Indira Ghandi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi : January 5-9, 1999


Adjustment Within a Representative Japanese Pilgrimage System

Hiroshi Tanaka Shimazaki

The University of Lethbridge, Canada





The Buddhist pilgrimage to the eighty-eight temples on Shikoku Island, Japan is a representative circular pilgrimage covering nearly 1400 kilometres (960 miles). Associated with K_b_ Daishi (774-835 A.D.), the Shikoku pilgrimage has been popular si nce the beginning of the seventeenth century and continues to attract increasing numbers of pilgrims from all walks of life. Its endurance and undiminished social significance is due in part to its having been able to accommodate those changes necessary to keep pace with modernization while not abandoning traditional ties. Exploration of the adjustments that have been made by pilgrims, pilgrim leaders, priests, area residents and transportation providers alike in the attempt to resolve the conflict be tween tradition and modernization reveals the underlying strength of the ongoing popularity of this pilgrimage. The emergence of the pilgrimage as a spatial-symbolic system, the changing nature of the way in which the pilgrimage is made (acceptance of mo dern modes of transportation, order of temple visits, establishment of miniature pilgrimages), changes in the ritual conduct at each sacred site, and the responsive maintenance of temples reflect Japanese cultural preference. The successful adaptation of the Shikoku pilgrimage to "contemporary society" down through the centuries is indicative of the remarkable metamorphic ability of Japanese society. This geographical case study focussing on a Japanese example supports the notion that pilgri mages are an inherently dynamic self-organizing system.


As in many other countries the world over, the practice of pilgrimage is prevalent in Japan. The earliest known reference to junrei, the Japanese term widely translated as "pilgrimage," appears in Nitt_ Guh_ Junrei-k_ki ( Record of a Pilgrimage to T’ang Dynasty China in Search of the Law ), written by Ennin, one of the great Heian priests, in the ninth century (Reischauer ). The practice of pilgrimage no doubt existed before this time, however, and over the centu ries many different kinds of pilgrimages with their associated terms have emerged. There is an ongoing effort to develop a typology of and framework for the understanding of the nature of Japanese pilgrimage (Geden, Kitagawa, Hoshino1981, Tanaka 19 83, Reader & Swanson).

A dominant characteristic of Japanese pilgrimages is the inclusion of designated multiple sites. Two of the best known examples are the Saikoku and Shikoku Buddhist pilgrimages. Saikoku is a thirty-three-stage 1200 kilometre Kannon pilgrimage while the Shikoku pilgrimage, the focus of this paper, encompasses eighty-eight temples. Its circular route extends 1,385 kilometres (960 miles), making the Shikoku circuit among the longest pilgrimages in Japan (Figure1). Associated with K_b_ Daishi (774-8 35 A.D.), this pilgrimage has been popular since the beginning of the seventeenth century and continues to attract increasing numbers of pilgrims from all walks of life.

A geographer, intrigued by the longstanding existence of this place-bound institution, I participated in the Shikoku pilgrimage in 1972, walking the route in 78 days. Since then, on numerous visits to the island, I have remade the pilgrimage in se gments and in its totality . Firsthand observation coupled with the information gleaned from the literature revealed the dynamic nature of the pilgrimage, a characteristic shared by pilgrimages around the world.

The changing nature of the way in which pilgrimages to the Shikoku eighty-eight places are made, ritual conduct at each sacred site, and the management of the pilgrimage places reflects Japanese cultural preference. Underlying the dynamic processe s are the ongoing adjustments occurring in response to the inescapable tensions that have emerged over time between tradition and modernisation. These adjustments, manifest in almost every aspect of the pilgrimage, are the outcome of the attempt to r each a compromise between, on the one hand, the acquisition of religious merit and, on the other, expediency.

Conflict between the attainment of religious merit and finite, externally imposed restrictions and pressures symbolizes the larger set of incongruities associated with the increased physical pace of life in the secular arena and the yearning for t he security of some sacred absolute. The nature of the adjustments that have been made in various dimensions of the pilgrimage along with the roles played by those intricately involved with this phenomenon (pilgrims, pilgrim leaders, priests, area reside nts and transportation providers) are herein examined.


Formative Stage

K_b_Daishi: Spiritual Founder

Tradition holds that the Shikoku pilgrimage was established by K_b_ Daishi, a late eighth/early ninth century priest who founded the esoteric Shingon Mikky_ sect of Buddhism and a "cultural hero" who introduced many new ideas, technolog ies and practices after a period of study in China (Hasuo).

