New Religions
[Table of Contents]

The Propagation and Spread of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô[Glossary: tensho_kotai_jingu-kyo][Glossary: tensho_kotai_jingukyo] within Japanese-American Society on Hawaii IslandI

NISHIYAMA Shigeru and FUJII Takeshi


This report represents the results of an intensive survey of the propagation and growth of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô or TKJII in the Hilo, Kona, and Pahala areas of Hawaii Island. We conducted this survey during July and August 1979. The reason for calling it a survey "within Japanese-American Society on Hawaii Island" is due to the fact that TKJ has been propagated almost exclusively on Hawaii Island among persons of Japanese ancestry.

Our aims in producing this study have been to demonstrate the kind of people joining this new religion, and their reasons for so doing. We also want to consider how those persons accepted the religion, what its subsequent development has been to date, and what its potential future development may be. In approaching these issues we have relied on the oral and written documentation produced by our survey, and we have paid special attention to the unique features of the religion and the social attributes of the people forming its membership.

The population of the entire island of Hawaii forming the field for this survey was said to be around 70,000 at the time of our survey. Of this number, about 43,000 resided in the Hilo district, 1,320 in Kona, and 4,000 in Pahala (Kau).1 Our survey efforts were focused on the Hilo area, since that served as our residence during the survey period. As a result, it must be admitted that our survey results are incomplete with regard to the Kona and Pahala areas (the latter in particular).

Immigrants from Japan served as the driving force behind the formation of local communities in the Hilo, Kona and Pahala areas. As a result, large numbers of Japanese-Americans continue to live within these local communities today. For example, in Hilo, Japanese-Americans make up about forty percent of the entire population, while the proportion is even greater in Kona. Further, Japanese customs and forms of social organization have become strongly embedded in these local societies, as evidenced by the presence of neighborhood mutual assistance associations called kumiai2 or "cooperatives." In Hilo, for example, kumiai have become such a fundamental element of local social organization that persons of non-Japanese ancestry now also participate in the associations alongside their Japanese-American counterparts.

TKJ was started in 1946 by Kitamura Sayo[Glossary: kitamura_sayo] (1900-1967), a farmer's wife from Tabuse, Kumage-gun, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Together with the Jiukyô[Glossary: jiu] founded by "Jikôson" (Nagaoka Nagako[Glossary: nagaoka_nagako]), TKJ quickly found itself at the center of media attention, and came to be known as the "dancing religion[Glossary: odoru_shukyo]." Kitamura's basic teachings were as follows:3

  1. the present age is the "end of the world" (yo no sue) in which god will divide humankind between those to be "saved" (kingdom of god) and those to be "destroyed" (world of the devil);

  2. although the absolute god of the universe (Amaterasu Ômikami[Glossary: amaterasu_omikami]) previously sent Shakyamuni and Christ to the world to spread divine teachings to humanity, in this last age the deity has descended into the "belly" (hara) of Kitamura Sayo. Acting as the temple (miya) of the deity, Kitamura has promulgated divine teachings, and those teachings are to be found in Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô;

  3. salvation will come only to those people to give heed to these teachings and act in accord with the divine will. It should be noted that according to these teachings, human life is viewed as a pilgrimage "on the road" (dôchû), which polishes (migaku) the soul (tamashii), and a "place of practice" (gyô no ba) for the spiritual discipline of everyday life. In order to accomplish that practice and discipline, people must first make their minds firm and resolve to leave the "world of maggots" (uji no yo), rising by their own power to the "other country, the kingdom of god" where "neither position, fame, money or assets, external display or show is important," but only "purity of heart" (magokoro) alone;

  4. at the same time, believers will be exposed to a variety of sufferings and trials on that "pilgrimage of practice." According to TKJ, these trials are the result both of evil karma (innen, actions of speech, mind, and practice) accumulated during this and past lives, as well as the deeds of the evil spirits of dead and living beings, both animal and human, which are invited by the evil in the individual's own soul. The "absolute deity of the universe" has, however, transmitted through Kitamura Sayo the "prayer with dharma power," namely the invocation namyôhô rengekyôIII; by means of this prayer, humans are enabled to bring the evil spirits to salvation and cut away their own evil karma, thus overcoming their trials and perfecting the "divine practice" on their way to the kingdom of heaven.

    Finally, the religion also teaches that not only such personal suffering as poverty, sickness and discord, but also natural disasters, wars, and other evils on the social level are the result of the action of evil spirits. And accordingly, all these distresses can likewise be resolved through intonation of the prayer "Namyôhô rengekyô."

Kitamura's teachings can be characterized by the following elements: (1) a millenial claim that the world evil will be overthrown and an ideal society will appear under the rulership of god, thus settling all uncertainties regarding the fate of mankind; (2) a denial of the things valued by secular society, including position, fame, and wealth, together with the establishment of a differing set of ethical values; (3) an elimination of complicated and formalistic religious rituals and secular customs adhered to by established and folk religions, and in place of those externalities, the establishment of new customs of the "kingdom of heaven," customs that are simple and internal to the heart.

On the one hand, these characteristics can be said to indicate a universalistic breakthrough in the wall of tradition ("de-culturation"), something common to the "prophetic" type of world religions. At the same time, Kitamura's theodicy places blame for various evils in the rampant domination of evil spirits, an element exhibiting the influence of the traditional Japanese belief in "evil-spirit possession" (tsukimono). These two elements would at first glance appear to represent a considerable gap in rationality, a superstitious realm of bewitching spirits and demons on the one hand, and a world of rational revelation by a monotheistic salvation deity on the other.

Within the group's actual teachings, however, these two elements are fused by claiming that "polishing of the soul" is a prerequisite for receiving the "dharma power" (hôriki) that can save evil spirits, while simultaneously asserting that the salvation of those evil spirits is indispensable to the "pilgrimage of practice" that polishes the soul. For present purposes, it is important to understand this element of ambiguity when considering the reasons for the propagation and spread of the religion in a foreign culture and society.

Branch churches of TKJ can be found in each of the regions of Hawaii Island noted above, and all were established in 1952, the year that Kitamura Sayo made her first missionary visit to the island. The three branches had few members (called dôshi or "comrades") at the time of our survey in mid-1979, including some nineteen households with forty-one members in the Hilo branch, eight households with twenty-two members in the Kona branch, and only two households with less than ten members in the Pahala branch. All of these members are Japanese-Americans, and most are either first-generation converts who became members in 1952, or else the families of such individuals.

Religious activity since establishment of the groups has not been directed toward outward expansion, but rather inwardly toward "regressive reproduction." To a large extent, this diminution in membership is part of the same phenomenon of declining population accompanying the demographic shift from village to town and city generally observed throughout all the Hawaiian islands other than Oahu. Fundamentally, however, the drop in membership is the result of the groups' lack of success at recruiting sufficient new members to compensate for attrition. At the same time, it must be kept in mind that the number of believers at the initial founding of the branches was also relatively small, and while some diminution has occurred, the loss in absolute numbers has been slight. For example, the membership of the Hilo branch at the time of its founding was thirty-one households with fifty-four individuals; by September 1973 this had declined to twenty-one households and forty-three members, and as noted earlier the present membership is composed of forty-one individuals.4

Takie Lebra's "Religious Conversion as a Breakthrough for Transculturation: A Japanese Sect in Hawaii" forms a pioneering piece of research on the relation of TKJ to the social adaptation of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii.5 Lebra's essay was the result of oral interviews with some fifty-five adult members of the Honolulu branch of TKJ undertaken in 1964, together with some degree of participant observation in the sect's sub-group Migaki no Kai. Lebra's research was suggested by J. B. Holt's thesis6 to the effect that unorthodox religions are a medium for the reintegration of immigrants to society. In short, Lebra conclued that conversion to TKJ had helped bring about both a "de-culturation" from ethnic Japanese culture and "resocialization" to American society and its multi-ethnic culture.7

Lebra's conclusions with regard to TKJ in Hawaii were the result of a small amount of participant observation together with interviews with a mere fifty-five individuals, all of whom belonged to a single branch of the religion. From our perspective, Lebra's conclusions appear overconfident for the relatively low level of sampling involved, and in some areas she seems to have used a rather heavy hand in applying the analytical framework of previous research. At the same time, her work remains attractive as a possible hypothesis.

