Service (Tenrikyo)

In the Tenrikyo religion, the Service is the most important prayer ritual, along with the Sazuke. The Service comes in fundamental forms and several variant forms. The text to the Service is the Mikagura-uta, one of the three scriptures of Tenrikyo.

Kagura Service

The most important Service is the Kagura Service. This service is the masked dance that is performed around the Kanrodai where Tenrikyo Church Headquarters – located in Tenri City, Japan – is situated.
Hashimoto cites three meanings behind the performance of the Kagura Service–to represent God's creative power at the time of human conception and thus inspire humankind to live the Joyous Life, to reconfirm humankind's relationship with God and the universe, and to realize the importance of living by God's original intention for humankind.


The Kagura Service is performed by ten people, five males and five females, who surround the Kanrodai. Each person represents a different divine providence that participated in the creation, wearing a unique kagura mask and dancing to unique hand movements.
The performers of the Kagura Service are chosen from the inner circle of the administrative staff at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. The ten performers and the musical instrument players switch roles on a monthly basis. However, the roles of the Shinbashira and his wife remain the same throughout all performances and that is to represent Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto and Omotari-no-Mikoto respectively.
The song text for the Kagura Service is exactly the same as that of the Seated Service ; the only difference between them is the number of repetitions of the third section. The first section is repeated twenty-one times, the second section is performed only once, and the third section is performed seven times in sets of three, amounting to a total of twenty-one times.

Kagura masks

The kagura masks were first produced around or before 1874 by Nakayama's brother, Kyosuke Maegawa, but the masks he made have since been lost. However, it is assumed that the later masks preserve the essential features of the original masks since the Osashizu instructed followers to model new masks after the original ones. The masks currently in use are made of wood, but earlier ones seem to have been made of papier-mâché.

Characteristics of divine providences


Hashimoto notes that the divine providences of the Kagura Service are oriented to reflect the metaphysical principle of oneness in two, which is the idea that the universe exists by integrating two opposing elements. The opposing elements do not become identical, nor does one element become subsumed by the other; rather, the opposing elements complement each other and retain their distinctive qualities while also creating a more complete entity. Oneness in two is likened to the concept of coincidentia oppositorum in the Western philosophical tradition. For example, Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto, the providence of water, and Omotari-no-Mikoto, the providence of fire, are opposing elements which are placed on opposing sides, north and south respectively.

Seated Service

The Seated Service takes the place of the Kagura Service at places of worship besides Church Headquarters. The Seated Service and Kagura Service use the same text and the same instrumentation.
However, unlike the Kagura Service, the Seated Service is performed by six people, three men and three women, sitting in a line facing the shrine and performing the same hand movements as one another. In the Seated Service, the third section of the Mikagura-uta is performed three times in sets of three, which is different from the Kagura Service, where the same section is performed seven times in sets of three.
The Seated Service embodies "the truth of six fundamental aspects of divine providence," which can be understood to mean the "six fundamental aspects of God's providence during creation" or "six fundamental aspects of God's providence in the human body."


The Teodori refers to the part of the Service that is sung, danced, and played to the text of the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo and the Twelve Songs, or the fourth and fifth sections of the Mikagura-uta.
A performance of the Teodori requires six dancers, three males on the left and three females on the right, who form a single line facing the shrine. The six Teodori dancers perform exactly the same hand and foot movements in unison, expressing the meaning of the songs through the dance. The choreography of the Teodori is called Otefuri. The Teodori also requires the full set of musical accompaniment: six men's instruments, three women's instruments, and one or two singers.

Monthly Service

The original Japanese term for "Monthly Service" is tsukinamisai, which translates to "a regular or recurring monthly festival." During the Monthly Service, which is the central liturgy of a Tenrikyo church, the entire text of the Mikagura-uta is sung to specific choreography and instrumental accompaniment.
The monthly Service performed at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters is different from Monthly Services performed at other churches due to the cosmological significance of the spot around which the Headquarters was constructed. The monthly service at Headquarters begins with the Kagura Service followed by the Teodori, and is always performed on the twenty-sixth of each month.
A monthly service at other churches begins with the Seated Service followed by the Teodori, and can be performed at any fixed day of the month determined by each church.
From late 1888 through the following year, a number of churches were established in various districts, and some of them requested permission to perform the Service when their sanctuaries were completed. In response, the Divine Directions made it clear that the Kagura Service could not be performed anywhere other than at the Jiba for the Kanrodai. The kagura masks were not to be worn—or even merely placed in front of the performers—at local churches, though the use of all the other implements including the musical instruments was allowed. Local churches' monthly services, performed on the days sanctioned by Church Headquarters, include the seated service—which is performed by six people seated on the raised floor performing the same hand movements as those used in the morning and evening services—followed by the Teodori.
Out of the twelve monthly services of the year, two of them carry particular significance and are referred to as "grand services". The spring grand service held in January commemorates the withdrawal of the physical life of the foundress, and the autumn grand service held in October commemorates the founding of Tenrikyo. However both services are performed in the same manner as the other monthly services.
The performance of a Monthly Service requires a minimum of six dancers, six men's instruments, three women's instruments, and one or two singers.


