KIKUSUI HENRO HOUSEOsamefuda or Nôsatsu (nameslips)by Hiroshi Kushima
(translated by David C. Moreton)

What are the nameslips?

In the past, it seems that when pilgrims visited a temple they would nail a wooden or bronze nameslip on the main temple gate or building. Thus the custom of visiting a temple has come to be called 'to nail' (utsu) and temples are called, 'places of nameslips' (fudasho).

In the present day, the custom of attaching wooden nameslips has disappeared. Today, these slips are made from paper measuring 16-17cm in length and 5cm in width are called osamefuda or nôsatsu. One is placed at the Main Hall and another at the Daishi Hall at each temple. Unlike the senja-slips for shrines which are placed in such places as the Main Hall, when one worships at the Main Hall and Daishi Hall at a temple along the Shikoku Pilgrimage route, they are placed in the nameslip box.

The nameslip papers which comes in sets of 200 are sold for 100 yen at temples and pilgrim goods stores. Just like memo pads, the top part has been bonded with glue making them easy to carry and use. The message in the middle reads, "Dedication: Travelling with Kôbô Daishi along the pilgrimage to the 88 Temples in Shikoku" To the right, is a space to write the date and to the left, space for one's name and address. It is convenient to write the information other than the date before you depart on the pilgrimage or when at a place of lodging.

A set of 200 should be enough to place two at each temple (Main Hall + Daishi Hall X 88 = 176), however, when you visit an 'unnumbered' (bangai) temple or when you give to people along the way, you will run out, so please buy more at a temple, when it is necessary.

The nameslip as a type of business card

Nameslips are mainly used to be deposited at each temple; however they are also given to people who provide something (in other words, osettai) to a pilgrim. As well, there are passed to other pilgrims like a business card when they get to know each other. Some only write the prefecture and city in the address section, however others write a more detailed address. I did the latter and because I wanted to respect the good fortune that I obtained while on the pilgrimage and so that I could get together with those I met sometime in the future.

Some think that what happens while on Shikoku should only be something that is kept there, however, in the end that is something to be decided by the individual. There are some who use the full addresses on nameslips to send out direct mail.

[Added January 28, 2001]
It has been reported of examples of people using individual information from nameslips that they have obtained through some means and commit acts of deceit by approaching you and saying, "you probably don't remember me, but we met while you were doing the pilgrimage in Shikoku." The experience of being a Shikoku pilgrim is full of meetings where one wants to believe the goodwill of people; however unfortunately, there are those who commit crimes taking advantage of this goodwill. It might be best to just give detailed address information only to those you have come to know well.


The usual colour is white; however, there is a custom of using coloured nameslips depending on the number of times one has done the Shikoku pilgrimage. After 5 pilgrimages, the paper is green; after 8, the paper is red; after 25, it is bronze; after 50, it is gold and after 100 times around, one uses a nameslip that is made from woven fabric and called nishiki. Thus, coloured nameslips are a source of pride for those who have made numerous pilgrimages around Shikoku. It feels like a game where one has advanced one stage by the accumulation in the value of the experience. As well, a gold, bronze or nishiki nameslip can become a protective amulet and act as a source to receive good fortune in the present life or one can look forward to receive one from a veteran pilgrim that you have met or there are some who collect them by taking of the nameslip boxes at the temples.

On the other hand, there are some who always stay with the white nameslips saying, "What is the significance of boasting that you have gone around many times?" If you ask the meaning in an objective manner, it is up to the decision of the individual. However, when you think of those people who think that they want to share the blessings of going around Shikoku numerous times, it is difficult to find a satisfactory answer.

In order to obtain a nishiki, gold or bronze nameslip, you sometimes see people going around to each nameslip box and searching for them. This action is acceptable, however I do not think it is a very elegant thing to do. As well, some people hold a doubt in the action of giving and receiving nameslips because they believe that when you receive a nameslip, you at the same time take on that person's karma.

During my pilgrimage, I received gold and bronze nameslips from people that I met. There was no personal information on the front, but on the back was a stamp with the person's name. In this case, I felt that instead of leaving a nameslip at a temple, this person was focusing on sharing them with other people.

(translated by David C. Moreton)

Glossary TOP Copyright (C)1999-2001 Hiroshi Kushima / (C)2004 David C. Moreton