Insights into the Anecdotes: Shobei Masuno (1849–1914), Anecdote 145 “Always in a Comfortable Place to Live”

The Anecdote (Summary)

When Shobei Masuno’s wife, Ito, visited her childhood friend Cho, daughter of Yazaemon Koyama of Sannomiya in Kobe in February 1884, Cho said to her, “Tenri-O-no-Mikoto is truly the all-powerful God of wonders.”

Ito had been suffering for three years from an eye disease. Several famous doctors had treated her, but they could not help her. All she could do was to resign herself to the fact that she was destined to be blind. Shobei, for his part, had been afflicted with beriberi for many years and, since none of the medical treatments offered to him had helped him, he too was always in a gloomy mood.

They made arrangements to listen to the teachings from Yazaemon on February 15 for the first time. They had an altar built to God quickly. The couple then listened together to Yazaemon’s talk, which included the following: “Illness is a manifestation of the eight dusts of the mind. If you repent of your dusts, your illness will certainly be cured. Become of a sincere mind and rely on God.” He also told them, “Food is a gift from God; there is no food that will poison you.” After hearing these words, Shobei, who had quit drinking sake because of his illness, tried drinking the sake which had been offered to God on that day. The next day, he felt invigorated. As for Ito, after just one night, her sight had improved to the point where she could distinguish between black and white.

Together the couple offered their thanks to God. They also went to Koyama’s home to share their joy with him. But when they returned home, Ito was again almost blind even before nightfall. The couple discussed the matter together. “We were blessed with God’s providence in just one night. God will surely save us if we make a firm resolution to unite our hearts and serve God for the rest of our lives,” they concluded. So the couple united their hearts and prayed for God’s blessing, zealously performing the morning and evening services. Shobei recovered in fifteen days and Ito received God’s blessing in thirty days.

With a joyful heart, Shobei returned to Jiba for the first time on April 6. Oyasama was to leave Nara Prison and return home that day. He went to Nara to greet Her and accompany Her home. He stayed until the ninth. Oyasama spoke to Shobei gently, saying: “Shobei, thank you for coming. There will come a time when you will live in the Residence.”

He was so deeply moved by these words that he devoted himself to spreading the fragrance of the teachings of God and helping save others, traveling back and forth between Kobe and Jiba and neglecting his business. But whenever he was away from Jiba his health was not as good as usual, so he asked Oyasama for instructions. She told him: “You should always live in a place that is comfortable.” Upon receiving these words, Shobei made a firm resolution to live at the Residence.

Just a Few Words from Her Were Enough to Make Shobei Resolve to Serve God All His Life

by Masatoshi Masuno, Honbu-in

Shobei was born on March 1, 1849, as his parents’ first son. His father, also named Shobei (“Sho” written with a different character), was a retainer of the Hagi Domain, which was also known as “Choshu Domain” (part of what is now Yamaguchi Prefecture). His childhood name was Tomojiro. He was trained in academics and the military arts at the domain’s school called Meirinkan. He was good at shooting in particular.

Transitioning from Choshu Domain Retainer to Railway Employee

Shobei started to work at the record-keeping section of Hagi Castle in 1860 when he was twelve years old. He was appointed as a librarian at Meirinkan the following year. It was not a position with much responsibility, yet the fact that he was given a position at the tender age of thirteen indicates that he was not ordinary.

When Takachika Mori, head of the domain, moved the seat of the Mori clan to Yamaguchi Castle in 1862, Shobei also moved there to continue to work for the domain. When the Tokugawa government sent a huge military force to attack Choshu in 1864, Shobei, still only fifteen years old, fought to defend the domain along with Shinsaku Takasugi and others.

A few years later, the Tokugawa government returned power to the emperor, allowing imperial rule to be restored. When the national capital was moved in 1869 to Tokyo, Shobei was assigned by the Choshu Domain as a military guard and traveled to Tokyo on a foreign military ship. In 1871 he started to serve in the Imperial Guard, which was created to protect the emperor and his palace. Yet he retired from it approximately one year later.

In 1872 he learned from a foreigner how to perform administrative tasks involved in managing railways. After the first railway was constructed in Japan linking Tokyo and Yokohama, he worked at stations in Yokohama, Shinagawa, and Shinbashi. Around that time he changed his name to “Shisho.” In 1874, when the railway was built between Osaka and Kobe, he transferred to Sannomiya Station, where he was promoted to assistant stationmaster at the age of thirty. While he was working at Sannomiya Station, he lived in the Motomachi area. Across the road from his apartment, a wealthy man named Risaburo Haruno lived, and Shobei married his younger sister, Ito. He worked at Sannomiya Station until 1882 when he retired from the job for health reasons.

