The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 75

*The above is a translation of Part 75 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the March 2009 (No. 483) issue of Taimō, pp. 34–35. This translation is a preliminary one and thus may require further revision.

Part 75: The Tears of a Grand Church Head Minister

Japan’s defeat in World War II forced Keijo Daikyokai to abandon its property and building in Korea in November 1945, but its ministers still had not come to a decision on a place fitting enough to call its new home. Even as Kuraji Kashiwagi spent day and night engaged in o-tasuke, he still had the task of restoring Keijo to its former glory on his mind.

In early 1946, a letter addressed to Rev. Kashiwagi arrived, sent by a wife of a certain church head minister. It said: “We were able to find a magnificent building for the grand church. The owner was also more than willing to sell it. Daikyokaicho-sama [Rev. Chujiro Okuma] immediately went to see the property himself and was greatly satisfied. But a church officer (yaku-in) was greatly opposed to this and said at a meeting, ‘If we purchase such a large property now, we’ll cause our affiliate churches to die from starvation.’ So it was called off. There is no other place in Kyoto that is as splendid as this one. We have no other recourse but to ask you, reverend, to make something happen.”

Rev. Kashiwagi immediately went to ask Rev. Okuma about the matter, who replied: “While I think the property is fitting, there’s nothing we can do since the price is out of our reach. I’ve spoken to just about everyone, but it’s extremely difficult. We’ve still haven’t made a final decision. I’ll let you know when we do, so be sure to be there.”

About a month passed by. The day to make the final decision finally arrived. Before the discussions began, Rev. Kashiwagi reconfirmed Rev. Okuma’s true feelings and that of those around them, but there had been no substantial change in anyone’s opinions.

The meeting began at 2 p.m. in Rev. Okuma’s room. Rev. Kashiwagi did not initially attend; he had it arranged so that someone would call him about a minute before the final decision was to be made. When it grew dark outside, he received word that the meeting was wrapping up.

Rev. Kashiwagi seated himself at the entrance of the room and offered the following proposal: “Allow me to make a single request. My church, Higashichuo, and the majority of its affiliate churches were burned down from air raids. Since all of you were forced to abandon the land where you originally established your congregations and have relocated to new areas, I imagine that your adversity was several times worse than mine. I propose to have Higashichuo buy the property and donate it to Keijo. I request that we change the purpose for this meeting to decide whether or not you will accept what I’ve proposed.”

Everyone turned their gaze to Rev. Kashiwagi. The mood at the meeting was altered in an instant, emboldening people here and there to state and resolve: “Kashiwagi-san also lost everything. We can’t allow just one person to take up this burden. I promise to do anything that I can.”

The decision was made to purchase the property.

It was easy enough to make such promises. Would the promises be fulfilled? Rev. Kashiwagi began to feel some apprehension. Should he return to Tokyo or not? He furiously devoted himself toward o-tasuke and singly prayed for God the Parent’s blessings.

Members and ministers of churches affiliated to Higashichuo also put in their best efforts. As a result, he was able raise cash from the ashes of his church. Since public safety was poor immediately after the war, Rev. Kashiwagi bundled the bills together in a belly-warmer, wrapped it around his waist, rigorously put on several layers of clothing, and boarded a steam train. He remained standing all the way to Tokyo with both hands firmly at his waist.

When he arrived, he removed the belly-warmer and handed the bills to Rev. Okuma. Taking them in his hands, Rev. Okuma simply sat there speechless with his head down. Rev. Kashiwagi also remained silent, bowed with both hands placed on the tatami floor, unable to bring himself to raise his head. Then, at that moment, Rev. Okuma’s hot teardrop fell with a plop on his knuckle.

Reference: Higashichūō Daikyōkai shōshi kō.

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

Supplemental information

Rev. Kuraji Kashiwagi served as the first head minister of Tenrikyo Higashichuo Daikyokai [天理教東中央大教会] between 1928 and 1953 as third head minister between 1956 and 1963. Higashichuo currently oversees 65 bunkyokai and 49 fukyosho, including Hawaii Central Church in Honolulu.