The Oyasama 120th Anniversary Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba was held between July 26 and August 5, with this year’s theme being “Words of thanks! Minds of joy! Helping hands!” This year, in commemoration of the anniversary, the pilgrimage was lengthened by an additional day. During this 11-day period, approximately 320,000 children and staff members, including some 1,847 children and staff members from 21 overseas countries and regions, returned to the Home of the Parent. For the first time in 14 years, the number of participants exceeded 300,000, making this year’s pilgrimage second only to the pilgrimage of 1987, which drew 380,000 participants. The children attended and enjoyed educational and training activities as well as entertaining attractions.
The Children’s Pilgrimage officially kicked off after the completion of the July Monthly Service on the 26th. Immediately afterward, large numbers of children began swarming to the various attractions, events, and activity sites. Again, because of the significance of the anniversary year, two additional attractions at the newly constructed South Right Wing 2 were included as part of the festivities.
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 president of the Boys and Girls Association, welcomed them back to Jiba and spoke about the teachings in a way that the boys and girls could easily understand.
Focusing on this year’s theme, “Words of thanks! Minds of joy! Helping hands!” the Shinbashira started by asking the children, “What are the times that made you happy or brought you joy?” Upon listening to the responses from the children, he said: “When you receive something from someone, or when someone does something for you, or when someone was there for you to talk to, naturally you would say ‘thank you.’ I find the words ‘thank you’ to be very special because they are words that allow you to express your happiness to others.” He continued: “God the Parent created human beings out of the desire for all of us to live happily while helping one another. Human beings are not intended to live alone; therefore, it is important for us to help one another.” Speaking about the significance of this anniversary year, he explained: “Through Oyasama, the thoughts of God the Parent were conveyed to us human beings. Since this year marks 120 years since Oyasama withdrew from physical life, we conducted the Oyasama 120th Anniversary Service on January 26.” He then spoke on the Divine Model of Oyasama and the reason why She withdrew from physical life. “It was out of Her yearning for Her followers, children of the path, to grow spiritually. Even now, we observe Her anniversaries so that we do not forget Her intention, and so that, as children of the path, we can keep ourselves in accord with Her intention. Oyasama has long been waiting for all of us to become kind-hearted, considerate people, who can live together while helping one another.” He closed his talk by encouraging the children, “Strive to bring delight to Oyasama by keeping the ‘three promises’ [for the Children’s Pilgrimage] in your daily lives, by being able to say ‘thank you’ whenever you feel grateful, and by being helpful and kind to friends.” After his address, all the children joined together in reciting the Boys and Girls Association Pledge and singing this year’s theme song for the pilgrimage.
With regard to the educational and training activities, the “Oyasato-yakata Lecture” helped children learn about the teachings of God the Parent, the Divine Model of Oyasama, and the means to actualize the Joyous Life. The “Service Practice Classroom” gave them an opportunity to practice the service dance and the musical instruments used in Tenrikyo services. Children could also participate in hinokishin either by cleaning the Corridor that connects the Sanctuaries or by carrying earth in straw baskets.
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 a musical production of the children’s story “Urashima Taro” and stage performances including a variety show 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. Two of this year’s new theater attractions were “God the Parent’s Providence” and “Story of Oyasama,” both shown on large screens at South Right Wing 2, drawing many children and adults.
The children belonging to 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, 429 bands, comprising about 18,183 members altogether, participated in these events. These 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.
As the blazing heat of midsummer sent children scurrying in search of refreshments, members of the Boys and Girls Hinokishin Corps served them ice-cold tea as one of the corps’ many hinokishin activities. This year, a total of 157 boys and girls from six different 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, Brazil, Taiwan, and South Korea. With big smiles on their faces and wearing original T-shirts from their respective regions, the corps members yelled “Ocha dozo!” (Have some tea!) and served tea to children and adults at the designated tea tents scattered throughout the Home of the Parent.