Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 166

166. A Mark on the Body (mijō ni shirushi o)

In October of 1885, eight-year-old Naramume, daughter of Ujiro Tanioka of Chishawara Village, about four kilometers due east of Jiba, went to pick chestnuts and sprained her ankle when she jumped from a tree. This led to an attack of rheumatism which was so painful that she kept crying for three days and three nights.

She received a doctor’s care, and incantations were made at a nearby place. However, the pain did not ease at all; on the contrary, it became more severe.

Then, the teachings of God the Parent were told to Ujiro by Omitsu Matsuura of the same village. Omitsu instructed Ujiro to offer a sacred light by burning rapeseed oil in a small dish, and to face toward Jiba and pray, “Please stop the pain before this light burns out.” Without a moment’s delay, he offered the sacred light and firmly resolving, “If she is saved, I will follow the path and transmit the path to my future generations,” he prayed fervently. His daughter, who had been crying uncontrollably from the agonizing pain in her arms and legs, instantly received a divine blessing and was healed.

The parents were so happy with this blessing that they decided to pay a visit to thank God. Thus, Ujiro, carrying his daughter Naramume on his back, returned to the Residence for the first time. Ujiro was received by Oyasama through the arrangement of Chusaku Tsuji. Ujiro thanked Her for saving his daughter.

Soon afterward, Ujiro fell ill with tuberculosis and lost so much weight that he was a pitiful sight to see. So he returned to the Residence and was granted an audience with Oyasama. Her words were:

“By putting a mark on your body, I have drawn you here.”

He was instructed to change his clothes and come back again without delay. The next day, when he changed his clothes and returned, Oyasama bestowed on him the truth of the sazuke.

His tuberculosis, which had been thought to be incurable, was soon cured. Deeply moved, Ujiro thereafter walked here and there among the houses in the mountain village to save others. By and by, while Oyasama was still physically present, he left Chishawara Village and moved to the Residence, where he did farm work.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 133–134

My take

Anecdotes 166 happens to include a rare description of Oyasama bestowing the sacrament of the Sazuke to someone. Earlier selections from Anecdotes of Oyasama include 83 and 114, which respectively portray Miyamori Yosaburo and Izumita Tokichi receiving the Divine Grant from Oyasama. Compared to these two men who each have an entry dedicated to them in the Tenrikyo jiten (Tenrikyo encyclopedic dictionary), Tanioka Ujiro comes across as a relatively obscure figure in Tenrikyo history.[1]

It is not readily apparent to me why Ujiro would receive the Sazuke from Oyasama when other missionaries who became her followers much earlier had to wait until Iburi Izo was settled as the Honseki before they could receive the Sazuke.[2] The difference may have stemmed from the fact he merely lived relatively close to the Residence. It is also more than possible that Ujiro made many contributions behind the scenes in a way that did not attract much attention compared to his more famous peers.

Browsing through a list of branch churches “directly supervised” by Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, I came across someone with the Tanioka family name: Tanioka Mototaro, who happens to be the founding minister of both Ise Bunkyokai (founded in 1941) and Owari Bunkyokai (1946). More research is needed before I can say for sure he is a descendant of Ujiro’s or not.

As for the content of Anecdotes 166 itself, I find it interesting that there is mention of Ujiro being told to offer his prayer while facing the Jiba’s direction. Although I am aware that Rin Masui and her family prayed while “facing toward Yamato” in Anecdotes 36, I can’t say for sure that such a practice is alluded to anywhere in the Tenrikyo Scriptures. I also must wonder how common it was in Japan to pray toward the direction of any sacred site such as a reputable shrine, temple, or sacred mountain.

Mark on the body / Sign in the form of illness

Oyasama is quoted as saying she drew Ujiro to the Residence once more by “putting a mark on [the] body” (mijo ni shirushi). This makes Anecdotes 166 yet another example of the Tenrikyo notion of “divine guidance” at work.[3]

I happened to discover that “shirushi” has been glossed elsewhere as “signs.” Here are three passages from The Doctrine of Tenrikyo that contain this term:

God the Parent takes pity on us, the children, who stray unaware onto dangerous paths, and gives us a sign in the form of illness or trouble. This is in order that we might correct our misuses of mind arising from human thinking by learning of our true Parent and of the divine intent that we lead the Joyous Life (p. 46).

In order to encourage us to overcome the laxity to which we are prone even after we have entered a life of faith and to further us toward our spiritual maturity, God the Parent presents us with illness or troubles from time to time as opportunities to replace our minds (p. 49).

God the Parent pities us for such misuses of the mind and gives us signs in the form of illness or other troubles so as to afford us opportunities to sweep the dust from our minds (p. 53).

It may be worthy to note the first two passages come from Chapter Six, which is entitled “Divine Guidance.”


[1] Tanioka Ujiro’s name just appears twice in the entirety of Osashizu. There are records of him approaching the Honseki for guidance regarding his physical condition on February 3, 1893 and March 22, 1899.

[2] By using the “find” option on my trusty Firefox web browser on a couple of Osashizu pages on the Internet, I discovered that the following missionaries received their Sazuke from the Honseki instead of Oyasama: Kita Jirokichi (May 6, 1887), Masuno Shobei (May 14), Umetani Shirobei (May 16), Izutsu Umejiro (June 13), Yamada Ihachiro (September 5), Masui Rin (November 13), Uno Zensuke (November 22), Komatsu Kumakichi (December 5), Fukaya Genjiro (March 2), Tosa Unosuke (August 28, 1888).

[3] Earlier examples of the concept of divine guidance (or places where I happen to mention it in my discussion) include Anecdotes 8, 11, 24, 33, 36, 40, 51, 52, 53, 55, 62, 87, 90, 107, and 115.