Now in its 80th year, Tenrikyo Hinokishin Day was observed in Japan on April 29 under the slogan, “Gratitude, moderation, mutual help—Let’s express the teachings with our attitude.” Hinokishin Day has gone through many changes since it was first inaugurated in 1932. The purpose of the event is to strengthen bonds between Yoboku living in the same regions by allowing them to come together in unity of mind and engage in large-scale hinokishin activities in addition to the hinokishin they may carry out on a daily basis.
Members made proactive efforts leading up to April 29 to have as many people as possible participate. Several areas that were affected by the March 11 disaster and were forced to cancel their planned Hinokishin Day activities last year saw many participants.
The Home of the Parent
In the Home of the Parent, about 4,000 people engaged in hinokishin at 52 locations throughout Tenri City. Participants assembled in the Inner Courtyard of Church Headquarters at 8:30 a.m. and paid their respects by bowing toward the Main Sanctuary, the Foundress’ Sanctuary, and the Memorial Hall.
Director-in-Chief of Religious Affairs Hiroaki Yamazawa gave a short address and encouraged participants by saying, “I would like all of you to use the bodies God maintains in good health to the fullest and project your spiritedness at your respective assigned locations.” Participants then dispersed to engage in hinokishin at facilities around the Sanctuary precincts, community centers, and public facilities such as schools, as well as in riverside areas.
One location was the area around the Oyasato-yakata’s East Right Wing 4 and the Waraku Bridge. Here, 135 participants, including students from the Chinese and Spanish classes of Shuyoka, the three-month Spiritual Development Course, helped pull weeds. Among them was Carmen Rios-Fajardo from Colombia, who first learned about Tenrikyo from a friend five years ago. Inspired by the cheerful manner in which she saw members engage in hinokishin at Farallones Mission Station (which has since become a church), she frequently came to worship thereafter. After listening to the Tenrikyo teachings, the urge to return to Jiba grew stronger in her. She says she wants to internalize the mind and the attitude of a follower of the path during her time in Shuyoka and to spread the teachings to the people of Colombia.
Elsewhere, 100 people comprising the students of the English class of Shuyoka as well as Tenrikyo Language Institute students and staff pulled weeds and cleaned the area surrounding Oyasama’s Birthplace in Sanmaiden. Amongst the group was Dolguun Dolgormaa from Mongolia. A friend of her elder sister introduced her to the Tenrikyo teachings when she was suffering from a serious case of rheumatism. Ms. Dolgormaa enrolled in Shuyoka when this friend told her she would receive a blessing if she went to Jiba.
At first, the pain in her wrist was so great she could not lift herself up from sitting on the floor. However, after people around her administered the Sazuke to her, the pain miraculously went away. Dolgormaa said that she was able to receive divine blessings due to everyone’s wholehearted prayers.
So, on April 29, she was able to use her hands that were once in pain and worked diligently in joyous hinokishin. She smiled as she said: “I was able to do hinokishin because I was led to Jiba and saved from illness. That is why I would like to continue Shuyoka while firmly practicing the teachings in order to become a Yoboku that can save others.”
Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture
There was a time when relief supplies could not reach Iwaki City, located about 40 kilometers (25 mi.) from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, due to reports of radiation leakage from the power plant. Although radiation levels have gone down since, many residents are presently living in temporary housing.
Here, followers of Iwaki District held their Hinokishin Day activity at Matsugaoka Park for the first time in two years. A total of 125 people participated. Matsugaoka Park is the oldest public park in Iwaki City and serves as a place of respite for its citizens who enjoy its cherry trees and azaleas. The park was placed off-limits after the disaster. The park reopened this February after undergoing repairs. In the park, broken stone monuments, a closed-off merry go-round, and a solar-powered radiation counter were all the signs of the tragedy that struck here.
In the lead-up to Hinokishin Day this year, there was talk of potentially moving the activity site to another location. However, according to Isao Haneda, head of Iwaki District and head minister of Tairashi Branch Church: “This park is an important place of respite for survivors. We decided to hold Hinokishin Day where we always have held it in order to reclaim it as a place for local residents.”
Followers began arriving at the park before 9:00 a.m. and were given masks at the reception desk. Participants were happy to see one another as it was the first time some of them met in a long time.
