Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 69

69. Prefer the Younger Brother

About 1879 or 1880 when he was drawn to the Residence, Yosaburo Miyamori received Oyasama’s words:

“A superfluous man with a pure heart is wanted.”

Yosaburo was the third son among nine children in his family. It did not matter whether he was at home or not. As far as the family was concerned, he was a “superfluous” man. He was by nature very obedient, honest, not greedy, and especially, was said to be a kind of person who could always accept any situation with joy. It is believed that for these reasons he was called a man with a pure heart by Oyasama.

Again, in about 1881, when Tamezo Yamazawa was sitting beside Oyasama, She said:

“Tamezo, you are the younger brother. God is saying, ‘Even more do I desire the younger brother.'”

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 60

Translation of “Sawa’s notes”

“Written down by Yohiko Miyamori. 

“[Based on] the notes of Tamezo Yamazawa.” 

My take

I feel the English gloss “superfluous man” (Japanese: yoke-bito) is potentially misleading and that it perhaps isn’t the ideal term to use regarding the religious lessons contained in Anecdotes 69.

After a quick online search, I discovered there is an actual “19th century Russian literary concept” known as the “superfluous man” that one scholar considers “as a paradigm of a person who has lost a point, a place, a presence in life.” A “superfluous man” has a “self-destructive nature” and a “disregard for the social values and standard of the time.” He is “bored with life, cynical and withdrawn.”

One gets the sense that this has almost next to nothing to do what is meant by the original yoke-bito. I think maybe “someone who is considered expendable” is a translation that avoids becoming associated with an unrelated literary concept from a completely different culture and better gets across what Oyasama is described teaching above.

I also contemplated a bit on the significance of the words “Even more do I desire the younger brother” as attributed to Oyasama. I wondered if it had anything to do with how non-firstborn children will grow up taking it for granted that they will not get their parents’ total undivided attention most of the time while firstborns will become somewhat self-conscious and anxious about losing their parents’ attention as soon as a younger sibling comes onto the scene. The natural reaction to such anxiety on the part of firstborns is to misbehave in order to get the attention they now have to share with their younger sibling.

That Oyasama is described favoring a younger brother may also have to do with the fact that in the cultural context of 19th century Japan, a younger brother had less responsibilities compared with the eldest son, who was charged with the task of overseeing the household and taking over the family line.

Masahiko Okada of Tenri University speculates if it is possible to infer differences between the values of the path and the world at large with the words “younger brother” and “yoke-bito” in Anecdotes 691

In any case, just the other night I happened to be in a group dinner situation where a woman opened a packet of gyoza sauce and got some of it on her fingers. Two men, brothers (the third son and fourth son —  Tenrikyo families tend to be larger than the Japanese average), stepped out of the room.

The third son returned with a roll of toilet paper, apologizing for not bringing something better. (If it was a dinner group of all men, the TP probably wouldn’t have been considered a big deal at all). The fourth son brought a box of tissues. I couldn’t help myself and said: “Indeed it’s true! I see why it’s taught, ‘Even more do I desire the younger brother’!”

But I didn’t get any reaction. I guess that’s what I get for being an Anecdotes “otaku” (geek).

Supplemental information and insight from Masahiko Okada sensei

Okada sensei offers the following information on the two Tenrikyo forebears appearing in Anecdotes 69.2:

“Yosaburo Miyamori (Yonosuke Okada): Born Ansei 4 (1857) in Higaki Village, Shikige County, Yamato Province (Higaki-cho, Tenri City) as the third son of Okuda Zenkuro and Chika. In 1882 was adopted into the Miyamori household and changed his name to Yosaburo. It is said he embraced the faith circa 1877. In The Life of Oyasama, he is well-known for accompanying Shuji sensei in 1880 to Jifuku Temple on Mt. Kongo in order to establish the Tenrin-O-Kosha (Tenrin-O Fraternity). While he mainly served at Jiba, he also engaged in missionary activities. He became a Honbu-in (executive staff member of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters) in 1908. He served as the first of head minister Meihai Bunkyokai and second head minister of Umetani Daikyokai. He passed away for rebirth in Showa 11 (1936) at the age of 80.

“Tamezo Yamazawa: Born Ansei 4 (1857) in Niizumi Village, Yamabe County (Niizumi-cho, Tenri City) as the second son of Ryojiro Yamazawa3 and Nobu. He begins going to ‘the Residence’ with his father circa 1864. Although he aspired to become a school instructor and was enrolled in a teacher’s school, the illness of his father led him to exclusively dedicate himself to the path. He married Hisa Kajimoto in 1887. He held several important positions at Church Headquarters. He was the second head minister of Asahi Daikyokai. In late 1914, when the first Shinbashira passed away for rebirth, he served as the acting administrative leader (kancho shokumu sekko-sha) between 1915 and 1925. He passed away for rebirth in Showa 11 (1936) at the age of 80.” 

