34. Tsukihi Has Granted It
In the spring of 1873, Hyoshiro Kami married Tsune. Later, when she became pregnant, Hyoshiro returned to Jiba to receive the Grant of Safe Childbirth. Oyasama said to him:
“Take home as much of the washed rice as you want.”
And She Herself instructed him:
“Sah, sah, divide the washed rice into three portions. Have your wife take one portion after you get home, another when her labor begins, and the third one right after delivery.
If you do as I tell you, your wife will not need a leaning post, special dietary restrictions or an obstetrical binder. Let her use a pillow, and do as usual. Do not worry even a little. You must not worry. Never doubt. This place is the Residence where human beings were first created. This is the parental home. Be sure never to doubt. Once Tsukihi has said, ‘I grant it,’ you are surely granted it.”
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“Hyoshiro Kami wrote [the above down] in 1901. He was the first head minister of Tokai Daikyokai.”
Supplemental information from Taimo
“Hyoshiro Kami 加見兵四郎: Born in 1843 in Kasama Village, Shikijo County, Yamato Province.1
“Comes to worship to Shoyashiki and meets with Oyasama on his way home from sightseeing in Nara in 1872. He comes with his wife Tsune to Shoyashiki to receive the Grant of Safe Childbirth for her first pregnancy the following year. He is installed as the first head minister of Tokai Shikyokai, affiliate of Shikishima Bunkyokai (Currently Tokai Daikyokai) in 1893. Passed away for rebirth in 1918 at the age of 76.”
On the Grant of Safe Childbirth (Obiya-yurushi)
Anecdotes 34 here concerns the Grant of Safe Childbirth. This was a grant, as the name implies, that began Oyasama to offer guaranteeing an expectant mother a smooth delivery in an age without modern medicine, when childbirth was potentially fatal for the mother and baby.
A little background (historical and theological) on the Grant of Safe Childbirth itself: Oyasama first administered the Grant of Safe Childbirth to her daughters Haru Kajimoto in 1854 and Masa Fukui in 1855 (Nakayama 1986, pp. 37–38). Though it was not until 1858 when Oyasama offered the grant to a woman outside her family, she became renown in Yamato Province as a living goddess of safe childbirth by 1862 or 1863.
Theologically speaking, Oyasama is said to have stated the following about the Grant of Safe Childbirth, “I grant this from the Residence as proof of the origin of mankind — [from] the Parent of Origin, the Jiba of Origin” (ibid. 40).
Thus the Tenrikyo tradition maintains that the divine powers the villagers attribute to Oyasama were ultimately derived from “the Parent of Origin,” the creator of human beings, and the “Residence” or Nakayama family property, where humanity is considered to have been first conceived. It has been also said that Oyasama “opened the path to all miracles of salvation” with this particular grant (The Life of Oyasama, p. 35).
Oyasama also urged expectant mothers to reject the prevailing childbearing customs of the times and instead asked them to rely wholeheartedly on God for protection. Anecdotes 34 happens to mention a number of childbirth/pregnancy-related practices.
Such childbearing practices included wearing an abdominal band or sash (mentioned as an “obstetrical binder” above). This band or binder was worn with the belief that it would help keep the developing fetus from growing too large and risk the mother in delivery (Matsuda p. 264). It has been surmised that the Japanese term for the Grant for Safe Childbirth — Obiya-yurushi — either refers to this abdominal sash (sometimes called an “obiya” 帯屋) or is a Yamato dialectic corruption of “ubuya” 産屋, a room that had its tatami mats removed in special preparation for childbirth (Tenrikyo jiten, p. 129). (“Yurushi” has been translated as “grant” but the term is also presently used to mean “favor,” “forgiveness,” and “permission.” See the entry ALC.co.jp for examples. But I must mention that I feel it also has the connotation of “liberation.”)
Other childbearing practices were dietary taboos2, and a belief in a period of 75 days postpartum of ritual pollution (kegare) that followed childbirth. In the ubuya birthrooms, “straw was laid and goza or a straw mattress was put on it. And on a thick layer of rags [the mothers] bore children” (Matsuda p. 263). The 75-day taboo required foods for the mother to be cooked in a separate pot and forbade her from going outside or even entering any room with tatami (ibid. 263–264).
In this sense, the Grant for Safe Childbirth represented a “liberation” from such childbearing customs in more ways than one. Shigeyoshi Murakami, a specialist in Japanese religions, further attributes the appeal of the Obiya-yurushi to the rejection of the impractical restriction on women that they refrain from stepping out of their ubuya for 75 days. The farmers of Yamato needed all the help that was available and young women were considered a vital source of manual labor (Murakami 1975, p. 46).
There appears to have been a time when Oyasama administered the Grant of Safe Childbirth by breathing and stroking the belly of the expectant mother three times each (as described in The Life of Oyasama, p. 28). The description here in Anecdotes 34 concerning Oyasama’s instructions to Hyoshiro to have Tsune partake three packets of washed (or rinsed) rice here is somewhat similar to the how it is bestowed today. Consider:
What is bestowed as the Grant of Safe Childbirth are three packets of sacred rice which have been blessed by the performance of the Service for Safe Childbirth at the Jiba.
