Mother Earth

Volume 5: The Pond of Jiaolongs Waiting for Rain [1]

Chapter 2: The First Time Before the Altar

      On July 25, 1894 (Meiji era 27), the Sino-Japanese War broke out at last, through the Toho Battle at sea. Japan made the declaration of war on August 1.

      On September 13, the Emperor, who was the commander-in-chief, left from Shimbashi station (Tokyo) on a special train for Hiroshima where the Imperial headquarters were located. On the 14th, the Imperial train passed through Kyoto while twenty-one gunshots were fired, and arrived at Hiroshima on the 15th. Two police inspectors preceded the emperor while the guards of honor followed, the chief Aide-de-Camp to His Majesty, Tokudaiji rode in the same carriage with the Emperor.

      The graceful figure of His Majesty rode with a clear echo of sacredness, followed by his staff riding on horses, and the carriages of Arisugawa-no-miya-Taruhito-Shinno, the Minister of the Imperial Household, the chamberlain, and the Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture.

      Two police inspectors, riding on horses were placed between the guards and the carriages of the Minister of War, Oyama and the Minister of the Navy, Saigo who went outside the parade. Thus, His Majesty arrived at the Emperor's temporary headquarters, which were the former headquarters of the fifth division, via the drill ground from the Kyobashi Highway. At this time, a salute of one hundred and one gun shots were fired sacredly.

      Nao felt the sacred air with her friends while spinning yarn and reeling silk from cocoons, by hand, in the sweltering heat.

      She soon finished her spinning work and came back to Ayabe, where she became again a rag dealer, suffering ill-treatment from Shikazo Otsuki.

      Nao's Ofudesaki (the written oracle) of September, 10, was written as follows: "At the moment, the forces of China are somewhat stronger than those of Japan, but, their power seems to be like the power of a demon in the deep mountain. The god, Konjin of the 'demon's gate' who exists in the northeastern quarter, will soon take the place of China to deal a decisive blow on that country for Japan's victory. Let the gods help Japan to distinguish itself in war."

      On September 17, Japan's Combined Fleet had an engagement in the Yellow Sea with the Northern Squadron of China under the Ch'ing dynasty, and secured the command of the sea.

      At the instant the news of the victory of Japan's combined fleet was announced, the shout of Banzai (Hurrah) echoed all around the country. Sonobe's town office decided to take special rest for celebrating the victory, for two days, while the national flag was hoisted everywhere. At Fukuchiyama the celebration was held in the Mitama shrine, and at Ayabe, where Nao lived, a small paper lantern was placed under the eaves of the house, and everyone was buoyed by the good news, drinking celebratory sake in the amusement quarters till midnight.

      Without a paper lantern and a cup of celebratory sake, Nao visited each house to buy rags. She certainly had foretold the Sino-Japanese War as if her words gushed out from her flesh, but she couldn't exercise an important effect upon the War, because she was only a citizen.

      One day, she extended her walk to the vicinity of Yamaga Village, Ikaruga County, to buy rags. When she visited the house of Fumiemon Nishimura, in the Nishihara section of this Village, Fumiemon's wife, "Mine" talked to her as if being at loss.

      "It's about my husband. He is suffering from a severe illness. You heal illnesses by praying to the gods, I hear. Please pray to the gods for my husband."

      "It is very pitiable, and what is he suffering from?"

      "Since about two years ago, he became moody and confined himself to the back room of the house like a pond snail. Truly I thought that he had become mad."

      "Did you consult a doctor?"

      "We have consulted a few doctors and asked for incantations and prayers, but it was not effective at all. And yet, he eats a lot of rice with his fingers. After eating more and more rice, he remains quite. My family is poor and I will soon have a new baby. Hardships seldom come alone."

      "Mine" was the third daughter of Tosuke Shikata who lived in Hongu Village, namely the elder sister of Gennosuke Shikata. She was paunchy, having been pregnant seven times, and looked troubled.

      "The god told me that He would heal him, but he was long in recovering from his illness. Don't worry. Where is your husband?"

      Under "Mine"'s guidance, Nao was shown into a gloomy room, with the sliding doors half closed in spite of the daytime. Fumiemon partly pulled the futon (the bedspread) over his head, and appeared with a bearded face staring glaringly at her with fearful eyes.

