The annual Sechi Festival was held at Jiba from January 5 to 7, drawing a total of over 85,000 people from both within Japan and overseas. This traditional event has been held since the days when Oyasama was physically present. On December 30, about 43,000 kilograms of rice cake offerings brought from all over Japan were received at Church Headquarters. Church Headquarters staff, Shuyoka students, and Junior Seminary students helped carry the rice cakes into the Main Sanctuary and placed them on the four corners of the dais to be offered until January 3. In spite of a cold wave that hit various regions of the country on the 4th and 5th, many followers returned to Jiba to partake of zoni, roasted rice cakes served with greens in a clear broth. Approximately 27,000 kilograms of rice cakes and 860 liters of sake were served at the festival, and about 4,400 people including Church Headquarters staff, Shuyoka students, and high school and college students, engaged in various hinokishin tasks during the three-day festival.
Students Sechi Festival Hinokishin Corps
Moving briskly at sites 3, 5, and 6 were the blue-jacketed members of the Students Sechi Festival Hinokishin Corps. These high school and college students gathered at Jiba from all over Japan to join the corps, so that they could bring joy to those who had returned to Jiba for the Sechi Festival. This year, a total of 565 students (350 from high school and 215 from college) participated in this corps.
The motto of the corps was: “Pleasant hospitality with our joyful smiles and cheerful voices.” With this in mind, the participating students dedicated themselves to hinokishin, working as servers, dishwashers, and ushers at the sites. Visitors entering the sites were warmly welcomed by their cheerful voices saying: “Happy New Year! Welcome back!” During the hinokishin period, 105 of them attended the Besseki lectures as well.