Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 149 and 150

149. When It Strikes Six This Morning (u no koku o aizu ni)

In the autumn of 1884, Unosuke Tosa returned to Jiba and stayed at the inn owned by Tsurukichi Fukui which was located in front of the Residence. The following morning, before dawn, someone called out loudly, knocking at the shutter of the inn. “Is Tosa from Awa staying here? If so, come out at once.” It was Risaburo Yamamoto who was calling. When Unosuke came out, Risaburo told him, “Tosa, something very important has happened. God says that when it strikes six this morning, God is going to give you everything that the Shrine of Tsukihi wears. You should be the happiest person in Japan.” Risaburo then started to walk toward the Residence. Unosuke followed him with excited anticipation, thinking it must be a dream.

Led by Risaburo, Unosuke entered the room of Oyasama’s Resting House, and there he saw a neatly folded pile of red garments on the tatami-mat. There was a complete set of clothing, which included a new crimson kimono, a formal half-coat, kimono-undergarments and socks which Oyasama had worn up until the previous evening. Unosuke was sitting, staring blankly, unable to believe his eyes and thinking that it must be a dream. “Do not hesitate. God has given them to you,” the seniors brought to his attention. Then he came to his senses, knelt, and bowed deeply before the paper sliding-door of the raised chamber. Tears ran down his cheeks. There were no words from the chamber; time went by in silence. “This is too much of an honor for a man like me to accept,” he said, overwhelmed. But at the kind persuasion of the people present, he finally said, “I will accept only the honor of receiving the kimono-undergarment which was worn next to Her body.” Holding the red garment tightly to his heart, he rushed back to the inn and wept aloud for joy.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 121-122

150. Persimmons (kaki)

Unosuke Tosa, who was then returning to Jiba almost every month, departed on October 23, 1884, as head of a pilgrimage party of thirty-three persons, and arrived at Jiba on the twenty-seventh. The party was granted an audience with Oyasama, and as they were about to withdraw, She said:

“Wait a moment,”

and detained Tosa. Oyasama asked Hisa Kajimoto, Her granddaughter:

“Ohisa, please bring some persimmons.”

Hisa brought a basketful of ripe persimmons. Whereupon, Oyasama selected one, peeled the skin and cut the fruit into halves.

“Now, help yourself,”

Oyasama said as She presented one half to Tosa and She Herself ate the other half with keen enjoyment. Tosa next began to eat his half of the persimmon.

Oyasama seemed to be very pleased as She watched him eat, but before he was finished, She peeled another persimmon. Oyasama said:

“Now have another one. I shall have one also.”

She gave half to Tosa and ate the other half Herself. Oyasama gave him one after another in this way. Tosa was moved with emotion because he felt that Oyasama was eating the persimmons so that he would not hesitate in deference to Her. Again She said:

“Do not hesitate.”

Tosa said, “I have eaten till my stomach is full. The followers are waiting at the inn so I will take this piece and let them share it.” So saying, he politely accepted the last piece that was offered and as he was about to wrap it in a piece of tissue paper, Oyasama signaled Hisa with Her eyes. Hisa filled both of his hands and his kimono sleeves with persimmons. In this manner, Tosa received as many persimmons as he could carry.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 122-123

My take

Since I can trace the transmission of the Tenrikyo teachings from myself to my grandmother and all the way back to Tosa Unosuke, any selections from Anecdotes that describe his meetings with Oyasama helps me to forge a connection of sorts with the historical Oyasama. As an adherent, I admittedly feel closer to Oyasama when reading such narratives of Unosuke’s encounters with her compared to those involving other early pioneers with the faith.

Even when I account for my own subjective leanings regarding these stories, I cannot help but feel that Oyasama treated Unosuke with deeper affection compared to others. I am likely treading on hazardous theological territory even to suggest that Oyasama had treated her adherents differently. Yet such is my conclusion after going back to reread narratives such as Anecdotes no. 99 where Oyasama recommends Unosuke to return to his lodgings in Osaka to reunite him with Masa, his wife, and Anecdotes no. 88 that imply, by a mere waving of a folding fan many miles away, Oyasama saved him and his crew from a shipwreck near Hokkaido.

