Izo Iburi

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Izo Iburi

Izo Iburi (飯降伊蔵, lunar 12/28/1833–June 9, 1907) was a leading disciple of Oyasama who became the Honseki (Main Seat) in March 1887 after Oyasama withdrew from physical life. In his capacity as the Honseki, Izo served as the medium for intermittent revelations from God the Parent (which later would become the basis of the Osashizu) and bestowed the sacrament of the Sazuke to followers.

During the 20 years Izo served as the Honseki—the source of revelation and spiritual leader of Tenrikyo—the faith organization grew from a loosely connected network of confraternities into a formidable ecclesiastical institution that oversaw a sprawling hierarchy of branch churches.

Early years

Izo was born the fourth son of Bunyemon and Rei Iburi in 1833 in Mukoji Village, a hamlet roughly 20 km (12 mi.) from Tenri. His childhood name was Kamematsu. He attended a local temple school between the ages of eight and 11. He began apprenticing as a carpenter at age 14.

To Ichinomoto

Izo moved to Ichinomoto when he was 22, working under Isaburo Yamashita, the husband of his cousin Tami Kohiro. He set out on his own after marrying Natsu Kawabata. Natsu later passed away in childbirth.

Izo later married Narae Takeda. Narae never helped with the housework and ended up gambling herself into debt. Izo eventually divorced her.

Izo remained a bachelor again until 1861, when he married Sato Baba. Sato’s illness after a miscarriage in 1864 served as the catalyst that led Izo to the faith.[1]

Construction of the Place of the Service

(See Life of Oyasama Chapter 4-1 for a detailed account)

When Izo offered to build a shrine altar to express his appreciation for Sato being saved from her illness, Oyasama had said that a shrine altar was not necessary and instead instructed, "Start building something small." Although Oyasama initially directed that it be a structure six square feet in size, she allowed its size to be increased according to the wishes of the followers to a 21 x 36 ft. building, which would later be called the Place for the Service.

Construction went smoothly until the ceremonial raising of the ridge beam (akin to a topping out ceremony in the West). The post-ceremony festivities led to the first so-called “Oyamato Shrine incident,” where Izo and other followers were detained at the named shrine for three days for disturbing a special prayer in progress. As a result, a majority of the followers involved in the incident dropped out of the faith and the construction came to a sudden halt. Izo continued to work on the construction alone until it was completed.

Instructions to move into the Residence

Izo’s dedication to finish the Place for the Service prompted Oyasama to request that he move into the Residence as early as 1867 or 1868.[2] Yet it would take roughly 15 years before Izo finally acceded to this instruction.

After a series of misfortunes or events that are attributed in the tradition as “divine guidance”—most significantly, the illnesses of his two younger children—the Iburi family moved into the Residence in 1881 and 1882. Sato moved into the Residence with her two younger children Masae and Masajin in September 1881.[3] Izo moved into the Residence with his eldest daughter Yoshie in March 1882.

Preparations to become the Honseki

Izo received the Grant of Divine Utterance (sometimes called the “Sazuke of Speech”) in 1875. This grant is said to have allowed him to convey God’s directions.

Beginning circa 1880, Oyasama increasingly directed followers wanting to receive her advice on personal matters to Izo. His position was called “the workplace for dust-related matters” or sometimes simply “the workplace.”

Becoming the Honseki

Starting on New Year’s Day in 1887, Oyasama’s condition did not appear to be well. During this time, Izo was approached to deliver a Divine Direction. (The first entry in the Osashizu, a Divine Direction dated January 4, is said to have been delivered by Izo.) Oyasama and Izo would exchange the task of giving Divine Directions over the next month.

On February 18, 1887 (or 1/26 lunar calendar), Oyasama withdrew from physical life despite followers’ wishes for her to recover. The Divine Directions thereafter would all be delivered by Izo.

Izo later fell ill and showed mysterious symptoms, such as sweat beading on his forehead, which would form sticky threads when wiped away. His ribs on the right side then broke one by one. Those on his left side then broke one by one in a similar fashion. Then, his ribs clicked back and restored again.[4]

On March 25, Izo delivered a Timely Talk that essentially requested Shinnosuke Nakayama and other leading followers to accept Izo as the Honseki, which basically amounted to the “seat” from which followers could receive the sacrament of the Sazuke. On the night after those present agreed to accept, Izo bestowed the Sazuke to Yahei Nishiura.

