Monday, July 28, 2014

Introduction to the Shikoku Pilgrimage

   There are many famous religious pilgrimages in the world, such as the Way of St. James in Spain and the Mecca Pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Rivaling these is a pilgrimage in our very backyard: the “Shikoku Henro” (Henro = Pilgrimage). This year is the 1200th year since the year that a man named Kobo Daishi (Kukai) from present-day Kagawa Prefecture is said to have selected 88 temples in Shikoku to be part of the pilgrimage, thus founding it. Today, this “Shikoku Henro” is being thrust into the limelight domestically and abroad.

   We looked into why there are 88 temples in the pilgrimage, but it seems that there is no clear answer. Some explanations are that perhaps it is to ward off the bad luck that comes with “unlucky ages” that add up to 88 in Japan (42 years old for men, 33 for women, and 13 for children), or perhaps it is to cleanse a person’s 88 worldly desires one by one.

   This issue of Tosa Wave is for readers interested in the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Even if your current age isn’t one of the Japanese unlucky ages and even if you aren’t plagued by worldly desires, living in Shikoku is a great opportunity to experience the pilgrimage. We cover everything—from pilgrim clothing to the conditions at three of the 16 temples in Kochi handpicked by our staff—and everything in between.

Staying Overnight at Iwamotoji!

Front view of the temple lodgings.
   Four of the temples in Kochi Prefecture that are part of the Shikoku Pilgrimage offer lodging for visiting ohenro-san. For this article, we visited one of those four temples, Iwamotoji in Shimanto Town, where we stayed the night at the lodging facilities for pilgrims.

   Iwamotoji was built in the Tenpyo era (729-749), and it was established as the 37th sacred temple in the Shikoku Pilgrimage by Kukai during the Konin era (810-824). Iwamotoji is home to several historical structures, such as the main temple where the temple’s principle object of worship is enshrined, which is across from the building that houses lodging accommodations.

The Famous Tosa Temple - Chikurinji

The origin of Chikurinji
   The origin of Chikurinji begins when Emperor Shomu had a dream where he was awarded with the teachings of Buddhism from a Manjusri (wisdom entity) at the known Manjusri sacred grounds after ascending to the top of the Tang Dynasty Mt. Godaisan (currently Shanxi Province). Emperor Shomu was extremely moved by this dream and ordered the famous monk Gyoki to search throughout Japan to find a sacred ground like that of the Tang Dynasty Mt. Godaisan, and build a temple there. After that, Kukai gathered much knowledge and it became one of the pilgrimage sites of the 88 sacred grounds of Shikoku, and was also used for prayer by the Yamauchi Family of the Tosa Domain during the Edo period.
In front of the Main Temple where the unveiling will occur.

No 29 Pilgrimage Site Kokubunji

The History of Kokubunji
   Kokubunji was constructed under the imperial decree of the 45th Emperor of Japan, Emperor Shomu. It was established in 741 by the high priest Gyoki, and restored under Kukai. Back then, the area surrounding Kokubunji was part of the Tosa domain, and a provincial governor better known for his work as an author of the Tosa Diaries stayed there for 4 years.
The roof where work has been completed on the main temple structure.

Interviewing an American Ohenro-san

   We Talked with Adam Chamness, an American living in Kochi who has completed the Shikoku Pilgrimage. He walked the entire distance during August and September of 2010, taking about 50 days, and he finished off his journey with a trip to Mount Koya in 2011. Let’s hear what he has to say about his experience!
Adam during the ohenro.