The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 16

The following is a translation of Part 16 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the April 2004 (No. 424) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This is a tentative translation and may require further revision

Part 16: A Prayer for Rain (1 of 2)

Genjiro Ichijo converted to the faith after he was saved from a life-threatening illness. In 1897, he accompanied Rev. Kunisaburo Moroi, the head minister of Yamana Bunkyokai, to Taiwan and was appointed to become the head minister of Taichu Shikyokai. Genjiro was thus placed in a position to proselytize the faith to people living in Taiwan.

In 1902, central Taiwan was in a midst of a great drought of which the likes had never been seen before. Rain had fallen only twice in nearly six months going back the previous year. The situation was so severe that local farmers were having difficulty making their day-to-day living. Not only was it impossible to grow crops, there were areas that even lacked drinking water.

Genjiro pondered day and night as he desperately wished for God to save everyone from this miserable state. While he offered his sincere prayers as he conducted the morning and evening services at his church, he feared that the heavy task of praying for God’s protection in such an impossible situation was far beyond someone as unworthy as himself. The more he subjected himself to self-examination, the more he felt it was beyond his means to pray and receive the blessing of rain. However, as he continued to ponder, the drought increasingly became serious, and the plight of the farmers was reaching a breaking point. No longer able to bear to ignore their cries in silence, Genjiro resolved to cling to God the Parent and hold a special prayer service for rain on April 8.

Genjiro then felt first and foremost that as the chief officiant (saishu 祭主) of the prayer service, he needed to fully prepare “something” in order for God to accept everyone’s sincerity. On top of subjecting himself to further self-examination and repentance, he ritually purified himself for three days and three nights.1 He then assembled his staff ministers (yaku-in 役員)2 and held a discussion where they decided to conduct a prayer service for successive three nights.

Genjiro then invited representatives from each village and announced his decision to hold these prayer services for rain. He then paid a visit to each village, explaining to groups of farmers the proper frame of mind and spirit to have the blessing of rain as follows: “We are undergoing a drought at this time because heaven is admonishing each of us for our selfish and self-centered behavior that goes against the cosmic law (Tenri).3 Now that we are in this situation, there is no other way out but to pray to God and receive heavenly salvation. This is not a situation where protection will be granted if only one or two people offer their prayers. First and foremost, each one of us must undergo a reformation of the mind and correct our behavior so that we work for the sake of the world and for the sake of others; having a mind that responds to heaven’s benevolence by helping others. It will not do to have self-interest that feels all is well if the present is well for oneself alone. If many people come together to unite their prayers with minds of true sincerity, we will no doubt receive God’s protection.”

However, in his heart, Genjiro privately despaired. He gazed at the sky day and night, spending many sleepless hours thinking on what he would do to make amends in the event there were no blessings after boldly taking on such an enormous task and appealing to so many people to participate. Yet as the day to conduct the first prayer service approached, miraculously, courage flowed from his heart. Soon, the time came for him to approach the church’s altar to offer a prayer with utmost determination. (To be continued)

Reference: Ichijo Genjiro 一條源次郎. Shogai no tabi.

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


  1. A comment on the tendency for Tenrikyo prayers to come in threes (conducted over three days, etc.): I assume that this is done to “join” or “connect” with God’s protection. The third aspect of God’s providence or protection is the protection of skin and joining (Kunisazuchi-no-Mikoto).

    As for how Genjiro Ichijo “ritually purified himself” (Japanese: saikai mokuyoku 斎戒沐浴), the original gives no hint on what he actually did during three days and three nights. The first thing that comes to mind would be performing cold-water ablutions (ala Tokichi Izumita), but as this was in the middle of an extreme drought, this would have been highly unlikely. Other possibilities may include abstaining from alcohol, certain foods, or sexual intercourse. Perhaps reading Genjiro Ichijo’s Shogai no tabi may give us the answer, but I am not willing to go looking for a copy anytime soon.

  2. I always wonder if there are better ways to render terms such as saishu and yaku-in into English. (I have translated yaku-in as “church official” before).
  3. This article also mentions “heaven” (ten 天) far too much for my tastes, but it is a concept that was deeply part of the Japanese mindset until very recently. I see this concept of heaven is mostly an abstract one, very different from a Christian concept of heaven as an actual realm populated by God and angels which humans reach after death. Maybe “cosmos” can be an alternative rendering of ten…. note that I have translated Tenri 天理 here as “cosmic law.”