The weeks (and sometimes months) of our lives on Shikoku, left an indelible impression on us all. But the walk is a solitary endeavour. What did we learn collectively? And how can these learnings help future Henro, the residents of Shikoku, and Henro Alumni everywhere?
In June, we conducted a survey to learn more about people’s motives and experiences as henro.
Kaihōgyō (回峰行) (“circling the mountain”) is a 1000-day pilgrimage spread out over seven years that is practised by the monks of Enryaku-ji temple on the side of Mount Hiei, overlooking Kyoto. Read more
“What do you think of the influx of foreign visitors coming to Japan?” I was asked by a Japanese TV director. Apparently, one person she’d asked distinguished between two types of tourists: good ones and bad ones. “We’d like to encourage only the good ones to come,” this person had reportedly said.
Read more (via The Japan Times)
I became a Henro in April 2017, on sabbatical from the company I co-founded.
I needed a break to disentangle my identity from what I’d been doing (and feeling quite passionate about) for the past 7 years. I sought to pursue a more rigorous and intentional search for “meaning,” and to explore the spiritual side of myself.
Conveniently, to be a pilgrim is to (quite literally) follow in the footsteps of people searching for meaning. Like any good workout routine, if properly adhered to, even the cynics can’t help but be transformed by the process. You’re learning by osmosis: touching and living the experience of great explorers before you. You’re interacting with people at similar junctures in life, (or more often, people experiencing hardships which downright humble your issues.) You’re mentally, physically, and spiritually vulnerable.
Like many Henro, I had no idea what to expect at first, and throughout most of the pilgrimage, I worried that I was somehow missing the point – that I’d emerge un-transformed. But three lessons emerged in Kagawa prefecture (the final stage) and since my return home: it’s how you spend your days, the obstacle is the way, and the spirit of ossetai.
Prior to embarking on the pilgrimage, I had a stressful job in Tokyo that I was no longer enjoying and causing a downward trend in my well-being.
I had first heard about the pilgrimage a couple of years prior but had filed it away in the back of my mind without serious consideration. Once I decided to extricate myself from the work situation, it didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted to go for it.
Much of my work involved planning and designing things such that they can be built with minimal risk; basically the antithesis of everything a pilgrimage is supposed to be. To avoid taking the spontaneity and serendipity out of the journey, the only thing I planned was my first nights’ accommodation and no more. Read more
For centuries, religious pilgrims, and latterly thrill-seekers and those wanting to “find themselves”, have undertaken a month-long trek across northern Spain, along the Camino de Santiago.
Few, if any, of the 200,000 or so people who complete the walk each year will realise that it is now being used as a blueprint to market and promote others around the world. The latest is Japan, which is hoping to use the popularity of the Camino to sell its own pilgrimage, the Way of the 88 Temples, a 750-mile path through the island of Shikoku’s Buddhist past.
Read more (via The Independent)
A pilgrimage route stretching across Shikoku, one of Japan’s four main islands, has recently been attracting more non-Japanese visitors with various cultural and religious backgrounds.
Some of these pilgrims view the walk as a spiritual journey, while others want to make the pilgrimage for its health benefits or to be closer to nature.
Read more (via The Japan Times)
Sayuru Kunihashi had paid the bill for a night on a tatami straw mat, eaten a breakfast of fish and rice and absorbed the directions for the day ahead. Her watch said 7.20am and she was dressed to depart. A sedge hat for the strong sun, a wooden staff for the rough terrain and a white funeral robe. The latter was an emblem of her journey — a trek into the realm of death. She had already walked 584 miles along Japan’s oldest pilgrimage route, the Shikoku henro, and that day she would make the treacherous ascent of Mount Unpenji, a peak named after the place at its summit, the Temple in the Clouds.
Read more (via the Financial Times)