一ツ 正月こゑのさづけは やれめづらしい
一つ 正月肥の授けは やれ（何と）珍しい
Hitotsu / Shōgatsu / koe no Sazuke wa / yare / mezurashii
One / New Year’s / Grant of Fertilizer / oh how / extraordinary
The kanji used to write Shōgatsu 正月 literally means “correct/principal month.” It refers not only to New Year’s Day and the New Year’s season (traditionally the first three days of the New Year) but also the first lunar month of the year. The New Year’s season was perhaps the most celebrated season of the year for people during Oyasama’s time. When an old man from Sanmaiden, the village Oyasama was from, was asked what he enjoyed most as a child, his answer was the New Year’s holiday.1 It also represents an occasion when people are burning with fresh enthusiasm and hope.2
It may also be noted that birthdays were not celebrated in 19th century Japan in the manner many of us are used to today. People instead traditionally aged a year on New Year’s Day. In a sense, the New Year’s season could be seen as New Year’s Day, everyone’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas being rolled into one.3
In addition to referring to the start of the year and or another new undertaking, “Shōgatsu” can symbolically mean a new beginning, especially for those who suffer from an illness or adverse series of circumstances.4 It may also be noted that Oyasama began composing the Twelve Songs in the first month of 1867 and began writing the Ofudesaki the first month of 1869.5
One commentator has proposed that Shōgatsu in Song One contains the following five meanings:
- The start of the year
- The start of a person’s life (date of birth/birthday, the date one reaches adulthood, date of marriage)
- The “day of origin” of Tenrikyo6
- The day of origin of our faith
- The day of origin when we became a Yoboku.7
Another commentator proposes that “Shōgatsu” symbolizes the beginning of human creation.8
The hand movements are said to symbolize an open folding fan. A folding fan is also called suehiro, suggesting that good fortune will spread widely (hiro) in the future (sue).1
In consideration of all of these potential meanings, it might be best to translate Shōgatsu as a “dawn of a new age.”
Further discussion of the connotations of Shōgatsu will be reserved for the summary of Song Two.
Koe no Sazuke
The “Grant of Fertilizer” was one of several grants Oyasama began offering followers in 1865. Those who were granted the ability to administer it included Chuzaburo Koda10, Koemon Murata, Gisaburo Nakata, Chusaku Tsuji, and Chushichi Yamanaka.
When bestowing the grant to Chushichi Yamanaka, Oyasama is quoted as saying, “As you are following the path of [the Kami], in your farming you must not have enough time to fertilize [your crops] sufficiently” (Anecdotes of Oyasama 12).
When bestowing the Grant to Koemon Murata and Chusaku Tsuji on 12/26/186411, Oyasama is alleged to have said: “You will not be able to continue your long journey without [covering your] traveling expenses. So, I bestow upon you Fertilizer [so you may cover] your traveling expenses.”12
It may be noted that from the Genroku era (1688–1704), instead of human, horse, or ox manure that had been used until then, farmers bought fertilizer made from dried sardines and oil cake.13
Other forms of fertilizer included lees left over from sake production or press cakes from cottonseed. These forms of fertilizer were quite expensive. Typically, 135 kg of rice bought twice its amount of weight of fertilizer, but due to the fluctuation of the price of rice, sometimes the cost of fertilizer equaled its weight in rice.14 It is surmised that in hard times, procuring fertilizer ate up 80 to 90% of a farmers’ effort and expenditures.15
In this sense, applying conventional fertilizer to one’s fields was a considerable investment of time and money. Oyasama sought to ease the burden of her followers by making this Grant of Fertilizer to them.
To administer this grant, one offered 450 g each of rice bran, ashes, and soil. This mixture totaling 1350 g was then administered to a field and allegedly had the same efficacy of 135 kg of fertilizer.16 This would mean that the resulting mixture attained through the Grant of Fertilizer was alleged to have 100 times the efficacy of conventional forms of fertilizer used at the time.
It is unknown when Oyasama last bestowed the Grant of Fertilizer. One commentator mentions that Chuzaburo Koda received this grant. Koda embraced the faith in 1882, so there is no reason to believe he received the Grant earlier than then.
Although the Grant of Fertilizer is no longer available, it nevertheless symbolizes Oyagami’s unchanging desire to guarantee the means to allow those who are devoting their efforts to the path to secure a living. Such a desire can also be gleaned from Oyasama’s words to Chushichi Yamanaka at the time she bestowed him the monodane that were to become seeds of wheat, rice, medicine, and wine/oil. She said: “I have granted you various privileges until now. However, you might not be able to understand fully if I just tell you. You may worry about falling short of needs when you go along the divine path. You need not worry about anything. You will not be in want even if you wish to be. I will give you positive, positive, positive proof” (Anecdotes of Oyasama 15).
That verse 1 mentions the Grant of Fertilizer in particular can be said to highlight the importance for an adherent today to follow the examples set by Tenrikyo forebears who Oyasama deemed worthy of receiving the Grant of Fertilizer.17
A few commentators propose that the Grant of Fertilizer represents the Sazuke in the form that it is now presently offered, the Grant of Ashiki Harai or Grant of Hand Dance18, if not all forms of the Sazuke altogether.19 It may be noted that verse 2 simply makes mention of the “Sazuke” in general instead of any specific Grant. Also, verses 1 and 2 of Song One are the only places in the Mikagura-uta where the term “Sazuke” is explicitly mentioned.20
One commentator points out there is profound meaning contained in verse 1 as the word “koe” (fertilizer) comes right after Shōgatsu (New Year’s).21 Another work notes that because the fertility of crops provides the foundation of relief and basis of peace in society, koe symbolizes stability and prosperity of all social life.22
It may also be noted that the first Shinbashira wrote in his commentary that “koe” meant the “voice” of revelation that responds to human demands for relief.23 It is thought that he offered such an interpretation because there was a hesitation within Tenrikyo to publicly discuss the Sazuke due to the historical pressures of the year when he wrote his commentary (1906).
