Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 3 (part two: Insight from Inoue Akio sensei)

Happy Valentines Day, everyone!

Last time, I cut short my discussion on Anecdotes 3 before going into it too deeply; I’d like to pick up where I left off by summarizing an article (2003) from Tenrikyo theologian and intellectual heavyweight, Akio Inoue sensei. (Please refer to the previous post for the actual content of Anecdotes 3 itself.)

Before I start, I just want to say I’m realistic that it’s nearly impossible to give an effective and representative summary of everything Inoue sensei covers in this 44-page article and do it justice.

I mean, even a four page version found in the January 2002 copy of Michi no tomo did not do this article justice in my eyes, so I’m not even going to pretend I will be able to do anything better in a single blog post. The best I can aspire to is to pick up some interesting ideas that Inoue sensei brought up and present them here one by one.

(Disclaimer: Any misrepresentations of Inoue sensei’s ideas or mistranslations from his article are the responsibility of mine alone.)

First, Inoue sensei begins his presentation by mentioning that “kura” (倉・蔵・庫) (storehouse/warehouse) originally referred to a sacred place where objects dedicated to the Kami were stored (2003, 151). Kura were also a symbol of a household’s wealth and status (ibid, 152).

He speculates that while a kura may be a building secondary in importance compared to the main house (i.e., the actual living space) of a property, kura nevertheless historically and culturally held a religious purpose as a sacred space (ibid, 155). The rest of the article is structured in the following manner:

  1. “Uchigura” (the Storehouse) and “Hinagata” (the Divine Model)
  2. The location of the “Uchigura”
  3. “Uchigura” and “Revelation”
  4. “Uchigura” and “Oyasama”
  5. “Uchigura” and “Translation”
  6. “Uchigura” and “Mune no uchi
  7. “Uchigura” and the “Truth of Origin”
  8. “Uchigura” and “Mirrors”
  9. “Uchigura” and “Silence”
  10. “Uchigura” and the “Future”

The source of Anecdotes 3 assumed to be the first Shinbashira Shinnosuke Nakayama’s Oyasama gyoden (an early biography on Oyasama) where the details ultimately are based on the oral account from Oyasama’s younger brother Hanbei Maegawa.

The account from Oyasama gyoden reads: “I have heard that within ten days after God spoke through Oyasama, She entered the storehouse according to God’s wishes and rarely came out for the next three years.” It is believed that Oyasama did not completely confine herself during this time since she did have a young daughter (Kokan, born in 1837) to look after.

According to another work from the first Shinbashira, after Oyasama became the Shrine of God, her physical condition became critical, where she had her eyes closed over the next ten days. According to the same source, a messenger was sent to the Maegawas. When Hanbei rushed to the scene, Oyasama said she had waiting for his arrival and gave God’s command to take down the roof tiles from the southeast corner of the house (158–159).

Note the account here differs somewhat from the one that is given in The Life of Oyasama (refer to pages 19 to 20 of the third edition. Also note that Oyasama’s younger brother is here referred to as Hanzaburo and that there is absolutely no mention of Oyasama confining herself in the Uchigura or the storehouse).

Inoue sensei then brings up the important point that we have nothing recorded in Scripture or elsewhere that clearly gives the reason why Oyasama confined herself in the Uchigura. Thus, we can only speculate the reason. He notes there has been little or no attempt to contemplate the significance of why the Divine Model begins with Oyasama entering the Uchigura.

He then writes, “If the path of the Divine Model is the embodiment of Tenrikyo doctrine with warm blood flowing in its veins [as written in Tenrikyo jiten], then our first concern when contemplating the path of the Divine Model is to draw our focus and inquire what teachings we can draw from the fact that the starting point of the Divine Model is Oyasama confining herself in the ‘Uchigura'” (160).

Moving on to the subject of the actual location of the Uchigura, Inoue sensei explains that there were a number of buildings that stood on the Nakayama property in 1838 that could have been the “Uchigura” (the Storehouse) that is mentioned in Anecdotes 3. According to the oral accounts of Narajiro Kajimoto (the youngest child of Oyasama’s daughter Haru), the Nakayamas had at one time three storehouses for pickled vegetables, rice, and cotton.

*Personal comment: This may explain the “uchi” (inner or inside) in front of the word kura/gura or storehouse. The “uchi” implies at least two buildings, an inner and outer. It is possible the three storehouses on the Nakayama property were lined next to one another and referred to as the inner, middle, and outer storehouses. But again, Inoue sensei comments later below suggest another reason for the modifier “uchi.”