Over the centuries, a strong association of K_b_ Daishi with the pilgrimage has emerged. Pilgrims, whether they walk or use some mode of transportation, carry staves symbolizing K_b_ Daishi. Written on them are the words d_gy_ ninin, " toget her with K_b_ Daishi," signifying that pilgrims are making the journey in the presence and under the protection of K_b_ Daishi. Each of the eighty-eight places enshrines a representation of K_b_ Daishi in the daishid_, a primary focus of pilgrim ritual. Kuy_t_, or markers, erected in his honour and sacred trees and stones with which legend has associated him are also found within the compounds.

K_b_ Daishi was born on Shikoku; it is not surprising, therefore, that it was here that a pilgrimage associated with him developed. But what is the historical connection between K_b_ Daishi and the eighty-eight temples? Priest Ch_zen, in Shikoku Henro Nikki written in 1653, suggested that K_b_ Daishi visited the eighty-eight sacred places and in this way was the originator of the pilgrimage. In the existing records left by K_b_ Daishi, however, there is no reference to a pilgrimage to the eighty-eight places although in Sang_ Shiiki written in 796, he does mention three places on Shikoku, Mt. Tairy_, Cape Muroto, and Mt.Ishizuchi, where he went to seek religious revelation (Y.Kond_, Miyazaki). All of these are directly or indirect ly integrated into the Shikoku pilgrimage.

Contemporary temple records indicate that all eighty-eight temples were established before 835, the year of K_b_ Daishi’s death, giving credence to the notion that he could have visited the temples. These eighty-eight temples, however, were not the only temples on Shikoku during K_b_ Daishi's lifetime. Review of Shikoku temple histories revealed that there were at least 165 temples, of which 130 claim a strong association with K_b_ Daishi, citing him as founder, consecrator, or sculptor of their honzon(chief deity), or claiming association with his activities (Tanaka 1983). It seems that by the beginning of the ninth century there were many candidate sites for incorporation into the pilgrimage.


Emergence of the Eighty-Eight Sites

When and how did the pilgrimage come to encompass the present eighty-eight places? These questions were raised as early as the late seventeenth century by Buddhist priest Jakuhon in his guide book to the Shikoku pilgrimage, Shikoku Henre i Reij_ki (Jakuhon 1689). The answers were not known then, nor are they now, although there has been considerable speculation. Y. Kond_ (1971) suggests that the number eighty-eight had come to be associated with the Shikoku sacred places by 1471 bas ed on inscriptions found on temple statuary. Jakuhon provided descriptions of ninety-two sites without reference to assigned numbers. The list began with Zents_-ji, widely recognized as the birth place of K_b_ Daishi and today temple 75.

Temple numbers did not come into usage until some time after the seventeenth century, probably when the pilgrimage gained popularity among people living outside Shikoku. People from all parts of Japan and all walks of life - beggars, actors, royalty, p riests, political figures, great teachers, lepers, and peasants - have always been among the pilgrims..

Today the first temple in the circuit is Ry_zen-ji. It is the first temple to be reached by pilgrims coming from central Japan via Awaji Island and, therefore, a convenient starting point for the pilgrimage. Ry_zen-ji is also a convenient starting point for pilgrims who come to Shikoku after visiting K_ya-san, the headquarters of the Shingon Mikky_ sect and the place where K_b_ Daishi died.

Over the years, repeated practice of the pilgrimage starting at Ry_zen-ji and continuing in a clockwise direction, reinforced by constant reference to this order in the pilgrim guide books and maps, cemented the sequence. Thus it could be said that fr om the outset, the Shikoku pilgrimage assumed a convenient circuit for the pilgrims, at least for those approaching the island from the east.


Elaboration of the Pilgrimage System


The Number Eighty-eight

The historical process through which the eighty-eight sites came to be included in the pilgrimage is uncertain. Nor can it be ascertained if the number eighty-eight played a role in the selection process or was imbued with meaning as a result of it s association with the pilgrimage. Whatever the case, several explanations of the link between the Shikoku pilgrimage and the number eighty-eight exist, perhaps the result of a collective endeavour to bind the pilgrimage into an authentic unified whole.

In 1690, Jakuhon equated the eighty-eight sacred places with the eighty-eight kenwaku, or illusions of the mind that distort the truth, taught by K_b_ Daishi (Jakuhon 1690). To visit the temples is to eliminate the illusions one by one.

In 1763, Hosoda , on a early pilgrimage map, suggested that the distribution of the eighty-eight sacred places over the four prefectures of Shikoku symbolized a fourfold mandala situated among ten worlds on each of the eight petals of a lo tus altar and shining incessantly over the Buddhist world (Hosoda). To make the pilgrimage was to unite with the universe.

