Kokan Nakayama (中山こかん, January 10, 1838–September 27, 1875) was Oyasama’s youngest daughter. She is most famous for crossing the Jusan Pass to travel to Naniwa (modern day Osaka City) to spread the name of God Tenri-O-no-Mikoto according to her mother’s instructions after her the passing of her father Zenbei in 1853.
Kokan was born on the lunar calendar date of 12/15/1837, less than two months after her brother Shuji succumbed to a leg pain that foreshadowed the first revelation of God the Parent. She grew up while Oyasama followed through God’s command to fall to the depths of poverty.
After the gable walls of the Nakayamas’ main house, which were a sign of social status, were dismantled, the family was ostracized by fellow villagers. Kokan is quoted for having saying, “Once on an autumn festival day, I found myself all alone, wistfully looking at the festival procession pass, while village girls were promenading about the village in their finest clothes.” Unlike her elder siblings, she did not have firsthand experience of her family’s previous prominent status in their village nor did she know how her mother Oyasama conducted herself before becoming the Shrine of Tsukihi.
Kokan is best known for crossing the Jusan Pass to go to Osaka to spread God’s name in the city. She subsequently was a constant presence at her mother’s side during Oyasama’s long years of hardship.
Once Oyasama began to attract followers through offering the Grant of Safe Childbirth and other forms of physical relief, Kokan also began to convey the teachings in her mother’s place in certain situations and accompanied Oyasama to trips to Mamekoshi, Byodoji, and Wakai villages. As a result of her efforts to teach followers, Kokan came to be called “the young god(dess)” (wakai kami-sama).
Kokan’s destiny appeared to be sealed when her sister Haru Kajimoto suddenly passed away in 1872, leaving behind several young children. Kokan went to the Kajimoto household to help her brother-in-law raise her young nieces and nephews.
It was a prevailing social custom for an unmarried woman to marry her brother-in-law in the event her sister passed away. Kokan found herself in precisely such a situation but it is said that Oyasama was adamant for her to remain single. However, Kokan was persistent when it came to her wish to help. Oyasama permitted to look after her nieces and nephews on the condition she would return in three years.
Kokan, unable to bring herself to return the Residence after three years, fell ill in the summer of 1875 and passed away on September 27. Her passing inspired villagers to form the Tengen Confraternity, now Tengen Branch Church..
Ofudesaki verses said to be directed to Kokan
Several verses said to be directed to Kokan appear throughout the Ofudesaki, especially in parts nine and 11.
Ofudesaki Part 11 offers instruction for Kokan’s illness in verses 13–16 and 25–40. Another verse implies that talks be given at “a different place this time” (11:20), which is said to allude to Kokan’s ability to convey God’s words.
Claims of Kokan’s previous lives
It is claimed that Kokan previously lived as Oyasama’s daughters Yasu (1827–1830) and Tsune (1833–1835) before being reborn as Kokan. Yasu and Tsune were said to have been “received by God” after Oyasama made a prayer to sacrifice two of her daughters to save the life of a neighbor’s child who was suffering from smallpox.
Regarding this belief, theologian Tatsuzo Yamochi writes:
- God received the life of Oyasu, and had her soul reborn as Otsune. Then God received the life of Otsune and had the same soul reborn as Kokan. Since Kokan’s soul was offered two times in a single generation to save a person’s life, her soul shone brightly. It was natural for her to communicate God’s words from time to time as well.
- A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms, pp. 482–483.
- 『ひながた紀行』 Hinagata kiko, Chapter 12.
- 『改訂天理教辞典』 Kaitei Tenrikyo jiten, p. 691.
- In some early documents Kokan’s name was written with the kanji 小寒, possibly because she was born on the last day of the solar term known as “shokan” (『ひながた紀行』 Hinagata kiko, p. 172).
- The Life of Oyasama, p. 31.
- See The Life of Oyasama, pp. 25–27 for an official account of the event.
- 『ひながた紀行』 Hinagata kiko, p. 183.
- Kaneko, Juri. “Can Tenrikyo Transcend the Modern Family?” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 30/3–4, p. 249.
- 『ひながた紀行』 Hinagata kiko, p. 179.
- See Anecdotes of Oyasama 43 for an account.
- 『おふでさき注釈』 Ofudesaki chushaku, p. 142.
- 『おふでさき注釈』 Ofudesaki chushaku, p. 147.
- This story is described in The Life of Oyasama, pp. 16–17 (Chapter Two).
- 矢持辰三 Yamochi Tatsuzo. 『稿本天理教教祖伝入門十講』 Kohon Tenrikyo Oyasama-den nyumon jikko, p. 68.