Good morning everyone. It’s so nice to see you all return to Taiheiyo and participate in today’s Monthly Service. Today’s service was again performed very energetically, and my heart just soars when I hear everyone singing and worshipping in unison. I can only imagine God the Parent and Oyasama smiling down on us.
I can’t believe it’s already August, but it’s been a mild summer until recently, and we can finally feel the heat of the season. But it can’t compare to the heat in Japan where there are no tradewinds. It’s been maybe 40 years since I participated in the children’s pilgrimage, with the koteki band and marching in the parade. But I remember those trips clearly: all the fun we had running around the 38th Moya, and the friends we made serving tea together. It was good to see that much of the same activities still exist today, and I wanted to share a little about our trip this time.
Our family left for Japan on July 13th, just after July’s monthly service. It was a very busy schedule the first few days after we arrived. We got in on the 14th and checked into the 38th Moya after 9pm. Then Tenri Forum 2016 was held on the 15th – 16th. We had 6 speakers from Hawaii at the Forum, including Kyle Kikuchi from Aloha Church, who gave a very moving and thought provoking presentation as a first generation Yoboku. There were over 50 Hawaii people who attended the Forum, and I’m sure everyone came away inspired and motivated to further the path as they returned home. A few sessions focused on community engagement, and helping those with substance abuse problems. It’s all very well, excellent even, if we come to church consistently and offer our prayer for others. But this path on which we are traveling should take us along a journey of spiritual maturity. Just like hiking on a mountain trail, we should be making progress toward the summit. Sure there may be ups and downs, but the general progress is upward.
Similarly, the next step in spiritually maturity might be to engage in salvation work in the community. It doesn’t mean that we need to try to start something from scratch. There are many worthy causes out there, and participating in non-profit activities, and volunteering your time and services is a great way to meet others and create opportunities for spreading the teachings. The main thing is to do it with the spirit of hinokishin (gratitude) and hito-tasuke (saving others).
Immediately after the Forum ended on the 16th, the Shuto bus picked up 13 of us and we headed down to daikyokai for their seinenkai general meeting. In addition to the Hawaii gang, there were other groups from Brazil and Panama who also participated, so the assembly was very international. After the service we enjoyed yatai-style food and refreshments, then those who were enrolled in the international hinokishin-tai were bused back to Tenri that afternoon.
Since Keiko and I had the kids, we took the scenic route back to Tenri, visiting Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kobe, and Osaka. Traveling by train with a double-stroller and a wheelchair, in addition to our bags of clothes and diapers was a bit of a challenge, and Keiko and I thought about making a blog about rating accessibility in the different cities and train stations. Thankfully most major train stations by now have elevators, but they are small so we always have to go in two trips. And sometimes we have to ride escalators, which is a little scary.
We finally arrived back in Tenri on the 23rd, and was able to relax a few days before Kodomo Ojibagaeri officially started. During KOG the 38th Moya was packed with followers returning from many different countries. It was like a mini version of the Olympic opening ceremonies, with each country wearing their own color t-shirts and uniforms.
The monthly service was performed joyously on the 26th, and that night officially kicked off KOG with the traditional parade, and the Hawaii group marched in the parade that night. Everyone practiced a hula dance routine, and Jenna and I were lucky enough to be able to ride on a float following right behind the group. Then just as the parade started, it started to rain, and it kept raining and raining. It was pouring rain, but we just kept dancing and smiling and waving at the spectators. I was surprised Jenna was very happy, despite having to stand on the float the whole way, and being drenched by the downpour. Swann, who had a slight fever, was carried by Keiko on her back and the two boys, Falcon & Phoenix, walked the entire length of the parade in the rain. I was really worried that everyone would catch a cold but we were all fine. It was a welcome relief from the heat and we all slept well that night.
For anyone who has not taken their kids or grandkids to KOG, it is a must! They have so much fun with the activities like the adventure land, side shows, ninja village, and swimming pools. They also learn a lot about doing the daily otsutome, and about hinokishin and helping others.
Now I mentioned about how the international flare of KOG resembled the Olympics. The US is leading the medal race, but have you heard that one of the few gold medal winners from Japan is Shohei Ono the judo gold medalist, who is from Tenri. 2016 is the 131st Olympic games, dating back to 1896 in Athens, Greece, just following the era of Oyasama’s divine model. How happy she would have been to see the world compete peacefully in sport.
When you watch the games and especially the opening ceremonies, you can’t help but feel the spirit of the world of the joyous life! Everyone is cheering, laughing, dancing, with so much energy and adrenaline that their faces probably hurt from smiling so much. There are fireworks going off and music playing, a rainbow of colors flooding the stadium. There’s nothing else like it in terms of a global conglomeration of nations coming together for a spectacular single cause. I was thinking how amazing it would be if the teodori could be performed for all the world to see in such a highly energized environment – perhaps too much to ask for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?