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Tenrikyo emblem.svg
Beliefs and scripture
Joyous Life
Oyasama (Miki Nakayama)
Izo Iburi
Tenri, Japan
Tenri University
Tenri Hospital
Tenrikyo Headquarters, Tenri

Tenrikyo ( Tenrikyō?) is a monotheistic religion originating in supposed revelations to a 19th-century Japanese woman named Nakayama Miki, known as Oyasama by followers.[1] Followers of Tenrikyo believe that God, known by several names including Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, expressed divine will through Nakayama's role as the Shrine of God, and to a lesser extent the roles of the Honseki Izo Iburi and other leaders. Tenrikyo's worldly aim is to teach and promote the Joyous Life, which is cultivated through acts of charity and mindfulness called hinokishin.

The primary operations of Tenrikyo today include 16,833 locally managed churches in Japan,[2] the Jiba in Tenri City, the oyasato-yakata, and many other community-focused organisations. It has 1.75 million followers in Japan,[2] and is estimated to have over 4 million worldwide.[3] Tenrikyo is classified as shinshūkyō (new religious movement) in popular literature because it was founded in the 19th century.

Principal beliefs[edit]

The most basic teaching of Tenrikyo is kashimono-karimono, officially translated as "a thing lent, a thing borrowed". The thing that is lent and borrowed in this teaching is the human body. Tenrikyo followers think of their minds as something under their own control, but their bodies not completely under their control.[4]

The Joyous Life in Tenrikyo is defined as charity and abstention from greed, selfishness, hatred, anger and arrogance. Negative tendencies are not known as sins in Tenrikyo, but rather "dust," as a metaphor, that can be swept away from the mind through hinokishin and ritual. Hinokishin, voluntary effort, is performed not out of a desire to appear selfless, but out of gratitude for kashimono-karimono and shugo (providence).

Adherents believe in a single god, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, who is defined as the creator and caring parent of all mankind. It is also taught that the universe is the body of God. The ultimate spiritual aim of Tenrikyo as a religion is the construction of the Kanrodai, a divinely ordained pillar in an axis mundi called the Jiba, and the correct performance of the Kagura ritual around the Kanrodai, which requires the salvation of all humanity. The idea of the Jiba as the origin of earthly creation is called moto-no-ri, or the principle of origin. A pilgrimage to the Jiba is called a return; the greeting okaeri nasai (welcome home) is seen on many inns in Tenri City.

Reincarnation is part of the religion in the form of denaoshi, translated in English as "passing away for rebirth."[5]

Other key teachings include:

  • Tanno (Joyous Acceptance) – a constructive attitude towards troubles, illness and difficulties without placing judgment on what has happened in the past
  • Juzen-no-Shugo – ten principles involved in the creation which exist in Futatsu Hitotsu (two-in-one relationships), these principles are considered to be applied continuously throughout the universe
  • In Tenrikyo there are three successive levels of understanding of the nature of God: the first is Kami, which is God as understood in every day terms; the second is Tsukihi (lit. Moon Sun), or God as the creator of nature and natural laws; and lastly Oya (Parent), or God as the parent of human beings.

Tenrikyo uses metaphors from construction, carpentry, and farming to help understand the teachings within the scriptures. It visualizes the construction of a better world as a step-by-step process, in which people can make small steps towards progress by working together. Spiritual growth in Tenrikyo is also viewed as a step-by-step process by which you can walk your own path at your own pace.

Frame from a Tenrikyo manga. The translation of the text is roughly, "Just being alive makes me happy! What a waste it would be not to show some initiative!"

The organization[edit]

The overall organization is subdivided into many different groups with common goals but differing functions. These range from the establishment of Daikyokai (lit. large church), to disaster relief corps, medical staffs and hospitals, universities, museums, libraries, and various schools. Tenri Judo is renowned as a successful competition style of Judo that has produced many champions, while there are also other sporting and arts interest groups within Tenrikyo.


In Tenrikyo tradition, Nakayama Miki was chosen as the Shrine of God in 1838, after her son and husband suffered from ailments. The family called a Buddhist monk to exorcise the spirit causing the ailments. When the monk temporarily left and asked Miki to take over, she was possessed by the One god (Tenri-O-no-Mikoto), who demanded that Miki be given to god as a shrine. Miki's husband gave in to this request three days later.