      "Well, please get up."

      Nao lifted him in her arms, by force. She quietly began to pass her hand over his abdomen of which only a part expanded strangely despite the thin and weak flesh, putting her left hand on his back while praying to the gods. Hereupon, Fumiemon, crying "Qyuee--" in a strange voice, threw back his chest and went off in a faint.

      "Well, the evil spirit that haunted your abdomen fled hurriedly. Please worship the god, Konjin, and you will immediately get a happier life blessed by the god Konjin."

      "We are going to have him sleep as it is, on the same futon. Do you think he is safe? It is beyond recall if he would die."

      "Mine" turned pale, feeling anxiety, fear and puzzlement.

      "He recovered consciousness and gradually is going to get well again. How do I pray to the god for my husband?"

      "You pray to the god Konjin, who is living in the 'demon's gate'. The god Konjin certainly will help you."

      Nao began to walk, carrying the rags on her back. Mine ran after Nao and clinged to her sleeve.

      "However, where is the god Konjin. There is no altar in my house."

      "Well then, join your hands and pray in the direction of Ayabe. I will pray to Konjin with all my heart."

      The tenth day, Nao visited again the house of Nishimura's family.

      "How is your husband doing? I am anxious about him. As I happened to pass by your house, I dropped in."

      Hearing her voice, "Mine" went down and stood on the earth floor, as if rolling down, and took Nao by the hand.

      "O-Nao-han, it is certainly mysterious. Since then, I prayed with my hands pressed together every morning and evening in the direction of Ayabe. And, my husband got well rapidly. Fortunately, today, he said that he wanted to take a bath, and just now he entered the bathroom."

      "I am very glad to hear that. How rapidly you were blessed by the god! We must worship the gods."

      Fumiemon who had shaved off his beard, just came out of the bath being all of a glow. He put on a clean kimono (Japanese clothes), tying the obi (the girdle of kimono), and came out hurriedly.

      "Thank you for your help. I feel as if coming back from hell. I must visit the shrine to pray to the god Konjin for His blessing. Where is the shrine to Konjin raised?" Fumiemon's eyes flashed intensely.

      Nao looked troubled, "I don't know where to worship the god Konjin because I am ignorant. The god told me that Konjin's sacred place is called the 'demon's gate'."

      "Then, you worship the god Konjin at your house, I think! There is no reason why you ought not to worship the god Konjin because the god is miraculous in its effect."

      "I am only a rag dealer with no house, and I haven't a sacred place to worship the god."

      "Oh, no, I feel sorry for you." Fumiemon said as if getting angry.

      Nao said smoothly, "There is a church of the Konko cult in Kameoka. My daughters in Oji Village and Yagi Village visited the church to pray to the god Konjin. People worship saying Konjin, Konjin, and you visit the church for thanks to the god Konjin, aren't you here? This is the only church raised to Konjin."

      "The Konjin dedicated at the Kameoka church is the same god Konjin, which I worship, I guess. Then, I am going to visit the Kameoka church."

      "Would you visit that church with me. I just came back from Kameoka a few days ago, but, I'd like to visit there often to pray for the god's blessing."

      "I can wish for nothing better. Please bring me to the church at all costs." Fumiemon seemed to be very glad to visit the church and began to be restless like a child.

      Fumiemon, Nao and Shotaro Nishimura set out from Ayabe, at midnight, and arrived at the Kameoka church of Konko-kyo in Kameoka-Nishimachi in the evening. Nishimura lives in Nishihara, Yamaya Village, and could heal his disease by visiting the Kameoka church.

      A young man who was the receptionist and seemed a newcomer, didn't know Nao.

      "Do you wish to pray to the god? Good, you are doing a fine work, and where are you coming from?"

      Nao said with a deep bow, "I live in Ayabe. Hisa Fukushima in Yagi, and Koto Kuriyama in Oji are my daughters and they believe in the god, Konjin. And, I am going to visit this distinguished church with them, because I got an invitation."

      "Well, I heard the rumor. Now, that you come to speak of it, the head priest of the Kameoka church said that there is someone who was a rag dealer, and that she had lost her consciousness, but, she seemed to be able to receive the blessing of the god. I notice now that you are the one whom the head priest spoke off."

      "It is not true that I lost my consciousness."

