Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 32

32. It Depends on the Wife’s Word

When she was in her teens, Yasu, daughter of Rihei Matsuda of Kosaka Village in Yamato, helped cook for Oyasama for several years. Oyasama said:

“When a meal you have cooked is brought in, my heart seems to open up,”

and She enjoyed Yasu’s cooking. Her meal consisted of rice gruel with a few soybeans. When it was not busy, there were times when Yasu was alone with Oyasama. During these times, Oyasama taught Yasu many things. On one such occasion, Oyasama taught her:

“Dear Yasu, a man, any man, is what a wife’s word makes him. Even if he is a man who is apt to be called a fool by others, if his wife treats him with respect and says politely, ‘Welcome home, dear,’ when he comes home, people will say, ‘Although we call him a fool, judging by the respectful way his wife treats him, he must be a great man.’ Whether the husband becomes a great man or a fool depends on the wife’s word.”

When Yasu was twenty-three, Oyasama arranged a marriage for her into the Inui family of Shoyashiki Village. The meeting of the prospective bride and groom was held in Oyasama’s room. At that time, Oyasama said:

“God says, ‘This person and that person.’ In this way, the matter is settled. After it is settled, do not sever it. If it is severed, the one who severs it will be severed.”

Then She moved Her hands three times, saying:

“Good, good, very good.”

, pp. 25–26

Translation of “Sawa’s note

“[Reference is] Go-zonmei no koro by Tomoji Takano and documents from Shikinori Daikyokai. Rihei Matsuda was from Kosaka, Tawaramoto-cho in Shiki County. He became the head of the Kosaka Village Confraternity as well as the vice-director of the Shinjitsu-gumi Confraternity (which later became Shikinori Daikyokai; the confraternity head was Kisaburo Maegawa).”

My take (Two central lessons)

Anecdotes 32 appears to contain two central lessons:

  1. “A man is what a wife’s word makes him” and
  2. “Do not sever” a marriage arranged by God

At first glance, Oyasama’s instruction to Yasu to welcome her husband kindly and politely when he comes home appears somewhat antiquated in this day and age when women are deservedly making significant contributions to the work force. Still, Oyasama’s assertion that “Whether the husband becomes a great man or a fool depends on the wife’s word” somehow makes me think of the first couple.

During Barack Obama’s presidential run, Michelle Obama sometimes made depreciating comments about her husband, which some observers saw as having a positive effect on him, a way to keep him grounded, down-to-earth so to speak, while the campaign was ongoing.

While Oyasama’s instruction to women is about treating their husbands with respect so people will come to have respect for them as well, Michelle Obama was in the unique position of having a spouse running for U.S. President. She used humor to offset the exponential growth in attention and stature Barack Obama was getting in a constructive manner. Although the Obamas might not prove to be the most obvious or most convincing example, I’d still like to believe that Michelle Obama’s humor did play a significant role in her husband’s election win and demonstrates the relevancy of Oyasama’s lesson that “A man is what a wife’s word makes him.”

The recent row over how the wife of the new boss of British intelligence posted personal details on a Facebook account also provokes the reflection, that yes, some forethought from a spouse is indeed very much appreciated, especially those who are subject to public scrutiny in this day and age of the Internet. (But I’m as far from a public figure as you can get. And since my wife doesn’t really surf the web, I readily concede I’m the one that needs to practice more discretion in my case.)

The second central lesson of Anecdotes 32 to not to sever a marriage arranged by God has prompted the following commentary in Ikiru kotoba:

Oyasama said these words when a marriage was settled between a man and a woman. In essence, God the Parent creates ties between married couples. In the Ofudesaki, we read: “I bring you together according to the causality of your previous lives and protect you. This settles the matter for all time” (1:74). From God’s perspective, husband and wife ought to match with the other, so we are warned against cutting this tie as a result of fallible human thinking (p. 157).

Nevertheless, reality is that even though each couple may be brought together by God’s arrangement, couples still divorce at increased rates in modern societies. God might have brought a couple together but either one or both of them have the freedom to make the decision to separate and hire lawyers if it is deemed necessary.

There are some cases when, especially when the couple has no children, divorce might even be considered a blessing. When divorce appears to be the only available option, there is a little-known view in the Tenrikyo tradition that “even divorced couples are encouraged to retain their relationship as ‘brothers and sisters’ of the path” (Sato 2004, p. 247).

