Yamacha Ohenro Channel

Right now there is a rather nice channel you might want to follow if you are interested in walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage. You will get a day-by-day account with Yamacha! I’ve just started walking the videos and they look great. I also really like the music too.

If you have some time, sit back and let Yamacha Ohenro walk you through the daily journey of “Aruki Henro”, the “Walking Pilgrim”.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIUFJJYTiGZ2129tw0CZTMA/videos

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Hard Copy of Your Pilgrimage in Japan

Amazon is a speedy machine. I had put out the notice that the Kindle version was ready to go and when I woke up this morning I got the notice that the hard copy version is now also available.

I can’t describe how excited I am that this book is out there. I have written books before, and make a bunch of textbooks/homework books for our English student. But this one is a special book. It is one that I hope will serve as an inspiration to whet the appetite of people who are all over the world and thinking of doing something for their lives that may help them get “on a better path”.

Of course, no vacation or long walk through the woods and through temples will solve all your problems. But time away from the noise of things that drag you down, a bit of a disconnect from the white sound of television and media, and a chance to learn and explore the glorious Shikoku Pilgrimage may do one’s soul good.

So, if you are interested please get yourself a copy of the book. Available through fine internet connections everywhere:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1701297779/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=your+pilgrimage+in+japan&qid=1571792058&s=books&sr=1-1

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Gareth Leonard in Shikoku!

A rather substantial and influential Youtube creator, Gareth Leonard, comes to Shikoku. At the behest of the Shikoku Tourism Board, Gareth puts together a series of pretty impressive videos to promote and show off the splendours of Shikoku.

I love the open-mindedness of Gareth, the desire and enthusiasm to learn and explore, and the pure enjoyment of the moment. I loved very much that he stated from the beginning of his videos that although he had greatly enjoyed the Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto experience of his first time in Japan, there was some “unfinished business”. That would be Shikoku!

Check out the above video, and the other two that make up Gareth’s Shikoku adventure.

 

Giving Advice to Ohenro

… I am not a number… I am a FREE MAN!

Hello and welcome from sunny Takamatsu! The weather is still a little warm, but summer seems to be lessening its grip. The evenings are cooling down, and my dogs don’t seem too much to walk outside as much as before. Autumn really is my favourite season. It is divine. And if you are considering coming to Japan for the walk of your life around Shikoku, THIS is the season to do it. Autumn just goes on forever, and when the typhoons have settled down for the duration, you have some of the greatest outdoor walking experiences of your life.

A few things have changed for me personally this year. The first is that I turned 50. I can’t believe it myself as I still sometimes feel like a junior high school student, and sometimes I feel like I really don’t know so much, or that I should have studied or tried more up until now. But the other side of being 50 is that I am on the cusp of being “respectable” or “seasoned” or “grizzled” or something like that… It’s a blast, and it’s a riot. But I feel good, and I am grateful for health and a sense of humour relatively intact.

Maybe there is something about being half a century that I am finding that “my advice” is sought out, and much more so than I expected, or particularly enjoy. It’s a new thing, and I do not particularly think I have much “advice” to give anyone, about anything. But life does seem to kick you down the road where you need to be sometimes.

At my half-century mark, I am a boss of a company my wife and I created. We run language schools and serve universities, high schools, junior highs, elementary schools, and daycares. I love it. I love our work, our team, our students, and every time I sit with kids and make them laugh while encouraging them, and revealing to them, how smart they really are.

In the past I’ve been a university professor (in another life), a teacher, a counsellor for street kids, a guide, a coach, a karate sensei, a writer, and a terrible guitar player. I’ve had a lot of hats on my balding head, but I never thought that I wore them to become “authoritative” or an “expert”. I still feel like I am flailing about in all my interests and professions. I’m still learning. I’m still “tripping up the stairs”.

I don’t think that this is particularly “modest”. I am just basically not a master at so many different things. But I have fun as I go along, stubbornly.

And maybe there is something in my half-century old spine that is still that teenager in the 1980’s that could not be told what to do. I have always rejected authority. I never like being told what to do and often ignore “sage counsel”. I have defied both church and state. I have “rocked the Casbah” and I might do it again.  I’m not an anarchist, but I’d rather die free than live in a cage. I rage against the machine, but now with dad jokes, mirth, and pint of beer.

