Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 35

35. The Red Garments

It was on December 26, 1874, that Oyasama wore red garments for the first time. Oyasama had suddenly said:

“I will wear red garments.”

Then Matsue and daughter Kokan set out to Nara in the morning to buy cloth, and came back toward noon. When they returned, Naragiku Nishio (renamed Osame Masui), Masu Masui (renamed Suma Murata), Kaji Nakata and other women were doing chores in the Residence. Since Oyasama had said:

“I will wear them as soon as they are ready,”

they all helped, sewing in haste, and the red garments were completed by evening. Oyasama wore them for the first time that night. It is said that Oyasama, dressed in the red garments, sat on the dais; and the people in attendance enjoyed sweet rice wine in celebration of the occasion.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 28–29.

Translation of “Sawa’s note”

“[Based on] oral account of Koshiro Masui.”

Combined Anecdotes of Oyasama / The Life of Oyasama timeline of notable events, 1866–1874

In preparing for my discussion of Anecdotes 35, I realized that, by focusing too much of my attention on the background information of particular individuals, I’ve neglected to fill in the historical narrative from Oyasama’s (physical) life for some time. I was once vigilant in connecting each selection from Anecdotes by placing each one in the larger context and narrative framework of Oyasama’s life, but I’ve inadvertently neglected this important part of my Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama project somewhere along the way. In fact, I’m not completely sure where I ought to pick things up!

Maybe a timeline might be useful at this point. I believe I’ll start from 1866. That’s where it appears that I began tapering off tying selections of Anecdotes of Oyasama with other historical events. Numerical dates indicate dates according to the traditional lunar (lunisolar) calendar. (Japan did not adapt the present Gregorian calendar until January 1, 1873). In brackets are corresponding page numbers of same events as described in The Life of Oyasama.


  • 5/7: Birth of the first Shinbashira, Shinnosuke Nakayama, to Sojiro and Haru Kajimoto [p. 53]
  • Autumn (no specific date indicated): Two enraged yamabushi monks come to the Residence to confront Oyasama. She calmly engages in them in theological discussion. Frustrated at not being able to overcome her in a religious debate, the monks take out their frustrations by slashing drums, hanging lanterns (chochin), and paper screens (shoji). The monks then turn to the home of Chushichi Yamanaka to further indulge in violence [p. 54] (I briefly describe this episode in my discussion of Anecdotes 20)
  • Autumn (no specific date indicated): Oyasama teaches the first Song for the Kagura: Ashiki harai tasuke tamae, Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto (Sweep/cast away all ills, please save [us], Tenri-O-no-Mikoto) [p. 57]
  • 10th lunar month: Ichibei and Haru Matsuo embrace the faith
  • In addition to retainers of Shibamura, Takatori, Koriyama, and Yanagimoto fiefs, samurai employed by the Furuichi and Wani magistrate offices began worshiping at the Residence. At the same time, opposition to the faith was increasing [pp. 53–54]

Circa 1866 or 1867

  • Oyasama teaches “This path cannot be followed by human thinking. It is the path that is being formed by the law of nature” (Anecdotes 17)


  • Between 1st and 8th lunar months: Oyasama composes the Twelve Songs. She spends the next three years teaching the hand movements to followers [p. 57; p. 71] (Anecdotes 18 and 19)
  • 6th lunar month: Oyasama’s son Shuji Nakayama applies for legal recognition for his mother’s religious activities with the Yoshida Administrative Office (Jingi Kanryo). He receives formal authorization on 7/23 [p. 73]
  • Rumors of falling talismans at prestigious temples and shrines consumed the popular imagination, prompting Oyasama’s warning: “They may say talismans and such are falling, but it is like blood raining from the skies. In the coming year the subject will change completely. To compare it to the human body, it is like vomit and diarrhea. When vomit and diarrhea become excessive, the flesh itself will be drained. God is concerned.” [p. 74]
  • In Japan at large: peak in eejanaika dance riots and pilgrimages to Ise (Dr. Saburo Morishita here describes in more detail)



  • 1st lunar month: Oyasama takes up a brush to write the words of God, which ends up becoming Part 1 of the Ofudesaki. Part 2 is written in the 3rd lunar month [p. 77; 125] (Anecdotes 22)
  • (No specific date indicated): Oyasama personally visits Byodoji Village to finalize a marriage proposal between Shuji (49) and Matsue Kohigashi (19). They marry the same year [p. 79]
  • Between the 4th and 6th lunar months: Oyasama undergoes a 38-day fast (Briefly mentioned in discussion of Anecdotes 27) [p. 79]


