The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 22

The following is a translation of Part 22 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the October 2004 (No. 430) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Part 22: Oyasama as “Daruma”

One day, in the year 1884, Shirobei Umetani brought his third son Umejiro with him to worship at the Residence. Umejiro was seven or eight years old at the time. Umejiro was like his father Shirobei in his youth, a rascally and energetic child who knew no fear and said exactly what was on his mind.

After offering his prayers at the Kanrodai,1 Shirobei went to the Resting House to meet with Oyasama while holding Umejiro’s hand. When Shirobei bowed and greeted Oyasama, Umejiro, who had been crouching behind his father until then, cast a single glance toward Oyasama and shouted, “Oh, it’s Daruma!”

Oyasama, dressed in Her red kimono, must have looked like a hime-daruma doll in his childish eyes.

“Hey, Umejiro, what’re you talking about? What a shameful thing to say.”

Shirobei’s face flushed red in embarrassment as he abruptly left Oyasama’s Resting House, pulling Umejiro by the arm.

On his next return to Jiba, Shirobei made sure he came alone. When he met with Oyasama at the Resting House, She asked,

“Where is your son?”

Shirobei tried to suppress a smile as he explained apologetically: “Well, I am sorry that my son said a very rude thing to You the other day. That is why I chose not to bring him with me this time….”

Oyasama then told him:

“The path must continue. In the time that the parent chooses not to bring his child, the child will grow up and start to refuse to come along even when the parent wishes for him to.”

Shirobei thereafter made the effort to bring Umejiro along with him as much as he could. Oyasama teaches us this example just one way how followers with children are to dedicate themselves to the faith.

On another day, Oyasama shifted Her gaze between Shirobei and Umejiro and said:

“The two of you were priests of Ise Shrine in a previous life. You were tighter than a pair of brothers. That is why you have been chosen to serve God as father and son in this lifetime.”

Oyasama told them that God brought them together as father and son according causality (innen) from their previous lives and urged them to firmly serve at Jiba/the Residence for all lifetimes to come. Her words imply the preciousness and the magnitude of merit attained through dedicating oneself at Jiba.

References: Yamamoto Junji 山本順司. Shizukanaru hono’o 『静かなる炎』.

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

Supplemental information

Rev. Shirobei Umetani 梅谷四郎兵衞 (1847–1919) later went on to become the first head minister of Senba Bunkyokai 船場分教会 (branch church) in 1889. His son Umejiro (1877?–1925) succeeded him as second head minister in 1899.

Now known as Tenrikyo Senba Daikyokai 天理教船場大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 168 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 185 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Meishin Brasil Kyokai and Meishin America Church in New York.


Image source:

Compare the above account with Anecdotes of Oyasama 117 (“With His Father and Mother,” p. 97). In my opinion, this account comes across as more realistic. The part on the hime-daruma certainly makes sense, as Oyasama appearance would have certainly reminded Umejiro of it more than your typical daruma doll.

As for interpreting Oyasama’s words as a request to the Umetanis to dedicate themselves for the sake of the path at the Residence (fusekomi), I really don’t see how the writer gets there. I would wholeheartedly agree that fusekomi is important in Tenrikyo. But I don’t follow the argument that Oyasama’s words here are implying what the writer claims.


  1. Though it reads that Shirobei Umetani offered his prayers at the Kanrodai, historically speaking, this was not a full wooden model of the Kanrodai (13 sections) since it was not until 1934 when a wooden Kanrodai built to Oyasama’s specifications was placed at Jiba for the first time. At the time of the story, there was no “Kanrodai”; a pile of pebbles marked the Jiba between 1882 and 1888. See Kanrodai monogatari, edited by Tenrikyo Doyusha, for more information.