Miniature Pilgrimage Systems and Community in Japan

KONDO Ryujiro

Faculty of Systems Engineering,


930 Sakae-dani, Wakayama-city, Wakayama, 640-8510, JAPAN

1. Background and Purpose of this Paper

1.1 Imitation Pilgrimages

In the Edo Period during the 17th through 19th century many imitation pilgrimage courses modeled on the 88 stop Shikoku and 33 stop Saikoku courses were established for those too far away to make a pilgrimage to Shikoku or Saikoku. These are considered to be sacred places and are called regional pilgrimage courses. These regional pilgrimages are further defined according to their size: prefecture, district, major urban, miniature, and indoor (Table 1). Even now these pilgrimages are visited by those pe ople with deep faith and there are folk customs related to local people hosting pilgrims.

? Regional pilgrimage courses attempt to reproduce the same spiritual experience a pilgrim would have at the real (original) pilgrimage course in Shikoku and Saikoku. Kojima has made a general evaluation of regional pilgrimages (Kojima, 1987: 249-264). According to Kojima they imitate the original by having the same number of places to visit, same placement of images, similar physical and geographical setting of places, and by creating symbols associated with the original such as implanting soil from e ach of the original places in its counterpart in the miniature pilgrimage. He describes three unique means to create sanctification associated with imitation pilgrimages: having a system of circulation to go through the course, the way local people host p ilgrims, and the way communities limit the pilgrimage period. Regarding the circulation he finds it significant that there is a proper way to circulate at all and that there is walking etiquette when going through the course. Regarding the hosting of pilg rims, he points out that whereas in Shikoku serving pilgrims such things as tea and fruit is customary hospitality, in the imitation pilgrimage courses such service is part of an overall organizational plan and it can be likened to being part of a package tour. Limiting the period when a pilgrimage is possible differentiates that period and makes it possible to turn it into a festival time.

? In broad terms it can be stated that the difference between the original pilgrimage courses and imitation pilgrimage courses is that the original courses were established using pre-existing physical structures and focused on the etiquette for a pilgr image whereas imitation courses were established with great emphasis given to the physical design of the course in addition to the etiquette for a pilgrimage.

1.2 Distribution of Regional Pilgrimage Courses

Miniature pilgrimages of many varieties are found all over Japan. Only part of these have been studied and documented. For example, a survey in Wakayama Prefecture revealed that there are 29 sites modeled after the 88 stop Shikoku Course and 38 modeled after the 33 stop Saikoku Course (Kondo, 1998: 465-470). In terms of their scale there were no national level 88 stop sites, but some 33 stop national level courses (Table 2). In the case of Wakayama there is no prefectural level course, many district le vel courses, and a few major urban courses. The most common type of course was the miniature pilgrimage course. Major urban, miniature, and indoor pilgrimage courses modeled after the 88 stop Shikoku or 33 stop Saikoku courses are shown in the diagram (Fi g. 1). A survey of when these courses were established reveals that there have been two boom periods: the first from 1812 to1867 and the second from 1918 to1949.

1.3 Purpose of this Paper

This paper focuses on miniature pilgrimages related to the88 stop Shikoku Course which are more dynamic in their imitations of the original than those related to the 33 stop Saikoku Course. Figure 2 describes the relationships between imitation pilgrim age courses and the local community. It is the relationship between the person(pilgrim) and place(pilgrimage site) which makes "the pilgrimage system." It is for this reason imitation pilgrimage courses try to imitate as completely as possible the origina l pilgrimage site in Shikoku. Also of significance is the relationship between pilgrims and hosts- the coacting system; and the relationship between hosts(maintenance and management person) and the pilgrimage site- the maintenance and management system. T his paper examines these three systems as they relate to miniature pilgrimage courses.


2. System for circulating through a miniature pilgrimage course

2.1 Comparison of original pilgrimage course with imitation miniature pilgrimage course

(1) Items of comparison

Eight miniature pilgrimage courses in the north Harima area of Hyougo Prefecture were researched. A detailed comparison was made of the design and use of space between the miniature pilgrimage courses and the original 88 stop Shikoku Course.

