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:


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!).


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!



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.

Tokushima Start!

After finding the Mad Henro! video, which is still so charming and fun, I found another made by the same producer, “Tokushima-ken CHANNEL”. This is also very fun. I think that the producers have a great sense of humour, and have a passion and sense of “mission” to promote the Ohenro experience. I love it.

The feeling of rushing from one place to another is a common unhappiness with many pilgrims on the trail. Our pressurized lives force us to hurry up our respective enlightenments so that we can hurry back to our pressurized lives from which we felt a need to seek spiritual calm in the first place. That is the very definition of a “vicious circle”.

While it may not be practical to take all the time we would like to enjoy each and every element of the pilgrimage, sometimes it is a good idea to just stop, breathe, and take in the moment.

Great video here. Check it out.


Mad Henro!

Ok, now this is by far, the COOLEST thing I have seen this month.


You are beholden to check it out. It is just awesome.

It just goes to show that there is more than just one way to “ohenro”.

Hey, I just made a rhyme!

Happy travels and keep between the ditches.


Land of Oblivion

After checking out Sherry in Ehime’s great hiking and exploration YouTube videos I found this gem:


I figured out that it is in Spanish and that the title, “La tierra del Olvido” means, “The Land of Oblivion”. Very catchy song, beautiful lyrics and these two guys are super cool for putting this together.  Well done, gentlemen! And thank you very much for this!!

Como la luna que alumbra
por la noche los caminos
como las hojas al viento
como el sol espanta al frío
como la tierra a la lluvia
como el mar espera al río
asi espero tu regreso
a la tierra del olvido

Como naufragan mis miedos
si navego tu mirada
como alertas mis sentidos
con tu voz enamorada
con tu sonrisa de niña
como me mueves el alma
como me quitas el sueño
como me robas la calma

Tu tienes la llave de mi corazon
yo te quiero
mas que mi vida porque sin tu amor
yo me muero [bis]

Como la luna alumbra
por la noche los caminos
como las hojas al viento
como el sol que espanta el frio
como la tierra a la lluvia
como el mar que espera al rio
asi espero tu regreso
a la tierra del olvido

Tu tienes la llave de mi corazon
yo te quiero
mas que a mi vida porque sin tu amor
yo me muero
Yo me muero

And in English:

Like the moon that shines
night roads
like leaves in the wind
as the sun frightens cold
as the land to rain
as the sea awaits the river
so I hope you return
to the land of forgetfulness

As wrecked my fears
if I navigate your eyes
as alerts my senses
love your voice
with your smiling little girl
like me you move the soul
as you take away the dream
as I steal calm

You have the key to my heart
I love you
more than my life because without your love
I die 

As the moon shines
night roads
like leaves in the wind
like the sun that frightens the cold
as the land to rain
as the sea waiting for the river
so I hope you return
to the land of forgetfulness

You have the key to my heart
I love you
more than my life because without your love
I die 
I die 


The last few days have been a bit busy. I have been hosting friends who are visiting from America. It is great to see them. My friend, Elmar, and I have been friends via a shared passion for karate for coming on about 15 years. We have known each other by long distance, and a couple of years ago we had the chance to finally meet in Georgia State in the U.S. That was really great. Our friendship deepened and Elmar and his lovely wife, Jean, came to visit us here in Japan.

After a whirlwind tour of Kyoto, making sure to hit the big sites, (you may know some of them), we came back to Kagawa and visited a few things here. They really loved all the sites in Kyoto, naturally, but were also very taken with the Shikoku Mura, an historical park that rambles through the forests near Temple 84 (Yashimaji). That was great.

One very important place we stopped at in Kyoto was Touji. Touji, in case you do not recall the name, is the “East Temple” in Kyoto, and is closely associated with Koubou Daishi. In the year 823, Emperor Saga gave the temple to Koubou Daishi and Touji became the central seminary for Shinbone (Esoteric) Buddhism. Several buildings, as well as the spectacular pagoda, were added. When you come to Touji you can see a huge hall with statues of Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha.

If you are familiar with Kyoto, or seen advertisements for it, you may have see the huge pagoda of Touji already. It is often used as as symbol for the city.

Kyoto is great, but I am glad to be home here in Shikoku. The next round for the pilgrimage is coming soon, so I am looking forward to that as always.

Hope my note finds you well, fellow travelers. Thanks again for coming by!



Brisk Paces

IMG_5649The other day I got to get out on the tour bus again and be whisked around the next 7 temples on the pilgrimage. It is a bit of a busy pace, and I lament that the group is pretty gung-ho to move through the temples quickly. I do my best to capture what I can with my cameras, and to gather the information I can. It is like assembling a massive jigsaw puzzle, and I think that when I get it done it will be the sum total of only what I, as a single solitary observer, has experienced.

But perhaps that is okay in itself. That is all we truly have, our own particular experiences, and perhaps knowing that from the outset has some value, keeps us humble, and makes us closer to our fellow human.

This week has also been very good to have some more people on our Ohenro Ambassadors page. There is really some awesome stuff there for you to check out!: https://yourpilgrimageinjapan.com/ohenro-ambassadors/

A great karate teacher told me that perfecting something is like carving a cube into a sphere. Each time you learn something you can cut or shave or polish a corner or edge. Little by little the sphere take shape. I believe that this is what we are doing with our collective voices and experiences. Together we are making the cube into a sphere.

I also met another foreign ohenro on the road. His name is Manfred Attner and he is here from Germany. I met him way out in Kochi-ken and he is traveling by foot, without Japanese language skills, and by himself. I thought that was just marvelous. We had a very all-too-quick meeting, exchanged contact information and promised to meet when he comes up through Kagawa. I hope he gives me a ring. Will keep you all posted if he shows up! In the meantime, come on Manfred! You can do it! Ganbatte kudasai!! (You can do it! Fight!)