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Aki Meguri

Shikoku: The Island of Four Countries

Shikoku's Four Prefectures

October 14th-November 14th, 2001

Shikoku is an island of legend.  Oh, it really exists.  But as a friend told me, it seems imbued with mystery.  Every tree, every stone, seems to have a legend attached.  Many of these center on Shikokuís most famous son, the monk Kukai who later became known as Kobo Daishi, or ďGreat Teacher/Saint Who Spreads Widely the Buddhaís Teaching.Ē

The Daishi (he is the Daishi among many others) is said to have established the Pilgrimage to the 88 Temples of Shikoku.  Scholars dispute it; believers donít care.  That he lived here is certain; that he traveled extensively, and practiced religious rigors throughout the island, is also certain.  Whether it was he or his followers (the members of the Buddhist Shingon sect) somebody established the pilgrimage, securing this smaller-than-New-Jersey islandís place in World Buddhism.

As the stories surrounding the pilgrimage developed, the four provinces of the island each took on an attribute related to the pilgrimís progress.  These are:

  • Tokushima Prefecture (formerly Awa Province): The Dojo (training room) of Awakening Faith

  • Kochi Prefecture (formerly Tosa Province): The Dojo of Religious Discipline

  • Ehime Prefecture (formerly Iyo Province): The Dojo of Enlightenment

  • Kagawa Prefecture (formerly Sanuki Province): The Dojo of Nirvana

In this age of pilgrimage by train, bus, and car, the significance of this progression may have been lost.  But friends tell me that recent televisions specials in Japan have centered on the idea that pilgrims are walking again, in greater numbers all the time.  This is a sign of hope.

 

My Shikoku background pages consist of the following:

THE LOGBOOK:
Where I went, What I saw
Other Logbook Stages: Prelude Old Tokaido Yamato Postlude

October 14th (Sunday)
  • The Route: Temples 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, (06)
October 15th (Monday) October 16th (Tuesday) October 17th (Wednesday) October 18th (Thursday) October 19th (Friday) October 20th (Saturday) October 21st (Sunday) October 22nd (Monday) October 23rd (Tuesday) October 24th (Wednesday) October 25th (Thursday) October 26th (Friday) October 27th (Saturday) October 28th (Sunday) October 29th (Monday) October 30th (Tuesday) October 31st (Wednesday) November 1st (Thursday) November 2nd (Friday) November 3rd (Saturday) November 4th (Sunday) November 5th (Monday) November 6th (Tuesday) November 7th (Wednesday) November 8th (Thursday) November 9th (Friday)
  • The Route: Temples 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, Bangai
November 10th (Saturday) November 11th (Sunday) November 12th (Monday) November 13th (Tuesday) November 14th (Wednesday)

 

RESOURCES: The guidebook I will use is in Japanese, but the maps are easily understood.  Itís called Shikoku Hachijuhachi Kasho O Aruku, and itís by the ďHenro Michi Hozon Kyoryoku Kai,Ē the name of a pilgrimage group.  Other excellent guidebooks include Ed Readicker-Hendersonís The Travelerís Guide to Japanese Pilgrimages (in English) and Manganjiís green guide (in Japanese), available from Koji Junrei Company, 9882-1 Tennodai, Choshi-shi, Chiba-ken 175, JAPAN.  This company publishes guides for over 20 other pilgrimages in Japan; the easiest way to get them is at temple #1 on any particular route.

Online guides include those by Jeffrey Hackler, Akiko Takemoto and Steve McCarty, David L. Turkington, and Don Weissís Echoes of Incense (with a resources page).

The classic book on Shikokuís pilgrimage in English is Oliver Statlerís Japanese Pilgrimage.  Iím almost embarrassed to write about my experiences after reading this book.  A not-so-classic but entertaining book is Tales of a Summer Henro by Craig McLachlan.

For the religious perspective on the pilgrimage, nothing comes close to A Henro Pilgrimage to the 88 Temples of Shikoku Island Japan by Bishop Taisen Miyata.  Heís a Shingon Buddhist priest in Los Angeles who first performed the pilgrimage on foot in 1955.  He has since guided numerous tours of American Buddhists, and the book is both a devotional guide and a collection of legends about each temple.

 
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