Cornerstone: Chapter 18-1

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 a provisional one and may need to undergo further revision.

Myodo’s Construction

While Yoshiro was continuing his studies in the U.S., a sanctuary construction was beginning at Myodo Grand Church.

In the afternoon after the spring grand service of 1951, Genjiro summoned four of his church officers Takaichi Motobuchi, Akira Shiino, Matsuemon Suzuki, and Tsuguo Sato. He said to them: “It’s about time for Myodo to undergo a genuine construction. We don’t need anything that is too big, but I don’t want you to plan a building based on Myodo’s present size or that of Tenrikyo today. I want you to plan and execute the construction with an image of how things will be a hundred years from now. I think that the sanctuary should be built with steel and concrete. I want you church officers and subsidiary churches to undertake the construction with unity in mind.”

Myodo’s sanctuary construction began with this message. After careful consultation, the designs were completed and submitted to Jiba. Permission was swiftly granted on July 26 that year.

Genjiro looked at the blueprint and said, “It looks like a warship.” For Myodo that had simply lived with a rather simple sanctuary until then, it truly was a once-in-a-century construction.

Since he poured his heart and soul into Muya’s construction, Genjiro’s conviction that the construction would be completed was unshakable. Yet since it was an age when materials were lacking, the struggles of those placed in charge were extraordinary.

The lumber to be used for the interior was especially difficult to obtain. Whereas Yoshinori had negotiated with the Forestry Agency to receive surplus Kiso cypress in his capacity as a member of the House of Representatives and smoothly obtained permission from Commissioner Yokoyama.

Tsuguo Sato, the supervisor of the construction, spiritedly headed to Kiso-Fukushima. As the town was a posting station along the Nakasendo route connecting Kyoto and Tokyo, there were magnificent inns lined up in a row. Sato arrived at 8:00 in the morning in the middle of October. The regional forestry office was about a kilometer from the station. By the time Sato dropped by at 9:00 a.m., there were several people waiting to be called upon in the waiting room.

Sato held number 21 in his hand and waited for about two hours. He was finally called before noon and went to the director’s room on the second floor. The director dismissed his request, saying: “We don’t have 75 tons of nothing but select grade lumber. It’s an impossible request. I might think about it if you agreed to lumber of a lower grade.”

When Sato brought out the permission slip from the commissioner of the Forestry Agency, the man snorted, saying: “Typical of the commissioner to do that. What does he know about the industry? I can’t help it. We don’t that much lumber at the moment. If you come by next June, I might think about it.”

Having received an unexpected reply, Sato trudged back to his cheap lodgings, where a night’s stay and two meals cost 150 yen. According to the servant, at the rate Sato was going, his efforts would amount to nothing even if he went every day for a month.

She told him: “You know there are a lot of fancy inns here. What people usually do is come in a group of ten and invite someone from the regional forestry office to have a wild time. Even then, they’ll probably only wind up with half of what they wanted. It’s useless for you to go every day staying at a cheap place like this by yourself. Look, it was pretty noisy last night at the fancy inn in front, right? They’re a group from the Chugoku area consisting of a member of the House of Representatives, two prefectural assembly members, two prefectural engineers, and two construction company representatives. Today’s their fifth day here. I’m sure they’ll jazz it up all night long for two or three more days.”

Sato, low-key, rigid, and conducting himself exactly as Genjiro taught him, was struck dumb when hearing this. He could not give up and go home. Yet at the same time his conscience did not allow him to squander precious donations for the sake of hosting wild parties.

After thinking about what he should do, Sato summoned the nerve to visit and talk with the forestry director at his home. He made an earnest plea to God and went out into the dark road. After asking about here and there, he finally found the director’s home.

For Sato, it was a matter of life and death.

Convinced that God the Parent was with him, Sato announced himself in a loud voice. The director’s wife, a woman with slender face and slanted eyes came to the door and hysterically said: “My husband?! I never know when he comes home. Sometimes it’s midnight. Sometimes he comes in the morning.”

Sato barely was able to convince her to allow him to wait in the parlor for an hour. As they spoke, Sato learned that the couple spent five years at the regional forestry office in Shibetsu, Hokkaido. Church Officer Wada of Tayoro Branch Church, one of Myodo’s subsidiaries, had worked at the forestry office in Shibetsu for 20 years. When he mentioned this, the woman acknowledged, “Oh yes, we are greatly indebted to Mr. Wada.”

The director then came home and his wife brought up their time in Shibetsu. When Sato mentioned how Wada’s fine personality was because of his faith in Tenrikyo, the director said: “Oh, is that so? What does Tenrikyo teach?”

This was now Sato’s territory. When he looked at the woman’s hysterical expression and compared the director’s frowning expression with his gentle nature it came to him that the director was probably having an affair.

Sato then began with the teaching of husband and wife that formed the basis of fulfilling one’s daily duties. He then turned to the directive of sexually monogamy that Genjiro always taught and spoke for about an hour. The woman’s sharp expression unraveled and she would give sidelong glances to her husband time to time as nonverbal cues for Sato to lecture in a more severe tone. Her hospitality improved as well as she went to bring coffee and cake.

Sato forgot about mentioning the lumber and left about sometime past 10:00 p.m. Yet his heart felt refreshed. His heart overflowed with the joy of having fulfilled his duty to the cause of the single-hearted salvation.

The director’s attitude saw an abrupt change. He personally guided Sato to Otaki Forestry Office at the foot of Mt. Kiso-Ontake to speak with the director there. This cleared the way for a series of events that could only be considered as acts of God, and Sato was able to obtain pieces of lumber of the highest grade one after another.

Sato felt incredible joy and appreciation that the teaching on sexual monogamy he always heard from Genjiro moved the hearts of the director and his wife just when things seemed hopeless.

The beam-raising ceremony was conducted on February 22. On the same day, a plaque with Genjiro’s handwriting on the front reading “protected by Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” was raised near the beam. Names of church officers and subsidiary churches were densely written on the back of the plaque. As each church had received Genjiro’s long and painstaking care, he could not help but look upon it without passionate feelings rising inside.

After the lavish beam-raising ceremony, the construction costs soared rapidly. At the same time, there was such a lull in the hinokishin offerings coming from subsidiary churches that what came in only amounted to 20 per cent of the monthly payments. The church officers met and concluded that expressing their filial piety was the only way they could receive God’s blessings. Although Myodo had made a donation to Jiba upon receiving permission to embark on the construction, they had not similarly made one to Muya Grand Church.

Genjiro devoted his heart and soul into Muya’s construction. Yet during the war Muya was forced to contribute their copper rain gutters to the government during the war. So when it rained, the rainwater would fall down the sides like a waterfall. The rainwater would damage the sanctuary at this rate. Since it was the duty of younger members to preciously use and protect the sanctuary their elders had devoted their best to build, the church officers spiritedly embarked on a construction at Muya once they realized that doing so was an act of filial piety.

Once this was done, Myodo’s construction also progressed smoothly. Then, on December 10 the dedication service for the new ceremony was conducted as schedule to coincide with Myodo’s 60th anniversary. The sanctuary was a construction unprecedented in scale in Tokushima City such that is was reported newspapers as the “dream sanctuary” and “white pantheon.” Genjiro reminisced on the past as he looked high at the sanctuary roof.

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