Insights into the Anecdotes: Unosuke Tosa (1855–1928), Anecdote 99 “Wedding in Osaka”

The Anecdote (Summary)


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. He made this move after a long struggle with his parents-in-law, 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 as 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.

During one such return, 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.

Unexpectedly, he found his wife, Masa, there. She clung 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. I would go through any hardship for the path with you. 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 returned home, he was determined not to be swayed by her love and gave no immediate answer.

It was at that time that he suddenly recalled the words that Oyasama had spoken to him at Jiba. He had not 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. 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 will again return home and, no matter how great the hardships may be, I will accept them all joyfully. I will dedicate myself single-heartedly to the path; even if I die, I will be happy.”


Points to Ponder When Facing Family Opposition

By Takenao Tosa, Head Minister of Muya Grand Church


Unosuke was born in 1855 in Mukoshima in Saba County, Suou Province, (now a section of Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, known as Mukoshima), the second son of Takizo Shirai and his wife, Kiu.

He was ten years old when his father passed away. He started to help his mother sell fish, but they were impoverished. Eager to make life better for his mother, he became an assistant cook on a northbound cargo ship when he was thirteen years old. Perhaps he had a natural talent for working on a ship; he became a competent sailor at the age of seventeen, and apparently people said that he had a promising future.

When he was twenty-one years old, he left his home in Yamaguchi Prefecture and started to work as a sailor on a northbound cargo ship for a major operator based in the port of Muya in what is now Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture. Three years later, in the spring of 1878, he married Shinpei Tosa’s adopted daughter, Masa, who was nineteen years old. He was also adopted into the Tosa family.


Considered Hopeless by a Prestigious Doctor in Osaka

In the autumn of 1878 Unosuke suffered from beriberi heart disease. In those days northbound ships in the Kinki and Shikoku regions set out from their home ports in spring and returned in autumn. After unloading, the ships remained docked in the Aji River or the Kizu River in Osaka for maintenance until the following spring. During the period, sailors took turns watching their boats, so there were a lot of accommodations for them in Sangenya, a port area. Unosuke was on duty when taken ill. He was advised to see a doctor, who then diagnosed him with beriberi heart disease.

Immediately, he returned to Muya to inform the family of the illness and was treated by a locally famous doctor. Yet his condition worsened. He went back to Osaka alone at the end of the year. He visited a prestigious medical school, which was considered to be at the cutting-edge of modern medicine in those days. He was told: “If your heartbeat stops, it will be the end of your life. I can give you medication, but it is only for temporary relief.” He became desperate.

It was the landlady of a sailors’ inn in Sangenya who sincerely took care of Unosuke. Being a follower of the path, she told him: “Human bodies are lent by God. God creates them and lends them to us. We are taught that ‘the mind alone is the truth of oneself’ and that whether we become ill and what illness we may suffer from depend totally on our mind.” He was deeply impressed by the teaching of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed.” At his request, she asked Tojiro Hakata, head of Shinjin Fellowship, who engaged in missionary work in Sangenya, to help save Unosuke. Tojiro performed a three-day-three-night prayer, and Unosuke received a vivid blessing.


Once a Sailor, Now Devoted to Salvation Work

Unosuke visited the Residence for the first time along with followers from Shinjin Fellowship in October of the following year. On that occasion, he said to one of the intermediaries, “As a token of my gratitude for blessing me with a cure for my illness, I would like to offer a garden lantern or an entrance gate.” The reply was: “This God is God in Truth, who created humankind. To express your gratitude to God, nothing is more important than doing salvation work.”

Having listened to it, Unosuke firmly resolved to work for the salvation of others as long as he was alive. Thereafter, he visited senior missionaries in Sangenya frequently to learn the teachings and practice the Dance with Hand Movements.

