55. Kokyu, Kokyu*
In 1877, Naraito Ueda, then fifteen years old, happened to be back at her parents’ home in Sonowara Village when her body began to sway for no apparent reason and would not stop. Her father and elder brother tried hard to hold her still but their efforts were in vain. Instead, their bodies also began to sway as they tried to stop her. So Naraito’s father took her to the Residence and inquired of Oyasama about it. Oyasama said:
The moment Naraito answered, “Yes,” her swaying stopped.
In this way, Naraito started to take lessons on the kokyu from Oyasama and subsequently took part in the Service.
* Kokyu: a three-stringed instrument played with a bow in a vertical position.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 47–48
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“[Based on the] oral account of Michi Ueda recorded by Yoshinaru Ueda.”
As I mentioned in an earlier post (Anecdotes 52), the theological theme of divine guidance is discernible in the background descriptions concerning how the three young women who were originally taught the three stringed instruments (sankyoku) were drawn to Oyasama before they began their musical (and accompanying spiritual) instruction under her.
Further, as it was notable for Yoshie Iburi, who would learn the shamisen, to have her fingertips ache beforehand (described in Anecdotes 53), Naraito Ueda’s mysterious swaying may have been reflective of how the kokyu is played: the player, while holding the neck of the instrument with her left hand, twists the body to and fro while its bow, held by the right hand, stays relatively stationary. (This is in contrast to the conventional way, for example, a violin is played.)
Epilogue / supplemental information from Yoshiyo Ueda sensei
I will now present the information I hinted I would present when I discussed Anecdotes 48. (Source is Ueda 2009.)
Once Naraito began instruction in the kokyu, she came to the Residence more frequently. On 2/23/1879, when Naraito was 171, Oyasama told her, “God has received Naraito’s body, and she shall save others as the shrine of Atsukenmiyo.2” Naraito was also to serve Oyasama in the place of a daughter (musume-bun) and remain single for the rest of her life.
Naraito later described that the tasks she was entrusted with included helping Oyasama make Amulets and wrapping the sacred konpeito sugar candies (goku) in paper packets. Once, Oyasama beckoned to her to warm herself at the kotatsu where she was sitting. Naraito put her hands under the kotatsu and came in contact with Oyasama’s hands.
When hastily she withdrew them, Oyasama said, “You need not be reserved, put your hands here,” and pulled Naraito’s hands toward hers. Oyasama also expressed that she would be lonely without Naraito around whenever she occasionally had to return to her parents’ home in Sonohara.
Among the instructions Naraito received from Oyasama were: “I await the passing of the years. I wait until I have called someone 40 times. On the side of God there is a deep, profound intention.” Another instruction which Naraito left in writing includes: “Do not speak ill of others behind the scenes, do not even think of ill thoughts in your heart. If you exclusively dedicate yourself to saving people’s hearts, you yourself will be saved. There is no error in this. Sincerity (makoto) measures up to the Truth of Heaven (Tenri).
People who knew Naraito would speak of how hard she worked. She never spoke in length with others; she remained silent and busily engaged herself in what needed to be done and thus made good progress in whatever she turned her attention to. She disliked speaking ill of others and would be displeased when she heard others doing this.
Other stories involving Naraito include how when her grandnephew Yoshinaru Ueda (Yoshiyo sensei’s father) expressed how beautiful the cherry blossoms were blooming, she responded, “Look at the root.”
She also greatly adored children. When members of her family scolded the younger children, she said: “Don’t scold them when they are young. Since they are our ancestors who have returned, it is unforgivable on our part if we ever fail to treat them with kindness.”
In late 1936, when her grandniece Takie Uno came to visit, she mentioned, “It looks like I’m going to have to go,” to which Takie asked, “Where to?” Naraito then replied: “Where Grandmother (Oyasama) is. I’ll come back someplace near.” She peacefully passed away for rebirth on January 12, 1937.
As her death poem, Naraito wrote: “Pine, bamboo, plum. There shall be a happy settling.”3
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Ueda Yoshiyo. 2009. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie 14.” Tenri jihō No. 4144 (August 23, 2009), p. 3.
- Notably, Kokan (Oyasama’s daughter) was 17 when she was briefly sent to Osaka to spread the name of God (described in The Life of Oyasama, pp. 25–27). ↩
- It is possible that this is pronounced “Akkenmyo.” The 1881 waka version of the Koki narrative (verses 99–103) links Atsukenmiyo to God’s workings associated with childbirth, i.e., Taishokuten-no-Mikoto (“cutting off the ties of the child to its mother at birth”), Otonobe-no-Mikoto (“pulling out the child from its mother during birth”), and Kunisazuchi-no-Mikoto (“in the human body, the providence of the female organ”). The 1881 poetic version of the Koki narrative (as composed by Ryosuke/Ryojiro Yamazawa) can be found in the following publications (I am unaware if any English translation has ever been attempted):
Murakami Shigeyoshi. 1974. Honmichi fukei jiken: Tennōseito taiketsushita minshūshūkyō. Tokyo: Kōdansha, pp. 260–268.
Nakayama Shōzen. 1957. Kōki no kenkyū. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, pp. 56–73.
- The meaning of this poem is a mystery to say the least. Nevertheless, the mention of the pine, bamboo, plum suggests a connection to the Ueda, Iburi, and Nakayama family lineages since the mon or crest the Nakayama family is that of a plum blossom (umebachi). ↩