There is some room for doubt, however, to what degree Lebra's thesis can be generalized when the framework is expanded beyond the fifty-five individual adult believers represented by her survey of the Honolulu area on Oahu Island. For example, we might ask what the situation is like in the agricultural villages or middle and small towns of other islands, where concentrated settlements of Japanese-Americans continue to form local Japanese-American communities. Outside of the city of Honolulu, most Japanese-Americans in Hawaii continue to live to one degree or another within an intermediate zone formed by regional Japanese-American communities, rather than being linked directly to multi-cultural Hawaiian society. Accordingly, when considering responses like "de-culturation" or "re-socialization" it is necessary to keep in mind the existence not only of Hawaii's encompassing multi-cultural society, but its discrete Japanese-American communities as well. As a result, one of our purposes in this essay is to test the limits of Lebra's thesis by focusing on the TKJ groups of the island of Hawaii, where a relatively high concentration of Japanese-American communities continue to exist, in contrast to the groups found by Lebra among the larger urban society of Honolulu on Oahu Island.

1. Kitamura Sayo's Visit and the History of the State Branch

As of 1979, Sonoda Fujio was the current manager of TKJ's Hawaiian state-branch "place of practice" (dôjô). Born at Mount View (Hawaii Island) in 1906, Sonoda was the eldest son of migrant sugarcane workers who had emigrated from Japan's Fukuoka Prefecture.

At the age of twenty, Sonoda moved to Honolulu where he found work as a carpenter. For about three years following World War II, Sonoda patronized a shamanistic medium (kitôshi[Glossary: kito]) from Okinawa and performed ascetic practice under her guidance, but he ceased his visits when an acquaintance told him, "You don't have to go to that old woman anymore. She's doing nothing but lying to you. Don't go anywhere. The person you should follow will turn up one day. Until then just don't go anywhere."8

In 1950 Sonoda learned for the first time of the existence of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô from Usui Miyo, a middle-aged woman he had previously met at the home of the Okinawan shamaness. Urged by Usui to convert to TKJ, Sonoda states that he experienced an intuitive feeling that Kitamura would be the "person he should follow," just as had been foretold several years earlier.

Usui Miyo had earlier received an oracle from another shamaness to the effect that she should visit Japan for the purpose of performing a memorial service for the dead (kuyô). On the basis of that oracle Usui visited Japan in 1949, and during that visit her younger sister - already a member of TKJ living in Shimonoseki - encouraged her to visit the group's headquarters in Tabuse. In September 1949 Usui visited Tabuse, and during her eight-day stay there she was converted to the religion. She then returned to Honolulu, and it was during the next year that she first spoke to Sonoda about the group.

Usui visited the Tabuse headquarters again in April 1951, returning to Hawaii after a five-month period of religious practice. In December of that year Sonoda visited Tabuse for a similar five-month period, and it was this stay by Sonoda that formed the direct inspiration for Kitamura Sayo's visit to Hawaii. While Sonoda was visiting Tabuse for the first time, he states that he somehow felt he had "returned home." Indeed, as time went by he developed the spontaneous notion that his coming to Tabuse had not been a matter of sheer coincidence, but part of an important mission with which he had been entrusted, namely that of "inviting the `great goddess' [Kitamura] to come to Hawaii."

Sonoda's desire was realized during services held on New Year's day 1952, when Kitamura stated that she was "going to Hawaii to open the hearts of the people there." This statement was apparently in fulfillment of a prophecy made by Kitamura at the end of World War II to the effect that "I will make a distant journey when I am fifty-three" (Seisho, 2:5). On January 20, Kitamura had Sonoda write a letter to the believers in Hawaii, telling them that she would be visiting the island, and began making preparations for her visit. For official purposes, the person acting as host for Kitamura's visit was to be Nishimura Kin'uemon, a fisherman and manager of a fish market who lived in Hawaii Island's Hanapepe area.

On May 8 1952 Kitamura and Sonoda boarded the ship President Wilson and headed for Honolulu, accompanied by Yoribayashi Toki (also from Tabuse), and Sakiyama Ryôchi (a draper from Uo-machi, Kokura City in Fukuoka Prefecture). The group arrived in Honolulu on May 15, Kitamura's first trip out of Japan, and her first step into Hawaii.

Before leaving Japan, Sayo told a reporter for the Hawaii Taimusu newspaper that she was "going to Hawaii to get rid of the maggots there," with the result that she had already become familiar to the Hawaiian Japanese-American community as the "dancing goddess" (odoru kamisama). When disembarking she was surrounded with reporters at dockside and gave them an impromptu demonstration of her singing sermon and "dance of non-self" (muga no mai) (Hawai hôchi, May 15 1952).

Kitamura made such an impression on the Japanese-American society in Hawaii that just one week after her arrival the social columnist for the Hawai hôchi wrote that "the biggest recent topic in Japanese-American society here has been the arrival of Kitamura Sayo, the 'dancing goddess'" (May 22 1952). The most important factors in stimulating such quick public interest were Kitamura's bizarre behavior, demonstrated in her singing sermons and dance of non-self, her blistering and unrestrained criticism of established religions, and the convincing nature of her easy-to-understand teachings of internal feeling. One can also cite Kitamura's colorful method of healing through the use of the invocation "namyôhô renge kyô" and her demonstrations as a seer capable of divining the facts of a person's past and future.

On the other hand, Kitamura's behavior also created antipathy and a sense of danger on the part of the Japanese-American religious community, and she engaged in frequent and colorful exchanges with representatives of the established religions on radio programs and in newspaper articles.9 These debates also helped raise Kitamura in esteem. By the time she had completed her visit and was ready to return to Japan, Sayo had succeeded in gaining the sympathy of a number of the top leaders of the Japanese-American community in Hawaii. For example, Sôga Yoshitarô, president of the Hawaii Taimusu and former board of directors for the Hawaii branch of the temple Honganji stated in his newspaper that "the dancing goddess delivers sharp and quick-tongued criticism of the corruption in the established religions and professional religious leaders, a point with which I feel a great deal of agreement."

During the six months before her departure from Honolulu on October 22, Kitamura continued to receive the attention of the media, while circulating between Oahu and the islands of Kauai, Maui and Hawaii, laying the foundation for the Hawaii branch of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô as found there today.

Upon her arrival in Hawaii, Kitamura and her companions Yoribayashi and Sakiyama made their headquarters the Sonoda home in Honolulu, and there displayed for the first time the sign proclaiming "Honolulu Branch of the Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô, Training Center for the Establishment of the Kingdom of God"IV (according to Sakiyama's records). Immediately after reaching the Sonoda home and before even having a chance to change from her travel clothes, Kitamura was greeted by four or five visitors and was thus given the opportunity to demonstrate her first real singing sermon in Hawaii.

As a result of her trip, Kitamura established branch congregations in each of the main islands, and these branches were placed under the oversight of the "Hawaii Prefecture Branch," which had the tailor Hirai Takeyoshi as its head. The branch sign was also moved to his house on South King Street. According to an account by Hirai in the Hawaii Taimusu for October 23, some two-thousand converts had been recruited from all the Hawaiian Islands during Kitamura's stay.

Kitamura made four other overseas mission trips following this first journey, and on each occasion she stopped by the islands for an extended period, visiting each of the island branches in further missionary efforts. Her second visit was for eighteen months of the two-years between February 1954 and February 1956 (the remaining six months she spent on the North American continent). She visited Hawaii again for three months between January and September 1961 (the remaining five months of this period were again spent in America), and her fourth visit was for one month between June and July 1963. Her fifth and final sojourne in Hawaii was for about two weeks in June 1965, during an eight-month trip around the world that began in November 1964 and took her to Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, Western Europe, Africa, Central and South America, North America and Hawaii. Her trip was made in spite of an illness, and her arrival in Hawaii in June 1965 marked her last visit to a foreign land. She was taken from the plane in a wheelchair. She passed away two years later on December 28 1967 at the age of sixty-eight, her body worn from exhaustive labors.

Four months before Kitamura's death, Hirai Takeyoshi passed away in August 1967, after spending fifteen years as head of the Hawaii state branch. In his place Kobayashi Masayoshi was installed as the second (current) leader of the state branch.

The development of permanent meeting facilities for TKJ in Hawaii began with the establishment of the Kauai branch's "place of practice" or dôjô in Lihue on Kauai Island in June 1963. The Honolulu state branch dôjô was established next in its current location in November 1976, and the Hilo branch dôjô was completed in November 1980. Numerous members donated time and labor to the construction of these facilities. In addition to these buildings, the dôjô for the Maui branch has been converted from a private residence in Keahua, but ownership of the dwelling and properly is officially registered in the name of the Maui branch.