The New Year's Service, held on the first day of the year, is performed exactly in the same manner as a monthly service.
The Memorial Service, dedicated to ancestors and predecessors of the Tenrikyo faith, is performed at Church Headquarters twice every year, once in the spring and once in the autumn. Memorial Services have also been held to commemorate the passing of Shinbashiras. These services consist of a monthly service like gathering with the performance of the Teodori but not the Kagura Service.
On the 26th of each month, a Service called Yohaishiki is held at churches and missions away from Church Headquarters to coincide with the Monthly Service at Church Headquarters.

Morning and Evening Services

The Morning and Evening Services are performed every day at all Tenrikyo places of worship: Church Headquarters, regional churches, mission stations, and fellowships. The times of the morning and evening services at Church Headquarters are based on sunrise and sunset, as are those at other places of worship. During the Morning and Evening Services, the same hand movements and the same sections of the Mikagura-uta are performed the same numbers of times as in the Seated Service. However, the Morning and Evening Services use a reduced set of instruments – surigane, chanpon, hyoshigi, counter, and taiko – which are placed next to one another in a line in order of mention from left to right as one faces the altars. Many followers perform their Morning and Evening Services at their homes, often using only their wooden clappers or no musical instrument at all.
Usually after the Morning Service, two songs from the Teodori are practiced.


Another type of service is the onegai zutome, a prayer service or a petition service. This is a type of service that asks distinctively for God’s intervention for a specific purpose. The most common form of a prayer service is when a community makes an appeal or petition to God to save a person from a particular illness. Other forms of a prayer service is that of asking God that a particular church activity, such as a spiritual retreat, a pilgrimage trip, or even a church association event that involves recreation, goes well. The prayer service is performed together with two instruments on the upper dais – the wooden clappers and the counter – with the other members of the congregation praying from the worship hall.

Service instruments

Nine musical instruments are employed in the performance of the Monthly Service – hyōshigi, chanpon, surigane, taiko, kotsuzumi, fue, shamisen, kokyū, and koto. During the Morning and Evening Services the maximum number of instruments is reduced to four – hyoshigi, chanpon, surigane, and taiko – and a kazutori is added in order to keep track of the repetitions of Mikagura-uta Section One, which is performed 21 times.

Specifying the instruments

The earliest instrument to be associated with Tenrikyo prayer, even before the Service was composed, is the hyoshigi. In 1853, Nakayama Miki sent her youngest daughter Kokan to Naniwa to do missionary work there. On a street corner Kokan is said to have chanted "Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto! Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto!" to the accompaniment of the hyoshigi. In 1863, Tsuji Chusaku chanted the same words along with the hyoshigi, though not to do missionary work as Kokan had done, but to pray for his sister Kura.
In 1864, several early Tenrikyo followers decided to pay their respects to Ōyamato Shrine by playing musical instruments, dancing, and chanting "Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto! Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto!" as others had previously done. Unbeknownst to the followers, they were disrupting an important seven-day prayer at the shrine, and the priests from the shrine soon seized the instruments and had the followers detained. The instruments that were seized were a taiko, two suzu, seven hyoshigi, and a tebyoshi.
Based on the historical record and certain Ofudesaki verses referring to musical instruments, Nakayama Miki may have specified the nine musical instruments of the Service starting around 1875. Nakayama taught how to play the women's instruments – koto, kokyu, and shamisen – in 1877. The Service was first performed with the full set of musical instruments on 30 September 1880.

