The annual Sechi Festival was held at the Home of the Parent from January 5 to 7. This traditional event has continued for well over a century, having started in the 1870s when Oyasama shared the New Year’s offerings of rice cakes with the followers and villagers. For this year’s Sechi Festival, some 83,000 people came from all over Japan and overseas countries to enjoy the New Year’s treat known as zoni, consisting of roasted rice cakes served with greens in a clear broth.
During the three-day festival, approximately 24,500 kilograms of rice cakes and 700 liters of sake were served, and 6,400 kilograms of charcoal were used for roasting the rice cakes. A total of 4,800 kilograms of greens and 43,560 liters of broth were consumed during the period. More than 6,000 people including Church Headquarters’ staff members, Shuyoka students, and high school and college students, supported the Sechi Festival by performing such hinokishin tasks as roasting rice cakes, ushering visitors at each site, and serving zoni. On the opening day of the festival, January 5, the temperature had dropped to the freezing point and snowflakes fell intermittently. Nonetheless, followers formed long lines at the festival entrance, waiting for the gates to open. At the head of the line for pilgrimage groups were 60 members from Mihai Branch Church, who had been waiting in line for 40 minutes. Their head minister told an interviewer: “Now that we are embarking on the final year for the pre-anniversary activities, we are expected to redouble our high-spiritedness. At my church, we have resolved to spend this year devoting our utmost to completing our pre-anniversary activities while holding fast to ‘the mind like clear skies.'” When the wooden clappers signaled the start of the festival at 10:00 A.M., the lines of followers began filing through the entrance, where they each received a celebratory cup of sake before being ushered to one of the six sites serving zoni.