Latest Lamentations

Oh… this site needs much more work. Oh…. I have no idea when I will get the time to really get it looking better. Ohhhh… there are so many topics and things that need to be addressed here. Ohhhhhhh….. I am still not finished the first time through the 88 temples.

What are you gonna do? In Japanese you can say, “Shikata ga nai” or “Shouga nai” (which as a gag can also be translated as “I have no ginger.”

I just got back home after a two-day installment of temple 27 (Kounomineji) down to… temple 18 (Onzanji). Remember, that this is a “gyaku-uchi” year so many pilgrims are visiting temples in reverse order. This was an overnighter for me, so I was away from my family, and I stayed at a very “Showa-era” standard hotel in Tokushima (The Rivera) with all the flavors and textures that go with that. It is just across the Kochi border looking out on the sea. The view from my window was marvelous. The onsen, however, was divine.

I get out on the ohenro trail once a month, but it is very much like a kind of respite from running our company, and gives me a little space to think, to daydream, and to think about what we are all about, and how we must focus better on serving our students, and beyond that-serving our fellow humans.

I fill up my camera with unbelievable pictures and I love doing that. This last trip has some real gems in it, and it was a very good time for me to learn, to stretch my mind a little, and to calm my overly anxious heart.

I will try to get the photos up on the site, and get back to the grindstone of filling in some blanks too. I really need to thank you guys who visit for being so patient as I slowly stumble along here.

IMG_0822

Please stay tuned!

Mark

Your Essential Guidebook

This guidebook is a must-have for anyone who is traveling on foot for the 88 Buddhist Temple Pilgrimage. If you are planning on coming out this way, you simply must have this book in your pack. There are times that cell phone batteries die, internet access is not possible, or if you are like me, you actually lose your phone in the sea. It is times like this that you must prepare to go “old school”. Yes, that means that you will need to harken back to the “good old days” when our knowledge was somehow stored on pieces of paper which were fastened in a stack either by thread, staples, or glue. You know what I am talking about! You got it!

Books! Yay. I love books.

So, this book is full of maps and little synopses of the various temples and surrounding area attractions. It is really quite a marvel that so much information could be packed into a single book. It is very inexpensive too. Mine cost 1,600 yen, so that is about 16 bucks.

shikoku88Cover-2105

But this book is not without controversy! Yes, indeed. There is scandal. There are divisive voices as to its worthiness for taking precious space in your backpack.

The first criticism I heard is that the information is not completely accurate as to what places are open for lodging and which are closed. The people who make this criticism are unhappy that the book does not behave as an electronic data holding machine that updates its information instantaneously. It is an outrage! Yes, how can a book not be like the internet! I demand all my books to behave like my computer!

The second criticism I heard is that the book is too heavy. I read of a critic who suggested that the book be printed on lighter material, perhaps the glue in the binding could be cut down, or that there is simply too much useful information that had better be deleted. Another outrage! Yes, we all know that the movement of ohenro is much like an Olympic competitive swimmer who shaves all their body hair off so that they can move much quicker through the water. We need the ohenro to be more streamlined and aerodynamic.

My own response to these two criticisms is 1) Books are not computers. Plan your trip better and get the information you need from a bunch of sources before putting the responsibility for YOU have a place to sleep on the guys who made this book. 2) If you think you will be too tired to carry around this “heavy” book made of sturdy useful pages of maps, just imagine how tired you will be walking 20 kilometers off course when you have nothing on paper to properly guide you.

This book is the labor of love of a whole bunch of people. It is updated regularly and there are Facebook groups and websites that update the status of places to stay. Mr. Tateki Miyazaki, Mr. Naoyuki Matsushita are the authors of this book. Translation done by Mr. David Moreton. Publishers is Buyodo Co. Ltd.

Remember that before you get out on the trail you need this in your pack. There is no real reasonable way around this. I can walk around with it in a big side pocket of my jacket or in a small pocket in my carry-around bag. It really doesn’t weigh much, and the information in it could really help you when you need it.

