E casually mentioned this to me some time back and got my interest perked. After a quick google & reading the wealth of information online from information sites (i.e. Wikipedia) to pilgrim diaries, I am now totally intrigued!
To quote Wikipedia: “The Shikoku Pilgrimage (四国遍路 Shikoku Henro) or Shikoku Junrei (四国巡礼) is a multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi) on the island of Shikoku, Japan.”
Right. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out based on the name, ya?
[image of map courtesy of Wikipedia (JA)]
In addition to the 88 numbered temples, there are also 20 bangai temples that are considered important to many. Yep, that adds up to a daunting number of 108. It is mentioned somewhere (sorry, can’t remember which website exactly…) that visiting all 108 temples embodies riding oneself from the 108 Defilements of Buddhism. Wikipedia also further mentions that the pilgrim’s journey through the 4 provinces of Shikoku (Tokushima, Kōchi, Ehime & Kagawa) is “likened to a symbolic path of enlightenment, with temples 1-23 representing the idea of awakening (発心 hosshin), 24-39 austerity and discipline (修行 shugyō), 40-65 attaining enlightenment (菩提 bodai), and 66-88 entering nirvana (涅槃 nehan).”
Further reading mentions that pilgrims (henro) embark on this journey for various reasons, and via various modes of transport… and that whatever method chosen, there is no correct way as the journey means different things to different people.
Clearly, walking the >1,200km is the most difficult & time consuming of all. It would be so much easier to just hop on a tour bus, as part of a tour group, and travel in comfort to all the sites to get your Stamp Book (nokyocho 納経帳) endorsed… or to rent a car/motorcycle and hit the roads on your own. According to various sites, walking henro will spend between 40-60 days on the trail depending on personal fitness & endurance – and that is no easy task, imho!
To be really honest, if I were to ever do this, I’ll do it walking. Taking a tour or public bus seems too much like cheating to me. I know this contradicts what I mentioned about, that there is no correct way to do this pilgrimage, but I guess… am not enlightened enough to agree at this point of time. I apologize if this offends, but this is my opinion & I don’t wish to lie by claiming that I think otherwise. It’s the same feeling I get when I see people ‘tenting’ their HAEDs instead of doing them in full cross stitches.
Will I ever do this? I don’t know. 2 months on the road, living by the day, does seem very daunting for a control freak like me. Physically, I highly doubt I am capable of it – but that can be trained. Am I tough enough mentally? /shrug just maybe. Cost-wise, it will take perhaps an entire year of scrimping & saving. Mhmm… and 2 months of absence from work? I probably will have to quit my job to do this (yes, am not in a high enough position to be able to take 2 months off w/o repercussions)!
Considering all my doubts, why does this interest me then? Aside from the fact that I’m a collector & collecting all 88 temple stamps will be really cool… I can’t help wondering if a journey as such is what I need. I gotta admit, I’m not exactly a very ‘pleasant’ person – I’m cynical, sarcastic, easily jealous… etc. meh am probably the human version (and less cute version) of Tadar Sauce aka Grumpy Cat. I dislike most humans & I think humanity is better off extinct. I don’t have much self-confidence, and on top of all that, I don’t have a goal in Life. I’ve been wandering for the past 32 years, not knowing what I want. While I understand that it’s preposterous to expect one journey to enable me to ‘see the light’, I am hoping that it might somehow make me a better person, to enable me to see more beauty in the world.
E mentioned that she is looking to do a one-day version of the pilgrimage next year, covering like a handful of temples in the process. Assuming she really does get down to doing it (pardon me for the lack of faith, she just isn’t the outdoorsy kind – and there is nothing wrong with that!), hopefully that will influence me to plan for it in the future. Perhaps for 2016, for a ‘mid-life crisis’ of sorts… lol. And nope, I haven’t given up on Mt Fuji! O(^_^)o