The Life of the Honseki Izo Iburi, Part Eleven

The Honseki’s Missionary Visits

Although there is a record of the Honseki‘s visit to Kawaramachi Bunkyokai in December 1889, his first “official” church visit is believed to be his visit of Takayasu Bunkyokai. The Honseki attended Takayasu’s enshrinement service and inauguration ceremony in October 1890.1

Missionary visit to Tokyo

In 1891, the Fifth Anniversary of Oyasama was celebrated. On March 29 of the same year, Rev. Sasuke Uehara invited the Honseki to Azuma Bunkyokai. On April 5, Rev. Uehara welcomed the Honseki and his entourage at Yokohama. He sent a telegram to his church that the Honseki had safely arrived.

After a ride by steam train to Shinbashi, the Honseki traveled by rickshaw to Azuma Bunkyokai in Ueno. Crowds of people filled the church sanctuary as well as the front garden. A number of followers cried tears of joy at being able to welcome the Honseki to their church.

The Honseki was then led to the guest room, where he said: “During Her physical life, Oyasama never received such hospitality; all She encountered were hardships. To think I, who She saved, would be welcomed in this way is unthinkable. I am unworthy of such treatment. Do not worry about me, please do your best in making your followers happy.”

After eating lunch, there was a sudden change in the Honseki’s condition. When Rev. Uehara inquired for Osashizu, God said:

Sah, sah, this place, this place. I bestow nothing but clear water upon this place.

Osashizu, April 5, 1891, trial translation

Questions were later raised whether the Sazuke was bestowed on a place rather than a specific individual. But God the Parent did indeed bestow the “Sazuke of Clear Water” on the place Azuma Bunkyokai stood because it was the very location where Tenrikyo’s temporary headquarters once stood. Since Tokyo was lacking pure, drinkable water at the time, God had bestowed this Sazuke on this location, which makes it a very unique case. Even now, water still rises from the well that was made at the location.

During his stay in Tokyo, the Honseki also visited Nihonbashi Shikyokai and Ushigome Shikyokai. On his way back to Jiba, he also stopped by Yamana Bunkyokai in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Missionary Visit to Ashitsu and Nankai Bunkyokai

In May 1892, the Honseki visited Ashitsu Bunkyokai in Osaka Prefecture and Nankai Bunkyokai in Wakayama Prefecture. He departed Jiba on May 1, taking the train from Nara. It took four hours to reach Minatomachi Station in Osaka. The Honseki came to see the newly constructed sanctuary of Ashitsu Bunkyokai. He then left for Nankai Bunkyokai on May 4.

Because there was no railroad running through Wakayama Prefecture at the time, much of the trip was done by steamship. It is said the Honseki and his entourage experienced a difficult time as they were unaccustomed to sea travel being from landlocked Yamato (Nara Prefecture).

The Honseki and his retinue disembarked at a place called Susami and stayed the night at a branch mission of Ashitsu Bunkyokai. The followers of the mission were both unnerved and moved to tears by this unexpected visit.

The Honseki then traveled by palanquin to Esumi. Though momentarily relieved from riding the rough waves, the group came to a path running along steep cliffs and precipices that ran along the coast. Strong wind and rain made the footing of the palanquin holders unsteady, causing Sakujiro Yamada, the head minister of Nankai Bunkyokai, to rush to hold up the Honseki’s palanquin. The Wakayama visit was a trip in which the Honseki and his entourage risked their lives to complete.

Once reaching Esumi, the group once again boarded a steamship, which took them to Katsuura. The rest of the trip was covered by rickshaw. The Honseki reached his destination, Nankai Bunkyokai, on the evening of the 7th. After attending a special service at Nankai the next day, the Honseki left on the 9th and reached Jiba on the 12th traveling via Ise (Mie Prefecture).