? Building on the research of Oda and Tanaka into the relationship between design and functionality in a sacred place the following items related to the structure of a sacred place, were selected for comparison: direction of the circuit through the cou rse and whether circuit is open or closed; number of stops; principal sacred images displayed; other types of images; and distance between stops (Oda, 1984: 62-63, Tanaka, 1981: 240-251). Regarding pilgrimage etiquette, to make comparison of manners and c ustoms the following items were selected: action of pilgrims; action of hosts; and schedule of pilgrimage. (Table 3)

(2) Structural Comparisons

Direction of the circuit through the course and whether circuit is open or closed: Most of them have a curved course; 5 out of the 8 have a closed circuit and with the exception of Jissouji Temple1) all of the courses have a circular motif (Table 4). T he direction followed around the circuit is clock-wise like the original in Shikoku. Most courses are found in the back of the main temple building. Thus they are arranged in relationship to the temple building. The topography of courses has considerable uphill and downhill slopes and flat areas.

Number of Stops, Principal Sacred Images Displayed, Other Images Displayed: Each pilgrimage course has the basic 88 stops. Each stop has 2 stone images- the principal image and one of Kobodaishi; stop number; stop name; name of the principal image; nam e of places related to image's construction; and the name of each image's maker. A comparison of the names of each stop and principal images of each stop revealed that with only a few exceptions the imitation pilgrimages were true to the original. In the original course in addition to the 88 stops, there are several additional places visited by pilgrims which are related to the legend of Kobodaishi. The most popular places are Ikiki Jizo, Senryu Temple, Tanjodaishi, and Konpira Shrine(more commonly known as"Konpirasan" and symbolizing "Shikoku"). These places are also imitated in some of the 8 courses studied. Not all of the additional elements were established at the same time as the 88 stops. Many were added later. This indicates that the extraordinary effort to imitate the original 88 stop Shikoku Course has been ongoing.

One of the more interesting types of additional places are stone monuments (Fig. 3) which symbolize which part of Shikoku now being passed through. 4 of the 8 spiritual places studied have them. Unlike places like Konpira Shrine which is a small shr ine for pilgrims to worship at these stone monuments are installed as signs to communicate a sense of being in Shikoku.

Distance between stops: In Shikoku there is no uniform distance between the stops along the pilgrimage course which is obvious to those making a pilgrimage. When constructed some of the miniature pilgrimages attempted to be true to the original course regarding the distances between stops. Data supporting this was found at Chomeiji Temple and Jodoji Temple (Fig. 4). For the miniature pilgrimages it is easier to be true to the distances between stops than to copy the topography between stops. A time-dis tance comparison was made between the 88 stops of each of the 8 courses studied and compared to that of the original in Shikoku (Fig. 5). This comparison revealed that the miniature pilgrimages studied have not succeeded in duplicating the original to thi s extent. Among the 8 courses Chomeiji Temple, Jodoji Temple, and Komyoji Temple attempted to be accurate regarding distance. Each of these has considerable physical area to adapt this style. The others tended to make the distance between stops more unifo rm.


(3) Comparison of etiquette

The etiquette followed at each pilgrimage course by the pilgrims and hosts was documented and compared.

Action of pilgrims: Because there is physical space between the stops of the pilgrimage the repeated act of <stopping - walking> is a feature of all places. The act of walking (stepping) is an important element of a pilgrimage.

Action of hosts: As at regional pilgrimage courses the custom of hosting exists. Groups of believers in Kobodaishi such as Daishiko once acted as hosts at each of the 8 pilgrimage courses studied. Today, they are still active at Sairinji Temple, Chomei ji Temple, and Jokoji Temple. In contrast to the hosting in Shikoku which is a voluntary act the hosting at miniature pilgrimages is carefully scheduled and organized.