Izo Iburi, one of Miki's foremost followers, held a revelatory leadership position in which questions of followers would be answered and "timely talks" be given. This position, which is no longer held in Tenrikyo, was called the Honseki. The revelatory transmissions of the Honseki were written down and collected in large, multi-volume works called Osashizu. Following Izo's death, a woman called Ueda Naraito partially carried on this role for a while, although she does not appear to have held the actual title "Honseki". Following this, Tenrikyo itself has never had a Honseki, although some Tenrikyo splinter groups believe the revelatory leadership passed from Iburi to their particular founder or foundress.

The history of Tenrikyo is turbulent, having been established during a time of great change within Japan. Tenrikyo as an organisation was forcibly influenced by State Shinto at a date after Tenrikyo's original founding. Even during Nakayama's time, Tenrikyo beliefs were compromised, and it was incorporated into a local Buddhist temple to prevent persecution. Eventually, it was authorised by the Japanese government as one of the official Thirteen Shinto Sects, despite having a different origin system and divine hierarchy than Shinto. During this time, Tenrikyo became the first new religion to do social work in Japan, opening an orphanage, a public nursery and a school for the blind.[6] After State Shinto was forcibly dissolved by the American occupation of Japan, Tenrikyo asked to be removed from the state-mandated classification "Shinto Sect" and transferred to the classification "Other Religion".[citation needed] At this point Shinto and Buddhist influences on its theology were excised.[citation needed]

Although Tenrikyo is now completely separate from Shinto and Buddhist organisationally,[citation needed] it still shares many of the traditions of Japanese religious practice. For instance, many of the objects used in support of Tenrikyo religious services, such as hassoku and sanpo, were traditionally used in Japanese ritual, and the method of offering is also traditional. It is also true that Miki Nakayama's son, Shuji, sought and obtained approval and protection from the powerful Yoshida branch of Shinto at a relatively early stage in Tenrikyo's development; he did this, however, contrary to his mother's wishes.


  • 1798, April 18 – Nakayama Miki was born.
  • 1838, December 12 (October 26, lunar calendar) – God was revealed to Miki Nakayama at the Mishima Shrine.
  • 1854 – Nakayama begins to administer the Grant for Safe Childbirth, and thus begins to recruit her first followers.
  • 1866 – First chapters of Ofudesaki appear.
  • 1887, January 26 – the death of Miki Nakayama.
  • 1908 - official recognition as one of the thirteen branches of Sect Shinto.

Religious services[edit]

Instruments used to perform Otsutome
(audio) Music being performed during a local daily service.

Tenrikyo utilises traditional musical instruments in its otsutome (lit. service or duty), Hyoshigi (wooden clappers), Chanpon (cymbals), Surigane (small gong), Taiko (large drum), Tsuzumi (shoulder drum), Fue (bamboo flute), Shamisen, Kokyū, and Koto. These are used to play music from the Mikagura-Uta, a body of music, dances and songs created by Nakayama. Most of the world's foremost authorities on Gagaku music (the ancient classical Shinto music of the imperial court of Japan) are also Tenrikyo followers, and Gagaku music is actively promoted by Tenrikyo, although, strictly speaking, the Mikagura-Uta and Gagaku are separate musical forms.

The Hyoshigi, Chanpon, Surigane, Taiko, and Fue were traditionally the men's instruments but are now acceptable for women to play. The Shamisen, Kokyu, and Koto were traditionally women's instruments and, although not very popular, are now acceptable for men to play as well.

Daily services[edit]

The Otsutome or daily service consists of the performance of the seated service and, optionally, the practice of a chapter or two of the 12 chapters of Teodori(lit. hand dance) or Yorozuyo. The daily service is performed twice a day; once in the morning and then in the evening. The service times are adjusted according to the time of sun rise and sun set but may vary from church to church. Service times at the Jiba in Tenri City go by this time schedule and adjust in the changing of seasons.

Instruments used in the daily service are the Hyoshigi, Chanpon, Surigane, Taiko, and Kazutori (a counter, to count the 21 times the first section is repeated). The Hyoshigi is always played by the head minister of the church or mission station. If the head minister is not present, anyone may take his or her place.

The daily service does not need to be performed at a church. It can be done at any time and anywhere, so long as that one faces the direction of the Jiba, or "home of the parent."