Admittedly, Anecdotes no. 149, which describes Oyasama bestowing a portion of her red clothes to someone, is not an entirely unique event in itself. Although it was relatively rare, Unosuke certainly was not the first or the last person to receive such an honor.[1]  Yet the choosing of the hour when she bestowed the red clothes may have been a playful take on Unosuke’s name. To clarify, “six in the morning” was referred as “unokoku” or “the hour of the rabbit” in those days.

As far as I am aware, Anecdotes no. 150 is a narrative that has no precedent in the tradition. Oyasama is described having a playful exchange with Unosuke eating persimmons. The only other story I know of that is anywhere similar to this one is a description of Oyasama eating tangerines with her great-grandson Sotaro (Anecdotes no. 192). Yet Anecdotes no. 150 comes off as a little odd in how Oyasama treats Unosuke, a grown man, in such a way.

Unosuke attempts to excuse himself by claiming he was full and was about to take the last piece of persimmon to share with his followers. (One must think: did he really expect to share a single persimmon piece with 33 people?) Oyasama then gives her granddaughter Hisa the cue to fill his kimono sleeves with as much of the fruit as he could carry.

Was there any reason why Oyasama lavished so much attention on Unosuke? Other than showing her appreciation to him for returning from Tokushima (which, at the time, had to include at least one sea voyage), I can think of two possible reasons.

First, Unosuke’s followers later attached themselves with a religious group called the Shinto Shusei-ha to escape police persecution and interference. Although Unosuke did not pursue or make such an arrangement himself, many accused him of betraying Oyasama when this happened. After Oyasama withdrew from physical life, he was initially stopped from paying his respects to her. To quote from Takano Tomoji sensei:

“We shall not let an ingrate like you to see Oyasama,” he was told. It is said that he voiced a thousand pleas and finally was able to express his sorrow at Oyasama’s bedside.

     On the day of the funeral, the first day of the second month, lunar calendar, Tosa, was not allowed to join the other [confraternity] heads in the proceedings and followed far in the rear of the funeral procession. Tosa did not speak a word of protest. He held no one to blame for his treatment (p. 91).

It later reads that “Although some bad feelings toward Tosa lingered for a while at Jiba, there came a day of vindication” on December 1, 1888 when the Honseki bestowed the Sazuke to 20 of his followers when it was rare to even have more than seven people receive it in a single day.

It can be speculated that because Oyasama knew what was in store for Tosa Unosuke, she treated him with somewhat greater affection than she did others in hopes that this would allow him to overcome this period when he was left out in the cold by his colleagues. (An opposing argument can also be made that Unosuke’s alienation from his peers may have heightened his sentimentality toward Oyasama and allowed him to remember occasions that others happened to share but had forgotten.)

Secondly, I also recall someone making the suggestion that Oyasama had treated Unosuke so affectionately because she had foreseen that her great-great grandson, Nakayama Zenye (1932 – ), the third Shinbashira, would marry a Tosa, the late Nakayama Masa (1936 – 2001) in 1958. This Nakayama Masa was also the mother of the fourth and current Shinbashira, Nakayama Zenji (1959 – ).

Although I rarely like to indulge in such speculations that can never be empirically confirmed or disproven, this is nevertheless something that I fervently wish was true, just because it feels good to believe this was so.

This will be my final post for 2010. Merry belated Christmas 2010 and Happy New Year 2011! Hope everyone out there continues to visit this site next year.


Takano, Tomoji. 1985. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 88-92.

Further reading 

The Footsteps of Our Predecessors, Part 52: The Path of Repayment to God


[1] In Anecdotes alone I count nine such other occasions than the one described in 149 (nos. 43, 51, 91, 121, 126, 127, 136, 186, and 200).