Mother Earth

Volume 4: The Light of the First Day of Spring

Chapter 5: The Inspired Dream and Divine Inspiration

      At that time the villagers, tired of the crowds of New Year, were closing the doors of their houses, and Ryo and Sumi were coming back from Oki Umehara holding hands. Their mother, Nao, hadn't come back yet. Their eldest sister, Yone, had become insane four days before, and Nao had left for the house of the Otsuki family to take care of her from early morning to midnight, and she couldn't buy rags.

      Yone was in extreme fear of her mother for some unknown reason. When Nao stood up the shade of a tree in the garden, Yone gave a shriek, shouting, "Look there, there is a drill!" Nao was obliged to hide beside the foot warmer in the kitchen, Yone found Nao and screamed, "Oh, a terrible drill!" So Nao couldn't care for her daughter directly, and worked under the Otsuki family hiding her figure from her mad daughter, Yone. There was a need for Nao to go so far feeling misgivings about Yone.

      The infant sisters, Ryo and Sumi, exchanged glances disconsolately, sitting across the foot warmer. Though it was the first of the year, there were no decorations and good dishes in the house. Having nothing to do, Sumi thought over the taste of rice cake which she had eaten at Oki's house, lying face down on the foot warmer. As Ryo felt too lonely in the silence, she found a topic of conversation with difficulty, "How is sister Yone today?"

      Ryo was terrified of going to Kitanishi-cho where Yone lived, but Sumi often visited her house, interested in the terrible situation of Yone's insanity. And Ryo asked Sumi about Yone.

      Sumi raised her face. "Visit Yone once, you will be very pleased to meet her, O-Ryo-han." Encouraged Sumi suddenly stood up and jumped on the foot warmer.

      "Hey you! Sister Yone, who is foolish, totters here and there in the room with an umbrella up, wearing clogs with high heels,..., staring out with her goggle eyes, opening her black-toothed mouth, she shouts,...Namu myoken daibosatsu! Bless me to get well, please! May this woman at once recover completely from illness, thirty-eight years old, the year of the Dragon! Please bless that fellow, fifty-five years old, the year of the Boar, fool Shikazo who is deaf at the same time. Namu myoken daibosatsu, Mamumyo horen gekyo...."

      Ryo laughed rolling about seeing Sumi's gesture which reminded her of the figure of her sister, Yone. Waiting for Ryo to stop laughing, Sumi jumped down off the foot warmer and lowered her voice, becoming serious, "Listen the day we all made rice cake in Nishi-cho, Sister, Yone ran mad and tore up a large part of the just made rice-cakes and scattered the pieces around, I hear. She jumped on such a large round mirror-shaped rice-cake and sat right down on it. What a waste!" "Hm!"

      They glanced at each other, as if striking their foreheads, and were calm for a short time. It seemed as if they imagined the scene which Yone threw soft rice-cakes around regardless of the others.

      "It is a pity that we couldn't pick them up." "Well, how vexing!" They surely seemed to be regretting what happened.

      Sumi suddenly got hungry and threw herself down. Ryo attempted to speak to Sumi, unable to bear the loneliness, "Don't some called mad get well? Hey, O-Sumi?"

      Sumi, looked up at the ceiling of the room, and talked about another thing, "My brother-in-law (Shikazo) Otsuki roared at my mother, shouting that mother had to receive her mad daughter there's no help for it and he could not open his store, I hear."

      Ryo shuddered at her story, "I have a hard time with sister Yone. It's terrible to meet her in this house and I'm going to run out of the door." "However, Mother said to him that she recognized his request after deciding the future of Ryo and Sumi."

      Ryo was frightened at Sumi's telling and raised her up. "Why have you such a careless face? My mother is going to apprentice us again to somewhere, you understand." "Oh, well so...." "I don't know how to do it, and you, O-Sumi?" "I,...I hate it."

      Sumi clung to Ryo's knees and Ryo put herself over on her sister. Both shadows shook and overlapped under the light of the paper-covered lamp stand. Out of the door, it was snowing a little....

      During that night (January 30, Meiji 25), Nao put out the fire of the paper-covered lamp stand and listened to the snowing sound of no echoing, and saw the faint snow light through the window on the side the snow was falling on. The old year had passed last night and the new year's air covered the world of human beings.

      Since Takezo left his mother's house, six years had already passed. He didn't send even a letter to his mother, Nao who continued to set a meal for him praying for his safe return night and day. How and where does he live and sleep the night of New Year's in the falling of a little snow.

      First, Nao's third daughter, Hisa went mad. When thinking of Hisa's recovery, even her eldest daughter, Yone also ran mad. What a fate it is that her two daughters ran mad. Moreover, Yone, who was altogether hostile to Nao, hated and feared her after losing her mind. Nao strained her eyes to see the figure of her mind in the dark.

      Today, Shikazo pressed Nao to accept a mad person, Yone. Of course, Nao repeatedly considered it.

      ...Why do I leave my poor, mad daughter who is alone and was hated by her husband. Even though I am an imperfect mother to her, I am going to finish taking care of her. I have to for my sins. When I reach the time I am tired out, I will starve to death with my daughter.

      ...But, I cannot make my infant children go hungry. I cannot die with them. Nao edged up to Ryo and Sumi breathing calmly in the dark and touched their warm cheeks and stroked their hair.

      ...How miserable it is! I must appreciate these children. Yone is off her mind from me. From the first, it is the bottom of misery that I had to live separate from Yone from early on, and I have not enough time to communicate with my second daughter, Koto in the same case. If I throw my infant children off to apprentice, I won't wonder that they will keep away from me like their elder sisters. I cannot take my eyes off my children. I cannot....

      Nao lay down losing her wits and dying in agony like an old oak with blue acorns lying alone and weather-beaten. How long did she remain in that same state? A sweet smell wafted.

      She raised herself and peered into the darkness with eyes dimmed with tears.

      ...And just then, something white faintly appeared. Just as her clotted and various suffering overflowed from her body, a milk white haze swung near her knees, and spread, ascending subtly.

      Nao was walking in the haze as if being led in it. When the haze cleared away and everything around recovered its color, pebbles which Nao stepped on set up a noise. She felt her body lightly refreshed.

