Harima branch members regularly visit this sacred island to keep the shrine tidy
By Bill Roberts
On Oct. 4, 1916, about 100 Oomoto followers led by Foundress Nao Deguchi and Co-Founder Onisaburo Deguchi, sailed to Kamishima, a small uninhabited island seven miles southwest of the town of Takasago in the Inland Sea of Japan.
There they enshrined the god of the island, Hitsujisaru no Konjin (God of the Southwest). The visit would prove to be a pivotal moment in the early history of Oomoto.
Led by the Spiritual Leader, Oomoto followers return to Kamishima every five years for a service, the most recent in 2006. But four times a year, members of the Harima branch, which is responsible for the shrine’s upkeep, visit to tidy up and make improvements.
On July 22, 2007, I accompanied the Harima members for their mid-summer cleanup. There were 17 of us on a hazy, sultry day when not the slightest breeze stirred.
We departed around 8 AM, crossing a smooth sea and making landfall about 30 minutes later. At this time of year, the island is surrounded throughout the day by fishing boats, water skiers, divers and mid-summer frolickers.
A steep stone stairway leads to a pine grove on a shoulder of the island where the shrine sits. An unmanned lighthouse sits on top of the island a few hundred meters farther up. There are no other structures.
The shrine used to be a rock building, but the Japanese government destroyed it during the second suppression of Oomoto (1935-1945). You can still see the pieces of stone that were dynamited. Under Sumiko Deguchi, the Second Spiritual Leader, Oomoto decided not to rebuild the shrine after the suppression ended, but used the broken stone to terrace the site. They also erected a special stone with calligraphy by Sumiko, stating: “Miroku no O-Kami” – The Great God of Miroku.
Nao and Onisaburo led early Oomoto followers on several pilgrimages during Oomoto’s first quarter century. Most of these were on instructions Nao received from Ushitora no Konjin, the god who was telling her what steps Oomoto must take to lay the groundwork for the reconstruction of the world.
Kamishima has the distinction of being the only of these pilgrimages that was launched because god spoke through Onisaburo in a vision, according to the book, “Nao Deguchi: A Biography of the Foundress of Oomoto.”
Onisaburo, Nao’s brash son-in-law, was distrusted and even ostracized by some Oomoto followers in the early years. Within a couple of days after the visit to Kamishima, Nao learned through her automatic writing (dictated by Ushitora no Konjin) why Onisaburo had been sent to Oomoto: He was the spirit of Miroku, the savior who would usher in the new age. From that time on, Nao knew that her son-in-law would carry on the work for the reconstruction of the world after she was gone.
The trip to Kamishima has the distinction of being the last of the many pilgrimages Nao made. She passed away about two years later in November 1918.