So, as we are working on this Ohenro project with local business, government, and financial institutions, and there are various groups and interested individuals, who have proffered themselves as “experts” and “authority” on what newcomers to the experience of pilgrimage ought to know and ought to do and ought to feel. They clamber for adulation and spotlight. They bow their heads in mock obsequiousness, chant the “Heart Sutra” in public, yet backbite, make ultimatums, and gossip in private. They enter the room and it’s much more of a “waving about their flimsy credentials” than figuring out how together we can work best towards a common purpose. Honestly, it’s gross.

It’s a sad state sometimes when “politics” and jockeying for position distract us from the important task of making this incredible Shikoku Pilgrimage project something accessible, enjoyable, and meaningful for those who come to walk the miles. I don’t want to have my time and energy wasted in vain and frankly, vulgar, pursuits.

I’m too old to be baited out for public nonsense, but am still stubbornly set on trundling ahead, and just doing my job. And that job is to be of service to my fellow human creatures, unapologetically, unflinchingly, and to see whatever project I am in to completion. I cannot be deterred. There’s a lot of people out there who would love to learn more about this incredible thing in Shikoku. My job is to get to as many of them as possible.

So, if you are a soon-to-be, or already-here-in-Shikoku pilgrim, you are most heartily welcome here. You do not need to bow to authority. I don’t think that is what a pilgrimage of “self-discovery” and “self-exploration” is all about. You just may want to get on the road and find your own way. You don’t need to be told how to show respect, how to show kindness and gratitude, how to appreciate the culture and how to be a good person. I’ll bet that you already have a good handle on most of that. And if you don’t know yet, you’ll find out just fine, all by yourself.

And I’ll cheer for you! I always do.

If you need additional information to read or watch, please come out and check out our Facebook GROUP (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1318545221639576/) or our Facebook PAGE (https://www.facebook.com/Shikoku-Pilgrimage-Your-Spiritual-Journey-in-Deep-Japan-101681104549470). I would love to hear your experiences, see your photos, enjoy your videos, and learn from you.

Because isn’t that we ought to be doing anyway, learning from one another?

Your comments are most welcome, and feel free to email me if you are so inspired:

cometokagawa@gmail.com

Thanks for listening to me rant a little here.

Travel safe and travel well dear pilgrims.

Mark

Top Ohenro Information Site

If you are coming to Shikoku to walk the 88 Temple Pilgrimage route there is one website that stands way above the rest. It is this one:

http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/index.html

David Turkington is the mastermind behind the site and he is tremendously well-read, articulate, helpful, non-preachy, and a regular good guy. I even corresponded with him recently and asked for some help in advising ohenro coming this way and he said, “Sure thing. No problem”. That is very good news.

So while you likely have a ton of questions about the pilgrimage, what to wear, which way to go, what to look out for, how to get from place A to place B, do yourself a HUGE favour, bookmark his site, and read everything there. It’s pilgrim gold.

And here is Dave’s blog and contact information:

http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/shikoku/contactInfo.html

http://essentiallynothing.blogspot.com

The Invitation

At this time we are in the process of getting things formalized for inviting tour groups to come to Kagawa to experience the incredible Shikoku Pilgrimage. We have worked very hard this last year and things are coming together nicely.

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If you are new to this site, and are here to find our more about what the Shikoku Pilgrimage is about, I hope you will take some time to look through some of these pages. There are a few caveats I need to give you right away.

  1. This website is far from complete. Last year I finished the 88 temple pilgrimage and I am still updating information on the site. Last year was a “gyaku-uchi” year, so we traveled the pilgrimage in reverse starting at the last temple, number 88. So, if you are looking for my own journey, please start there. I have been updating the information as I have been going along and I am down now to the early 30’s. I hope to get this all updated as soon as possible. The pages all have photos, just no explanations or history–YET.
  2. I am not a tour guide operator, but I work closely with a group of business people and one of our members is a tour operator. If you are a travel agency, please contact me via email (cometokagawa@gmail.com or englishbiztakamatsu@gmail.com) and I promise to respond in a timely manner.
  3. Should you decide to come to Shikoku, we believe you are going to have an unbelievable experience. Coming to Japan is a marvelous thing in itself, and you will surely enjoy the great sites of Tokyo, Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka. I love all those places myself. But coming here you will find a certain closeness and “hands-on” experience that you will not get in the more high traffic tourist places.

