Tenri City

Tenri City (Japan)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Tenri City is the official headquarters of Tentikyo, one of Japan’s most successful new religions. It is located at what in 1838 was a small village called Shoyashiki, about ten miles from the great Buddhist temples at Nara. Here, on October 26, 1838, Miki Nakayama (1798–1887) began to teach, sharing the revelatory experiences she had had and would continue to have over the next half century.

Nakayama believed that she had been shown a plot of land near the village of Jiba, which was the center of the universe. Here she saw to the erection of Oyasato, the Parental House, the residing place of Tenri-O-no Mikoto, God the Parent, who created the universe. Here, He awaits humanity’s return. As Nakayama’s teachings spread, and believers found their way to Shoyashiki, new building arose and eventually a city emerged. The movement was recognized by the government and survived the Meiji era as a part of sectarian Shinto.

In the main temple at Tenri City, there is an area where believers reenact the creation story as related by Nakayama in a musical dance-rite called mi-kagura-uta. This ritual is performed with the expectation of the transformation of this present world and social order into the Joyous Life World. At the main temple’s center is the kanrodai, a sacred pillar-like structure that marks the exact place of the Nakayama’s revelation at the origins of human creation.

Following World War II, with the arrival of religious freedoms, Tenrikyo separated from the other Shinto groups. It began a process of purifying its teachings, which many felt had become distorted by the close association with sectarian Shinto. The movement expanded rapidly for several decades, during which time followers constructed a university, an orphanage, a hospital, a museum, a library, and a publishing house at Tenri city.

Among the many buildings in the city, one is designated as the Foundress’ Sanctuary, where it is believed that Nakayama (also known as Oyasama) continues to live and work. In recognition of her presence, its residents prepare her three meals and hot baths every day. The door of the sanctuary is guarded by priests who rotate shifts every half-hour. These same priests also perform rituals of “perpetual veneration.” Here, too, blessings are presented to the people. As a sign of their visit, they are given an amulet that contains a piece of clothing worn by Oyasama. Believers may present this amulet as proof of their “return.” The amulet functions as a protective device for those who wear it.


The Doctrine of Tenrikyo. Tenri, Nara, Japan: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, 1995.
Ellwood, Robert S. Tenrikyo: A Pilgrimage Faith. Tenri:
Oyasato Research Institute, 1982.
The Teachings and History of Tenrikyo. Tenri, Nara, Japan: Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department, 1986.
van Straelen, Henry. The Religion of Divine Wisdom, Japan’s Most Powerful Religious Movement. Kyoto, Japan: Veritas Shoin, 1957.
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