The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 36

The following is a translation of Part 36 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the December 2005 (No. 444) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Part 36: “I Dedicate My Life”

Genjiro Fukaya, the first head minister of Kawaramachi Daikyokai who was beloved by many as “All’s well Gen-san” was born in Kyoto in 1834. Members of the Fukuya household had been blacksmiths for many generations, and reputation of Genjiro’s craftsmanship had even reached all the way to Nagoya.

Genjiro was born with a sunny disposition and lived with the conviction that the “gods dwelt with a joyous spirit.” He was also highly reputed for his hardworking ethic. His devotion to his parents was so extraordinary that it was claimed that he had not allowed his mother to cook his meals after the age of 13. Lastly, he was honest to the core of his being.

On one occasion, a man named Okada, who was born in a wealthy family, ordered a lock for his suitcase. Genjiro had originally appraised that it was a job he would do for 10 sen. When the lock was finally completed, Genjiro said, “Five sen will do.” Suspicious, Mr. Okada asked why. Genjiro explained, “While the lock might look new to you, I just took an old one and fixed it up, so five sen will do,” and no matter how much Mr. Okada argued, he refused any payment above five sen. Mr. Okada was said to have been greatly impressed and surprised that someone with an honesty such Genjiro’s existed.

Genjiro began his faith in Tenrikyo in 1881, when he was 39 years old. Not only was his conversion greatly influenced by his love of religions of all stripes, it was also truly reflective of his unconstrained and cheerful nature.

It is said that he was greatly impressed upon hearing in a Tenrikyo sermon that “fire and water are the primary aspects of God.” Armed with experience from his profession, he said to himself: “No matter how much high-quality materials one may use or how much a skilled craftsman may give his all striking and tempering a piece of metal, it is impossible to make anything out of it if fire and water have not been adjusted properly. Truly, fire and water are the primary aspects of God!” Further, as one who was attracted to everything that was joyous, Genjiro was further stuck by the faith in how it was embodied in joyous singing accompanied by dance.

Then, in 1882, something happened that motivated him to solidify his faith. One day, as he was striking a piece of red-hot steel, a spark flew into his eye. Genjiro, thinking he had been blinded, immediately rushed to the altar enshrined upstairs and prayed to God.

While enduring intense pain, he repeated the following prayer three times: “God, I say to You. If You are God who created humankind, please restore my blinded eye so that I can see. If You are a god that cannot heal an eye, then the teaching that claims You created humanity from which we did not exist is a lie. If this teaching is a lie, I shall quit my faith from this very day. Yet if You give me Your protection, I, Genjiro, shall work for the rest of my life for Your sake, even if I am assailed by fire and water. If Gihei Amakawaya1 is considered a man, then I, Genjiro Fukaya, am a man as well. A man’s word will never become a lie, even if he may lose his head by keeping true to it.”

Then, Genjiro began the hand movements for Choto hanashi with his left finger.2 A moment later, Genjiro felt an inexpressibly pleasant breeze blow through the gaps of the fingers of his right hand that he pressed against his eye. The intense pain he was experiencing suddenly stopped. When he unconsciously lifted his hand, a small scrap of steel fell to the ground. At this moment, Genjiro firmly resolved, “I shall dedicate my life for the sake of this God.”

References: Takano Tomoji. Senjin sobyo. (English translation published as Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo by the Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department in 1985)

Tenrikyo Kawaramachi Daikyokai Shiryo-shuseibu. Fukaya Genjiro den.

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

Supplemental information

Rev. Genjiro Fukaya 深谷源次郎 (1834–1923) became the first head minister of Kawaramachi Bunkyokai 河原町分教会 (branch church) when it was established in 1889. Now known as Tenrikyo Kawaramachi Daikyokai 天理教河原町大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 248 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 551 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Kamishuyo Church 神修洋教会 in Anahiem, CA; Cianorte (PR), Júbilo (SP), Jussara (PR), and Nova Maringá Kyokai (PR) in Brazil; and Buenos Aires Kyokai in Argentina. There are too many former branch churches of Kawaramachi that have become grand churches (35 in all) to list here.

Further suggested reading

For more stories on the Rev. Genjiro Fukaya, refer to:

I’d thought to add that there is a movie based on the life of Rev. Genjiro Fukaya.


  1. Gihei Amakawaya (or Amakawaya Gihei 天川屋儀兵衛) is the merchant who provides the weapons to the legendary 47 ronin in their quest to avenge their lord.
  2. This hand movement is supposed to be done with the right finger