The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 35

The following is a translation of Part 35 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the November 2005 (No. 443) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Part 35: The Faith of Yoshi Nakagawa (3 of 3)

Yoshi, who just gave birth to her third child Mitsunosuke, had made a promise to take a blind old lady to Jiba. The day that Yoshi made this appointment happened to be three days after she gave birth. In normal circumstances, a person would have either been forced to postpone or cancel the appointment altogether on the premise of having just given birth. But Yoshi was different. She had not only made a promise to this old lady; she had made a promise to God as well. The people around her tried to persuade Yoshi from doing so but she paid no attention to their pleas.

Yoshi began the nearly 100 kilometer trip to Jiba on foot while carrying the three-day-old Mitsunosuke in one arm while leading the blind old lady with the other. As a newborn, Yoshi could not carry Mitsunosuke on her back. Her arm became numb after 30 minutes, so she walked while switching the arm she used to carry him.

However, by all limits of the imagination, a return to Jiba was an unreasonable undertaking. By the second day, when she usually would have reached Jiba, she was still walking the streets of Yao. There was still four kilometers to Takayasu.

Night fell and it had gotten quite dark. While Yoshi tried to hurry, since it was not long after she gave birth, her body would not respond. It was a long time since the blind old lady had walked so continuously. As Yoshi encouraged the old lady, gasping, nearing the limits of fatigue, she herself was already exhausted and her legs were swollen down to the soles of her feet.

The pair talked and decided they had no choice but to hail a rickshaw. Unfortunately, they were only able to hail a single runner and his cab. Yoshi and the old woman pressed each other to be the one to get on. Yet Yoshi could not think of allowing herself to go first and leave the blind old woman behind. Eventually, the old lady got on the rickshaw, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” She told the runner, “Please go slowly since Yoshi is following behind with pain in her legs.”

With his business-sense kicking in, the runner replied: “Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ll quickly take you to Takayasu and leave you at the church and immediately come back for her,” and quickened his pace.

Yoshi frantically ran behind. Swaying, short of breath, and overtaken by incomparable weariness, she is driven to the verge of collapsing. Although Yoshi possessed a profound spiritual strength not found in the average person, her whole body shook violently and her heart beat furiously in her chest. While the old lady may reach Takayasu before her, when Yoshi imagined how lonely she would feel without any acquaintances there, she summed up the last vestiges of her strength and chased after the rickshaw.

When the rickshaw reached Takayasu, the old lady implored: “Please, hurry and pick Yoshi up. To think I only was able to travel with ease….”

Just then, Yoshi, pale and tightly embracing the babe Mitsunosuke in both arms, appeared and said: “Ma’am, I’m here. I’m sorry to have worried you so.”

The old woman, upon hearing Yoshi’s gasping voice, was overcome with emotion and began crying violently. With the mere thought of Yoshi’s unbending sincerity, much time passed before the old lady could stop her tears from flowing.

Reference: Takahashi Sadatsugu. Oinaru jibo: Tohon shodai Nakagawa Yoshi no michi. (English translation published as Great and Gentle Mother: Yoshi Nakagawa by the Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department in 1986)

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

Supplemental information

Rev. Yoshi Nakagawa 中川よし (also written 中川與志 1869–1922) later went on to become the first head minister of Tohon Fukyosho 東本布教所 (“fellowship” or “mission station”) in 1898. Now known as Tenrikyo Tohon Daikyokai 天理教東本大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 541 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 557 fukyosho, including Honrikuto Church in Culver City, CA. Former branch churches of Tohon Daikyokai include: Honpo, Hon’ai, Honshiba, Hon’e, and Honriyo grand churches.

The above article overlaps with the eighth chapter of Great and Gentle Mother: Yoshi Nakagawa (pp. 59–62).