[Begin Japanology] Season 5 EP16 : The Shikoku Pilgrimage 2012-05-03
Published on Jun 25, 2015
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. A popular and distinctive feature of the island's cultural landscape, and with a long history, large numbers of pilgrims (known as henro (遍路?)) still undertake the journey for a variety of ascetic, pious, and tourism-related purposes. The pilgrimage is traditionally completed on foot, but modern pilgrims use cars, taxis, buses, bicycles, or motorcycles. The standard walking course is approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) long and can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to complete. In addition to the 88 "official" temples of the pilgrimage, there are over 200 bangai — temples not considered part of the official 88. To complete the pilgrimage, it is not necessary to visit the temples in order; in some cases it is even considered lucky to travel in reverse order. Henro (遍路?) is the Japanese word for pilgrim, and the inhabitants of Shikoku call the pilgrims o-henro-san (お遍路さん?), the o (お?) being an honorific and the san (さん?) a title similar to "Mr." or "Mrs.". They are often recognizable by their white clothing, sedge hats, and kongō-zue or walking sticks. Alms or osettai are frequently given. Many pilgrims begin and complete the journey by visiting Mount Kōya in Wakayama Prefecture, which was settled by Kūkai and remains the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism. The 21 kilometres (13 mi) walking trail up to Koya-san still exists, but most pilgrims use the train.