      A number of the palaces which glistened in all the rainbow-colors were appearing ahead lying one upon another in ranks. Nao passed through a splendid main gate without hesitation and went up the stairs. There, a fleshy god sat down as if waiting for her. The white-haired god which had a long beard hanging as long as five fists and had a boyish face, took her by the hand and led her to the inncer recess. Passing large and small rooms fragrant with hinoki (Japanese cypress). There was a sanctuary in the innermost recess. The god stepped into the holy of holies and reported to the Throne, keeping her waiting.

      The god left the holy of holies with Nao in a reverential attitude and stepped around to about the northeast. There was another massive gate which was by far more grand and solemn than the first palace. And over there, many-storied buildings which were inlaid with gold, lapis lazuli and pearl stood in a row. Nao went ahead to the main palace located in the center as if being attracted by the god. In this palace, Nao found a dazzling god who put on the costume of a Shinto priest and wore a god's sword at his side, emitting silver shaft of light. Nao fell on her knees, carried away by its unequaled nobleness and dignity. The god stepped up to Nao and focused on her, raising her face with her hand. Dazzling brightness covered Nao and a streak of light was blown upon the forehead of Nao and passed through.

      Nao groaned.

      The streak of light descended into her body like electricity and filled her abdomen. Bearing a pain just as burning, Nao opened her eyes. The god smiled in silence and the sacred's figure melted in silver flame and gradually became thin and fell away.

      Nao withdrew from the place and ran out.

      The first thing she knew, she was standing in front of a beautiful house. In the room of this house, Masagoro who had died met her with delight. He was not a silly old man as in his later years, but a breezy man called a master carpenter in his thirties. Nao and Masagoro cherished the memory of the past and talked about their future forgetting the passage of time.

      Nao suddenly recalled her children in her mind.

      "...Well, I must help Ryo and O-Sumi to eat supper."

      Nao amazedly regained consciousness. Around her was the former dark.

      At the gleam of snow from the window side, a little snow flew and the breathing of the two sleeping daughters was changeless in calm.

      "What is this dream...?"

      Nao crawled on her knees up to the sacred corner which enshrined the household altar and offered a sacred light.

      Nao felt a premonition that she had breathed for the first time in the light of the different world after groping her way in the dark of a long tunnel. While prostrating herself before the household altar, all her despair evaporated as if burned to nothing.

      Next day and the day after next, Nao met a god in her dream. While having inspired dreams repeatedly. Nao didn't notice the different world which was gradually arising in her mind.

      Three days later, on February 3, the night of the day before the lunar calender's beginning of spring, Ryo and Sumi played in the house of Umehara family with Umeko and they fell asleep thrusting their legs into the footwarmer in the meantime.

      "Miss. Youngest child, O-Sumi! Please wake up."

      A large voice echoed from the entrance. The three children jumped up in surprise. Hard voice followed on, shocking to the foundation of the house, "Open this!" Umeko became shy at this voice and clung to Oki in the kitchen. Oki held her breath and was petrified with fear embracing Umeko closely.

      Ryo jumped down on the earth floor adjusting exposed nightclothes and opened the door.

      The instant Nao entered the house taking the smallest notice of Ryo, she called Sumi loudly in a dignified manner.

      "Youngest child, Miss, O-Sumi, go to Kitanishi-cho at once and tell your relative to offer thirty-six sacred tapers and chant prayers."

      Nao's voice was usually an affectionate and mellow voice. But this time, her voice was filled with majesty and severity like the voice of a captain general, according to Sumi's review.

      The estrange voice and tone of the wording of Nao, with her piercing eagle eyes created a severe atmosphere that did not allow them to ask questions in return. Sumi, who had her sleepy spell blown off, searched for Japanese sandals in haste in the dark earth floor. "Hurry up. Go with bare feet." Nao's voice lashed like a cane.

      Sumi touched the Japanese zori while searching it, and ran out with her nightclothes in the cold wind. Ryo rushed out close on her heels. Both ran joining hands with each on the dark snowy way as if pursued. They got out of breath and their legs felt heavy.

      Sumi noticed her sandels in her hand and put them on by the wayside and said to her elder sister, "Oh, fear." "It is true." "O-Ryo-san, what do I say to the house of Kitanishi-cho?" I forgot all to be too surprised at my mother." "To offer thirty-six sacred tapers and chant the prayer...." "Hm,..., Why? Did even mother become mad like sister, Yone?" "Who knows but it may be so. Mother spoke in a strange voice which was very different from her usual tone...." "If even mother becomes mad, I wouldn't bear it." Ryo said in a tremulous voice and sobbed convulsively.

      Both who had been suddenly turned out of the foot warmer while falling into a deep sleep, their teeth chattered with cold adding anxiety and hunger. Sumi's tears overflowed on her lashes. Hiding it from Ryo, she had a fit of coughing artificially, "Oh, cold." Sumi blew her white breath on her benumbed fingers to warm them.

      Ryo and Sumi opened the side door of the shop, Imamoriya in Kitamichi-cho. Despite it being midnight, a lot of the paper-covered lamp stands were brightly burning. The neighbors thronged to help Imamoriya. They didn't find elder brother Seikichi. Maybe, because he took his turn for a rest.

      Both timidly looked into the room. Yone was tied to the central pillar of the house and chanted huskily and repeatedly, "Nammyo horen gekyo...." "Sister!" They ran up to her.

       Yone screamed, with her unkempt hair shaken loose and bloodshot eyes, fretting herself to death, she didn't know what to do. Yone shouted, "O-Sumi, welcome. Go to the sink and get a kitchen knife for me." "Okay, I'm going to do so."

      When Sumi attempted to do that, she was held from behind by Ryo. Shikazo who appeared from the room at the back of the house in the shape of heavy quilt of kimono scolded Sumi. "Fool! Don't give her such a thing. It's surely true that it is putting a naked sword in a madman's hand." Sumi delivered her mother's message to Shikazo and complained of anxiety forlornly. "Brother, come to see my mother. She cried loudly with a terrible face."

      Shikazo clicked his tongue two times successively, "That old woman of Deguchi ran mad finally. It is elaborate politeness that both mother and daughter went mad."

