84. In the Southern Half of the Province
When Koiso Yamanaka was to be married to Ihachiro Yamada of Deyashiki in Kurahashi Village, her father, Chushichi, asked Oyasama about the marriage. Oyasama said to him:
“I am not sending her to be married. Rather, I am sending her to the southern half of the province to spread the teachings as none have spread it there yet. However, it all depends on her heart.”
The Yamanaka parents were hesitant about this request because the Yamada family was living deep in the heart of the mountains, but Koiso was married on May 30, 1881, after saying, “Let me be married as God desires.”
Koiso then found that Isa Yamamoto, a relative of the Yamada family had been bedridden for more than five years due to the paralysis of her limbs. Koiso prayed to God for her recovery and repeatedly gave her sacred water. The following year, when Chushichi Yamanaka came to visit them, Isa was marvelously healed. She rose to her feet, all her joints cracking, and was able to walk by herself. In her village Koiso also found a girl named Naragiku Tanaka who had been blind for more than seven years. Koiso prayed to God for the girl’s recovery, each time washing her eyes with sacred water. Soon, she received God’s blessing. The mention of Koiso’s cure of the cripple and the blind girl became so well-known throughout neighboring villages that many people came to see her one after another.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 70
Supplemental information (in translation)
In May 1879, Oyasama did not readily give Her consent to the proposal to have Koiso Yamanaka — who was serving Oyasama at the time — wed Ihachiro Yamada. However, two years later, after Oyasama was asked a third time, She gave Her consent. Perhaps the season had arrived for Her intention to be fulfilled. Her words were:
“I am not sending her to be married. Rather, I am sending her to the southern half of the province to spread the teachings as none have spread it there yet.”
The path of Shin’yu-gumi [心勇組; Heart/mind-spirited-group], the path of Shikishima, began in this way.
(From Ie’s oral account, written down by Kuranosuke)1
Ihachiro Yamada: Born in Kaei 1 (1848) in Deyashiki of Kurahashi Village, Toichi County, Yamato Province (Deyashiki, Kurahashi, Sakurai City). He was the eldest son of Ihei, head of the village’s richest farming family, and Taka. Ihachiro embraced the faith in 1881 after his marriage to Koiso Yamanaka. He would walk 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) to Jiba to directly receive instructions from Oyasama at each significant development and wrote these instructions in valuable documents such as Tenrin-Ō-no-Mikoto, Bunmonki (Record of inquires and questions), and Oyasama o-kotoba (Words of Oyasama).
Ihachiro forms the Shin’yu-gumi in December 1811. Fervent salvation efforts (o-tasuke) through the Service Dance help spread the faith to Uda, Yoshino, and on to Mie and Wakayama. Ihachiro went on to be installed the second head minister of Shikishima Bunkyokai in 1899, which was made a daikyokai in 1909. In 1911, he was appointed a Honbu-in (Tenrikyo Church Headquarters executive staff member). He excelled in his knowledge of doctrine and was described “the tanno minister.” Further, he dedicated himself solely to Jiba during the construction heading to the 30th Anniversary of Oyasama (1906) and the later relocation of Shikishima followers dormitory.
Koiso Yamanaka: Born in Kaei 4 (1851) in Mamekoshi Village, Shikijo County, Yamato Province (Mamegoshi, Sakurai City) as the second daughter of Chushichi Yamanaka. Her family embraced the faith in 1864 through the physical condition of her mother Sono. She served at Oyasama’s side for three full years beginning in 1878 and received direct instruction from Oyasama. After receiving Oyasama’s instructions as detailed in “In the Southern Half of the Province” before her marriage to Ihachiro Yamada, she works to spread the path south of Jiba according to Oyasama’s intention amidst adversity.
Koiso was installed as the chairwoman of the Women’s Association of Shikishima Bunkyokai in 1899. In 1910, when the Tenrikyo Women’s Association was founded, the Shikishima chapter was recognized as the first church chapter and she was installed as its first chairwoman.2
My research / take
Before I did some background research on Anecdotes 84, I had presumed that Oyasama was responsible for arranging the marriage between Koiso and Ihachiro. Yet after my brief research and a close rereading, it appears that the Yamadas had approached Koiso’s father Chushichi Yamanaka instead.
