The High School Division of the Students Training Course was held in the Home of the Parent between August 9 and 15 with a total of 1,015 participants from all over Japan as well from Denmark and Taiwan. Following the format used in the previous years, the students were divided into groups according to the number of times they had participated in the course, with first-time participants subdivided into sophomores, juniors, and seniors and second-time participants into juniors and seniors. The participants took part in a wide variety of programs in which they studied the teachings, prayed for others, and shared their feelings and thoughts with one another, thereby cultivating a sense of gratitude and fostering friendships.
On the morning of the 9th, participants carrying a week’s worth of luggage arrived at their dormitories. At each of the eight allocated dormitories were a dormitory director, assistant dormitory directors, counselors, and general affairs staff members who welcomed the participants.
The course went into full swing on the 10th. Each day began with a morning service at the Main Sanctuary. Students then participated in classes led by their homeroom instructors that included lectures, small-group discussions, and group activities. They also practiced the dance and musical instruments for the service and dedicated themselves in selfless and thankful acts of hinokishin.
On the 12th, a main event called “The Path of Our Predecessors—Crossing the Jusan Pass” was organized for second-time participants. Early in the morning, the participants got on buses bound for Takayasu Grand Church in Osaka. At 7:30 a.m., they started walking toward the Jusan Pass in groups. The temperature on that day reached a scorching 35°C (95.0°F). Participants and staff members all encouraged one another as they climbed steep trails for about two hours before finally reaching the Jusan Pass.
A participant named Joji Takeda was from Hokkaido where the weather in summer is relatively cool and pleasant. Being unaccustomed to the sweltering heat and finding it difficult to tolerate, he pushed himself while walking with his friends. He thought to himself, “I did not know that Oyasama’s youngest daughter, Kokan, walked such steep mountain trails.”
After taking a short break at the Jusan Pass, the participants walked downhill and reached a meeting point where they boarded buses that took them to Nara Prefecture Water Treatment Plant. From there, they continued their walk to Tenri. At around 2:30 p.m., the participants reached their final destination, the Main Sanctuary. At the precincts area in front of the South Worship Hall, Joji Takeda and his group members lined up side by side and together took the last step that brought them onto the pebbles that cover the precincts. Joji said with a smile: “When Kokan was about the same age as I am now, she walked to Naniwa and spread the name of God there. As I was treading the path that our predecessors walked, I came to realize that returning to Jiba from Hokkaido, which I had previously considered to be difficult due to the distance and cost, is something I should be grateful for. I would like to keep my mind connected to Jiba and learn the teachings more deeply.”
On the morning of the 12th, first-time participants listened to their homeroom instructors’ lectures on the Divine Model of Oyasama. In the afternoon, they participated in a workshop. In each classroom, the participants were divided into three small groups and were asked to put on a paper puppet show based on an episode from The Life of Oyasama or a story from Anecdotes of Oyasama. Each small group chose a script for the paper puppet show, decided on the cast, made paper puppets and props, and gave a paper puppet show in the classroom.
Kotoe Yanachi, a participant from Kumamoto, worked together with her group members on the tasks of making paper puppets and painting a background screen. Her hometown was severely affected by a series of strong earthquakes that hit the area around Kumamoto prefecture this year. After the first earthquake occurred, she and her family decided to sleep in a car due to safety concerns. She said: “After the earthquakes, the color of tap water turned muddy and the shelves of local supermarkets remained empty. I felt anxiety and fear every day because I had no idea when the aftershocks would stop occurring.”
Kotoe went on to talk about the workshop, saying: “My group’s script was about Shuji and Kokan believing in Oyasama wholeheartedly and helping one other in a harmonious way after the Nakayama family fell to the depths of poverty. After participating in the workshop, I now have a renewed sense of gratitude for things that I have taken for granted in the course of daily life such as drinking water. I would like to always maintain a sense of gratitude and convey the preciousness of God’s daily blessings to others in my daily life.”
On the 13th, third-time participants went out to spread the name of God in the streets. In the morning, they assembled at Dining Hall 2 and listened to a lecture on missionary work and learned about the appropriate attitude expected of those who engage in missionary work. This was followed by a group activity in the classroom that was aimed at heightening the awareness of the participants. Masaki Takahashi from Yokohama said: “I have experience in spreading the name of God with fellow Young Men’s Association members in my community, but I still have difficulty in doing it. After listening to today’s lecture, I learned that it is important take it upon myself to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings.”
At 3:30 p.m., third-time participants began spreading the name of God in the streets of Nara City, which were bustling with young people and foreign tourists. Under the relentless sun, Masaki Takahashi joined other group members in spreading the name of God by singing the Eight Verses of Yorozuyo while walking down the streets. Holding a flag that reads “Tenri-O-no-Mikoto,” Masaki walked at the front of his group. After finishing, he said: “Among my group’s members was a participant who was suffering from an illness, but I am glad that all the members of my group were able to spread the name of God with energy and confidence. Feeling encouraged by the powerful singing voices of the group members, I was able to join them in singing the Mikagura-uta in high spirits.”
On the 14th, all third-time participants assembled in Dining Hall 2 and danced to the Twelve Songs in unity of mind. Through this performance, the students expressed their gratitude for the blessings that had enabled them to attend the course for three years. Masaki Takahashi said: “To express my sense of gratitude for attending the course for three years and pray for the blessings of salvation for friends who suffer from illness, I focused intently on dancing to the Twelve Songs. Always keeping in mind what I learned in the course, I would like to engage in salvation work.”
On the morning of the 15th, all participants assembled for the closing ceremony. In his address, Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Zensuke Nakata said: “All of you participants spent one week in the Home of the Parent, which is overflowing with parental love. I would like you to engrave in your hearts all the good times you had here, and after returning to your communities, I would like you to make repayment for God’s blessings in your daily life.” Following the closing ceremony, all participants received their certificates of completion from their homeroom instructors or counselors. The participants exchanged hugs with group members, counselors, and other staff members and promised to meet again in Jiba.