This letter contains two important bits of news, an offer, a request,
and an invitation. Please read it thoughtfully.
NEWS ITEM #1: I'm leaving
I'm leaving my job (soon), and I'm leaving Japan (eventually).
After 4-1/2 years of working for Aeon, I will be leaving the company on
August 29th. It has been a great job, and I leave it reluctantly,
but there are other things I want to try. I need to return to L.A.
to do some of those things--at least for a while.
BUT I will stay in Japan until December. I'm planning to
undertake a major project here. The rest of this letter centers
around that project.
NEWS ITEM #2: A three-month pilgrimage
Since coming to Japan, I have wanted to take two long walks: one of
about three weeks, following the route of the old Tokaido Highway from
Tokyo to Kyoto; and the other of about six weeks, around the island of
Shikoku to visit the 88 temples of Japan's oldest pilgrimage. And
since one can walk from Kyoto to the Shikoku ferry in less than three
weeks, I've decided to do it all in September, October, and November, in
one long trip. Between the Tokaido and Shikoku portions, I have
chosen to walk through the Yamato area, following old roads wherever
possible. I will pass through Uji, Nara, Yoshino, and up to Mount
Koya-some of the oldest and holiest places in Japan. Mount Koya, for
example, is the final resting place of Kobo Daishi, Japan's most famous
saint, and the man who--in legend, at least--founded the Shikoku
pilgrimage. [Note: the Yamato portion was subsequently truncated
into a few days of train rides, and the Shikoku portion was only about
50% on foot!]
THE OFFER: Your intentions
This leads me to the offer. In the old
days--just as today--few
people could get away for a pilgrimage that would take months. So,
often, a village would get together into a sort of "mutual aid
society" and appoint one member to go on the pilgrimage for the
group. He (usually "he") would represent their requests
at the shrines and temples along the way.
I would like to do this for you. If you will send me your
intention, I will solemnly promise to present it:
at least once a day on the Tokaido and Yamato portions of the
walk, including in front of the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) of Nara, and
in front of Kobo Daishi on Mt. Koya; and
at every one of the 88 temples on Shikoku, meaning an average of
almost twice a day.
What qualifies me to do this? Well, for one thing, I will be
walking, which is a sort of offering of discipline. I will also be
keeping the pilgrims' vows: I am already a vegetarian, and abstaining
from sex won't be much of a problem. In addition, I will not drink
alcohol during the trek, and I will be endeavoring to control my speech,
by not lying, speaking ill of others, and so on.
What sort of intentions can you express? Traditionally there
are two kinds. The first is a request. This is where you ask
for something--a new job, success on an exam, a wife or husband, health
for a loved one, a good school for your child-or non-personal things,
such as an end to domestic violence, or for world peace, etc. The
second type of intention is thanksgiving for any the above that have
already happened, or just simply for the gift of life itself.
Please send me your intention by e-mail to
james-at-connectedjapan.com [now defunct],
and I will present it as faithfully as possible.
THE REQUEST: Your contributions
Let me be perfectly clear: I will present your intention whether you
make a contribution or not.
But there is a kind of cosmic principle that says if you are serious
about a request or thanksgiving, you will do something to show your
sincerity. One thing you can do is to agree to express the
intention YOURSELF for as many days as I do. Another would be to
pray for me as I carry the intentions of many. And of course
another would be to contribute financially to my trip.
Three months is a long time to be "unemployed"-and
homeless! There will be lodging expenses (though I will sleep out
as much as possible). I will also be putting up a homepage as I go
along, so there will be Internet and telephony expenses. And a
man's gotta eat! So your help would be appreciated.
The people in the old days understood this. The "mutual
aid society" was truly mutual: the people who sent the man on the
journey paid his way, and often pitched in to help his family while he
How much should you give? Anything would be appreciated (and as
I said even no contribution is perfectly acceptable). But as a
guideline, I have set up three "circles" where your name can
be listed on my homepage (unless you specify that you wish to be
anonymous). The three circles are:
The Kannon Circle: 3300 yen or $33.00 (US) or more,
representing the 33 manifestations of Kannon, the god/goddess of
The Tokaido Circle: 5300 yen or $53.00 (US) or more,
representing the 53 post stations of the Tokaido
The Kobo Daishi Circle: 8800 yen or $88.00 (US) or more,
representing the 88 temples of the Shikoku pilgrimage
Please tell me by e-mail the amount you wish to contribute, and I
will send you information on how to make your deposit or deliver your
AN INVITATION: A party
Finally: If you are in the Tokyo area on Sunday, September 2, please
come to my send-off party at 1 p.m. in Minami Nippori Park (send for
directions). My friends will shave my head, I will don my walking
clothes, and I will have my last drink before I hit the road. On
September 4th-a lucky day in the Japanese calendar-I will set off from
Nihombashi in Tokyo.
If you are in the States in December, I will be having a homecoming
party in Los Angeles in December. Stay in touch for details.
Send your intentions by e-mail to
Let me know if you plan to make a contribution at the same
Come to the party if you can!
Check my website frequently: www.connectedjapan.com
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and please keep me in your