The following is a translation of Part 51 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the March 2007 (No. 459) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision. I took some liberties when translating this one.
Part 51: Prayers to God Who Lives Here
In mid-November 1886, just when the harvesting of rice was completed, a 58 year-old woman named Kyo Yamamura helped fulfill a neighbor’s heartfelt wish by accompanying her on the famed 33-temple pilgrimage in the western provinces (Saigoku junrei). Departing Kyoto, the pair went from Kawachi, Nachi, and Koyasan before entering Yamato Province. On the road from Hasedera to Nara, they traveled with a man in his 40s. This man suggested: “There is a wondrous living goddess in this area who has gained much reputation recently. Would you like to come to worship along with me?”
The pair agreed to go together with the man, who before reaching Jiba stopped to buy about five sen worth of konpeito candies. He turned to them and said, “You should also buy some so you can have Her breathe Her sacred breath on them.” Kyo bought just one sen worth of candies.
When they reached Jiba, they were told: “Thank you for coming home! Please take off your straw sandals and come in!”
When they were escorted to the worship hall within the Place for the Service, they were given the explanation of the events behind the revelation of Jiba being a sacred place, the ten aspects of God’s complete providence, the eight dusts of the mind, and the teaching of the body as a thing lent, thing borrowed from God.
They were further taught the hand movements of the seated service and received sacred rice and roasted wheat flour. Their guide accompanied them to have Oyasama breathe on their konpeito three times. Before leaving, they were told, “In the event that the misfortune of illness befalls any of you, remember that you will be immediately healed once you direct your prayers to God who lives here.”
After this, the pair made their way to Kiyomizu Temple in Banshu and Nariai-san in Tango. When traveling in the outskirts of Izushi in Tajima, a woman mentioned to Kyo that they must have picked up a number of wondrous things on their pilgrimage. Kyo then replied, “Well, I can’t say that I have anything special, but I received this in Yamato from a god named Tenri-O-no-Mikoto,” and showed her the konpeito candies she got in Jiba. The woman greatly rejoiced, saying: “Please give me just a little of this. If I could only have some, I can help a large number of people be saved.” Kyo wondered to herself if the candies were really something so special and was in turn amazed at how knowledge of the sacred candies had spread all the way here.
Kyo returned home in the spring of 1887 from her pilgrimage without further incident. Her son Chojiro happened to be resting due to an ailment of the stomach. A missionary named Gosaburo Takeo from Yamakuni in Kyoto came to spread the fragrance of the teachings for the first time. Kyo Yamamura remembered her experience during her pilgrimage when she was encouraged to “direct your prayers God who lives here,” and immediately asked Gosaburo to administer prayers. Gosaburo placed candles on the floor, offered clear water, and prayed. When Chojiro drank this water, the pain in his stomach went away. Kyo was amazed as what she heard in Yamato was proven true before her very eyes. She soon headed to Yamato to express her thanks.
Reference: Takano Tomoji. Kusa no naka no hijiri-tachi.
- Next installment in this series: 52. The Path of Repayment to God (Tosa, Unosuke)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
First, I have no further information on the woman Kyo Yamamura 山村京 who appears in this story. I am not completely sure if I’m reading her first name right! It could be read “Kei” for all I’m concerned. Same goes for this Gosaburo Takeo 竹生伍三郎 character as well. The last name could be read “Chikubu.” The reference cited above (virtually lifted word-for-word, without any paraphrasing at all) has the following information on Chojiro Yamamura 山村長次郎: “Later, the faith of Chojiro Yamamura deepened, and in 1889, the opening ceremony for the Shidokai 139th Confraternity was held with Chojiro installed as its head. In 1901, Chojiro became a live-in director of Yamakuni Shikyokai; the confraternity he led eventually became today’s Juntoku Bunkyokai” (p. 173).
Further research shows that Chojiro’s son Gakujiro became the third head minister of Yamakuni (presently a daikyokai or grand church). I admit know next to nothing about the Saigoku pilgrimage, but I find it interesting that this is the second time it has been mentioned so far in this Footsteps series. (Here is a linky to the first.) I have no knowledge when the current list of 33 temples was established or if it is compulsory to visit the temples in their numbered order. If Kyo had followed the current established order of temples, Nachi would have been the first temple on the pilgrimage and she would have made her detour to Jiba between Hasedera and Nan’endo in Nara. The fact that the famed center of Shingon Buddhism, Koyasan, is mentioned here is intriguing. While Koyasan is a sprawling temple complex that might have a small temple dedicated to Kannon included in a variant of this Saigoku pilgrimage, it is not included in the current list as far as I know.
However, it is more than possible that Kyo and her unnamed pilgrimage partner might have decided to stop by Koyasan since the pilgrimage route passes through Wakayama Prefecture, for we see they did make a detour to Jiba on their pilgrimage. With this in mind, it probably wouldn’t have taken much to persuade them to visit Koyasan even though the Shingon headquarters may not be included in the pilgrimage circuit. (By the way, I’d thought to add this link to a map showing the pilgrimage circuit as it is known today. Also, there is a special exhibition at the Nara National Museum on this very same pilgrimage that will end later this month and head over for a short stopover in Nagoya.) In any case, I can’t imagine that the author here, being a Tenrikyo follower, would have any extensive knowledge on the Saigoku pilgrimage. So it is difficult to say how accurate the information regarding Kyo’s pilgrimage would be here because the author’s emphasis on getting things right would be elsewhere, not on the accuracy of the pilgrimage route itself.