14May2011: David Moreton

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The Shikoku Pilgrimage Route - Changing with the Times
David C. Moreton

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The "6th Shikoku 88-temple Circuit Experience" program was so enjoyable and memorable that when I heard about the 7th pilgrimage walk being planned, I quickly and anxiously applied. I was pleased to see that this time there would not be any arduous mountain climbing, but it is always refreshing to walk through forests on dirt paths. During this walk I spent a lot of time with the person leading the group and really enjoyed his commentary about the pilgrimage path and various sites as we walked through the tranquil countryside. In fact, several times he took us off the regularly traveled route - the one that modern-day pilgrims take and the one that is marked in guidebooks. He said, "Let me show you the original path" or, "See that path over there, that is the original path", and he explained path markers, pilgrim tombstones, statues, and other historical facts along the way. It was thanks to him that I was able to learn a lot about the history of the pilgrimage, but it made me wonder what will happen to the old and original route. Will it and the facts that he told be slowly lost with time? I was sad to see him leave a short while before our final destination - a stretch of about two kilometers leading into the city of Kanon-ji that was the least interesting and most difficult part of the day. It was not appealing because he was not around to provide conversation and commentary, and difficult in the sense that walking on a narrow asphalt sidewalk with cars zooming by, with the sun blaring down and no sign of greenery was, to be honest, not enjoyable. What was this section of the pilgrimage like before the city was built? It is unfortunate that there was not another way into the city.

I really take pleasure in these pilgrimage events because the participants are able to hear talks from temple staff and perhaps see temple treasures that are not usually open to the public. I would like to thank the organizers for their extensive planning and preparation and I look forward to participating in the next event. To further promote the Shikoku pilgrimage I think it would be wonderful to have events like this held in each of the four prefectures in Shikoku.


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