The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 65

The following is a translation of Part 65 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the May 2008 (No. 473) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Part 65: The Reflection of Sincerity

Yoshi Nakagawa spent her days and nights engaging in salvation work while living outdoors. Talk began among her devout followers to rent a place for her.

Yet Yoshi did not have a fixed income. A man named Kametaro Satsugawa was chosen to be her guarantor so she could rent a place of her own. Satsugawa turned to Yoshi and said the following: “Since you came to Tokyo from the heart of the mountains of Tanba (note: presently part of Kyoto and eastern Hyogo prefectures), you must have prepared some amount of money before coming here. Since everyone has raised some money for you, show me what you happen to have.”

Of course, Yoshi had not made such preparations. Since Satsugawa had just recently become a follower, there was now way for him to imagine the degree to which Yoshi desperately lived with her back against the wall. To be fair, Satsugawa had previously given Yoshi five yen so that she could rent a place, so he expected Yoshi to bring out five yen at least.

However, Yoshi pressed her forehead on the tatami flooring, saying: “I am sorry. I really don’t have anything” and made no signs of presenting any money.

This raised Satsugawa’s suspicions. He thought to himself: “Contrary to our expectations, this woman may turn out to be a fraud. I am a master of an established household in Tokyo. I will become a laughingstock if I were to allow a woman missionary from the countryside of Tanba cheat me out my earnings.”

Satsugawa abruptly assumed an uncompromising attitude and said: “My lady, no one will believe your words. You ought to have the five yen that I gave you the other day. If you say you don’t have it with you, what happened to that five yen? Do you really think you can deceive me? Cough it up!”

Yet Yoshi continued to prostrate herself and apologize. She did indeed receive five yen but she sent four of it to her fukyosho (“fellowship” or “mission station”) in Tanba and distributed the rest among people in need she met in her rounds engaging in salvation work.

She had no room for excuses. Rather, Yoshi’s life was one where she did not give any excuses for what she did. Yoshi accepted the tribulations that came her way which she could have escaped from if she allowed herself to make excuses.

“God the Parent is watching. The everliving Oyasama knew all.” This was Yoshi’s conviction at work. There was nothing unreasonable about Satsugawa’s anger. But Yoshi’s conviction was at level far beyond the common standard that was held by society.

“Don’t expect me to take this lying down! You have some nerve to have such a brazen attitude after all we’ve done for you! Well then, we’ll have you show us your purse!”

Yoshi had done exactly as she was told as Satsugawa bared his fury. In her purse was a single rin coin (a 1/1000 subunit of one yen). Yoshi also showed Satsugawa the possessions she had on her. All that came out of her wrapping cloth were: a number of cloth diapers and two pieces of kimono.

Satsugawa, feeling Yoshi was making a fool of him, turned red in the face as he continued to lash his fury at her.

However, as she continued to apologize without offering any excuses on her part, Satsugawa’s mind was filled with the reflection of Yoshi’s unrelenting missionary spirit and a holy countenance inconceivable by ordinary human imagination.

“My lady, I am so sorry to have said such cruel things. Please forgive me.”

Satsugawa’s inflamed fury quietly dissipated and his eyes suddenly filled with tears.

Reference: Takahashi Sadatsugu. Oinaru jibo: Tohon shodai Nakagawa Yoshi no michi. (English translation published as Great and Gentle Mother by the Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department in 1986)

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

Supplemental information

Rev. Yoshi Nakagawa 中川よし (1869–1922) later went on to become the first head minister of Tohon Fukyosho 東本布教所 (“fellowship” or “mission station”) in 1898. Now known as Tenrikyo Tohon Daikyokai 天理教東本大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 541 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 557 fukyosho, including Honrikuto Church in Culver City, CA.

Former branch churches of Tohon Daikyokai include: Honpo, Hon’ai, Honshiba, Hon’e, and Honriyo grand churches.

Further suggested reading

Takahashi Sadatsugu. Great and Gentle Mother: Yoshi Nakagawa (published by the Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department in 1986). See pp. 117–121 for an alternate telling/translation of the above.