chapter  17
10 Pages

ri and Yamato

A hug e drum, six feet tall, beats time, now lnISsmg a syllabl e, now beating with the measure of th e lines. As th ey rep eat this chant twenty-one times, familiarity distorting th e true pronunciation of th e words, th e four hundred Tenri faithful move th eir hands in supple wristy circles. Shoeless , th ey kneel and rest back on their heels on the vast Hoor of bamboo matting, its odour of musty hay hanging pleasantly on th e air even though the wide shutters that lin e the walls of th e shrine have all been drawn back . Only one in ten do es not wear th e distinctive happi coat of th e Tenri faith j th e happi reaches to the waist and is mad e of a coarse co tto n material, as black as an academic gown j lik e th e gown, th e old er it gets the greener and soupier it becomes. On th e back ar e three characters in bold white-Ten-ri-kyo-'Religion of Divine Wisdom', and characters on th e lapel indicate th e beli ever 's branch church. The bamboo matting may well const itute the largest such floor in Yamato j if it does not, som e othe r Hoor among the vast buildings of Tenri' s headquarters no doubt do es, for the Japanese gape gullibly at anything described as 'the oldest wooden gat eway' or th e 'tallest concrete torii in the world', and Tenri ' s authorities are not unaware of th e pull of such rarities and lavishn ess. O ver th e floor ris es a broad til ed roof, the sweep of its slope matching that of th e thatch of th e villages farth er up in th e hill s at the

base of which Tenri nestles. The style of Japan's roofs varies considerably by locality and those of Yamato are known for the steepness of their slope which may sometimes be as acute as seventy-five degrees.