The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 45

The following is a translation of Part 45 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the September 2006 (No. 453) issue of Taimo , pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Part 45: Indigo Ball

In 1879, Bunkichi Nakagawa, who made his living as a dyer in the Honden section of Osaka, succumbed to a sudden illness of the eyes that left him nearly blind. As Bunkichi’s dyeing business was flourishing, he spared no expense on doctors and medicine. He also prayed to the gods and buddhas at various shrines and temples for a full recovery, but there was no sign of any improvement. His illness grew worse and his doctor declared his case as hopeless, saying, “There’s no chance for a full recovery.”

Umejiro Izutsu, who lived next door, came to visit Bunkichi while he was sick. Umejiro conveyed to Bunkichi about how his child was saved and passionately spoke to him of God the Parent’s protection. Bunkichi had already thought to rely on prayers to another god and prepared a donation. However, he decided against this and determined to cling to God the Parent for assistance.

Umejiro immediately purified himself, dousing himself in water and prayed with great intensity, chanting the divine name, “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” while stroking Bunkichi’s face. While there was no change in Bunkichi’s condition that day, he somehow gained some peace of mind and was able to sleep soundly that night.

When Bunkichi woke the next morning, he faintly noticed three lit candles shining from his home altar. While the three candles appeared faint in his eyes, Bunkichi unconsciously asked, “What are those lights?” He, his family, and Umejiro could not hide their astonishment at God the Parent’s vivid blessings. Bunkichi’s eyes were restored to their former state in a mere three days.

In the summer of 1885, the indigo ball that Bunkichi used in his dyeing turned reddish-brown for no apparent reason. An indigo ball was the lifeblood of a dyer; to have it spoil signified his family business was ruined.

After consulting with Umejiro, Bunkichi felt that there was no option but to cling to God. He immediately returned to Jiba and explained his situation to Oyasama. Oyasama then handed Bunkichi sake that had been offered to God during the Kagura Service and told him to sprinkle it in the indigo bath.

Bunkichi thereby went home to Honden as fast as he could. When he spoke about sprinkling offered sake in the indigo bath, his family and fellow craftsmen looked at one another and inadvertently began laughing. Indigo and alcohol were like water and oil; incompatible to the point where a person who drank sake was discouraged from standing next to a dyeing vat.

Obviously, Bunkichi was aware of this. Nevertheless, despite the laughter of those around him, he trusted Oyasama’s words and sprinkled all the sake he received in the indigo bath.

The next day, Bunkichi slowly opened the lid of the dyeing vat and saw that the remnants of the reddish-brown color that clouded the indigo bath until the day before had disappeared without a trace. The indigo had completely been restored to its true color.

Reference: Shinmei Ashitsu no michi, vol. one.

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

Supplemental information

Umejiro Izutsu 井筒梅治郎 (1838–1896) would later become the first head minister of Ashitsu Bunkyokai 芦津分教会 (branch church) in 1890. Now known as Tenrikyo Ashitsu Daikyokai 天理教芦津大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 241 branch churches and 282 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Shinmei Shin’ei Kyokai 真明新榮教会 and Shinmei Shoka Kyokai 真明彰化教会 in Taiwan.

Bunkichi Nakagawa 中川文吉 (dates???). I haven’t been able to find any further information on this individual apart from the fact that he was present when an entourage from Ashitsu made a request concerning buying property for the church. My intuition leads me to assume that although Bunkichi Nakagawa did not end up founding a church himself, he was an important member and staff minister of Ashitsu who helped it grow into a daikyokai.

Further suggested reading

For more stories involving Rev. Umejiro Izutsu:

For an account of Bunkichi Nakagawa’s first meeting with Oyasama:

For more stories on Umejiro Izutsu’s Shinmei-gumi Confraternity: