194. Her Favorite Dishes (o-meshi-agari mono)
When She was advanced in age, Oyasama from time to time ate raw sweet potatoes grated with a horseradish grater. Also, She occasionally drank sweet rice wine from a small cup. Her favorite brand was made by the Matsumoto brewery in Senzai. So people in the Residence went with a gourd-shaped flask to buy sweet rice wine for Oyasama.
Her favorites were dishes of rice with assorted vegetables. Among these were rice with sweet potatoes, rice with beans, rice with dried gourd shavings, with matsutake mushrooms, and with pumpkins.
If people came by chance while She was having one of these rice dishes, She would make a rice-ball and offer it to them.
She was also fond of kakinoha zushi, marinated fish and rice wrapped in persimmon leaves which are plucked when they have a pleasant aroma after new buds have sprouted.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 152–153
Insight from Nishiyama Teruo
A 1978 quote from Tenrikyo writer and theologian Nishiyama Teruo suggests that through descriptions from Anecdotes 194 and elsewhere, Oyasama had left an example for Tenrikyo followers to emulate regarding what kind of diet to eat:
A general observation would reveal that [Oyasama] adhered to the customs of ordinary farmers living in the Yamato basin. It has been said that She liked to eat iro-gohan (rice cooked with some vegetables to give it some color) and kakinoha-zushi (sushi with a slice of salted mackerel wrapped in a persimmon leaf). When She was older, She ate raw sweet potatoes grated with a wasabi grater and drank mirin from a small sake cup. None of this reveals anything particularly special. Although She may have eaten small fish, She did not eat any meat…. In my opinion, Oyasama taught what a Tenrikyo diet ought to be. Nevertheless, people today appear to unquestioningly conform to postwar notions of emphasizing nutrition and obsessing over calorie-intake, but I would like everyone to especially reconsider this point (quoted in Yamamoto, p. 89).
Anecdotes 194 reminds me of two conversations I had with two different people on two very different occasions.
The first conversation was with a family friend who my mother once encouraged to enroll in Shuyoka. Although this woman is not a practitioner of Tenrikyo, she is a person with a deeply spiritual bent. I found it interesting that we had different assumptions regarding Anecdotes 132, in which Oyasama picks up a fish and says, “Allow yourself to be eaten deliciously by everyone, and come back the next time, advanced.”
I had always assumed that Oyasama ate these fish with everyone else. Yet my friend astutely pointed out that the account does not explicitly specify whether or not Oyasama ate the fish, and she felt that this supported her assertion that fish was not a part of Oyasama’s diet.
Although we amicably agreed to disagree at the time, if I had been more knowledgeable, I could have pointed out that kakinoha-zushi was purportedly one of Oyasama’s favorite foods. Unless one could make a substantial case that a vegan version of this regional delicacy existed in the late 19th century, I would have to assume that fish occasionally were included in Oyasama’s meals.
The second conversation took place five years ago. A friend and I were looking at a publication that was about Nakayama Miki in addition to other mystics and heretics that have emerged within Tenrikyo. The book is on the sensationalist side, with attention placed on aspects bordering on the occult along with a few conspiracy theories. My friend was enthusiastically devouring its contents.
Although I had to accede that the book had academic value (as it proved very useful when I wrote my masters thesis), I expressed my doubt about its overall value for the typical Tenrikyo follower. My friend replied by pointing out to a sidebar and said he wouldn’t have known what Oyasama’s diet if it weren’t for the book.
While I suspected that the information ultimately had to come from a Tenrikyo source (likely Anecdotes 194 and elsewhere), he did have a point. Unless one knew where exactly to look, such information was not easily accessible.
The conversation made me aware that Tenrikyo adherents on the whole are not very knowledgeable of small details about their own religious tradition (such as what were the foods Oyasama may have likely eaten). Further, the Tenrikyo organization was certainly not making things easier or doing anyone much of a favor by publishing books written in an arcane style (The Life of Oyasama being a notable example) without any indexes (this particular oversight has been corrected in recent years).
The availability of new technologies (most notably search engines) has markedly changed the landscape. Although my work on this website mainly stems from a motivation to increase accessibility to information on Tenrikyo, I have recently come to wonder: Am I merely adding to the online clutter? Time will surely tell whether or not this is the case.
Yamamoto Yoshiaki. 2005. “Oyasama shokuji kō.” Ten-ken 7, pp. 79–95. Tenri: Tenri Kyōkō Kenkyūsho.