Schedule of Pilgrimage: The 21st day of each month, which is related to the anniversary of Kobodaishi's death, is the designated day for almost all the courses. This is a case of making a certain time holy and it is referred to as "Day of Odaishi-san," and celebrated like a festival day. While they imitate Shikoku by having circulation around a pilgrimage course and hosting they transform it by deciding the date possible for it. They supplement their imitation of design by imitating the actions found i n the original 88 stop course. Thus, the participants all are acting as characters.


(4) Implanting of soil as a symbol

It was found that except for Zenryuin Temple and Jokoji Temple the other temples had brought back sand from each temple of the original course and buried it in the corresponding stop on the miniature pilgrimage course. This is called "Suna no Kanjyo [I mplanting of soil]." Once again the effort made to be as true as possible to the original course can be felt. By placing reproductions of images, creating signs, and using etiquette the miniature pilgrimages attempt to reproduce as closely as possible the original Shikoku Course. However, they cannot change the fact that theirs is an imitation. It is the "sand" which is the only "real element" from the original course in the imitation. This makes "stepping on the sand" the only true reproduction of walkin g the original Shikoku Course.


2.2 Landscape appreciation and structure of space

The construction of reproductions of items found in prefectural, district and city pilgrimage courses is often limited by the need to connect existing Buddhist temples. But, miniature pilgrimage courses which are created artificially try to copy all el ements of the original faithfully. Common features of the original and imitation are the walking through the pilgrimage course and pilgrims being hosted, but the essence of the actions is different. In the original course there are very strict regulations related to walking through the course which are not found in the imitations, and in the original, pilgrims are hosted at each temple whereas in the imitation pilgrims are hosted after completing the entire course. In the miniature courses there is an eff ort to create an artificial experience which is out of the ordinary such as walking through a forest path which has artificially constructed sites along its way. In this kind of pilgrimage walking is emphasized more than looking. Regional pilgrimages (pre fectural, district and city) try to reproduce the original by creating a walk with an ascetic element. Miniature pilgrimages try to symbolically reproduce the walking experience.

? A general evaluation of the relationship between time and space at miniature pilgrimages(Figure 6) based on Fukunaga's model which attempted a structural analysis of pilgrimages as a kind of drama (Fukunaga, 1979: 74) was done. If the original 88 sto p Shikoku Course is a pilgrimage to commemorate Kobodaishi, imitation courses are a means to commemorate the 88 stop Shikoku Course. It can be said that miniature pilgrimage courses provide an experience in space which reminds pilgrims of the images of Sh ikoku and Kobodaishi through the physical action of "walking" ritually and symbolically.


3. Coacting System of miniature pilgrimage courses

3.1 Coacting System

The villagers' participation in imitating the hosting, manners and customs of the original 88 stop Shikoku Course to produce a pilgrimage experience was documented. The coming together of the "pilgrims" and "hosts" on the 21st of every month can be sai d to be the creation of a coacting space with each party giving a performance. The coacting can be defined to include 1) a scenario which is the "88 stop Shikoku Course," 2) those doing the acting - the villagers and pilgrims, 3) the performance of the pi lgrims making a round of the pilgrimage and of the hosts doing their hosting, and 4) the setting of the stage which is the arrangement of the pilgrimage courses. In sum, the miniature pilgrimage course can be considered a stage for coacting the "88 stop S hikoku Course" once a month in a village (Fig. 7).

