Shikoku Henros- The Island of Shikoku Pilgrims

......Japanese version is here
Yoshihiro OoMIYA

On the Island of Shikoku in Japan, there are the Sacred Places : 88 Temples connected with
Kobo-Daishi ( St. priest Kobo ), and the people call the pilgrims who visit there and pray to the
Buddha and Kobo-Daishi " Henro " or " O-Henro-san " with some intimate feelings.

. Shikoku Sacred Places : 88 Temples..
@@..concerns to my story

No.1 Ryozenji
No.12 Shosanji
No. 20 Kakurinji
No.21 Tairyuji
No.23 Yakuoji
No.38 Kongofukuji
No.45 Iwayaji
No.60 Yokomineji
No.65 Sankakuji
No.66 Unpenji
No.86 Shidoji
No. 88 Oukuboji
.... Cited from YONDEN .. See under-described, No.2 ( Note )
In Spring 1997 , I made this Henro-trip at the age of 70, walking around the Island
of Shikoku.It took 36 days for me, and the whole courses of it is about 1.400km, but sometimes
some Henros might lose their way on the course, so the distance of it is more or less different from
each other. Me, too.
February 22, I started at No. 1 Temple: Ryozenji Temple at Bando in Naruto City to
the west in strong windy and snowy weather. The Shosanji Temple ( No. 12 ), the Kakurinji Temple
( No. 20 ) and the Tairyuji Temple ( No. 21 ), these were on the perilous pass, but I hardly arrived
there and prayed at each one, then went to the Yakuoji Temple ( No. 23 ) that was in Hiwasa Town
along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. This was the last temple located in the Province Awa ( old name
of Tokushima Prefecture ).
Then I crossed the pass of the border line of two prefectures in two days, and arrived at Cape
Muroto-misaki on March 1. And then I had a little sightseeing of the Castle Kochi-jyo, and on March
10, I arrived at the Kongofukuji Temple ( No. 38 ) at Cape Ashizuri-misaki which is the most
southern area of Shikoku Island.
The following day after that day, I walked over the Province Tosa ( Old name of Kochi Prefecture ).
It took for me 12 days from the departure.
Walking through Sukumo City and Uwajima City, I walked for North to the mountainous area, and
arrived at the Iwayaji Temple ( No. 45 ). Here I had hardly walked over about a half of the full course.
Passing through Matsuyama City and Imabashi City I arrived at the Yokomineji Temple ( No. 60 )
that was in the depths mountains, and then arrived at the Sankakuji Temple ( No. 65 ) on February
24. Like this, I used 12 days in the Province Iyo ( Old name of Ehime Prefecture ).
March 25 I hardly arrived at the Unpenji Temple ( No. 66 ) that was located at the highest area : 900
meters hight, in the Island Shikoku, and crossed the pass into the Province Sanuki ( Old name of Kagawa
Prefecture ) and after 5 days, March 29 I finally arrived at the final temple: the Oukuboji
( No.88 ) I saw some wonderful cherry blossoms at the No. 86 temple: Shidoji Temple.
As I described here, there were six time' s climbing mountains and a few times the same ones, and
a lot of the mountain passes on the whole course, so these were for me so difficult to walk on.
My style was like the following: wearing light grey colored working cloth, putting on " Kyokatabira":
traditional Henro's short outerwear, hanging "Zuda-bukuro ": simple Henro's bag from the neck ( inside,
a rosary ), wearing a mountaineering cap and light mountaineering boots, carrying a nap-sack with
about 15 kg weight ( inside, goods in need of the Henro ), and taking a special stick: Kongo-zue.
This was my Henro style, and it was a little different from the traditional Henro ones, but I thought I
would be a little reserved, and also I had the same spirit of real Henro's.
In fact, I have always been a little paralyzed in the waist, and it had sometimes caused pain on the
way, but anyway, I had endured them using a body warmer and some ointment : "Saronpass".
But one day, I felt a lot of pain on my thigh, and fortunately it happened in the street, so I hurried up
into a inn , entered into the foot warmer and warmed the whole body. Fortunately I got well the following
day. Concerns to the pain of the shoulders caused by carrying the nap-sack, I did not mind it after a
few days since the departure.
Even though I had made a decision to walk over the full course, but had sometimes been
with the long coast of the Pacific Ocean: 80 km from the Province Awa to the Province
Tosa, and the mountains of the Province Tosa and both of the east and west coast to Cape Ashizuri-misaki.
For instance, one day I had seen nothing except few trucks in half a day and the other day, I had seen
no person in a day, so I had been cheered by the Notices written as " XXX Km to the Cape Muroto-
misaki ! ", " XXX Km to Matsuyama City ! ". The number of Kilo-meters had been less and less.
When I was tired, I sung some military songs like these, " Even if there would be hard stone,
we could hit on it with an arrow by the strong, strong will ! "( How many thousand enemies would be there !
Composed Bimyo Yamada ), and " Song of Ground Army ", " Fellow soldiers ", " Star fell and Autumn
wind at Gojogen " written by Doi-Bansui, and I thought these songs had been composed in the Meiji era.
I didn't know the traditional Henro-sans chanted Buddhist prayer or didn't at their hardest times.
And also I sung, " We are cheerful kids of the Ocean." walking along the coast to Cape Ashizuri-misaki
and sung " Hakone Hachire" on the road of moutains. By the way, I am always singing these songs for a
walk now.
I was accustomed to walking silently after I entered into the Province Iyo.
To tell the truth, in the middle of March there are a lot of Henros in the Island of Shikoku, for
Henros boarding buses and cars are there, but there are very few walking-Henros.
