175. Seventeen Children (jūshichi-nin no kodomo)
One day in 1885, Oyasama joyously told the people who were with Her:
“Seventeen children will come home from Awa tomorrow.”
However, not only did the seventeen not return, but no one at all came on that day, nor the next day, nor even on the following day. People grew tired of waiting and forgot Oyasama’s words.
About sixteen or seventeen days later, seventeen persons arrived from Awa. People were surprised, as the number of persons who returned was exactly the same as Oyasama had mentioned. According to what they said, they had planned to sail off the very day that Oyasama had spoken Her words. However, the weather was bad, and after repeated attempts to set sail, they returned to Jiba some sixteen or seventeen days behind schedule. When Unosuke Tosa and his group heard about Oyasama’s words, they were astonished and deeply moved.
When they were granted an audience with Oyasama, She was very pleased to see them, and said:
“At the present, Awa Province seems a faraway place. There will come a day when you will be able to return here in one night while you are asleep if you wish to do so.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 140–141
It might be notable how Oyasama was able to anticipate the Awa pilgrimage group’s date of departure and exact number of people it comprised but didn’t say a word about how inclement weather was going to delay them for more than two weeks. Perhaps she intended to keep the followers around her in suspense? Ultimately, however, it does not seem to matter as people are portrayed as having been impressed by her prediction when the pilgrimage group does finally arrive.
Anecdotes 175 takes me back to my Shuyoka days. My Life of Oyasama instructor happened to come from Awa (modern-day Tokushima Prefecture) and I remember him declaring that Oyasama’s prediction reached its grand fulfillment with the completion of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge that spans Kobe and Awaji Island.
Although traveling from Tokushima to Jiba once required at least one boat trip, it is now possible to make a “return” pilgrimage in roughly three hours by car, depending on traffic. Once crossing the Akashi Bridge, one has the option of stopping by a Starbucks before driving the length of Awaji to the Onaruto Bridge connecting to Shikoku Island where Tokushima is located.
Thus, it does not even take an overnight trip to reach Jiba from Awa Province anymore. Anyone who chances upon a ride to Tenri may find that the trip is just enough to take a fitful nap.
I happened to make the trip just the other day, and I must say that the time just flew by when it was spent in engaging conversation.
Further reading (on Unosuke Tosa)