sea. He was rescued by another troopship after he drifted in the sea for four days.
It became increasingly apparent that Japan was losing the war. American B-29s based in Saipan began indiscriminate air raids on cities. It was the first time in history Japan had faced such a threat. The bombers flying toward the Osaka area generally spun around the sky above Jiba. As Genjiro watched between 200 and 300 bombers flying 3,000 meters in the sky, he felt that his family was in danger of being wiped out at any moment.
June 15, 1945, was the day when the air raids reached its height. Genjiro was on a mission tour that day, headed for Shoei Branch Church in the outskirts of Osaka. The head minister asked Genjiro to postpone his visit since there were no worshipers given the circumstances but Genjiro would hear none of it. He departed, saying that even though there may not be any worshipers present he needed to convey the teachings to the head minister and his wife.
Not long after he reached Osaka, 300 B-29 bombers had dropped explosives and incendiary devices. The sky was filled with black smoke and the earth had looked as if the world came to an end. After spending two hours in an air raid shelter, Genjiro stepped out and there were smoke and dead bodies everywhere. There was nowhere for him to go to. Even the Osaka Diocese Office near Tennoji was reduced to a pillar of fire.
Genjiro mustered his courage and went to Sakai. When he reached Shoei, he found that the church had survived the raid. He gave a sermon that night. When he returned to Jiba the following day, his family rejoiced as they could not sleep that night, worried that he went missing.
When he saw the expressions on their faces, he remembered that his elder brother Eki’emon died in the Russo-Japanese War and braced himself.
Around that time, Yoshinori served as the superintendent of Tokushima Diocese. On July 3, 90 B-29s flew overhead and in four hours, 18,000 buildings burned down in the city. After news of this reached Jiba, no new information came. When they begun to resigned themselves to the worst, Shizue returned to Jiba around midnight of the 6th in complete disarray.
“The diocese office has burned down. The symbols of worship were destroyed. I am very sorry. The grand church also burned down.”
The bombs began raining down past midnight. A bomb fell on the roof of the diocese office and removing the symbols of worship became impossible. The five people living at the diocese office evacuated to a shelter within a nearby hillside, but smoke entered the entrance. Realizing it was too dangerous to stay, they exited. A second later, a three-story pagoda from a Buddhist temple on the right fell with a loud crash and blocked the entrance to the shelter.
The danger was not over. Sparks of fire continuously rained down. They escaped with their lives by jumping into the garden pond. As he watched the sanctuary go down in flames before his very eyes, Yoshinori made repeated attempts to jump out of the pond and yelled, “We must take out the symbols of worship!” His second-in-command Tenma fought him from rushing to the scene.
Genjiro could visualize the vivid scene in his mind. He burst into tears, convinced that they were saved because of his Special Hinokishin donations he continued over 20 months.
Many young warriors scattered away into dust, sacrificing their lives to their nation. His Special Hinokishin did not require him to give up his life. It merely required him to devote every last ounce of his effort. When he thought how God had accepted his efforts, he felt he had to continue this hinokishin for the rest of his life.
- Next installment in this series: Yelling at Scorched Earth
- The name in Japanese Genjiro gave to these donations — “Tokko Hinokishin bukuro” — was obviously inspired by the Tokkotai or “special attack units” more widely referred as the Kamikaze squadrons of World War II. ↩