  • (No specific date indicated): Oyasama adds Yorozuyo (based on Ofudesaki 1:1-8) and the second Song for the Kagura (Choto hanashi) to the Service canon (presently known as the Mikagura-uta) [p. 58; p. 75]
  • (No specific date indicated): The new Meiji government abolishes the Yoshida Administrative Office. As a result, the legal authorization Shuji gained in 1867 is rendered void [pp. 79-80]
  • (No specific date indicated): Oyasama’s teachings spread to Kawachi, Settsu (present-day Osaka Prefecture), Yamashiro (Kyoto Pref.), and Iga (Shiga Pref.) [p. 80]
  • Autumn (No specific date indicated): Risaburo Yamamoto injures himself in a sumo wresting match (described in Anecdotes 33)


  • 1st lunar month: Events described in Anecdotes 23; Eijiro and Saku Matsumura embrace the faith [p. 80]
  • (No specific date indicated): Events described in Anecdotes 24


  • 6th lunar month: Oyasama begins a 75-day fast [pp. 80–81]
  • 6/18: Oyasama’s daughter Haru Kajimoto passes away for rebirth [p. 81] (mentioned in discussions of Anecdotes 6 and 27)
  • 7/2: During her fast, Oyasama visits the Matsuo residence in Higashiwakai Village and stays 13 days [p. 81] (described in Anecdotes 25, 26, and 27)
  • 7/11: Masajiro Iburi (5), son of Izo and Sato, passes away for rebirth as a result of an accident (described in The Life of the Honseki Izo Iburi, Part Five — Joys and Sorrows Along the Path); events described in Anecdotes 29, 30, and 31 are presumed to have taken place after this tragedy
  • 9th lunar month: Oyasama instructs that a separate fire and pot be used to prepare her meals [p. 81]


  • Oyasama directs Izo to make a wooden model of the Kanrodai [p. 81]
  • Shuji assumes the office of village headman of Shoyashiki [p. 82]
  • Rihachi and Risaburo Yamamoto embrace the faith [p. 82] (see Anecdotes 33)


  • New Year’s Day: Between 126 and 144 kg (“300 lbs.”) of mochi were offered to God at the Residence. The offered mochi were then eaten by people who gathered there. The tradition which would later be known as the Sechi Festival appears to have been well-established by this time [p. 82]
  • January: Oyasama resumes writing the Ofudesaki after a break of four years. Part 3 (January), Part 4 (April), Part 5 (May) and Part 6 (December) were written in this year [p. 125]
  • February: Yahei Nishiura (to be discussed in Anecdotes 39) embraces the faith
  • March: Tokichi Izumita embraces the faith The Footsteps of Our Predecessors, Part 4: The Conversion of Tokichi Izumita (Part 1 of 2))
  • June 18 (lunar 5/5): Oyasama goes to the Maegawa household to receive the kagura masks she had previously requested her late elder brother Kyosuke to make [pp. 83–85]1
  • 5/26 (lunar): The full Kagura Service is performed as it is meant to be for the first time [p. 85]
  • 6th lunar month: Oyasama begins distributing Proof Amulets to followers [p. 85]2
  • 10th lunar month: Oyasama directs Ichibei Matsuo and Gisaburo Nakata to go to Oyamato Shrine and ask the priests about the identities of the deities enshrined at said shrine and the protections these deities provided. This instigated a wave of investigations by government and religious authorities, beginning with priests from Isonokami Shrine the very next day and by Tanbaichi police some time later [pp. 86–88]3
  • December 23: Oyasama undergoes a cross-examination at Enshoji (aka Yamamura Palace) as a result of a summons from the Nara Prefectural Office. She is accompanied by Ichibei Matsuo, Gisaburo Nakata, and Chusaku Tsuji [pp. 89–91]
  • December 24: Oyasama writes the three most well-known “unnumbered” verses of the Ofudesaki. Copies are given to Horiuchi, Masui, Matsuo, Murata, Nakata, Tsuji and others [p. 91]4
  • December 25: The Nara Chukyoin (a government body overseeing all religious activities in Nara Prefecture) served Matsuo, Nakata, and Tsuji with summonses. When they presented themselves, they were told there was no Kami by the name of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto5 and commanded to stop their faith. Chukyoin officials then came to the Residence to confiscate a number of religious items [pp. 91–92]
  • December 26: Oyasama begins the practice of wearing red clothes (i.e., “red garments”) “to clarify the truth that She was the Shrine of Tsukihi.” On the same day, she bestows the sacrament of the Sazuke to Gisaburo Nakata (Sazuke of Breath), Ichibei Matsuo  (Sazuke of Boiled Rice), Chusaku Tsuji (Sazuke of the Hand Dance; Teodori), and Isaburo Masui (Sazuke of Kanrodai-Teodori) [pp. 92–94]

