Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 121

121. New Kimono for Your Daughter (Japanese title: Ito ni kimono o)

In early June 1883, Ihachiro Yamada and his wife, Koiso, returned to the Residence with their first daughter, Ikue, in order to offer their thanks for Ikue’s first birthday. Oyasama was very pleased and said:

“Please make a new kimono for your daughter.”

And saying this, She gave them one of Her red garments.

Koiso took it home and used the material of its two sleeves to make the shoulders, sleeves and strings of Ikue’s new kimono. In late June they returned again to the Residence to offer thanks for the first wearing of the new kimono.

It was only three days after Chobei Murata started out as a bean curd maker in a newly built house with a straw-thatched roof. Oyasama said:

“I wanted to see the water well of the bean curd maker, but I did not want to go alone. I hoped that someone like the little girl from Kurahashi Village would come. And just as I expected, you came.”

Then She went out to see the well, carrying Ikue on Her back. Oyasama always talked in such a polite manner not only to adults but to children as well. Returning from the well, She said:

“Thanks to you, I was able to see it.”

The rest of Oyasama’s red garment was placed in the Yamada family shrine as a symbol of worship.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 99-100

Translation of “Sawa‘s note”
“[Based on] oral account of Yamada Koiso on the night of October 30, 1907.

” ‘Ito’ is not a name; it refers to a small girl.”

My take

Anecdotes no. 121 picks up the narrative from nos. 84 (marriage of Yamada Ihachiro and Yamanaka Koiso) and 101 (Ikue’s birth).

I would argue that what makes Anecdotes no. 121 significant is the quote, “Oyasama always talked in such a polite manner not only to adults but to children as well.” The idea that Oyasama spoke to everyone equally and with consistency irrespective of age functions as testimony to the faithful that she truly was the Mother of all human beings.

Further, it also suggests that she was mindful that although people may be different in age on a physical level, metaphysically, there was relatively little difference between individuals — even a young child is a forebear who has been reborn and thus deserves respect as any adult.

I am reminded of what Ueda Naraito was said to have instructed members of her family when they scolded younger children: “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” (mentioned in passing in my discussion of Anecdotes no. 55).

As a parent with small kids, I would find it difficult to translate this religious sentiment in action, even if I did fully accept the notion that souls exist and are continuously reborn to be ultimately “real.” (As I have admitted before, I have misgivings about the notion of an eternal soul. I personally consider it to be an improbable proposition.)

In any case, if believing in rebirth could ever help me maintain some civility with my kids (or at least allow me to keep my sanity or blowing my top every once in a while), there may be more to this rebirth tenet than meets the eye.

Still, how do you remain civil with a three-year-old who insists on picking on his little sister when he gets into his cranky moods? The task is beyond me.

To close, I include some minor aspects that pop up in Anecdotes no. 121 that may be potential starting points for future research:

1) I wonder how widespread the practice of thanksgiving pilgrimages on the occasion of a child’s first birthday was in Tenrikyo’s nascent development or even in general at the time (i.e., a visit to a shrine or temple or anything akin to today’s Shichi-go-san, but for one-year-olds).

2) Murata Chobei’s house and tofu shop would later become a gathering place outside the Residence for followers when police surveillance over Oyasama’s religious following intensified. I doubt that there is enough historical material to write a short history of Chobei’s activities and the role his home and shop played in Tenrikyo’s early development, but I’m sure it would be an illuminating one if it ever comes to pass.

3) There is mention that the remaining cloth from Oyasama’s red clothes after Koiso made the kimono for Ikue became a “symbol of worship” (medo) at the Yamada home. That the clothes Oyasama once wore functioned in this manner is also briefly mentioned in Anecdotes no. 43 (where “medo” is translated as “symbol of faith”).

Off the top of my head, I am aware that Oyasama bestowed her red garments to Umetani Shirobei and Tosa Unosuke, among others. It would be interesting to see the results of a survey of the church altars where surviving remnants of these bestowed red clothes presently exist.

Further reading
Sato Koji’s Omichi no joshiki: Transmitting the Path From a Young Age