      "Say, my man. Please come with me." Ryo clung to Shikazo's hand with her hand benumbed with cold. Shikazo broke free of Ryo's hand with an annoyed look, "No, I don't know. I admitted my defeat about the trouble of Yone, I can't any more treat with an old, mad woman!"

      "Well then, let's come back quickly, O-Ryo." Sumi was flushed with anger and went out of the door hurrying up the sobbing Ryo.

      It seemed that his conscience didn't allow him to let them go. He came in pursuit and walked close together with them, "You, when coming back, tell the old woman that I will offer sacred taper and chant the prayer, and to take it easy. I'll have Seikichi see to the run of events tomorrow just as well."

      After her children went to Kitanishi-cho, Nao came back to her house and sat straight against the sacred corner of the empty eight-jo room. Her pose unconsciously threw back her head a little and the upper part of her body began to vibrate slowly. Her chin stiffened and her knees alternately moved up and down, by a pure reflex action. And yet, her body was very heavy and balanced. She felt that the whole body was filled with the power.

      Something like a ball was retching from the bottom of the abdomen, passed through her breast and began to float off in around her throat. While she endured the pressure with clenched teeth, her breath as a moan escaped her lips, "U-mu, U-mu." Soon, her lips opened as if jimmied from the inside of her mouth, and the voice which was different from herself, a solemn and dignified male's voice blew up.

      "This, the sacred, the god Ushitora no Konjin (the god called Konjin in the northeast). This, the sacred utilizes your body for the sacred from now."

      Nao couldn't believe her own eyes.

      That voice surely ecchoed from her mouth. But it was a certain fact that the voice ignored her will. That reminded her that she had driven her infant children out into the dark and cold way against her will. The other will in her mind ordered her to do so ignoring that she wanted to detain and embrace them closely. Thereupon, it can be said that the other existence, which was different from her, existed along with herself in the abdomen, and declared, "This is the sacred, the god Ushitora no Konjin."

      Nao put a question to her own self, "You said that you are the god Ushitora no Konjin, but I don't know what god you are."

      "...This sacred is the god to re-erect and reorganize the whole world."

      "Oh, absurd!" said Nao. She looked around being afraid of others' eyes. Certainly, there was only Nao.

      The dialogues between the god and Nao which would be often described from now on, were fetched from the same mouth through the proper use of her throat by the god and herself. And it looked like a monologue on the mere face of it. There were no god's words at all even in her subconscious. Nao was shocked hard all the more because of it. Regardless of Nao, the god shouted.

      "In the whole world, the ume flowers come into flower together. Now in the affection of Ushitora no Konjin only this, the sacred, is to re-erect the universe. Headed by Tenri, Konko, Kurozumi, Myorei (each a religious sect), Ushitora no Konjin, this appears to finish perfectly. This sacred does the whole world cleaning and washing. The sacred grasps the whole world and establishes the land of the gods which would continue for all."

      Nao made a plea as if she was in a delirium.

      "Please stop speaking. I don't believe what the sacred said. You say so, but,...why is the greatest god who re-erects the whole world concerned with such a rag-buyer?"

      "This sacred lets you fall to the bottom of fortune's wheel on purpose to give you only hard trouble because Nao is spirit useful at the turn of the era according to this god's plan. You passed the time you grieved about your misfortune sighing you were scraping the scorched part of boiled rice off a pot in which to boil the rice of hell, you know. You cannot attain your sincerity without difficulty. If you carry through your true heart until the end, this sacred blesses you very much and thanks you."

      "Yes,...I understand. My god, please come back, please withdraw from here." Nao was bewildered and shouted.

      After the god was in silence, Nao felt as if stung with something from her inner self. The instant she stood up, she threw off her plain clothes.

      She rushed out the well side in the back garden and quickly drew water from the well with a bucket putting on a loincloth. She felt her flesh creep through exposure to the icy-cold wind. The frozen straw rope of the well's bucket stuck to the palm of the hand.

      But, Nao poured water which she drew over herself not hesitating even a moment. Well water is warmer than the air of a rigorous winter, and it sent up white spray and steam. But, the pulley of the well was deep. Until the next drawing of water while the fixed ulley was grating, her skin turned purple and froze at the bottom of the loincloth made of bleached cotton and made a dry noise.

      Nao poured one more water of the bucket upon herself and once more.

      Dripping water at the well side passed thickly off in vapor and it froze at once. But the incandescent something in her inner being was not going to grow cold. Maybe, dazed, she poured about ten buckets of water upon herself.

      "Mother...." Noticing a child's voice sobbing, she looked over her shoulder. She found two small shadows which were petrified side by side. Ryo had in her hands Nao's clothes which she cast off. When Nao accepted it, Sumi timidly told her, "I went to Kitanishi-cho and certainly delivered your message, mother." "You did it very well. You felt very cold, I guess. Enter the foot warmer early not to get cold. I will soon come to you."

      Ryo and Sumi nodded to her and entered the room feeling at ease to hear the usual voice of mother.

      After Nao looked after her children who were tired out and fell asleep the moment after sipping watery potato gruel as supper, she cleared the table not touching her dish of gruel.

      Nao was clear-headed and couldn't get to sleep. With severe mind she went to the well side and drew up the straw rope of the well. A slip of the moon broke through the clouds and the wind was shaking the treetops. She felt comfortably her skin's pain as if torn off before this mysterious affair. She had a hard emotion that by all means she wished to burn and wash perfectly even in ice all her sins which she had committed in her previous life.

      Nao petrified herself with water seven times within this night. Near dawn, when returning and sitting before the altar she noticed that the air was scented with the faint odor of ume flowers. Something which she had forgotten passed by in her mind. She recalled faintly a white ume flower which opened quietly at the night of the day before the calendrical beginning of sring nine years ago.

      "O dear! It is the tenth birthday of O-Sumi today." Her beloved and regretful feelings heatedly ran through her body much numbed.

      "Well, again to purify myself with water!"

      She stood up and unclothed herself like whisking sentiment rising within on off.

      When Nao had grated the fixed pulley of the well, the god's voice echoed in her mind, "Nao, stop doing it."

      Nevertheless, she poured water upon herself as if dazed, refusing to hear the sacred's voice. But, water dispersed over her head just as if intercepted by a tunic and not a drop of water touched her. She unintentionally threw out the empty busket of well being struck with the sacred's word.

