The following is a translation of Part 43 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the July 2006 (No. 451) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.
Part 43: The Joy of Having Nothing
After World War II, large numbers of Japanese abandoned Korea for Japan. Among them were Tenrikyo ministers and followers who left behind the churches they helped build with many years of dedication. Among them were those who dragged enough luggage that it towered to their eyeballs. Unable to arrange their belongings as they rode the steam train taking them away, they brought their luggage into the passenger train, laid them on the floor, and sat on them.
After most of the passengers boarded the train, Chujiro Okuma (the second head minister of Keijo Daikyokai) casually came aboard with a small suitcase in hand. Some passengers could be heard whispering: “Ah, look how smart the grand church minister is. He has his seinen (male attendants) take care of his large and heavy baggage. How good things are for him that all he carries is a single suitcase.”
Masahisa Hamada, an instructor at the Tenrikyo Mission Administration Office in Korea, was among those who thought the same. The young Hamada unhesitatingly asked, not without some sarcasm, “Excuse me, but is that all your baggage?”
“That’s right; this suitcase is all I have. Hopefully they’ll let me hold it without having to place it on the floor.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I was asking you, dear reverend, if do not have any more baggage elsewhere.”
“My answer is still the same; this is all I have,” and Chujiro quietly lifted and showed his suitcase.
After being caught off guard by this unexpected reply, Hamada was curious about the contents of the suitcase. He continued to be sarcastic toward Chujiro, saying: “Is that so? It must be filled with valuable things inside.”
“Ha ha ha…. If you ask if there’s something important inside, sure, it happens to be what’s most important. It’s got my toiletries, my razor, and maybe one or two pairs of underwear.”
Chujiro’s cheerful and carefree demeanor had no sign of deception. This intrigued Hamada and he began to feel embarrassed about how despicable his thoughts were and at how rude he was. He came to desire a few words of instruction and asked Chujiro his thoughts as someone who shared his predicament of abandoning the land where they spent so many years dedicating themselves.
Chujiro gave a smile and replied as follows: “Hamada-san, this situation we’re in has allowed me to feel the joy of having nothing. I feel refreshed after truly been left with nothing. I have done my best until this point telling others to emulate Oyasama’s footsteps in starting from nothing and have always tried to do so myself. But it was only until today when I finally got the chance to start from nothing. I don’t mean this just from the point of mere appearances. While it is true that I lacked the courage to firmly carry it out, it still was a fact that I had the wish to do so. God had seen how I could not properly carry this out and presented me with this knot of Japan losing the war. Now, all of us have returned to the state of having nothing, just as it was on the day we were born. I feel completely refreshed. While there are some of us who are saying how we left this and that behind, if you think about it, we did not leave anything behind. We’ve been been given the chance to return the things we had been borrowing for a long time. Not only do I feel like I’ve lost nothing at all, it makes me want to thank God the Parent. I feel uplifted when I think that I’m going to be able to start over again.”
Hamada was deeply moved and wondered how such a soft and calm expression could hide such a strong and intense faith. While Hamada had few opportunities to meet with Chujiro thereafter, he came to value the preciousness of these words with each passing day that they never ventured far from his mind.
Reference: Izurimachi Nobuyoshi. Junkyo no hito.
- Next installment in this series: 44. “God Will Make Everything Work Out” (Fukaya, Genjiro 2)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Originally Keijo Fukyosho 京城布教所 (“fellowship” or “mission station”) when founded by Matsujiro Okuma 大熊松次郎 in 1908. It was ranked as a daikyokai (grand church) beginning in 1940, the first and only overseas church to have such a designation until it was forced to relocate to Kyoto in 1946. Rev. Chujiro Okuma 大熊忠次郎 (1886–1957) served as the second head minister between 1931 and 1957.
Tenrikyo Keijo Daikyokai 天理教京城大教会 currently oversees 155 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 123 fukyosho, including Daejeon 大田, Hyeseong 慧星, Jeongneung 貞陵, and Seoheung 瑞興 Gyohae in South Korea.