In addition to the previously mentioned three branches on Hawaii Island, two branches are found on Maui (Maui and Lahaina), one on Kauai Island (Lihue), and eight on Oahu Island (Honolulu, Kaimuki, Kalihi, Wahiawa, Waipahu, Kaneohe, Haleiwa, and the state headquarters branch), for a total of fourteen branches throughout the Hawaiian Islands. These fourteen branches claim a total nominal membership of 5,300, of which seventy-five to eighty percent are residents of Oahu. Seventy percent of the membership is said to be Japanese-American10 but we received the impression of an even higher ratio from our observations. Most of the current membership is composed of persons or the immediate family members of persons who came into direct contact with Kitamura during one of her visits to the islands. As a result, the membership has been relatively static since her death, and no noteworthy expansion has occurred.

The characteristics of this group contrast well with those of the NSA (Nichiren Shôshû Sôka Gakkai of America). NSA was established in October 1960 and was thereafter quite successful in attracting adherents from the non-Japanese-American population of Hawaii (as of August 1977, NSA membership was said to include 7,500 households totalling 24,000 individuals). It would appear certain that great differences can be observed in the doctrinal content and the proselytizing strategies of the two groups. Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô was established in the 1950s, shortly after the end of World War II. It brought with it a millenial message responding to the acute cultural shock that accompanied Japan's loss of the war, and the resulting loss of confidence in Japanese culture that struck the Japanese-American community in Hawaii. In contrast, NSA was established after the Hawaiian Japanese-American community had weathered the worst of its culture shock and was now facing a variety of changes in Hawaiian society, including industrialization, urbanization, and the simultaneous social movements of various ethnic groups. It was a skillful response to those changes, focusing on a core of Japanese-American members while also incorporating many non-Japanese as it extended its reach.

2. Proselytization on Hawaii Island and the Creation of Island Branch Organizations

On the occasion of each visit to Hawaii, Kitamura made trips to the individual islands in turn. As a result, if one counts separately the two visits to Hawaii (the territory or state) accompanying each of her trips to the North American continent, Kitamura visited Hawaii Island a total of seven times. With the exception of her first trip, on which she disembarked at Hilo Airport, her regular itinerary was to proceed from Kona to Pahala, to Hilo, taking about one week for the entire course.

Her first visit, however, required twenty-three days, and she spent nineteen days on Hawaii Island at the time of her return from her second trip to America. The foundations for all the Hawaii branch organizations were largely established during Kitamura's first six-month stay in the territory. In the same way, she established the basic structure of the branch organizations on Hawaii Island during the twenty-three days from her first arrival.11

When Kitamura first disembarked at Hilo Airport on August 1 1952, she was greeted not by religious cohorts, but by Kitamura Einoshin, younger brother of her husband Kitamura Seinoshin. Einoshin was accompanied by his wife and several relatives. By the time of her arrival, Kitamura Sayo had become a celebrity in Hawaii's Japanese-American society; the July 28 edition of the Hawai hôchi reported in its "open forum" (kôkai rondan) column that "most people would say the biggest topics of recent conversation in Hawaii have been the arrival of the dancing goddess and the [eruption of the] volcano on Hawaii island."12 This in spite of the fact that Kitamura had not yet attracted a single believer on Hawaii Island.

After her arrival, Kitamura and her four companions stayed initially at the home of her brother-in-law in an area called Piihonua (a former sugar-cane camp located at the north side of Hilo, now called Waianuenue). On the first evening of her arrival, she delivered a sermon to about thirty Japanese-Americans who gathered at her brother-in-law's house, and from the next day she visited the radio stations KHBC and KIPA to initiate a program of proselytization utilizing the media of radio.

Most of the Japanese immigrants to this area had come from Japan's Hiroshima and Yamaguchi Prefectures; Kitamura's husband Seinoshin had also come around the age of sixteen and lived there as a migrant laborer for seven or eight years. While there, Seinoshin invited his younger brother Einoshin to Hawaii, and Einoshin remained on the island even after Seinoshin returned to Japan. At the time of Sayo's visit, Einoshin was sixty years old and already retired from the sugar company, and his wife Ryû was, at fifty-three, one year older than Sayo herself.

The group's acting reporter Sakiyama sent a regular newsletter "Ôgamisama Hawai dayori" (The great goddess's Hawaii missive) to the religion's headquarters, and in its entry for August 1 (No. 5:18) the newsletter reported, "the Kitamura household includes six children (three girls and three boys, of which two are away in the military), and one grandchild as well, so a bustling atmosphere pervades the home." Einoshin's wife Ryû,13 however, recalls that she was completely occupied at the time with concern for the safety of her two sons, who had gone to fight in the Korean War, and whenever she had a moment she went to pray at the "O Daishi-san" (the Shingon temple Hôganji) in Hilo. Both the Kitamura family and Ryû's own natal family were long-standing members of the Jôdo Shinshû sect, and they were enrolled with the Hilo Honganji Betsuin after their arrival in Hawaii as well, but the Shingon-sect "O Daishi-san" was widely worshiped by Japanese-Americans in the area as a source of mundane blessings. In addition, the initial founder of the temple Hôganji was a Mr. Suetomi, who was from the same Yanai City as Ryû's family.

While Sayo and her four companions thus arrived at the Kitamura Einoshin home in order to spread TKJ, Ryû felt no consciousness of hosting the "great goddess" of a religion; for her part, she was acting merely as a woman fulfilling her duty to the wife of an older brother-in-law. Ryû had never met her elder sister-in-law (Sayo) before, and in order to properly prepare for this visit she made a new bed comforter, cooked meals, offered her home as a meeting place, and even purchased a new car, all in order to make Sayo feel at home. In Kitamura Sayo's own words, "I never had any material wants while at the Kitamura house" ("Hawaii missive," around August 6). At the same time, Ryû refused to show any sign of interest in Sayo's religion. As a result, while Sayo was grateful for the kind treatment she received at her brother-in-law's home, she also wished for "a single sincerity rather than a thousand material things" (from the same message around August 6) - in other words, she wished that Ryû would submit to her teachings.

Just as the two women were experiencing this discord, Sayo gave a sermon on the afternoon of August 3 to several dozen people who had gathered at the Einoshin home. As part of her sermon, Sayo made mention of the "bad karma" of Einoshin's eldest daughter, a comment that Ryû took as a severe affront, "a terrible assertion with no basis at all." According to Ryû, "When a woman is worried about the safety of sons on the battlefield, and simultaneously trying to offer the greatest degree of dutiful service to the wife of her husband's older brother, and in spite of all this she has such things said by a person whom she has just met, it is simply unbearable." As a result, Ryû burst into tears on the spot. While her husband Einoshin did not display any exceptional reaction at the time, the incident clearly served to disrupt family harmony. Afterwards he told Sayo that "we and our family all had a good life here until you came along; did you come to break up my family?"

As the upshot of this family friction, Sayo preached nonstop for three days and two nights until her eyes were swollen; when she received notice that a vacant rental house had been found on the outskirts of Hiro, she quickly packed her things and moved to the home of Ômae Kumi on the morning of August 5. Her stay in the Piihonua area had lasted a mere four days, and as the trouble of August 3 became common knowledge throughout the Piihonua community, people's attitudes toward Sayo also changed, resulting in a variety of problems. On the other hand, it was during this period that Kakazu Kyôji (a coffee cultivator from Okinawa) visited Kitamura from the Kona region and assisted in arranging for a visit there. During this time Kitamura also met Ôkubo Kiyoshi, head of the Japanese language section at KIPA radio (currently president of the Hiro Taimusu newspaper), who made arrangements for Sayo to use the Yamatoza, the only Japanese movie theater in Hiro (seating capacity 650) to hold a preaching service on August 7 lasting one hour and thirty-two minutes. That sermon was also broadcast on radio.

Sayo received few visitors for several days following her move to the Ômae home, and the days were spent emptily. Kitamura's companions naturally became distraught and wondered anxiously, "Why is it we have to walk this thorny path when many comrades are waiting for us in Honolulu?" ("Hawaii missive," around August 6, pp.10-11). But Kitamura's sermon at the Yamatoza reversed this situation, so that they could later report "the number of people coming to visit this dôjô on the outskirts of town has suddenly increased" (Seisho, 2:48). On August 12 Kitamura demonstrated her preaching and "dance of non-self" before a crowd of 150 at the gymnasium of the Waiakea Waina School. As a result of these two public sermons, Kitamura's mission efforts around Hilo finally got on track, and the number of regular attendants at her sermons - people who could be considered "believers" - increased.