      Something woolly raised up suddenly in her abdomen. "No, no, I cannot call you at such a time. Because my children will be frightened and put neighbors to trouble."

      Nao clenched her teeth.

      The god wrenched her teeth open.

      But, she tragically stopped resisting the force. After a moment, the voice like a captain general's which pushed up from the bottom of her abdomen was echoing through the mountains under the sky turning gray.

      The Omoto religious sect has decided that the time of its beginning of missionary work was on January 1, 1892 (Meiji 25) of the Japanese old calendar on which Nao Deguchi had an inspired dream and February 3, the day before the calendrical beginning of spring on which Nao received divine inspiration. This time, all the gods of heaven and earth were at Nao's house at Shin-miya-no-tsubo, Honmiya, ayabe (currently, Ayabe City) under the god Ushitora no Konjin. At this point, it has been written that the god's work began for salvation of the world.

      Thereupon, Nao was in her fifty-seventh year, and Sumi was in her tenth year. Since this day, Nao continued to shout the god's will night and day. She was at a loss to stop shouting, as if against a floodwater.

      "In the whole world, the ume flowers come into flower together, now in the affection of Ushitora no Konjin. Sitting on Mt. Shumisenzan this sacred, Konjin in the northeastern quarter called the 'demon gate' vows to protect you perfectly, you understand."

      This sublime, splendid and solemn revelation suddenly gushed out of the mouth of an old woman who was almost an illiterate person. But, in the small town of Tanba, no one listened to what she said. The villagers had their ears, but couldn't hear the truth, like the Pharisee, and accepted her only as a mad woman. Despite this, she delivered again and again this great declaration inspired by the god over the mountains of Ayabe growing to the soul of 75 languages.

      How did she recognize Ushitora no Konjin here? Most probably she was unaware of it more than the usual villagers who feared and hated this god as an evil god of the "demon's gate" according to public common sense at that time.

      The word of Ushitora was translated to Japanese from China in the sixth century in study of Yin yang tao (the positive and negative way) which was popular once. The doctrine which explained the fortune and misfortune concerning the date and the direction, and relation between the sexagenary cycle and destiny. This doctrine became the custom and prevailed tenaciously in every corner of Japan even in the current time called the common era. In the problem concerned the direction and the position of a house. The most important matter which was thought of was a direction called the "demon's gate." This gate is in the northeast, namely Ushitora in Japanese old calendar. From ancient times people feared the northeast in which the energy of yin went to extremes and a lot of demons went in and out.

      Konjin also was feared as the direction of the god, but its essence is not yet elucidated (short notes entitled Kana Calendar). The god, Konjin, periodically moved and Konjin imposed a curse of seven killings on the person who defiled the direction where the god lived. What is seven killings? It means that seven members of family are killed, and when there is a shortage of men, domestic animals, the cows and the horses are influenced, and when more is wanted, the neighbors are cruelly killed, I hear.

      After the middle ages, the Imperial family and the nobility, as well as the poor, were hard pressed to escape the curse. They taxed their strange ingenuity in building the rectangular roofed mud walls of the Kyoto Imperial palace which enclosed the palace named Shishinden (the Hall of State Ceremonies), Seiryoden (Tenno's dwelling place and the festival hall), Tsunegoten (Tenno's dwelling place) and other places. At a corner of the northeast of the rectangular Imperial palace, there was an open space. Paralleling the open space the roofed mud-well was built as a depressed shape. The Imperial family and the nobility set out a wooden monkey with a nobleman's high headdress, carrying pendant paper strips in a Shinto shrine on the shoulder in the loft of the east side of the roofed mud walls. It means that the wooden monkey drove away the curse of the "demon's gate." This word for "monkey" continues to mean "leaving" in Japanese pronunciation and was looked upon as the messenger of the god of the Grand Shrine of Hiyoshi to pray the tranquility of the Imperial castle. This corner was called "the monkey's corner."

      From this example, we understand that the ceremony of the Court and the nobility's life were deeply bound by Yin yang tao from ancient times.

      Both Yin and Yang was the god of evil; Whether called Ushitora or Konjin it means the god of evil.

      Nao shuddered. She didn't know how to understand and treat with a demon which suddenly possessed her and gave random expressions.

      Nao had inspirations from her childhood and often had premonitions of a sudden accident after marriage. Nao prayed to the gods and the Buddha morning and evening. Nao believed, echoing others, that the gods and the Buddha, being enshrined in the shrine and the temple, gave divine favor in this world. But, this god, calling itself Ushitora-no-Konjin raised the courageous shout to express the sacred's will through Nao's throat. Nao's body became the shrine which was dedicated to the god Ushitora-no-Konjin. This god stressed the following; the god began the sacred's argument, tracing back to the beginning of heaven and earth, and had a plan to clean and wash the whole world to re-erect and rebuild to establish the land of the gods in which no one suffered injustice.

      "If these words are only groundless tall talk and a kind of a fox and a raccoon dog trick on me, I cannot justify myself to society." It is natural that Nao who was usually an honest woman, grieved hard about it. However, no one could understand her suffering because each was taken up with every day life. There was nothing for her but to sit before the altar and press frantically the god staying in her body for an answer.

      "What does it mean to re-erect perfectly the whole world?"

      "It means to wash and clean the Soul world and this world only once through all generations to come. This sacred will renew all to appear in the crystal world, you know."

      Nao was so utterly illiterate that she hadn't any idea of the world isn't it. It is guessed that at the very most, Nao imagined Tanba as the whole country. The god Ushitora-no-Konjin spoke to this Nao about the whole world flying over the world, not only Japan.

      Ushitora-no-Konjin separated clearly the whole world from the soul world and this world.

      "Nao, it is very difficult to achieve the sacred's plan over three thousand years. Serve this sacred to do it." This god pressed her. Moreover, the god affirmed, "What the sacred delivered was nothing different from the truth, even a hair's breadth. If it were different from it, this sacred would leave this world."

      From the first, Nao didn't think that she was able to serve the god. Only think! She, at fifty-seven years old, was tolerably aged at that time. Others of the same age were allowed to play with their grandchildren everyday and prayed only for a comfortable life in their old age. But, at this age, Nao must work to bring up her infant children and pay her debts, and take care of her eldest daughter running mad.

