Shuji Nakayama

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Shuji Nakayama (中山秀司, lunar 7/24/1821–April 8, 1881) was Oyasama’s eldest child and only son. His devotion to his mother after God the Parent had commanded Oyasama to fall to the depths of poverty is a reoccurring theme in Tenrikyo literature.

Short biography

Shuji was originally named Zenyemon (善右衞門, also spelled Zen'emon). It may be noted that Zenyemon was also the name of Shuji’s late grandfather as it was a family convention in the Nakayama household for heirs to alternate the names Zenbei (善兵衞) and Zenyemon with each generation.[1]

On 10/26/1837, Shuji succumbed to a leg pain that would anticipate both God the Parent’s first revelation and the founding of Tenrikyo in the following year, 1838.

Years later, Shuji attributes the pain in his leg to rheumatism.[2] The pain would intermittently return throughout his life. It is said this motivated to learn medicine for a time in nearby Higashi-Indodo.[3] Also, according to Masaichi Moroi, Shuji’s leg pain flared up when he expressed opposition to dismantling the main house on the Nakayama property after the passing of his father Zenbei in 1853.[4]

While Oyasama lived in the depths of poverty, Shuji opened a private school to teach reading and writing to children. He also sold vegetables while wearing a cotton montsuki (kimono with family crest) according to Oyasama’s wishes.

As Oyasama’s following grew in the late 1860s, Shinto priests, yamabushi, and doctors increasingly showed their opposition against her activities. Shuji thereafter took it upon himself to apply for various licenses so that Oyasama would be legally protected. Nevertheless, Oyasama kept insisting that these measures were against God’s will.

Shuji first applied for and received a license from the Yoshida Administrative Office of Shinto in July 1867. However, the license became void when the office was dissolved after the Meiji Restoration.

Shuji next obtained a license to run a steam bath and inn from Sakai Prefecture in 1876 with the hope it would provide an expedient cover allowing followers to assemble at the Residence even without legal authorization to conduct religious activities.

Shuji also applied for patronage from Jifuku-ji, a Buddhist temple in 1880.[5] Oyasama warned him that, “If you do such a thing, God the Parent will withdraw.” It is said her warning came true when Shuji passed away on April 8, 1881.

Shuji often found himself trapped between committing himself to God and his human sentiment of wanting to protect his mother from other religionists and law enforcement officials. It has been noted that his actions collectively offer lessons for Tenrikyo followers when it comes to what attitude they ought to have toward dealing with the government and the law.[6]

Shuji as the primary intended audience of several Ofudesaki verses

Several verses in the Ofudesaki directly concern Shuji and his children.

Part 1

Significant portions of Ofudesaki Part 1, said to have been written in 1869, are directed to Shuji.

Chie and Otojiro

Verses 25–39 mention an illness that is a manifestation of God’s anger, which stems from a “wrongdoing” that “has not been removed” (1:34). The Ofudesaki goes on to say that “If this wrongdoing is completely cleared away, the lameness of your leg, also, will be cleared away” (1:37). The last verse in this grouping then contains a command to send back someone on 1/30 of that year (1:39).

Annotations to the Ofudesaki reveals the “wrongdoing” as follows:

Shuji was single and was not legally married for a long period of time. He had a common-law wife named Ochie (Chie) who bore him a son named Otojiro and they both lived with him at the Residence. Both Shuji’s relationship with Chie and the fact that she bore him a child was not in accord with God the Parent’s intention from the very beginning. [Verse 1:39] urged Shuji to send Chie back to her parental home.[7]

Shu and Matsue

The next portion from Ofudesaki Part 1 that is directed to Shuji is a grouping that includes verses 58–74.

