Sunday, February 5, 2012
Tenri was one of the first places that made me fall in love with Japanese culture. In my early days in Japan I was able to explore Tenri often and deeply. Tenri is the home of Tenrikyo, an indigenous so-called "new religion" in Japan. For the most part Tenrikyo's belief system is independent although one can see cultural influences from Buddhism and Shinto. Tenrikyo believes in a monotheistic "God the Parent" and the practice of "the Joyous Life." Tenrikyo can be described as a pilgrimage religion (all humans were originally born in Tenri so when one visits they are always "coming home"), a faith healing religion (illnesses are a message from God and rituals are done to clear the dust that causes physical problems) and a missionary religion (Tenrikyo has spread out to the rest of the world - where there is a substantial Japanese population abroad you are bound to see Tenrikyo followers there as well).
Despite the "new religion" label, Tenrikyo seems incredibly Japanese culturally and historically. Foreign followers and young people often comment on the Meiji mentality and practices of the church headquarters. And the followers seem to be graying in the same way as Japanese society. I was initially drawn to Tenrikyo's seated service ritual which looks a lot like sign language. I don't get to visit Tenri as often these days, and when I do I always seem to be in a rush. Recently I was able to spend some leisurely time wandering around and taking photographs. Tenri with its amazing architecture, shopping arcade, friendly people and sense of spirituality is a place that must be experienced in person. Photographs cannot do it justice (although I still try...). For the full experience, visit Tenri in the morning of the 26th of each month for its monthly service.
Tenrikyo in Hawaii: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.com/2008/01/globalization-visual-anthropology-photo.html
Tenrikyo Homepage (available in multiple languages): http://www.tenrikyo.or.jp/
Much has been written about Tenrikyo by both scholars outside and inside the faith. A Google Scholar search will give you many resources.