      Besides Nao's speaking, Fumiemon responded to him in a rage.

      "It is true what she said. I recognize certainly that a most miraculous god has taken possession of her."

      Fumiemon and Shotaro exhibited new blessings of her, to him.

      The young receptionist seemed to recognize newly Nao, who was calm and behaved politely, and he led them to the altar, and told them tactfully.

      "Now, the head priest is not in the church, but he will soon come back. Please pray to the god taking your time."

      The party reverently prostrated themselves before the altar and offered a long prayer for the divine blessing. While taking a rest after they finished praying, they noticed the head priest, Kamekichi Ohashi coming back. Ohashi, hearing about Nao's party from the receptionist, soon came to them, greeted with a smile, and sat face to face with Nao.

      He suddenly leaned forward with alert eyes. "O-Nao-han, where do you live now?"

      "Nowhere, I have no house. I am going to depend on my daughter's house in Ayabe a little longer and become a rag dealer at my pleasure. But, I think that I cannot stay longer."

      Ohashi's eyes gleamed. "O-Nao-han, do you know an empty house or a room in Ayabe?"

      "I endeavor to find it. Why do you ask me about it?"

      I am going to establish the Ayabe church of the Konko-kyo somewhere because the worshippers could visit the church to pray to the god near people in Ayabe."

      "That is very good." Nao answered joyfully.

      "I am going to dispatch someone as a leader. But, you are anxious about not having a house. Would you like to live in the Ayabe church and propagate the doctrine of the Konko cult with my followers?"

      Ohashi focused on Nao as if guessing her thoughts. First, Fumiemon told loudly with much interest, "Well, well, very good. Please be sure to do so. I will endeavor to search for a house for the church at all costs."

      Shotaro said in chorus, "Look! Are you going to ask Gennosuke?"

      "Well, it's best."

      Fumiemon clapped his hands and explained his plan to Ohashi. "I know a man, named Gennosuke Shikata who lives behind Nao's former house. He is a relative of my family and widely known. Maybe he can search for a house."

      "Yes, I rely on you for the house. If you do such a sacred service, you will obtain more blessings than what you expect. May I ask for your address for caution's sake?"

      Ohashi described Fumiemon Nishimura's address in detail and expected the development of the Konko cult doctrine to the western area.

      "Please, excuse me!"

      The man shouted again in front of the entrance.

      An infant girl and a boy with a running nose, appeared in the back entrance and looked at the unknown man.

      "Is your father in the house?" The sister shaked her head negatively.

      "Your mother?"

      Her younger brother pointed to the direction of the mountain, in silence. The man turned about to see a few shrined kakis (Japanese medlars) in the background of the nearly dark mountain in the sunset glow.

      His sister and laughed and said, "No, to the rice field."

      Before long, husband and wife, in peasant costume, came back drawing the cart loaded with as much as possible bundles of rice plants with two sons who carried more on their backs. Their infant sister and brother ran up to them.

      The man slowly gave his name bending backwards to keep his dignity.

      "I am Sadajiro Okumura, a pupil of Reverend Kamekichi Ohashi who is the head priest of the Kameoka branch church of the Konko sect. However, I was regularly appointed the Kundo (a kind of a leader) by the Shinto Headquarters. You have heard about me from Reverend Ohashi, haven't you?"

      The master of this house, Fumiemon Nishimura bowed his head deeply in assent. "Yes, yes, I heard that someone would be dispatched as a leader here. It's you. I thank you for coming from so far. Please come in, though my house is dirty."

      Okumura brushed aside his hair shaking his head obliquely. Okumura entered the room and sat down leaning on the tokonoma (the alcove).

      Okumura told Fumiemon who had taken a lower seat with an air of profound respect.

      "There is a good time coming, to develop the sacred altar of the Konko cult, according to a revelation. You were distinguished by the Reverend Ohashi to receive the respected role of searching for the place of the altar, I hear. And I was specially ordered to become the leader of this place's church and visit, first, the house of the Nishimura family. Well, you understand what I said."

      Sadajiro Okumura overstated the fact. He was appointed the vice priest of the Konko cult on August 3, 1892, and yet he was not a formal priest, but he had no bad will to say so, only a little vanity. Adding to it, he thought it was better to say so for Nishimura to respect him as the leader of the new church.