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There are also a few things I want to tell you about our great Come to Kagawa project as well. Some of it is pretty cool so I can start to let the cat out of the bag early on. We have been in conversation with several people who are masters or artisans in their specific fields and each is very interested and keen to share their knowledge and passion for art with groups that will come.

Our team of artists and experts are in the following fields:

–tea ceremony

–calligraphy

–zen meditation

–Shintoism

–udon making

–bonsai gardening

–kimono wearing

We are absolutely blown away with the intensity of interest these artists have in their desire to share their knowledge and passion with visitors. Many have said the same thing, that they have a certain “urgency” to share with others. They have the knowledge of art in their hearts and minds and just want to share that passion with others so that their art will continue beyond them.

These would be things that visitors could surely enjoy and participate in, in addition to the 88 Buddhist Temple Pilgrimage itself. We think that we are cooking up a very unique and supremely fun experience here. So, if you have received an invitation to come to our fair prefecture of Kagawa, and if you are interested in talking about the specifics, please get in touch with us. We are very much looking forward to talking with you soon.

Yours truly,

Mark

Finish Line?

This week I visited the final three temples on the pilgrimage. I “got it done”, so to speak. It was a very nice morning when I headed out, and this time I did not go with the tour group. I got up in the morning, had a quick breakfast, jumped in my car and was at temple number 3 (Konsenji) in Tokushima within about an hour. Simply beautiful. No one was there yet and it was quiet, and peaceful, and perfect. After that I zipped down the road to number 2 (Gokurakuji) and that was nice too. The final visit to number 1 (Ryouzenji) was met with a lot of people, tour buses, and foreign visitors too. I was surprised as to the contrast between number 3 and 1. Of course, it is understandable that at the very first temple people need some kind of orientation, places to buy their ohenro gear, and to get the whole process started, but it was surprising how busy it was, and how the energy seems a bit nervous and unsure as groups lumbered in and out.

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But I “cleared it”. My “noukyouchou” (temple stamp book) was complete, I performed my final sutras (for this trip) and I was done.

Was there an epiphany? Was there a moment of satori (Buddhist enlightenment)? Was there the movement of clouds above while the light of heaven shone down upon my upward beaming (and unshaven) face?

Nope. None of that. But I did feel something, or maybe I just thought something. I can’t be sure. I felt that I had done the thing I was supposed to do. I felt that now that I finished my first pilgrimage around the whole of Shikoku, I was ready to get back to my life.

I felt compelled to leave. I felt like I was given something that I needed and that I now needed to do what I could in my work and my everyday moving about to be of use and purpose for those around me.

Even a few days later I still have the same feeling. So, there are few things to get done.

  1. Keep working on this website and fill in as many gaps as possible. Promote this website and invite other to contribute where they can. The pilgrimage is something that is best shared, and although many have private feelings and reasons for doing it, there is something of a communal experience that occurs and needs celebrating.
  2. Keep doing the job I am doing in building and growing our language schools for kids. I am lucky to have a job where the results of “giving” to others can have very quick and tangible results. Teaching is a noble and important job. I am delighted to work with a great team of teachers in building our schools and serving our community. There is much more to do, so I need to get back to doing it.

The Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage is in a circle. The metaphor is not lost on me. You finish the circle, but you could easily go through again and again and find more to learn and discover. I appreciate that, and I find it beautiful and attractive. I can see why there are people who are dedicated ohenro and why they walk this path for as long as they can put one foot in front of the other.

But for me, I am perhaps not designed to be in a circle only. I come from a culture where linear movement has its own value and place. In a circle you can let the situations and circumstance “be” while you move through them, and you are changed in ways you do not realize or fully understand. A linear movement is more like a rocket trajectory perhaps. I feel compelled to move in this way, for now.

My work, our schools, the students who need our help and service wait. If I am to remain in the circle they would not be there by the time I went around again. For me, it is time to come out of the circle and to use what I have in my mind and heart to do what I can to get kids better in English. I have a privileged position in this world, and I intend of leveraging my abilities for these kids. They need it and deserve it.

After the trajectory of these years to come may falter and slip, I will need to come out of the linear world again perhaps when I am forced to retire. I know where there is a circle where I can walk and think and reflect on the person I am, and how I may participate in the world around me. I know where I could start, and the path stretches out ahead, like an old friend who is inviting you to come along for the walk of your life.

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