Dioceses and Districts (Kyoku, shibu)

by Yoshikazu Fukaya

Tenrikyo currently has a diocese office in each prefecture across Japan. The head of a diocese is referred to as a diocese superintendent (kyoku-cho). On the other hand, overseas diocese offices are called "mission headquarters" (dendocho) and their heads called "bishops" (dendocho-cho).* These diocese offices not only act as branches of the Administrative Headquarters in Jiba, but also help maintain communication and mutual help within each region as well as provide a center for regional activities. The Constitution of Tenrikyo, which serves as the source of conventional regulations in the organization, reads, "Dioceses shall be established in order to promote missionary work."

A national ten-diocese system involving a Church Headquarters official being sent to each diocese was originally instituted with God's permission through a Divine Direction in 1902. On top of serving as a breakwater that protected members of the faith from outside turbulence, this diocese system also was designed to prevent any thoughtless words or actions of ministers or followers from providing any evidence or pretext for government aggression in the suppressive atmosphere resulting from the Home Ministry's 1896 directive that specifically put the Tenrikyo organization under strict surveillance. While at one time the official responsibility of the diocese system was thus regarded as overseeing the speech and actions of followers, God the Parent's words from the time were as follows:

Well, that (i.e., the diocese system) falls within the realm of weeding and fertilizing. Weeding and fertilizing will continue to be required.

Osashizu, July 13, 1902

Thus, instead of being an organ to command and supervise followers, God instructed that the diocese system fulfill the role of "weeding and fertilizing," that is, the efforts to tend to the needs of Tenrikyo congregations in each region so they may progress and attain greater levels of joy.

The diocese system has since gone through much evolution over its history. After the knot of World War II and Japan's defeat, the effort to restore the original teachings so Tenrikyo would conform with Oyasama's intention was immediately announced, and, with regard to the task of diocese offices, the emphasis was now placed on tending to churches and mission stations, acting as hubs to connect churches and mission stations located within the same region, and serving as places where followers can help and encourage one another. Also, dioceses were further divided into "districts" (shibu) that took into consideration the size of particular areas and the number of churches they contained and often the districts were further divided into smaller groups (kumi and han).

Presently, dioceses have grown from simply being the main organ that contacts church head ministers and mission station heads and brings churches and mission stations together to conduct activities as a whole. Dioceses are now at the point where all the Yoboku and followers of the same diocese--whether they live close to or far away from their respective churches--can gather together as brothers among brothers and sisters among sisters, irrespective of their church affiliation, to unite their minds and encourage one another. Also, there is a sense that diocese offices are actively helping followers who live in the same area to bring their minds and efforts together to give strength to the movement that seeks to benefit society through hinokishin activities done in unity of mind. Annual activities such as Tenrikyo Hinokishin Day and Tenrikyo Nioigake Day, as well as days dedicated to hinokishin, sprinkling the fragrance, Yoboku gatherings, and Joyous Life Lectures at the district level, are all noteworthy examples.

*Translator's note: There are presently five mission headquarters in overseas dioceses: America, Brazil, Hawaii, South Korea, and Taiwan.