The numbers four and eight have long been important in Buddhist thought. Four sites marking the birth, training, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha , as well as the division of his ashes into eight parts and their initial enshrinement in stup as are widely known. Japanese folk tradition holds that ashes from one or all of the eight Indian stupas are believed to be buried within the compound of each of the Shikoku eighty-eight temples.

In considering the significance of the number eighty-eight, one may also point out that the Kanji for eighty-eight, when combined, form the character for rice, the most important staple in Japan. Reference is frequently made, especially on Shikoku, to the fact that eighty-eight is also the total of the three dominant yakudoshi, or "calamity years:" 42 for men, 33 for women and 13 for children.

The effort to find meaning associated with the number eighty-eight, expressed in Buddhist writing and folk tradition, is indicative of the desire to anchor an otherwise loosely coordinated system and synthesise the pilgrimage. Over the centuries the practice of maintaining the number of sacred places at eighty-eight has itself contributed to the significance of this number.

Along the Shikoku path, pilgrims encounter and often visit a multitude of temples and wayside shrines known as Bangai ("out of number sites") and/or Okunoin ("inner temples affiliated with one of the eighty-eight temples& quot;). These are not within the designated eighty-eight, but many claim a strong connection with K_b_ Daishi as in the case of Kaigan-ji (a contestant, along with Zents_-ji, for K_b_-Daishi’s birth place) and D_gaku-ji (where K_b_-Daishi studied in his youth). Twenty of these temples known as Bekkaku Nijukka-ji Reij_ are engaged in a collective effort to strengthen their links with the official pilgrimage (Tanaka 1983). Headed by Kaigan-ji, they have united into a sub-pilgrimage. Officia l sanction of this sub-pilgrimage would bring the combined number of sacred places to 108, widely recognized as a significant number in Buddhism as well as in Hinduism (R. Singh). So far, however, the effort to attract pilgrims in any number has been largely unsuccessful.

For pilgrims, the clear declaration of eighty-eight as the number of stages within the "closed spatial entity" provides confirmation that the pilgrimage has culminated when the assigned temples have been visited. Maintaining the number at eighty-eight over the centuries has given the temples a strong collective identity, while reinforcing their special religious significance. Acting as a consistent binding force, it has contributed to the integration of the Shikoku pilgrimage as a spatia l and symbolic system.


Shikoku as a Buddhist D_j_

The earliest known map of Japan drawn by Priest Gy_ki in 805 shows that Shikoku, literally "four countries," was divided into four administrative units or prefectures (Akioka). The distribution of the eighty-eight sacred places over these four prefectures has fostered the development of the concept of Shikoku as a Buddhist d_j_ or holy place of learning and practising The Way. "In the religious world the metaphor of the ‘way’ (d_, michi) is used to refer to situations such as seeking the way, or seeking the law" (Hoshino 1997, p.297). Traversing the island in a clockwise direction, it is believed that pilgrims are travelling the path to enlightenment.

Each of the four prefectures represents a stage along this path and symbolically constitutes a smaller d_j_ serving a specific purpose reflected in its name. Hosshin no D_j_ (Tokushima Prefecture) is the d_j_ for the awakening of the mind to the possibility of supreme enlightenment; Shugy_ no D_j_ (K_chi Prefecture) is the d_j_ for the religious practice required to attain enlightenment; Bodai no D_j_ ( Ehime Prefecture) is the d_j_< /I> for the attainment of wisdom and understanding of life necessary for enlightenment; and Nehan no D_j_ (Kagawa Prefecture) is the dojo in which the satisfactory completion of all that has gone before will lead to total enlightenment.

Within each d_j_, one temple has acquired the symbolic function of sekisho, or spiritual checkpoint which "sinners" cannot pass. Their locations do not follow any particular rule with respect to their spatial relationship to other sacred places within the d_j_, but, with the exception of the sekisho (Tatsue-ji) in the first d_j_, the sekisho is one of the most physically challenging sites to reach within each d_j_.

In addition to Tatsue-ji (temple 19), K_nomine-ji (temple 27), Yokomine-ji (temple 60), and Unpen-ji (temple 66), the four prefectural sekisho, there is also the ura-sekisho, a fifth sekisho for the four d_j_ together. Kan jizai-ji (temple 40), located approximately halfway along the circular route from Ry_zen-ji (temple 1), was chosen to fulfill this role. It is the first sacred place pilgrims visit after crossing into the third d_j_.