Shobei contributed to the development of Japan’s railways in the early days. At one point, one of his staff members was Zenichi Takahashi, who went on to become the first stationmaster of Tokyo Station. If Shobei had continued working on the railways, he might have held a significant position of responsibility. Give this, it is not difficult to imagine how disappointed he must have felt when he had to retire.

After retiring from the railways, he built a new house at 3 chome, Motomachi, using money from his savings, and started a fancy goods shop he named “Tokyo-ya,” selling merchandise from Tokyo. At that time, he renamed himself “Shobei” after his late father.

If Husband and Wife Follow the Path Together

It was two years later, in February 1884, that he embraced the faith.

Sometime before he quit his railway job, his wife, Ito, contracted an eye disease and was diagnosed with glaucoma. She even went to a hospital run by a foreigner named Taylor. Yet her condition continued to worsen until she became almost blind.

One day, on the way back from the hospital, Ito dropped by to see Cho, a friend from her childhood who lived in Sannomiya. Cho said to her, “Tenri-O-no-Mikoto is truly the all-powerful God of wonders who can cure any illness.” Ito asked, “Then, can my eye disease be cured?” Cho replied firmly saying, “If you and your husband follow the path together, it will be definitely cured.”

Right after Ito returned home, she told Shobei about it. Yet he did not take it seriously and said, “The disease cannot be cured by merely listening to a talk.” Ito had been suffering from the disease for three years. None of the doctors she had consulted could help improve her condition, and she was destined to go blind. Ito earnestly told him, “I would rather leave if that is your attitude.”At her insistence—coupled with the faint prospect of help for his own disease—Shobei softened his attitude and agreed to listen to the teachings. What happened thereafter is as described in the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter.

After Shobei was granted his first audience with Oyasama, it took approximately five years to wind up his business, and he started to live in the Residence in January 1890. Oyasama had said, “There will come a time when you will live in the Residence.” Thus, Her words finally came true. From Shobei’s perspective, life in Jiba, for which he had been longing since he had heard those words, was realized at last.

Thereafter, he held a number of responsible positions including accountant for Church Headquarters. It is particularly noteworthy that he bore great responsibilities when he served as a committee member for Tenrikyo’s sectarian independence movement and for the “Taisho Construction,” during which buildings such as what is now the North Worship Hall were constructed. Furthermore, he served as counselor and coordinator for several churches and as diocesan advisor for Osaka, Hyogo, and Nara prefectures. He was also appointed as superintendent of Osaka Diocese in 1910.

No Need for Further Inquiries

When I reflect on the anecdote at the beginning of this chapter, two things come to mind.

The first is related to the fact that Shobei requested divine directions whenever he had some concerns or suffered from illnesses or troubles. The number of directions he received reaches 471, counting only those included in the official compilation of the Osashizu, The Divine Directions. When he did not fully understand a divine direction he had received in reply to his inquiry, he continued to make further inquiries until he came to understand it fully. He would implement a direction only after he had a total understanding of it. Of course, once he understood a direction, he would dedicate himself wholly to its implementation in single-heartedness with God without wavering.

Regarding moving into the Residence, however, he made up his mind immediately after just one divine direction. During his first audience with Oyasama in 1884, She had said, “There will come a time when you will live in the Residence”—words that sounded like a prophecy. Thereafter, he received divine guidance from time to time in the form of illness. He then received a divine direction regarding living in the Residence, a direction that seemed to drum Her message into him. This, I believe, helped him decide to live in the Residence without needing further directions.

Even today, the everliving Oyasama uses various ways to tell us beforehand what is to happen. I would assume that many people have had experiences where they thought, “Oyasama informed me in advance some time ago of what is happening now.” Unfortunately, however, we often realize it only when we face troubles or suffer from illnesses. We tend to regret that, had we realized it earlier, we could have had the great misfortune reduced to a small misfortune.

We would do well to feel Oyasama’s message more sensitively beforehand and lead our daily lives in accord with the mind of the Parent. To do so, it is indispensable for us to go to the church and talk to the everliving Oyasama.

The second thing that comes to mind is that the warm and patient way Oyasama always taught Shobei when he repeatedly requested divine directions models for us the attitude we should have as Yoboku. I am probably not the only one who finds it difficult to deal with someone who is argumentative all the time. In raising a child, as well as in guiding a person who does not know the teachings, we would do well to emulate the patience and love with which Oyasama always guided followers.

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

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