24. I Am Glad You Have Come Home
Hikotaro Matoba of Nigo Village, Yamato Province, had a fine voice and was good at leading a chorus. During the bon festival season, he sang on festival towers in Nagataki, Chishawara, Kasa and other neighboring villages.
In 1871, when he was nineteen years old, Hikotaro was told that he needed to expand the volume of his voice in order to produce truly wonderful sounds. So he practiced by a waterfall in Yokkawa, singing, “Ko-o-rya! korya! korya!” at the top of his lungs.
As it was after the day’s hard work in the fields, he invigorated himself by licking a paste made of charred vipers, soybeans and dried sesame. On the third night of the practice, he suddenly lost his sight. He had developed an eye disease, probably amaurosis.
Guided by his mother, Hikotaro went to Hase, barefoot, to pray for the aid of the goddess Kannon. But his prayers were not answered at all. His mother, Shika, grieved at seeing his condition, said, “You cannot see even the white chicken at your feet, can you?” His condition remained unchanged for over three months. Then, he was told, “There is a new god in Shoyashiki who is able to cure any illness. That god will save you in an instant.”
Before long, he returned to Jiba. When he was received by Oyasama, She gave him three packets of the sacred powder of roasted grain and said:
“I am glad you have come home. This world remains in complete darkness as long as you are blind. But you shall certainly be saved if you do as God tells you.”
Hikotaro answered, “I cannot go on living like this. I will do anything if God will save me.” Whereupon, Oyasama said:
“So, if that is your wish, do no worldly work. Go with God, and devote yourself to the salvation of man for the rest of your life.”
No sooner had he replied, “I will do so,” than his sight was slightly restored. Within a few days, he had completely recovered. From then on, with great joy he devoted himself day and night to spreading the fragrance of the words of God and saving others. He was so wondrously saved that even at the age of eighty-seven he needed no glasses for close reading.