The process through which the concept of Shikoku as a Buddhist d_j_ emerged is not clear, although it was likely developed by Buddhist priests/scholars who wished to illumine the deeper and transcendental dimensions of the pilgrimage beyond the pragmatic realm.

Early Temple Complex

As will be discussed later, historical records reveal that the positions of the sacred places are not necessarily absolutely fixed. It could be argued, therefore, that the geographic setting of each sacred place is characterized not solely by the sit e as it exists unaltered by man, but rather primarily by the assemblage of landscape markers that have been invested with special meaning.

Each sacred place is a geographic complex encompassing a multiplicity of concrete "physical features," both artificial and natural, each of which possesses a unique character. What were the distinguishing features of the eighty-eight temple landscapes centuries ago? The earliest surviving comprehensive written and pictorial description of the pilgrimage sites is contained in Jakuhon's Shikoku Henro Reij_ki published in 1689. From Jakuhon's data I have attempted to reconstruct the seven teenth century temple landscapes.

Before considering the built structures it is useful to explore the general characteristics of the sites of the sacred compounds. It would appear from Figure 1 that the majority of sacred places are situated on the narrow coastal plain at the outer f ringe of the island; however, when the sacred places are visited it becomes evident that most of them occupy mountain-like sites. While the absolute elevation may not necessarily be great, the approach to the temple is often via a steep hill or the temp le may be situated in a forested area on a low hill creating the atmosphere of a mountain setting.

From my empirical observation it would appear that of the eighty-eight sacred places, sixty-one are situated within the mountains. Of these, twenty-five are located on the top or near the top of a mountain, the highest elevation being that of Unpen-j i (temple 66) at 911 metres, and thirty-six are surrounded by mountains or have mountains behind them. The remaining twenty-seven temples are clearly situated on the plain. During the seventeenth century, when the island was less developed than now, te mple settings must have been more mountain- like. It was in these mountain and mountain-like settings that the structures were erected , with southern or eastern orientation.

Examination of Jakuhon’s records of seventeenth century temples reveals that the eighty-eight places had six "common" (occurring at more than 44 temples) structures: hond_, yashiro, kuri, mon (gate), sh_r_(belfry), and hei(wall). As many as eighty-five temples had a hond_, or main hall in, which the honzon or chief deity was enshrined. The three places without hond_ were Kokubun-ji (temple 15), Iwamoto-ji (temple 37) and Shusshaka-ji (te mple 73).

Today, all the eighty-eight places have hond_ which collectively enshrine twelve different kinds of honzon. The twelve deities represented and their frequency of occurrence are Kannon (30), Yakushi (24), Amida (10), Dainichi (6), Jiz_(6 ), Shaka ( 5), Fud_ (4), Kok_z_(3), Miroku (1), Monju (1), Bishamon (1), Daitsuchish_ (1). Iwamoto-ji enshrines five honzon hence, all together, the number of honzon totals ninety-two.

In the seventeenth century, seventy-seven temples had a yashiro, the dwelling place of various kami or shinto deities, indicative of the strong association between the the early temples and Shintoism. Kuri, the administrative/r esidential structure, were found at seventy-six temples, but less than half (35 temples) had a daishid_, or building dedicated to K_b_ Daishi. Daishid_ are presently found at all eighty-eight temples suggesting that the association of the sacred places with K_b_-Daishi has grown stronger over the centuries. The strengthening of the ties between the eighty-eighty places and K_b_ Daishi is perhaps partially the outcome of a deliberate effort on the part of the Association of the S hikoku Scared Places.


Association of Sacred Places

As the pilgrimage gained popularity during the Meiji era (1868-1912), the temple priests united to form Shikoku Reij_-kai, or Association of Shikoku Sacred Places. Established towards the end of the nineteenth century, the aim of the associ ation is to propagate the teachings of K_b_-Daishi and thereby heighten the worship of him as well as to foster cooperation among the eighty-eight temples towards their future development.

One of the significant aspects of the places of pilgrimage is that they are the focal points of various ritual activities performed by countless pilgrims. Such pilgrim ritual is rooted in Buddhist teaching and has been tempered by Japanese cultural tr adition. In order to authenticate proper pilgrim behaviour along the route as well as at each sacred place, the association began the practice of licensing pilgrim leaders.

Currently there are about 7000 licensed pilgrim leaders holding a variety of "ranks." Standardization of pilgrim behaviour has been attempted by the association through the publication of its handbook (Shikoku Reij_-kai). Within the guid elines provided, a pilgrim leader will make appropriate adjustments to accommodate the needs of his particular group. For the pilgrim travelling alone, pilgrimage guide books offer information on conduct as does the observation of other pilgrims. De spite the propensity to give a definite structure to pilgrim behaviour, the reality of the ritual landscape is diverse indeed.


