The 2005 Oyasato Seminar began on July 10 with 64 students from seven countries and territories: the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, Canada, the U.K., Hong Kong, Brazil, and Taiwan. This seminar was initially launched in the summer of 1984 to provide instruction in English on the teachings of Oyasama for high-school-age children of church head ministers and fellowship heads in the United States and Canada. Later, in response to requests from other overseas dioceses, it was decided that the Oyasato Seminar should incorporate other languages into its program. It has since been conducted in Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese.
This year, there are 30 students in the English Course (22 in Course I and 8 in Course III), 17 students in the Chinese Course, and 17 in the Portuguese Course. The Spanish Course was not held this year. Classrooms of Tenrikyo Language Institute are used as accommodation facilities for participants, counselors, and staff members of all courses.
At the seminar’s opening ceremony, Overseas Department Head Yoshiaki Mihama delivered an address, which was simultaneously interpreted into three languages. After welcoming back the participants to Jiba, he said: “Because of the atmosphere that the Home of the Parent has, I am sure that you will naturally become fond of Jiba and feel a sense of excitement just being here. In addition, I have no doubt that by looking at the way the counselors and staff members try to live out their faith you will be greatly inspired. Although the seminar is only 18 days long, each course is full of activities to satisfy you to the fullest.” He went on to say: “You come from different countries, but you are about the same age and are following the same path. I want you to make friends with one another during the seminar.” In closing, he told the students: “Your parents as well as others at your churches, who have been supportive of your participation in the seminar, are making efforts to spread this faith to as many people as possible and engaging in salvation work. Yet I am sure that your parents would like to impart their faith to you first so that it will fill your life with joy. You never know how much joy and delight you can bring to your parents and others if you manage to learn and acquire many of the teachings despite the time limitations you have here. This in itself will be an act of filial piety.”
This year’s English Course I counselors are Shaun Koyama and Trina Inouye, and English Course III counselors are Daniel Akemoto and Satoko Sasaki. Three of them were once participants in the Oyasato Seminar English Course. This time they are in a position to share their own faith experiences with the students in order to provide them with useful insights on how to incorporate the teachings of Oyasama into their daily lives. The doctrine teacher for Course I was Paul Tomizawa, an Oyasato Seminar alumnus himself.
This year, English Course I and Course III come to an end on July 27 along with the Portuguese Course. (The Chinese Course ended on July 25.) The content of English Course I includes studying and discussing the teachings in a classroom setting; learning the dance and musical instruments for the service; crossing the Jusan Pass on foot; experiencing a mission caravan to Hiroshima Prefecture; and performing the service with students of other courses. By actively engaging in those various activities, the students not only come to familiarize themselves with the atmosphere and environs of Jiba, the Home of the Parent, but also strengthen the bond of their friendship with one another.
English Course III also includes studying and discussing the teachings in a classroom setting as well as learning the dance for the service. Yet, this course differs from Course I in that it includes listening to the Besseki lectures; standing on guard at the Main Sanctuary with members of the Precincts Section of Church Headquarters; receiving the Sazuke, the Divine Grant; and engaging in door-to-door missionary work with members of the Aichi Missionary House. The missionary work in Aichi became the climax of the program as a whole, where the students, despite such an intensive schedule, spent four full days engaging in door-to-door missionary work in high spirits so as to implement their mission as Yoboku.
The significance of the Oyasato Seminar lies in providing high school students with an opportunity to learn the teachings at the Home of the Parent in their own languages. Participants can, in the process, also become more familiar with Jiba, the place of utmost importance in Tenrikyo. The underlying objective of the program has always been to equip the students with practical means to experience the joy of faith so that they can nurture their spiritual growth. This will assist them in discovering for themselves a way to translate what they have learned into action in their daily lives once they have set out on their own.