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KIKUSUI HENRO HOUSEIntroduction to Shikoku Henro - What is a pilgrim?by Hiroshi Kushima
(translated by David C. Moreton)

What is the Shikoku Pilgrimage?

Simply said, it is going to all of the "official" eighty-eight temples in Shikoku. In the past, all pilgrims walked the route, but now, it is more common to go around by car or bus. If you walk, it is approximately 1,200km and takes around 40 days, however the length of time taken will depend on the person. If one travels by car, the distance is approximately 1,400km.

Those who travel on this pilgrimage are called "Shikoku Henro" or "O Shikoku" As well, the pilgrims are called "O Henro-san" or "O Shikoku-san."

"Going on a pilgrimage" has meant going to visit a religious sacred place and there are various kinds of pilgrimages around the world, however,

are unique characteristics of the Shikoku pilgrimage.

A Journey with no end

The official temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage are called fudasho and are numbered from 1 to 88 and it is common is to call the action of going to each temple jumpai not junrei. The common way do to the Shikoku Pilgrimage is to begin at Temple 1, Ryozenji in Tokushima Prefecture and continue around going in order circumventing Shikoku in a clock-wise way and finish at Temple 88, Okuboji in Kagawa Prefecture. The action of completing onefs visit to all 88 temples is called, Kechigan or Mangan. At this time, at part of orei mairi (doing a pilgrimage with gratitude), one should return to Temple 1, Ryozenji which completes the loop. In some cases, people visit Mt. Koya in Wakayama Prefecture before or after their pilgrimage to Shikoku.

As well, it is possible to start at any spot and not necessarily at Temple 1. It is good to conduct the pilgrimage by starting at a fudasho convenient to you and finish at the same place. Sometimes there are people who continue to walk around even after finishing one pilgrimage. When this happens, the pilgrimage becomes a journey with no end, like the Yamanote train line which circles Tokyo.

By the way, I have heard a story of elderly people who do not feel comfortable at home and continuously ride the Yamanote train line around Tokyo all day long. In the case of the Shikoku pilgrimage, people become a pilgrim, such as those with an incurable sickness or those who have left home because there is not enough food in the house, or those who been have cast out from where they live, and embark on this journey with no end and never cease going doing the pilgrimage. As a result,some of them eventually die somewhere along the way.

It is said that the roots of the Shikoku Pilgrimage are based on following the footsteps of Kobo Daishi (Kukai 774-835). He was the 8th Patriarch of Shingon Buddhism and so, the Shikoku Pilgrimage becomes part of the religious training of Shingon Buddhism, however in actuality, it is something that has a larger role. Since the Edo period, the Shikoku Pilgrimage has become popular amongst all people and people participate in it not only out of religious devotion but also as a way to pray for "benefits in this world". Also it is something that should be done in onefs lifetime and has became a place for wanderers such as those previously mentioned.

This system of charitable giving along the Shikoku Pilgrimage which began so long ago is still prevalent today. What significance does the Shikoku Pilgrimage have to people today? (continued)

(translated by David C. Moreton)

TOP Copyright (C)1999-2002 Hiroshi Kushima / (C)2004 David C. Moreton