Narajiro also mentioned that Oyasama’s Resting House was built on where the Uchigura once stood, a storehouse that he said was best described as one to store clothing (163). Inoue then went on to state that although there is no clear proof, his intuition tells him that the building where Oyasama confined herself was the southernmost storehouse as drawn on diagrams of the Nakayama property, especially if there was a hallway between the storehouse and the room in the Nakayama main house where Oyasama sat when God first spoke through her (164). He then writes:

It would truly be consistent with the divine truth for the Jiba, the spot where we are taught was the place where human beings were first conceived, to coincide with the place where God the Parent first entered Oyasama. Although it is not found on the diagrams, I would like to deduce that Oyasama confined Herself for three years in the building that adjoins the room of the main house where the revelation leading to the beginning of Tenrikyo was delivered.

It is noteworthy that this configuration would mean the “Uchigura” was located north of the Jiba, unmistakably the position (literally, hōi or “direction”) of the dancer representing Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto1 in the Inner Sanctuary where the Kanrodai Service is currently performed. Currently, the “Uchigura” is enclosed by the Inner Sanctuary where the Service is performed (ibid.).

Inoue sensei then poses the following question: What was Oyasama doing during the three years in which she confined herself in the storehouse?

Just to give my personal assumption in the theological sense based on my reading of Tenrikyo literature so far, I’ve always presumed that God the Parent transmitted the teachings to Oyasama and that there was an inner dialogue between them in the storehouse during these three years. But again, this is just my personal assumption.

Shozen Nakayama, the second Shibashira, once suggested that Oyasama “contemplated” (my attempt of a translation of nette orareta or neru) on the thoughts of God the Parent in order to think of how to convey God’s words to humanity (167).2

Since I lack the disciplinary stamina to effectively summarize the rest of the article, I’ll just resort to translating the remaining portions that I feel are directly relevant to the topic of the Uchigura:

If we tag along with the reasoning that efforts to help save individuals equals making efforts toward world salvation, the revelation of the “Uchigura” amounts to the opening of the portals of enlightenment (satori). In our case, world salvation does not mean to come out of the “Uchigura.” World salvation first starts when we head toward the “Uchigura” where Oyasama confined Herself. In other words, it is in this “Uchigura” where human beings first have a direct meeting with God and where we present our “innermost heart” or our personal “mirror” that reflects the divine intention.

Oyasama confined Herself in the “Uchigura” alone; She did not take someone from Her family or a follower with Her. At the starting point of the path of the Divine Model, faith is a matter of each individual and each person. Oyasama indicated that we can meet God and begin our deep contemplation (shian) in the solitary space that is cut off from the light, in a dimension separate from the ordinary world not through words, but Her action of confining Herself in the “Uchigura.” The “Uchigura” was a place of revelation that we cannot overlook (179).

It is worthy to note that Oyasama did not confine herself in the “Uchigura” for three years straight without break. In Anecdotes, we read, “She often confined Herself in the storehouse (Uchigura) according to the will of God.”

But what on earth does this mean? As long as the building in which She confined Herself was a “kura” (storehouse/warehouse), it must have had doors and a lock that “cut” it off from the everyday world. However, as an “inner storehouse” adjoined to the main house, the “Uchigura” was not separated by courtyard as an “outer storehouse” would be. It must have been connected by a hallway or a parlor.

In other words, Oyasama went back and forth between a space that “joined” the everyday human realm and the mystical realm of God…. I imagine that, for Oyasama, the distance of the “hallway” between the sacred and the mundane that led to the “Uchigura”— the “hallway” that led to the human realm where no one knew the thoughts of God the Parent — must have been a distance greater than any we could ever envision (182–183).

Towards the end of the Ofudesaki, we are taught, “I shall not repeat what I have said until now. From now on, you need only to be spiritually awakened (satori3)”(17:71). If enlightenment (satori) is something God provides us in the “Uchigura,” then we must raise the question that asks what Oyasama’s act of confining Herself in the “Uchigura” means as a part of the Divine Model in which She set for followers in the present.

“Uchigura” refers to a quiet space where one sits alone. Further, it is a world that is infinitely solitary. Such a place is not a space where multitudes gather to debate and discuss. In other words, it is essentially different world where multiple individuals work while aiming toward unity of mind. For this reason alone, there is an inherent danger. Enlightenment emerges from an individual. This is because faith is a matter of each individual and each person (189–190).