      Nao should be resolved to send Ryo and Sumi away in order to take care of her mad daughter, Yone, and she would starve to death when her strength was all gone. She didn't fear death more than the suffering of poverty. For her, future generations were far more comfortable than this world full of sufferings. And yet, Ushitora-no-Konjin ordered her extraordinary service, giving her an important mission.

      "Why does only Nao suffer from such a thing? This Nao became old and wad very tired without pleasure and ease, and must walk shouldering eternally this burden. Why does the sacred rely on me? There are countless persons in the world, young and beautiful persons, bright and wise persons, sprightly persons fitted to enter upon a new era. Why does the sacred pick on such a widow who is ignorant and helpless?"

      Nao couldn't understand it.

      But, whether willing or not, Ushitora-no-Konjin commenced the reform of her flesh, making it suitable as a living shrine. As a preliminary to this, the sacred ordered her to fast for thirteen days and to purify herself with water and not to sleep for seventy-five days. She didn't want to fast, but was ordered to stop taking up chopsticks by the god. She appeased her thirst once in a while by offering water before the altar and by not eating even a grain of rice. It was very mysterious for Sumi that she didn't find the sleeping figure of her mother at midnight. Nao seemed to be inspired by not only Ushitora-no-Konjin but various other divine spirits. She was wakened to notice unusual voices in the night. There were some noisy stories despite her sitting straight before the altar. Sumi, a child, couldn't understand many difficult problems which occurred around her.

      In these days, Sumi picked up her ears at the name of the god which she had heard until now though she was a child. She remembered a strange god's name, Matatabi-no-Masazo in addition to Kinkatsu-Kane-no-Okami and En-no-Gyoja. When Sumi didn't find her mother sitting straight before the altar, Nao purified herself with water bracing herself tightly at the well. For seventy-five days, during every cold night, the sound of her practice, according to the god's will, the sound of splashing water after the grating of the well's fixed pulley, echoed over the town.

      The god began by ordering Nao's flesh to be perfectly cleaned and washed. But, it surpasses all imagination that this training was very hard for Nao, fifty-seven years old. Marvelously, Nao was able to endure all divine tests, moreover, her emaciation was not a little striking. And her skin became crystal-clear and her grizzled hair enshrined an increasing silver brilliancy, adding the sacred grace. Did this practice change not only her spirit but also her flesh just as a locust cast off its shell, or water became the mist? The Deguchi family, of course, lost its sources of income in the situation of Nao who was a bread winner. Nao would drink water and chew the grass to live, but, how to treat her growing children Ryo and Sumi? Did they stave off hunger eating the provisions of the sweet potato, the pumpkin, the Japanese radish and others which were yielded in the small farm?

      At the house of Kinsuke Ando opposite the house of Deguchi, the Ando family had an early morning custom offering a sacred taper before the household Buddhist altar and chant the Buddhist prayers together all family. But, they couldn't help hearing the loud voice of Nao, pressing their recitations and offending their ears. They had their attentions inadvertently attracted to Nao's voice. Kinsuke who liked brown sugar grumbled to himself scowling, "Mad as she is, I wonder how she is able to continue to shout in such a loud voice from morning to night. That old woman is a great trouble, and I'm very surprised at her daughters sleeping in the same house."

      "Well, what does she say this morning?" His mother, an old woman who was a visually handicapped and was inquisitive came to the earth floor and opened the door. This instant Nao's voice burst into the house.

      "Noisy, that chanting! Even if you shout as loudly as possible, your god is turning up his nose at your prayer. Your god, namely, my god is here. It's unnecessary for you to shout to the god. This god would hear your prayer with only three words of your chanting. Mr. Kinsuke, Mrs. O-Hatsu, please reform yourself!"

      Kinsuke beat a drum shaped like a fan in excitement to scratch out that pert voice and his wife, O-Hatsu began to grumble at the interval of chanting. "Does O-Nao-han bear us something of the grudge? It doesn't sound respectable that she should repeatedly call on us to reform ourselves. Her loud voice is truly too difficult for us."

      Nao began to wander about the towns of Ayabe shouting and the rumor that the widow of Masa-han in Shinmiya seemed to run mad spread fast.

      The third daughter, Hisa, ran mad, and the eldest daughter, Yone ran mad, moreover, Nao came to be unusual.

      "The Deguchi family is a long-lived family. Not only two daughters but also their mother ran mad finally." People whispered to each other for the fun of it. And others said, "Hers is different from common madness. Certainly, she is possessed by a fox or a raccoon dog."

      Things having come to this, the town-block association called Kumi couldn't ignore the rumor. The chief of Kumi, Gennosuke Shikata visited the Deguchi family with Kinsuke Ando and Fusa Oshima.

      There were no figures of Ryo and Sumi who maybe went to the house of Umeko to play.

      Gennosuke looked at Nao who was praying before the altar from her back like feeling out the situation, "O-Nao-han, I heard from Kinsuke-han that you have eaten nothing. You will injure your health. All are anxious about you despite other people's affairs. What would you like to eat?" "Do you like fried bean curd or tempura? Don't conceal anything from me. I understand you." Fusa focused on Nao to see through her natural shape.

      Kinsuke forced a smile to humor her, "If you wawnt it, I'm going to boil rice together with red beans for you. Good taste! Don't keep your distance now."

      Nao turned toward them and cast down her eyes shyly saying in her usual calm tone, "I am not a fox or a raccoon dog. Thank you very much for your anxiety, but, my stomach usually becomes satisfied before I know it while I am looking at the water and refined rice in the sacred corner of the room." "Oh, only looking at it. How I envy you! It is unneccessary for you to work." Fusa looked surprised exaggeratedly.

      Nao kept silent just as if some quarrel broke out in her inner self, and her upper body gradually threw back her head and her knees vibrated up and down. Nao fixed her eyes on them with the alert eyes of a black kite.

      "Mr. Oshima, would you please sell your house? Mr. Shikata, would you please sell your house to serve the god? Mr. Kinsuke, evacuate this place. This Hongu Village is the place connected with the god. I will build the Shrine, you understand."

      They exchanged glances in astonishment and talked in whispers searching her situation.

