In the summer of 1877, nine-year-old Narazo Yaoi of Izushichijo Village, Yamato Province, was playing with two or three neighborhood children in the Saho River, which flowed on the west side of the village. Somehow his penis was bitten by a leech. It did not hurt much at the time, but two or three days later it became swollen. Although there was no pain, his parents were worried because it was such an important organ. Doctors were consulted, faith healing was tried and the best of care was given, but there was no sign of recovery.
Jirokichi Kita’s aunt, Ko Yaoi, of the same village, and Isaburo Masui’s mother, Kiku, were already devout followers at that time. So they urged Narazo’s grandmother, Koto, to join the faith. Being religious by nature, she readily agreed. But Narazo’s father, Sogoro, was only interested in farming and he laughed at those who were religious. Koto asked him: “Do you wish to cancel my sixtieth birthday celebration or do you wish to join the faith?* Please choose one or the other.” So Sogoro finally consented to join. It was January 1878.
Then grandmother Koto took Narazo to Jiba at once. They were received by Oyasama, who was shown his ailment. Oyasama gave them the following words: “The pillar of the family. This is a trouble of the pillar. You will be saved according to your mind.” From then on grandmother Koto and Narazo’s mother, Naka, took turns returning with him to the Residence, a distance of about six kilometers (3.7 mi.), every third day. But there was no sign of any blessing.
In the middle of March 1878, while Koto was visiting the Residence with Narazo, Chusaku Tsuji told them: “We are told that ‘a boy should be accompanied by his father.’ Please have Sogoro himself return here accompanying his own son.” Whereupon Koto returned home and asked Sogoro, “Won’t you please return to the Residence?”
So Sogoro returned to Jiba, accompanying Narazo, on March 25th and returned home that same evening. However, Narazo’s penis became swollen the following morning, just as it did when it was first bitten. But on the morning of the twenty-eighth he received the blessing of a complete cure.
The whole family was happy beyond description. Narazo, then a boy of ten years, was thrilled from the bottom of his heart to have received the providence of God the Parent. This became the foundation of his devout faith for the rest of his life.
* In Japan, the sixtieth birthday is a very auspicious event. It is customary for the children to provide the celebration for their parent, and the parent would lose face in the community if the occasion was not celebrated.
The Presence of the Father as “the Pillar of the Family”
by Yuzo Yaoi, Successor-Designate to
Harumichi Grand Church’s Head Minister
Narazo Yaoi was born on September 28, 1869, by the lunar calendar, in Izushichijo Village (now a section of Yamato-Koriyama City known as Izushichijo-cho) as the eldest son of his father, Sogoro, and his mother, Naka.
It was in 1877 that the family was drawn to the faith through Narazo’s physical ailment. First, however, I would like to look at people’s attitude to Tenrikyo in Izushichijo Village in those days.
Six or seven years before Narazo was born, there was a person in Kobayashi Village—located west of Izushichijo Village—who suffered from Hansen’s disease. It was said that the person returned to Jiba every day, walking a distance of approximately twelve kilometers (7.5 mi.), and was completely cured on the forty-ninth day. Having seen the vivid blessing with their own eyes, all people in Izushichijo Village embraced the faith. Their enthusiasm for the faith, however, had been waning by the time of Narazo’s birth.
Awakening to the Faith at a Young Age
The anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter took place in such circumstances. In the summer of 1877, nine-year-old Narazo was playing with two or three neighborhood children in a river when his penis was bitten by a leech. A couple of days later it became badly swollen. Although all possible medical treatments and faith healing were conducted, there was no sign of recovery so that his family was at a complete loss as to what to do. Narazo’s grandmother, Koto, was urged to embrace the faith by her village friends Ko Yaoi (Jirokichi Kita’s aunt) and Kiku Masui (Isaburo Masui’s mother), both of whom were devout followers. Yet Sogoro, who was opposed to the faith, would not listen to them.
At last, however, toward the end of 1877 Koto strongly urged Sogoro to embrace the faith by saying: “Do you wish to cancel my sixtieth birthday celebration or do you wish to join the faith? Please choose one or the other.” Sogoro then accepted her request. Thus, Narazo was brought to Jiba by his grandmother for the first time. Oyasama said to them: “The pillar of the family. This is a trouble of the pillar. You will be saved according to your mind.”
Thereafter Narazo’s mother and grandmother took turns taking him to Jiba every third day. However, there was no sign of recovery. The situation continued for two months until one day, when Koto and Narazo returned to Jiba, Chusaku Tsuji, who happened to be in Jiba, told them, “We are told that ‘a boy should be accompanied by his father.’” Finally, on February 22 by the lunar calendar, Sogoro returned to Jiba taking Narazo with him, and three days later the boy was blessed with a complete recovery from his condition. The following day the entire family returned to Jiba in order to attend the Monthly Service and express their thanks. After that, in addition to attending every Monthly Service on the 26th, the Yaois made a point of returning to Jiba two or three times every month.