Nevertheless, as Oyasama’s instruction implies — “If it is severed, the one who severs it will be severed” — she teaches that the one who decides to do the severing does so at their own risk.

An inquiry into the historical figures provides little insight (for now)

Okay, on to some geeky rambling on my part on the identity of the historical figures mentioned in this story. (The faint of heart are more than free to skip and ignore this section.) Other than a brief mention in The Life of Oyasama, I have little to go on who Matsuda Rihei is.1

Is he the ancestor of the Matsuda family who later produced the former Bishop of the U.S., Motoo Matsuda sensei?2

I can’t say for sure at the moment. But more information on Rihei Matsuda and his daughter Yasu (Anecdotes 32 is her only appearance in both The Life of Oyasama and Anecdotes of Oyasama) might provide further insights.

As for who the Inuis are, it is mentioned in The Life of Oyasama (p. 3) that they were relatives of Ichibei Nakano, the “ascetic monk” that oversaw the “incantation” that preceded God’s initial revelation through Oyasama (described in my discussion of Anecdotes 2).

This might be wishful thinking on my part, but they could be the same family mentioned in the Ofudesaki notes, or at least their relatives. Although her last name is not mentioned, “Fusa, mother of Kanbei… from Tatsuta Village, came to worship” (p. 481, note regarding verse 3:64) was also an Inui.

My case is shaky if one takes into consideration that the Inuis mentioned in Anecdotes 32 were from Shoyashiki Village and Fusa and Kanbei were from Tatsuta Village, located 15 kilometers away. Although 15 kilometers is nothing today, I doubt that people in rural Japan in the late 19th century were very mobile. While there is very much the possibility that the two families were related, I would argue against any speculation that the Inuis relocated from Shoyashiki to Tatsuta.

Yet the reason why I wish to make the connection between the two Inuis despite considerable evidence against it is that the Tenrikyo jiten mentions that Inui Fusa was also a recipient of a grant known as the gonjō no sazuke (Sazuke of Speech or Divine Utterance) sometime in the year 1864 (p. 361). This contradicts the claims of most Tenrikyo sources that insist Izo Iburi was the only person who ever received this grant from Oyasama.

If the information that Fusa was a recipient of the Sazuke of Divine Utterance can be trusted, it is possible to assert that Oyasama would have had much motivation to send someone she held in high esteem — as Yasu seemed to have been — to marry into the Inui family. (I admit this is very likely not a very religious or “orthodox” way of looking at things. An orthodox interpretation would probably not attribute such a “human” motivation to Oyasama.)

The story above, unfortunately, provides no clear date for the marriage. Its place in the chronological sequence of Anecdotes of Oyasama suggests 1872 or 1873. A source claims that Fusa was strongly discouraged by her family members from participating in Tenrikyo after the passing of her son Kanbei in 1877 (TJKH p. 561). Did Matsuda Yasu marry Inui Kanbei? Or was it another Inui altogether? (Even though I would like to argue otherwise, evidence leans toward the latter.)

In either case, one would have to conclude that the marriage did not appear to produce results from a narrow, utilitarian perspective. To elaborate, as far as I am aware, Inui was never a prominent surname among the leading Tenrikyo congregation at any point in its history. Any information on what happened to Yasu after she married into the Inui family would be greatly welcomed, even if the information only served to satisfy my curiosity.

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


Further reading


  1. The passage reads, “On August 17 (1876), Chusaku Tsuji, Gisaburo Nakata, Isaburo Masui, and others went to Kosaka Village, Yamato Province, at the request of Rihei Matsuda, to pray for rain” (p. 102). According to the Ofudesaki chushaku (official commentary on the Ofudesaki first published in 1928), verses 12:155–156 are related to this particular episode (p. 195).
  2. Matsuda sensei is the current principal of Tenri Kyoko Gakuen High School and an accomplished songwriter of various Tenrikyo songs. Works include “O-Uta no. 10” and “Sayonara.” Click here to read a translation of one of his sermons.

    To update this post a bit, I have a hunch that it was Otojiro Matsuda (related somehow to Rihei?) who is the ancestor of the Matsuda clan at Church Headquarters. Since Otojiro reputedly played the shakuhachi, it would certainly make sense since the Matsudas are musically inclined.