      "Huh, are you able to tell us to sell our house though you are only a poor woman who has not eaten today's rice. Oh, rot! She is certainly mad." Kinsuke made agreeable responses, "Surely, because she wants the house more than fried bean curd and rice boiled together with red beans." Gennosuke said thoughtfully, "How do we treat her very pitiful children in spite of the situation of O-Nao-han?"

      "It is truly a nuisance to the neighbors. I wonder if you are a respectable person, but, I cannot have a quiet sleep because of her shouting."

      When Fusa spoke disgustedly, Nao shouted as a response.

      "If you can understand this Nao's merit, I have you a meritorious person in this world. This village is not the place where people live. This place is the village where gods live. If you don't reform yourself, the birds would take wing at your feet."

      "It remains unsettled for us to get angry with such a mad woman. Let's go back and consult with each other," said Gennosuke being embarrassed with her.

      Nao shouted to their backs as they went out, "You must go into the country to hear news of London in detail. You would be surprised at occurrence which happened in far countries. The villager in Honmiya Village didn't treat others with compassion. All people pursued only their own interests, not caring whether others died or fell. If you don't reform yourself, after Peace reigns in the country, this village should be called eternally the village of scoundrels and og goblins and would become the mirror in which all bad occurrences of the world are reflected."

      The god said, "Ayabe is the true place where the god had hidden from ancient times." Especially about Hongu Village, "This place is decided as the shrine, not to be lived in by human beings," shouted the god. And the god warned against people, "If you don't reform yourselves, this village should be called eternally the village of scoundrels and evil." Nao noticed the god's words that this Hongu Village certainly is strange.

      It is clear that Ayabe was a drift of dust, a poor village referring to the data concerning the poor of Ayabe-cho made up as of 1890 (Meiji 23). That year, the Ayabe-cho town block association included eleven districts and Hongu-cho and Hongu Village belonged to the second district. The poor of the second district occupied twenty-five houses, one hundred and one person in forty-two houses, one hundred and sixty-three persons in the whole of Ayabe-cho. Truly sixty percent of the poor of Ayabe -cho gathered to Hongu-cho and Hongu Village.

      But, it is not worthy of special mention that such a situation of the poor village was reported. Strangely, there were a lot of unfortunate persons in this district. In a total number of less than thirty houses in this village, usually there were only two or three poor households. The remaining houses comprised other unfortunate, a cripple, a suicide, an accidental death and a penal servitude. The official of Miyazu prison said, "It is strange that the prisoners who came from Ayabe are only from Hongu's villagers." This village was truly dreary.

      The god seemed to attempt not only to warn the villagers through her mouth, but also cleanse their sins and impurities which stuck to them for a long time by utilizing Nao's flesh.

      At every midnight, Nao shook Sumi, "So sorry to trouble you, Last born child, Miss O-Sumi, please wake up."

      Sumi didn't know why, but her mother had a fifth daughter, Sumi awoke, allowing fourth daughter, Ryo to sleep calmly. These words, "Last born child, Miss O-Sumi" were often announced from Nao's mouth which was inspired by the god.

      Nao ordered Sumi, who rubbed sleep out of her eyes and shivered with the cold, without mercy with a severe voice. "This Shinmiya Hongu Village is a very good place where the god lives. But, they desecrated this place. This sacred causes you anxiety. Go and scatter salt around the place for purification."

      On occasion, the god indicated to Sumi in detail, "Scatter water on those premises." "Scatter soil at the root of that pine tree."

      Rarely, Nao whispered to Sumi in a tender mother's voice, "I fear that the villagers will again treat your mother as a mad woman, to look at your actions in the daytime." Sumi responded, "Yes" in earnest before she knew and searched the dark snowy way to go and scattered salt, soil and water according to her mother's teaching.

      It was so painful for Sumi: the instant she dropped asleep, she was woken up. One night, Sumi pretended to be lying ill.

      "Mother, I have a headache. Allow me to sleep only night." "Well, well, get up awhile here." Sumi unwillingly sat down before her mother. Nao gave Sumi's forehead a sound slap, "Okay, you are already well. Go to the futon soon." Nao's eyes announced that she saw through Sumi's lie and felt pity for her.

      Thus Sumi had a habit of being woken up at midnight. Sumi ran by in the lonely night, on occasion in driving snow because it was a pleasure to hear her mother's joyful voice, "You were able to do the service very well."

      And Nao often had Sumi sit down before her and took the stiffness from Sumi's forehead by massaging her repeatedly and gave her a yell, "un", putting her thumb on Sumi's forehead, or breathing a puff on the center of Sumi's forehead putting her mouth on it. Sumi asked its reason innocently and Nao answered in the god's voice, "I am going to send the noble soul into the inner you."

      From this process, it is guessed that the god already made arrangement of Sumi as the successor to Nao.

      Sumi could grow up lightly not to be distorted in her character under such a strange circumstance because she was a born optimist who didn't regret something for any length of time and held the spirit which would be concerned with the god together her mother, perceiving unconsciously the sacred of her mother.

      The instant the god ordered Nao, she went to the house of the Otsuki family anytime.

      At the same time, Yone began to make a noise. "The evil comes from Shingu again. There, the evil comes here!" And, she sat down before the household Buddhist altar and began to chant loudly the Nichiren prayer beating the drum shaped of a fan. "Namumyo-horen-gekyo, namumyo-horen-gekyo...." And next, she unsteadily searched for a place of safety and entered the foot warmer, shaking, with glaring eyes.

      Soon after, Nao entered the house shouting extraordinarily, "Mrs. O-Yone, reform yourself. The world which you live finished. From now, the world will be changed. Believe this god!"

      Yone jumped up and drew back and shouted frantically clinging the household Buddhist altar. "Don't bother me! Ushitora-no-Konjin is the evil god of the demon's gate, the god which incurs a curse, you know."

      "Reform yourself, reform yourself."

      Nao stood straight with her legs wide apart and pressed upon her shouting in the terrible voice like echoing in Yone's abdomen. Yone twisted her body painfully and crashed the door and paper screens, and threw out the Buddhist altar fittings, raging to Seikichi and the young men who tried to hold her down.

      The neighbors came in front of the shop of Imamoriya and were very interested in this affair. This dispute between mad mother and her mad daughter was a very unique interesting story to the rabble.

