Insights into the Anecdotes: Tokichi Izumita (1840–1904), Anecdote 114: “You Went through Much Difficulty”

The Anecdote (Summary)


One day, Tokichi Izumita was held up by three highwaymen on the Jusan Pass. At that time the teaching of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed,” which he had often been taught, flashed across his mind.

He obediently took off his coat, kimono, and everything just as he was told. Putting his wallet on top of his clothes, he knelt and bowed respectfully before them. “Please take them all,” he said. When he raised his head, the three highwaymen were gone.

They must have felt uneasy because he was too obedient, and they left without taking a single thing. Izumita then put his clothes back on and continued to Jiba.

When he was granted an audience with Oyasama, She said: “You went through much difficulty. Because you have achieved harmony in the family, I grant you the Sazuke of Ashiki Harai. Receive it.” This was how Tokichi was granted the Sazuke.


Life As Seen by an Expert Missionary Who Helped Save Many

by Masahiko Imamura, Head Minister of Nakatsu Grand Church


Tokichi was born on May 10, 1840, in Oimazato Village, Higashinari County, Osaka, (now a section of Osaka City known as Oimazato, Higashinari Ward). His parents passed away when he was four years old. Nicknamed Kumakichi, he was thereafter raised by the Yamamotos in Ikaino Village, Higashinari County. It is said that he was brought up along with the Yamamotos’ son, Ihei, as if they were brothers. Ihei was later to introduce him to the path of faith.


“Going Out to Make Repayment”

Tokichi suffered from stomach cancer in 1877. Yet he loved drinking so much that he could not stop it until, at last, his condition was hopeless.

It was then that Ihei, who had already embraced the faith, conveyed to Tokichi the teaching of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” for the first time and said: “What you like can become your enemy. You won’t be saved unless you stop it.” Tokichi was impressed by the profound teaching—the likes of which he had never heard before—and resolved to quit drinking, which Ihei described as Tokichi’s “potential enemy.” Then he received a vivid blessing in one week. Later, Tokichi returned to Jiba with Ihei and was granted an audience with Oyasama for the first time.

Tokichi did not know the love of his own parents, who had passed away when he was still a little child. God the Parent’s vivid blessing and Oyasama’s warm parental love touched his heart, making him aware of the preciousness of life, which is sustained by God.

Having returned to Osaka, Tokichi visited those suffering from illnesses. He referred to this salvation work as “going out to make repayment.” Yet, nobody was willing to follow the path no matter how earnestly he engaged in salvation work. Tokichi started wondering if he was useless because he did not seem to be of any help in salvation work. He went to the Echigo region—which was far away from Osaka—looking for a new place to do missionary work. His salvation work, however, did not go well there either. He then returned to the Residence, longing for Jiba. The first part of anecdote 64, “Smoothed Out Gently,” took place on that occasion. Tokichi found Oyasama smoothing out small pieces of crumpled paper on Her knee, and She said: “These crumpled pieces, if smoothed out gently like this, become neat and can be used again. Nothing is useless.”

Delighted and spirited, Tokichi went back to Osaka and engaged passionately in salvation work. Whenever his confidence was shaken, he would pour cold water over himself to encourage himself. He would even immerse himself in a river for many hours in the middle of the night in the coldest season of the year. He sometimes remained in the river all night, holding on to one of the posts of the Tenjin Bridge.

One day, when Tokichi returned to the Residence, Oyasama said, “Kumakichi, on this path you must not torture yourself.” Listening to these words filled with parental love, he was struck anew by the preciousness of the truth of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed”—an experience that deepened his faith in single-heartedness with God. Soon after that, Tokichi was blessed with one person after another starting to follow the path.

In 1882 Tokichi became the head of “Ten’e Fourth Fellowship.” The followers called him the “barefooted leader” as he did not bother to carry any spare sandals despite frequently commuting between the Residence and places where he engaged in salvation work.


Always Finding Joy in Helping Save Others

It was around that time that—as we read in the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter—Tokichi was held up by three highwaymen on the Jusan Pass on his way back to Jiba, although he had nothing stolen. Then after arriving at the Residence, he received the truth of the Sazuke, the Divine Grant, from Oyasama, who said: “You went through much difficulty. Because you have achieved harmony in the family, I grant you the Sazuke of Ashiki Harai. Receive it.”

Tokichi now became even more enthusiastic about salvation work. He went on to guide and help save a lot of people. On January 26 (by the lunar calendar), 1887, when Oyasama withdrew from physical life, he participated in the Service as a singer by responding to the instructions of the first Shinbashira, Shinnosuke Nakayama, “Only those who are willing to risk their lives should take part.”