Changes made to the instruments

Ever since Nakayama Miki's passing in 1887, the fue, chanpon, hyōshigi, and koto have remained unchanged to the present day. However, the other instruments have undergone changes.
In 1888, the first Shinbashira, Nakayama Shinnosuke, went sightseeing at Nikkō and attended a gagaku performance at Nikkō Tōshō-gū. Influenced by the instruments he saw, he replaced certain Service instruments, which he felt were unimpressive, to their analogues in the sanko of the gagaku orchestra – gakudaiko, gakushōko, and kakko:
In 1896, the Home Ministry issued "Directive No. 12," which called for stricter government control over Tenrikyo's activities. In light of the directive, Tenrikyo officials changed two of the women's instruments:
On the fiftieth anniversary of Nakayama Miki's death in 1936, followers decided to revert as much as possible to the instruments that she had originally taught her followers. The kotsuzumi, shamisen, and kokyū were restored, while the taiko and surigane continue to resemble their gagaku counterparts. No major changes have been made to the instruments since 1936.


Though gagaku is not performed during the Service proper, it is sometimes performed during the offering ritual and the prayer ritual which precede the Service. Gagaku became a part of Tenrikyo's ceremonies because of Tenrikyo's early association with Shinto. The first time gagaku was associated with Tenrikyo's ceremonies was in 1888 during the observation of Nakayama Miki's first anniversary of her death.


The earliest account of the Service occurs in the year 1863, when follower Chusaku Tsuji prayed for the recovery of his sister's insanity. Nakayama taught Tsuji and other followers at the time to chant the divine name, "Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto! Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto!" while beating the hyoshigi. The length of the service was determined by burning an entire incense stick.
The Place for the Service, which might be regarded as a sanctuary, was not built until 1864, some twenty-six years after Tenrikyo's founding in 1838.
In the autumn of 1866, Nakayama taught the first section of the Mikagura-uta, along with the melody and hand movements. This section was originally worded,
In January 1867, Nakayama composed Songs One, Two, and Three of the Mikagura-uta. By August, she wrote the rest of the Twelve Songs, completing the fifth section of the Mikagura-uta. Over the next three years, She devoted her time to adapting melodies and dance movements to these songs as well as teaching them to her followers. An account of how Nakayama began to instruct the followers in the melody and dance of the Service goes:
"When the sacred songs of twelve chapters were completed, Oyasama told her attendants: "These are the songs for the Service. Try singing them to the best tune you can find." Each of them sang to his own tune. After listening to it, Oyasama said, "Thank you for your singing, but none of them will do. You should sing them this way." She sang loudly Herself. Then She told her attendants: "These are the songs of truth. So you must dance to the truth. Try dancing the best way you can." Each of them arranged the dance and showed it to Oyasama. Afterward, She said: "Thank you for your dancing, but no one danced to the truth. You should dance in this way. You should not just dance. You should dance the truth." So saying, She stood up and performed the dance movements Herself in order to teach the attendants. In this way, Oyasama Herself taught the singing and the dancing after having all the attendants try on their own"

In 1869, Nakayama started the Ofudesaki, which explained the significance of the Service as the basis for salvation.
In 1870 she taught her followers the second section of the Mikagura-uta, which begins,
In the same year, Nakayama composed the fourth section of the Mikagura-uta, the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo, and taught it to her followers. Then in 1874, the kagura masks, completed some time previously, were collected by Nakayama.
Several events transpired in 1875. In that year, Nakayama identified the Jiba, the precise spot where, according to the Tenrikyo's creation story, humankind was conceived 900,099,999 years before the founding of the teaching on October 26, 1838. Nakayama taught the third section of the Mikagura-uta, completing the entire set of songs for the Service as initially composed. This section was initially worded,
Also in the same year she taught the hand movements for eleven different services to address specific issues.
In 1877, she began to teach the stringed instruments for the service. She also urged her followers to perform the service. It was on the lunar calendar date of 26 August 1880 that the service was performed for the first time with the full set of instruments, it might be said that this marked the provisional completion of the followers' implementation of what oyasama had taught about the service.
In 1881, the bottom two layers of the stone Kanrodai, which was to serve as the center for the Service, were completed. The following year, however, those layers were confiscated by the police. In the wake of this incident, Oyasama made alterations in the wording of the first and third sections of the Mikagura-uta, though she made no change to the hand movements:

Eleven different Services

In addition to the Services already mentioned, Nakayama taught eleven different Services to her followers for specific purposes. Each Service has a unique set of words and hand movements performed in place of Section One from the Songs for the Kagura. Shozen Nakayama, the second Shinbashira, has suggested three categories for these Services:
Only the Service for Safe Childbirth and Service for Germination are still performed today. The only other Services that have supporting evidence indicating they were ever conducted at all are the Service against Smallpox, the Service for Fertilizer, and the Service for Rain.