3.2 Characters of the Coacting System

(1) Performance of the Scenario - flexibility

At the time of their origin miniature pilgrimage courses were meant to be faithful reproductions of the original Shikoku Course. Such things as the kind of effort made regarding distance between stops and creating a similar kind of atmosphere have been previously discussed. Another kind of imitation was discovered regarding the association of certain stops with the granting of divine favors. It was found that the granting of divine favors is associated with Chomeiji Temple's stops 19 and 88, Sairinji T emple's Ikiki Jizo, and Zenryuin Temple's Sabadaishi. These are also imitations of what is found at the original Shikoku Course. However, a lore related to this which is only associated with the miniature pilgrimages was found. This lore is conspicuous in Jodoji Temple. Possibly, because the principal image of the temple is Yakushi-nyorai, god of healing, it has become customary for people to come to make a pilgrimage to pray for passing an entrance examination or for good health. Also, such actions as ma king a pilgrimage alone in the dead of night or visiting stops up until the number of your age can be seen. Jokoji Temple advertises that its "Odaishisan really works." Chomeiji Temple has 3 jizo images which are found by stop 88 which are believed to be gods of marriage.

? From the above examples it can be seen that while maintaining the elements of the original course some miniature pilgrimage courses have been flexible in changing or adding some elements. The establishing of these unique elements can also be thought as a means to induce more people to make a pilgrimage.

(2) Performance and Acting - circulation and openness

System of Hosting

An examination of the system of hosting at Jokoji Temple and Sairinji Temple reveals how hosting is delegated among their believers. Jokoji Temple divides its believers into 12 groups corresponding to the 12 months of the year. Each group hosts once a year. In the early morning of the 21st day of the month the female volunteers of the group place and arrange the offerings which they prepared the night before around the stone images along the course. After hosting pilgrims with tea they collect the mone y offering left by pilgrims around the course in offering boxes and break up. Sairinji Temple has a Daishiko Group of the elderly women from an area covering 8 villages. They serve as hosts and serve tea to pilgrims. However, because of the decreasing num ber of pilgrims it was noted that chatting in the tea room among hosts seems to be the main activity.

Miniature Pilgrimages as a place of contact with the outside world

Establishing a miniature pilgrimage in a temple required the cooperation of people not directly associated with the temple. Thus, in a village community it was a source of contact with the outside world from the time of its establishment. Villages can be described as being basically closed systems. Since miniature pilgrimage courses are utilized by outsiders it can be said that a miniature pilgrimage course is like a boundary area where the hosts and pilgrims could coact at relative ease. That is this area is one where the roles between the actors is defined and the tension of the outside world contacting the closed village is stabilized. It is a static space for exchange. It was observed that this exchange was overall positive and generally involved a n exchange of information.

3.3 Relationship between miniature pilgrimage course and village

A miniature pilgrimage course is constructed with the aid of people in and outside of the village, and a system of hosting is set up by villagers. Once a month, on the pilgrimage date, there is an exchange between the outside people appearing in the vi llage and the villagers. In order to sustain the miniature pilgrimage in the village certain aspects of some pilgrimage courses have been changed to bring them into line with the current period. In this way it can be seen that value given to space can be flexibly changed through the activity called "coacting." This may account for the continuing survival of a pilgrimage course. At the same time, the coacting of villagers and pilgrims once a month reminds villagers of the value of the village community and pilgrimage course.


4. Maintenance and Management System of Miniature Pilgrimage

4.1 Special Features of Maintenance and Management System

(1) Creation of various relationships - playing multiple roles

At a pilgrimage one finds people playing multiple roles. For example, a host may also make a pilgrimage and at the same time clean the course and maintenance the stop. This creates a higher degree of interaction and communication among people and deepe ns the people's relationship towards the pilgrimage course (Fig. 8).



(2) System of Maintenance and Management - Cooperation and Support

The current system of maintenance and management: Before WWII, maintenance and management was always done by local residents. For example, Jodoji Temple, Zenryuin Temple, and Sairinji Temple were taken care of by local residents in exchange for them be ing able to take home firewood but now the temples do the maintenance and management although in Jodoji Temple simple cleaning is done by pilgrims. In Chomeiji Temple, when there is a need for repair of stone images descendants of donors of the images are first asked. If the descendants turn them down offering is asked for from believers with deep faith. This system is run by the hosts of the pilgrimage (Fig. 9). Pilgrimage courses in relatively poor temples are maintained, managed, and repaired by the vi llage community. But today, overall, most temple's do their own pilgrimage course management which means the attitude of residents is becoming more passive.


