The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 31

The following is a translation of Part 31 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the July 2005 (No. 439) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Part 31: A Sake Cup with Mirin

Circa 1881, Ito Masuno became afflicted with sokohi,1 an eye disease. She completely lost her sight three years later. She regularly went to a hospital that went by the name of Taylor but showed no signs of a recovery.

One day, Ito stopped by the home of her friend Cho on her way home from the hospital. Cho conveyed the teachings of Tenrikyo to her, saying, “Your recovery is ensured if you have faith together as husband and wife.”

Ito then encouraged this idea to her husband Shobei, but he turned a deaf ear and said, “If you’re going to worship a god, you might as well worship me instead.”

Hearing this response, Ito began to consult with her mother about divorcing him. Shobei became troubled at this prospect and agreed to ask Tenrikyo for help. A Yazaemon Koyama 小山弥左衞門 came at their request. Ito regained her eyesight the very next day. This motivated Shobei Masuno to convert to the faith. He made his first return to Jiba the following month, in March 1884.

When he arrived at the Residence, it was greatly crowded with people since it was the exact day Oyasama was being released from Nara Prison. A large number of followers had assembled from early morning to welcome her return. Since it was Shobei’s first time, he remained in the back behind the crowd.

Oyasama had not eaten any meals during Her imprisonment. So, once greetings were concluded, someone nearby offered Her some mirin (sweet rice wine) in a sake cup. She took a small sip and held the cup in Her hand as She gazed intently at the followers who were bowing towards Her in worship. When Her eyes fell upon Shobei, She said,

“Masuno-san from Kobe, come here for a moment.”

Astonished at these sudden words, Shobei nervously made his way to the front. Oyasama offered him the sake cup She held in Her hand and said:

“I give you this. Please come to this Residence and render your service in the future.”

One can only imagine how overwhelmed he was at these words. Shobei thereafter became a fervent adherent of the faith and devoted his life to serving the path.

Reference: Takano Tomoji 高野友治. Go-zonmei no koro.

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

Supplemental information

Ito Masuno 増野いと (dates?) is best known for her connection to the Osashizu or Divine Direction dated March 25, 1898 to establish the Tenrikyo Fujinkai (Women’s Association); her name appears at the heading of this Direction (Refer to An Anthology of Osashizu of Translations, pp. 292–297).

Shobei Masuno 増野正兵衞 (1849–1914) went on to become a Honbu-in (headquarters executive official) who overlooked the finances of of Tenrikyo Church Headquartersthe institution and was employed as one of the scribes of Izo Iburi’s oral instructions that would become the Osashizu. Shinnosuke Nakayama considered him as his right hand man.

While I’m really going to go on a tangent here, there is an endearing quality about Shobei Masuno, especially for his all-too human faults. He tries to act like the bossy husband according to the Confucian traditional ideal by saying, “If you’re going to worship a god, you might as well worship me instead.” Yet he immediately succumbs to his wife at the prospect of divorce.

There is also the episode related in the Osashizu (Refer to An Anthology of Osashizu of Translations, pp. 404–417. esp. 406 & 411) where Shobei gets drunk and complains about Tenrikyo’s dire financial situation in 1907. Then comes one of the harshest reprimands I’m familiar with:

“I hear you lack twelve thousand. What kind of path will it be with such feeble hearts? How can I carry My work? Sah, be firm. You were given this path by Oyasama. She did not intend for you to suffer. I have taught that before. You must have known. Are you fools?”

I find that there is something difficult about rendering the original Japanese of phrases such as “Sah, be firm” (Sah, shikkari sei: Maybe “Shape up!” or “Pull yourself together!”?) and “Are you fools?” (Nanto bokete iru). I find the latter might be best to translate as “Why are you so absent-minded/careless?” since being a “fool” (aho) is considered to be a positive attribute in most cases.

Further suggested reading


  1. Refer to the endnote from the previous Footsteps (Part 30: “I Accept the Mind You Have Settled”) for my discussion on sokohi.