 

Sacred Journeys Documentary

If you are considering coming out to Shikoku to experience the 88 Buddhist Temple Pilgrimage, a documentary you might consider checking out is this one:

 

 

It is the episode of the television series, Sacred Journeys, which takes place all over the world and is an exploration of different kinds of journeys and pilgrimages, discussing the purpose, the journey, and those who travel these paths. This episode is quite well done and it is a good representation of what you may see should you come out this way. It is a bit long, so get yourself a cup of tea, settle in, and enjoy.

Hope, real Hope, for the Future

I am getting old. I am getting grouchy. My knees and back hurts in the morning. I am very unfriendly before I have a cup of coffee in the morning. I am what I thought my grandfather must have been like. Old grouchy man.

Young people today! Terrible! They have crazy hairstyles and listen to terrible music! Young people make trouble. They are lazy. They don’t study enough. They have no  plans or hopes for the future. Young people are a pain in the neck.

I think that might have been me when I was 16. But what you will see in the videos below are kids that are nothing like I was. These are the real shining gems of tomorrow. I watched all the speeches and I was very impressed, some of them are quite touching. I have hope for tomorrow, and I always believe that the next generation will bring good with it. Our job, as the grouchy old generation of today, is to clean up some of the debris and destruction that we inherited from the generation before ours.

Shikoku Pilgrimage Japan Heritage Council put together this speech contest. It falls under their, “Project to Promote the Attractions of Japanese Heritage”. The results of this project were probably quite unexpected. The speeches are very heart-warming and authentic. I encourage you to check out all the video on this page.

 

Here are the videos I could find of the individual speeches. They are really quite lovely. And before you think that sometimes the pronunciation is not clear or perfect, please keep in mind that Japanese, as a language, has no natural sounding “F”, “L”, “R”, “V”, or “TH”. Before you criticize, you should try to put together your own speech in Japanese that requires navigation through grammar and vocabulary that would make your eyes bleed.

I thought that these young adults did a tremendous job, and provided a marvellous and elegant service to the theme they wrote and spoke on. Not only did they create these speeches, committed them to memory, but they had to stand in front of room of people to deliver their ideas and feelings. It takes guts and courage to do a speech, and then to do it in a foreign language too… wow. The only thing missing from their high school uniforms are capes.

Awesome! And…. up … up… and away!!!!!

Check these out!

Tour de Ohenro

Momoko Ochi

Core Value of Henro

Honoka Tsujihara

The Spirit of Hospitality (Omotenashi)

Yu Aono

The Shikoku Pilgrimage: Continuing Calmly

Risa Inaba

A New Encounter That May Change Your Life

Nami Yanagihara

Teachings of Kukai

Kirara Shinozaki

From Shikoku to the World

Akari Fujiwara

Would You Like Some Tea?

Rina Oike

To Be a Person Who Can Do “Oseetai”

Sakura Sasao

Wishes from Taiho-Temple, the 44th Temple of the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Yasuteru Oonishi

“Go-en”, Yukari on the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Yukari Kubo

Awa Wasanbon Sugar

Moyuka Fununishi

I am an English teacher and I am learning more and more about the Ohenro experience as I go along these weeks and months. It is a great privilege to hear these future leaders speak about their homes, their culture, and their identity as it connects to this pilgrimage. It is of the heart and from the heart. It is great to bear witness to these messages.

These students, no doubt, make the hearts of their parents, grandparents, and teachers just burst with pride.

Simply beautiful.

 

 

Baritone Ohenro Lesson

When I was a kid, way back when the earth was still cooling, we had a magical device called a “filmstrip machine”. It looks like this:

slide_2

I was forced to go to a Christian private school and we had to watch many of these filmstrips that were instructional and formative lessons on how one ought to behave. A low baritone voice would come in with something like:

“And that is how we now know that the study of evolution and the fanciful belief in dinosaurs was largely a man-made fiction used to confuse the younger generation. We must be aware of Satan’s never ending plan to confuse our hearts with empirical data and scientific theory.”

