The following is a translation of Part 60 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the December 2007 (No. 468) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.
Part 60: A Bridge Between Countries
In autumn 1870, Risaburo Yamamoto of Kashiwara Village, Kawachi Province, injured his chest at a sumo wrestling match at the age of 21 and became bedridden for the next three years. Although he had various doctors treat him and healers pray for him, he failed to recover from his injury. Instead, his condition worsened to the point where his life was hanging in the balance. Such were the circumstances in summer 1873.
Then, a sawyer nicknamed “Kuma-san” (“Bear”) who had just completed a job in Furu, Yamato, came to the To Sawmill in Kashiwara Village and said: “A mysterious god that cures people from all kinds of maladies has appeared in Shoyashiki of Yamato Province. Why don’t you ask to have Risaburo saved as well?”
Risaburo’s father Rihachi returned to Jiba for his son’s behalf and Oyasama said:
“This place is the Residence where human beings were first created. It is the homeland of all human beings. It does not matter what the illness is, God guarantees salvation. Bring your son here at once. I had been expecting you to come either today or tomorrow.”
Rihachi went back home and related to Risaburo what Oyasama told him. Risaburo then said, “I wish to pay my respects to this god in Yamato.”
His family was against the idea, saying, “You won’t make it to Yamato alive.”
But Risaburo insisted: “I do not care. I want to go near where this god is.”
In response to Risaburo’s longing wish, a sliding door was prepared as a stretcher and he was silently carried out the gate of his home at night. When his troupe reached the main bridge to cross the Tatsuta River, Risaburo stopped breathing and they went back to Kashiwara.
However, when they reached Risaburo’s home, he miraculously started to breathe again. Risaburo said, “I don’t care if I die, please take me to the god in Yamato.”
Risaburo demonstrated the depth of his wish by exchanging a farewell cup of water with his family. Paper lanterns were prepared as it was late into the night. Risaburo was again headed to Yamato, taken on a stretcher. It happened to be particularly dark that night.
The group finally arrived in Jiba late in the evening of the next day. They stayed the night at a home in the neighborhood since the gate of the Residence had already been shut for the night. Risaburo, who was on the brink of death, was brought before Oyasama the next morning. She said to him:
“There is no need for concern. God will save you if you dedicate your whole life to serve this Residence (fusekomi).”
Oyasama also said:
“The bridge between countries; a rough log bridge. Without a bridge, a river cannot be crossed. Will you dedicate your life or not? Arakitoryo, arakitoryo!”
Oyasama then instructed Risaburo to take a bath. When he came out She said, “Don’t you feel refreshed now?”
Although Risaburo was not in the condition to take a bath, he didn’t even suffer the slightest discomfort. He instead sensed his discomfort and pain had receded and evaporated. He then deliciously ate three bowls of the rice gruel Oyasama offered him.
By the sixth day at the Residence, Risaburo had been blessed with a full recovery under the warm and loving care of Oyasama. He finally went back to Kawachi after staying at the Residence for a month. His neighbors gasped in amazement when they saw how Risaburo had been restored to health.
References: Kohon Tenrikyo Oyasama den itsuwa hen. (translated into English as Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo)
Takano Tomoji. Senjin sobyo. (English translation published as Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo by the Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department in 1985)
- Next installment in this series: 61. Causality (Ando, Masayoshi)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Rev. Risaburo Yamamoto [山本利三郎] (1850-1895) later went on to become the first head minister of Chuka Bunkyokai [中河分教会] (branch church) in 1890. Now known as Tenrikyo Chuka Daikyokai [天理教中河大教会] (grand church), it currently oversees 272 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 473 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Central Fresno Church and Pacific Valley Church in the U.S.
Further suggested reading
- Refer to Anecdotes of Oyasama 33, “The Bridge Between Countries” (pp. 26–28) for the account of Rev. Risaburo Yamamoto’s conversion to the faith which the above article is partly based on.
- Takano Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 51–55.
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