The purpose of the daily service, as taught by Miki Nakayama, is to sweep away the Eight Mental Dusts of the mind.


Hinokishin (lit. daily service) is a spontaneous action that is an expression of gratitude and joy for being allowed to "borrow" his or her body from God the Parent. Such an action ideally is done as an act of religious devotion out of a wish to help or bring joy to others, without any thought of compensation. Hinokishin can range from helping someone to just a simple smile to brighten another person's day. Examples of common Hinokishin activities that are encouraged include cleaning public bathrooms and parks among other such acts of community service. Doing the work that others want to do least are considered sincere in the eyes of God.

Hinokishin is a method of "sweeping" the "mental dusts" that accumulate in our minds. The "mental dusts" are referring to the Eight Mental Dusts. The official translations of these dusts are: Miserliness (Oshii), Covetousness (Hoshii), Hatred (Nikui), Self-love (Kawai), Grudge-bearing (Urami), Anger (Haradachi), Greed (Yoku), Arrogance (Kouman).[7]

The Tenrikyo Young Men's Association and Tenrikyo Women's Association are Tenrikyo-based groups that perform group activities as public service. To participate in such groups may be considered Hinokishin.

Monthly services[edit]

Tenrikyo service performers wearing traditional montsuki after a monthly service.

Tsukinamisai or the monthly service is a performance of the entire Mikagura-Uta, the sacred songs of the service, which is the service for world salvation. Generally, mission headquarters and grand churches (churches with 100 or more others under them) have monthly services performed on the third Sunday of every month; other churches perform on any other Sunday of the month. The monthly service at the Jiba is performed on the 26th of every month, the day of the month in which Tenrikyo was first conceived – October 26, 1838.

Instruments used in the monthly service are all of those aforementioned. Performers also include dancers – three men and three women – and a singer. Performers wear traditional montsuki, which may or may not be required depending on the church.

Divine Grant of Sazuke[edit]

A Yoboku administering the Sazuke on a follower.

The Divine Grant of Sazuke is a healing prayer in which one may attain through attending the nine Besseki lectures. When one receives the Divine Grant of Sazuke, he or she is considered a Yoboku (lit. useful timber). The Sazuke is to be administered to those who are suffering from illness to request God's blessings for a recovery. However, recovery requires the sincere effort from both the recipient and the administrator of the Sazuke to clean their minds of "mental dust." Only with pure minds then can the blessings be received by the recipient through the Yoboku administering the Sazuke. It is taught that when God accepts the sincerity of the person administering the Sazuke and the sincerity of the person to whom it is being administered, a wondrous salvation will be bestowed. This is accomplished through having the recipient be aware of the mental dusts and the teachings of Tenrikyo to remedy their dusty minds.

A typical in-house shrine

Tenrikyo centers outside Japan[edit]

In recent years Tenrikyo has spread outside Japan, with foreign branches centered primarily in Southeast Asia and America.[8] Tenrikyo maintains centers in:

Notable followers[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tenrikyo Official Home Page". Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  2. ^ a b Japanese Ministry of Education. Shuukyou Nenkan, Heisei 14-nen (宗教年鑑平成14年). 2002.
  3. ^ Stuart D. B. Picken. Historical dictionary of Shinto. Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. p. 223. ISBN 0-8108-4016-2
  4. ^ The Doctrine of Tenrikyo Chapter 7: A Thing Lent, A Thing Borrowed pp. 50-57
  5. ^ Passing Away for Rebirth Tenrikyo Terminology
  6. ^ Isaku Kanzaki. "Present Day Shintoism". In Paul S. Meyer (ed.), The Japan Mission Year Book 1928. Tokyo: Japan Advertiser Press, 1928.
  7. ^ Mental Dusts Tenrikyo International Website
  8. ^ Britannica Kokusai Dai-Hyakkajiten entry for Tenrikyo.
  9. ^ Tenrikyo Buenos Aires
  10. ^ Tenrikyo Melbourne Shinyu Church
  11. ^ Tenrikyo do Brasil
  12. ^ Tenrikyo Europe Centre
  13. ^ Asociación Religiosa Tenrikyo
  14. ^ Tenrikyo UK Centre
  15. ^ Tenrikyo Mission Headquarters of Hawaii
  16. ^ Tenrikyo Mission Headquarters of America
  17. ^ Tenrikyo New York Cultural Institute

External links[edit]