After the applicant arrives home, she should take any one of the three. The first packet is called “sacred rice for safe carrying.” She should consume the contents after praying to God the Parent that the position of the developing fetus remain normal and that the child be carried safely to full term.
The second packet is called “sacred rice for quickness,” which is to be taken after the onset of labor pains. She should make a prayer, specifying the length of labor desired and asking that a safe delivery be made, and then consume the contents of this packet. This will allow her a safe and quick delivery. Further, the afterbirth will pass easily.
The third packet is called “sacred rice for purification and settling.” It is to be taken after the delivery is completed and the woman has returned to her bed. She should offer a prayer to God the Parent, expressing her gratitude for the safe delivery and asking for a smooth recovery from the physical changes that occurred during pregnancy and childbirth.
Anecdotes 34 appears to suggest that Oyasama herself switched the manner in which she administered the Grant of Safe Childbirth: from breathing and stroking to bestowing it with goku (“sacred gift”) to recipients. This change must have occurred sometime after the Grant of Safe Childbirth was made available in 1854 and before Tsune received it in 1873. It might prove insightful if a specific date could be pinpointed, but I doubt there are enough historical materials that would allow anyone to come up with a conclusive date.
I have to admit I became a little skeptical of the account described in Anecdotes 34 when discovering that, according to Mr. Sawa, Hyoshiro Kami sensei wrote down the account in 1901, almost 30 years after the fact. I have to wonder: Can Hyoshiro sensei’s memory be trusted? My doubts were aroused specifically regarding the descriptions of Oyasama bestowing rinsed rice instead of the sacred konpeito or sugar candies.
The current procedure for the current Grant of Safe Childbirth is said to have been established in a Divine Direction from February 25, 1887.3 (Oyasama “withdrew from physical life” exactly a week earlier, or on lunar 1/26.) Further, rinsed rice was not formally adopted as goku by Tenrikyo Church Headquarters until 1904.
That this is the only account I happen to know of in which the historical (as opposed to the post-withdrawal or “everliving”) Oyasama is described to have given rinsed rice to anyone as the goku for the Grant of Safe Childbirth initially made me somewhat suspicious of it. After checking other selections from Anecdotes of Oyasama in which the Grant of Safe Childbirth is mentioned — 66, 100, 151 — I have found that only 151 reveals the form the goku came in (konpeito).
Yet the following speculation suddenly occurred to me: Was it possible that Tsune Kami’s goku for her Grant of Safe Childbirth happened to be a lone exception for the time, but later gained importance for setting a precedence to use rinsed rice when Tenrikyo Church Headquarters was being pressured to no longer offer konpeito anymore? (Click here for more info.) I wonder. However, I do willingly concede that much more research needs to be done on the Grant for Safe Childbirth as well as goku and the many forms in came in throughout history — from hattaiko (roasted barley powder) to konpeito and then to rinsed rice.
Supplemental information from Yoshikazu Kami sensei
An ongoing series of articles in the weekly newspaper Tenri jiho (that I have referred to in earlier posts in my Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama) had one devoted to Hyoshiro Kami sensei that provides some revealing background information (Kami 2008). I’ll refrain from translating the whole article at this time, but I’ve decided to paraphrase a hefty amount here since it contained a gripping account of Hyoshiro’s childhood. The author of the article is Yoshikazu Kami, a fourth-generation descendant of Hyoshiro Kami. Here’s my loose paraphrase (I guess it can even be called a loose translation) of the first half of this article:
Hyoshiro was born 9/8/1843 (lunar) as the eldest son of Sojiro and Tami Kami. The Kami clan was relatively well-off. Sojiro lived with his younger brother Yahei and his family. However, while Sojiro was an affable man, he spent his time frolicking and drinking instead of working. Sojiro and his hard-working brother soon were on bad terms, and Yahei eventually forced Hyoshiro and his parents out of the home when he was six years old.
The family of three became a family of four with the birth of Hyoshiro’s younger sister Kiku as they drifted from place to place. Sojiro’s behavior remained unchanged, and Tami worked from early morning to late at night to support the family. It was not long before Tami tired of her derelict husband and divorced him, taking custody of Kiku and leaving Hyoshiro in his father’s care.
Sojiro continued to drift from house to house, relying on the good will of his relatives each time, but it did not take long before he was forced out again and again. He eventually found his way back to his hometown of Kasama where Yahei reluctantly took him in. Just as everyone thought Sojiro had finally settled down, he wandered away when Hyoshiro was eight years old.
Yahei sent Hyoshiro to his mother Tami, but she had since remarried and told him to go back to Kasama. This drama repeated itself dozens of times, and at one point Hyoshiro even considered throwing himself in a well. Yahei then decided to have Hyoshiro baby-sit his children. It is said that Hyoshiro slept with mud dolls at night to relieve himself of his loneliness.
Hyoshiro was later apprenticed to a tobacco plant called “Sakasa” from when he was ten until he was 24 years old. Abandoned by his father and mother, he spent his youth in these miserable circumstances.