Pilgrim Assistance

As the pilgrimage increased in popularity, the custom of settai developed as local residents along the route responded to pilgrims by extending assistance in the form of gifts of food, money and accommodation. Settai is of benefit not only to pilgrims; it is also believed to bring merit to those who extended it, thus making them active participants in the pilgrimage.

This custom, still practised today, not only on Shikoku but also where replicated pilgrimages are practised (R. Kond_), has expanded with the development of settai-k_. Settai-k_ are voluntary groups of people, usually from outside Shik oku, who band together to provide settai on a large scale. Settai-k_ members spend the pilgrimage season at a temple ministering to pilgrims. Twenty-eight temples have responded by providing space for the construction of a separate build ing within the temple compound from which settai-k_ can carry out their activities.



Locational Adjustment

Replication of the Shikoku Pilgrimage System

To make the pilgrimage to the eighty-eight sacred places in the traditional manner, on foot, required fifty to sixty days, or longer for the sick and crippled. A pilgrimage of two months’ duration after possibly travelling to Shikoku from oth er parts of Japan was, for many, a difficult task. Personal considerations of finances and time were barriers to participation in the pilgrimage, as were political constraints during the Edo period when movement from one prefecture to another was regula ted. In response to these difficulties and to endorse the worship of K_b_-Daishi, the process of pilgrimage replication in miniature emerged.

Of at least forty-one such miniature pilgrimage systems established outside Shikoku, many are still active today (Shinj_). I have compared three of the well known imitative pilgrimages, Sh_do, Chita, and Sasaguri, with the original model elsewhere (Tanaka 1981).

Miniature pilgrimages cover a shorter distance, although there is considerable variation in circuit length; if made on foot, they may take up to two weeks to complete. All share the belief that soil from each of the original places was brought to a nd embedded in its counterpart in the miniature pilgrimage.

Like the original Shikoku sites, the miniature pilgrimage places are circular in arrangement, although the assigned temple numbers do not always conform to the sequential-spatial order of the sites. While the original sites contain a variety of buil t structures, their miniature counterparts are marked by smaller structures with limited variety, or, in some cases, by natural features, such as caves or waterfalls.

Each pilgrimage site, whether original or imitative, has an association with K_b_ Daishi and one or more Buddhist deities. In the miniature pilgrimages, however, the association with Buddhist deities differs from the Shikoku model with regard to the range and frequency of occurrence of images enshrined. In the Sh_do pilgrimage, for example, variations among the deities are particularly great, with a number of Shinto deities included. The opportunity provided for symbolic participation in the Shikok u pilgrimage affords the participants at least some religious merit. Such pilgrimages may also stimulate the desire to make the Hon-Shikoku, or "Real Shikoku," pilgrimage at a later date.

In addition to the miniature pilgrimage systems, the sacred places of which are primarily marked by temples, there are throughout Japan, including Shikoku, numerous replicas of a much smaller scale. In these, the eighty-eight places are represented by a set of stone markers each of which has carved on it the name of one temple and the figure of the honzon of that temple. These stone markers are placed side by side in a row, although sometimes they are spread over a more extensive area. Oft en these markers stand within a temple compound and can be visited in a matter of hours/minutes. These miniature pilgrimages have been instigated by the head priest of the temple in which the markers are found, either at his initiative or in response to congregational demand. They particularly attract the local residents of the area (for detailed discussion of this type of miniature pilgrimage, see Tanaka 1983, Hoshino 1994 ).

Replicated pilgrimages have been established for the convenience of those who wish to make the original pilgrimage but are unable to do so. Another accommodation of pilgrims unable to make the pilgrimage in its entirety has been the recogn ition of segmental pilgrimages.

Traditionally, the practice of visiting only the temples in one prefecture ( Ikkoku mairi) and returning to Shikoku four times in order to complete the pilgrimage was common. Today, pilgrims make whatever segment of the pilgrimage is convenient at one time. With the completion of each segment, certain religious merit is believed to have been attained and when all segments of the pilgrimage have been completed the religious merit is almost equal to that gained when the pilgrimage is made all a t once.


Relocation of Sacred Places

Are the locations of sacred places stable over time? To answer this fundamental geographical question, I have examined various published sources and temple records. Since the middle of the sixteenth century, the earliest period for which records exist, the exact positions of at least fourteen of the eighty-eight sacred places have changed (Tanaka 1983).

