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Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 108

108.  The Roads to the Summit Are Many

Seijiro Imagawa had been suffering from a stomach ailment for many years. He was an ardent follower of the Hokke sect. He invited Buddhist priests to his home to pray for him and he himself also prayed all the time. Although others were saved by this, his own stomach ailment did not get any better. One day, the wife of a neighborhood bamboo dealer said to him, “Since you are devoted to Hokke you might not listen but there exists a wonderful god.” He replied, “I will listen to the talk once to learn what is taught.” Thus, it was arranged for him to listen to the teachings of the path. He then received the marvelous divine blessing through the three days and three nights of prayers, and recovered completely from the stomach ailment which had bothered him for thirty years. This was about 1882.

Thereafter, he completely ceased going to the Buddhist temple, and resolved to follow the path single-heartedly. He returned to Jiba and when he had an audience with Oyasama, he received these wonderful words:

“Do you know Mt. Fuji? Its summit is one, but the roads to the summit are many. Whichever road you take, it is the same.”

He was deeply moved by Her warm parental love.

Then, Oyasama asked:

“Did you come from Osaka?”

and, continuing, said:

“I understand Osaka has many fires. Even if a fire should get close, in some cases it will burn only so far and then it will stop moving any closer. The reason it stops is because the direction of the wind changes. Because the wind changes direction, a fire stops from coming.”

She explained with the gesture of drawing a line with Her finger.

Later, on September 5, 1890, at the time of the great Shimmachi Fire in Osaka, the fire burned furiously toward the Shimmei-gumi [Confraternity] at Itachibori. Everyone, beginning with Izutsu, the head of the [confraternity], performed the Prayer Service in earnest. Then, just as the wooden fence in the back edge of the lot was burned down, the direction of the wind changed and the whole area of the Shimmei-gumi [Confraternity] remained untouched. Seijiro, with deep emotion, recalled the words of Oyasama.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 91–93

Translation of “Sawa’s note”

“[Imagawa Seijiro was] a member of the Shinmei-gumi Confraternity. He was the first minister of Totsu Bunkyokai, affiliate of Ashitsu Daikyokai.”

My research / take

It ought be mentioned that the “Hokke” or Lotus sect must refer to one of the several Nichiren Buddhist branches that existed at the time. I also imagine that the priests most likely recited the Lotus Sutra on Imagawa’s behalf when they prayed for his recovery and that Imagawa himself likely chanted the daimoku.

Regarding the quote attributed to Oyasama (“Do you know Mt. Fuji? Its summit is one, but the roads to the summit are many. Whichever road you take, it is the same.”), one can almost imagine Imagawa “was deeply moved by Her parental love” because Nichiren Buddhism had a historical tendency to be highly sectarian1, insisting its practice was the only one that mattered, and its priests would most surely have been miffed when Imagawa converted to the faith Oyasama expounded.

When preparing for this post, I serendipitously came across The Religions of Man from Huston Smith, professor of religion and philosophy, who, in writing on Hinduism, illustrates a religious sentiment not unlike what Oyasama expressed in Anecdotes 108. I give a rather lengthy citation (from a section that happens to be entitled “Many Paths to the Same Summit”):

That Hinduism has shared her land for centuries with Parsees, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians may help explain a last idea that comes out more clearly through her than through any other leading contemporary religion; namely, her conviction that the various major religions are alternate and relatively equal paths to the same God. To claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion is like claiming that God can be found in this room but not the next, in this attire but not another. Normally each individual will take the path which leads up life’s mountain from his own culture; those who circle the mountain trying to bring others around to their paths are not climbing. In practice India’s sects have often been fanatically intolerant, but in principle they have remained notably open. The Vedas early announce Hinduism’s classic contention: the various religions are but the different languages through which God has spoken to the human heart. “Truth is one; sages call it by different names.”

It is possible to climb life’s mountain from any side, but when the top is reached the pathways merge. As long as religions remain in the foothills of theology, ritual, or church organization they may be far apart. Differences in culture, history, geography, and group temperament all make for different starting points. Far from being deplorable, this is good; it adds richness to the totality of man’s religious venture.2

It may also be worthy of note that while Oyasama is described revealing a sympathetic view of other faiths, statements attributed to her in Anecdotes 10 subtly hints Jiba is superior to other places of worship.

As for the summit of Mt. Fuji, Akio Inoue sensei has written that it symbolizes the realm of spiritual insight (satori) where the Joyous Life will come into view. He writes, “It is said that once one begins to see the image of Mt. Fuji as a full representation of the concept ‘if one saves others, one shall be saved,’ one will understand there are several roads that lead there.”3

Anecdotes 108 also seems to imply that Oyasama foretold the fire of 1890 and that the Shinmei-gumi Confraternity would be spared, functioning as another feather to her cap (holy reputation).


  • Inoue Akio. 2006. “Shinkō to michi: ‘108 Noboru michi wa iku-suji mo’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 2. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 177-207.
  • Nichiren Shōnin. 2003. Writings of Nichiren Shōnin: Doctrine 1, translated by Hori, Kyōtsū and edited by Sakashita, Jay. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  • Smith, Huston. 1958. The Religions of Man. New York: Harper Colophon Books.


  1. The sectarian character of this Buddhist school that emerged in Japan stems from the fact that Nichiren, the monk who founded the sect that bears his name, was highly critical of other Buddhist sects.

