atsushi ASH: GREAT Youtube Ohenro

This is really Shikoku Pilgrimage Youtube gold for walking pilgrims in Shikoku. The creator, atsushi ASH, did an amazing job in documenting his 42 day trek around Shikoku. His documentary starts from Kanto and then comes to “The Pure Land”. The entire thing is in Japanese, but just switch on the English subtitles and enjoy the journey.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

If you would like to follow Atsushi-san on his adventures please also check out his blog of his cycling journeys in Japan too! http://nippon-around.blog.jp/

 

 

Calm Pilgrimage Video

I’m constantly on the look out for new quality video taken of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Some is really highly produced and carefully choreographed, and that can be great. But this video is very nice in the calmness and simplicity of its creation and production.

Check it out:

Some of the drone photography is simply superb.

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.

 

walking-hero.net Wow.

I think that there are a lot of people out there who fancy themselves a good photographer. Taryn Bravo will make you think twice about that. The photos on his site, of those of the pilgrimage are stunning. I found myself spending a lot of time looking through the incredible work throughout. Very talented.

One more thing that makes Taryn’s work even better here is he includes a very extensive and descriptive Gear List on his site. Walking outdoors for a couple months straight can be rough, so you got to get ready and have good gear to make the best of it.

Highly recommended site. Very articulate and interesting writer!

https://www.walking-henro.net/

TV Asahi reports on foreign pilgrims in Japan

This report is a couple of years old, but still very relevant. There are more and more people from overseas who are discovering the Shikoku Pilgrimage. There is so much that is attractive and unique about the experience. Check out this video to see a little of what it is like to walk the path of Kukai:

Did you notice the incredible calm that these foreign visitors have? The safe environment, the kindness and humanity of people around them, and the time and space to explore and enjoy the day walking from temple to temple is simply beyond riches. Wonderful. Thanks to TV Asahi for putting this together!!

Giddy Up

Hello again.

It has been awhile. But it has been for good reason and there is purpose and happenstance, so allow me a few lines here to explain what that means.

I started this website a few years ago. The primary purpose was to bring some exposure to the Ohenro experience and to put more information out there about the Shikoku Pilgrimage. It was also a way for me to spread out my own brief experiences in the pilgrimage and to see them one by one, perhaps looking for strings of meaning through the route.

I live here in Shikoku, in Kagawa, in Takamatsu city, and my wife Kazuyo and I run our schools here. While we are often busy with our work, we do so in the backdrop and context of this pilgrimage which rings Shikoku. The local culture, the people, the geography, and the spirit of the place is inextricably linked to everything we see and touch every day. But often in way in ways that are difficult to explain, or articulate well.

We noticed that there is a groundswell of activity around us in local businesses and government for “inbound tourism” and we have been approached almost daily for assistance and counsel about how to make various events, attractions, transportation services, restaurants, and tour experiences more attractive for incoming guests and to do so while maintaining the integrity of the experiences.

So we started an experiment from last year October and developed a website to highlight various places and cultural activities for incoming guests to explore and enjoy. I made a sister web site called “Come to Kagawa” (www.cometokagawa.com) and in a few short months the traffic has been booming. We had initially wanted to simply make a public service site to help stimulate interest in Kagawa, but had no idea what would happen next.

This was completely unexpected and the response was very nice. We were noticed by JR Shikoku, the 114 Economic Advisory Board, Kagawa University, Takamatsu City, and a good number of business owners who work in the hospitality industry. We have been working closely with many members in these groups in their various projects and some intense planning has been going on (in the shadows, behind the scenes, in quiet whispered tones….). No, no… not really. Nothing so dramatic. But it has been a wonderful experience to meet some very creative and interesting people, and also to discover for myself more how we can be of service to new friends and inbound colleagues (co-conspirators).

In short, we’ve been able to accomplish a few significant things. First, we have established strong links with JR Shikoku and the local 114 Economic Advisory Board. We have plans in motion to set up “concierge” services for inbound guests. The format is being set up right now, but what that means for incoming visitors is that there will be an active robust resource of information of:

  1. How to get to Shikoku
  2. How to travel around Shikoku
  3. What events, festivals, cultural activities are available and when.
  4. Accessible accommodations from luxury hotels, to rustic inns in the mountains, to guest houses.
  5. Information on each and every temple on the Shikoku Pilgrimage
  6. Information on cultural and historical places to access and see
  7. Information on the Setouchi Experience with art, and islands, and food and drink
  8. Information on rental car services
  9. Recommended Shikoku experiences ranging from weekend stays to the full-on 2 month Ohenro trekking experience, and many between.

Our goal is to make clear a lot of information that is floating out there, and to work cooperatively with people who are “in the know” about so many of these things, to work cooperatively and collectively together to make a good thing.

We understand that Inbound Tourism brings with it two sides of a coin. One is the good: where people can come, explore, discover things, enjoy, dine, relax, and in doing so bolster and support local economy. We like this a lot, and as parents who have kids growing up in Shikoku we want to work like crazy to do our best for their future here. The other is the bad: where people come, make a mess, throw their trash in the street, carve their initials into temple walls, get inebriated on the street, demand to know why ketchup is not on everything they eat, and forget all their manners because they are “on vacation”.

I think that we can manage this situation, or at least do the best we can to accentuating the good and reducing the bad. And it comes by doing what we always do–creating and providing information about these places in Shikoku, telling the stories of people who live here, inviting people to enjoy things in a way that will give them a uniquely deep Japanese cultural experience, and developing a community of people who have come to love this land, this Pure Land, this beautiful and marvellous Shikoku.

More updates will come in rapid fire about the concierge services and how to access the format in the weeks to come. Much planning has been going on in the last several months, but now we feel like we have our feet in the starting blocks, and are really ready now to start this race in earnest.

I warmly and cordially and whole-heartedly invite you along with us, to contribute your experiences and insights, to share your perspective, and to help us develop this community.

Watch this site for details! In the meantime, thanks for reading, and have a great day.

Yours,
Mark Groenewold

cometokagawa@gmail.com

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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