High school students from all parts of Japan gathered at the Home of the Parent to attend the High School Division of the Students Training Course from August 9 through 15. This year, 669 male and 839 female high school students (a total of 1,508 participants) attended the course, where they inquired into the teachings, reflected on their faith, and cultivated friendships.
On the 9th, the students checked into one of eight dormitories, where they received a warm welcome from the staff members. They 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 because these groups had more students per group and most of the students were unaccustomed to group life. Each sophomore group was thus staffed with a homeroom instructor and three counselors.
At the opening ceremony, held in Dining Hall 2 on the afternoon of day one, Honbu-in Kazuo Nagao gave the opening address. Urging the students to approach the training course with a proper frame of mind, he said: “Purity of mind and unremitting energy are attributes that you young people are endowed with. Over the next week, please seek the true path that will settle this world and feel the magnificence of the teachings taught by Oyasama while maintaining a sincere mind. And when you become convinced of some parts of the teachings, please be sure to apply them to your life.”
Student Advisory Committee Chairman Kiyoharu Kontani then delivered his address and introduced the staff members to the participants. 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 deepened their understanding of the teachings through lectures and class meetings, practiced the dance and musical instruments for the service, and dedicated themselves in selfless and thankful acts of hinokishin. In addition, some groups took a tour around the Main Sanctuary and watched a video on “God the Parent’s Providence” at the Oyasato-yakata’s South Right Wing 2.
An activity called “Hearty Interaction” was organized on the 11th for third-time participants. They visited a park area in front of the ancient Ishibutai Burial Mound in Asuka, where they enjoyed being surrounded by the lush green countryside and engaged in games and group work to get to know one other better.
On the 12th, the sophomores participated in “Team Marching Championship,” in which each group marched in double file and performed original marching drills in front of fellow students. On the same day, first-time juniors visited Oyasama’s birthplace and the Dining Service Center in an event called “Looking around Oyasato.” On the afternoon of the same day, first-time seniors participated in an event called “Run and Fun in Unity of Mind,” where they competed in various games.
“The Path of Our Predecessors–Crossing the Jusan Pass” was organized on the 13th for second-timers. At 7:30 A.M., all participants performed a prayer service in the East Worship Hall before getting on buses to leave for Takayasu Grand Church in Osaka. From there, participants started walking toward the Jusan Pass. The temperature during the day reached a sweltering 35ºC (95ºF). Climbing the steep hills, some participants soon became exhausted and slowed their pace. Helping and encouraging one another, the main pack walked for two hours to reach 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. They were then bused to Nara Prefecture Water Treatment Plant, from where they continued their walk to Tenri. The main pack arrived at the final destination, the Main Sanctuary, around 3:00 P.M. Slightly tanned from the walk, the faces of the participants showed both fatigue and a sense of accomplishment.
On the evening of the 13th, all third-time participants assembled at Dining Hall 2, where they danced the Teodori, the Dance with Hand Movements. This performance was conducted to express their gratitude to God the Parent for the blessings they had received over the past three years as well as their resolution to take a new step toward the future. The third-timers had prepared themselves by holding Teodori practice sessions and class meetings. At 8:00 P.M. sharp, a signal block resonated in the dining hall. All 260 students danced spiritedly and sang powerfully in unity of mind.
A faith experience speech rally was held on the 14th. Listening intently to the speeches given by fellow participants, many participants were moved to tears. v During the training course, time was allotted for attending the Besseki lectures, and 467 students including 172 first-timers listened to the lectures. Meanwhile, the other participants dedicated themselves in acts of hinokishin, such as cleaning rolls of artificial turf used during the Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba.
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: “I am sure that your stay at Jiba has had a deep impact on you. Perhaps you are now in a better position to appreciate having caring parents and value your friendships. I want you to cherish all of these things and allow them to be a dependable guide in your life. I want you to make sure that you don’t forget what you have learned and acquired during the past week at Jiba.” Before concluding the ceremony, the participants and staff members performed the Yorozuyo to express their gratitude for the blessings that enabled them to complete the course in good health. Following the closing ceremony, participants received their certificates of completion from their lecturers or counselors. Then they bid emotional farewells, exchanging hugs with friends as well as staff members.