Contemporary pilgrims’ understanding of the Shikoku pilgrimage, with particular reference to the role of Kobo Daishi

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2011

379 Pages



This thesis analyses how contemporary pilgrims understand the 88-temple-Shikoku pilgrimage, and in particular what role Kōbō Daishi plays in their outlook and practices. The particular issue that this research addresses is that while Kōbō Daishi figures large in many of the popular presentations of the pilgrimage (in guidebooks, TV programmes, and in temple pamphlets), there is a question of what role he actually plays in the outlook and practices of contemporary pilgrims. The thesis therefore highlights the ways in which ‘Kōbō Daishi’ figures in the views and behaviour of pilgrims and those who support them: the various roles ‘Kōbō Daishi’ plays, and how these relate together, and to other themes and aspects of the pilgrimage, as well as pointing out aspects of the pilgrimage that are not focussed on Kōbō Daishi. In other words, how contemporary pilgrims make meaning of the pilgrimage and, in particular, Kōbō Daishi’s place in this. Looking at the position of Kōbō Daishi and the legendary construction of the pilgrimage in the minds of the informants, it becomes clear that in their views, the ‘real history’ of the pilgrimage is not important compared to the legendary one centred on Kōbō Daishi, and this is seen in their adherence to legends and stories relating to him. Quantitative and qualitative research was conducted, including brief surveys and in-depth interactions with pilgrims, pilgrimage guides, those that give out alms, and temple officials to analyse contemporary pilgrims’ understanding of the ‘sacred’ foci of the pilgrimage: Kōbō Daishi and his possible role in the Shikoku pilgrimage and its origin, with related issues of meaning-making, such as the Daishi-faith, Kōbō Daishi-tales, the various deities whose images are enshrined in the temples, Shinto and Buddhism and related rituals and the role that Kōbō Daishi is seen to have in pilgrims’ thoughts about ‘religion’, pilgrimage items and related ritual behaviour, experiential aspects of the pilgrimage, people’s motives for doing the pilgrimage, their understanding of Kōbō Daishi’s role in healing, how he is seen as accompanying dead ancestors as well as the present pilgrims and aiding in communication of the living with the dead, etc. This research provides a useful window on how contemporary people relate to the pilgrimage, and a better general understanding of contemporary Japanese cultural practices and the world they live in, and how they seek to achieve well-being and happiness. Four appendixes and an extensive glossary round off this thesis.

© Ryofu Pussel 2011

All rights reserved.


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Plate 1: Pilgrims climbing up the stairs to the main hall (hon-dō) of temple #2, Gokuraku-ji. The inscription on their back reads “Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō”, “Homage to the Saviour [Kōbō] Daishi, the Illuminating and Imperishable One” (transl. Miyata Taisen, 2006: 32); photograph taken on 5 May 2006


Graph 1: Height above sea level, longitude and latitude of the 88 pilgrimage temples, showing temples at high point

Graph 2: The amount of walking pilgrims registered at temple #1 between 1989 until 2008


Table 1: Age groups of pilgrims

Table 2: Origins of pilgrims


Plate 1: Pilgrims climbing up the stairs to the main hall (hon-dō) of temple #2, Gokuraku-ji. The inscription on their back reads “Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō”, “Homage to the Saviour [Kōbō] Daishi, the Illuminating and Imperishable One” (transl. Miyata Taisen, 2006: 32); photograph taken on 5 May 2006

Plate 2: With a group of pilgrims at the lodging facility of temple #2, Gokuraku-ji; photograph taken on 15 April 2008

Plate 3: A yamabushi, mountain ascetic, blowing his horagai -‘horn’ for religious practice in front of the main hall of the temple #60, Yokomine-ji (sekisho-dera and nansho), which is located on Mt. Ishizuchi, which is regarded as a particularly ‘sacred’ mountain in Shikoku; photograph taken on 9 December 2009

Plate 4: Ema -plates inscribed and hung up at Yushima-Tenjin-shrine, Tokyo. The daughter points to her plate, and her wish to successfully pass the entrance examination of her desired university; her mother takes a picture of this; photograph taken on 7 January 2010

Plate 5: The Ozaki-family in the grandfather’s living-room, after our interview, photograph taken on 27 October 2010

Plate 6: O-suna-fumi at temple #76, Konzō-ji. Note the samples in squares on the floor, in front of items linked to the temples from which the samples come. Photograph taken on 25 May 2011