4.2 The case of Banjo 88 "the union of households"

(1) Union system of a miniature pilgrimage

Tsukada identified 5 advantages for a farm village to have a miniature pilgrimage system: 1) it strengthens the sense of village solidarity, 2) it gives an opportunity for villagers to compare their village to other villages, 3) it is a chance to excha nge knowledge and technology, 4) it provides opportunities for human interchange and matchmaking, and 5) it creates places for recreation (Tsukada, 1988: 15). When a pilgrimage course is established the sense of union is high because of the large sum of c apital and time invested by people in it. After its establishment the sense of union is maintained by the hosts hosting the groups of people making a pilgrimage. Among the temples which are pilgrimage stops a network of temples is formed which can said to be a union of temples. Also, a union among a village is pointed out (Shimazu, 1990: 9-10). A union of a community is created by the establishment of a pilgrimage route.

(2) The union of households

In the Banjo 88 Course in Banjo village of Yamatokoriyama City, Nara Prefecture 88 households each have an image of Kobodaishi which are displayed in front of their houses on April 21st of each year. Thus, a very rare one-day miniature pilgrimage cours e appears. This was started when an infectious disease or a calamity of some kind struck the village. Since at that time there happened to be 88 houses in the village, they made this miniature pilgrimage course using those houses to pray for divine favors from Kobodaishi. There is a legend that if anyone tries to go beyond the village border with an image of Kobodaishi their cart will stop moving. Thus, the 88 images have been kept in the village. Creating a pilgrimage by uniting households where each hou se is a pilgrimage stop is called "Union of Households." A union of households is like a miniature version of a union of villages. Establishing a miniature pilgrimage was a means to maintain a gathering or group of 88 households. However, in a miniature p ilgrimage course which is a union of households it is important to have individual participation because each house becomes one of the stops.


(3) Banjo 88 as a system of participation

With each of the 88 houses putting out a Kobodaishi image (Fig. 10), all households participate equally whether they be of the upper or lower class of the village. This is a very significant feature. In the original 88 stop Shikoku Course, an important fact is that there is no superiority or inferiority among temples. The meaning in the pilgrimage is found in taking the whole of the 88 temples. A union of households pilgrimage course imitates this. Each individual household is responsible for creating a stop with meaning which is a well organized type of system. In the case of the Banjo 88, the houses and the pilgrimage space are the same. Therefore, each household is responsible for the decoration of the stop and hosting. Each household has an equal a nd fixed role. Residents who act as hosts have developed their role independently without creating differences in terms of status.


4.3 Miniature Pilgrimage Courses as a System of Union

The examination of households in Banjo 88 revealed that by imitating the original pilgrimage course with individual houses, houses were united which brought stability to the village community. They built their social system by taking advantage of the h oliness and the wholeness associated with the number 88 which comes from the 88 stop Shikoku Course. Since a miniature pilgrimage course, which is a space to remind pilgrims of Shikoku, needs 88 stops, the subjects participating in establishing stops (i.e . donors, houses, temples) are encouraged to have ties and responsibility even after the establishment. Thus, a system of union has been maintained.


5. Conclusion - Relation Between Miniature Pilgrimage Courses and Communities

Villages set up miniature pilgrimage courses as a substitute for the original 88 stop Shikoku Course. Then, what started out as a simple imitation of the original has become a space of imaginative creations through various ideas. It is also interesting that human exchange such as the coacting of pilgrims and hosts has become a part of the miniature pilgrimage experience. Through this, pilgrims and hosts have developed mutual relations and systems of rich human interaction and information exchange. Fina lly, it is the connecting of the 88 points of a pilgrimage course which adds a sense of union and order based on these points. If these points are distributed in a village area, a village community can have a sense of being one body through having the pil grimage.

? Therefore, it can be said that a miniature pilgrimage course is a "mediator" to connect various things.





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