Six were originally located within Buddhist/Shinto complexes. Changes in their locations occurred when Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines were forced to separate in the early 1870s under Haibutsu-kishaku, the nationalist policy of the Meiji Governm ent that declared Shinto to be the state religion and attempted to weaken externally introduced Buddhism. Priests at the other eight temples made the decision to relocate the complexes in each case after the temple structures were destroyed by fire durin g a succession of feudal wars. The most recent relocation occurred in 1921 when H_ju-ji (temple 62), forced by the ravages of war to move in 1636, altered its location again, this time to accommodate the building of the national railway.

With the exception of the J_raku-ji (temple 7) which moved three kilometres from its mountain site to the plain, all the moves have been less than two kilometres. Thus, the general locations of the sacred sites have not changed and neither have their positions within the sequential order of the pilgrimage. By undergoing minor positional adjustments, the temples have been able to maintain their traditional relative position within the pilgrimage system.

Adjustment in Circulation

Contracted Time and Distance

Modern modes of transportation have affected pilgrimages everywhere by continually expanding their catchment areas and altering the way pilgrimages are made. Many of the changes the Shikoku pilgrimage has undergone in the last century have stemmed from the development of alternative modes of transport. In the 1920s, some pilgrims began to use horse-drawn wagons, and in the 1940s it became common to make the pilgrimage using local rail facilities where they were available.

As a rail system encompassing the entire periphery of the island where most of the temples are found has never been built, today, the most common form of transport is chartered bus. Private bus companies within Shikoku and other parts of Japan have developed all- inclusive "pilgrim packages" in which transportation, accommodation and meals are included in the price. Bus drivers and their assistants are knowledgeable about pilgrimage practices and often play a key role in the completion of ritual activities at the sacred places. They are entrusted with the pilgrims’ n_ky_ch_ or stamp books, taking these to receive the temple stamp, the sign that the temple has been visited, while the pilgrims complete the other rituals within the compound. Bus pilgrimages are usually lead by a priest.

Pilgrims also travel by taxi, private car and motorcycle, with the result that the required time to complete the pilgrimage has been reduced from two months to about two weeks. With that has also come a reduction in the overall cost of accommodation until, today, to make the pilgrimage on foot is likely the most expensive way. The reductions in time and cost have opened the possibility of making the pilgrimage to almost everyone. With this the line between the religious pilgrimage and the recreati onal journey has blurred. However, the pilgrimage has always included a recreational aspect. Meeting and mingling with other pilgrims as equals regardless of social position, a characteristic of pilgrimage in general (Turner), was one of the great plea sures of the journey. The chance to interact with people from other walks of life and from other parts of the country has been greatly diminished now that pilgrims travel in large groups, the members of which belong to same social unit, propelled around the island at breakneck speed in order to complete the pilgrimage in minimum time.

When I made the pilgrimage in 1972, the immediate access to one temple in each prefecture was by mountain footpath only, deliberately left this way to give pilgrims some sense of the traditional pilgrimage. All but one of these footpaths lead to se kisho temples. In the intervening years, however, paved roads and cable cars have been introduced to provide alternate access to all of these temples in an attempt to accommodate increasing numbers of aged bus pilgrims as well as tourists.

The most recent innovation in mode of pilgrim transport came in mid-1998 with the advent of charter helicopters for "flying visits" to the sacred sites. These helicopters belong to Shikoku K_k_, a company engaged in the transport of construction ma terials to the remote mountain sites of a variety of hydro projects. The intention of the company is to serve physically handicapped individuals who wish to make the pilgrimage. Six pilgrims at a time can be accommodated on this four day pilgrimage. Sixty-seven temples are visited from the air, the helicopter hovering above each sacred place while the pilgrims chant and pray. Due to their urban locations and subsequent air traffic restrictions, the remaining twenty-one temples are visited by van. Th e role that helicopters will play in the future in offering members of Japan's rapidly aging society yet another alternative in pilgrimage travel is difficult to predict.


Shift in Point of Embarkation

The circular arrangement of the temples makes it possible for the pilgrimage to be initiated at any desired point. The emerging contemporary trend is for pilgrims to begin at the most readily accessible temple. Two of the three recently plan ned bridges linking Shikoku to Honsh_ have been completed. The first, opened in 1987, was the Naruto automobile bridge connecting Sumoto on Awaji Island and Naruto City in Shikoku. Its completion had little impact on the pattern of traditionally prescr ibed circulation, as pilgrims using it continued to arrive on Shikoku at a point close to Ry_zen-ji (temple 1).