Based on the timeline above, it can be concluded that 1874 was a pivotal year with several significant developments for the faith. Awareness of events from the 10th lunar month onward are particularly important to gain a fuller understanding regarding the significance behind Oyasama’s decision to wear red clothes.

Red garments / red clothes

It must be mentioned that “red garments” is an old translation of “akaki,” which has been phased out in favor of “red clothes.” I presume this was done because “garments” gives off the sense of a set of formal clothing. While we may consider the kimono and accompanying clothing (such as tabi socks) as formal wear today, it was not so at the time when Oyasama began wearing red clothes in December 1874. Kimonos were something people happened to wear on a daily basis. Just the fact she chose to wear all red from head to toe and down to her undergarments was unconventional.

That Oyasama wore red clothes exclusively from December 26, 1874 naturally brings up the question: “What did she wear before that?” Research by Yoshiaki Yamamoto sensei (1999) reveals that Oyasama exclusively wore black from the time she became the Shrine of God on 10/26/1838 (lunar) in accordance with God’s instructions (p. 89).6

Although the significance of Oyasama wearing these black clothes has never been fully clear in the Tenrikyo tradition, according to the words of the Honseki as recorded by Ihachiro Yamada (1848–1916) in November 1887, the red path refers to a path where people have begun to understand God’s intention. The black path refers to a mind that ponders all matters in a self-centered manner. The white path refers to a mind that is of a worldly standard (ibid. p. 105). Yamamoto sensei then speculates that Oyasama wore red clothes when people had finally started to understand God’s intention (ibid. p. 106).

It should be noted that historically, Oyasama’s switch to red clothes coincided with the beginning of her “mission to the high mountains,” which entailed increased visibility and scrutiny from government and religious authorities. Not only did Oyasama instigated this scrutiny herself by sending Ichibei Matsuo and Gisaburo Nakata to Oyamato Shrine in the 10th lunar month of 1874, she also began to wear red clothes, something that would make her stand out all the more under this new scrutiny.

When we consider that she donned the red clothes on December 26th — after a cross-examination at a temple on the 23th and after her followers were warned against continuing their faith on the 25th — her simple act of changing the color of her clothes appears to be one of great defiance. It is then notable that this also more or less coincided with how Tenri-O-no-Mikoto begins to be referred as “Tsukihi” (Moon-Sun) in the middle of Part 6 of the Ofudesaki, almost fully replacing the term “Kami” that was used until that point.

As for the significance of the color red, red (aka) is associated with brightness and cheerfulness (akarui). Consider these Ofudesaki verses regarding the red clothes:

Until now, since I kept Myself behind a bamboo screen, nothing was able to be seen.

This time, as I have come out into brightness [Jpns: “akai tokoro“], everything will be seen quickly.

What do you think of these red clothes? Tsukihi dwells within (6:61–63).

Mr. John Lewis, a follower who is based in the Bay Area I believe, offers the following insight on these very same verses7:

In common terms I believe that one could say that it was traditional in the area for the deity to be hidden and not directly viewed. With Oyasama that all changed, God came out into the daylight and the followers were able to see a God with their own eyes. The red clothes being a way of drawing attention to the fact that Oyasama was the Shrine of Moonsun….

Oyasama’s red clothes announce to the world that the fire and light that shines through the dark and muddy ocean at the creation, giving name and form where there is nothing burns and shines in full awakening from within Oyasama. As always it is our task to find that truth within ourselves. We are taught to calm our mind of its self-centered worldly common truths and make the distinction between fire and water clear in our own mind.

