The High School Division of the Students Training Course was held at the Home of the Parent from August 9 through 15. This year, 728 male and 913 female high school students (a total of 1,641 participants) gathered from all parts of Japan to talk about their faith with fellow students, inquire into the teachings, and heighten their awareness of being future Yoboku, useful timber to construct the Joyous Life World.
Following the same format from previous years, the students were divided into groups according to their grades and the number of times they had participated. A male and a female counselor were assigned to every group and provided their group’s members with care and guidance throughout the course. An additional female counselor was assigned to each of the sophomore groups from this year because these groups had more students per group and most of the students were unaccustomed to group life. This made it possible for the counselors to pay closer attention to the needs of their students and to provide adequate care and support. Thus, all sophomore groups were staffed with a homeroom instructor and three counselors each.
The opening ceremony was held on the 9th in Dining Hall 2, at which Honbu-in Kazuo Nagao gave the opening address. Urging the students to approach the training course with a proper frame of mind, he said: “In the long life ahead of you, there will be crossroads where you must choose one path over another. To avoid making critical mistakes at such junctures, I want you to inquire into the teachings and the parental love of Oyasama while listening to the lectures by your homeroom instructors and taking part in conversations and discussions with the new friends you are going to make this week.” He added, “I want you to be sure to take home a souvenir with you, that is, the conviction that this is the true path that will settle this world.”
Student Advisory Committee Chairman Kiyoharu Kontani then delivered his address and introduced the staff members to the participants. This year, the course was supported by a total of 760 staff members. After the opening ceremony, the participants and staff members assembled in the East and South Worship Halls for a prayer service.
The course went into full swing on the 10th. The students listened to lectures, participated in class meetings, practiced the dance and musical instruments for the service, and dedicated themselves in acts of hinokishin, or selfless and thankful action. Third-time participants started practicing the Teodori, the Dance with Hand Movements, in preparation for the highlight of their program, which was to dance the entire Teodori on the night of the 13th.
“The Path of Our Predecessors–Crossing the Jusan Pass” was organized on the 12th for second-timers. In the morning, all participants were bused to Takayasu Grand Church in Osaka, where they started walking toward the Jusan Pass.
The high temperature of the day reached 33.0 C (91.4 F). In 1853, Oyasama’s youngest daughter, Kokan, crossed the Jusan Pass to spread the name of God the Parent in the city of Naniwa, now Osaka, when she was 17. The students, who were all about the same age as Kokan was, cheered on one another and offered a helping hand to those in need while trekking. After walking for two hours, the main pack arrived at the Jusan Pass, located near the border of Osaka and Nara. After taking a short break, they treaded on downhill and reached Heguri-Nishi Elementary School. The students enjoyed their lunch there before buses took them to Nara Prefecture Water Treatment Plant, from where they continued their walk to Tenri. The students reached their final destination, the Main Sanctuary, around 3:30 P.M., where they received a warm welcome from staff members and shouted out with joy and glee, “We’re home!”
On the 13th, the sophomores participated in the new main program called “Team Marching Championship,” which was held in the auditoriums of Tenri Kyoko Gakuen High School. In front of fellow participants and staff members, each group marched in double file and performed a count cadence, a roll call, and an original march. The students practiced the basics of marching on the very first day of the course in the “team exercise” program. All performances were brimming with youthful exuberance, and the auditoriums were filled with excitement and loud cheers.
On the same day, first-time juniors visited the birthplace of Oyasama and the Dining Service Center in an event called “Looking around Oyasato.” First-time seniors participated in “Talk in Doyu-sha,” where they took parts in the production of a talk show program and attended a speech course.
During the course, time was alotted for attending the Besseki lectures, and 495 students including 196 first-timers listened to the lectures.
Toward the end of the course on the evening of 13th, all 268 third-time participants assembled at Dining Hall 2, where they danced the Teodori, the Dance with Hand Movements. This performance was considered to be the finishing stroke for those attending the course for three straight years, and third-timers had prepared themselves for it through doing Teodori practices.
At 8:00 P.M. sharp, a signal block resonated in the dining hall. The students danced and sang spiritedly while powerful vocals from counselors at the back of the room gave them an emotional lift. At first, some female students who had fallen ill rested at the back of the room, but they joined their friends in dancing the Teodori along the way and danced to the end.
On the morning of the 15th, Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi delivered his address at the closing ceremony. He told the students: “We will be observing the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama next year. I want you to cherish all the memories you made during the past week and return to Jiba with as many friends as possible.” Before concluding the ceremony, the participants and staff members performed the Yorozuyo in expression of their gratitude for the blessings that enabled them to complete the course in good health.
Following the closing ceremony, all dormitories held their own farewell ceremonies for the students. After listening to the farewell speeches by the dormitory directors, the students received their certificates of completion. The participants exchanged emotional hugs with friends as well as staff members and promised to meet again at the Home of the Parent before bidding tearful farewells.