The second, the Seto Bridge, opened 1988, is an automobile and railway bridge connecting Kojima on the mainland and Sakaide on Shikoku. It brings pilgrims close to Zents_-ji(temple 75), the birth place of K_b_ Daishi. The third, the Imabari Bridge fo r vehicular traffic, will open in spring 1999 and will link Onomichi on the mainland with Imabari on Shikoku, bringing pilgrims close to Nank_-b_ (temple 53) on arrival on the island. Like the Seto Bridge, it is expected to bring about a change in the or igination point for pilgrims, particularly those coming from western Japan.

Since the opening of the Naruto and Seto bridges, a new and unexpected pattern of pilgrimage circulation has emerged. Arriving via the Naruto Bridge, pilgrims visit Ry_zen-ji (temple 1) then, travelling counterclockwise, go directly to _kubo-ji (temp le 88) and leave the island via the Seto Bridge. Despite the fact that, "in the Shikoku pilgrimage one can never say one has completed the pilgrimage just by visiting the first and last temples on the route" (Hoshino 1997, p.280)," this hi ghly abbreviated circuit has been recognized as a distinctive pilgrimage and named accordingly tobashi henro or "Skipping Shikoku Pilgrimage."


Sequential Order and Direction

As more and more pilgrims use some form of transportation, fewer and fewer follow the prescribed sequence exactly. Because it was originally designed for the walking pilgrimage, it is not always well suited to vehicular travel, and access to some t emples from the preceding temple in the sequence does not always make good sense "economically." These changes in sequence are relatively minor though, occurring only within small groups of temples in each prefecture. Prefectural boundaries a re never crossed out of sequence, no matter how the order of sacred places is altered, and the overall clockwise direction of the pilgrimage remains. Despite the minor changes, the traditional spatial symbolic organization of the Shikoku system is still essentially intact.

Visiting the eighty-eight sacred places in sequence in a clockwise direction, following the route believed to have been designated by K_b_ Daishi, gave rise to the term junrei or "sequentially ordered visit." Although the pronunciat ion is same, this term is different from junrei meaning pilgrimage. The difference is clearly evident from the kanji for each term. Many pilgrims believe that K_b_ Daishi made the pilgrimage in a clockwise direction and that they are fol lowing in his footsteps. But visiting the eighty-eight places in sequence in a counter-clockwise direction is not prohibited. It is done occasionally, often by pilgrims who believe that by travelling in the opposite direction they will meet K_b_ Daishi coming towards them.


Ritual Adjustment

Today pilgrims have only a short time to spend at each temple if the pilgrimage is to be completed in the time available. In order to complete the set of rituals at each temple as quickly as possible, contemporary pilgrims often abbreviate the rit uals.

Chanting in front of the hond_ and repeated at the daishid_ is considered to be central to the ritual. After the initial rituals at the gate, ablution basin and bell, the main chant begins with the Hannya-haramita-shingy_ commo nly known as Hannya-shingy_. This is a compendium of Buddhist teachings in 262 characters. To chant the 262 characters is to chant the Buddhist scripture. This is followed by Honzon no Shingon or the true words of the honzon. S hingon proclaims the greatness of the Buddha, and as this greatness cannot be expressed through human language, shingon is actually a set of sounds, not words. The particular shingon chanted at each temple depends upon thee type of honzon enshrined therein. The final part of the chant is "Namudaishi-henj_-kong_," words dedicated to K_b_ Daishi. These words, like the shingon, are repeated three times (for a detailed descriptions, see Tanaka 1977). < /P>

The rituals performed at the hond_ and daishid_ take about thirty minutes. Pilgrim groups try not to intrude on each other’s rituals but half an hour is a long time to wait when time is of the essence. In order to m inimize the time spent chanting, pilgrims mumble the words at top speed. In the extreme cases individual pilgrims merely glance at the hond_ and/or daishid_, bow in its general direction, and hurry to receive the temple stamp, omitting mo st other ritual activity.

The h_n_in or temple seal was given originally in exchange for handwritten oky_ (Buddhist scripture), but now pilgrims pay a prescribed sum and get the seal which signifies that the pilgrim has visited the temple. In the height of the p ilgrim season in spring and fall the n_ky_sho is very crowded and stamping is seldom completed in the time it takes pilgrims to complete the rituals at given sacred place. At these times it is not uncommon for the stamp books to be driven around t he island in a separate vehicle and the stamps to be collected independently of the pilgrims' visits. Busloads of pilgrims entrust their stamp books to the drivers and/or someone employed especially for the purpose who will receive stamps at the n_ky _sho on their behalf. In the meantime the pilgrims proceed with other ritual activities. Pilgrims travelling singly will often observe the n_ky_sho upon entering the compound and, if it is not crowded, will go there immediately. Such activit ies as these have brought about considerable variation in the traditional, ideal pilgrimage ritual process.


