Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 6

6. Seeing His Heart

In 1852, Okoyo, the elder sister of Chusaku Tsuji of Toyoda Village, while going to the Residence for sewing lessons from Oyasama, noticed an especially gentle nature in Okimi, the third daughter of Oyasama. Because the mother of Sojiro Kajimoto was from the Tsuji family, Okoyo recommended Okimi highly to the Kajimoto family of Ichinomoto. The Kajimoto family accepted the idea and proposed marriage between Okimi and Sojiro. Chusaku Tsuji was to act as matchmaker. To this proposal Oyasama replied:

“If it is Sojiro, there is no need for a meeting between the two. I see the fine quality of his heart. Take her.”

It is said that Sojiro was called “Sojiro the Buddha” by the villagers because he had been a kind and gentle person from childhood.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 2–3

Translation of “Sawa’s comment”

“Oharu is the mother of the first Shinbashira. The Kajimoto household would later establish Kajiso Bunkyokai (“branch church”).

“I did some research since I found it to be strange for a 17-year-old Chusaku Tsuji to be the matchmaker [nakodo, also translated as “go-between”]. I found that three generations of [the heir to] the Tsuji family were named Chusaku.”

My take

This research from Mr. “Sawa” certainly helps clear things a bit. The “Chusaku Tsuji” that acted as a go-between Haru and Sojiro is not the same Chusaku Tsuji that is mentioned briefly in the beginning (as the brother of Koyo) who also appears prominently in the pages of The Life of Oyasama and elsewhere in Anecdotes (such as 9), but his and Koyo’s father.

A high-ranking minister shared the same information in passing in a lecture during the “Course for Head-Minister Candidates” I once had the opportunity to provide simultaneous interpretation for, so there must be compelling evidence that supports this.

Things would be probably clearer in the passage above if the first “Chusaku Tsuji” was dropped altogether (ala “In 1852, Koyo Tsuji of Toyoda Village…” And besides, it irks me whenever a woman is introduced in Japanese texts, her name is often followed by the name of a man she is most readily identified with — whether it is her father, husband, or brother.

It implies that a woman is not even worthy of mention unless her name is accompanied with a name of a man. Shame on Tenrikyo Church Headquarters to perpetuate such an outdated convention! Wasn’t there no discrimination between female pine and male pine?).

Anyway… I would also like to mention that I don’t see sunao rendered in the translation. Is “gentle” supposed to be the intended translation? Hmmm….

Mr. “Sawa” does an unexpected thing in his blog that posts the original of Anecdotes 6: He actually adds a sentence (in red) right after the quote from Oyasama, which I will hastily translate as, “The Kajimotos mentioned that although there are people from the general public who give Oyasama a bad reputation, since Haru is the daughter of a woman who works to help/save others, they accepted the marriage proposal without conducting a marriage meeting (o-mi-ai).”

I would really like to know where Mr. Sawa picked this up. (Let me also mention here while I’m at it that Mr. Sawa’s blog sometimes has accompanying photos that have nothing to do with the content of the actual anecdotes. The diagram accompanying his post however, is the Kajimoto family tree showing the names of Haru, Sojiro, and their seven children.)

Moving on, allow me to briefly fill the gap in historical narrative between earlier anecdotes and this one (or between 1838 and 1852). After God is said to have spoken through Oyasama for the first time on 10/23/1838 (partially described in Anecdotes 2), she spent most of the next three years confined in the storehouse “according to the will of God” (as described in Anecdotes 3).

Although we have no conclusive evidence that tells us exactly when she began to give away her personal possessions and those belonging to the Nakayama family, it can imagined that she received God’s instructions to “fall to the depths of poverty” (related in Anecdotes 4 and 5) either during or after these three years she spent in the storehouse. The extent of Oyasama’s charity alarmed the people around her. Chapter Three of The Life of Oyasama reads as follows:

But Zenbei as well as the rest of the family and relatives, seeing that Her words and deeds had become quite different from those of ordinary people, became anxious, wondering if She had become bereft of reason or possessed by some evil spirit. They tried everything in their power to restore Her to normal. They burned pine needles and incense sticks and lit purifying fires, all the while crying in their hearts, “If you are insane, be restored to sense; if possessed, away with the evil spirit!” (p. 18).

