The annual Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba took place between July 26 and August 4 under the theme “Words of thanks! Minds of joy! Helping hands!” bringing some 253,500 to the Home of the Parent. Joining the pilgrimage from overseas were more than 900 people from 18 countries and regions such as Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States. During the 10 days, the Home of the Parent was a “Joyous-Life theme park,” which, offering a wide variety of educational activities as well as shows and attractions, provided perfect opportunities for children and adult leaders to savor the joy of faith together.
One of the popular educational and training activities was earth-carrying hinokishin. This was because the Children’s Pilgrimage started originally with the intention of giving children an opportunity to savor the joy of hinokishin, or selfless and thankful action, through participating in construction in the Home of the Parent. Children could also experience hinokishin by cleaning the Sanctuary Corridor. Other educational activities included the “Service Practice Classroom,” where children practiced the musical instruments used in Tenrikyo services. Those belonging to fife and drum bands gave performances to show God the Parent their accomplishments in addition to participating in contests. They also took part in the evening Oyasato Parade. Altogether 427 bands comprising 17,563 members took part in the pilgrimage. There was also an exhibition of children’s arts and crafts, as well as martial arts competitions.
In addition, each day (except July 26) started off with large numbers of children assembling in the Main Sanctuary for the “Morning Service” event at 8:00 A.M. After leading them in the seated service, the Shinbashira, who is also president of the Boys and Girls Association, welcomed the children back to Jiba and spoke about the teachings in a way that the boys and girls could easily understand. He began by explaining that Jiba, being the place where God the Parent created human beings, is the original home of humankind and that God the Parent thus looks forward to seeing all people in the world return to Jiba. The Shinbashira went on to say: “God the Parent’s intention in creating humankind was to enjoy seeing us lead the Joyous Life, which comes about when we live together in harmony and high spirits without fighting among ourselves. God the Parent also created everything else in the natural world and constantly works to protect all living thing, including people, animals, and plants.” Next, he spoke on “Taking good care of things,” one of the three promises that the boys and girls attending the Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba are asked to keep. “We take special care of things that are important to us because we don’t want them to get broken or lost,” he explained, “but there are also some things that we probably don’t try hard enough to take care of. Since almost everything we use in our daily life was actually made by someone other than ourselves, we should remember the great effort that they put into making those things and do our best to take good care of everything.” Citing water, air, and sunlight as examples of God the Parent’s great gifts that make life possible for all living things, he told the children: “Everything exists thanks to God the Parent’s blessings. Only because we receive those blessings can we live our lives happily in good health. That is why it is important for us to always feel grateful to God the Parent for those blessings and to do our very best to use everything in a way that is not wasteful. That is the key to ‘Taking good care of things.'”
Organized for children’s entertainment were thrills and adventures such as the “Ninja Village” and “Chopin’s Miracle Adventures” and a number of shows including the “Very Happy Stage,” the “Oyasato Theater,” the “Hop, Step, Marching World,” the “Variety 171,” and the “Children’s Musical,” which this year presented Hansel and Gretel. In addition, a number of swimming pools, as well as several playgrounds equipped with a variety of entertaining gadgets and contraptions, were available. There was also an athletic competition called “Children’s Oyasato Olympics.”
Another attraction was a new video entitled “From Jiba–To the World,” which was shown in the basement theater at the Oyasato-yakata’s South Right Wing 2 starting on July 26. The 20-minute video begins with an overview of Jiba and a portrayal of the many people who return to Jiba longing for their Parent, seeking salvation, and reaching out for the Joyous Life. It then depicts missionary work, showing how those people then go throughout the world to spread the teachings with their sights set on realizing world salvation, thereby leading more and more people back to Jiba. This introductory video also explains the motto “Gratitude, Moderation, Mutual Help,” which it calls “keys to the Joyous Life.”
One of the highlights of the Children’s Pilgrimage is the Oyasato Parade, now in its 30th year. The parade, which was held every evening during the 10-day period, began with a firework display and included bands, dancers, and baton twirlers, as well as floats of all shapes and sizes interspersed with large inflated characters.
Some 1,800 junior-high-school-age boys and girls, including many from six countries and regions overseas, chose to participate in the pilgrimage as members of the Boys and Girls Hinokishin Corps. Serving either during the first or second five days of the pilgrimage, they helped to run the shows and attractions as well as served ice-cold tea at many booths dotted around the Home of the Parent. Also, about 800 junior high schoolers joined the Wakagi Hinokishin Program, which is a one-day version of the Boys and Girls Hinokishin. Among other hinokishin volunteers supporting the 10-day pilgrimage were a large number of high school students.