Plate 7: Another form of o-suna-fumi: Hands of a small child touching the sachets with sand from the grounds of each of the 88 temples; the accompanying miei (osugata)-slips can also be seen; photograph taken at temple #51, Ishite-ji, on 23 May 2009

Plate 8: The chamber in the tunnel below the miei-dō at temple #75, Zentsū-ji, photograph taken on 25 October 2010

Plate 9: A larger-than-life-statue of Kōbō Daishi is watching from bekkaku -temple #17, Kanno-ji, down towards the temple’s entrance gate and the Mannō-ike dam; the banners read “Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō”, “I put my faith in Daishi, the Universal Adamantine Illuminator” (transl. Shiba, 2005: 284; this is similar to the translation on page 3), the same as is written on the back of the pilgrim’s vest and the straw-hat; photograph taken on 13 April 2008

Plate 10: A view of the ‘Shashingatake’-mountain-peak where Kōbō Daishi is believed to have engaged in the kokuzō gumonji no hō at #21; photograph taken on 26 October 2010

Plate 11: The ‘Mikuro-dō’-cave; photograph taken on 25 May 2009

Plate 12: The statue of nojuku -o-Daishi- sama, sleeping under the toyoga-bashi, the bridge of the ten nights, wrapped in futons; photograph taken on 11 April 2008

Plate 13: Carrying the still meditating Kūkai to his mausoleum. Artwork by order of Kōya-san Head monastery, unknown artist, however, the structure of the paper reveals that artwork was produced during the Edo-Period (1603-1868). Collection of the Hōju-in temple. At the upper left hand corner his mausoleum can be seen (Tokushima Shimbun, 2004: 24)

Plate 14: The mausoleum (gobyō) of Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai) on Mount Kōya. Photography is not usually allowed here and this picture was taken by special permission on 23 April 2007

Plate 15: Emon Saburō taking refuge to the ‘Saint’ Kōbō Daishi (on his alms round), photograph taken at temple #77, Dōryū-ji, on 20 March 2007

Plate 16: A monument now marks the alleged place where Emon Saburō had received the stone and then died, on the way towards temple #12, Shōsan-ji; photograph taken on 6 December 2009

Plate 17: The Emon Saburō legend’s tama no ishi, stone ball, at temple #51, Ishite-ji; photograph taken on 23 May 2009

Plate 18: Kōun-ji’s Daitsū-an hall, with a Daitsūchishō Nyorai in the centre and with 8 princes on each side. This honzon is usually locked away in its box; photograph with its doors opened by special permission on 12 November 2008

Plate 19: The ‘1000’-armed-Kannon- hibutsu (never shown to public) of temple #58, Senyū-ji. Photograph courtesy of Itawaki Yuka, by special permission of the head priest, Rev. Oyamada Kenshō, taken on 9 February 2011

Plates 20 a and b: Honzon Daitsūchishō- Nyorai comparison: the hibutsu of Tōen-bō (left) and the hibutsu of #55, Nankō-bō (right; shown only once

Plate 21: A pilgrim praying reciting sūtra and praying at the back of the hon-dō of temple #48, Sairin-ji; photograph taken on 8 December 2009

Plate 22: Pilgrims standing outside in front of the daishi-dō of temple #33, Sekkei-ji praying to the Daishi-statue, which is inside; photograph taken 17 March 2007

Plate 23: Parishioners carefully carrying the Daishi-statue, produced in 1627 (which had been a hibutsu since at least four generations) from the main hall of temple #55, Nankō-bō, where it had been kept safe, into their newly constructed Daishi-hall (where it will be a hibutsu again). Photograph courtesy of Itawaki Yuka, taken on 19 November 2010

Plate 24: Temple #27, Kōnomine-ji, showing both the Buddhist and Shinto entrance gates; photograph taken on 5 December 2009

Plate 25: At temple #13, Dainichi-ji: the temple on the right side, and the shrine on the left; photograph taken on 25 August 2008

Plate 26: Temple #34, Tanema-ji: Hōjō with torī; photograph taken on 20 October 2010

Plate 27: Unsui -priests-in-training of the head monastery Sōji-ji (Sōtō- shū), offering incense at an Inari-jinja, standing under a line of Shinto torī; photograph taken in January 2011 (in: Sōji-ji, 2011: 38)

