200. Cherish It (taisetsu ni suru ya de)
On January 11, 1887, Kyuhei Kontani and some members of his confraternity set out for Jiba, carrying on their backs Her red garments and two large red cushions which all the confraternity members had made with sincerity. At Jiba, they stayed at Koyemon Murata’s house. Accompanied by Risaburo Yamamoto, they were granted an audience with Oyasama on January 13th. She was then resting in the raised chamber of the Resting House and Her eldest daughter, Omasa, was with Her.
Risaburo Yamamoto presented the garments before Her and said, “This is an offering that Kyuhei Kontani, a confraternity head from Shikama of Banshu Province, has brought for you to wear.” Oyasama accepted it and it was received in the raised chamber. Then, presenting the two cushions before Her, Yamamoto said, “They have also brought these for Your daily use.” Oyasama accepted these, too, with joy.
Then She told them to close the paper sliding-doors separating the raised chamber from the other room, and to step back. Yamamoto stepped back from the sliding-doors in the eight-matted room. Kontani waited in the room with the others, sitting respectfully. After a while, Omasa opened the sliding-doors and called Yamamoto. When he stepped up into the raised chamber close to Oyasama, She handed him a red garment and said:
“Give this to him.”
“Never handle this carelessly. Cherish it. Treasure it.”
Yamamoto then said, “I will certainly tell him so.” Stepping down into the eight matted room, Yamamoto repeated to Kontani in detail what Oyasama had just said. This was how Kyuhei Kontani received the red garment.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 158–159
My take / research
I had assumed that Anecdotes 200 was describing Kontani Kyuhei’s first meeting with Oyasama, only to be reminded that he had previously appeared in Anecdotes 140 after doing some research and conducting a search within this website.
I don’t really find Anecdotes 200 to be of any particular interest of in itself except for the fact that it is highly possible that Kontani Kyuhei was the last person to have ever received a set/portion of Oyasama’s red clothes. Anecdotes 200 dates the bestowal happening on January 13. According to The Life of Oyasama, she happened to be ill previously but “From January 13, there was some relief in Oyasama’s condition” (p. 233). A little over a month later, on February 18, 1887 (or 1/26 lunar), Oyasama withdrew from physical life.
It also may prove insightful to compare Anecdotes 200 with other portrayals of Oyasama bestowing her red clothes to one of her followers, but I am not in any rush to do anything of the sort anytime soon. (Still, anyone who is curious may turn to Anecdotes 43, 51, 91, 121, 126, 127, 136, 149, and 186, which all contain descriptions of such a bestowal.)
As for my “research,” I simply looked at the entry for Shikito Daikyokai. I’d like to present a little of what I came across via translation/paraphrase:
Kontani Kyuhei was a dyer by trade. (In fact, the “Kon” character from his last name means “navy blue/dark blue.”) In 1876, he caught an unspecified eye disease and became practically blind four or five years later. He was then visited by Masaki Kunizo, who was a wholesaler of indigo balls from Awa (Tokushima). He told Kontani of a “Splendid faith in Yamato that will cure any illness if you pour your heart into believing.”
At first, Kontani paid no interest. When some time passed, his head and eyes hurt until it became unbearable. He sent a messenger to call Masaki over from the inn where he was staying. Masaki came and explained the central belief that the body as “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” together with the eight dusts and causality.
Kontani then had a straw mat laid in his yard that was used to dry laundry. He had a votive candle set up and some water placed as an offering. He then sat facing in the direction he reckoned Yamato was and repented for the dust he had accumulated as result of conducting his business. He declared that he had acknowledged his negative causality and pledged to close his business and dedicate his life toward the “path of single-hearted salvation” in order to cancel out his negative causality. He then asked God to either cure his eyes or take his life in three days if his offer to serve God was not enough.
On the third day, he conveyed his last wishes to his wife Take and confided to her the request he had made to God. She replied, “Why didn’t you discuss this with me?”
That night, Kontani dreamed of dozens of writhing snakes. When he chased them away over the fence into his neighbor’s garden, other snakes would appear from elsewhere. Then, a white snake markedly larger than the others opened its mouth and sprang to attack. Kontani shouted out and awoke to find that he could dimly see the light of dawn shining on the frame of his sliding door. The day was December 27, 1883. On the dawn of New Year’s Day, 1884, Kontani was able to see clearly for the first time in almost eight years.
Kontani devoted himself to spreading the faith thereafter and made his first visit to Jiba on January 18. He stayed at the house of Murata Koemon and met Oyasama for the first time, who said: “You surely have come from a distant place. I commend you for coming all the way here.”
On a later visit he made, Oyasama handed him a gohei and said, “Take this as a symbol of worship and lead a confraternity.” Later, when Kontani’s “spiritual parent” Masaki was no longer able to visit anymore because of business matters, Masaki introduced him to Shimizu Yonosuke. In 1886, Kontani formed Hyogo Shinmei-ko No. 8, Shikama Shinmei-ko. This confraternity would later become the foundation for Shikito Shikyokai, founded on May 2, 1890. The red clothes Kontani received on January 13, 1887 now serves as the symbol of worship (medo) for Oyasama’s altar at Shikito Daikyokai.
Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, ed. 1989. Tenrikyō jiten, kyōkaishi hen. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
*This is the final installment of my Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama series! Many thanks to everyone who have been following it over the last two and a half years!
This post has been revised since its original publication.