Welcome to this site, and the blog, and all the updates that come from now on. I am really glad that you came to visit. My name is Mark Groenewold and I am responsible for what you come and find here.
I first came to Japan in 1992, and I have been living mostly here ever since. I initially started to work as a high school teacher in a rural part of Japan (Ishikawa Prefecture) and lived there for more than a decade. I taught high school, then university, graduate school, and junior college too. I also worked with several companies as well, among them some biggies like Sony and Hitachi.
Now I live in Kagawa Prefecture, which is one of the four prefectures of Shikoku. I don’t teach university or at big corporations any more. There is a companion website to Your Pilgrimage in Japan called Come To Kagawa. That website is a place where you can see a little more of all the cultural, artistic, food and drink, and scenic/recreational things that Kagawa-ken, and all of Shikoku have to offer. I hope that while on pilgrimage you may also take some time to relax, eat and drink well, and to see some of the cultural things that you may otherwise walk by.
My wife and I run a chain of language schools here, and we love working with kids. Our website for our schools is www.englishbiz.jp
Our passion is two-fold. One is to help kids become bilingual, to build bridges for people from different cultures to meet, communicate, and understand one another better. We feel that this is the best way to bring about long-lasting peace. We do not easily demonize or attack those with whom we share a language. Communication and education inoculate kids from violence, and hate. And we can use a lot more of that in the world these days.
The second part of our work is to do what we can to tell others about our home, our city, our prefecture, and our region. The Shikoku Pilgrimage will bring you all the way around Shikoku, and in it you will see four different places, each with its own feeling and identity. All while you are finding yourself on the road.
But you did not come here to read about me. That is hardly interesting at all. I imagine that you came to this website because there is something about YOU that is interested in the notion of pilgrimage in Japan. Something here has piqued your curiosity and you are wondering if going to Japan is something that may be in your future.
I think that is great. And I want to do what I can to help you do that.
What you will find here is a growing wellspring of information and images of the 88 Buddhist Pilgrimage that goes around the whole island of Shikoku. I am learning much as I am going along, and getting information and insights from those much more experienced and wiser than Yours Truly.
The motivation for making this project and website is to create a unique kind of invitation for you, and for people outside of this part of Japan to discover a path that is very worthwhile traveling. The act of going on a pilgrimage is deeply rooted in cultures and past civilizations all over the world. This pilgrimage is no different, and has with it a unique feel and experience.
What the pilgrimage means, or why you travel it, is up to you. Some carry the memory of someone lost to them. Some travel to regain health. Some walk the miles to find something in their own heart that is fading or missing. Some come for the adventure of learning and exploration. Some walk for healing. Whatever your purpose, you are sure to meet someone, or something on the road. My hope is that this website may provide some small service or assistance or inspiration to you.
I will be truly glad if that much can be done.
What makes this website different than other books, articles, blogs, reports, or websites about the “ohenro experience” of Shikoku is that the journey of the author (that would be me) is taking a backseat to YOUR journey. In fact, I may not be in the backseat at all. I might be in the trunk, or tucked away in the glovebox. Ok, enough of that metaphor… The difference with this website is that I will do as much as I can to provide you with details of each location you visit. I want to get the information of what can be seen, or what the temple you are in is about. What is the “theme” or story of the temple. And I shall do as best I can to refrain from “lecture-mode”. I don’t want you to fall asleep… I hope that I can do that, to simply inform rather than interpret, to paint the picture rather than explain how you should feel about it.
In addition, if you are an ohenro, and if you have been on the pilgrimage I would love to hear about it. This site is not just about what I think about it all. If you have been on the path, or are in process, or somewhere on your journey with something to share, let me know! There are LOTS of gaps, and a real need for updated information.
One big project is to develop a complete map, with travel times of where people can stay as they travel by foot or bicycle. That is something that should take quite a bit of time to assemble, but I think it could be of great help and service.
Thank you so much for coming to visit today. It means a lot.
You are the pilgrim. This is your journey. Let me know if I can help.
In the meantime, and in between time, travel safe.
Feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org