Missionary tour of 1894

In the spring of 1894, the Honseki made a missionary tour that took him to ten churches in 17 days. This tour came together when the first Shinbashira Shinnosuke Nakayama decided to give one of Oyasama’s red clothes to Kochi Bunkyokai. This gave the chance for the church to ask the Honseki to come for the service to enshrine the clothes as the symbol of worship for the church shrine dedicated to Oyasama. This would have made up for the cancellation of the Honseki’s scheduled visit the previous year for Kochi Bunkyokai’s inauguration ceremony due to Sato’s sudden passing.

It was a great honor for a church to have the Honseki make an official visit. For this reason, extraordinary effort and attention was given to making preparations before churches inquired for permission to request such a visit.

There were a number of issues behind the Honseki’s missionary visits, for to have the Honseki be away from Jiba for any long period of time was not a simple matter for Church Headquarters. No inquiries for Divine Directions, Sazuke bestowals, or church procedures could be carried out if the Honseki was on a missionary visit. Any church visit required careful planning and negotiations with Church Headquarters.

On March 29, 1894, an inquiry was made for permission to allow the Honseki to go on a missionary visit to Kochi Bunkyokai. The Divine Directions provided immediate permission as follows:

Sah, sah, your request, on your request: once I allow such a request; by this one talk I allow this at once based on the years you have followed Me thus far.

Osashizu, March 29, 1894, trial translation

A letter postmarked the same day was sent to inform every church that the Honseki would be going on an official trip and be temporarily absent from Jiba. The letter also included the itinerary and a list of ministers who were slated to be part of the Honseki’s retinue. This was how the Honseki’s 1894 missionary visit began.

The Honseki and his entourage left Jiba on April 9. They stopped by Ashitsu Bunkyokai for lunch and stayed the night at Heishin Bunkyokai in Kobe. The next day they rode the train, taking six and a half hours to reach Kasaoka in Okayama Prefecture. Although a typical traveler from Yamato went to Kochi by boat, those who planned the itinerary chose to have the Honseki travel by land as much of the trip as possible because he had such bad experiences with sea travel.

As soon as the members of Kasaoka Shikyokai learned the Honseki would be traveing by land, they realized they had an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have the Honseki visit their church and were determined to secure a stopover with the ministers of his entourage. Head Minister Sato Uehara left her church for Jiba to consult with Church Headquarters, leaving behind her followers in Kasaoka to prepare for a visit that had not yet been granted.

She approached Head Minister Umejiro Izutsu from her parent church Ashitsu and pleaded: “We are preparing night and day, having the tatami mats redone, walls re-plastered, and even the bedding replaced. It is too late for us to back out now, so please let everyone at Church Headquarters know of this and ask for permission on our behalf.”

Although it still was not formally included in the itinerary, Rev. Izutsu somehow was able to secure a verbal promise for the Honseki to stop by Kasaoka Shikyokai. Burning with conviction that he would make a visit to her church, Rev. Uehara stopped by in Osaka to purchase utensils with the money she was given to build a grave for her parents that she happened to have with her.

Back in Kasaoka, staff ministers sent letter after letter asking for updates on how the negotiations were going, but they received no reply. They could only proceed to prepare with the single wish in their hearts that the Honseki would make a visit to their church. At the time, the members of Kasaoka Shikyokai were embroiled in a dispute over a staff minister election held the previous year and over naming a successor to the head minister’s position. However, the Honseki’s visit would greatly change this situation.

A man named Isuke Uehara was at the center of the dispute. He married Sato Uehara’s daughter Mitsu in April 1892, and took the Uehara family name. The succession dispute led the couple to temporarily leave Kasaoka, returning to Church Headquarters in Jiba and then his family’s home in Kochi. All the while, Isuke kept his passion alive for missionary work and one day left Kochi without a particular destination in mind.

Upon reaching an inn in Ehime Prefecture, Isuke took a breather and noticed he had forgotten something. He pondered, “I wonder what I did with my sacred gift and sacred paper?”