Even before I read Okada sensei’s article any further, I was struck that Yosaburo sensei and Tamezo sensei had the exact birth and death years (1857–1936). I did a double-take; I first could not believe my eyes. I thought: Am I really seeing what I’m seeing? This is too much to be a coincidence!

I even considered checking other sources to confirm the dates but decided to trust Okada sensei since he went through the trouble of going through seven sources to put together the above information. He also speculates that it may have been possible the similarities of the lives of these Tenrikyo two forebears (not to mention the content of the respective instructions they received from Oyasama) led compilers to put them together even though they received their instructions in different years.4

Okada sensei then makes a connection with Oyasama’s instruction “Someone with a pure heart who is considered expendable is wanted” with the following Divine Direction:

To become angered at what others say, it cannot be said that the mind is pure if one is angered. If the mind is made pure, no matter what others may say, anger will not arise. That is the purified mind.5 What I have been teaching until now is so that anger will not occur, so that worry will not occur. It is the teaching to make the mind pure.

Osashizu, March 22, 1887

He then offers a number of reminiscences of Yosaburo sensei and Tamezo sensei from the April and November 1936 issues of Michi no tomo to demonstrate that both men’s hearts were pure and thus they were not prone to anger.

Naokichi Takai sensei on Yosaburo Miyamori sensei: “Miyamori-san never paid heed to the future. He was completely nonchalant. He was nonchalant and single-heartedly dedicated to God. He followed the path with such a spirit for many years.”6

A few episodes: When Yosaburo sensei was looking after some chickens while dressed in his kyofuku robes7, his son mentioned to him it was shameful. He then replied: “You’re just thinking about form and appearances. God will not be upset as long as you keep your mind clean.”

Another time, Yosaburo sensei was about to go out, and a family member noticed his tabi were dirty and recommended him to change them. But he said it wasn’t necessary. When the family member insisted, he said, “Okay, if you’re going to put it that away.”8

Regarding Tamezo sensei, when he was appointed the second head minister of Asahi Daikyokai, there were apparently many outstanding matters that had to be resolved. (Okada sensei’s article does not divulge any details.) When a follower expressed discontent about the church’s situation, Tamezo sensei said: “Let me tell you this, people say things because they don’t know what’s going on. Don’t worry. Don’t pay any attention.”

Another time, someone outside the church spread heartless rumors about how their property was being overgrown with weeds. When this was brought to his attention, Tamezo sensei countered: “The person says such things because he doesn’t know anything. There will come a time when he understands. Just tell yourself he doesn’t know anything and you won’t become upset.”

While reading Okada sensei’s article, I began to wonder if the lessons being described in Anecdotes 69 weren’t meant to be applied universally but were merely personal instructions to the forebears concerned. In any case, Okada sensei writes:

The two forebears featured achieved a transformation in the way they lived their lives after they encountered God’s instruction as conveyed by Oyasama and believed it to be the truth…. Oyasama’s Divine Model provides an ideal example showing such a transformation on how to live life. I speculate that the proper lesson believers ought to take away from Anecdotes 69 is the transformation of the mind and way of life we can see in the lives of two forebears who aspired to follow Oyasama’s Divine Model.9


  • Okada Masahiko. 2006. “Sunda kokoro: 69 ‘Otōto-san wa, nao hoshii’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 2. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 21–30.
  • Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.

Further reading

(On Miyamori Yosaburo)

(On Yamazawa Tamezo)


  1. Okada 2006, p. 30. Okada sensei actually offers a concrete historical example of the difference between the values of the path and that of social norms in 19th century Japan by describing how Tamezo’s older brother Ryozo was in the fields looking after the family crop despite the fact their father was ill in bed. Although his father was so ill that nothing could pass his throat, as the household heir, Ryozo was obligated by the social standards of the time to look after his family’s rice fields and ensure they were being properly irrigated. It was only after some firm persuasion on the part of Tsuji Chusaku that Ryozo put down his hoe to join his family in receiving instructions and having an open discussion on his father’s critical illness.
  2. ibid, p. 22.
  3. Also known as Ryosuke Yamazawa.
  4. Okada 2006 ibid.
  5. I offer the following alternate translation of the passage preceding this endnote:

    “When your mind becomes completely pure and clear, anger will not arise no matter what others may say. That is the state of a purified mind.”

    (Translations of Osashizu are from An Anthology of Osashizu Translationsp. 29)

  6. Okada 2006, p. 23.
  7. These robes are exclusively worn during the daily services (as opposed to the black kimono or o-tsutomegi worn by performers at monthly services). Although I cannot confirm whether or not this differentiation existed at the time, it is probably safe to assume that it did.
  8. Okada 2006, p. 24. I must admit that I have little confidence about my ability to accurately interpret the Yamato dialect in which Yosaburo sensei and Tamezo sensei speaks in.
  9. ibid. p. 30.