Tenrikyo Church Headquarters hosted the annual Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba in the Home of the Parent between July 26 and August 4 under the new theme “We are all brothers and sisters. Let’s return to the Home of the Parent.” The Boys and Girls Association Headquarters had also released the new theme song, entitled “Let’s All Go to Oyasato as One Family.” Looking forward to this exciting summer festival, approximately 244,000 children and staff members, including some 836 from 16 overseas countries and regions, returned to the Home of the Parent during this 10-day period. Through educational and training activities as well as entertaining attractions, children became familiar with the teachings and came away with unforgettable memories. Although the rainy season was not declared officially over in this region of Japan until two days before the event ended, the Home of the Parent was filled with children’s beaming smiles throughout the event.
The Children’s Pilgrimage officially kicked off after the conclusion of the July Monthly Service on the 26th. A variety of activities, events, and attractions took place in a large area in and around the Sanctuary precincts―an area that was divided into three zones, each named after one of the “three promises” being promoted by the Boys and Girls Association as a key to actualizing the Joyous Life: (1) Savor the joy of living; (2) Take good care of things; and (3) Help one another. These three promises represent Oyasama’s teachings in an easy-to-understand way.
Each day (except July 26) started off with great numbers of children assembling in the Main Sanctuary to attend the “Morning Service” event at 8:00 a.m. After leading them in the performance of the seated service, the Shinbashira, who is also the president of the Boys and Girls Association, welcomed them back to Jiba and spoke about the teachings in a way that they could understand easily.
After explaining to the children who God the Parent is and how blessed they are with God the Parent’s workings that sustain all life in the world, he said, “The reason God the Parent created human beings is that God wanted to see all of us live joyously hand in hand and to share in our joy.” Referring to the relationship between God the Parent and humans, he said: “How many people do you know in this big crowd? I assume most of them are strangers to you. However, from God the Parent’s point of view, all of us here are children of God and thus brothers and sisters to one another.” He went on to say: “Your parents get upset or scold you when they see you fight with your brothers and sisters, or your friends, don’t they? On the other hand, they are happy when they see you get along with others, right? Just like your parents, God the Parent will be sad to see us humans get into fights or hurt each other. God just wants us to live in harmony by helping one another.” He closed his talk by encouraging the children, saying, “Please firmly keep God’s intention in mind and strive to become a person who can have God the Parent see you get along with your brothers and sisters as well as your friends and help each other out.” After his speech, all the children joined together in reciting the Boys and Girls Association Pledge and singing the theme song for the pilgrimage.
With respect to the educational and training activities, the “Oyasato-yakata Lecture,” using visual aids, helped children learn the teachings of God the Parent, the Divine Model of Oyasama, and how to actualize the Joyous Life. The “Service Practice Classroom” gave them an opportunity to learn what the service is and practice the dance and the musical instruments for the service. Children could also participate in hinokishin either by cleaning the Corridor that connects the Sanctuaries or by carrying earth in straw baskets at the construction site for the Oyasato-yakata’s South Left Wing 5. Right from the beginning of the Children’s Pilgrimage in 1954, which at the time was called the “Children’s Hinokishin Pilgrimage to Jiba,” this event has always put emphasis on hinokishin activities and helped children understand that hinokishin is an action to express their feeling of gratitude for God the Parent’s blessing.
Organized for the children’s entertainment were a variety of thrills and adventures such as the “Chopin’s Miracle Adventures” and the “Ninja Village” as well as stage performances including the “Children’s Musical Theater” and “Variety 172” featuring dance, music, comedy, and magic. Several swimming pools as well as a number of playgrounds equipped with a variety of entertaining gadgets and contraptions were also provided for the children’s enjoyment. In addition, a variety of athletic competitions were held, such as the “Children’s Olympics” and a martial arts competition for children learning judo, karate, and kendo.
One of the highlights of the Children’s Pilgrimage is the Oyasato Parade, which was held every evening during the pilgrimage period. In the evenings, when there was a cool breeze, people gradually filled the bleachers installed along the parade route. Shortly after the evening service ended, fireworks lit up the sky, signifying the opening of the parade. Great numbers of people were drawn to spectacular performances given by bands, dancers, and baton twirlers, as well as decorated floats of all shapes and sizes. Also, groups representing such countries and regions as Hong Kong, Brazil, Mexico, Nepal, South Korea, Taiwan, Hawaii, and North America took part in the parade. The Taiwan group performed the traditional dragon dance, in which the members’ colorful outfits and dynamic movements led the spectators to raise a big cheer.
The children belonging to fife and drum bands also took part in contests during the daytime and offered their best performance to show God the Parent and Oyasama the accomplishments they had attained during the past year. In all, 429 bands, comprising about 18,000 members altogether, participated in those events.
The Children’s Pilgrimage was run smoothly with warm hospitality and hard work by tens of thousands of hinokishin volunteers. Among them were 1,619 junior high schoolers who participated in the pilgrimage as members of the Boys and Girls Hino-kishin Corps. As one of the corps’ hinokishin activities, they spiritedly dedicated themselves to serving ice-cold tea to children and adults at tea tents scattered around the Home of the Parent, where refreshing tea served with big smiles quenched people’s thirst. This year, a total of 85 boys and girls from eight countries and regions took part in the Overseas Boys and Girls Hinokishin Corps between July 25 and 30. The countries and regions represented were the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, the U.K., and Hong Kong.