The annual Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba was held between July 26 and August 4, this year once again under the theme “Gratitude, Joy, Hinokishin.” During this 10-day period, more than 260,000 children and adult leaders, including some 544 from 18 overseas countries and regions, returned to the Home of the Parent. On August 2, the cumulative total number of participants for more than half a century of the pilgrimage’s history exceeded ten million.
The pilgrimage included a variety of activities, events, and attractions that took place in a large area in and around the precincts of Church Headquarters–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. By attending and enjoying educational and training activities as well as entertaining attractions, children were able to familiarize themselves with the three promises.
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.
Explaining that the Children’s Pilgrimage has been held since 1954, the Shinbashira asked the children to guess how many people in total had participated in the Children’s Pilgrimage so far. After hearing several answers from the children, he told them that the total number of participants had reached ten million and said: “This Children’s Pilgrimage has continued for over 50 years, and a great number of people have participated in the event. Now the next question is why so many people have participated in the pilgrimage. One of the reasons is probably the enjoyable attractions which children can attend. Yet, I think the most fundamental reason is that God the Parent and Oyasama, who reside in Jiba, eagerly look forward to seeing every one of you return to the Home of the Parent.”
Reaffirming that the Jiba is the original home of all human beings, he explained: “A long time ago, God the Parent created human beings and the world in order to see us lead the Joyous Life and to share in that joy. Since then God the Parent has been working to protect us and provide for us so that we can live our lives. God the Parent is, thus, the original Parent of all human beings. God the Parent resides at the Jiba and is eagerly waiting for human beings, God’s children, to return to the Home of the Parent from all over the world.”
He then told his listeners, “Whenever you return to Jiba, I would like you to remember to offer a moment of worship to God the Parent, saying in your mind: ‘I am back and I am in good health. Thank you very much for Your daily protection.'”
The Shinbashira then shared his reflections upon the Divine Model of Oyasama, saying: “Through Oyasama, we human beings were able to know that God the Parent desires to see us lead the Joyous Life and that the Jiba is the home of all human beings. Through Her spoken and written words as well as through Her own example, we were shown the way of thinking and behaving that would help to actualize the Joyous Life. She then withdrew from physical life in the hope of enabling human beings to bring themselves into full accord with God the Parent’s intention and take further steps along the path to the Joyous Life.”
He went on to say: “Next year, we will perform the Service for the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, marking 120 years since Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life. Since it is Her anniversary, I have no doubt that a large number of people will return to Jiba to bring joy to Her. I very much hope that you will also return to Jiba again next year, inviting many of your friends to come along with you.” He closed his talk by asking the children to keep the three promises in their daily lives and do their best to become a member of the Boys and Girls Association who can bring joy to Oyasama.
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 how 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 at the construction site in front of East Left Wing 1. 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 placed emphasis on hinokishin activities and helped children understand that hinokishin is an action that embodies a feeling of gratitude for the workings of God the Parent.
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 New Adventures of Momotaro [Peach Boy]” 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. One of this year’s new attractions was “Dancing Splash Carnival,” which drew many children and adults from the first day.
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, 407 bands, comprising about 17,902 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.
Each year, the 10-day event is supported by thousands of hinokishin volunteers. In addition to students attending the various schools in the Home of the Parent, many students from schools outside Tenri sowed seeds of sincerity at Jiba by serving as members of the Students Hinokishin Corps. In addition, 2,585 junior high school students chose to participate in the Children’s Pilgrimage as members of the Boys and Girls Association Hinokishin Corps or the Wakagi Ojiba Hinokishin Corps, serving ice-cold tea to the children and others and helping to run the attractions and other activities.