Eventually, Oyasama began to relay God’s command to take down the roof tiles and the gable walls (called “takabei” or “udatsu“) of the main house of the Nakayama property, which led to villagers and relatives to treat her and her family as outcasts. There is then a gap for almost ten years here (I do not know of any dates that specify when the roof tiles and gable walls were actually removed). According to The Life of Oyasama, she began to teach girls sewing in 1848 for the purpose to “prove that She was neither possessed by an evil spirit nor bereft of reason” (p. 25).

Oyasama is said to have taught sewing for five years, until 1852 (Yamochi 98). The main significance of this activity — in addition to serving as an early way to “sprinkle the fragrance” (ibid.) — is that it led to the marriage of her daughter Haru, which must have been a rare source of relief to Zenbei Nakayama, Oyasama’s husband, amidst the great uncertainty he felt for his family’s future ever since he agreed to have God to take his wife as a “living shrine”.

This marriage between Haru and Kajimoto Sojiro was most significant in that their third son Shinnosuke was eventually adopted as the heir of the Nakayama family and became the first Shinbashira, or Tenrikyo’s administrative and spiritual leader.

Anecdotes 6 above describes the marriage was “happily arranged” after Oyasama said she saw “the fine quality” of Sojiro’s heart (the Japanese is “kokoro no utsukushii no o mite,” which to me suggests “purity of heart”, but I find there really isn’t a significant difference between the two that would make me insist on making a change in the translation). As “happily” as the marriage may have been arranged, as I read Anecdotes 6 here, I could not help but think of how the marriage ended with Haru’s tragic passing in 1872. (For those who do not wish to know any more, stop reading here!)

Although neither The Life of Oyasama nor Anecdotes describe Haru’s passing in much detail (the former text just mentions it in passing), we are fortunate that there are a few other sources that do. Tatsuzo Yamochi sensei, who is more familiar with these sources than I am at the moment, mentions in his commentary on The Life of Oyasama on how  Sojiro Kajimoto and Shuji Nakayama had a small argument at an autumn festival drinking party.

Sojiro’s festive mood was ruined as a result, causing him to drink recklessly. He later turned to his wife and said: “Oh, Haru, daughter of a land-rich peasant of Shoyashiki Village. I’m just a blacksmith. Didn’t you make a mistake marrying a blacksmith? I certainly made a mistake. How unworthy I am for a daughter of a god! Wouldn’t you be better off dead?”1

While Koji Sato sensei and Yamochi sensei seem to differ on when this incident actually happened2, they both write that Sojiro’s outburst resulted in Haru’s passing and they caution readers not to speak any “cutting words” (kiri kojo [切り口上]) or “words of rejection” (sute kotoba) to others.3 Yamochi sensei writes that when Sojiro clutched Haru’s lifeless body and demanded “Why did you die?”, Oyasama said: “You know, Sojiro, didn’t you say you wished for this to happen? All God did was but make your words come true. There is no reason for you to grieve.”4

It would not be unreasonable for one to think here: “Didn’t Oyasama acknowledge the ‘fine quality’ of Sojiro’s heart? Shouldn’t Oyasama have seen this coming?” My response to this would be: Oyasama may have seen this coming all along but the marriage between Haru and Sojiro was so important in the short term that it superseded such concerns.

Also, it’s possible that this lesson of not saying any “cutting words” or “words of rejection” must have been so important that Oyasama allowed it so that her son-in-law would one day say something that would bring about Haru’s untimely passing. When I consider how even someone whose heart Oyasama acknowledged as having a “fine quality” nevertheless caused his wife to pass away with his “cutting words,” it certainly makes me, whose heart is of questionable quality, to hope and pray that I will never make a similar mistake myself.

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


  • Satō Kōji. 2004. Omichi no jōshiki. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha. 
  • Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1996 [1967]. The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo (third edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
  • Yamochi Tatsuzō. Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama den nyūmon jikkō. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.

For further reading

  • The Life of Oyasama, Chapter Three (esp. pp. 18–25)


  1. Yamochi 241–242.
  2. Sato sensei has Haru’s passing occurring within several days of Sojiro’s outburst (82) while Yamochi sensei has it coming about a year after (242).
  3. Yamochi sensei also adds a caution against saying anything that “lacks even a hint of affection” (aisō tzukashi) (243). Sato sensei happens to tackle the same subject elsewhere in his book without referring to this particular episode (228, 230–231).
  4. Yamochi 243.