      As he expected, Fumiemon was much obliged to him.

      "Oh, yes, we are very thankful to receive the respected Reverend Okumura. But, you, oh no, excuse me. Reverend Okumura visited me too soon because it is now in the farmer's busy season and we are unable to make arrangements for you."

      "It's not too early to announce the way of the god."

      "I'm sorry, certainly. How much space do you want for the church?"

      "Well, one room of six jo (six tatami, about 10.83 square meters)." "Is it too narrow for the church?"

      "Firstly, I will try to proselytise. When the worshippers begin to increase, I will move to a larger room. It is the god's order." "It is true! Well, please stay at my house, although it is dirty. Tomorrow early in the morning, when waking up, I am going to go to my wife's parents' house and ask them to look for a room for the church?"

      "I trust your judgment."

      Okumura nodded affirmatively to him.

      The house which Okumura wanted, was found easily. He could rent a separate room of the house of Keiboku, in Naga-Oshima, Naka County at one yen a month through the mediation of Gennosuke Shikata. It was located in front of the former house of the Deguchi family. This whitewashed house was very quiet.

      Sadajiro Okumura, guided by Fumiemon, transferred eagerly carrying a couple of packages. He sent Fumiemon to the house of the Otsuki family at once and called Nao Deguchi. She met him for the first time.

      Okumura was thirty-nine years old, and was born in 1856 (Ansei era 3). Nao took the lower seat and greeted him by bowing, her hands on the tatami, and spoke in a clear young voice despite her fifty-nine years old. He was a little surprised at her good manners because he guessed that she was an ignorant and somewhat crazy rag dealer.

      "Your late husband was a master carpenter, I heard. I am now a leader of the Konko cult, blessed by the god, but also a former carpenter in Kanzaki Village. This is a mysterious thing that I and your late husband were in the same business, don't you think so?" Namely, the god chose me, and you to help me, on the way of propagating the truth. Well please endeavor to serve the altar."

      Okumura first showed the strong relation between master and disciple. Nao, wearing a patchy kimono on her thin body and arranging her knuckly hands properly on her knees, looked at him smiling softly. He flinched from her for a moment because of the different ages between mother and son. He turned his eyes from her lustrous white hair and fine skin.

      Since this day Nao transferred to the separate house of the Oshima family. Okumura gave her a little money to get the poor household's goods. As she was considerate to look after him, he felt that she was like a good maidservant.

      After spending his time for four or five days the prospect of proselytizing was still far from certain, Yae, the wife of Yoheiji Shikata, visited Nao from Yamaya.

      "Since you prayed to the god for me the other day, I got the blessing that healed my disease."

      Yae, having trouble with her leg stepped into the house with much joy, supported by Nao.

      "How many years did it take for me to get our doors? I got well and since then I felt good as if telling an incredible story. And I want you to pray to the god again at all costs."

      "You are, welcome. It is very good for you. The respected Reverend, has come here from the Kameoka church of the Konko cult."

      Nao introduced her to Okumura. Okumura began to recite according to the set form of prayers in front of the new altar. He prayed for the first time in this new church. He was awkward, reciting in a high-pitched unstrung voice, while Nao stepped back and laid flat down on the tatami in silence.

      Yae dropped her head with a dissatisfied look. She had visited nao who had the sacred power to heal her disease and wanted her to pray to the god. Yae did not believe Okumura, but Nao.

      After Okumura finished his prayer, Yae threw these unceremonious words at him.

      "Hey, you. How young you are! How are you dealing with your wife?"

      "I have a wife, but I visited here alone. I must get thorough training in the way of the god."

      Okumura had married Ito, a daughter of Kyubei Okumura in Chihara Village when twenty-six years old, as an adopted son. But, he had no children and was unpleased even to recall his life with Ito who kept him perfectly under her control in everything. He laughed and tried to appear openhearted, but he felt like changing to an other subject.

      "However important it is for you to be well trained, nothing can be done about laying aside your living wife. Say, O-Nao-han."

      Escaping Yae's eyes more interested in making fun of him, Okumura said, "Now then, you came from Yamaya, I heard so. Do you know the place named Takanosu?" "Yes, I am a villager of Takanosu." "Very well. Do you know a man named Heizo Shikata who was a silk manufacturer in your village?"

