Post-26 Report (Apr 2008)

I’ve decided to write a “post-26 report” this month. We’ll see if it becomes a monthly feature here on But I don’t see it becoming very popular, being that this report will probably only be read by Tenrikyo nerds of the first degree. I humbly apologize in advance to everyone who I end up confusing with this report here.

First Installment of “Savoring the Realm of the Mikagura-uta” Lecture Series

April 25 saw the first lecture of a new lecture series by the Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion (Oyasato Kenkyusho/Kenkyujo): “Mikagura-uta no sekai o ajiwau.” I translate this as “Savoring the Realm of the Mikagura-uta” while it is rendered “The World of Mikagurauta” on the institute’s official website.

I hope to be able to sneak out from work for a couple of hours on the 25th every month and continue to attend the lectures from this series, held on the sixth floor of the Tenrikyo Doyusha building. (As far as I know, no English interpretation provided, so feel free to go if you are confident about your Japanese.)

I’m hoping I’ll pick up something new each month about the Mikagura-uta, one of Tenrikyo’s Sangenten or (three) Scriptures by attending each lecture. There is always of course the self-serving motivation on my part to show face at some of these events since nearly everyone from Tenrikyo’s scholarly and intellectual circle are expected to be there each month.

This first lecture was presented by Koji Sato, one of my favorite professors at Tenri University (not that I am really familiar with the entire faculty at TU, but he is one of my favorites nonetheless).

While his presentation did not really provide information I wasn’t already familiar with, much of what he talked about nevertheless could be used as a general introduction to this Scripture. He talked about some of the historical context in which it was written as well as its characteristics as a Scripture and song. (I could translate and post the outline that was included in his handout if anyone is interested.)

One interesting comment Dr. Sato made touched upon the controversy about whether Oyasama actually wrote down the Mikagura-uta (MKU) or not. There is no one questioning that She is the composer of this Scripture and choreographer of its accompanying dance/hand movements. The controversy surrounds the issue that, presently, no original copy written in Oyasama’s hand is known to exist.

The two prevailing theories why this is so:

  1. There was an original copy, but it was lost or confiscated by the police
  2. Unlike the Ofudesaki (where the original manuscript exists and is preserved at Church HQ), Oyasama only taught the MKU orally and never actually wrote it down Herself since the longest section of the MKU (Twelve Songs or Fifth Section) comes in the form of counting songs and accompanying dances. This second theory presumes that since the MKU was intended for people to be memorised and performed, not read, earliest copies/manuscripts of the MKU were only written by followers, not Oyasama Herself.

Dr. Sato then mentioned the research of Nagao Hiroumi, who compared several manuscripts of the MKU and found that there were many variations on the way several parts of the text were written, i.e., manuscripts with alternate kana letters with the same phonetic reading/pronunciation while some manuscripts included kanji or Chinese characters.

This heavily favors the second theory that Oyasama only dictated the MKU orally and never wrote the Scripture down Herself. If there was an “original manuscript” that everyone copied from, one would presume there would not be so many variants in the ways which the verses were transcribed in kana, kanji, etc.

This suggests that most people “copied” or transcribed the MKU from someone singing or dictating it from memory. It may be interesting to note that since there is an “original manuscript” of the Ofudesaki written in Oyasama’s hand, when copied manuscripts of the Ofudesaki were compared, results showed they do not have as many variants in as those of the MKU.


April Monthly Service at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters

April 26, 2008. The April Monthly Service was held at the Main Sanctuary of Church HQ. It was the first time I attended a Service inside since I don’t know when (I usually find a place to stand or sit outside). Since my mum was in town, I decided to skip morning assembly at work go together with her.

Assignments for pre-Service ritual procedures (reading of the saibun or service prayer): Saishu (“chief officiant”) was of course the Shinbashira Zenji Nakayama. Kosha (“assistants”) were Bishop Yoshiaki Mihama of Taiwan Dendocho and Bishop Michihito Hamada of Hawaii Dendocho. I didn’t recognize who the Sashizu-gata (“director”) or the second Sanja (“attendant”) were. The first attendant was Michitaro Masuno sensei, my boss and chief of the Translation Section.

For the Service itself, notable assignments included Omote-toryo (Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs) Masahiko Iburi, who served as first jikata or singer for the Kagura and former America Bishop Tomoharu Itakura was the “shin” or center male dancer for first half of the Teodori.

The Monthly Service Kowa (“sermon”) was given by Bishop Toyoo Tsuji, current America Bishop. Bishop Tsuji talked briefly about the main meaning of each section (verse) of the Kagura and gave a humor-laced account of his personal experience with an illness before leaving for Los Angeles to take up his current position, which highlighted the importance of resolving the mind and placing your trust in God the Parent.

I know he talked about much more, but that’s all I can recall. Tend to zone out listening in Japanese after more than ten minutes. Listening is not one of my better skills, believe me. I’d rather read. Some report this is!


No More Dead Eels on Tenrikyo Hinokishin Day?

It had been a convention of sorts for the lunches on Tenrikyo Hinokishin Day for everyone who participated in Tenri to be unagi (broiled eel). That meant that thousands of Chinese eels had to pass away for rebirth in preparation for the day when people were doing hinokishin, cleaning and expressing their gratitude for their good health (which we are told is the whole point of the hinokishin enterprise).

Yet something else appears to be on the menu this year. I think it has to do with the Chinese gyoza/potsticker/frozen food scare more than a humane decision to spare our beloved unagi from being stabbed, sliced apart, dipped in sauce, and broiled.

I hope this change sticks. I love eating unagi myself, but would like to save it for a special occasion where they are killed and prepared with respect, not terminated en masse and cooked in a factory. You would think Tenrikyo members ought to treat unagi with more respect, since it appears in the Tenrikyo creation story, for Oyasamasakes!

Yet I wonder what’s really on the menu tomorrow. . . if it’s fish or whale blubber (Gasp! But I really doubt it), we’re definitely heading in the wrong direction.

5/2/08 Update: Here’s what was on the menu:

Salmon, chicken karaage, and veggie stir fry with beef.

That means three kinds of animal perished instead of just one. <sarcasm>Whoopie.</sarcasm> But I ate the lunch with the most appreciation I could muster for our fellow vertebrates.