He checked his luggage but could not find them. The normally precise and methodical Isuke thought to himself, “God the Parent must be letting me know that I am not in accord with the divine intention to have forgotten the most important items I take with me in my missionary work.”

Isuke recalled the situation at Kasaoka Shikyokai, that of his family, and other things. Unable to stand still, he sent a telegram inquiring, “How are matters at the church?” and waited for a response.

His blood ran cold when he saw the reply. “The Honseki is coming. Return at once.”

Isuke immediately made arrangements for a boat, but it was too late. The last boat had long since departed. While knowing that his church was blessed with the honor of welcoming the Honseki, there was nothing he could do to return to the church in time. He became reckless and ordered a bottle of sake.

Some time later, the inn master came running, excitedly shouting, “Sir! Sir! A boat is here!” By then Isuke was reeling, shifting between consciousness and unconsciousness from the combination of liquor and the fatigue of travel. What luck! He couldn’t believe his ears. Isuke happened to chance on a pilgrimage boat to Konpira Shrine that embarked only once a year at the most.

The next morning he caught a boat going to Honshu from Tadotsu in Kagawa Prefecture just as it was leaving the jetty by rowing on a barge.

With the wondrous workings of God the Parent, Isuke was not only able to make it in time for the Honseki’s visit but also joined with his entourage to Shikoku Island. The Honseki’s visit brought the followers of Kasaoka Shikyokai together in unity of mind. By the year’s end, the congregation grew to a thousand followers.

On the 11th, the Honseki departed for his next destination, Shigeto Shikyokai in Kochi Prefecture. After crossing the Seto Inland Sea by boat, the Honseki traveled by rickshaw to a place called Ikeda in Tokushima Prefecture. The road onward was steep and rough, inaccessible even on horseback. There, Head Minister Kikutaro Shimamura of Kochi Bunkyokai took it upon himself to carry the Honseki’s palanquin through the steep hills with his brother Isuke Uehara, the newly named successor of Kasaoka Shikyokai.

The Honseki reached Shigeto Shikyokai on the 13th and stayed the night. He said, “It gives me peace of mind to stay the night at a church,” which gives the impression that it was the first time he was able to rest since his arrival in Shikoku. He arrived at Kochi Bunkyokai on the 14th and the enshrinement of Oyasama’s red clothes was conducted the next day.

On the 18th, over a hundred followers came to see the Honseki off as he left for Ino Shikyokai. After visiting Ino, the Honseki came to Ochi Shudansho, where he stayed the night. It is said that the bath water the Honseki used later healed several people who suffered from neuralgia and various skin and eye disorders.

On the 23rd, the Honseki once again spent the night at Heishin Bunkyokai. The next day, he visited Kita Bunkyokai and Ashizu Bunkyokai, and stayed at Senba Bunkyokai in Osaka. On the 25th, after stopping by Koriyama Bunkyokai, the Honseki returned to Jiba at about four in the afternoon. The fact that all the ten places the Honseki visited in 1894 have all become grand churches today can attest to how much of an impact he made on their ministers and followers during his visits.

*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.


  • Fukaya Tadamasa 深谷忠政, ed. Jijo satoshi, pp. 367–370.
  • Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyusho 天理大学おやさと研究所 (Oyasato Research Institute, Tenri University), ed. Tenrikyo jiten, kyokaishi hen 『天理教事典・教会編』.
  • Tenrikyo Doyusha 天理教道友, ed. Ten no jogi: Honseki Iburi Izo no shogai 『天の定規―本席飯降伊蔵の生涯』, pp.93–102, 104–131.

Further reading

  • If you are confused by the Japanese jargon (bunkyokai, shikyokai, shudansho), please refer to Recent Questions no. 7.


  1. These churches mentioned here were still bunkyokai or shikyokai (branch churches) at the time; the appellation “daikyokai ” (grand church) was not introduced until 1908.