145. Always in a Comfortable Place to Live (itsumo sumi-yoi tokoro e)
Shobei Masuno’s wife, Ito, visited her intimate friend, Cho, daughter of Yazaemon Koyama of Sannomiya in Kobe, in February 1884. She received the teachings through Cho, who taught her, “Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto is truly the all-powerful God of wonders.”
Ito had been suffering for three years from an eye disease. Several famous doctors had treated her, but they could not help her. All she could do was to resign herself to the fact that she was destined to be blind. Shobei also had been afflicted with beriberi for many years and medical treatment did not help him at all, so he too was always in a gloomy mood.
The couple decided to try and listen to the teachings of God the Parent. A messenger was sent to Koyama immediately to ask him to teach them. Thus they heard the teachings for the first time on February 15th. They had an altar built at once and God was enshrined. The couple listened together to the talk: “Illness of the body is a manifestation of the eight dusts. By repentance, one’s illness will be cured without fail. Become of a sincere mind and rely on God.” Also, it was said that, “Foods are all gifts of God; there is not a single one that will poison you.” At these words, Shobei, who had quit drinking sake because of his illness, tried drinking the sake which had been offered to God on that day. The next day, he felt invigorated. Similarly, after just one night, Ito’s sight had improved to the point where she could distinguish between black and white.
Together the couple offered their thanks to God. They also went to Koyama’s home to share their joy with him. But when they returned home, Ito was again almost blind even before nightfall.
The couple discussed the matter together. “We were blessed with God’s providence in just one night. God will surely save us if we make a firm resolution to unite our hearts and serve God for the rest of our lives,” they concluded. So the couple united their hearts and prayed for God’s blessing, zealously performing the morning and evening services. Shobei recovered in fifteen days and Ito received God’s blessing in thirty days. Her eye disease was cured and she was able to see.
With joyful hearts, they returned to Jiba for the first time on April 6th. Oyasama was to leave Nara Prison and return home that day. The couple went to Nara to greet Her and accompany Her home. They stayed till the ninth. Oyasama spoke to Shobei gently:
“Shobei, thank you for coming. You were destined to come to the Residence sooner or later.”
He was so deeply moved by these words that he devoted himself to spreading the fragrance of the teachings of God and saving others, traveling back and forth between Kobe and Jiba and neglecting his business. But whenever he was away from Jiba his health was not as good as usual, so he asked Oyasama for instructions. She told him:
“You should always live in a place that is always comfortable.”
Upon receiving these words, Shobei made a firm resolution to live at the Residence.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 117-118
Supplemental information on Masuno Shobei (1849-1914)
Masuno Shobei was born the eldest son of Shobei and Fusa of the Hagi Domain on 3/1/1849. His name growing up was Tomojiro. He learned academics and the military arts at the Meirinkan and was skilled at shooting. In 1861 he became a writing clerk at the Meirinkan. In 1864, he participated in the Hamaguri rebellion which pitted the Choshu Domain against the Tokugawa Shogunate. When the capital of Japan was relocated to Tokyo, he was one of the Choshu troops who accompanied Emperor Meiji to the new capital. Between 1871 and 1872, he served in the Japanese Imperial Guard (go-shinpei).
He learned how to do railroad clerical work from someone outside Japan and after the first railroad in Japan opened in 1872, he worked at Yokohama, Shinagawa, and Shinbashi. After a railroad was opened between Osaka and Kobe in 1874, he worked at Sannomiya Station in Kobe. He married Haruno Ito in November that year.
In March 1878, he was appointed as assistant stationmaster of Sannomiya Station. Yet he began to suffer physically (beriberi) from this time and resigned from his post. He opened a clothing store called Tokyo-ya and assumed the name Shobei.
Masuno Ito succumbed to sokohi (an eye disease) in 1881 and was barely able to see by 1884, where Anecdotes no. 145 picks up.
At first, Masuno refused to listen to the teachings of this new faith. He reputedly said to his wife Ito: “If praying can cure you, you wouldn’t need doctors. If you’re going to worship a god, you might as well worship me instead. You’ll have more benefits if you do.” But she then told him she would divorce him if he didn’t, so he reluctantly agreed.
As described in Anecdotes no. 145, their resolve to follow the faith together results in the cure of their illnesses. When they return to Jiba for the first time to express their appreciation, Oyasama says: “Shobei, thank you for coming. You were destined to come to the Residence sooner or later.”
Shobei then entrusted his business to Ito while he devoted himself to spread the teachings. He discovered that he didn’t feel physically well when he was away from Jiba. When he asked Oyasama about this, she tells him, “You should always live in a place that is always comfortable.” This description is somewhat similar to the situation of Miyamori Yosaburo that is said to have occurred several years before (as described in Anecdotes no. 40).
Masuno Shobei resolved to follow Oyasama’s words to go “live in a place that is always comfortable,” yet ironically enough, he was not able to completely fulfill his resolution until 1890 because of opposition from his wife and mother. They insisted he could devote himself equally to his business and his faith. His clothing store Tokyo-ya was becoming quite successful. Yet Shobei was so insistent on having his way so he could dedicate himself completely to the faith that he adopted his nephew and had him become the head of the Masuno household.
Shobei was also one of the candidates for the minister of Heishin Bunkyokai when there was a movement to establish a church in Kobe since he was one of the leading followers of the Hyogo Shinmei-gumi. Yet a series of Divine Directions from February 1889 reveal that God wanted Shobei to serve at the Residence instead. Shimizu Yonosuke was eventually selected to become the first minister of Heishin.
Divine Directions between July and September 1889 reveal the difficulty Shobei had convincing Ito, who was pregnant by then, to move into the Residence. The Divine Directions from September 23 urged him that it was imperative for him to eliminate the anxiety in her heart regarding the prospective move.
Shobei and his family eventually began living at the Residence from January 1890. Because of his high-level reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, he was greatly valued as staff of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. The first Shinbashira considered him to be indispensible. Shobei was placed in charge of the accounts since the time Tenrikyo Church Headquarters was first legally recognized as a religious organization in 1888.
Shobei also served as a transcriber of the Divine Directions (he himself was the petitioner for over 300 Divine Directions) and later as a superintendent of churches in Nara, Osaka, Kyoto, Wakayama, Hyogo, and Mie prefectures. He also helped publish the monthly magazine Michi no tomo. When he passed away while on a missionary tour to the Osaka Diocese Office in 1914, many said it was a fitting end for a man who so fully dedicated himself to the Tenrikyo organization.
Further, the illness of his wife Masuno Ito in March 1898 also happened to serve the basis for the Divine Direction that commanded that the Women’s Association ought to be established. Horiuchi Midori has once observed: “One can presume that the Masunos, were ‘called to God’s service’ together as husband and wife among many others to help build the framework of the Tenrikyo organization” (p. 14).
Horiuchi Midori. 2009. “Jinsei: 145 ‘itsumo sumi-yoi tokoro e’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 3. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 1-18.
Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 142-146.
 The Masuno Shobei appearing in Anecdotes no. 145 wrote his name as 正兵衞 while his father, also Shobei, wrote his name as 庄兵衞.