33. The Bridge Between Countries
Risaburo Yamamoto of Kashiwara Village, Kawachi Province, injured his chest in a village sumo-wrestling match in the autumn of 1870 at the age of twenty-one. For three years from that time he was sick in bed. Doctors were consulted and prayers were offered here and there at shrines and temples for his recovery. But it was to no avail. In fact, his condition became worse until he was on the verge of death. Just at that time, during the summer of 1873, his family heard of God the Parent from a sawyer named Kuma. He had come from Furu, Yamato Province, to work at the To Sawmill in that same village of Kashiwara. Upon hearing of God the Parent, Rihachi, Risaburo’s father, promptly returned to Jiba in place of his son. Oyasama said:
“This Residence is the Residence where mankind was first created. This is the birthplace of man. No matter how serious, any sickness will be cured. Bring your son here at once. I have been eagerly waiting for your coming.”
Receiving such encouraging words, Rihachi returned home and conveyed them to his son. Whereupon Risaburo began to say, “I want to go and worship the god in Yamato.” The family members tried to stop him by saying, “You will never make it to Yamato.” But Risaburo pleaded, “I don’t care, I still want to go. I want to be near that god.”
In response to his earnest pleas, a stretcher was prepared. When it became dark, he was quietly carried out of the gate. However, on the way, when they came to a big bridge over the Tatsuta River, Risaburo stopped breathing, and so they turned back. But when they reached home, he miraculously started to breathe again. Because he pleaded, “I don’t care if I die,” the family, according to custom, drank water from a sake cup at what might be a final parting. Carrying him on the stretcher, they again departed for Yamato late at night with lanterns. It was a dark night.
The group finally reached Jiba on the evening of the following day. The gates of the Residence were already closed, so they sought lodging in a nearby home. The next morning, Risaburo, who was on the verge of death, was brought before Oyasama. She said:
“You need not worry. You shall be saved for sure if you decide to dedicate your whole life to serve this Residence.”
Continuing, She gave him the following words:
“The bridge between countries; a rough log bridge. Without a bridge, a river cannot be crossed. Will you dedicate your life, or not? Arakitoryo, arakitoryo!*”
Oyasama ordered a bath for Risaburo, and said:
“Take a bath now.”
When he returned from the bath, Oyasama said:
“You must now feel fresh and lively.”
Although he had been in no condition to take the bath, he had no trouble doing so. In fact, Risaburo’s suffering disappeared and his pain faded away. He heartily ate three bowls of the rice gruel that Oyasama gave him. Due to Oyasama’s warm parental love, Risaburo received God’s blessing and regained his health on the sixth day. After staying a month he returned to Kashiwara. The villagers were struck with admiration when they saw his vigorous health.
*Arakitoryo: literally, ‘the master wood cutter’; it has the meaning of ‘pioneer missionary.’