Virtually all the people converted at Hilo during this period were attracted by Kitamura's magical charisma, and brought with them the desire for healing of some kind of physical ill or other personal problem. Kitamura responded by exorcizing evil spirits, dispelling evil karma, and by divinations of past, present, and future events and fortunes, producing spectacular results in the process.14 But at the same time, she also tried to draw her listeners into deeper religious belief, stating that "if you ask me to heal your sick and look into your future I'll do it. But that's not really getting into God's practice. A peddler of snake oil can attract a crowd by waving a wand and performing tricks... but if it's nothing more than attracting a bunch of people, what's the use? Once the people are there, you've got to show them that this is the divine practice, the way to get to God" (Seisho, 2:88).

Not all the people attracted to Kitamura were drawn by her magical charisma. Some were compelled by the contents of her teaching, or felt charisma in her personality itself. It might, in fact, be better to say that those who were healed at Sayo's touch, and those who witnessed such healings, came to feel her personal charisma through contact with her spectacular powers. For example, Ôkubo Kiyoshi used his reporter's eye to chronical Kitamura's behavior at close hand, and while he did not actually become a believer, he stated that she was "the possessor of a strange ability that is one in a million."15

Among those who were thus drawn more by Kitamura's teaching and personality than by desire for mundane benefits were the aforementioned Kakazu of Kona and Tanaka Moriji (from Hiroshima; currently head of the Hilo branch). Kakazu visited Sayo again on August 12 at the Ômae home and encouraged her to visit Kona. He later wrote, "I had come to the conclusion that all existing religions were worthless, and someone just had to appear to save the world. Just at the time I was wondering where that someone might be, I heard about the teachings of the great goddess, and I knew that the things she was saying must be the truth. The great goddess is truly the person who will save the world" ("Hawaii missive," August 12, No. 6:19).

Similarly, Tanaka heard Kitamura speak at the Waiakea Waina School gymnasium on the evening of August 12 and purchased the first volume of her book Seisho. He was strongly moved when he read the book after returning home, and felt the deep desire to meet her in person. By that time, however, Kitamura had already gone on to Maui, so Tanaka attended four "polishing meetings" (migaki no kai) held at the dôjô-converted home of Onoue Hanayo (1913-1979), after which he took the trouble of going to Honolulu for a month in order to hear Kitamura's sermons directly. Only then was he completely convinced to accept the religion.16

Kitamura accepted Kakazu's invitation and spent the week from August 14 to August 20 in Kona, and also stopped in Pahala on her return. As a result of this visit, Sayo was able to witness the establishment of branches in this area as well before leaving the island of Hawaii on August 23.

At the urging of Kakazu, Kitamura spent her first night in Kona at the Kiopuu home of Kunii Hikojûrô (first-generation immigrant from Fukushima Prefecture), and on that evening she gave a sermon at a nearby community center. During the next week she delivered sermons and performed faith healings at the town's Kômeiden (August 15), the Kunii home (August 16-18), at the Taishi Pavilion (Taishidô) in Kealakekura (August 19), and finally at the Yamaguchi home (August 20). From what we could gather by our own investigations, the majority of the persons converted in Kona at that time were drawn to Kitamura in hopes of healing, the same as the case in Hilo.17

But a rather unique event served as the real catalyst in drawing converts and allowing the establishment of a branch organization in Kona. Kitamura's host Kunii Hikojûrô had been a member of the Kona branch of the Hisshôkai ("Sure Victory Club")18 during World War II, an organization that looked fervently for the eventual victory of Japan in the war. At the meetings held beginning August 16, a group of about ten former Hisshôkai members were in attendance, including Ikeda Kazuto (a naturalized second-generation Japanese-American, former principal of a Japanese language school and head of the Kona Hisshôkai, currently head of the Kona branch of TKJ).

Almost all the former Hisshôkai members became followers of Kitamura, and the Hisshôkai's organizational structure thus came to be replicated precisely in the Kona branch of the new religion. According to Ikeda, the fellow members were deeply touched deeply by Kitamura's sermons, particularly one that included that following statement:

Japan didn't lose the war. That was merely the passing of an argument between maggots. The real war (the war between God and the devil) is just beginning. Your "sure victory" is just playing at war, but my sure victory is the victory of the kingdom of god.

At the same time, the former club members state they were dumbfounded by Kitamura's villification of the reigning Japanese emperor. But Kitamura drew their sympathy by asserting that "Japan would become the spiritual leader of the world," and that "the Japanese language will become a lingua franca throughout the world." It seems likely that in Kitamura's teachings the former Hisshôkai members found an ennobled, more universalized "patriotism," one which allowed them to discard the necessity to cling to their former narrow love for Japan. In fact, immediately after the establishment of the Kona branch of the religion, they dissolved the Kona Hisshôkai itself.

Admittedly, not all members of the Hisshôkai entered TKJ as a result of this kind of intellectual motive, and with the exception of Ikeda and the other leaders, most held hopes of receiving physical healing or other mundane blessings. It might be noted that twelve families entered the Kona branch of the religion at that time, and of those, eight (67%) were households whose male head was a member of the Hisshôkai.

On August 21 Kitamura left Kona for Hilo, and Ikeda accompanied her as far as Pahala. There, he planned to introduce her to Kanda Kôsaku,V a close friend and fellow member of the Hisshôkai.19 Kanda was not at home, however, so Ikeda took Kanda's wife and daughter in his car to Hilo to hear Kitamura's sermon. He then returned to Pahala, where he met Kanda and convinced him to enter the religion. Since five or six Hisshôkai members lived in Pahala at that time, Kanda did as Ikeda had done at Kona and convinced all the Hisshôkai members to enter TKJ as a group, thus founding the Pahala branch of the religion. Our research was unable to determine, however, the explicit motives for entering the religion in the case of Pahala branch members.

After Kitamura left Hawaii, "polishing meetings" (migaki no kai) were held for the first time in Kona on August 30 and in Hilo on August 31, thus initiating everyday branch activities. Also, the Hilo branch "place of practice" (dôjô) was established in the Onoue home from the end of August, while the Kona branch center was established in the Ikeda home from November 1. The Onoue home served as the Hilo center for twenty-six years, until it's functions were transferred to the home of Tanaka Moriji on July 1 1978, while the Ikeda home continues to function as the branch center for the Kona area.

3. Early Converts and Later Development

Immediately following the conclusion of Kitamura's first missionary tour to the island of Hawaii, the number of members in each branch was as follows: 31 households with 54 individuals in Hilo; 12 households in Kona; and 5 or 6 households in Pahala. What kind of general characterization can be made about these early converts?

In broad terms, most of the early converts were elderly members of first- or second-generation immigrant families, who belonged to rather low occupational and socioeconomic stratas, and who experienced sickness or some other serious personal problem that they wished to resolve. For the most part unable to speak English effectively, they were marginal members of Hawaii's Japanese-American community. A few were exceptions to this general characterization, including Ikeda of the Kona group, who had had experience as principal of a Japanese language school. But in the final analysis, even Ikeda was a marginal, bearing the stigma of cultural deviance represented by his leadership of the Hisshôkai.

The socioeconomic marginality of these early members has been somewhat rectified at present. For example, Table 1 lists the current Hilo branch membership in terms of occupation, and it indicates that a number of members are working in occupations that represent a relatively high degree of social prestige, including professional, managerial, and civil service posts. The four members in "professional" occupations were all born after World War II, however, and one each of the persons in "managerial" and "civil service" categories were born in the 1940s. Further, the fact that all six of these individuals are second-generation members of the religion indicates, on the contrary, just how low the occupational strata of the first-generation membership was.
TABLE 1: Classification of Hilo Branch Members' Occupational Status
Occupation Men Women Total
Civil Service101
Office work123
Store clerk022
Unskilled laborer336
Full-time housewife077
Children and students549
Retired on pension213
(1)Adapted from Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô Hiro shibu dôshi meibo [Membership directory for the Hilo branch of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô] (as of August 21, 1980).

Next, Table 2 lists the Japanese regional origins of the early TKJ membership. Since Kitamura Sayo was herself from Yamaguchi Prefecture, it might be assumed that a large proportion of early members were likewise from Yamaguchi, but our actual findings denied that assumption, and on the contrary tended to reflect the same general ratio of Japanese local origins as is found among the overall Japanese immigrant population in Hawaii.
TABLE 2: Classification of Early Hilo Converts by Prefecture (Japan) of Birth
Prefecture of birth Number Percent
(1) Source: Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô Hiro shibu dôshi meibo kigen 7-8 nen [Membership directory for the Hilo branch of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô, for the years of the goddess 7 to 8]
(2) Numbers have been based on the prefecture of origin of the household head.

