Pilgrimage is an ancient and time honoured ritual. A seeking of self. A journey of the body, mind, and heart. Bamboo forest trails and mossy stones are on this path. The smell of earth and spring blooms may be on your road. Autumn colours exploding across valleys in oranges and reds may bear witness to your footsteps. The wind touches the edges of your sedge hat, the corners of your white pilgrim garb. Your staff touches root, dirt, and rock. With thousands upon thousands of others before you, you move forward.
When you approach the gate of each temple you might pause, bow your head, and step over the threshold into another world. This is the sacred place of pilgrimage, one temple of eighty-eight laid out in a zen ring around Shikoku. It does not matter where you start, the number one temple is just as valid as the twenty-second temple, or the seventy-fifth temple. The most important thing is that you are in motion. In motion through time and tradition, in motion through each footfall on ancient stone, in motion as something in your mind and heart is coming closer into focus.
There is the sound of sutra chants, the whiff of incense on the air, and light glints off the brocaded tips of pilgrim staffs. And there are gentle smiles and kind faces here too. You’ve come some distance. You are here in this moment. What it means is personal and important. Take a moment and let it seep through your being.
Welcome to this page and to this site. My name is Mark Groenewold and I am your host. I hope that you find something you are looking for in these pages and through the blogs. There is a lot of material and a lot of secret corners, deities in the nooks and crannies of this epic long journey of the soul.
Where to start? How to get here? What to bring? What to wear? How do I do it? What should I say? What are the customs and traditions? What is the history? Where do I sleep? What can I eat? How can I stay connected to my life as I walk the path?
There are a lot of questions, and some answers may be here on this site. But there is also another place, which is much more interactive and it is our Facebook group for the pilgrimage. The link is HERE. Please come on over, join the page, ask your questions, and stay close to the conversations that apply to your situation.
Japan is a very safe county to visit, and the Shikoku Pilgrimage trail, while quite an exotic adventure from where you may be coming, is still relatively safe as well. Support for your trip is necessary, and there are many things that need some careful planning. Feel free to get in touch with us and we will do whatever we can to help you on your journey. Let us assist in removing some of the stresses ahead, so that you can focus on why you came on pilgrimage. Finding your way, working out things weighing on your heart, is easier when you don’t need to worry about where you lay your head at night and what you can have for your next meal.
Emails are also warmly welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org