      "I know him very well. He lives near my house. O-Nao-han also knows him, I think." Yae looked at Nao.

      "Yes, I worked to spin yarn at the factory of Heizo-ban."

      Okumura got encouraged and said, "Excuse me, I ask you to deliver to him the following message. 'The respected Reverend of the Konko sect who came to Ayabe from Kameoka wants to meet you.'"

      "I am only too glad to do it."

      Yae delivered his message to Heizo within the night.

      Next day, on October 10, a woman's voice was heard from outside, "O-Nao-han, are you in the house?"

      Okumura, who was lying down with his arm as a pillow got up hurriedly.

      "Yes." The clear response came into the hear of Okumura. Nao, sweeping the garden at the back of the house seemed to step to the front door.

      Nao said, "Oh, my" Welcome Heizo-han. The Reverend is waiting impatiently for you. If you didn't come within a few days, he would have gone to Yamaya."

      Okumura was taken by surprise because he was just now considering what Nao said, while lying down. He hurriedly smoothed down his hair thinking that she said weird things, and after licking his lower lip, sat up straight. They talked outside the door.

      "I was surprised at the story that O-Nao-han had healed the disease with the Reverend of Konko sect." "I was also surprised at the news that Heizo-han already came back to Ayabe."

      Heizo, led by Nao, entered the room first, prayed reverently to the gods before the altar. Since then he changed the greetings of the first meeting with Okumura.

      Heizo Shikata was now thirty-seven years old. Engaged in farming, he managed the silkworm and reeling of silk with about twenty employees at a time. But he went to Kameoka after his business failed in 1888 (Meiji era 21). While living in Kameoka, he became a worshipper of the Konko sect led by Kamekichi Ohashi. He barely came back to his hometown in 1893 (Meiji era 26), and besides agriculture, kept a sake and cheap candy shop.

      Okumura came restlessly to the point, at once.

      "The Reverend Ohashi suggested to me that I ask Shikata-han for a local believer to help proselytize at Ayabe at all cost. This is a service to the gods. I must get your helping hand at any cost, I hope so."

      Heizo did not seem to be wholly averse to what Okumura said, but the instant Okumura consulted to decide about the manager with him, he was a a loss.

      "I have no problem to find an assistant for the pilgrimage to the Grand Shrines of Ise and Izumo, but I don't know how to find a manager to open a church in this area. There are no people who know the Konko sect in this region."

      "You would obtain a lot of blessing if you did do this work perfectly. As you see I don't know this region of Ayabe at all. I rely only on you."

      Okumura spoke to him, as if placing the responsibility for the Ayabe church on Heizo.

      An earnest man, Heizo considered deeply with a grave face and said, "Oh, well, I heard about you from Yae-san, you healed diseases in several places, I heard. How many sick persons did you heal?"

      "Yes, the god, Konjin told me the following, This god is not only to heal diseases. But, if you pray to this god to heal a disease for a person and show the way which is sacred, you would obtain much blessing.... The god told me...," Nao stammered out.

      "Yah, yah, and I asked you how many believers you prayed for and how many were blessed by the god."

      "There are no believers, but, maybe, I prayed for about forty persons besides being a rag dealer."

      There are many persons whom Heizo knew among them. He seemed to cheer up hearing her story and looked at Okumura thinking to himself.

      "Well, we'll just try to gather the persons who you know to consult about the new church."

      Heizo, without coming home, spent the whole day vigorously visiting one place after another, around Ayabe. As a beginning, he visited Bunemon Nishimura.

      Hereupon, I briefly explain the history of the Konko cult.

      The founder of the Konko sect, Bunjiro Kawate (1814-1883) was born as an independent farmer in Urami Village, Asakuchi County, Bicchu (now Okayama Prefecture). Bunjiro, when twelve years old, was adopted by independent farmers, the Kawate family, who had lived in the next village, Otani Village. He endeavored to rebuild the ruined Kawate family. When about age forty-two, he developed the estate of the Kawate family, to the tenth wealthiest among twenty-seven independent farmers, in Otani Village. He, being good hearted and modest, was respected by the villagers who called him "Shinjin-Bunsa" (a man of deep faith, Bunsa). About that time, Bunjiro suffered a serious disease and lost several memebers of his family and important domestic animals, one after another. According to an oracle of a faith curer; "You must construct seven tombs for your family and the domestic animals because you behaved discourteously toward the god, Konjin."

