Onisaburo’s confrontations with his eldest daughter
Like most of the leading believers, my grandmother had an unconditional faith in Nao, the founder. Because faith allows no compromise, Sumi felt a certain opposition to Onisaburo over the teachings, since his spiritual thinking differed somewhat from Nao’s. Even though Onisaburo was her husband, Sumi used the Fudesaki [Nao’s automatic writings penned while possessed by a deity] as a shield and would not give any ground. Thus, arguments between the couple were not uncommon, even prior to the Second Omoto Incident in 1935.
According to the memories of my mother and aunt, my grandfather seems always to have lost such arguments. Probably he was conscious of being the adopted heir and purposely yielded the upper hand to his wife. One time he let his temper get the better of him and, screaming loudly, he grabbed up a rock from the side of the road. But when he let it fly it was not aimed at my grandmother; instead it landed with a thud at his own feet.
Still, while appearing to yield on the surface, Onisaburo would do whatever he wanted to do anyway. This, of course, became the source of even more disagreements.
As I mentioned in the previous issue, the two even argued on their “honeymoon,” which they took forty-three years after they were married. However, because their disagreements always had to do with the Keirin [the divine plan of the Omoto religion], these arguments were on a rather different scale than those of normal couples.
Onisaburo’s greatest concern at the time, however, was the friction between him and his daughter, Naohi. Though Naohi deeply loved and esteemed her grandmother Nao, at the same time she completely loathed Onisaburo. As a girl, she had wanted to be loyal to the emperor, and though an Omoto member, she also greatly admired Zen Buddhism. Even during the Incident she and her sisters would often visit a Zen convent, and would take me along. We stayed there several times.
Naohi was fond of traditional [Japanese] arts such as tea ceremony and Noh chanting, so even in aesthetic taste she was the reverse of Onisaburo, who was keen on linked verse, ballad dramas and folk songs. Although both were fond of waka (31-syllable Japanese poems), Onisaburo felt that these were meant to be sung, which he did freely, composing reams of them with absolutely no polish whatsoever. Naohi, on the other hand, was a member of the Araragi School of poetry [an influential group in Japanese poetry circles] and she concentrated on putting her whole heart and soul into a single poem. Onisaburo’s wild behavior grated harshly on her sensitive nature.
Naohi and Hidemaru did not understand the true significance of the actions of the Showa Shinseikai [an organization under the auspices of the Omoto Church] prior to the Second Incident, and it is likely that fear of oppression led the couple to go to Kyoto to urge Onisaburo to put a stop to his activities. Onisaburo rejected this and said, “Hidemaru, do you understand the Divine Plan of God?”
Just as Naohi had feared, the Second Omoto Incident happened suddenly. Her husband began to go insane under police interrogation and torture and the entire family was in a state of terrible anxiety. She blamed Onisaburo for everything and could not accept Onisaburo’s belief that the Omoto Incident was simply a trial which inevitably had to be overcome.
My mother [Yaeno, Onisaburo’s third daughter] told me recently that once, before the Second Omoto Incident, she met Onisaburo by chance while walking in the Ten’onkyo [t Omoto complex].
He asked her to walk a bit with him, so they continued together along the Kunimi Pass. My grandfather spoke in a serious tone, “It’s good that I’m living with you. It would be really suffocating to live with Naohi. That’s why I’ve arranged substantial work for Uchimaru [Yaeno’s husband] in Kameoka so we can live there together.”
Before the incident Onisaburo had particular confidence in my father, Uchimaru, and had entrusted him with important positions such as assistant administrator of the Showa Shinseikai, chairman of the Jinrui Aizen Kai, and chairman of the Showa Seinenkai [organizations within Omoto]. Because of these posts he had to establish a base of operations in Kameoka. He was given a residence in the Getsumeikan annex of the Koshoden where the headquarters of the Jinrui Aizen Kai were located. That’s where I spent my youth.
My grandfather’s residence was in the Kotenkaku, which shared a ridgepole with my house [like a duplex, partitioned in the middle], so I visited him there numerous times a day with Mrs. Doi. I don’t think that Onisaburo gave my father work in Kameoka simply because he wanted to live with my mother; perhaps here we have an unexpected glimpse of the true feelings of my grandfather, who had never been blessed with an environment of familial love.
