Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 3 (part one)

3. The Storehouse

After Oyasama had become the living Shrine of God the Parent on October 26, 1838, She often confined Herself in the storehouse according to the will of God. However, when in the same year pain returned to Shuji’s leg, becoming so acute that he had to be moved on a stretcher, Oyasama breathed on his leg and applied a piece of paper to the affected area. The pain was gone in about ten days.

It is said that Oyasama continued to confine Herself in the storehouse for a period of three years.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 1–2

General comments

Before I comment on the Anecdotes 3 itself, I must mention here that I personally object to the convention of rendering a lunar calendar date (Tenpo 9/10/26) into a Western date as it is always done in Tenrikyo publication in English, because technically, “October 26, 1838 ” here is not October 26, 1838 (It’s actually December 12, 1838, Gregorian).

Even putting “lunar” somewhere before “October 26, 1838 ” or in parenthesis does not make it any more accurate, because there is no such thing as a “lunar October” date since Gregorian months (or our modern calendar months) are not based on the movements of the moon. It’s best to write it in numerals — “10/26/1838 (lunar)” — or, even though it’s really awkward to read, “the 26th of the tenth lunar month of 1838.”

I know it may seem I’m being excessively nitpicky, but it is an important issue in the eyes of scholars in East Asian Studies.

Yet bringing this issue up naturally leads to questions about why Tenrikyo celebrates the beginning of Tenrikyo on October 26 of each year instead of the lunar calendar date. (Dates important to the Tenrikyo tradition such as Grand Services (Taisai) were celebrated on the lunar calendar dates until Tenrikyo’s sectarian independence from Shinto in 1908.1)

I believe it is for the sake of convenience — who really is aware of the lunar calendar dates on a regular basis in our present day and age other than ritual specialists of other religious traditions? Traditional Japanese holidays such as Setsubun, Girls Day, Children’s Day, Tanabata, etc. tend to be celebrated according to Gregorian dates over their lunar calendar dates.

I am not going to get into this issue any further other than pointing out that a lunar 26th means the moon is a waning crescent (the 1st is a new moon, the 15th is the full moon). Does a “waning crescent moon” have some deep significance? (Such as, perhaps allowing the interpretation that the world will grow darker but the eventually future will be a bright one with God’s revelation of the so-called “final/ultimate teaching”?) I’ve wondered about this for some time, but I’ll leave the question open for now. Let’s get back to the Anecdotes 3 itself.

My take, Anecdotes 3

It is mentioned here that Oyasama treated Shuji’s leg pain — which could be perceived as God way of setting up the initial revelation from a year beforehand — by breathing on his leg and applying a piece of, I assume, rice paper. If this is accurate, it means that it is the first instance where Oyasama used this particular “healing technique” on someone. (There are a number of examples of the same in Tenrikyo literature.)

Yet it must be mentioned that Shuji’s leg pain would return some years later, and is alluded to in a number of verses in the Ofudesaki. This leg pain is complex in regards to its connection with the divine intention: followers cannot ignore its profound connection with the historical beginning of Tenrikyo. But that the reoccurrence of Shuji’s leg pain many years later is potentially connected to his actions that are unacceptable in God eyes cannot be completely dismissed either.2

While I wish to discuss the content of this Anecdotes 3 further — particularly on the significance of Oyasama “confining” herself in the storehouse for three years — I will do it next time since I know it is going to get lengthy and complicated. I’d like to end this post with a light-hearted note.

Episode from Hawaii Dendocho Fusekomi

When I was a temporary live-in (seinen) at Tenrikyo Hawaii Mission Headquarters (Dendocho), I used to switch with someone reading Anecdotes out loud in English after each evening service. The “reader’s” copy had the Japanese title without the furigana (kana reading) written in with pencil or pen (I don’t recall which). The task of the “reader” each evening was to announce the Anecdote number, pages, titles in English and Japanese before leading everyone in reading the English translation.

I remember reading the kanji wrong for the title of this particular selection one night — I read the kanji in the Sino-Japanese manner — “naizo,” which means “guts” or “internal organs” — instead of the actual title of “Uchigura.”

I didn’t really realize my mistake until the (then) bishop’s wife pointed it out to me later and warned me about it. The funny thing about her warning was, Mrs. Yoshikawa is usually very gentle, calm and collected, but I clearly had grossed her out by saying “naizo” (“guts!”) out loud after evening service.

Mentioning this memory of mine is certainly unnecessary here since it gives us absolutely no insight about the meaning of Anecdotes 3, but I wanted to mention it anyway since it never fails to put a smile on my face whenever I recall it. We’ll save the more serious stuff until next time.

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


  1. Nakayama Shozen, Dai jūrokkai kōgikōshū-kai daiichiji kōshūroku bassui, p. 14.
  2. For further reading on Shuji’s leg pain, see: Ofudesaki (1:31–32, 37–38; 15:24); The Footsteps of the Predecessors 66: Prepared to Risk His Life.