Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 139

139. With Flag Flying (furafu to tatete)

Kunisaburo Moroi, with a group of ten persons, started to return to Jiba for the third time on January 21, 1884, and arrived at Toyohashi on the twenty-second. The boat was not scheduled to leave till evening, so he took a walk around town, and caught sight of a lantern maker. An idea occurred to him then, and he bought about a hundred and twenty centimeters of extra wide Indian cotton. With this he placed an order for a flag with the lantern maker.

The flag had a white background with a red sun in the center, within which was written, in bold black letters, “Tenrin-Ō-Kosha.” At the lower left was written in small letters, “Totomi Shimmei-gumi [Confraternity].” Flying the flag at the front of the group, they crossed Ise Bay staying overnight at various places on the way, and arrived at Tambaichi* on the twenty-sixth to spend the night at Shobei’s inn, the Ogiya.

The next morning, the twenty-seventh, Moroi led a procession of six rickshaws. He rode in the first one with the flag and was followed by five rickshaws with two persons in each of them. When they reached the road leading to the main gate of the Residence, a police officer on guard questioned them, but since their answers were very clear, he merely noted their names and addresses.

Arriving at the Residence, they learned that for several days Oyasama had been saying:

“Ah, I feel tired, tired. Children will be coming home from afar. Ah, I can see them coming with a flag flying.”

The people around Her were wondering what it was all about. But when they saw the flag they were deeply impressed by the fact that Oyasama was able to see the flag long before it came into sight.

* Tambaichi is now a part of Tenri City.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 112-113

My take

I always butcher the title of this story by referring it to “With Freak Flag Flying.” This is quite representative of the kind of sense of humor I tend to indulge in.

Joking aside, it is my presumption that the religious importance of Anecdotes no. 139 stems from (1) how it claims that Oyasama was able to foresee Moroi Kunisaburo’s flag before it actually came in visual sight and (2) that it describes the phenomena of her taking on and bearing the exhaustion of returning pilgrims in their place (which I briefly mention in Anecdotes no. 110).

Anecdotes no. 162 offers more examples of this later phenomenon and it is explained there that Oyasama bears this exhaustion out of her “parental love” for her “children” (followers) and I assume this supposed act on her part also to some extent seeks to explain why pilgrims felt energized and did not experience the least bit of fatigue when arriving in Jiba, the site holiest in their faith. Both ideas do have resonance with returning followers today as well.

On to a more mundane matter, although there exists a word meaning “flag” in Japanese (hata 旗) it is rather intriguing that Oyasama is described using a Dutch loan-word furafu instead. (From the Dutch vlag.)

Ueda Yoshinaru sensei notes that the word was in common use at the time and expresses admiration that vlag was part of Oyasama’s vocabulary. This may be even more extraordinary when one considers that for the majority of Oyasama’s (physical) life, any contact with foreigners was highly restricted in Japan (i.e., the policy known as sakoku).

Happy belated Thanksgiving 2010!!!


Ueda Yoshinaru. 1976. “Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama-den itsuwa-hen ni tsuite.” Michi no dai 65 (May 1976), pp. 26-43.

Further reading

Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 118: On the Side of God

The Footsteps of Our Predecessors, Part 13: With a Flag Flying

Takano Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 118-123.