    Nichiren had proclaimed that “Shingon Buddhism is the evil dharma that destroys the country, the nembutsu is the teaching that leads people into the Hell of Incessant Suffering, Zen is the teaching of heavenly demons, and Ritsu priests are national traitors (Writings of Nichiren Shōnin, p. 273).” He also referred to Pure Land, Shingon, and Zen as “the three calamities” (ibid, p. 219), “derogatorily calls such masters as Kukai, Ennin, Enchin, Annen, Genshin and Honen parasitic worms in one’s bosom” (p. 187) and that the convention of assigning priests from many of the established Buddhist schools to protect the nation was “as useless as feeding coarse food to elderly persons and hard rice to children” (p. 259).

  2. Smith, p. 76.
  3. Inoue, p. 184.

Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 107

107. Eczema is a Troublesome Condition

The following took place in 1882 when Tane Umetani returned to Jiba. Tane, carrying her eldest daughter, Taka (later known as Taka Haruno) who was just a baby at that time, was granted an audience with Oyasama. This baby had festering eczema all over her head.

Oyasama promptly took the baby into Her arms, saying

“Now, let Me see.”

 Looking at the festering eczema, She said

“What a pity, poor thing!”

 She brought out a piece of paper that She had placed under Her cushion in order to smooth out the wrinkles. Then, with Her fingers, She tore off little pieces, licked them and placed them on the baby’s head. She then said:

 “Otane, eczema is a troublesome condition, isn’t it?”

Tane was startled. There was something in what Oyasama said that made her reflect, “I must learn not to be troublesome to others. Always with a pure mind I will do my best to make others happy.”

Then, with gratitude, Tane thanked Oyasama and went back to Osaka. One morning after two or three days had passed, Tane suddenly noticed that the affected skin had separated from the baby’s head, looking as if it were a cotton cap. The whole mass of skin that had been oozing with pus was stuck to the paper put on by Oyasama, and had lifted up from the baby’s head just as if a cap had been removed. Thus the baby had marvelously received a divine blessing. The new skin had already formed thinly over her head.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 91 Continue reading Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 107

Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 106

106. Symbolic Serving

Oyasama was confined in Nara Prison for twelve days starting from October 29, 1882. While Oyasama was in prison, Shirobei Umetani stayed at the Residence. Every day during the twelve days, he got up before dawn and walked some eleven kilometers to Nara Prison with Shinnosuke, the first Shimbashira, and other seniors to bring things to Oyasama. About the time they arrived at Nara, the sky would begin to turn gray. It would be about nine o’clock when they returned to the Residence after delivering the things.

One day, the party of three were attempting to pass the gate of the jail without greeting the gatekeepers. They were stopped and threatened that they would not be allowed to go home because they had not greeted the gatekeepers. The three persons apologized and knelt down with their hands in the muddy ground, after which they were allowed to go.

At the Residence, visitors were harassed by police officers on guard at the entrance. In addition, different officers would come to investigate as often as three times during a night, so that people in the Residence could sleep for only two hours or so each night.

On November 9th, Oyasama was met by numerous persons when She returned to the Residence. She called Umetani to Her and said:

“Shirobei, thank you very much for your trouble. I did not feel hungry at all, thank you.”

In the prison they could only deliver things for Oyasama and were not allowed to see Her. No one could have told Her that it was Shirobei who had delivered the things. Therefore, Umetani wondered how She knew that it was he.

While Oyasama was in prison, Shirobei’s wife, Tane, in Osaka also prepared meals for Oyasama and served Her symbolically every day, calling to mind Oyasama’s hardship.

It was on the next day, the tenth, and thereafter that Shirobei was allowed to make personal inquiries of Oyasama without an intermediary.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 89–90 Continue reading Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 106

Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 99

99. Wedding in Osaka

One day in March 1882, Unosuke Tosa abruptly left his home in Muya without telling his wife, carrying only the shrine of God the Parent on his back. This move was made after a long struggle with his adoptive parents who strongly opposed his single-hearted devotion to missionary work. Afterward he began to spread the teachings at Sangenya in Osaka.

Sometimes he felt forlorn and helpless when he thought of Masa, his wife, whom he had left at home, but he was glad that he was living closer to Jiba. It was his greatest joy to see Oyasama by returning to Jiba. Because nothing was more pleasant for him than being with Her as long as possible, he kept staying at the Residence. On such a particular day, Unosuke was weeding at the Residence in the warm spring sun. He was not aware that Oyasama was standing behind him until She spoke to him smiling:

“You had better return to Osaka quickly. There will be a wedding there.”

Unosuke said, “Yes, I see,” but he had not the slightest idea who was going to be married.

Thinking about Oyasama’s puzzling remark over and over, he returned to his lodgings in Osaka and found a new pair of woman’s clogs at the entrance. His wife, Masa, was there. She clung madly to her husband’s chest and wept and wept without saying a word. After a long time she looked up at him and tearfully begged him to return, saying, “Please come back to Muya with me. Your missionary work will be no problem. Forgive me, I’ve been so weak until now. But now I am resolved. I will persuade my parents to allow you to pursue your life of faith.”

Because Tosa knew well what would happen if he should return home and being determined not to be swayed by her love, he gave no answer. It was at that time that he suddenly recalled Oyasama’s words which he had heard at Jiba. He had not even considered being reinstated in the Tosa family. But when he thought it over carefully, he was able to understand the true meaning of Oyasama’s words that it was he himself who was the groom in Osaka. He finally resolved, “I was completely wrong in forsaking my family because of their opposition to my life of faith. I shall again return home and no matter how great the hardships may be, I will accept them all joyfully. Single-heartedly I will dedicate myself; even if I should die, I will be happy.”

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 81–83

Continue reading Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 99

Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 98

98. For Eternity

When Izo Iburi gave up his house in Ichinomoto and moved to the Residence on March 26, 1882, Oyasama gave him these words:

“I had you live in here, deciding that from now on you are the members of the one household and one family. Do not move for eternity. Do not be moved.”

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 81

Continue reading Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 98