Later a turning point in Tokichi’s life came after Sanjiro Fushimi’s encounter with Tenrikyo. Sanjiro ran a lamp shop in Nakatsu in the Kyushu region. One day he visited Osaka and worshiped at Senba Branch Church where he listened to the teachings of God. He then expressed his desire to “have these wonderful teachings of God conveyed to people in Nakatsu.” At that time, however, nobody affiliated with Senba could go to Kyushu to engage in missionary work, so Tokichi said, “I will go.” It was in November 1890, when Tokichi was fifty-one years old.

He must have decided to go to Kyushu partly because of his desire to make repayment for the blessing by which he had been saved from illness and partly because of his joy at being used for salvation work and at having been granted the truth of the Sazuke as well as having received Oyasama’s words filled with parental love, such as “Nothing is useless”—just when he was wondering if he was of no use—and “Kumakichi, on this path you must not torture yourself.”

After he arrived in Nakatsu, Tokichi started missionary work, staying in a room on the second floor of Fushimi’s house. Then instances of wondrous salvation appeared one after another. On January 31, 1893, Tokichi received permission to establish a church under the name “The Office for Missionary Activities in Nakatsu,” which was the beginning of what is now known as Nakatsu Grand Church.


When Caught in a Predicament

It is no exaggeration to say that Tokichi lived a life of full devotion to salvation work. We cannot deepen our understanding of the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter without considering his total devotion to salvation work. In this regard, there is an instructive story.

One day in 1882, when Tokichi, who at the time was a steamed potato vendor, visited the Komatsus as usual to obtain water, he found their son Komakichi (who was later to establish what is now Mitsu Grand Church) suffering from cholera. Tokichi immediately poured water from their well over himself and offered a fervent prayer to God the Parent, and Komakichi received the blessing of a swift recovery.

On the following night, Komakichi and his father came to thank Tokichi and tried to give him rice and sugar candy called konpeito. Yet Tokichi refused to accept them and said, “It was not I but God who saved you.” He went on to say, “If you feel grateful, you can join me in my salvation work to make repayment to God.”

This story shows that Tokichi was firmly convinced that the source of salvation was God the Parent, that one could receive blessings through the workings of God the Parent, and that the only way to make repayment for the blessings received was to help others be saved.

When Motoyoshi Ibaragi (who later became the head minister of Kita Grand Church) visited Tokichi to ask him to save his daughter who was suffering from an illness, Tokichi said: “Who created the suffering child? Anything that exists in the world can be repaired by its creator. The fact that you cannot cure your child of her illness is proof that you two, husband and wife, did not create the child. The creator of humankind is God, whom we call ‘Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.’ Because God created not only humankind but also all things in this world, God will cure any illness if you pray to this God.”

Half a year later, when Ibaragi visited Tokichi because his child fell sick again, Tokichi instructed him saying: “Faith in this path is not about praying for divine favors for oneself as prayers in shrines or temples might be. God desires us to grow spiritually to a point where we realize God’s intention and cultivate the mind of saving others, rather than keep asking for help as a child would. We cannot say that we are following the path unless we grow spiritually as befits the length of time we have followed the path, such as one month, six months, and so forth. You cannot receive the blessing of a cure as you did at the beginning.” Thus, Tokichi taught people that they should realize the intention of God the Parent and respond to it, thereby enabling themselves to further their spiritual growth, and that spiritual growth should be the purpose of faith and was, in fact, what would allow them to receive God’s blessings.

It must have been because Tokichi’s faith was so strong that, when he was held up by three highwaymen, the teaching of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” suddenly flashed across his mind. He always kept in mind that the source of salvation was in the truth of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed.” Therefore, even when he faced that predicament, he must have tried to implement the Divine Model of Oyasama. The anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter captures a telling moment in Tokichi’s life, which was constantly devoted to putting Oyasama’s teachings into practice. This, I think, is why Oyasama expressed Her appreciation to him for his efforts to advance his spiritual growth, saying, “You went through much difficulty,” and granted him the truth of the Sazuke.

I wonder if those of us living in this day and age tend to be negligent in implementing the teachings in our daily lives. We may think that it is impossible to follow the path in the way early followers such as Tokichi did. Even though times and social conditions change, however, the fundamental fact remains that human existence is sustained by God the Parent, who is enabling us to be alive.

Our image of Tokichi Izumita may be as a great missionary who helped save a lot of people. In fact, however, his attitude to the faith was simple and clear. His salvation work was based on his gratitude for the blessing of life and his joy at realizing that all were kept alive by God. We can see this attitude to the faith in the way he conveyed the truth of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” to others and made repeated efforts to explain it in an-easy-to-understand way until they were fully convinced of it and were able to base their behavior on it.

Making repayment to God the Parent, more than anything else, was the key means by which Tokichi sought to grow spiritually. Especially since there is a tendency these days to treat life lightly, we would do well to once again take to heart the teaching of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” and to strive to make repayment for the blessings we constantly receive.


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

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