What kind of religious activities did the early converts engage in after the initial establishment of their groups?20 The branches' most basic activity is the holding of "polishing meetings"; during the first year following establishment of the Hilo branch, 64 Polishing Meetings were held (average: 5.3 per week). The average weekly attendance was 23.7 persons per meeting at Hilo, while at the Kona branch, an average of 12 or 13 persons would attend each meeting. Both the Hilo and Kona branches initially engaged in active proselytization efforts, delivering sermons and giving demonstrations of the "selfless dance" on the streets of their respective towns.

This missionary ardor was especially fervent on the occasions of Kitamura's visits to Hawaii. Most of the early members followed Kitamura's teachings loyally on the individual and individual household levels as well. The September 29 1952 edition of the Kona shibu kiroku (Records of the Kona branch) notes, for example, that Buddhist family altars (butsudan) and Shinto household shrines (kamidana[Glossary: kamidana]) were burned, thus reflecting Kitamura's injunctions to "leave the world of maggots." Members destroyed such religious paraphernalia together with ancestral funerary tablets, cast the ashes of deceased family members in the ocean instead of placing them in graves, denied any concourse with other religions, and refused to participate in neighborhood funerary associations.

The funerary practice observed by TKJ was termed the "funeral of comrades" (dôshisô), and it was apparently implemented by a relatively high rate of member families. For example, a classification of the funerary forms noted in the "Hilo branch record of ascendees to heaven" (Hiro shibu shôtensha meibô) for 1957 to 1979 shows that of the 23 cases listed, 4 (17.4%) were held according to the funerary forms of other religious sects, 5 (21.7%) were held by the main headquarters of the TKJ, 13 (56.5%) were "Hilo comrade funerals," and 1 (4.3%) was unknown. As a result, when funerals held at the "headquarters" are added to the "Hilo comrade funerals" the total rises to 18, for a full 78% of all funerals.

The actual general format of the "Hilo comrade funeral" can be grasped from the following example taken from the January 21 1967 edition of the "Kona Branch Records": "On [date], [name] ascended to heaven; a ceremony of final parting was held at [time], and at [time] prayers were held at the crematorium, after which the remains were cremated, and on the following day [date], the ashes were taken to the Keii coast and there cast into the sea."

At the Hilo branch meeting on September 22 1956 a will was even composed regarding the "comrade funeral" in order to prevent anyone opposed to the great goddess's divine teachings from using the funeral customs of another religion to hold a funeral for a deceased comrade.21 In both Hilo and Kona, few members retained their membership in local community cooperative unions, and coincidental membership in other religious sects was also extremely low. Such religiously exclusive behavior was clearly considered deviant from the perspective of the Japanese-American community on Hawaii Island, and it only served to emphasize the socioeconomic marginality of members. But it is clear that the deviance of their behavior had its origins in the socially deviant portions of the TKJ teachings themselves.

As a result, members formed communities of like faith with strong in-group consciousness that stood religiously isolated from the Hawaii Japanese-American society. And they used their group organization to engage in mutual assistance activities of a secular nature as well.22 Isolated, on the one hand, from the Japanese-American community, members were simultaneously cool to the multicultural Hawaiian society that included people of non-Japanese ancestry. Indeed, their insufficient ability at English and marginal socioeconomic status gave them even less ability to meld with the multiethnic Hawaiian society than with their Japanese-American fellows, with the result that the possibility of converting persons of non-Japanese ancestry appears to remain effectively non-existant.

Tables 3 and 4 are comparisons of age and membership distribution among the current Kona and Hilo groups. As seen in these tables, there appears little prospect for future growth, so long as the groups continue with current conditions. Namely, most members are individuals (or their descendants) who converted at the time of Kitamura's first missionary tour to the islands, and the number of new members added since the initial massive conversion of 1952 has been virtually nil. It is this situation which has invited the steady decline in membership noted above.
TABLE 3: Distribution of Decade of Birth and year of Conversion for Current Hilo Members (as of August 21 1979)
Year of Conversion Decade of Birth Total
1947  1(1)       1(1)
1952 13(1)5(4)1(1) 4(2)   14(8)
1954 1(1)        1(1)
1955   11(1)  1  3(1)
1957 11(1)   1   3(1)
1958      11(1)  2(1)
1961    2(1)     2(1)
19641(1)         1(1)
1965  1(1)       1(1)
1970      1(1) 1(1)13(2)
1972     1(1)  3(1) 4(2)
1974         11(0)
1977         2(1)2(1)
1978     1   1(1)2(1)
Unknown      1   1(0)
(1) Adapted from Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô Hiro shibu dôshi meibo [Membership directory for the Hilo branch of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô].
(2) Figures within parentheses refer to females.
TABLE 4: Distribution of Decade of Birth and Year of Conversion for Current Kona Members (as of August 18 1979)
Year of Conversion Decade of Birth Total
1940s   1 1(1)  2(1)
19524(2)1(1)4(2)2(1)2(1)   13(7)
1954  1  1(1)  2(1)
1957      1(1) 1(1)
1959      1 1(0)
1960       1(1)1(1)
1965       11(0)
1966       11(0)
(1) Adapted from Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô Kona shibu dôshi meibo [Membership directory for the Kona branch of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô].
(2) Figures within parentheses refer to females.

And throughout this period, the "deviant portion of teaching" - namely, the bold rejection of traditional Japanese customs of ancestral veneration - has resulted in sharp conflict between the TKJ on Hawaii Island and the larger Hawaiian Japanese-American society.

Explicit conflict occurred with the Buddhist temple Honganji Hilo Betsuin, in particular during Kitamura's second missionary trip abroad. On that occasion Sayo visited the continental United States and made her third stop in Hilo as part of her return voyage to Japan. According to the "Hilo Branch Records," the conflict occurred from around November 7 1955 in the following way:

Mitsuda Hideo has recently converted to the divine teachings of the great goddess, and so he took the ashes of [a] relative[s] that had been stored at the Honganji and threw them into the sea. As a result, the temple Honganji complained, and the great goddess went there and had an argument with the temple's rotating intendant priest Mr. Fujii and the temple founder Mr. Murakami. That incident became the talk of Hilo. The incident began yesterday as Mitsuda Hideo awakened to the great goddess's teaching that it was unnecessary to preserve relatives's ashes, with the result that he had gone to the temple Honganji, taken the ashes [of his relative(s)] and cast them into the sea. The great goddess asked him, "Oh, so the priest gave you the ashes? What did you say to him?" To this, Mitsuda replied, "I told him that I had made a new grave and that I would bury them there." But the great goddess said, "A person doing god's will must never lie! Go and tell [the priest] that the great goddess was angry with you." So Mitsuda told the temple priest as he had been instructed [by Kitamura], but the temple founder Murakami became enraged and told Mitsuda to bring the dancing goddess to him. So when Mitsuda told this to the great goddess, she said "All right, let's go!" and so the great goddess was accompanied to the temple by her companions Sakiyama and Ishihara Sumie, together with comrades Mitsuda Okiyo, Mitsuda Hideo, Tanaka, and others.

Following this, the argument and debate between Murakami and Kitamura escalated, with the upshot that police and journalists were dispatched to the scene to investigate. The incident quickly became known throughout Hilo, and the Hilo Taimusu, whose owner Ôkubo Kiyoshi had earlier arranged for Kitamura to use the Yamatoza Theater for her sermons, now ran two editorials (November 18 and 22) that displayed its own confrontation with Kitamura. Ôkubo stated that, "While I don't know much about religion, I cannot agree with the discarding of relatives's ashes in the ocean. I feel that the remains of parents and children, brothers, wife and friends should be preserved carefully `eternally, until the end of time'" (November 18), thus displaying his own confrontation with Kitamura. Further, word of the incident was spread throughout Hawaii from November 23 as Honolulu's Hawai Taimusu carried Ôkubo's article as well.

Kitamura counterattacked in the pages of the Hawai Taimusu on December 6 and 7, and the incident served as the focus of continuing debate in the pages of the Japanese-language newspapers until the end of the following January.23

In her rebuttal in the pages of the Hawai Taimusu, Kitamura stated that "Dead bodies are the mere shells from which the spirit has escaped, and skeletal ashes are nothing more than physical matter," calling them "the playthings of [Buddhist] priests" (December 6). She also asserted that "I teach that it's better to be filial once while your parents are alive than to visit their graves one-hundred times after they're dead" (December 12). Numerous readers wrote letters to the editor expressing support for Kitamura, like the one in the pages of the Hawai Taimusu on December 12 that stated, "At first I was totally put off by the horrible things that this old farm woman was saying, but it's surprised me to find that the statements of Granny Kitamura contain a lot of truth."