Yoshiaki Yamamoto sensei’s research (1999, p. 98) further uncovers four types of explanations regarding the significance of the red clothes that have been offered by various Tenrikyo writers:

  1. “The red clothes that Tsukihi dwells in (or dare I translate it as “the red clothes that embody Tsukihi”?) are the eyes that Tsukihi uses to see everything” (based on a passage of the 1883 Koki narrative written by Isaburo Masui)
  2. “To show and persuade people Tsukihi dwelled/was embodied in the red clothes” (the basic position of writers such as Yoshikazu Nakayama, Fukutaro Uemura, Tatsuzo Yamochi, and Yoshiharu Kichi)
  3. “To instruct people that she (Oyasama) was one with God” (Toru Kotaki)
  4. “Red was the color of a prisoner’s uniform” (Note: Was this true??? I’m honestly not sure….). Oyasama Herself implemented and showed that the path was to come from below to confront the discriminatory mindset of the populace” (Shiro Ikeda)

Lastly, the account in Anecdotes 35 suggests that Oyasama gave no previous hint that she was to begin wearing red clothes. It appears that she made the announcement out of the blue (no pun intended).

One can almost imagine how her sudden proclamation must have flustered the women around her. Kokan and her daughter-in-law Matsue went and bought the red cloth and a number of others helped sew the red clothes in haste so that Oyasama was able to wear them before the night was over.8

The Sazuke bestowal of December 26, 1874

According to The Life of Oyasama, Oyasama bestowed the Sazuke to four men on the very same day she began wearing red clothes. It must be noted here that, unlike the forms of the Sazuke Oyasama bestowed on followers in previous years (such as the Sazuke of the Fan, Sazuke of Fertilizer, Sazuke of the Gohei, etc.), the forms of the Sazuke she bestowed on December 26, 1874 were “the beginning of the bestowal of the Sazuke to save those suffering from illness” (The Life of Oyasamap. 94).9

Thus, that Oyasama chose to bestow the Sazuke as we know today on same day she began to wear red clothes cannot be considered a coincidence and was arguably an act imbued with great religious significance.

Further, three of the four men that received the Sazuke on that day had been deeply involved with the events that transpired in the days and weeks before. First, Ichibei Matsuo and Gisaburo Nakata were chosen by Oyasama to initiate the mission to the high mountains by questioning the priests at Oyamato Shrine about their deities. Chusaku Tsuji happened to intercede with the investigation by five priests from Isonokami that took place the very next day.

These three same men were later summoned and questioned by the Nara Prefectural Office, accompanied Oyasama to Enshoji (commonly referred as Yamamura Palace) on December 23, and were told by Nara Chukyoin officials to stop believing in Oyasama’s teachings on the 25th. It seems appropriate and understandable that Oyasama had rewarded them for their loyalty and for the troubles they went through by making them the first recipients of forms of the Sazuke that would allow them to pray and help save people from physical ailments.

Yet this almost begs the question: What about Isaburo Masui, the fourth recipient of the Sazuke that day? There seems to be no apparent reason that accounts for his inclusion in this prestigious circle of Sazuke recipients until one takes into consideration that, among the women who helped sew Oyasama’s first set of red clothes are his sister Masu and future wife Naragiku Nishio (who would be renamed Osame Masui sometime after her marriage to Isaburo). It may be notable to add here that Kaji Nakata, Gisaburo’s wife, is also named as one of the women who helped sew Oyasama’s first set of red clothes. I admit I might be overreaching a bit in my speculation here; it may be all the more possible that Oyasama simply discerned and concluded that Isaburo was worthy of receiving it together with the others.

Anecdotes 35 also mentions “other women,” but I can only wonder who they may be: Kiku Masui? (Masu’s and Isaburo’s mother) Yuki Nishio? (Naragiku’s mother) Haru Matsuo? (Ichibei’s wife)

I can go on and on but it would amount to mere speculation until I come upon some more documentation that describes the same event.


  • Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, ed. 1981. Tenrikyō gaisetsu. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Shuppanbu.
  • _________. 1997. Kaitei Tenrikyō jiten. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
  • Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
  • _________. 1996 [1967]. The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo (third edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
  • Tenrikyō Kyōkai Honbu, ed. 1997 [1956].Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama-den (39th printing). Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
  • Tenrikyo Overseas Department. 2000. Reference Materials for The Life of Oyasama. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Department.
  • Yamamoto Yoshiaki. 1999. “Oyasama no ishō ni tsuite: gurogi akaki o tōshite.” Ten-ken 4, pp. 89–108. Tenri: Tenri Kyōkō Kenkyūsho.


