On June 25, a prayer service followed by earth-carrying hinokishin was conducted at Church Headquarters to commence the construction for the “westward expansion of the Sanctuary precincts”–one of two major construction projects planned by Church Headquarters in anticipation of the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama.
Despite menacing rain clouds that had stretched across the sky from early morning, throngs of followers streamed into the precincts in increasing numbers from noon onward. By the time the prayer service began at 1:00 in the afternoon, the congregation had swollen to twenty thousand, most of whom had seated themselves in the Main Sanctuary’s four worship halls or stood in the Inner Courtyard. The Shinbashira then took up the wooden clappers to lead the prayer service, and the congregation joined him in singing the songs for the Service while they performed the hand movements for the seated service. To finish the prayer service, the followers turned toward the Foundress’ Sanctuary and the Memorial Hall to pay their respects, clapping in unison with the Shinbashira.
The congregation then poured into the Inner Courtyard, where they had been asked to assemble for earth-carrying hinokishin. By this time, the sun was shining brightly. At 1:30, the gates on the west side of the Inner Courtyard were opened and the assembled participants were led to the construction site. Following the 2:00 music siren, Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi formally announced the commencement of the earth-carrying hinokishin. As the assembled participants broke into applause, the Shinbashira and Mrs. Harue Nakayama took the lead in shouldering a mokko [a rope basket for carrying earth, suspended from a pole]. As they set off carrying the first load of earth, the front row of participants hurriedly shouldered their mokko and followed in the couple’s footsteps.
The sight of twenty thousand followers spiritedly carrying earth was truly a grand spectacle. The enthusiasm of the participants, whether young or old, was evident from the smiles on their faces. Among them were also some using wheelchairs, some who were visually impaired, and some who, bent with age, leaned on canes. They, too, beamed with smiles. Participants continued carrying earth in an unbroken line and, even after an hour had passed, there were still people waiting for their turn to carry earth.
Following the Monthly Service on the 26th, approximately 7,000 followers participated in earth-carrying hinokishin at this site between 12:30 and 4:00. Earth-carrying hinokishin will continue to be conducted at this site every day until the spring of 2005, the year preceding the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. Anyone wishing to participate is welcome to visit the site anytime between 9:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. Groups are requested to give prior notice, if possible, to the Earth-carrying Hinokishin Site Office.
The construction at this site is designed to facilitate access to the Main Sanctuary from the west and thus avoid congestion during the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. The area on the west side of the west entrance will be raised by four meters and a ramp measuring 19 meters in width will be constructed directly in front of the West Worship Hall along with a gentle slope for wheelchairs.