On the other hand, it is also true that this incident served - for good or ill - to burn the strong impression in the minds of a large number of Hawaii Japanese-Americans that "TKJ is a religion that discards the ashes of relatives." There is certainly no doubt that the people of Hawaii Island's convervative, rural Japanese-immigrant community experienced a strong aversion to TKJ thereafter. And it was this kind of partial "doctrinal deviance" or "de-culturation" (breaking through a deadlocked tradition) that helped serve to stimulate the kind of group demographics noted earlier, namely a tendendcy toward regressive maintenance of group's membership.

Many people suffering from illness or other serious personal problems, however, were able to clear the substantial cultural hurdles involved and be drawn by Kitamura's magical charisma. It should be remembered that TKJ asserts that "trial is the pathway to god," a positive evaluation of suffering that must be emphasized whenever considering the significance of conversion to a new religion.24 Examples of this kind among the Hilo converts would likely include Iwashita Rin (1898-1970, from Kumamoto Prefecture), whose wife Chie (1904-1971) suffered for many years from diabetes, rheumatism and blindness, and later had both legs amputated as the result of a failed operation for rheumatism. Iwashita and his wife both became converts in August 1961 when they met Kitamura during her third overseas mission expedition. Iwashita managed a large construction contracting business in Hilo and was economically quite well off, living in a spacious, well-appointed home. Before entering TKJ he had served for 15 or 16 years as the second president of Hilo's Shingon sect temple Hôganji, and was an influential patron of Buddhism during that period, as evidenced by the fact that the chief abbot of Mt. Kôya (the center of Shingon Buddhism in Japan) stayed in Iwashita's home during a visit to Hawaii in 1957. But on August 1 1961 Kitamura dissolved the evil curse of possession by a "dog spirit"VI that had afflicted Iwashita's wife Chie, with the result that Iwashita was convinced to enter the religion. He thereafter became a fervent member of the Hilo branch, serving as one of the branch executives (treasurer) and engaging in proselytization by convincing several other members of the temple Hôganji to enter the new religion (according to the Hôganji intendent priest Sasai Meishû.25 The Iwashitas were not socioeconomically marginal in the same sense as other converts on Hawaii Island, but to the degree that severe illness can be considered a source of marginality, they should likely be viewed as falling into that category as well.

The directorships of the three branch organizations on Hawaii Island have undergone numerous changes since their establishment. The first Hilo branch director (shibuchô; initially called the branch president or shiburijichô) was Arizumi Shun'ichi (from Yamaguchi Prefecture). Arizumi's wife Kinuyo became disenchanted with the religion, however, and he ceased attending "polishing meetings" after February 15 1953. From that time the post has been held by Tanaka Moriji.

Ikeda Kazuto has been director of the Kona branch since its initial founding. In 1956, however, Morigawara YoshikazuVII arrived in Kona from TKJ's Japanese headquarters, and he has assisted in overseeing the branch activities since that time.

Kanda Kôsaku was head of the Pahala branch since its founding until around 1960, when he and his wife began expressing dissatisfaction with Kitamura's attitude toward their daughter's marriage problems. From around that time Kanda gradually fell away from TKJ, and Nakamoto Norie, newly sent to Pahala from the religion's Japan headquarters,VIII appears to have essentially taken over duties as branch director; Nakamoto became official branch director in April 1966.26 Moreover, director Tanaka of the Hilo branch has been assisted since August 5 1960 by his wife Kikue,IX who was originally sent from TKJ headquarters, and she today serves as a strong force supporting the Hilo branch. Similarly, Ikeda Shizuo, second son of the Kona branch director Ikeda Kazuto, has for wife a womanX sent from the religion's Japan headquarters in August 1964.

As a result, while the numerical strength of the three branch organizations on Hawaii Island has been gradually decreasing, there has been little defection among the core membership of each of the branches. This high rate of member maintenance is, in fact, closely related to the strong influence exerted by the religion's headquarters through the mechanism of sending marriage partners in response to requests from branch members.27 The mates sent from the headquarters in this way have come to Hawaii out of a sense of religious mission rather than the romantic attachment of a secular marriage, with the result that most represent core believers who strongly support the branch organizations.

Until Kitamura's death in 1967, the only occasions on which the three branches on Hawaii Island engaged in concerted activities transcending any conflict or friction, and when new members were added and the membership appeared vibrant, were those periods surrounding Kitamura's mission visits to the islands. This alone shows to what degree the TKJ on Hawaii was reliant on Kitamura's charisma.

Kitamura died on December 28 1967. Her death represented a terrific blow, not only to the three branches on Hawaii Island, but to Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô members everywhere. The branches on Hawaii survived that period of crisis with few substantial problems. During the early part of July 1965, when Kitamura was leaving Hawaii Island for the last time, it is said she told the believers there, "You've got to be like a lone pine, standing on your own. The things I've come here and done for you, now you've got to do for yourselves..."28 The branch organizations may not have succeeded in living up to Kitamura's charge thereafter, but when Hilo branch director Tanaka donated five acres of land for a dôjô in 1978, the Hilo and other branches cooperated to bring the construction of the center to a successful conclusion, resulting in renewed branch activity. The Hilo center was completed October 11 1980, representing the beginning of a new period in TKJ history since Kitamura's initial missionary trip to Hawaii.

4. Conclusion and Prospects

As described in this study, Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô on Hawaii Island has been isolated, not only from the larger Hawaiian society, but even from that small part composed of Japanese-Americans. That isolation has been the result, on the one hand, of the somewhat deviant nature of the group's doctrine and practice, and on the other hand, of the socioeconomic and other forms of marginality characterizing the social strata that accepted the religion. The members of this group engaged in extreme, "deculturalized" or deviant behavior, one that represented a form of "bridge burning" inhibiting any second return to the "world of maggots." But that "bridge burning" unfortunately has not brought them to that "other shore" of inclusion in wider multiethnic Hawaiian society predicted by Lebra.

On the contrary, it has led them to the "other shore" represented by a strongly centripetal community of faith, religiously isolated from either the wider Hawaiian or more narrowly limited Japanese-American society on Hawaii Island. Most members still have only limited English-speaking ability, and the services held at the "polishing meetings" are also basically carried out in the Japanese language. When to this linguistic handicap one adds the marginality and deviance noted above, the result is that members are currently unable to cross over to that "other shore" anticipated in Lebra's study.

At the same time, if one accepts Kitamura's injunction that "I'm not teachin' and preachin' just to make me some parish members ... The right god is the one that shows the right road" (Seisho, II:21), the members of this group have little of the "maggot world" concern for increasing their numbers and adapting themselves to secular society. It might be noted that the central leaders of this new religion assert that the present is not a time for merely increasing the number of members, but for creating leaders of the future who fully understand the religion's teachings. And it is there that real differences lie between this group and others like Nichiren Shôshû America (NSA), which first formed its core groups in 1960, thereafter adapted itself skillfully to Hawaiian social changes and speedily gaining a large number of adherents in the non-Japanese-American strata of Hawaiian society.

And in that sense, it is possible to call the TKJ a religious movement responding to the "cargo cult" or "millenarian" hopes of first- and elderly second-generation immigrants. The tremendous cultural shock they experienced at Japan's loss in World War II served to damage ethnic self-respect, threatening their sense of cultural foundations. When the train of events is considered in that light, it is easy to understand how Ikeda Kazuto, Kanda Kôsaku and other members of the Hisshôkai in Kona and Pahala were led to conversion by an enchantment with the TKJ message that stated that "the great goddess has appeared in the homeland" (Seisho II:50-51, emphasis added) or with Kitamura's statements that "Japan will become the spiritual leader of the world," and "the Japanese language will become the lingua franca of the world."

Moreover, in order for TKJ on Hawaii Island to move in the directions predicted by Lebra, it seems manifestly clear that the language barrier must first be overcome, something that will require at least another generation. During that period, if the general socioeconomic level of group members increases at an even faster rate on the one hand (a trend toward social advancement) and if they continue to distance themselves from traditional Japanese-American customs of ancestor veneration on the other hand, the group's future may not be so cloudy. In point of fact, a second generation of members is beginning to appear, like Yanabu Kunio, who was born in 1942, became a member of TKJ in 1952, is fluent in English, works as a civil servant for the Hawaii Island county government, and moreover is a fervent believer. And it may be that the members of the group are enabled to cross over to that "other shore" spoken of by Lebra only when the Hilo center built by Yanabu and other younger members becomes the focus for a release of dynamic activity.

The typical Japanese-American living in Hawaii, however, still maintains strong concepts of traditional ancestral veneration that focus on the enshrining of cremated remains, memorial tablets and gravesites. As a result, TKJ's doctrines and practices - which deny those traditional accoutrements - still appear a bit too "revolutionary," and it is unlikely they will be accepted easily.