Plate 28: A mannequin dressed in complete pilgrimage attire (wagesa, hakue, sugegasa, kongō-tsue, etc.) at the entrance to an o-settai area inside Kōchi-airport, where visitors can change into pilgrimage outfit, have some free tea and sweets, and watch an introductory video of the pilgrimage. A completed kakejiku and all pages of the nōkyō-chō are displayed on the wall. Photograph taken on 28 April 2009

Plate 29: Pilgrims of a bus-tour cleaning their kongō-tsue before entering the shukubō. Photograph taken at temple #6, Anraku-ji on 25 April 2009

Plate 30: Reminder that the kongō-tsue should not hit the ground when passing over a bridge, as Kōbō Daishi may sleep under it: detail of the rail of the toyoga-bashi. Photograph taken near on 7 December 2009

Plate 31: Pilgrims, led by the sendatsu (left, front), reciting sūtra s in front of the daishi-dō of temple #1, Ryōzen-ji. Bundles of three incense sticks (as the pilgrim had explained to me, above) can be seen. Photograph taken on 5 May 2006

Plate 32: Osame-fuda by pilgrims glued onto the wall after having received o-settai here: The inside of a former bus-stop that had been converted to a shelter for pilgrims (see also plate 60 on page 266). When I visited there on 29 October 2010, I found a bicycle pilgrim occupying this. He told me that he was residing here for “a couple of days”, having a break from the pilgrimage, and would continue to travel around Shikoku perpetually as long as he could.

Plate 33: Ms Itawaki Yuka inside the nōkyō-sho -office, affixing the seals and calligraphy of their temple #55, Nankō-bō, into my nōkyō-chō. The fee for this (¥300) can be seen on the table. In the middle of the page, the name of the chief deity has just been written, and the name of the temple is being added on its left side. Photograph taken on 8 December 2009

Plate 34: A nōkyō-chō that is completely covered in red ink of the temple seals because this pilgrim had done it over 100 times. Because of the thick ink, the pages stick together; photograph taken at nōkyō-sho of temple #17, Ido-ji, on 8 April 2008

Plate 35: In order to save time, tour-conductors (and not nōkyō-sho- officials) are stamping the nōkyō-chō of their pilgrimage group; photograph taken at temple #1, Ryōzen-ji, on 15 October 2007

Plate 36: Calligraphy written onto my kakejiku by Mr Suzaki Tadao, officer of the nōkyō-sho of temple #1, Ryōzen-ji; photograph taken on 20 October 2007

Plates 37 a, b, c: The osugata (miei)-slips of temple #1, Ryōzen-ji. (a) dates from pre-World War II (it bears an obsolete formal numeral for ‘1’); as it is printed in colour, which is more expensive than black-and-white, so it can be assumed that it was regarded as a highly valued document, (b) is the one commonly used now, and (c) can be additionally purchased since December 2006. All are of the same size, and have the number and name of the temple inscribed, and (c) also shows the name of the temple’s honzon (Shaka Nyorai). As so often throughout the pilgrimage, this honzon is not shown to the public (such a honzon is called hibutsu, literally secret Buddha), and so this paper slip is the only ‘form’ in which pilgrims can ‘see’ their revered deity. (a) was shown to me and photographed at Chikurin-dō-do company, Naruto-city, on 21 March 2007, and (b) and (c) are of my own collection. The issue of hibutsu will be taken up in chapter 4.

Plate 38: A large goma -ceremony conducted together by Shingon priests and yamabushi in the compound of pilgrimage temple #88, Ōkubo-ji. The yamabushi is throwing the above mentioned goma -sticks into the fire (see also yamabushi and Shingon below). Photograph taken on 2 March 2007

Plate 39: Kihara Rie is ‘connecting’ with Kōbō Daishi and making a wish. Photograph courtesy of Kihara, taken at temple #59, Kokubun-ji on 3 September 2008

Plate 40: Temple #71, Iyadani-ji. On my first pilgrimage: Crutches, braces and other items of healed pilgrims next to the stairway leading to the hon-dō. Photograph taken in October 1994

Plate 41: A pilgrim embracing the chōmei-sugi, longevity - cedar -tree of temple #2, Gokuraku-ji; photograph taken on 15 October 2007

Plate 42: Two pilgrims praying outside in front of the Usu- sama Hall. In the lower left of the picture, parts of the foundation stones of the old daishi-dō can be seen, waiting to be reconstructed. Photograph taken on 26 October 2010

