The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 54

The following is a translation of Part 54 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the June 2007 (No. 462) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Part 54: Repaying His Indebtedness to God

In late 1884, Ito Hayamizu gradually began to lose her eyesight and in three years she was barely able to see at all. Her condition failed to improve even with hospitalization and was told her case was beyond medical help. Since Ito’s husband Kyujiro was an itinerant merchant, he was usually away on business. Their adopted daughter Noe was responsible for looking after Ito in her disabled state.

Then, one day, Ito’s younger sister Riu Tanikawa, who already had converted to Tenrikyo through her child’s illness, came to visit with a heartfelt concern for her sister and encouraged Ito to have faith in the path. Ito and Noe, who were disheartened before encountering Tenrikyo, felt themselves became cheered and enlivened after hearing the teachings of God the Parent and Oyasama. After some time passed, Ito began to regain some of her vision. Ito and Noe greatly rejoiced at this development since she was abandoned by her doctor who told her there was hope for her recovery. Ito then made a firm determination to have faith in Tenrikyo.

When Ito’s husband Kyujiro returned home from business, she informed him of the developments during his absence. She appealed to him to join her and have faith in Tenrikyo, but being a devotee of Nichiren Buddhism, he remained unmoved. However, some time later, Kyujiro experienced such a severe pain in his molars that he was unable to get a wink of sleep. The pain failed to subside the following morning.

Unable to endure it much longer, he requested for prayers to be made to Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. When a prayer was made to God the Parent and a piece of sacred paper was placed on the source of pain, it disappeared without a trace. Even Kyujiro, who had been so obstinate in his refusal to answer to Ito’s appeals, changed his mindset in an instant at experiencing God’s miraculous providence and subsequently began his faith in Tenrikyo.

Kyujiro was firmly steadfast by nature and would advance ahead single-mindedly in the cause of anything he set his mind upon. As he deepened his understanding of the teachings, his faith gradually began to burn with increasing intensity and he pledged to devote his life to repaying his indebtedness to God. Day in and day out, he dedicated himself to walking around, spreading the fragrance and guiding others to be rescued by God’s providence through salvation work.

Then, in autumn 1890, nearly two years after his conversion, Kyujiro announced a resolution before his family that went as follows:

“Upon converting to the faith, I now well understand that the path to give thanks for God’s blessings lies in the act of saving others. Yet there are many people in the area (Shiga Prefecture) who are devoting themselves to salvation work. The path is gradually spreading here. However, the path has yet to establish itself in the East (Kanto) where I do my business. If I am to devote myself toward serving God, I wish to devote my efforts in a place where the path has not yet been established. Once the autumn harvest is over, I am thinking of selling the house and going to Nikko. I imagine doing so will cause much trouble for you all since it is a place that we are not familiar with. I ask to you be patient for at least five years. I intend to come back here after the path has been established there. I ask you to comply with my wish and somehow come with me.”

Kyujiro’s family was startled and had their apprehensions but resolved to devote themselves to repaying their indebtedness to God, left their home village behind, and headed to Nikko.

The path they went through in unfamiliar Nikko — where faith in Tendai Buddhism was particularly strong — was a harsh one. Despite opposition from locals and other religions, Kyujiro ate, slept, and breathed for the purpose of repaying his indebtedness to God and thus spread the fragrance and engaged in salvation work. Then, in December 1892, two whole years after he began his efforts, he received the divine sanction to establish Nikko Shikyokai and became its first head minister. The path that was established with Kyujiro’s efforts thereafter spread from Kanto up north into the Tohoku region.

Reference: Tenrikyo Doyusha. Tenrikyo no rekishi 5 (junior edition): Michi o hiraita hitobito.

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


I have written elsewhere about the difficult of rendering the phrase on-hoji/on-gaeshi in English. Is “expressing” better than “repaying” (hoji/gaeshi); is “indebtedness” better than “blessings” (on 恩)? I thought about “reducing one’s indebtedness” for a moment but I’m not sure that works either.

Supplemental information

As mentioned above, Rev. Kyujiro Hayamizu 速水久治良 (1844–1894) became the first head minister of Nikko Shikyokai 日光支教会 (branch church) in 1892. Now known as Tenrikyo Nikko Daikyokai 天理教日光大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 171 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 159 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”).

Former branch churches of Nikko Daikyokai include: Tsuga, Namiki, and Nakane grand churches.