Management of Sacred Place

Expanded Job description

Pilgrim places, like any other places, do not just "happen" or "exist." They are centres of meaning and the focus of human endeavour to foster their special significance. The temple landscape is an expression of the priests' intentions , managerial abilities, and the accommodation of pilgrims' needs. Proper maintenance of the temple landscape today, as in the past, is an important issue facing priest managers concerned with the continuing existence of pilgrimage.

A major concern is the protection of wooden buildings from fire. The presence of k_ro (insence burners) and r_sokutate (candle stands) essential to pilgrimage ritual, close to the hond_ and the daishid_ greatly increases t he possibility of fire. Early detection of fire is critical, especially in the case of the twenty-four temples whose mountain top locations make their accessibility by fire-fighting equipment difficult.

As the pilgrimage gained popularity, tasks involved in the management of the pilgrim places expanded. With the increasing number of pilgrims, problems related to "mundane" aspects of the pilgrimage multiply. Priests must concern themselves with such things as the provision and maintenance of parking, toilet, and garbage facilities, not to mention the daily upkeep of the grounds: raking, sweeping, watering and pruning

Beyond the temple boundaries they must concern themselves with the upkeep of the traditional pilgrim walking path leading to the temple and the maintenance of traditional and contemporary route markers. Recognizing the unique cultural landscapes alo ng the pilgrimage path, the Association of the Shikoku Sacred Places is collecting and compiling data to support their future application for status as a UNESCO heritage site.


Decision Making re: Form and Function

Like religious structures elsewhere in Japan, Shikoku temple structures are made primarily of wood. Construction, reconstruction and maintenance of the structures have always been a major concern. Today, as in the past, many t emples are facing new construction and reconstruction needs. Priests must set priorities within the resource limitations of the temple.

The central argument revolves around the decision concerning building materials. The tradition of temple architecture which has developed over the centuries has given rise to a harmony between the function and form of the structures. Ideally, buildi ngs should be constructed to closely resemble the "original," However, there are problems in realizing this ideal. Traditional materials such as zelkova wood (keyaki) and Japanese cypress (hinoki) are becoming scarce and expensive. Carp enters skilled in temple craftsmanship have almost disappeared. Three courses of action present themselves: build entirely with wood; build a wooden facade with the remainder of the structure being steel and concrete; construct the structure entirely of modern materials.

Priests favouring wood as the primary construction material argue that it creates a gentle, warm and authentic atmosphere, while concrete buildings are bleak and without comfort, tending to shut off the human mind. Those who favour concrete as a domi nant building material, however, point to its advantages: durability, fire resistance, lower cost and lower maintenance. The decision made by the head priest of K_on-ji (temple 61) to construct an ultra-modern hond_ furnished with chairs was con troversial in early 1970, but today many structures made of modern materials are visible in the temple landscapes.



Focussing on a representative multiple site Buddhist pilgrimage in Japan, this paper has identified the changing nature of the Shikoku pilgrimage. Exploration of adjustments that have been made by pilgrims, pilgrim leaders, priests, area resid ents and transportation providers alike in the attempt to resolve the conflict between tradition and modernization reveals the underlying strength of the ongoing popularity of this pilgrimage that has evolved over time. The nature, intensity, and focus of the roles played by those individuals and institutions central to the foundations and practice of the pilgrimage have shaped the direction and texture of the evolution of this pilgrimage .

The Shikoku pilgrimage has witnessed dynamic change in spatial setting, temple landscapes and pilgrim ritual and movement. Despite the increasing secularization of Japanese society, the popularity of the Shikoku pilgrimage shows no signs of waning. Changes are ongoing to accommodate the modern pilgrim and his/her fast-paced, affluent lifestyle.


Is the fact that some of the world’s age-old pilgrimages have survived and continue to serve important functions due in part to their having been able to accommodate those changes necessary to keep pace with modernisation while not abandoning tradit ional ties? This geographical case study focussing on a Japanese example supports the notion that pilgrimage is an inherently dynamic self-organizing system (Malville) : pilgrimage sites emerge and decline and the spatial pattern of pilgrimage circula tion and ritual activities at specific locations change over time. The successful adaptation of the Shikoku pilgrimage to "contemporary society" down through the centuries is a indicative of the remarkable metamorphic ability of Japanese soci ety.



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