KIKUSUI HENRO HOUSEGyaku-uchi or Saka-uchi (walking in reverse order)by Hiroshi Kushima
(translated by David C. Moreton)

A pilgrimage commencing at Temple no.1 and proceeding in numerical order to Temple 88 is called jun-uchi, however a pilgrimage that goes in reverse order is called gyaku-uchi. The origin of the word utsu (hit) comes from the time when wooden fudas (nameslips) were nailed to the Main Hall or Gate of the temple which is differs from today's custom of presenting a paper name-slip.

In the last few years, it seems that young people have become interested in the Shikoku pilgrimage due to the book Shikoku (Land of Death) by Masako Bando and the movie (1999) made from the book. Within these works, it is shown that by going in reverse order in this "Land of Death" that those who have died will be revived, however, in the present day, going in reverse is said to be of benefit in two ways.

One is that because it is much more difficult to go in reverse order, thus the merit of this style of ascetic training will be greater. For example, the path markers are easy to follow because they have to been made to point the way from 1-88, so going in reverse might be confusing. Generally, for those who have experienced being a Shikoku pilgrim numerous times, trying the route in this way would become an advanced course which they should challenge themselves to do.

Two, there is a connection to the legend that Kobo Daishi is alive still today. As one continues the Shikoku pilgrimage, it is said that one will someday meet up with Kobo Daishi. It is believed that he goes in numerical order, thus, by going in reverse order one will increase the chances of meeting him.

Realistically speaking, by going in order, one can look forward to being able to meet others who stay at the same lodging facilities and with whom you have perhaps traveled part of the route with. On the other hand, when going in reverse order, one can meet many more pilgrims but at the same time it will only be for a brief time, so the concept of "once in a lifetime chance" meeting become all the more exciting.

I have only experienced going in numerical order however, someday I would like to try the pilgrimage in reverse order. At which time, I expect to meet many more pilgrims.

It seems that there are some with a conservative opinion who say, "It is correct to carry out the pilgrimage by going to each temple in order. Going in reverse is out of the question."

(translated by David C. Moreton)

Glossary TOP Copyright (C)1999-2000 Hiroshi Kushima / (C)2004 David C. Moreton