  1. Mentioned in the Ofudesaki with the following verses:The present path: what kind of path do you think it is? Though it seems to you to be unclear, I already see a broad path ahead. You are saying that it is over there, but it is already before you. When do you think this day will come? On the fifth of the fifth month, it will definitely appear. Then a thanksgiving pilgrimage will begin. Look for it. People will come whether it be night or day (4:1–4).
  2. In the Ofudesaki:By and by, when the sixth month comes, know that I shall grant the Proof Amulet (4:5).
  3. In the Ofudesaki: Perhaps you cannot foresee what is going to appear. From the high mountains, a broad path will open.I have been preparing to open this path, but those of you close to Me know nothing of it.

    Those who come here to summon or to investigate, come because it is God’s intent (5:57–59).

  4. These verses go as follows:The seeds of your sincere devotion sown day after day, I have certainly accepted.
  5. The seed which God truly accepts will never decay through all eternity.

    When these seeds sprout in the course of time, it will be the talk of all ages to come.

  6. In the Ofudesaki:
    They banned the name given by Tsukihi. What do you think of this regret of Mine? (6:70)
  7. Ultimately based on the oral accounts of Chusaku Tsuji.
  8. Click here to read Mr. Lewis’ comments in context (his commentary on Ofudesaki verses 6:55–63)
  9. I end my discussion on Oyasama’s red clothes rather abruptly here since this post is already much longer that I would like. Yet I will mention here in this endnote that the practice of cutting the red clothes Oyasama wore into Proof Amulets is said to have begun not long after she began wearing them. Some followers received full sets of Oyasama’s clothing. For more on how the red clothes were distributed, see my comments section from The Footsteps of Our Predecessors, Part 10: “I Accept One Day As One Thousand Days.”
  10. I relegate describing the four types of Sazuke Oyasama bestowed on this day in this footnote. Yet before I do that, it is interesting that Oyasama bestowed the Sazuke in the form of a counting song not unlike one we would find among the Twelve Songs. Consider:

    Ichi ni, Iki wa Nakata (First, I bestow the Grant of Breath to Nakata.)

    Ni ni, Nita-mono Matsuo (Second, the Grant of Boiled Rice to Matsuo.)

    San ni, sanzai Teodori Tsuji (Third, the Grant of Hand Dance to Tsuji, which is to be performed with an innocent heart like that of a three-year-old child )

    Shi ni, shikkuri Kanrodai Teodori Masui (Fourth, the Grant of the Kanrodai-Teodori to Masui, which is to be performed in one accord, all firmly united )

    Itsutsu, itsumono hanashi kata (Fifth, be careful in your everyday speech.)

    Muttsu, mugoi kotoba o dasanu yō (Sixth, never use cruel words.)

    Nanatsu, nandemo tasuke-yai (Seventh, help one another in everything.)

    Yattsu, Yashiki no shimari kata (Eighth, maintain strict discipline at the Residence.)

    Kokonotsu, koko de itsumade mo (Ninth, remain here for ever and ever.)

    Tōdo, tokoro no osame kata (Tenth, strive in ways that will bring peace.)

    Note: Japanese is from the Oyasama den pp. 124–125, translations from The Life of Oyasama pp. 93–95.

    Okay, now here are descriptions of the four forms of Sazuke bestowed on December 26, 1874:

    1. The Sazuke of Breath (iki no sazuke) is alluded to in the Ofudesaki, usually with the Sazuke of Hand Dance (6:106, 108; 12:50). This Sazuke was allegedly administered by breathing of the afflicted area of an ill person (Tenrikyo jiten p. 370)
    2. The Sazuke of Boiled Rice (nita-mono jikimotsu no sazuke) was administered by placing three (0.54 g) of cleansed rice in a bag and immersing it in boiling water three times and having an ill person eat three grains from it (ibid.).
    3. The Sazuke of Hand Dance (Teodori no sazuke) is also known as “the Sazuke of Ashiki harai.” It is the only Sazuke that still exists today as all Sazuke bestowed after the passing of the Honseki Izo Iburi in 1907 was standardized into this form. A missionary administering this Sazuke chants “Ashiki harai tasuke tamae, Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto” three times with accompanying hand movements and chants “Namu tasuke tamae Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto” three times while laying the hands and stroking the afflicted area of an ill person. This process is repeated another two times to complete the ritual.
    4. The Sazuke of the Kanrodai-Teodori (Kanrodai no sazuke) was administered in a similar manner with the Sazuke of Ashiki harai, except that the second and third sections of the Service (Choto hanashi and Ashiki harai tasuke tamae, ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai) were chanted in place of the first section. This Sazuke is said to have been the least common of the grants bestowed by Oyasama and the Honseki (ibid.).