At the same time, the group's "theodicy of evil spirits" is readily accepted by persons suffering from serious illnesses or other critical personal problems, and such doctrines played an important role in the early expansion of the group. Not only because such beliefs were an extension of the strong "possession" beliefs and "exorcism" customs brought from Japan by first-generation immigrants, but also because the beliefs were reinforced by their close similarity to traditional possession beliefs among native Hawaiian peoples.

But it remains doubtful to what degree such beliefs and customs of possession and exorcism were effective as a medium of conversion among Japanese-Americans not beset by critically pressing problems - even at the time that Kitamura first visited the Island. And it is likely that such beliefs and customs have become even weaker since that time, and will eventually disappear entirely from Japanese-American society. As a result, the future success of such doctrines in TKJ is impossible to predict.

But so long as members of the group on Hawaii Island continue to maintain strong bonds of faith across the generations, the ultimate fate of the religion there will be determined less and less by current socioeconomic levels, and more by the doctrinal contents of the religion itself. When that stage is reached, it will become clear for the first time what advantages and disadvantages lie in the ambiguous mixture that composes the group's doctrine, a teaching that combines a rational, almost revolutionary millenial assertion revealed by a universal and absolute monothesistic savior, with a "theodicy of evil spirits" based on an all-too-traditional ethnic belief in spirit possession.


1. Estimates regarding the overall island population are based on oral interviews with Nakamura Ryôkan, founder of the Hilo temple Meishôin (of the Jôdo Sect) on July 24 1979. Populations for Hilo, Kona, and Pahala (Kau) are taken from 1975 estimates published in The State of Hawaii Data Book 1979, Department of Planning and Economic Development (Honolulu, 1979).

2. These organizations originally engaged in broad-ranging neighborly mutual assistance activities similar to the Japanese town's ward council (chônaikai) or community council (burakukai), but their function has recently become limited to that of "funeral cooperatives" (sôshikigumi). In the case of Hilo, the cooperatives have the primary function of overseeing funeral activities, from guest reception to the final transportation by hearse, and they also hold picnics twice a year (summer and winter). No racial restrictions are placed on membership in the cooperatives, and they include both caucasian and Filipino members, but new residents are not allowed to join until they have lived in Hilo for at least one year, and a member who moves away from Hilo has his or her membership in the cooperative severed after one year's absence. Annual membership fees are about five dollars. About sixty or seventy of these cooperatives are found in Hilo, and their membership ranges from a low of about 50 households to a high of some 120. Also, the cooperative unions in Kona are more active than Hilo's in providing mutual assistance at the time of funerals, and the assistance of wives is enlisted for the preparation of meals offered to guests at temple funerals; this kind of activity is not undertaken in Hilo (oral interviews with Ôkubo Kiyoshi and Nakamura Ryôkan).

3. Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô Honbu, ed., Seisho [Book of life], vol 1 (Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô, Inc., 1951), and ibid, vol. 2 (1969). Also see Kitamura Yoshito, ed., Shinkyô ni-jûkô [Twenty lectures on the divine teaching] (Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô, Inc., 1962) and Nakayama Kimitake, Shinkyô kôza - shin no shûkyô to atarashii jidai [Lectures on the divine teaching - true religion and a new age] (Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô, Inc., 1975).

4. All figures are taken from the Hiro shibu dôshi meibo [Hilo branch directory of comrades] for the respective years listed.

5. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 9 (1970), 181-196. Lebra's article was translated into Japanese by Hoshino Eiki and published in the Kokusai shûkyô nyuuzu- [International religious news] 12, no. 4 (1971); the translated article was subsequently reproduced in Gendai no esupuri [Modern spirit] 136 (1978).

6. J.B. Holt, "Holiness Religion: Cultural Shock and Social Reorganization," American Sociological Review 5 (1940) 740-747.

7. In contrast to Lebra's hypothesis of "de-culturation," we have heard that Yoshida Teigo views the cultural function of TKJ as "a nativist movement that stimulates a renewed perception of lost traditional culture"; unfortunately, we have not confirmed this attribution directly in his works. See Ôgyû Kindatsu, "Shûkyôteki kaishin to bunka hen'yô kaisetsu" [A commentary on religious conversion and cultural adaptation], Gendai no espuri 136 (1980) 175-176. One of the present writers has also published a brief cricism of Lebra's "de-culturation" and "resocialization" hypotheses. See Nishiyama Shigeru "Hawai Nikkeijin ni okeru shinshûkyô no juyô keitai" [The reception of new religions among Japanese-Americans in Hawaii], Shûkyô kenkyû, 242 (1980), 250-251.

8. Interview with Sonoda at state branch practice center, July 28 1977. All subsequent information regarding Sonoda was likewise taken from this interview.

9. For example, on May 25 immediately after arriving in Hawaii, the Kula radio station sponsored a religion roundtable discussion at which Kitamura was present. She proceeded to unilaterally reproach a minister of Christianity and the founder of the Buddhist temple Honganji, resulting in a stream of listener response. One letter written to the Hawai hôchi stated that "it was as though the big shots from Honolulu who attended the conference were cornered by Kitamura's words; it was most upsetting that they were so totally unable to respond" (June 30).

In addition, from May 27 Kondô Kikujirô, a resident of Honolulu who held a Ph.D. in Christian theology, wrote a number of pieces in the "Kôkai rondan" [Open forum] collumn of the Hawai hôchi belligerently attacking the TKJ. His pieces included "Is the dancing goddess orthodoxy or heresy?" (four times), "The `dancing religion' is heresy" (four times), "An appeal to resident `Japanese' to bury the heresy that abuses the emperor" (eight times), and "Exterminate the heresy that persists in fallacies and contradictions" (six times). The central headquarters of the TKJ issued rejoinders to these pieces on two occasions.

10. For information regarding the history and current situation of the Hawaii branches of TKJ, see Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô Hawaii State Branch, ed., Ôgamisama no gosokuseki to shibu no ayumi [The footsteps of the great goddess and the progress of the (state) branch] (Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô Hawaii State Branch, 1975), and Watanabe Masako, "Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô", in Yanagawa Keiichi and Morioka Kiyomi, eds., Hawai Nikkei shûkyô no tenkai to genkyo - Hawai Nikkeijin shûkyô chôsa chûkan hôkoku [The evolution and current status of religion among Japanese-Americans in Hawaii - interim report on a survey of religion among Japanese-Americans in Hawaii] (Tokyo University Department of Religion, 1979).

11. For the behavior and activities of Kitamura and her group during her first missionary tour to Hawaii (and therefore to Hawaii Island itself), see "Ôgamisama Hawai dayori" a work compiled and issued by TKJ's headquarters based on letters sent to the headquarters by Sakiyama Ryôchi, one of Kitamura's companions on the trip. This work involves some thirty-two letters in eleven sections, covering the six-month period from Kitamura's departure at Yokoyama Harbor to her return to TKJ headquarters.

12. The Halemaumau crater on Hawaii Island's Mt. Kilauea had begun erupting some seven weeks before Kitamura's arrival, and it continued to emit smoke during the period of Kitamura's island stay. See "Hawaii dayori," August 2.

13. This information was provided us during our visit to the Kitamura Einoshin residence in Waianuenue on July 28 1979. Other details regarding the Kitamura couple are the result of a comparison of this interview data with the records found in works such as "Hawai dayori" and Seisho.

14. Details regarding the numerous uncanny acts and faith healings performed by Sayo in Hilo have been based on our interview with Matsuyama Tsuya (shopkeeper, born in 1912) and others at the Hilo branch center (Hiro shibu dôjô) on July 25 1979.

15. Nishiyama interview with Ôkubo at the Hotel New Japan (Tokyo), November 17 1980.

16. Authors' interview with Tanaka at the latter's home in Hilo, July 24 1979.

17. Details regarding the Kona branch are based on our interviews with Ikeda Kazuto, Morigawara Yoshikazu and other Kona branch members, during visits in Kona for several days from July 30 1978 and several days from August 18, as well as information found in such documents as "Hawaii dayori" and Seisho.

18. The Hawaii Hisshôkai was also known as the "Kattagumi" [The winning league]; together with a similar organization of Japanese immigrants to Brazil known as the "Kachigumi" [Victory league], it was well known as a patriotic group that refused to accept Japan's loss of World War II. According to comments made by Hiro taimusu president Ôkubo Kiyoshi, the group on one occasion requested him to "give us some news about good conditions in Japan, even it's not true..." For more information regarding the Hawaii Hisshôkai, see Sôga Keihô (Hôtarô), Gojûnenkan no Hawai kaiko [Reminiscences of fifty years in Hawaii] (Gojûnenkan no Hawai kaiko Kankôkai, 1953), 363-364; Adachi Nobuhiro, Hawai Nikkeijinshi [A history of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii] (Ashinoha Shuppankai, 1977), 148-151; Yukiko Kimura, A Sociological Analysis of Social Readjustment of Alien Japanese in Hawaii since the War (Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1947).