      Bunjiro was puzzled and anguished.

      The next year, in October 1857 (Ansei era 4), Shigeemon Kandori, a younger brother of Bunjiro was possessed by the supernatural, and called himself the "man of the god Konjin," and he performed various miracles. Bunjiro was interested in the god Konjin of the "demon's gate" called the evil god rather than other gods while having questions about the former folk beliefs.

      On New Year's Day, 1858 (Ansei era 5), Bunjiro, then forty-five years old, received the following oracle before the altar of Shigeemon: "You, the age of the Dog (as the eleventh of the twelve astrological signs), defer to this god in earnest. And, rely on this sacredness. Then this god will be delighted to take on you. This god Kanenokami allows you to clap your hands as the thanks for your faith. Therefore, don't call other gods as you rely on Him.... This sacredness will deliver to all the gods around this country my message to authenticate your faith as the most earnest man under the protection of the god Kanenokami. This sacredness will hear and answer you. You, the age of the Dog, had a lot of difficulties and misfortunes. From now, rely on this sacredness about everything, with all your heart. It will be unnecessary for you to ask a physician or a mountain ascetic."

      Bunjiro continued obstinately to stand face to face with the god Konjin, called the evil god, based on the earnest faith, and the reserved and strong self-confidence of his years of life as an industrious farmer.

      On October, 1859 (Ansei era 6), Bunjiro, after harvesting the rice plants, received the word of the god, Konjin, "Is there not any remedy for stopping your occupation. There is no man in earnest to pray to the god more than you. There are a lot of people suffering in the world, and I ask you to deliver them from their hardships to help them through your mediating between the sacred and the people. If so, the sacred will help people...."

      According to these sacred words, Bunjiro stopped being a farmer and began to serve the altar.

      Bunjiro, since then till his death, at age seventy in 1883 (Meiji era 16) endeavored to propagate the doctrine of the god Konjin. Bunjiro called believers under the protection of a community deity, and taught them mutual assistance among the members. Bunjiro prohibited to give people an amulet or or obtain a prayer's fee and taught them that the blessing was only owing to the faith in their mind.

      "People between heaven and earth are all under the protection of the god Tenchi-Kanenokami, you understand. The god Izanagi-no-mikoto and the goddess Izanami-no-mikoto are human beings, and Amaterasu-Omikami is also a human being. Following these gods, the son (Tenno) of Heaven is a human being, the sacred Munetada (the founder of the Kurozumi religious sect, who began to teach the doctrine in 1814) is also a human being." Bunjiro spoke clearly and taught the equality of blessings to all human beings. Bunjiro talked about women, "Until this time, only men could build a house, but from now, women also must build it. The god Konjin taught them how to build it."

      He told people that there are no grounds to dwell upon women's uncleaness, and it was necessary for women before childbirth to eat enough and take a rest. His teaching was capable of creating wonder in the feudal farm village of the day.

      On 1868 (the first year of the Meiji era), Bunjiro was bestowed the sacred name, Ikigami-Konko-Daijin (the incarnation of the god Konko-Daijin). After the Meiji Restoration, according to the open policy of the government, the solar calendar was adopted in 1872, Bunjiro offered the new calendar on the altar and thanked deeply the government and the god because he had criticized the old calendar, the worst archives and the origin of superstition.

      But, on July of the same year, Shigeemon Saito, who was called his right-hand since the opening of teaching in the way of the god, was said to be possibly superior to Bunjiro, who was oppressed by the governmental authorities. It seemed a measure of the government to try to unify the country under the cult of Tenno (Emperor) based on the Imperial Household and the State.

      After a short time, Shigeemon parted from Bunjiro, but, Shinichiro Shiraga (1818-1882), being a wholesale rice merchant of the Okayama clan, and others raised their heads.

      Bunjiro entrusted Shiraga with staring to teach the doctrine in the Eastern area of the country in 1875 (Meiji era 8). Shiraga first aimed at propagating it in Osaka, taking one step to Tokyo. But, after failing two times, he felt, strongly, the necessity of converting the influential persons of the district.

