High school students from all parts of Japan gathered at the Home of the Parent to attend the annual High School Division of the Students Training Course from August 9 through 15.
Although the curriculum had to be changed and rearranged to some extent mainly because some of the participants were confirmed to be infected with the new H1N1 influenza, 623 male and 802 female high school students (a total of 1,425 participants) completed the course, where they studied the teachings, reflected upon themselves, and deepened their faith by sharing their feelings and thoughts with one another.
Following the format used in 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.
This year, a new activity was added to the curriculum whereby seniors, who will in the near future have to step out of high school and go into the world, were provided with an opportunity to spread the name of God the Parent. This activity was designed to allow them to follow the example of Oyasama’s youngest daughter, Kokan, who was sent to Osaka to spread the name of God in 1853, when she was their age, 17.
The course went into full swing on the 10th. In addition to attending the morning and evening services daily, students participated in classes led by their homeroom instructors, practiced the dance and musical instruments for the service, and dedicated themselves in efforts of hinokishin.
The main event for each class was designed differently. On the 11th, third-time participants enjoyed an activity called “Hearty Interaction.” First, they visited a park area in front of the ancient Ishibutai Burial Mound in Asuka. Then the participants went to Oka Grand Church to have dinner, attend the evening service, and enjoy a variety of entertainment provided by some of their fellow participants.
On the 12th, an event called “The Path of Our Predecessors” was organized for second-time participants. This year, however, their walk across the Jusan Pass was canceled due partly to the heavy rain that had fallen on the previous day and partly to flu-related problems. The participants went by bus to Takayasu Grand Church in Osaka and listened to a lecture about the footsteps of Rev. Kichitaro Matsu-mura (the first head minister of Takayasu Grand Church), who devoted himself to the tremendous task of attaining Tenrikyo’s sectarian independence, which resulted in laying out the framework for Tenrikyo as a religious organization. Then they moved to Nara Prefecture Water Treatment Plant, from where they walked back to Jiba while reflecting on and actually following in Rev. Matsumura’s footsteps although their walk was much shorter than his journeys from Osaka. When the participants reached their final destination, the South Worship Hall in the Main Sanctuary, they looked up at the framed calligraphy of the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo, which was written by Rev. Matsumura, and felt his enthusiasm and sincerity for the cause of the teachings embodied in it.
On the 13th, first-time sophomores participated in an event called “Run and Fun in Unity of Mind,” where they cooperated and worked together in playing various games. On the same day, first-time juniors visited the birthplace of Oyasama by walking down “Yamanobe no Michi”―said to be the oldest trail in Japan―in an event called “Walk Yamanobe.”
Toward the end of the course, on the evening of the 13th, all third-time participants assembled in Dining Hall 2 and danced the service dance to express their gratitude to God the Parent for the blessings they had received over the past three years as well as their resolution to take a new step toward the future.
On the 14th, a faith experience speech rally was held. Listening intently to the speeches given by fellow participants, many students were moved to tears.
On the morning of the 15th, Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi delivered his address at the closing ceremony. He told the students: “Normally, this training course proceeds smoothly, but this year it was beset by influenza. . . . As you are fully aware, when things that are taken for granted go out of kilter, we have trouble. We should realize the preciousness of things that are taken for granted by most of us. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I would like you to think about cultivating a point of view that can allow for a feeling of gratitude for things that you normally take for granted.”