19. Details regarding the Pahala branch are based on information we obtained from an interview with Ikeda Kazuto while staying in Kona, and from interviews with the Pahala branch chief Nakamoto Norie at the Nakamoto home on July 30 1979. In addition, documentary evidence confirming that Kanda Kôsaku performed auditing for the Hisshôkai can be found in the Hawai Hisshôkai Hawaitô rijikai kessan hôkokusho [Financial report for the Hawaii Island board of directors' of the Hawaii Hisshôkai] dated February 5 1950. According to that report, the organization's bookkeeping was performed by Okashima Junjirô.

20. We have made substantial use of the multi-volume Hiro shibu kiroku [Hilo branch records], and the single volume Kona shibu kiroku for information describing the subsequent development of the Hilo and Kona branches. While differing in the number of volumes involved, these "records" are important materials tracing the development of the two branches to the present day.

21. This will was signed by the first-generation immigrant Mitsuda Mataichi (from Hiroshima Prefecture, born 1881) and his wife Okiyo (born 1883). Two copies were composed, one being held by branch director Tanaka Moriji, and the other by Yanabu Jirô (from Hiroshima Prefecture). This according to the Hiro shibu kiroku for September 22 1956.

22. Examples from the Hilo and Kona branch "Records" include the following: the Kona shibu kiroku notes that during the court hearings beginning January 20 1954 and revolving around the Kakazu land issue, the Kona comrades attended the hearings "to lend encouragement, and to audit" the proceedings. On January 30, "Tanaka Moriji repaired his home, so service was offered for two days by the six people Kunii, Kikumoto, Shibata, Ikeda, as well as Kanda from the Kau branch."

Next, the Hiro shibu kiroku for 1955-56 show that on September 1 1955 "Onoue Toshio and Tanaka went to Kona ... the reason we came to Kona tonight was to request the use of money to pay the loan for Onoue's laundry." The record for the next day then states that, "Through Ikeda's untiring efforts, the comrades took up a collection and provided a loan of 3,000 dollars." But Tanaka's action was criticized severely by Kitamura on the first day of the next month (she was in Hawaii on the return leg of her trip to the continental U.S., her second mission journey). Her criticism was directed at Tanaka's violation of the TKJ agreement that prohibited fellow comrades from mutual loaning and borrowing of money. In August 1956 one can see scattered references to branch chief Tanaka, such as the one on the twenty-sixth of the month stating that he "went to the home of Motomura (a Kona comrade) to assist with the coffee picking for half a day."

23. The debate revolving around the disposition of cremated skeletal remains saw no end; from November 17 the Hawai hôchi ran a nine-part installment featuring a general religious debate between three persons. One was the founder of the Kurtistown Jôdo sect (currently founder of the Hilo Meishôin), who had written a criticism of TKJ entitled Shin-shûkyô o hihansu [I criticize the new religions]; the other two were Aoki Kaname (from TKJ headquarters, living in Japan) and Kitamura Sayo herself (then in Hawaii). If this general debate is considered an extension of the debate over funerary remains, it appears that the drama continued to be played out even after Kitamura left Honolulu on February 3 1956, only coming to a close in mid-March.

24. Watanabe Masako has used the material of letters printed in the TKJ periodical Tensei to analyze the attribution of positive meaning to suffering, and the resulting "mechanism of life-history reinterpretation" found in the new religions. See her "Sukui no ronri - Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô no baai," [Principles of salvation - the case of Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô], Shûkyô Shakaigaku Kenkyûkai, ed., Shûkyô no imi sekai [The world of meaning in religion] (Yûzankaku, 1980), 98-116.

25. Information regarding the Iwashitas was obtained from an interview on August 19 1979 with Sasai Meishû, founder of the Hilo temple Hôganji, and from entries in the Hiro shibu kiroku beginning August 1 1961.

26. By "appears to," we mean that the actual year in which Nakamoto took on the duties of branch director is unknown, and the date April 1966 is nothing more than our own supposition. But the "Hilo branch directory" (Hiro shibu meibo) contains an entry in its "events" column for September 15 in "year 28 of the new calendar [1973]," stating that Kanda Kôsaku "moved here in April of year 21 [1966]." Based on this entry, it is at minimum certain that Kanda was not director of the Pahala branch after that time.

27. TKJ's used its function of arranging marriages with members from Japan as a means of influencing local branch organizations not only with respect to the three branches on Hawaii Island, but throughout the entire territory.

28. Tensei, 324 (December 1980), 64-67 (page 64 of "Hilo center construction records").


This study would not have been possible without the support and cooperation of a large number of people; we would like to express our thanks to them here. In particular, at the Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô Hawaii Branch Practice Center, branch director and Mrs. Kobayashi Masayoshi, Sonoda Fujio, Narita Masako, and others. At the Hilo branch, branch director and Mrs. Tanaka Moriji and others. At the Kona branch, branch director Ikeda Kazuto, Morigawara Yoshikazu and others. At the Pahala branch, branch director Nakamoto Norie.

Mention must also be made of Ôkubo Kiyoshi, president of the Hiro taimusu newspaper, and the founders of various Buddhist temples and institutions in the Hilo area, including Nakamura Ryôkan (Hilo Jôdo-shû Meishôin), Sasai Meishû (Shingon-shû Hilo Hôganji), and Aoki Shunkyô (Hilo Sôtô-shû Daishôji). Finally, we would like to express our heartfelt appreciation to all those residents of Hawaii not explicitly named here but who nonetheless gave us their cooperation in various indirect ways while we were doing the research for this study.

Translator's Notes

I. This article was first published in Japanese as "Hawaii-tô Nikkeijin shakai ni okeru Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô no denpa to tenkai," in Yanagawa Keiichi and Morioka Kiyomi, eds., Hawai Nikkeijin shakai to Nihon shûkyô - Hawai Nikkeijin shûkyô chôsa hôkokusho (Tokyo: Tokyo University Department of Religious Studies [Tôkyô Daigaku Shûkyôgaku Kenkyûshitsu], 1981), 46-67. I have included some material from the body of the text in subsequent "translator's notes"; such notes include the attribution " - Author"

II. In the remainder of this translation I have abbreviated the group's name using the acronym "TKJ" rather than the "Jingûkyô" used in initial versions of the translation. This has been done to avoid any confusion with the unrelated group "Jingûkyô" that existed from around 1882 until 1899. That group changed its name to Jingû Hôsaikai in 1899 and continued to exist as a religious foundation until the end of World War II.

III. While the spoken invocation is virtually the same as that traditionally practiced in Nichiren sects (namu myôhô rengekyô), TKJ uses an unusual combination of characters which might be translated "Name-Marvelous-Dharma-Linkage-Sutra".

IV. Tenshô Kôtai Jingûkyô Kami no Kuni Kensetsu Seishin Shûren Dôjô Honoruru Shibu.

V. Born in 1901-1974, Kanda was employed in a sugar processing plant, and around 1950 was treasurer and auditor for the Hawaii Hisshôkai, Hawaii Island Board of Directors (Hawai Hisshôkai, Hawai-tô Rijikai); from 1952 he served as head of the Pahala branch of TKJ. - Author

VI. The accusation that a family was possessed by or a keeper of dog spirits (inugami) or fox spirits (kitsunegami) was at one time a common form of social discrimination within certain parts of Japan.

VII. Morigawara was born in 1928 in Fukuoka Prefecture, entered the TKJ in 1949, and married Watanabe Itsue (from Kona) at the religion's Japan headquarters on July 1 1950. The couple moved to Hawaii on October 21 of the same year, since which time Morigawara has worked as a carpenter. - Author

VIII. Nakamoto Norie married Nakamoto Noboru of Pahala on March 5 1960 at the religion's Japan headquarters, and came to Hawaii on November 5 of the same year. - Author

IX. Tanaka Kikue was born in 1909 in Yamaguchi Prefecture. A former teacher, she entered TKJ in 1947, and she remarried Tanaka Moriji on March 3 1960. Until around 1980 she worked as a typesetter for the Hilo taimusu, and was Hilo branch secretary. - Author

X. Ikeda Hatsumi was born in 1940 in Fukuoka Prefecture to parents who are also converts of TKJ. She married Ikeda Kazuhito at the religion's Japan headquarters on May 21 1964. - Author

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