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Ofudesaki (English).jpg
Author: Miki Nakayama
Date Published: 1998
Pages: 486 (English ed.)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
Part 16
Part 17
unnumbered set

Ofudesaki おふでさき (The Tip of the Writing Brush) is the title of one of Tenrikyo's "Three Scriptures." In a broad sense, the term may apply to all the poems that were physically written by Oyasama (Miki Nakayama). In a narrow sense, it refers to the 17-part manuscript that contains 1,711 waka poems preserved at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters that serves as the basis for the published version of the Scripture called the Ofudesaki.[1]

Analysis of the word "Ofudesaki"

To break up the title "Ofudesaki" into its most basic components:

  1. "O" is an honorific that represents the reverence Tenrikyo adherents have for this Scripture and the recognition that it was written by Oyasama herself
  2. "fude" means (writing) brush
  3. "saki" means "tip"

Thus, the Ofudesaki is occasionally referred to in English as "The Tip of the Writing Brush". The Ofudesaki was also once referred to as "The Book of Revelations" in early English Tenrikyo literature.[2]

It is a convention in Tenrikyo literature to write "Ofudesaki" in hiragana: i.e., おふでさき. The title of its Chinese translation is rendered in the following kanji characters: 御筆先.

The Scripture title itself is said to have come from a verse in the Ofudesaki[3] and explicitly referred to as the "Fudesaki" in revelations from Izo Iburi. In terms of the intention behind its composition, later revelation states:

"For a long time, over the years, I have instructed you. I have instructed you in the Fudesaki. There is not a single thing that is not covered by it.... I have told you that there would be a grave incident. There will be such days. Since you forget what you hear, I have instructed you in detail in the Fudesaki. There is not a single lie."[4]

History of the text

Composition of the Ofudesaki

Oyasama began writing the Ofudesaki in 1869. After a pause of five years, she resumed writing in 1874. The bulk of the Ofudesaki was written during this year and the next (1875). Between 1876 and 1882, Oyasama averaged writing a part per year. The 17 parts of the Ofudesaki were written as follows:

  • 1869 (Meiji 2): Parts 1 and 2
  • 1874 (Meiji 7): Parts 3 to 6
  • 1875 (Meiji 8): Parts 7 to 11
  • 1876 (Meiji 9): Part 12
  • 1877 (Meiji 10): Part 13
  • 1879 (Meiji 12): Part 14
  • 1880 (Meiji 13): Part 15
  • 1881 (Meiji 14): Part 16
  • 1882 (Meiji 15): Part 17

Refer to Chapter Eight of The Life of Oyasama for an outline of the major themes of the Ofudesaki.

Exterior volumes of the Ofudesaki

In addition to what can be called the “original volume” (seisatsu 正冊) of the Ofudesaki that is preserved at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, there are a number of collections of poems written by Oyasama that fall into a category called “exterior volumes” (gesatsu 外冊).

It is said that there are 14 verses from these exterior volumes that do not appear in the original volume.[5] These verses are identified as belonging to the “unnumbered set.”

The Ofudesaki as a secret text

As a result of an incident in March 1883 in which Shinnosuke Nakayama reported to the police that the Ofudesaki was burned (so to avoid its confiscation)[6], these writings of Oyasama became a secret text. Although several handwritten copies circulated among leading followers, officially, the emerging Tenrikyo leadership was forced to deny the Ofudesaki’s existence for a number of decades.

The earliest instance in which the Ofudesaki was published (albeit privately) was in 1908.[7] An edition of the Ofudesaki was finally published by Church Headquarters in 1928. Church Headquarters also sponsored a five-day seminar on the Ofudesaki between October and November of the same year.[8]

All branch churches were given copies of the Ofudesaki in addition to a set of the Osashizu to commemorate the dual anniversaries of 1936 (50th Anniversary of Oyasama) and 1937 (Tenrikyo’s Centennial Celebration). Yet, it was only a few years later in 1939 when the copies of these Scriptures were recalled and burned under police supervision due to having content considered objectable by the military regime.[citation needed] Tenrikyo was free to publish the Ofudesaki once again after Japan’s defeat in World War II.

(See also Adjustment)

Ofudesaki in other religious traditions

"Ofudesaki" also happens to be the title of a text from the Omotokyo canon. Although it is also considered a text produced by "automatic writing," portions of the Omotokyo Ofudesaki were actually first written by a nail on the plaster walls of a prison cell.[9]

The life and worldview of the text's physical author and Omotokyo founder Nao Deguchi (1837–1918) has several intriguing parallels with that of Miki's, but there are notable differences as well. While it may be safe to presume that Nao Deguchi (or someone else) may have been inspired to name her text "Ofudesaki" after Tenrikyo's canonical text, this also could be due to a shared (i.e., not direct) influence.

The most notable difference between the two texts that share the title "Ofudesaki" is that they differ in form. The Tenrikyo Ofudesaki is made up of 17 parts of waka poems (which, with the obvious exception of two, each more or less conforms to the traditional style of consisting of five parts that conform to a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count). In comparison, the Omotokyo Ofudesaki follows a conversational style of writing. It "is essentially an orally transmitted text... [that] retains the quality and form of spoken rather than written discourse."[10]


Perhaps the most common and recent edition of this text is the "English, Japanese, and Romanization" 6th edition of the Ofudesaki. This version of the text was printed since 1998.

The Ofudesaki has been published in multiple languages.

External links


  1. 中山正善 Nakayama Shozen. 「ひとことはなし(4)教語解説(一)」 "Zoku Hitokotohanashi (4) Kyōgo kaisetsu (1)." 『みちのとも』 Michi no tomo (April 1950). As cited in 橋本武 Hashimoto Takeshi. 『ひながたの陰に』 Hinagata no kage ni, pp. 27–28.
  2. For one example, see Kontani, Hisanori's My Lecture on the Koki, the Divine Record, p. 59.
  3. Ofudesaki 01:022.
  4. Osashizu 1904-02-25.
  5. A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms, p. 93.
  6. See The Life of Oyasama, pp. 183–185.
  7. 中山正善 Nakayama Shozen. 「紀陽版おふでさきの研究」 “Kiyō-han Ofudesaki no kenkyū.” In 『ビブリア』 Biburia (Biblia) 23, p. 222.
  8. 中島秀夫 Nakajima, Hideo. 「原典研究の軌跡」 “Genten kenkyu no kiseki.” 『あらきようりよう』 Arakitoryo 177 (Fall 1994), p. 24.
  9. Groszos-Ooms, Emily. Women and Millenarian Protest in Meiji Japan: Deguchi Nao and Ōmotokyō. Ithaca, NY: East Asia Program, Cornell University, p. 9.
  10. Groszos-Ooms, p. 72.