Musical Instruments and Lead Singer(s) (Narimono / Jikata)

by Yoshikazu Fukaya

Oyasama taught that nine musical instruments are to be used in the performance of the Service. They are known as narimono or simply "musical instruments" in English.

The nine musical instruments are the taiko or large drum; kotsuzumi or small (hand) drum; fue or flute; chanpon or cymbals; hyoshigi or wooden clappers; surigane or gong; koto (zither); shamisen (long-necked fretless lute); and kokyu (bowed lute). Among these the koto, shamisen, and kokyu are played by women and the remaining six instruments are played by men. (The wooden clappers, cymbals, large drum, and gong are the four instruments that are used for the morning and evening services.)

In the early years, followers used instruments that were available at hand. For a time, the shime-daiko (drum bound by cords) was used in place of the large drum, and the gong was held with one hand and played with the other. (There were two versions of the gong, one suspended by cords and another that was placed on a wooden stand.) The large drum and gong that we know today--the ones that are suspended on a wooden frame with a stand--were first officially adopted when Tenrikyo Church Headquarters was established in 1888. About the same time, the small drum was replaced with an instrument called kakko (a similar instrument but larger in size that rests on a stand and played with sticks). There was also a period when government interference forced Tenrikyo to replace the shamisen and kokyu with the biwa (short-necked fretted lute) and yakumo-goto (three-stringed zither). The use of these three instruments was brought back into accordance with Oyasama's exact instructions on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Oyasama, which was observed in January 1936.

The role of leading the singing of the Mikagura-uta or The Songs for the Service is called jikata. While at present there are places for three singers at Church Headquarters, there are churches that use two or only one singer

Concerning the musical instruments, we are clearly taught that nine instruments are to be played for the Service. The number of instruments is not to be increased. We are also taught that all of the nine instruments are important and indispensable in the performance of the Service, not unlike the nine instruments of our bodies (the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, both arms, both legs, and the male or female organ) which God lends us to use each day. We must not leave out any instrument in the performance of the Service where we pray for God the Parent's complete protection.

The monthly services of churches must have at least sixteen performers, which include six dancers, nine performers for the musical instruments, and a lead singer. About fifty or more performers are needed to fill all the positions for the three shifts for the seated service and both halves of the Teodori, the Dance with Hand Movements. To also have a large number of worshipers attending the monthly service besides having a sufficient number of service performers can be said to be a fulfillment of Oyasama's intention regarding the performance of the service at each church.