Hyoshiro’s fortunes turned in 1873 when he married Tsune Okumine, who became pregnant soon afterward. Hyoshiro’s sister Kiku, concerned of his plight, then began to visit occasionally. She had become a follower of the path and when she learned her brother was expecting his first child, she informed Hyoshiro and Tsune that there was “a remarkable goddess in Shoyashiki Village who granted the protection of a smooth childbirth.” Hyoshiro then made his first return to the Residence to receive the Grant for Safe Childbirth for Tsune. (Refer again to Anecdotes 34 above for an account of the exchange between Oyasama and Hyoshiro Kami sensei.)
After receiving the rinsed rice that comprised the Grant for Safe Childbirth, Hyoshiro was skeptical, thinking: “Is this really going to work? Does this [rice] have any medicine added to it?” He actually munched on some of the rinsed rice on his way home, but reminded himself that Tsune had asked him to receive the grant and thus brought home the remaining rice and had her partake it as Oyasama instructed.
In time, Tsune smoothly gave birth to their daughter Kimi. While he sensed Oyasama’s wondrous compassion, Hyoshiro was not drawn to the faith because he or a member of his family had a physical disorder or situational trouble. His devotion had only amounted to a level where he would visit the Residence two or three times a year. Although Oyasama would instruct him that “This place is the true parental home (Oyasato), the Residence of Origin where human beings were created,” Hyoshiro had difficulty in believing these words. It is said that he once discussed with Tsune about quitting the faith altogether after he overheard a Buddhist monk criticizing the Grant for Safe Childbirth.
Yoshikazu Kami sensei then speculates that one reason for Hyoshiro’s inability to fully accept Oyasama’s words was his bitter childhood experience. He one day asked Oyasama: “You teach that God created humanity in order to see humanity live the Joyous Life and share in it. If this was really so, why did I have to suffer the indignity of having my parents abandon me?”
To which Oyasama replied, “Hyoshiro-san, didn’t you come to know of God because you suffered such hardship?”
It is said that Hyoshiro did not become deeply devout until a Isa Yamamoto from neighboring Deyashiki Village was cured from a serious illness roughly eight years later. This led him to become acquainted with Ihachiro Yamada, the future second head minister of Tenrikyo Shikishima Daikyokai.4 Subsequent events convinced Hyoshiro of the validity of Oyasama’s teachings and he would become an ardent missionary for the faith.
This background information suggests to me that one can never know when someone who considers him or herself as a casual adherent of the faith will be inspired to deepen their devotion (and that may include us as well). Since Hyoshiro Kami sensei will appear once again in Anecdotes of Oyasama (167), I will save further discussion on his life and faith until then.
- Kami Yoshikazu. 2008. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie 8.” Tenri jihō No. 4105 (November 16, 2008), p. 3.
- Murakami Shigeyoshi. 1975. Kyōso: kindai Nihon no shūkyō kaikaku-sha tachi. Tokyo: Yomiuri Shinbunsha.
- Matsuda, Taketeru. 1986 . “The Grant of Safe Childbirth, Obiyayurushi.” In The Theological Perspectives of Tenrikyo: In Commemoration of the Centennial Anniversary of Oyasama / edited by Oyasato Research Institute, Tenri University. Tenri: Tenri University Press, pp. 261–269.
- Nakayama, Yoshikazu. 1986. My Oyasama, volume two. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- _________. 1996 . The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo (third edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Tenrikyō Seinenkai, ed. 2007. “Oyasama: Koko wa na, ningen hajimeta Yashiki ya de.” Taimō 457 (January 2007), pp. 16–17.
On the Grant of Safe Childbirth
- Fukaya, Yoshikazu. 2009. “Grant for Safe Childbirth.” In Words of the Path: A Guide to Tenrikyo Terms and Expressions. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Department, pp. 49–50 (online version).
- The Life of Oyasama, Chapter Three, pp. 28–30; pp. 34–35.
On Hyoshiro Kami
- Satō Kōji. 2004. Omichi no jōshiki. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, pp. 27–32 (click here for online translation: A Thing Lent, A Thing Borrowed); pp. 39–43 (click here for online translation: Saved by the Truth of Saving Others).
- Another source (Kami 2008) has Hyoshiro’s birthplace as Kasama of Asakura Village, Shiki County (now Uda City, Nara Prefecture, but what the hey. I’m not going to obsess over the accuracy of place names here. ↩
- If I remember correctly, some of these superstitious food taboos included rabbit meat (said to cause a “harelip” in a child) and persimmons (claimed to cause jaundice in the baby). ↩
- “First of all, I shall instruct you about the salvation of safe childbirth. Sah, three packages of three portions for the three days. Three, three nines a hundred times. Offer this on the Kanrodai. Then the Main Service. Tell them of the Jiba, the origin. I shall bestow upon them the Grant for Safe Childbirth” (Osashizu, February 25, 1887).
Although the term “Main Service (Honzutome)” is used here, I assume this is referring to the Service for Safe Childbirth (Obiya Zutome), a Service that has a different set of words from that of the first Song (or first section) of the Kagura. ↩
- See “The Footsteps of Our Predecessors, Part 53” for more on Ihachiro Yamada and “Salvation of the Mind” for more on Isa Yamamoto. ↩