Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 53

53. From This Residence

One day in 1877, when Yoshie Iburi was twelve years old, her fingertips ached unbearably. She asked Oyasama what to do. Oyasama said to her:

“Learn to play the shamisen.*”

She decided to learn at once. However, in those days at Takashina in Ichinomoto there was no place to learn the shamisen. So she asked Oyasama, “Shall I go to Koriyama or some other place to learn?” Oyasama said to her:

“I am not sending you anywhere to learn, or inviting anyone to teach you. All things are to be learned in this Residence. There is nothing that can be learned from the world. Because it is first taught from this Residence, there is truth in what is learned.”

Oyasama personally taught her how to play the shamisen. This was to become the shamisen part for the Service.

* Shamisen: a three-stringed instrument similar to a lute which is plucked with a plectrum.

Note: Yoshie Iburi was married in 1888. Her married name was Yoshie Nagao.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 46–47

Translation of “Sawa’s note

“[Based on] the oral account of Yoshie Nagao.”

Supplemental information from Taimo (also translation)

“Iburi Yoshie: born in 1866 as the eldest daughter of Izo and Sato in Takashina of Ichinomoto Village, Soekami County,Yamato Province (Ichinomoto-cho, Tenri City). She was named Yoshie by Oyasama.

“She learned the shamisen from Oyasama in 1877 and took part in the Service. She is wed to Narajiro Ueda in 1888 and they establish the Nagao main family line. She passes away for rebirth in 1936 at the age of 71.”

My take

It is written elsewhere that Yoshie’s pain in her fingertips (divine guidance once again!) disappeared after she agreed to learn the shamisen and that Oyasama taught it to her over the next three years. It may be notable that her fingertips were said to have ached, for the playing the shamisen requires pressing one’s left fingers on a fretless fingerboard and plucking the strings with an oversize plectrum held in the right hand.

Great religious significance is implied in the simple fact that Oyasama is described here telling Yoshie Iburi that she would teach her the shamisen herself, saying: “All things are to be learned in this Residence. There is nothing that can be learned from the world. Because it is first taught from this Residence, there is truth in what is learned.”

From a general perspective, it may have made sense for Oyasama to teach Yoshie herself, for the shamisen was often an instrument associated with the pleasure districts. (The use of the shamisen in the Tenrikyo Service was prohibited by the government at one time for this very reason and replaced for some time by another instrument, the Satsuma biwa, in 1897.) By teaching the instrument herself, Oyasama was taking Yoshie’s instruction in her own hands and thus protecting the eldest daughter of one of her most esteemed disciples from the potential of being corrupted by the worldly ways of instructors who may have honed their shamisen chops in the red light districts.

Furthermore, it is impossible to know how widely these words of Oyasama are supposed to be applied. I cannot help but come away with the feeling that by translating “Kono Yashiki kara oshie dasu mono bakari” as “All things are to be learned in this Residence” may be pushing it a little too far. The same goes for the phrase “There is nothing that can be learned from the world.”

I wonder if these words attributed to Oyasama ought to be qualified in translation so they specifically point to the instrument in question, for I would probably translate these phrases as “I shall teach everything regarding the shamisen from this Residence. There is nothing about it that can be learned from the world.” For I would like to believe that there are things we can learn from the world that are potentially beneficial for the faith Oyasama expounded.

In any event, the case that there is great religious significance in the historical reality that Oyasama first taught the Service, one of the two main components of the “path of single-hearted salvation,” was taught at the Residence (the original Residence and homeland of humanity according to Tenrikyo belief) can be easily made.

For matters regarding the Tenrikyo Service (which include the Koki narratives that help imbue the Service as performed at Jiba the sanctity and the mystery worthy of the most sacred rite in the tradition, it may indeed be true that there is no better place for the Service Dance (Teodori) and musical instruments (narimono) to be taught than at the original Residence itself.


  • Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
  • Tenrikyō Seinenkai, ed. 2008. “Oyasama: kono Yashiki kara oshie dasu.” Taimō 480 (December 2008), pp. 16–17.

Further reading