At any rate, that was the only time my mother had a chance to walk together with her father. After the move, my grandfather’s behavior exasperated Naohi, who feared the authorities, even more. She seemed to believe that he was completely incorrigible. On the other hand, there were aspects of Naohi’s personal life which my grandparents could not accept, and for which they reproached her severely.
On June 18th of 1943, my Aunt Naohi finally moved with her children from the Kumano Yakata to the town of Takeda in Tajima [present-day Hyogo Prefecture]. Taking with her her close associate, Mr. Hinata, she set up household in what originally had been an Omoto branch temple I suppose she wanted to live quietly with her family, away from both her father and the world.
At Kumano Yakata
Following my Aunt Naohi’s departure, my grandparents moved from Yuhikaku to Kumano Yakata. The garden was extended to its present position and a pond was dug near the northwest corner of the house. The earth from the pond was used to create an artificial hill on its eastern side. I’ve heard that as my grandparents watched the construction from their room my grandmother said, “Seishi, I had a dream about this scene in prison,” to which my grandfather replied, “Oh, you too, Sumi? I had the same dream.”
The artificial hill was called Tsukiyama Fuji, and the pond was called Kagami Pond (at one time it was called Toyama Pond because some of the believers who volunteered to do the construction came from Toyama Prefecture). They were said to resemble Mt. Fuji and the Straits of Naruto in the Inland Sea.
In September my grandfather organized a monthly poetry group which he christened the Itsumome Kai, with membership composed primarily of the Deguchi household and believers from around Kameoka. Onisaburo was the judge, and every month one to two hundred bound shikishi (square white cards) were submitted. I still have these.
Although I thought of my grandfather as somewhat of a traitor, for some reason I was quite fond of him—perhaps I was drawn by his grand aura—and I went to visit him at the Kumano Yakata as often as I could.
My grandfather was using what is now the drawing room as his quarters, and I would find him there lying on the floor composing poems, which he had his assistant transcribe. I was astonished at the way he unceasingly produced poems, one after another, and wrote them down with no attempt whatsoever to rework or refine them.
A retrospective collection of poems, Asa Arashi (Morning Storm), written by Onisaburo in September and October of 1942 has been published by Aizen En to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his release on bail from prison. Aizen En will also soon publish Gessho Zan (Moonlight Mountain), a collection of more than three thousand nine hundred of his poems written between the latter half of 1942 and the end of 1944. Asa Arashi was transcribed by my father Uchimaru and Mr. Yoshihito Mori, one of the directors, but I don’t know the name of the person who did Gessho Zan. According to Seventy Years of Omoto History, after his release, Onisaburo penned over seven thousand five hundred waka, which mentioned the names of believers both in Japan and abroad. There are another seven thousand five hundred shikishi and tanzaku (rectangular white cards on which a single poem is written), including didactic poems and poems lyricising the occasional stray thought, in storage at the Omoto headquarters. His output defies imagination.
I was also astonished by one other thing. My grandfather would have his associates read to him from Tales from the Spirit World, and as he listened he would become excited and laugh and roll around on the floor. I thought it quite odd to be so amused by one’s own writings.
I once saw my grandfather draw a picture on the paper doors of the altar room in Kumano Yakata. He spread newspaper on the tatami mats to protect them from any flying ink droplets. One of his associates ground an ink stick and prepared the ink, which was then poured, I think, into a large bowl. The picture he painted was of a landscape. Onisaburo painted in an unusual way using a brush with about half the tip cut off. He dipped it up to the handle into the ink and made a vigorous flurry of brush strokes as if striking the paper. In a flash a luxurious forest emerged from the paper. He never made any sketches or rough drafts, and he also did it all in one sitting, as if in a single breath. The same was true for his writing and painting on shikishi and tanzaku. I was so accustomed to seeing him do it that way that for a long time I assumed that drawing pictures was a simple matter.
One time my grandfather found me amusing myself with drawing animals and he said to me, “When drawing living creatures, after you sketch the general outline you should immediately draw them a nose.” He meant that it would be cruel if you didn’t quickly give them some way to breathe. It’s the sort of thought my grandfather had.
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