The Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba was held between July 26 and August 4 under the theme “Let’s do hinokishin (selfless and thankful action) and fill the Home of the Parent with joy.” During this 10-day period, more than 281,000 children and adult leaders including some 925 from 21 overseas countries and regions returned to the Home of the Parent to enjoy a wide variety of attractions designed to be both entertaining and educational.
Each day of the pilgrimage (except July 26) started off with the children’s “Morning Service” event, which took place in the Main Sanctuary and was attended by the Shinbashira, who is also president of the Boys and Girls Association. After leading the participants in the performance of the seated service, the Shinbashira spoke to the children, explaining the significance of hinokishin in a manner that would be easy for them to understand.
He told them that the Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba was originally focused on earth-carrying hinokishin, which is now but one of the various events for the pilgrimage. He went on to explain that the Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba started in 1954 as the “Children’s Hinokishin Pilgrimage” in which children participated in earth-carrying hinokishin. Though the focus of the Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba seems to have shifted to entertainment, its original objective was to do hinokishin. He then said: “Hinokishin means to use our bodies to express gratitude to God the Parent for the blessings we receive, always remembering that God the Parent is working throughout our bodies so that we can live.” He went on to say: “God the Parent continues to work in miraculous and various ways both within our bodies and around us. When we are aware of this, it becomes natural for us to feel like expressing gratitude to God the Parent for the blessings. Thus, hinokishin is action that is done with a feeling of gratitude for the workings of God the Parent.” He closed his address by asking the children to keep in mind the attitude of hinokishin at all times and put it into practice even a little bit, since doing so makes people around them cheerful and brings joy to God the Parent.
Organized for the children’s entertainment were a variety of thrills and adventures such as the “House of Horrors,” “Miracle Adventures,” and “Ninja Village,” as well as theater performances including the “Stuffed Animals Theater,” a musical production of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” and a variety show featuring dance, music, comedy, and magic. 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. Also available for children were a number of playgrounds with all kinds of toys, equipment, and fun machines, as well as swimming pools at seven sites.
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, 372 bands, comprising over 14,500 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.
In the “Oyasato-yakata Lecture,” children learned about the “three promises” for the Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba: 1) Savor the joy of living; 2) Take good care of things; and 3) Help one another. The “Service Practice Classroom” gave them an opportunity to practice the service dance and the musical instruments. In the “Exhibition of Children’s Arts and Crafts,” many drawings, paintings, handicraft items, works of calligraphy, and other items were on display.
It is noteworthy that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Boys and Girls Hinokishin Corps and nearly 3,800 junior high school students chose to participate in the Children’s Pilgrimage as members of the Boys and Girls Hinokishin Corps or the Wakagi Ojiba Hinokishin Corps. They dedicated themselves in hinokishin at a number of locations, serving ice-cold tea to other children and helping to run the attractions and other programs. In fact, this 10-day event is supported by thousands of hinokishin volunteers, including students attending schools in the Home of the Parent and members of the Young Men’s Association.