Narazo, who was only around ten years old at that time, visited Isaburo Masui’s home every night to listen to God’s teachings and learned the hand movements for the Service. It was said that, when Isaburo was not at home, Narazo would wait for him until late at night talking with his family members. Isaburo used to say, “There is not a single day when Narazo does not come, even if there is a day when crows do not caw.”
From around the age of fifteen, Narazo joined Chusaku Tsuji and Isaburo Masui in performing the Service for Rain at various places and accompanied them when they visited neighboring villages to save those suffering from illness. During that period, Narazo received Oyasama’s red clothes directly from Her. When he was about seventeen years of age, he began to visit neighboring villages to teach the hand movements for the Service. He received the truth of the Sazuke in 1888. In addition to his dedication to these tasks, Narazo put time and effort into nurturing younger people, because, after having awakened to the faith at a young age, he had himself benefited from instruction by many senior followers. Many young people received strict training from Narazo, including some who went on to become Honbu-in, graduate from Kyoto Imperial University (now called Kyoto University), or take active roles in education.
The Stubborn Father Who Was against the Faith
At this point, let us consider Sogoro, who played an important role in the development of the Yaoi family’s faith. He was well-organized and very strict by nature and worked hard on the family farm as the breadwinner.
Koto said to Sogoro: “Please cancel my sixtieth birthday celebration if you are not going to embrace the faith. Narazo is my beloved grandchild and the heir to this family. Yet if he is under medical treatment, he will not be able to eat any of the rice cakes to be made to commemorate the occasion. We are told that, if you decide to follow the path, there will be no need for such a dietary regimen. Please embrace the faith.” The sixtieth birthday celebration was a very important event to which the neighbors and the relatives should be invited, and it was the responsibility of the head of the family to hold the celebration. Although Sogoro was against the faith, he had to admit defeat and accept her words.
Sogoro, however, did not initially visit the Residence himself. Perhaps knowing Sogoro’s stubbornness, Chusaku Tsuji said: “We are told that ‘a boy should be accompanied by his father.’ Please have Sogoro himself return here accompanying his own son.” Then he added, “I am only saying this because I am related, however distantly, to the family.”
Given that Sogoro was stubborn and unreligious, he might not actually have settled in his mind the true meaning of what Chusaku said. Rather, I think that he only accepted Chusaku’s words because Chusaku was a distant relative of his.
The lunar calendar date of February 22 when Sogoro and Narazo came to Jiba was the day of a memorial ceremony at Horyuji Temple. The villagers were all visiting the temple, located to the west of the village, while Sogoro and his son went east to visit the Residence. Although Sogoro had even served as an official of the village, he turned his back to other villagers to come to Jiba, and it was not as if he had been enthusiastic about the faith, either. This allows us a glimpse into his parental love for his son.
After that he gradually deepened his faith to the point where in 1892 he even quit his family business to devote himself to the path single-heartedly. He carried out kitchen tasks at the Residence for fifteen years until he passed away for rebirth.
Another Look at the Father-Child Relationship
Having followed the development of the faith of the father and the son, we can see that Narazo found faith through his own bodily complaint, while Sogoro was drawn to the faith because of his son’s condition. In other words, God the Parent and Oyasama gave the father “divine guidance” and a “road sign” through his child’s ailment. I think that this perspective helps us perceive the profound intention contained in the words “a boy should be accompanied by his father.”
In today’s society family ties are weakening, and there are endless cases where parents and children have a troubled relationship and even fight each other. I wonder if the father’s presence is not strong enough in many families with such problems.
The relationship between a father and son has a way of becoming strained. I think that the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter gives us important pointers on reconsidering the father-son relationship. A father has traditionally been regarded as the “central pillar of the family.” I think that when the father, who is expected to support the whole family as its core pillar, is not stable and reliable, the family is at risk of breaking down.
In the case of the Yaoi family, Narazo’s father, Sogoro, had a strong presence in the family, although we cannot underestimate the significant role that Narazo’s grandmother, Koto, played behind the scenes. The family’s faith in Tenrikyo developed and was maintained because of the father’s reliable presence as the central pillar and the other family members’ cooperation with him.
Oyasama said to Narazo when he was first brought to the Residence by his grandmother: “This is a trouble of the pillar. You will be saved according to your mind.” Perhaps Oyasama’s words could be interpreted as referring to Sogoro, who was against the path. In fact, when Sogoro replaced his mind, the family’s faith made a dramatic change. As the strong bond between the father and the son allowed their faith to develop, wonderful blessings were received, and the faith of the whole family gradually solidified. The state of mind of the father, who was the Yaoi family’s pillar, was indeed very important. The faith of younger generations of family members may be more likely to develop when the pillar of the family plays a central role in the practice of the faith.
Later, Sogoro began to work exclusively for the path. Narazo’s younger brothers established their respective churches and devoted their efforts to the work of the path. Wonderful blessings were granted one after another as all family members tried to connect their minds with Jiba.
I believe that we can build the basis for receiving blessings by ensuring that all our family members seek to return to Jiba and visit their regional churches. I strongly feel that it is within the family that the joy of faith comes into being and is nurtured.
From Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete—gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie, published by Tenrikyo Doyusha Publishing Company