By Bill Roberts
Speech by Bill Roberts on the occasion of the dedication ceremony for the new shrine of Tottori Branch on Sunday, October 8, 2006
Konichiwa. Bill Roberts des. Yoroshiku. Onegaishimasu.
It is a pleasure to return to the Tottori branch to witness this auspicious occasion. I congratulate you on the completion of your new shrine. It is incredibly beautiful. May it last 1,000 years!
I first visited your branch in December 2004. I believe I was here on the day when branch members were seriously discussing whether to build the new shrine.
Over the next several months, while I was living in Kameoka and writing my book, I would occasionally see your branch chief, Taga-san. Even though I do not speak Japanese and he does not speak English, we somehow communicated and he would let me know that the plans for this project were moving ahead.
Then one day, maybe it was in the spring of 2005, I saw Taga-san with a big sheaf of blueprints under his arm and he was beaming like the sunshine off the sea. He told me everything was a “go” for this project.
So in some ways I feel like I was here at the beginning and it is really great to return for the dedication of this sacred site.
I have visited many Oomoto branches over the years – maybe a dozen or more – but that first trip to Tottori two years ago will always have special meaning for me.
I had just arrived at Oomoto for what would be 14 months to research, write and photograph the book, “A Portrait of Oomoto.” As you may know, it was published earlier this year and we launched it at Setsubun.
I had visited Oomoto several times before I came to write the book, and I had visited several branches on those occasions. I interviewed a few Oomoto followers but never knew that I was going to be writing a book someday.
So my real research began with that first trip to Tottori, and the interviews I conducted with several of your members, including the Youth Division and the Women’s Division.
The old shrine was still here then, and I got to live in it for three days. In fact, I stayed in the same room where Onisaburo Deguchi had met with Oomoto followers when he made his last trip to Yoshioka Onsen in late December 1945. And, of course, this was also when he issued his Yoshioka Prophecy.
That room had a special aura to it. Staying in it and talking with many people who had seen Onisaburo on that last trip, or had some other connection to him, helped me develop a feeling for the man and his mission.
I am really glad the international department of Oomoto chose Yoshioka as the first branch visit to kick off my book research. I came away with a much deeper understanding of the effect Onisaburo had on people and the appeal of his message.
On my first trip to Tottori, I also had a chance to play the tourist and see some of the beautiful countryside around here – the mountains, the sea and other onsen. And of course I had some terrific food, including your very special crab!
Change can be difficult, and the need to raze the old shrine and build this new one may have been unsettling to some of you. But change is also an opportunity to grow and make things better.
I have a feeling the new shrine will deepen the commitment that the Tottori branch has to the purposes of Oomoto, and that your commitment will make a great deal of difference to the spiritual improvement of your region, your country and the world.
Thank you again for allowing me into your lives two years ago and for inviting me back today.
Kyo-wa watashino hanashi-o. O-kiki kudasari. Arrigato gozaimashta.