      Nao was sad, being watched as a play. Nao was ashamed of pointing a finger of scorn at a person. What is the reason that she got her scared daughter cornered in the presence of the crowd of people?

      Despite her understanding in reason, Nao had no power to stop movement which the god ordered in her abdomen.

      "This is the complication between one soul and another soul. In the spiritual world, it is impossible to escape that souls cause complication between each other."

      Nao later received suggestions from the good, but she couldn't understand yet this phenomenon. Shyness was so excruciating that a greasy sweat broke out on her forehead.

      About her business, the door was open, but no business was done within. Adding to it, there were such situations. Shikazo Oshika complained about them looking worn out, "Oh dear! I'm going to deposite O-Yone with the old woman of Shingu, but even that old one is in a plight. Before I am aware of it, I would be placed in the dilemma that I must be saddled with a daughter together her mother. Heaven forbid!"

      On the morning of February 23, receiving an announcement from Shikazo, Mr. and Mrs. Fukushima in Yagi Village, came to inquire about Nao with their daughter, Fuji, three years old, walking all night. Before opening the door, Hisa heard mother shout, which was heard outside and her heart throbbed with anxiety.

      Ryo and Sumi who cooked something in the kitchen shouted, heaving a sigh of relief, "Yah, elder sister, Hisa."

      Nao came to them from the back room of the house and shouted in echoing voice to their innermost selves.

      "I am impatient waiting for you. This sacred is Ushitora-no-Konjin, you understand. The god would appear in this world and build the sacred world under the gods. Purify your souls and reform yourselves."

      The body of Nao turned over as if dancing. She stamped being filled with the spirit. The blaze of silvery hair, the sharply wide-opened eyes of reddish brown....

      Hisa, who held Fuji clinging to her with fright, sank weakly to the earth floor. Toranosuke whispered into his wife's ear in a high-pitched unstrung voice, "The god Ushitora-no-Konjin entered into Nao. You look at her."

      Hisa said to her mother with a desperate look, "I pray to the god, Ushitora-no-Konjin. Even if the sacred of the demon's gate delivered me, I cannot bear such a fearful thing. Besides, the villagers have treated me as a mad person, and please calm down."

      Toranosuke also knelt down on the earth floor and said equally loudly, "Toranosuke Fukushima prays to the god earnestly. I remember that my wife shouted something in the excited condition just after childbirth. Fitting my wife's words to your words, I believe now that you are truly the god, Ushitora-no-Konjin. Certainly I rely on you. But, no one comes near the sacred because you speak to them terribly and please deliver everything to them more softly."

      "Here my words. This sacred would calm down. This sacred will have you serve to the god in the future."

      The instant these words were delivered from the mouth of Nao, her strict look was immediately drawn from her face and posture. She returned to the tender figure of Mother and held out her hand to her granddaughter. Fuji was obediently in her arms.

      Nao, whom the sacred left, seemed to be very tired, "You look now at my attitude. Since the god, Konjin entered into my flesh on the New Year according to the old calendar, everything concerned me changed.... I cannot go about my business because the god has me speak what I don't think and I'm severely ashamed that the neighbors should see me like this. I endeavor hard not to shout, but the god forced to open my mouth and has delivered me the sacred words."

      Hisa flashed her mind and said with great enthusiasm.

      "At the time I ran mad, I felt the same thing just as you. A mad person doesn't remember what to do and say, I hear. But, I remembered one by one. Even mother can see and hear all things certainly, but was dragged by mysterious power, wasn't she?"

      Nao nodded and said worriedly, "I was influenced by the mysterious power, namely by the god, Ushitora-no-Konjin. Do you know someone who is able to judge the good god or the evil god?"

      "Mother is certainly earnest. I am anxious about you who was entered by the evil spirit. To begin with, you know how to behave yourself shouting so hard in the future. Ryo and Sumi are piteous."

      Toranosuke looked serious, at Nao who hung down her head to hear her daughter's story. He said, "If this god is truly Ushitora-no-Konjin, it is the worst evil spirit. This evil god is very hard to drive away." "Is there not any remedy?" said Nao. "... Well, even O-Hisa was restored through the delivery of the sacred word by the prayer of the Konko-kyo religious sect. Please at once," said Toranosuke to the mother-in-law. Nao said, "But, there is no church of the Konko-kyo in Ayabe."

      Hisa suggested to her, leaning forward, "Are you going to Kameoka when to feel good? You know Mr. Ohashi. He is a very good religious man."

      Mr. and Mrs. Fukushima became the devotees of the Konko-kyo religious sect since Hisa recovered from the situation of running mad through the delivery of sacred word by Kamekichi Ohashi, a missionary of the Konko-kyo. At that time, Hisa had to ask a woman to suckle her baby because she attempted to drown herself in the cold water of the river for the mad woman and had run dry. In addition to this affair, she looked at the figure of a man who foretold her husband's illness on the river side. The prophecy came true. While Hisa who got well, Toranosuke was attacked with a disease and lay in his sickbed for one hundred days.

      Having one misfortune after another, Toranosuke ran through their money of which they saved a considerable amount while leading a niggardly life with his life and he fell to the bottom of poverty for a while. But this poverty had Toranosuke and his wife incline to believe enthusiastically in Konko-kyo.

      Mr. and Mrs. Fukushima, each had a story about the blessing of the god of the Konko-kyo. Nao heard it eagerly making agreeable responses and she recovered usual situation completely. After Hisa consulted with Toranosuke secretly, she offered ten sen which she picked up from her bosom, "Mother, please accept this small amount of money for the inquiry after a sick person. I'd like to give you more, but, as you know, we are in a hard world and were in poverty. This is about as far as I can go."

      They endeavored to save money again and Hisa could not contain her regret for ten sen. Nao attempted to push it back quietly, but felt heavily in the abdomen and became full of the power and noticed that the god came back to her flesh.

      The god unexpectedly threw away the ten sen in Nao's hand. Nao said to Mr. and Mrs. Fukushima who turned pale at the male's voice. "You are unsightly, come back with the money and buy a bun, for instance for your grandchild. The world would not be in piece by sheer strength of only money."

