On Sunday, I joined a number of other foreigners in the area to complete a portion of a famous pilgrimage on my island. The history of the pilgrimage dates back to a Buddhist monk named Kukai who walked this path to various temples in search of enlightenment. History had many pilgrims making the journey in search of resolution to their own issues, and seeking understanding of the questions life posed.
The entire 88 temple circuit is about 1200 km, and typically takes about 45 days on foot to accomplish. Though today it is largely done by people on buses and cars, there are still a few thousand every year who do it the good old fashioned way. For this outing though, there were about 20 of us, with intentions of visiting a ‘close’ grouping of 3 temples that would require us to walk about 20 km The only other significant cultural thing to mention about this is the clothing warn during the event by all pilgrims. The clothes are all representative to so extent of Kukai himself, and remembering that he is there with you as you complete the journey.
Here is a picture of us trekking along
The hiking itself was rather strenuous at times, hiking up steep mountainsides through the woods, on rather natural paths. When we reached our first summit, it was clear that the event would be filled with beauty. The view of the mountains and and the city below, contrasted with the colors was exceptional. On this stretch of path, we also were given seeds. When placed in our outstretched hand, birds would fly from the forest, grab on and then flutter back, only to reappear in the next 20 seconds or so. This was a lot of fun, and some good pictures were to be had.
To compress the thoughts and observations of the bulk of the journey, it was mostly me marveling at the beauty of Japanese Maples in autumn. Many were still green, however most were vibrant shades of everything between yellow and red. I will have copious amounts of these trees at my future home… The cultural significance of the temples were certainly there, though having seen so many in my day, it takes something really unique to catch my eye. An effect similar to churches in Europe I assume.
Being more interested in the beauty of the scene, my eye was trained on the surroundings. Great picture to show the dynamics of the scene.
At one of the temples we had a chance to talk with the assistant priest which was really interesting, and also to eat the food we brought along. Wherever we went, there were other Japanese people that were overjoyed by our wearing of the traditional garb for the pilgrimage; pictures and questions were abound.
By the end of the day, I had the chance to talk to many people who were on the trip, and even talk a bit about upcoming travel plans, cameras, life, whatever. It was a great time overall, and having now seen Kokubunji, Shiramineji, Negoroji, and Okuboji (previous trip), I only have 84 more to go… There are a couple of these excursions a year, so I’ll try to take advantage of those as well.
Here is a good picture of me. The sunlight illuminating the leaves is great.