My brief research also unearthed the information that Oyasama had not given her consent until the third time the Yamanakas brought up the marriage proposal with her. Oyasama had originally said: “Koiso is not to go anywhere. She is to stay here indefinitely.”3
I speculate that Oyasama initially opposed the marriage for the reason Koiso had not yet served her for three years. A three-year period holds great symbolic significance among the Tenrikyo faithful. The reasons for this significance include:
- The number three represents the providence of connection/joining4
- According to the Tenrikyo creation narrative, Izanami-no-Mikoto, the primordial “Eve,” “stayed for three years and three months” (Ofudesaki 6:47) after being conceived with the seeds of human beings
- “Keep the mind of a three-year-old child!” (Mikagura-uta Song One, verse 3)
- Arguably the most important reason is that an often quoted passage from the Osashizu sets forth the importance of showing an increased degree of commitment for a period of “three years, one thousand days” heading toward an important milestone
Although we now have the benefit of hindsight, I personally cannot help but feel that Oyasama knew exactly what she was doing when she was allowing Koiso to be married off to a family that lived “deep in the heart of the mountains.”5 Although her family had reservations concerning the proposal for this reason, Oyasama had declared that she was not sending Koiso to be married but rather to spread the teachings to the southern part of Yamato Province (currently Nara Prefecture) since they still had yet to be transmitted there. And, lo and behold, the Shin’yu-gumi helped spread Oyasama’s teachings south to Uda and Yoshino in Yamato Province and further south to Mie and Wakayama.
Also, can it be a coincidence that the only Tenrikyo kyokai in Australia — Tenrikyo Melbourne Shinyu Church — belongs to Shikishima Daikyokai? (That’s pretty far south, if you ask me.) According to my calculations, the number of churches that have emerged from Shin’yu-gumi (including Shikishima) add up to 1085!
Unlike other religious traditions that forbid women to marry non-followers, Anecdotes 84 is symbolic of an ideal that a woman of the faith who finds herself in such a situation may aspire to: instead of merely considering herself as a bride, she can further think of herself as a dispatched missionary to the place where she is to live as a newlywed. Thus, it is significant that Oyasama had said, “It all depends on her heart” and that Koiso had responded, “Let me be married as God desires” and proceeded to engage in salvation efforts using sacred water.
To conclude, I offer my translation of an excerpt from Shigeru Noguchi sensei, professor at Tenri University:
While Oyasama had expressed her hopes to Koiso, She entrusted her with the decision to accept it or not. Yet Koiso did not take the worries expressed by those around her into account. She went as a bride to a non-Tenrikyo family and proactively made efforts to save others.
Koiso subsequently “prayed to God for [Isa’s] recovery and repeatedly gave her sacred water.” She also occasionally asked her father Chushichi to engage in salvation efforts. From the perspective of the Parent, such efforts perhaps may have come across as somewhat awkward. Nevertheless, God the Parent accepted Koiso’s pure and entrusting heart and revealed numerous vivid blessings.6
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 2003 . Senjin no nokosita kyōwa 3: Ne no aru hana, Yamada Ihachirō. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Noguchi Shigeru. 2006. “Isami-gokoro: 84 ‘Minami han-goku’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 2. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 91–104.
- Takano Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 8–10; pp. 101–105.
- This is an excerpt from Ne no aru hana (p. 115), edited by Tenrikyo Doyusha.
Ie refers to Koiso. (It was sometimes spelled Iye. It is unclear when she changed her name.) Kuranosuke is the son of Koiso and Ihachiro, who served as the third head minister of Shikishima Daikyokai. ↩
- The information here on Ihachiro Yamada and Koiso Yamanaka is a translation of note 2 on p. 103 of Noguchi 2006. Other notable information from this source include:
“Not long after their marriage, Koiso, together with Ihachiro, who had awakened to the faith, formed a confraternity. They received the name “Shin’yu-gumi” from Oyasama. Then, due to the confraternity’s fervent salvation efforts through the Service Dance, they were called the “O-Kagura-gumi” even for many years thereafter” (p. 93).
“There were a few things Ihachiro Yamada and Koiso had in common when one looks at their personal histories before they married. For instance, they were both born in a village located south from Jiba. Also, in terms of their ancestry, the Yamanaka and Yamada families were well-off farmers. They were also devout in their faith, and deeply respected in their villages. Finally, it was the second marriage for both of them, for they each had gone through a divorce” (p. 94). ↩
- Noguchi, p. 93. ↩
- Click here for a tag listing other posts in which I discuss aspects of Tenrikyo numerology. ↩
- As the “Supplemental information (in translation)” selection indicates, the villages of Kurahashi and Mamekoshi both now belong to the municipality of Sakurai. According to my guesstimate, Mamekoshi is roughly halfway between Kurahashi and Jiba, which means that about 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) separated the Yamanaka and Yamada homes. While this distance may not seem so much (especially to those who are accustomed traveling by train or automobile), this just gives an idea how great such distances were in a psychological sense for Japanese living in the late 19th century. The psychological distance between any two villages in a particular region were considered great enough as it was, so villages that fell under the jurisdiction of different feudal domains, as the case often was in Yamato Province in particular, were especially remote in the minds of farmers who more or less lived out their entire lives confined in a fixed geographical area. ↩
- Noguchi, p. 102. ↩
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