Osamu Ono, head minister of Ishiki Branch Church, happens to be the supervisor of the campaign to hand-deliver the Tenri Jiho newspaper in the district. He was seen thanking followers who regularly contribute to the campaign. The hand-delivery campaign began three years ago in the district, but directly after the disaster, it was temporarily suspended. Instead, followers made deliveries of well water and relief supplies. Rev. Ono said, “Followers living in the same area were able to support and lend a helping hand to one another precisely because we had a regional hand-delivery campaign network in place.” The hand-delivery campaign was resumed in September last year. He then expressed his hope to strengthen bonds between followers by increasing the percentage of people receiving the newspaper by hand-delivery.
Yoshie Sato participated with five members of her family. She is presently living in temporary housing. When the earthquake hit, she was at home with her two granddaughters. Their house was near the shore. She says, “I was worried about my other grandchild and thought about staying put.” But she immediately evacuated when she learned from a friend that this grandchild was safe. She avoided the tsunami just in time and was reunited with her entire family the following day.
Ms. Sato embraced the faith when her daughter married. She has attended her church monthly services together with her family for over 10 years. She returned to Jiba to represent her family at last year’s Oyasama Birth Celebration Service and Women’s Association Convention. She said: “We don’t have a yard at our present residence. It’s a little sad that I have no opportunity to work with the soil but it makes me so happy and thankful to be able to be physically active with my family like this. . . . I cannot help but always sense God the Parent’s protection close at hand.” Saying so, she smiled as she gazed at her family engaging in hinokishin nearby.
Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture
At 9:30 a.m. on April 29, followers of Miyako District assembled at a parking lot in Jodogahama, a noted scenic beach where Hinokishin Day activities had been held for more than 50 years. However, last year’s Hinokishin Day activity here had to be canceled due to the chaotic aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. In Miyako City, 527 people either perished or went unaccounted for and about 4,500 homes were either partially or completely destroyed. It was impossible to conduct any district-level Tenrikyo activities as followers struggled to repair churches and homes. On Hinokishin Day this year, 105 people participated, a number higher than the average in previous years.
Shin’ichi Onodera, head of Miyako District and head minister of Hanamiyako Branch Church, said: “Among participants are those who lost their families and their homes as well as people who said they were afraid to look directly at the ocean. Yet I believed that conducting Hinokishin Day in the same manner we have always done as much as possible would be the first step toward recovery for our district.”
After offering opening prayers in Jiba’s direction, followers picked up trash along a walking path leading to the beach. Jodogahama is littered with massive rocks that were formed out of volcanic rock 52 million years ago. The white sand of the beach and the rocks rising from the bay, coupled with the green pine trees and the blue hues of the sky and the ocean, make for a picturesque landscape. According to a widespread story of how the beach got its name (literally meaning “Pure Land Beach”), over 300 years ago, a Buddhist high priest compared beach to the Western Pure Land. Yet this scenic beach was very different on March 11 last year, as the tsunami towered a record 40.5 meters (132.8 ft.). Most pine trees have withered since then, drastically changing the appearance of the beach.
“It’s unfortunate that the beach has changed but it fills me with emotion to be able to do hinokishin right now. I had a special feeling as I asked people to participate this year,” said Rev. Onodera.
Tomi Takahashi, head minister of Taro Branch Church, barely escaped from the tsunami. While her church was spared, many of her followers’ homes were swept away. All her followers relocated to faraway temporary housing facilities or to relatives’ homes, which affected attendance of church activities, including monthly services.
Rev. Takahashi said, “The tsunami resulting from the 1933 Sanriku Earthquake swept away Taro Branch Church and the family that lived there. After March 11, there were many times I gave in to despair.”
A follower living in Kobe sent her a letter last July after learning that the church was spared. He wrote, “Your ancestors and predecessors must have looked out for the church.” Reading this line brought tears to Rev. Takahashi’s eyes and caused her to make the following pledge: “The truth of the name of this church was bestowed on the first head minister for eternity. I must look after this truth despite what hardship I may encounter and remember to be grateful to my spiritual parents. I was allowed to survive so I will offer my life for God’s service.”
The hinokishin activity ended an hour later at the seashore. Followers’ faces beamed with smiles.
Nobuko Sukuiso said it was the first time she came to the coastline since the disaster. The ocean filled her with fear. She was washed away by the tsunami although she miraculously survived. Her home was completely destroyed. She spent the last year in a deep depression.
“Today, everything I see appears beautiful, so much so that it has made the joy of being kept alive to rise up from inside. I have nothing but gratitude to my parents who passed on to me the faith that has been my spiritual support. Now it’s my turn to pass on the magnificence of the path to people around me.” Saying so, Ms. Sukuiso looked out into the ocean with tears spilling from her eyes. “The ocean here in Miyako is pretty, isn’t it?”