1. What is “Tenrikyology”?
  2. What is Tenrikyo?
  3. What does “Tenrikyo” mean?
  4. Who is running this website?
  5. What makes YOU such an expert on Tenrikyo?
  6. Is knowledge of the Japanese language necessary to understand Tenrikyo(logy)?
  7. How are the Japanese terms/names pronounced?
  8. What’s the deal with the order of Japanese names on your site?


Q: What is “Tenrikyology”?

A: The term Tenrikyology is relatively new — in fact, it’s a term I came up with to be the English equivalent of Tenrikyogaku (literally, study of Tenrikyo). It is a field dedicated to the study of Tenrikyo teachings, its history, sociology, and much more.

While I have seen Tenrikyogaku translated as “Tenri theology,” I want Tenrikyology to be broader in scope than mere theology and accessible to people who do not consider themselves the scholarly type.

It is my hope that this site will eventually be a useful English-language resource on Tenrikyo that has a balance of articles/essays that help followers better understand their faith and objective material for those who are just curious.

Q: What is Tenrikyo?

A: Tenrikyo is a religion founded by Miki Nakayama (1798–1887) in 1838. Its headquarters is located in Tenri City, Nara Prefecture, Japan.

Although outside scholars have attributed Buddhist, Shinto, and other influences on its teachings, Tenrikyo considers itself an independent faith based on the revelations of God the Parent (Japanese: Oyagami-sama), Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, delivered between 1838–1907 through Miki Nakayama (who followers call “Oyasama,” or “honored Parent” and Izo Iburi (1833–1907), who held a position known as the Honseki, or “Main Seat” from 1887 to 1907.

Q: What does “Tenrikyo” mean?

A: We can learn much just by analyzing the Chinese characters used to write “Tenrikyo.” “Tenrikyo” consists of three Chinese characters.

The last character is the easiest to explain: “Kyo” (meaning “teaching”) is a suffix found at the end of the names of many religions in Japanese. Christianity in Japanese is “Kirisuto-kyo” (literally, teachings of Christ) and Buddhism is “Bukkyo” (teachings of the Buddha). Judaism is called “Yudaya-kyo” (“Yudaya” being the Japanese rendering of “Judea”).

Ten” is written with the character “heaven.” Yet because Tenrikyo does not believe in a realm called heaven beyond this existence as found in other religions, it may be best to interpret this “Ten” meaning “divine.”

Ri” is written with a character that has many meanings and possible translations: “truth,” “(divine) principle,” “(divine) reason,” “providence,” among others.

Together, “Tenri” can mean the cosmic order or natural law of the universe, the law of cause and effect. Thus “Tenrikyo” can be translated as “the teaching of the natural law of the universe.” (Click here for a more in-depth entry on Tenrikyo beliefs and history)

Q: Who is running this website?

A:  I, Roy Tetsuo Forbes, am responsible for posting all content on this site. Lewis Nakao single-handedly set up this website dedicated to the study of Tenrikyo for me. My lack of knowledge about computers is really embarrassing; I only know how to use them to a certain extent.

Q: What makes YOU such an expert on Tenrikyo?

A: I honestly do not claim to have any more insight than the average person.

The advantage I do have, however, is that I am fortunate to be able to read Tenrikyo texts — including the Scriptures and many other supplemental texts and commentaries — in the original Japanese without having to go through translations.

Also, being that I once translated Tenrikyo literature for a living, I have been in the position of having the luxury of reading something about Tenrikyo every day.

I did write my masters thesis on Tenrikyo, but it has yet to face much scrutiny. (Click here if you happen to be interested. Or write me if you would like a lighter file in pdf form. But let me warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s looong.)

My thesis probably hasn’t been read by more than five, six people at the most. It wouldn’t completely fall under the topic of Tenrikyology according to my standards, but that’s another topic for another day.

Q: Is knowledge of the Japanese language necessary to understand Tenrikyo(logy)?

A: Ideally, no. The whole point of having this website is to offer English language information regarding the Tenrikyo faith with the hope that it enriches the understanding of followers and non-followers alike.

But because I often like to focus on understanding certain aspects of Tenrikyo (such as the significance of certain historical events) on their own terms, sometimes I resort to analyzing certain Japanese terms. I do my best to explain the nuances of some Japanese terms when I do.

Admittedly, there are big gaps to fill when it comes to information on Tenrikyo in English. It my humble hope that this site will help bridge the gaps to some degree.

Q: How are the Japanese terms/names pronounced?

A: The general rule of thumb is Japanese vowels are more or less pronounced as they are in Italian/Spanish.

For those who may not know Italian/Spanish, the Japanese language only has five vowel sounds:

  • a: as in “father”
  • e: as in “red”
  • i: similar to the ee sound in “see”
  • o: as in “so”
  • u: similar to the ue sound in “blue”

You may also see vowels with macrons (ā ē ī ō ū), which just simply extend the same sound for a moment longer.

Japanese consonants are more or less pronounced as they are in English, with one major exception. The “r” sound is a cross between “l” and “d.” An article on Wikipedia helpfully explains it’s close to the “t” sound in “auto” in American English.

Q: What’s the deal with the order of Japanese names on your site?

A: I humbly apologize about the confusion since I have flip-flopped regarding this issue at least two times.

Older posts tend to follow the convention found in English-language Tenrikyo publications: given name, then surname. But most posts from 2009 to 2011 follow the standard Japanese convention of surname followed by given name (such is the convention in academia and on Wikipedia).

The Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama series has a little bit of both since the opening passages from Anecdotes holds to the first (Western) convention while I blog holding to the second (Japanese/academic) one. I would like to presume that most readers would be savvy enough to tell the different conventions apart, but I hope to standardize name order throughout the site in coming months.

*Have any other questions? Please e-mail me at roy@tenrikyology.com.

Disclaimer: The content of this site is the responsibility of mine alone and does not necessarily reflect or represent the opinions or stance of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.

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