The following is a translation of Part 47 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the November 2006 (No. 455) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.
Part 47: The Conversion of Narazo Hirano
On the lunar New Year’s Day of 1886, Oyasama mentioned to the people around her:
“I will bring home a great person tomorrow. There is no knowing what workings I will do from this point on by bringing this person home.”
The people around Oyasama waited with much anticipation to see what kind of great person was coming. The next morning, Narazo Hirano of Koriyama came to worship, accompanied with his wife and two or three others.
Followers were astonished at seeing this. Their astonishment was understandable, for Narazo at the time was an infamous mafia boss nicknamed “Nara the Ingrate” who was also the owner of the brothel Yamatogawa Sakura in Dosenji-cho, Yamato-Koriyama. Narazo had a reputation of being so rough and ruthless that it was said that even freshly grown grass would wither after Nara the Ingrate passed by.
Followers raised a clamor, saying: “That’s Nara the Ingrate! Who knows what he might do while he’s here?!” Yet Oyasama treated him with kind attention as if he was just Her own rowdy child and explained the teachings to him.
Narazo at the time had succumbed to severe nervous exhaustion. He would suddenly say meaningless things and had hallucinations of seeing people who on the verge of attacking him. He made a habit of taking a sword with him to bed every night and would not be able to sleep a wink.
It was during this time when Narazo heard the teachings of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto from his brother-in-law Seijiro Mori from Kyokoji Village, Kawachi. Seijiro’s prayers to God each morning and evening helped decrease Narazo’s nervous seizures.
However, on lunar New Year’s Day, Narazo went gambling with a few of his henchmen in Hattorigawa. He suddenly groaned and collapsed. He was carried to Seijiro Mori’s home, but in time Narazo stopped breathing and no longer had a pulse.
Followers who lived nearby assembled and prayed to God with intense devotion to have Narazo be saved. Then, miraculously, Narazo resumed breathing four hours later. He went to visit Oyasama to express his thanks the following day. The day when Oyasama said, “I will bring home a great person tomorrow,” was the very day when Narazo collapsed on the other side of the mountains from Jiba. On top of showing that Oyasama sees and knows all, Narazo’s collapse also amounted to God the Parent’s urgent guidance for him to follow the path.
Narazo stayed at the Residence for about ten days and was blessed with a complete recovery. The more he heard the teachings, the more he lamented over the way he previously lived his life. He made a decision to commit himself to work for the rest of his life for the sake of spreading God’s teachings and for the sake of world salvation.
On the night of August 25, 1886, six ruffians broke into the Residence, plotting to go on a violent rampage. All the followers at the Residence came out to restrain them and reported the incident to the police. Narazo took the six men to the inn “Tofuya,” persuaded and enlightened them of the error of their ways before releasing them. Oyasama praised Narazo with the following blessed words:
“It was a chance for you to show your courage. Starting tomorrow you shall join the permanent staff of the Residence.”
Narazo Hirano was 42 years old at the time.
References: Kohon Tenrikyo Oyasama den itsuwa hen. (translated into English as Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo)
Takano Tomoji. Senjin no omokage.
- Next installment in this series: 48. Completely Committed to Implementing God the Parent’s Intention
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Rev. Narazo Hirano [平野楢蔵] (1845–1907) later went on to become the first head minister of Koriyama Bunkyokai [郡山分教会] (branch church) in 1888. Now known as Tenrikyo Koriyama Daikyokai [天理教郡山大教会] (grand church), it currently oversees 255 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 668 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Tenryu Brasil and Keiseki Brasil churches in São Paulo state.
Former branch churches of Koriyama Daikyokai include Chuwa, Shimagahara, Tsu, Kumamoto, Chuo, Hokuriku, Tsugaru, Tohi, Yamakage, Ikoma, Nakashiro, and Sanyo grand churches.
Further suggested reading
For more on Rev. Narazo Hirano, refer to:
- Anecdotes of Oyasama 188, “Permanent Staff of the Residence” (p. 148)
- 189 “The Hearts of Husband and Wife” (p. 149)
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 147–151.
- The Footsteps of Our Predecessors, Part 6: “Suit Yourself!”
Finally, there is actually a movie on the life of Narazo Hirano that Tenrikyo Church Headquarters produced in the early 80s. Again, something that desperately needs to be dubbed in English or offered with subtitles.