For my case, too, and whenever I had been walking on the long, strait national road and had looked for
a Henro carefully, I could not find a Henro, wearing the traditional white wears. No, sometimes no men
I heard Henros would have customs to exchange " Osame-Fuda" : Certificated charms, of themselves
instead of their name and address cards, but I had not done it except in one case of being asked for it.
Every morning, we would leave the same inn almost at the same time, but soon would separate
each other, for walking powers were different, and we usually met at the following Temples again.
On my trip, I had a man with whom I took a meal at the first inn and met eight times on the way till
Matsuyama City. He was a young man that had come from Sendai City and had worked at a hospital in
Tokyo. I am a little disappointing now not to hear the reason why he became a Henro.
And I had another young man who was a former-teacher of art at a senior high school and wanted to be
a camera-man. I met him five times on the whole way after meeting at Cape Ashizuri-misaki for the
first time, and we had been walking along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea for about two hours, and I
heard the story of his experience of his stay abroad in Firenze, and tasteful wines for him there, so I
told him a very good " Shochu" : a kind of Japanese alcoholic drinks.
He told me that his wife was an opera singer, but I didn't ask him if she was an Italian or wasn't. He
came from the Province Naruto. I hope he will succeed as a camera-man.
For Henros, it is a purpose to get the stamps and memorial notes written by the priests at the
Temples on their " Nokyo-cho" : special note-book. Some Henros would want to get these on their
personal hanging- pictures and some others, and these might be the treasures for their families.
I had heard that walking-Henros had the order's priorities to get stamps and memorial notes at
the reception desks at the Temples, but it had not been the truth. But in that case, walking-Henros
should not be angry, for the angers would be against the instruction of " Don't be Angry ! " by Kobo-
Daishi, and they should consider the causes by themselves.
But in the Province Sanuki, the situation of it was a little different from that of other Provinces. It
might be a little of my favorism, for I came to Tokyo from the Province Sanuki a long time ago.
For instance at a Temple there, " Are you a walking-Henro ?" asked a priest, and he gave me the first
order of getting stamps and memorial note, pushing aside the crowded Bus-tour Henros and their
And one day, I so trembled myself impressed when a priest worshiped my Nokyo-cho rising it up over
his head. Of course his prayer was meant to worship the Buddhas and Kobo-Daishi, but for me I felt
his appreciation to my long, hard walking-Henro trip as the old aged, even if a little left.
And in my walking in Takamatsu City, some passengers boarding a bus cried out to me, " Ganbatte! ":
" Tough it out, you ! ".
Concerns to O-Settai ( Service to Henros by unknown native citizen )
I received O-Settai in a suburb of Tokushima City at the first by a middle aged woman in her seventy's.
After that I had sometimes received these, and these were sometimes money, sometimes food. For
instance, I received " Ponkan" : special orange of Koch's noted product, tea can, 100 yen : extra
change of the paid lunch, unexpected some money instead of non-boarding on their cars with my thanks.
I don't forget a little bitter, delicous orange :" Buntan" at a house at the foot of the summit in Kubokawa
Town in Kochi Prefecture.
O-Settais are not only money, foods, and some other visible ones, but also are hospitalities,too. For
instance, guide Henros who are at a loss on the way. Me, too. I received such O-Settais.
As for my service of O-Settai, in my boyhood of the middle school days, I went to make O-Settai with
some youth taking some amount of rice, "Mochi ": Japanese rice cake, some cakes and some others.
Rice would be a kind of fee in the inns. I don't forget some old Henros told us grace, putting together
their hands. And sometimes I remember the scenes of Henros wearing white clothes, ringing little bells
on the banks of the rivers.
I was welcomed by a lot of "Uguisus": Japanese bush warblers in the mountains in the Province Awa, and
saw some camellias and "Nano-Hana" even in early spring, and could hear frogs' singing in the small rice
fields before transplanting rice paddies. And also I heard the singings of kites, flying comfortably in the
sky. These had let me remember the scenes from a long time ago.
A female innkeeper of a small inn told me ," Henro-trip would be effective for three
and I didn't ask her how it is effective, but anyway it might mean that most of Henros would
like to make Henro-trip after three years again.
The nature and the atmosphere of human kindness on the Island of Shikoku and the mind of Henro's
would help the people to make Henro-trips. Me, too. I would like to make it again in the future.
( Note ) Kobo-Daishi
His name is Kukai, and in 774 he was born in the Province Sanuki ( Kagawa Prefecture). After
coming back Japan from China (To) he began a new Buddhism: Shingon-shu, and became the most
famousBuddhism priest in Japan, and after he died at the Mountain Koya-san in 835, he was given the
honor- able status: Kobo-Daishi by the Emperor.
Japanese have the traditional belief that he had trained severely at the 88 Temples in the Island Shikoku
by himself, so Shikoku Hero means that a Henro is always walking with him on the whole way , even if
he / she is alone: Dogyo-Ninin.
Written in August, 1998...( Translated by Shoji Sugita )