Verse 60 says: “You say that you wish to train the child for two or three more years. But she is no longer in the hands of God.” Annotations to the Ofudesaki identifies the person in this verse as Oshu (Shu), Shuji’s 18-year-old daughter, who was born out of wedlock.[8] Shu was born in 1853 and her mother was Oyaso (Yaso), a woman from Shoyashiki Village.[9] The verse is now believed to have predicted Shu’s passing in 1870. [8][10]

Verse 65 says: “From now, replace your mind firmly. Sweep away the wrongdoing and take a young wife.” The “young wife” here refers to Matsue Kohigashi, who Shuji marries in 1869. The last verse in Part 1 (1:74) then goes on to read: “I bring you together according to the causality of your previous lives and protect you. This settles the matter for all time.”

Part 7

The next group of verses that directly concern Shuji are verses 65–72 from Ofudesaki Part 7, which was written in 1875.

Verse 67 mentions a person who was “received” by God six years ago on 3/15. Annotations to the Ofudesaki identifies this person as Shu, Shuji’s late daughter. There is an implication that Matsue is pregnant (7:65) with a baby who is Shu reborn.

Verse 72 then says: “Her name is Tamae. If you wish to see her quickly, thoroughly learn the hand movements which Tsukihi teaches.” This verse is now believed to have predicted Tamae Nakayama’s birth on February 5, 1877.

Part 11

Verses 59 and 60 from Ofudesaki Part 11 are said to be directed to Shuji and Matsue: “From this year forward, if you, husband and wife, live on for seventy more years, neither falling ill nor weakening, / There can perhaps be no greater happiness. Look forward to it as coming true.”[11]

Later verses imply that at God’s first revelation in 1838, four members of the Nakayama family were intimately involved in the creation of human beings that took place many lifetimes before (11:69–72).

Part 12 and beyond

Verses 118 and 119 from Ofudesaki Part 12 touch upon the subject of Shuji’s ailing leg. The verses read: “A body that had no disorder anywhere: Tsukihi bent it and caused you much trouble. / The time was thirty-nine years ago. Since then, I have given you worries, troubles, and suffering.”

It also has been claimed that it was God’s intention to cure Shuji’s leg pain with the performance of the Service[6] even though this eventually could not be carried out before his passing in 1881. (See also Ofudesaki 15:24–26, 41, and 50.)


  • 天理教道友社編 Tenrikyo Doyusha, ed. 『ひながた紀行』 Hinagata kiko (esp. Chapter 15 or pp. 215–230).
  • 『改訂天理教辞典』 Kaitei Tenrikyo jiten, pp. 691–692.
  • 矢持辰三 Yamochi Tatsuzo. 『稿本天理教教祖伝入門十講』 Kohon Tenrikyo Oyasama-den nyumon jikko. Tenrikyo Doyusha.


  1. 天理教道友社編 Tenrikyo Doyusha, ed. 『ひながた紀行』 Hinagata kiko, p. 29, n.16.; p. 216.
  2. The Life of Oyasama, p. 75
  3. 高野友治 Takano Tomoji. 『神の出現とその周辺』 Kami no shutsugen to sono shuhen, p. ?.
  4. 諸井政一 Moroi Masaichi. 『正文遺韻抄』 Seibun iin sho, p. 52.
  5. See The Life of Oyasama, pp. 110–111.
  6. 6.0 6.1 『改訂天理教辞典』 Kaitei Tenrikyo jiten, p. 692.
  7. 『おふでさき注釈』 Ofudesaki chushaku, p. 11. (Quote is a translation.)
  8. 8.0 8.1 『おふでさき注釈』 Ofudesaki chushaku, p. 14.
  9. 天理教道友社編 Tenrikyo Doyusha, ed. 『ひながた紀行』 Hinagata kiko, p. 229; 高野友治 Takano Tomoji. 『神の出現とその周辺』 Kami no shutsugen to sono shuhen, p. 145.
  10. 天理教道友社編 Tenrikyo Doyusha, ed. 『ひながた紀行』 Hinagata kiko, p. 230.
  11. 『おふでさき注釈』 Ofudesaki chushaku, p. 173.