The key term that accompanies “Uchigura” is the verb “confine” (komoru).4 Oyasama did not hide in the “Uchigura.” The lesson Oyasama teaches through Her Divine Model can be interpreted as an encouragement for each us to head toward our very own “Uchigura” or spiritual space. Thus, this would mean that our efforts “Toward world salvation,” the title of this very presentation, begins with us heading toward an “Uchigura” we have produced on our own. Those who are not aware of this “Uchigura” and unable to produce it on a day-to-day basis as the starting point in their effort to follow Oyasama’s Divine Model cannot stand at the starting line of faith….

The mundane space of the “Uchigura” transformed into a sacred space with Oyasama’s confinement. This specialized spot is now enclosed in the Inner Sanctuary where the Kanrodai Service is performed. The “Uchigura” that existed directly after the beginning of Tenrikyo does not exist now; the “Uchigura” preserved as one of the historical buildings was built in 1881. However, the “Uchigura” that is part of the path of the Divine Model is still with us. The immaterial “Uchigura” is not a historical artifact, but a teaching revealing the path of the Divine Model (191–192).

These quotes from Inoue sensei already offer much to contemplate on that I won’t even try to add anything else here. But the importance of the many other insights he presents may ultimately prompt me to translate the entire article in the near future.

Though I could be completely wrong about this, I cannot help but come away with the impression that Inoue sensei is suggesting for Tenrikyo followers to spend some time in silent contemplation. (Or even something similar to the meditation done in the Zen tradition?)

I heard once from a particular minister that the time we spend bowed in prayer should be spent engaged in a one-way dialogue with God the Parent and Oyasama. He even specified that there ought to be a difference in the content of these dialogues: He suggested one should concentrate on appreciating the many forms of divine protection with God the Parent, and have a more personal dialogue with Oyasama where we declare our plans for the day in the morning to her and announce the developments in our lives at the end of the day.

I have since taken this recommendation to heart and apply it in my daily prayers. But Inoue sensei seems to be suggesting a manner of contemplation on a much deeper level than this… his statement, “Those who are not aware of this “Uchigura” and unable to produce it on a day-to-day basis as the starting point in their effort to follow Oyasama’s Divine Model cannot stand at the starting line of faith” admittedly made me jump in my seat.

Then a thought occurred to me this morning: Could the “three years” in which Oyasama spent in the Uchigura be a daily formula for Tenrikyo followers? If we were to give a ratio she spent in the Uchigura compared to the rest of her time as the Shrine of God, it would be a 1:16 ratio: Oyasama spent her time on earth as the Shrine of God from 10/26/1838 to 1/26/1887, roughly 48 years. Three years to 48 gives us a 1:16 ratio. People more or less spend an average of 16 hours of the day awake. Are we here being encouraged to spend an hour (or 30 minutes in the morning and evening) of our waking day in contemplation or dialogue with God?

To think a short selection from Anecdotes would provide much depth and food for thought!

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


  • Inoue Akio. 2002. “Sekai tasuke e mukete – 3 “Uchigura.” Michi no tomo 112 no. 1 (January 2002/R165), pp. 54–57
  • _________. 2003. “Uchigura no danji-teki kaishaku.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata, pp. 151–196.
  • Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, ed. 1997. Kaitei Tenrikyō jiten. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
  • Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1996 [1967]. The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo (third edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.


  1. Refer to Chapter Four of The Doctrine of Tenrikyo for more on what is called the “ten aspects of the complete providence of God the Parent.”
  2. Original quote can be found in Nakayama Shozen. Dai jūrokkai kōgikōshū-kai daiichiji kōshūroku bassui, pp. 144–145.
  3. I would personally translate “satori” here as “enlightened” instead of “spiritually awakened.” In the official translation of the Ofudesaki, “satori” has also been translated as “understanding.” (See Ofudesaki 3:7, 12, 14; 4:46–47; 4:72–73; 5:16; 6:101 to compare the various ways “satori” has been translated.)
  4. Inoue sensei highlights the significance of the verb “komoru” by presenting a number instances where it appears in the Ofudesaki (12:162 and 6:63; as “iri-komu” in 15:60–61). Although the verbs are used to describe an action done by God the Parent in these verses (officially translated as “dwells/dwelling” in 12:162 and 6:63; “enter/enters” in 15:60–61), I nevertheless have begun to wonder if “confine” is the best English equivalent for “komoru” when it comes to Anecdotes 3. While I kept with “confine” for the sake of consistency in this article, I cannot help but think there must be a better way to translate the term; certainly a small but necessary task to save for the future.