      In 1879 (Meiji era 12), cholera raged in Osaka, Shiraga, even though he was sixty-two years old, came again to Osaka. As he gathered quite a member of believers, he engaged in proselytism besides managing his merchant's activities. The next year, Meiji 13, he persuaded Fujimori Kondo, a member of a distinguished family in Namba, Osaka, to become a believer in the Konko sect, and endeavored to develop its proselytism.

      In June of the 16th year of the Meiji era, Yonejiro Nakazato opened the church of the Konko sect in Kyoto. The Konko sect proselitized among the citizen of the lower-class, commercial and industrial men, the craftsmen, the artists and others in the Keihan (Kyoto and Osaka) district, and received from the people a divine acceptance.

      At the beginning of the Meiji era, the initiative of the Konko sect order had already shifted to the pupils who had come to believe in the late founder's life. His teachings gradually went with the policy against the religion of the Meiji government, reforming the teaching directed at the farmers.

      It was possible to develop the propagation of new religious sects and allow the existence of religious men only according to the government's policy which inspired worship to Tenno (Emperor) into the hearts of the people. The Konko sect order rapidly changed the emphasis of teaching towards the divine favor in this world, healing disease, the harmonious household, improvement of one's fortune, abandonning a part of rational and civilized teaching from the initial stages. ln 1900 (Meiji era 33), at last, the Konko sect was authorized by the government to establish a religious sect which held hundreds of thousands of believers.

      Nao happened to meet the Konko sect at the time that this order rapidly was swelling into a mass.

      In the evening of October 12, replying to the invitation of Heizo Shikata, ten men were helped through their prayers by Nao, from sufferings and diseases. Adding Okumura, Nao, Heizo, full members, ten persons helped each other to omiki (sacred sake) and ate heartfully the dishes of Neo's own cooking while touching each other's shoulders in the narrow room of six jo (six tatamis, about 10.83 squre meters).

      There was soon a friendly atmosphere among the attendants. Heizo stood up at the right moment.

      "All of you, thank you very much for meeting at a time you are so busy. All in this place obtained their blessings through O-Nao-han's prayer. lt is a pity that there is no shrine to worship the god in spite of his blessing, I think. And, I hope O-Nao-han will be able to worship the god somewhere at any cost, coorporating with each other those of you who were helped by her. At just a good time, the Reverend Okumura of the Konko sect was dispatched from the church of Kameoka, strange to say: He wanted to worship the god, Konjin, in this town, Ayabe and propagate the truth of the founder of the Konko sect, Konko-Daijin. The founder, Konko-Daijin also believes in the god, Konjin, as well as O-Nao-han. Both rely on the same god. I think that with both, as the central figures, the church could be opened and the Reverend Okumura could explain the teachings of the sacred Konko, and O-Nao-han would pray to the god Konjin to present our requests and ask for His blessing. l am going to rely on all of you to help Reverend Okumura and O-Nao-han."

      All the members kept a good countenance. After confirming this atmosphere, Heizo asked the main question in real earnest.

      "Well, first, before opening the church, we are going to decide who the manager will be. We must ask the manager to pay his share of expenses to support the church."

      It is human nature that despite being deeply affected with a matter, the instant one considers to make one's purse light, one will recover one's mental balance more or less.

      After keeping silent for a while, someone said with a voice as if phlegm sticked to his throat.

      "And, how much expense should we pay?" "Yah, well, I counted the cost last night...."

      Heizo took out a piece of paper and described the sum of money. He, a visually handicapped person, held it to the light of a paper lantern and said, bringing his face near it.

      "The question of the rent for this room, one yen-a-month room, takes precedence over all others. We have other questions, food expenses for the Reverend and O-Nao-han, though the god didn't eat. Truly, it is necessary to make arrangements for charcoal, firewood and an oil lamp for the altar. We have first this problem to open the church, and we cannot get many tools ready, ritual tools, living necessaries, and others. I estimate roughly these goods at four, or five yen, maybe, we must prepare for about ten yen."

      All the attendants glanced at one another. Each quickly counted ten yen divided by the number of attendants in own mind. Everyone was thinking of nothing but considering to invest in some sum in donations and win the favor of the god later. Judging from this point of view it seemed not a large sum of money because they couldn't evaluate the worth of the invisible blessing.

