The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 14

The following is a translation of Part 14 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the February 2004 (No. 422) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is tentative and may require further revision.

Part 14: A Miraculous Voyage (1 of 2)

In 1875, a Tenrikyo confraternity named Shinjin-gumi was formed in Sangenya Village, Osaka, with Ichijiro Hakata as its head. Ichijiro Hakata frequented ships and had a small business of selling items to sailors on the Kitamaebune shipping routes.

One time, a ship captain came to visit him about an illness. The captain was Fukuzo Kawachi and he was from the Noto Peninsula and had been sailing since childhood. He was a captain of a ship on the Kitamaebune shipping route that went from Osaka to Hokkaido.

Ichijiro Hakata patiently explained the teachings, in a manner such as: “God is sincerity itself. If you have a sincere mind, you will be saved. Sincerity is the mind that helps others; the mind that seeks to makes others happy.

“When human beings do things on a daily basis such as stabbing each other in the back, outsmarting and talking ill of others, this is a mind that seeks to injure or kill others. Such thoughts become dust and results in illness.

“Human beings are all God’s beloved children. We must live our lives without making any distinctions among others. Instead, we ought to connect with them and to bring them joy on a daily basis.”

Fukuzo Kawachi attentively listened and converted. His ship was named Ko-un-maru (“Good Fortune”) and the owner of the ship was Kunisaburo Takada of Kujo Village.

Ships on the Kitamaebune shipping route made a trip to Hokkaido once a year. When the southeastern winds began blowing in late March, these ships would be loaded with products from the inner provinces from the bow to the stern and depart the port of Osaka.

The ships would then head west through the Seto Inland Sea, enter the Japan Sea via the Kanmon Straits and head north along the northwestern coast of Honshu.

One year (either 1878, 1879, or 1880), Fukuzo Kawachi departed in the summer. Once his ship entered the Japan Sea, it made a port call in Mihonoseki (some accounts say Sakai). Although the Ko-un-maru went northward, the winds suddenly stopped when it reached Jizozaki.

The common practice among sailors in this situation was to drop the anchor and pray to the god Ebisu. Yet Fukuzo Kawachi pressed the Ko-un-maru ahead into the open sea. The reason he did so was because he saw a dream the previous night in which God appeared and said:

“The winds will cease to blow tomorrow. When this happens, steer your ship into the open sea.”

Fukuzo Kawachi told his dream to his crew and told them that they would pick up wind when they went into the open sea. While several days passed, the winds did not come.

His crew became anxious. After several more days, they were in trouble as they had run out of drinking water. There were a number of impatient sailors who crowded the captain, saying: “We’re not gonna take any more orders. We’re gonna die without water. Return the ship to shore at once!”

A mutinous atmosphere pervaded the ship. The captain appealed to his crew to wait a moment more, yet the winds would not come.

Once water had run out, the weather was continually clear and the prospect of dying from thirst was worse than death itself. The crew was in the mood to throw their captain into the ocean and return the Ko-un-maru to shore.

Captain Kawachi then implored: “It cannot be helped if that’s how you feel. But I have faith in God. Please wait until six tomorrow morning. If it has not rained by then, please throw me into the sea and head back to shore.”

That night, he prayed toward Jiba and cast the sacred hattaiko (barley flour) he received from Oyasama on his first pilgrimage to Jiba into the ocean. All he could do was to petition God for rain.

However, there was no indication that there would be any rain. The wind was still and the sky glowed with the light of the stars.

The constellations tilted westward and the morning star appeared in the eastern sky, shining in all its glory. The weather was clear that day as well.

The appointed hour approached. Fukuzo Kawachi resolved himself that the time had come and stepped up to the deck. His crew surrounded him.

At that moment, a single black cloud appeared in the east and rapidly headed toward the ship. The overjoyed crew jumped and danced, shouting: “A cloud, a cloud! It’s going to rain!”

As they watched, the cloud blanketed the sky and burst, unloading a torrential downpour. Anything that could collect water—even rice bins and metal basins—was brought out on the deck.

The moment after the crew drank to their bellies’ content and all the receptacles were filled to the rim, the rain had passed on and the skies were as clear as it originally been that morning. Everyone, astonished at this miracle, trembled at the thought of God and for the moment, dared to believe. (To be continued)

Reference: Takano Tomoji 高野友治. Gozonmei no koro 『御存命の頃』.

*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.

Supplemental information

The Shinjin-gumi 真心組 eventually became Nishi Shikyokai 支教会 (branch church), founded in 1892 with Kunisaburo Takada 高田邦三郎, the owner of the Ko-un-maru, installed as the first head minister. Now known as Tenrikyo Nishi Daikyokai 天理教西大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 44 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 38 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Nishitakao Kyokai in Taiwan.