This is an exclamatory cry of joy and exultation. One commentator writes: “It is a dance’s rallying call. On the auspicious occasion of New Year’s, one is so happy at receiving the Grant of Fertilizer that it very likely makes one want to jump up and dance. One cannot help but clap one’s hands, stop one’s feet, and throw one’s hands in the air with a cheer. One can perceive yare as an expression of joy and exultation.”25
As the Grant of Fertilizer helped make a mixture of rice bran, ash, and soil more effective than conventional forms of fertilizer, it must have been seen as extraordinary.8 The adjective “mezurashii” gives the connotation of the Grant of Fertilizer being unusual and extraordinary in the sense that it is something rare and unprecedented.27 It may reflect the sentiment that there are very few religious rituals or ceremonies that involve fertilizer. Whereas there are prayers and religious ceremonies to ask deities to provide the blessings for a bountiful crop, applying fertilizer is usually seen as an action that falls in the realm of human effort.22
- Ueda A 136. ↩
- Tsutsui 16. ↩
- Takanori Nagao mentions that “(W)hen something really wonderful happened, we used to say that it was like New Year’s and the Bon Festival rolled into one” (E29:54). ↩
- Fukaya 59 E42. ↩
- MST 98. ↩
- The first Shinbashira Shinnosuke Nakayama was most likely the first to note it writing that “Shōgatsu” was a metaphor for the founding of Tenrikyo. Cited in MST 99. ↩
- Hirano 60–1. ↩
- Ando 30. ↩
- Ueda A 136. ↩
- Fukaya 59 E43. ↩
- According to Tokuro Fukaya, Tsuji received the Grant of Fertilizer on 12/26/1866 instead of 1864 (quoted in Fukaya 60). ↩
- The Life of Oyasama, Chapter Three, 39. An alternate version of this quote attributed to Oyasama goes as follows, “You will not be able to go on your long journey without purchasing fertilizer” (Masui 71). ↩
- Ueda C 22; Yamamoto 64 fn. ↩
- Ueda A 137. ↩
- Ueda 138. ↩
- The Japanese measurements are: 3 gō 合 each of bran, ashes, and soil; the mixture of 9 gō equaling 1 da 駄 of fertilizer. Various commentators either present this 1 da as equaling 36 (Nagao 64; Ono 46; Tsutsui 16; Ueda A 137; Ueda C 23) or roughly 40 kan 貫 (Fukaya 59; Hirano 61; Masui 72; Yamamoto 64). It may also be noted that Hirano and Yamamoto equates 1 da with 150 kg instead of 135 kg. Fukaya and Masui do not provide metric equivalents. ↩
- Fukaya 68 E47. ↩
- Fukaya 68 E47; Hirano 62; Yamamoto 66–7. ↩
- Kanenobu Takeya, cited in MST 100. ↩
- The Grant of the Fan is mentioned in Song Six, verse 10 as “ōgi no ukagai” (Fan of Invocation). This grant will later be discussed in context of that verse. ↩
- Ueda A 140. ↩
- MST 99. ↩
- MST 100, 102, 104. ↩
- **Verses from the Ofudesaki that contain “koe” include:
In everything, listen closely to the words of *Kami. Everything depends on the mind of each of you.
Truly be spirited and ponder. Then lean on *Kami and do the Joyous Service.
Do not wonder what this talk is about. It is solely about the matter of the fertilizer.
This fertilizer: do not wonder what is effective. The mind’s true sincerity is its effectiveness.
Everything will be different from what it has been until now. From now on, it will be as *Kami intends.
Perhaps no one knows the intention of *Cosmic Space-and-Time in descending from Heaven.
First, to help those who grow crops, I desired to teach you on the matter of the fertilizer.
Do not wonder why the fertilizer is effective. If only accepts your mind…
If your mind is truly sincere, there will never be a failure in any salvation.
Hereafter, in order that there be no failure in the fertilizer for the crops, please understand Me clearly.
Request for Directions from Chusaku Tsuji regarding the Grant of Fertilizer
**No translation available.
Osashizu, July 17, 1890 (lunar 6/1)
Speech is nourishment on the path.* Speech in joyous acceptance is nourishment on the path.
June 14, 1901
*Note: Taken literally, this sentence can be also translated as “Words are fertilizer (koe) for the path.” ↩
- Ueda A 141. ↩
- Ando 30. ↩
- The first Shinbashira equates mezurashii with mizou 未曾有, “unprecedented.” Cited in MST 102. ↩
- MST 99. ↩
- “Mezurashii” appears in the Ofudesaki 29 times. It is overwhelmingly translated as “marvelous” in the current 6th English edition. It may be noted it is translated as “new” in 4:10 and “new and marvelous” in 5:61, 11:63, and 14:58. Here are some representative verses containing the term.)
Step by step, the providence of *Kami will bring about every new and marvelous working.
Marvelous is the Kanrodai of this world’s beginning. It will be the cause of peace in Nihon.
This year, I shall begin marvelous things. I shall do things you have never known before.
I see new faces coming one after another. Is there no one who can seem them with his own eyes?
Watch this marvelous path. There will be a mountain of stories about it from now on.
What do you think the path of today is about? Marvelous things will come into sight.
Today is the beginning of marvelous things. All of you will come along with Me because of the original causality.
In whatever matters, I shall show you marvels through the free and unlimited workings of *Kami.
Whatever marvels you may see, they are none other than the workings of *Kami.