      "lf you allow me, I am only going to donate such a small sum for the first time...," proposed Heizo.

      The attendants were soon thrown into commotion. They felt that Heizo would monopolize the blessing.

      "Hey you, it is a pity that you want to monopolize the blessing. I'm going to join you."

      "I will donate a thanks' fee to the god at all costs because I got well from the serious disease through the help of the god."

      "I also won much favor from the god. I'd like to show my gratitude."

      Okumura slowly raised his hand to control the attendants while listening to each word.

      "Your faith was perfectly received by the god Konjin. And I want the god to divide impartialy the blessings, and you are going to get shares in the expenses of this month, don't you think so?"

      All the attendants decided promptly and without objection. After licking his lower lip and shaking off his forelock hanging on the narrow forehead, Okumura said vigorously, "Well, the church will be built here, and next, we must set the date of the ritual. What day is best?"

      Nao, smiling in silence, first, said, "The ritual of the god was usually decided on the new moon, a full moon (on the fifteenth night of the calendar), and the twenty-third night. And, we have a good chance, at once, to hold the first ritual on the full moon, tomorrow, I think."

      The problem was solved by Mao's word. A man said, "Well, but...I understand we donated fairly to the church and won the blessing, and..., but, tell us if we will eternally donate or for once only."

      Hearing these words, all returned to reality. It was no problem for them to donate one or two times, but, if they were expected to donate eternally, they were unable to be deeply impressed with the honorability of the act. Okumura who quickly read their minds had a smile as if catching the spirit of the occasion.

      "It is not for a long time. This problem will be solve when the believers increase. Even in our circle of acquaintances, it is unreasonable to look on you with indifference after asking you repeatedly, and certainly to the god the same as you. We must show our faith through the offering. When the believers increase, the offerings will naturally increase according to the increased number of believers, and the manager's expenses will naturally decrease, and, at last, there will be no expense. And, the manager must invite neighbors to the ritual and only endeavor to obtain more visitors to the church. It is a most important duty of the mananager. If we do so, the manager can win the blessing without paying out of his own pocket. Well, tomorrow, we will prosperously hold the ritual to be dedicated to the god Konjin, okay?"

      Okumura perfectly reckoned the expenses to manage the church like a professional religious man, being intoxicated with the emotion towards the propagation.

      The names of the first eleven managers who gathered on this night were as follows: Gennosuke Shikata (Address, Ayabe Hongu), thirty-six years old; Yakichi Nishioka (Ayabe Hongu), forty-one years old; Jitsutaro Deguchi (Ayabe Hongu), thirty-seven years old; Chubei Nishimura (Ayabe-cho), twenty-nine years old; Heizo Shikata (Takasu Village), thirty-six years old; Yoheiji Shikata (Takasu Village), fifty-two years old; Yusuke Shikata (Takasu Village), fifty-five years old; Shotaro Nishimura (Kawara Village), thirty-three years old; Bunemon Nishimura (Nishihara Village); Bentaiu Nishiinura (Nishihara Village), thirty-seven years old; and Izaemon Shikata (Shimo-Hatta Village), fifty-five years old.

      Next, on October 12, the Ofudesaki (the written oracle) of Ushitora-no-Konjin (enshrined towards the direction of the northeast) drawn like the footprint of a bird and jiku (the scroll picture) of the Konlto sect described "Tenchi-Kanenokami (the god Kanenokami of heaven and earth) were worshipped side by side. Nao could not read the Ofudesaki despite having been written by herself.

      Nao rose from her futon, at dawn, purified herself with pure water, and lay prostrate before the altar to pray to the god, Konjin. Out of sheer desire to win the blessing of Ushitora-no-Konjin in the world, Nao actually realized that this church was dedicated to Ushitora-no-Konjin, and took the first step to propagation, today. Nao was very glad to do it. She was going to pray to the artless and unmixed visitors with joined hands.

      While the old style rituals on 3th, 15th, 23th, and monthly rituals were held, the visitors increased, and offered green vegetables, rice, and the collections for the spring of the sacred tree to the god. The managers mostly were able to save their money.

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[1]^Jiaolongs are legendary dragon-like creatures in Chinese mythology. They are believed to ascend to the heavens through rain. Today, they are often figuratively used to refer to unfulfilled geniuses or dormant talents biding their time for success.


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