Izo presided over the Tenrikyo organization for 20 years as the source of God’s revelation. At times these revelations provided spiritual guidance for followers whereas others served to authorize institutional decisions and appointments.

Major developments during this period included Tenrikyo attaining legal status in 1888, the establishment of the Besseki lecture system, an explosive growth in membership until the 10th Anniversary of Oyasama (1896), government oppression via the Home Ministry Secret Directive the same year, a prolonged process of repeated petitions to attain independence from the Shinto Honkyoku, and the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Oyasama (1906).

Hundred-Day Divine Directions

From a religious standpoint, the last three months of Izo’s life are considered important in that the Divine Directions delivered during this period served to settle several outstanding issues. The series of Directions delivered between March 13 and June 9, 1907 are often referred to the “Hundred-Day Divine Directions.” These revelations cover the following three main themes:

  • Stabilizing the future of the “three households, three homes”
  • Settle a successor for Izo who would continue bestowing the sacrament of the Sazuke
  • Construction of the Main Sanctuary

Three households, three homes

The expression “three households, three homes” (sangen mimune) referred to the households established by each of Izo’s children:

Masae remained single and had no heir. On April 8, 1907, a Divine Direction instructed Masae to adopt her niece (Yoshie’s second daughter) as her heir.

Successor to the Honseki

On June 6, 1907, Naraito Ueda was declared as Izo’s successor and took over the task of bestowing the sacrament of the Sazuke.

Construction of the Main Sanctuary

The Main Sanctuary of Church Headquarters essentially remained the same since 1888, when an annex was built around the Kanrodai. Although followers express the desire to build a new Sanctuary for the 10th Anniversary of Oyasama, the Divine Directions commanded for followers dormitories (tsumesho) to be built instead.

The Hundred-Day Divine Directions included instructions that eventually led to the construction of the present-day North Worship Hall, completed in 1913.

On June 9, leading followers gathered before the Honseki and declared: “Since the present suffering of the Honseki is God's hastening for the construction, we, the head ministers of all subordinate churches, have made a firm determination to put every effort into the construction, not letting up even to take off our workshoes...” The Divine Direction which followed is now considered the end of divine revelation according to the orthodox view.

On June 9, Izo Iburi passed away not long after eating his lunch, while still sitting up with his hands on his lap.

Izo as a model follower

Izo is often held up as an exemplary follower for others to follow. Although the term “hinagata” (the standard English gloss is “Divine Model”) is usually reserved to refer to the 50 years Oyasama lived as the Shrine of Tsukihi, there is a Divine Direction dated November 7, 1889 in which the term is implicitly considered to refer to Izo. The passage in question, “Hinagata soba ni aru” (literally “there is a hinagata nearby”) is translated into English as “A model for following the hinagata is close by.”

Main references

  • A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms, pp. 144–145; 148–155. Tenrikyo Overseas Department.
  • Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 11–14. Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department.
  • 天理教道友社編 Tenrikyo Doyusha, ed. 『天の定規 本席・飯降伊蔵の生涯』 Ten no jogi: Honseki Iburi Izo no shogai.
  • 植田英蔵 Ueda Eizo. 『新版飯降伊蔵伝』 Shinpan Iburi Izō den. 善本社 Zenponsha.

Further reading

  • The Measure of Heaven: The Life of Izo Iburi, the Honseki (2012) Tenrikyo Overseas Department. *English translation of Ten no jogi.

External links

(Note: pages nos. refer to hardcopy equivalent)


  1. An account of Izo’s first encounters with Oyasama can be read in The Life of Oyasama, pp. 39–41.
  2. 『天の定規 本席・飯降伊蔵の生涯』 Ten no jogi: Honseki Iburi Izo no shogai, pp. 22–23.
  3. As described in Anecdotes of Oyasama 87.
  4. Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department. Tenrikyo: The Path to Joyousness, p. 15.