      And, Nao stood up quickly and looked back at Hisa. "I will present something to your children. Since you came to the trouble to meet me, just a minute."

      Nao went out from the back entrance and brought soon a board of boiled fish paste which was heaped with soil.

      "I say, this is my present. Take it carefully and go back home."

      "Mother, such dirt...?" Hisa was disgusted with her.

      "Only such dirt? This is sacred soil, you know. Mrs. Hisa, don't be wrong. On the soil, you can live. People want only money, saying they want now a kitchen knife rather than an old katana. They have obtained fields and built good houses and the warehouses. They believed that they could get these only by themselves. But, people would not be eternally able to be in peace by only the force of gold and silver. Ushitora-no-Konjin would keep people in peace and cause that the earth produces plenty for people's easy living. The god certainly exhibits its situation to all, heaven and earth. The world would be ruined only based on gold and silver, and the sacred soil is based on prosperity.... When people understand this truth, this truth is able to become the world of Maitreya. Holding this truth in your abdomen, go back home with my present."

      "Mamma, the world of Maitreya?" Fuji faltered to her mother, Hisa.

      Nao turned her smiling face to her granddaughter.

      "O-Fuji is a good child. The god likes you because you are naturally able to become an earnest child without evil spirits between heaven and earth. When the world of Maitreya appears on the earth, people will be able to hold purified minds like this child and live full with high spirits. I'd like to exhibit you, come along with me."

      Nao went out to the back garden with them. The clinton's lilies and the aspidistras were planted beside the well.

      "Here is in the place called Tsubonouchi where the god lived in ancient times. The palace of the god, the god, Konjin's palace of the earth would be rebuilt here in its entirety in the future. Here would be the valuable foundation of the world and the clinton's lilies (the clinton's lily means keeping their blue color and their freshness eternally in the Chinese character used in Japanese writing) where planted as vindication of its sacred, you know."

      Toranosuke and Hisa exchanged looks, thinking it just a game of making puns. Being indifferent to their looks, Nao indicated the aspidistras.

      "These mean the world full of ups and downs." The Japanese name for aspidistra contained the same pronunciation of the word, 'ups and downs'.

      Nao hadn't known the meaning of what she had planted in her garden. Now, she delivered the truth from the god through her mouth.

      Since 1695 (Genroku 8), the clinton's lily continued to be cultivated and was described that it fetched the high price of two hundred kin fro a stalk in the Taihei chronological table issued during Tenpou (1830-1844). In 1882 (Meiji 15) a rare kind of the clinton's lily was sold at a colossal sum of money, for example hundreds of yen for a stalk. At that time, the price of the rice for a koku (a unit of rice volume) was six to seven yen. People bought it for speculation and even bankruptcies occurred. Kyoto Prefecture was unable to remain a mere spectator and issued an official instruction to ask self-discipline, and market condition for concerning the clinton's lily slumped once. (Quotation: The History of Kyoto Prefecture in Wind and Snow.)

      Of course, the boom of this type of clinton's lily had died down as of 1892. Nao planted a usual kind of the clinton's lily.

      Putting it aside, Mr. and Mrs. Fukushima heaved a deep sigh and parted from Nao.

      By the way, they made a call of inquiry on Yone at the Otsuki family. On their way home, they found Hisa's elder sister, Koto, in Oji Village, coming from the opposite direction somewhere about Sannomiya.

      Hisa called out to her, "Sister, where are you heading?" "I heard that my mother fell ill. Early this morning, I started at Oji to visit her."

      Hisa and Toranosuke nodded to each other, "We are coming back after visiting your mother."

      Mr. and Mrs. Fukushima described her mother and elder sister, Yone, in detail in their natural rapid talking.

      "About mother, she certainly became truly mad. Your sister, Yone, was worse than your mother.... We cannot help them at all."

      Koto considered, a vertical line appearing between her eyes, "It is doubtful to Ayabe to hear uninteresting preaching, moreover, to receive such a soil. How do you treat the soil?" "I have yet it here." Hisa exhibited the covered soil by pocket paper from her bosom.

      Koto laughed at her, "Foolishly, how do you deal with such a thing?" "I am suffering from such a heavy and obstructive burden." "Throw away that burden. Can you bring up even an earthworm in that soil?" "Yah, it is unnecessary to bring this to my house."

      Hisa threw it away in a neighboring wheat field. Koto said taking a decisive step by her sister's behavior, "I won't go to Ayabe, and come back here."

      They began to walk with Koto between the two turning their back on Ayabe. Toranosuke carried the sleeping Fuji on his back.

      They soon changed from the subject of their mother to one thing or another of the stingy household.

      About that time, Nao calmly closed her eyes before the altar, and said, muttering to herself, "Yah, Koto is going to come here. Well, Koto, living in Oji, met Hisa at Sannomiya and heard from her about me beside a stone wall."

      Sumi said wonderingly leaning on her mother's knees, "Well? Why do you look at it?"

      But, Nao didn't answer her and focused on air, and suddenly shouted, squirming, "Oh, she threw out the sacred soil, O-Hisa did it....blessed by the god...."

      "Mother, mother!...." Sumi called and Nao dropped her head suddenly.

      "Oh. O-koto turned back with them."

      She was deeply sad to recognize that she was deserted by her true daughter, and lay face down on beside a stone mill much discouraged.

      Sumi looked at her mother full in the face. "Did the god speak now in your abdomen, Mother?" Nao was surprised at Sumi's words and raised her face, "No, I spoke myself certainly." "Well, Mother. Why do you see over Sannomiya? Tell me."

      Nao inclined her head as if in doubt and blinked her eyes.

      "Oh, it is true. I can see at once as if being reflected in my eyes despite my will. And I can hear the voices as if hearing them close. Moreover I can penetrate into the other's inner motives. My elder sister and others also said that I certainly became mad."

      "Mother can see what people don't see and see through others' hearts, but another person couldn't understand..., because the god was in Mother's abdomen, and the god spoke through Mother's mouth..., maybe, for this reason, people said that Mother became mad."

      The black apples of Sumi's eyes looked prudently.

      "Bear me, please bear!" said Nao painfully.

      "Even if you become mad, you are my true mother. I will never leave you." Sumi pressed hard her head against the breast of her mother who recovered consciousness after an interval.

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