The Pilgrimage Part IX


Each group of pilgrims takes a commemorative picture at Temple 88, the last on the

pilgrimage. The person in the center in front is the leader of the group, an honored position.



Stairway to Heaven

It was a grueling climb up to the last temple.



Stone Lantern

A stone lantern guides pilgrims along a mountain trail.




This ceramic raccoon dog provided directions along the trail. The red
sign says pilgrims route.



Roadside Shrine

The pilgrim circuit has several roadside shrines along the way.



Prayer Plaques

Worshipers write their prayers on wooden plaques and leave them

in the temples. Prayers typically ask for success on an entrance

examination to school, the safe birth of a child, or prosperity

in business.




Inscriptions on stone fences in temples commemorate donations by

devout parishioners. The one in the center says that Mr. Ishikawa of

a certain village in the Itano District of Tokushima donated one hundred

yen to the temple. At the current exchange rate this amounts to about

one dollar, but at the time the donation was made decades ago it might

have represented a year's wages for the average worker.



Hall of the 500 Disciples

Behind Temple Five is the  dimly lit Hall of the Five Hundred Disciples

of Buddha, who practiced various forms of rigorous self-denial in order

to achieve enlightenment.



Pilgrim Hierarchy

In order to qualify as a leader of pilgrims you must have completed

the pilgrimage at least five times. This man was the guide of a group

from central Japan.



Perceived Hierarchy

There is a perceived hierarchy among pilgrims that assigns ranking

based on the effort the person puts into his pilgrimage. Those who

go on guided tours are at the lowest level. They take buses, get off

at each temple, say a prayer, and get back on for the next stop. They

don't even get their books stamped. The tour company takes care of

that for them. The next level up is those who go by car or motorcycle.

The pilgrims who walk the entire circuit are at the top of the pecking

order, and, among them, the ones who camp out along the way are

at the pinnacle of piety.



Back to the Start

After completing the 88 temple pilgrimage it is customary to close the circle

by returning back to Temple One, which is 25 miles further down the road.

And of course, we must take one last commemorative photo. It had taken a

total of six weeks to complete the 750 mile pilgrimage, about 150 miles on

foot and the rest by bicycle. I had made ten trips to Shikoku over a period of

one year, spending three days to one week each time. It was a great