The 50th Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba was held between July 26 and August 4 under the theme “Gratitude, Joy, Hinokishin.” During this 10-day period, more than 290,000 children and adult leaders, including some 540 from 16 overseas countries and regions, returned to the Home of the Parent to enjoy a wide variety of attractions designed to be both entertaining and educational.
Each day of the pilgrimage (except July 26) started off with the children’s “Morning Service” event in the Main Sanctuary, which was attended by the Shinbashira, who is also the president of the Boys and Girls Association. After leading the participants in the performance of the seated service, the Shinbashira greeted the children, who were seated in the North, East, and West Worship Halls, and welcomed them back to Jiba.
Explaining that this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Children’s Pilgrimage, the Shinbashira tried to give the children a feeling for the length of 50 years by asking them to recall the ages of their parents and grandparents. He went on to say that the original Parent of all human beings is God the Parent and, accordingly, all human beings in the world are brothers and sisters. In a manner that would be easy for them to understand, he explained God’s intention in creating human beings and God’s providence for us, and he emphasized the importance of living each day while maintaining a sense of gratitude for the blessings they receive as well as making an effort to bring joy to God the Parent. To give them some hints about how they could bring joy to God the Parent, he said: “You should be a person who is able to help those around you including your mother and father, brothers and sisters, and friends. If you find people who look unhappy or who are in trouble, you can help them by speaking to them or by listening to what they have to say.” He closed his talk by asking the children to have fun during the pilgrimage as well as to keep in mind the spirit of helping each other and put this spirit into practice even after they return to their homes.
Organized for the children’s entertainment were a variety of thrills and adventures such as the “House of Horrors,” “Miracle Adventures,” and “Ninja Village” as well as theater performances including a variety show featuring dance, music, comedy, and magic. One of this year’s new attractions commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Children’s Pilgrimage was “Dream Tour,” which drew many children and adults from the first day. They got on a time machine called “Dream Super Jet” and departed for a tour to make their dreams come true. While learning fundamental Tenrikyo terms through powerful images on a large screen, they learned how to realize their dreams. In addition, a variety of athletic competitions such as the “Children’s Olympics” and the “Children’s Martial Arts Competition,” which was for children learning judo, karate, and kendo, were held. Also available for children were a number of areas in which they were able to spin tops, play with water pistols, and do many more fun things including what kids used to do many years ago.
Members of fife and drum corps took part in contests and gave performances to show God the Parent and Oyasama the accomplishments they had attained during the past year. In all, 378 bands, comprising about 15,900 members altogether, participated in these events. The numbers of bands and band members that participated in the pilgrimage increased for the sixth year in a row. The fife and drum corps also marched in the evening “Oyasato Parade,” which is always one of the highlights of the children’s stay in the Home of the Parent.
It is noteworthy that, during the pilgrimage, the number of those who participated in the “Earth-Carrying Hinokishin,” which was conducted at the site for the westward expansion of the Sanctuary precincts, amounted to some 100,000. This figure was more than triple of that for last year.
Further, 217 high school and college students chose to participate in the Children’s Pilgrimage as members of the Students Hinokishin Corps, which began in 1983 for the purpose of providing students who were connected with the path with an opportunity to sow seeds of sincerity at Jiba. During the daytime, they dedicated themselves in hinokishin at a number of locations, serving as staff members at the “Corridor-Cleaning Hinokishin” site, the “Earth-Carrying Hinokishin” site, and the “Sansai-no-Sato Camping Site,” Tenrikyo’s youth center for outdoor activities. They also took care of the Wakagi Ojiba Hinokishin Corps, which consisted of junior high school students. At night, they took part in the “Oyasato Parade” dressed up as clowns. In fact, this 10-day event is supported by thousands of hinokishin volunteers, including students attending schools in the Home of the Parent and members of the Young Men’s Association.
Following the morning service on August 5, the Shinbashira thanked the organizers and people who had done hinokishin for the pilgrimage. He then called upon the listeners to put what they had experienced during the pilgrimage into practice in their daily lives and closed his address by asking them to make daily efforts to do hinokishin spontaneously and become people who could respond to the intention of God the Parent.