The dialogue throughout whatever we were watching, played either on vinyl record or later on cassette tape, would pause and a PING! would sound out. Then the teacher knew to advance to the next frame of the filmstrip. Our filmstrips were not limited to indoctrination sessions alone. We had filmstrips for geography and science as well. I must have heard that PING! about a billion times.

Imagine my utter amazement when I found this Youtube gem. I hit the play button and then BEHOLD! There was THE VOICE!!! Well, maybe not the exact voice I heard as a kid, but remarkably similar in the tone, the pace, the carefully crafted sentences and scripted dialogue that told you:

“You are back in school. The teacher is speaking. You must listen carefully. There may be a quiz at the end of the filmstrip.”

But, in truth, I found this quite lovely. It is dated, but may be interesting to people first looking at what the Ohenro experience is all about, and how it looks and feels. I watched it a couple more times and I thought that, in the end, it is pretty all right. Check it out!

I also, strangely had an urge to run out and purchase a bucket of juicy fried chicken, something that would be coated in some secret combination of herbs and spices, along with a healthy side order of coleslaw, but I am not sure why.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 12.40.33 PM

Pitstop in Takamatsu

About a month or so ago, I met a very nice gentleman as our Ohenro tour bus was cruising through Kochi. Manfred, from Germany, was at Kokubunji and seeing a fellow expatriate, as I always do, I said, “Hello.”

Now, there are different kinds of expatriates who come to Japan. Some are very friendly, like Manfred. Some are not so friendly. And yet others, may feel insulted that other expatriates are “intruding” on their unique experience of drinking in the Japanese atmosphere, culture, and all things “wabi-sabi”. In the worst cases, my greeting is ignored and a cold shoulder turned. I have a dubbed this phenomena, “the gaijin snub”.

Manfred was having none of that. I said “Hi”. He said, “Hi.” And within moments we were talking and getting to know each other. Sadly, my group was hustling through the temple and I had to get on the bus with them, or fear being left behind in the parking lot. I passed my contact information to Manfred and invited him for dinner in Takamatsu when he arrived. He graciously accepted and we had a very nice visit, complete with pasta and beer (yay!).

IMG_5747

Talking with Manfred made me realize that we should have something on this site about the experiences that expatriate pilgrims are having on the 88 Buddhist Temple Pilgrimage. So, with that in mind, Manfred again graciously accepted to be “interviewed” by me and answered a set of questions that I have prepared.

My plan is to interview a bunch of different people with the same questions and then post them all together in a new section on this site. I think that would be interesting and maybe of some use to people thinking about coming this way and giving the pilgrimage a shot themselves. So, if you are someone who would like to be “immortalized”, or who would not mind the intrusion, I would very much like to send you my set of questions and have you send them back my way, with a photo of yourself as well. Send me an email at: englishbiztakamatsu@gmail.com.

There are many people who walk these miles, and we have a chorus of pilgrims who have tales to tell. I am hoping to bring these voices to the forefront so that others can hear, and learn, and feel the same inspiration that brought you to walk all those miles.

Manfred in on his way towards Temple 88!

All the best! Travel safe!

 

Mark

Ohenro NPO

I love digging around in Youtube and online to find cool things that are related to the Ohenro (pilgrimage) experience here in Shikoku. There are many unseen, and unvisited sites and videos out there. Some real gems can be found. I like this video. I thought is was so organic and natural. No preaching. No big explanation about the “deeper meanings” of things, and what you should do and say, and who you should try to be. Just clean, pleasant, “in the moment”, and simply beautiful.

Produced by the Ehime International Tourism Support NPO, and designed by “Takeshi F”, this video transports the viewer into the pilgrim’s experience. You are just hanging out with these three out-of-town pilgrims and just walking the trail. What could be better? The music is very soothing, and the visual images of the forests, the fallen leaves, the reading of the Heart Sutra, make it a very tangible experience.

Thank you Takeshi! You made a beautiful thing here.