In the summer of 1880 he sailed on a northbound ship to Shioya (now a section of Otaru City), Hokkaido. During his stay there, Unosuke suffered from a serious illness again. He reflected on his way of living and his use of the mind in light of the teachings, wrote down twenty-two points of repentance, and offered his apology to God. He was then blessed with a complete recovery. Thereupon, he decided to quit working as a sailor and dedicate himself to saving others.

Being a sailor enabled him to earn a lot of money, however, so his parents-in-law were strongly against him becoming exclusively devoted to the path. Therefore, Unosuke worked hard to both earn a good income and carry out salvation work. In the spring of 1881 he returned to Jiba with a group of sixteen people.

Thus, Unosuke doubled as a sailor and a missionary. Yet he faced a knot of difficulty again. In the autumn of the same year, his northbound ship was almost shipwrecked near Okushiri Island in Hokkaido but was miraculously saved. When he returned to the Residence to express his thanks, one senior follower informed him that on the very day of the incident Oyasama had faced north with a fan in Her hand and seemed to be calling out to somebody saying: “Ho there! Ahoy!” Deeply touched, Unosuke went into the presence of Oyasama and expressed his gratitude. Then She said, “I brought you home from a dangerous place.” Unosuke now firmly decided to follow the path of single-hearted salvation. (See Anecdote of Oyasama, no. 88, “From a Dangerous Place.”)


Tying the Marital Knot Again

The anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter took place the following year. Until then only five years had passed since he embraced his faith. Having looked at his faith journey during those years, we can see that the knots of difficulty he faced were all so harsh that each seemed to require a life-or-death commitment.

On the other hand, it is worth noting that, even though he embraced the faith after his marriage, he was always following the path alone. After he started following the path in Sangenya, his family members, including and especially his wife, Masa, were conspicuously absent from the process of his spiritual growth.

In fact, Unosuke ended up cutting off ties with his family because of his missionary work even though the faith he was trying to share with others aims at the achievement of the Joyous Life. In this sense, this anecdote, “Wedding in Osaka,” can be said to describe a big turning point in his life of faith.

Oyasama said to Unosuke, who was avoiding his family in order to follow the path: “You had better return to Osaka quickly. There will be a wedding there.” She did not just say this because She knew that Masa had come to Osaka. I think She said it out of parental love in order to help tie the marital knot again by teaching him how important it was for a husband and wife to follow the faith together. He made a firm resolution: “I will return home and whatever severe hardships I may face, I will accept them all joyfully.” When Unosuke and Masa returned to Muya, his parents-in-law were enraged and disowned them. The couple rented a dilapidated storehouse near their family home, installed a small family altar on the second floor, and endeavored to follow the path of single-hearted salvation. While living in poverty, Unosuke energetically sprinkled the fragrance of the teachings and engaged in salvation work. He did some farm work, finding time in between his missionary activities, while Masa worked for a candy shop, so as to earn money for pilgrimages to Jiba. In about 1884, they made a group pilgrimage to Jiba almost every month.

Living, as we do, in a society that is far removed from the world of the Joyous Life, those of us who are following the path can face a variety of difficulties. The toughest of them might be opposition from our family members. We may have been deeply impressed by the teachings and received wondrous blessings; however, if we do not have understanding from our family, we might think, “I can just follow the path alone.”

Indeed, Unosuke avoided facing his family’s opposition by going to Osaka. Nevertheless, he worked hard for single-hearted salvation with true sincerity. That is probably why Oyasama helped to strongly tie the knot for him and his wife once again.

He chose devoting himself entirely to the faith over staying with his family; this itself would not be something we could easily emulate. However, the main lesson we learn from this anecdote is that, when facing opposition from our family members, we should, as Unosuke must have done, first convey the teachings to, and achieve unity of mind with, our spouse. Once our minds are settled, the joy of faith will naturally spread to other family members.

The relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, and brothers and sisters are extremely precious since it is God the Parent who establishes them. Even if our family members oppose our faith, we would do well to steadily work toward following the path with them without turning away from the reality of the situation.

From Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete—gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie, published by Tenrikyo Doyusha Publishing Company

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