Plate 43: A group of pilgrims is looking into the well of temple #17, Ido-ji, photograph taken 26 October 2010

Plate 44: The hollow water ladles and the Kannon Bosatsu, who can be seen to hold a new-born baby in the left hand. Photograph taken on 6 December 2009 at temple #34, Tanema-ji

Plate 45: The bussoku-seki -stone of temple #46, Jōruri-ji: Walking pilgrim feeling already better! Photograph taken on 8 December 2009

Plate 46: ‘め’donated to temple #77, Dōryū-ji: photographs taken on 25 May 2011

Plate 47: A senmai-dōshi slip of bekkaku -temple #12, Enmei-ji, with the inscription “Namu Amida Butsu Hōnin”. Koll, who partook of them without believing in their healing power, which, led to, as he saw it, his twisted and swollen right ankle as ‘punishment’ for his non-belief (movie, 2008: min. 74-76)

Plate 48: At bekkaku -temple #12, Enmei-ji: a part that is believed to be from the original Izari Matsu tree. People who believed that they were miraculously healed at this place left straw sandals or other symbols of the pilgrimage, such as straw hats, there; photograph taken on 10 December 2009

Plate 49: The well of temple #22, Byōdō-ji, with the ’consecrated’ water to be taken out from the opening at the bottom; photograph taken on 16 October 2007

Plate 50: The three izari-guruma of temple # 22, Byōdō-ji

Plate 51: Close-up view of the right cart in the above photograph: Note the inscription of the inhabitant: “Tsutsui Yasunosuke [name) (circle: ?) Kōchi-ken, Tosa-gun, Kita-?-mura [address]. This and above photograph taken on 27 October 2010.

Plate 52: The letter of Mr Nishikawa Yasuyuki; photograph taken by temple’s permission at #22 on 27 October 2010

Plate 53: The pilgrimage path (henro michi) leading to temple #27, Kōnomine-ji. On the left is a roadside Jizō Bosatsu statue, on the right side a direction - marker for walkers (906 m to go to reach the temple), and in the middle, a warning sign, in red letters, of the mamushi- snakes here. Photograph taken on 27 May 2011

Plate 54: The Edō-Period copy of the Fudaraku-Entrance-plate by Saga Tennō, hung up in the hon-dō of temple #38, Kongōfuku-ji; photograph taken by special permission on 7 December 2009

Plate 55: The suicide-spot of temple #38; photograph taken 6 December 2009

Plates 56 a and b: private and personal o-settai: monetary giving to a pilgrim at #51, Ishite-ji. Photograph taken on 31 October 2010

Plate 57: O-settai organised by a group and received at temple #1 on 8 April 2008 at a booth within the temple complex at the left side of the entrance gate (as seen from inside the compound), which is reserved for this purpose only

Plate 58: Nishida’s traditional-style zenkonyado and pilgrims, photograph taken on 23 April 2010

Plate 59: Outside of the out-of-service bus shelter which is now functioning as a shelter for pilgrims to stay overnight. There are two red henro -markers, indicating that this is for pilgrims’ use. It was used by Koll for this in 2007; photograph taken on 6 December 2009. For its inside (with osame-fuda glued to its walls), see plate 33.

Plate 60: Kihara proud of her mother’s o-settai, in Ainan-town near temple #40. Photograph courtesy of Kihara, taken on 20 September 2008

Plates 61 a and b: Two examples of the ‘green line’; a) is leading from the Bandō-train station to temple #1, Ryōzen-ji; note the pilgrimage marker at the lower right hand corner, and the stone-marker of #1; b) is on the way to temple #23, Yakuō-ji; a) was taken on 22 May 2010, and b) on 27 October 2010

Plate 62: The worst tunnel for pilgrims: inside the Matsuo-tunnel in Ehime, Uwajima-shi, Tsushima-chō, on kokudō (National Road) number 56: 1,710 m long, and walkers need around 30 minutes to pass through – this is demanding, dangerous, and posing health risks through cars and trucks passing by and air pollution through their engine exhaust fumes. Photograph courtesy of Kihara, taken on 19 September 2008

Plate 63: As part of the above governmental plan, on such a dangerous tunnel, brighter lights are being installed, and the tunnel is being cleaned up; photograph taken on 25 May 2009, on kokudō (National Road) number 55, on the way to temple #24, Hotsumisaki-ji. The left sign invites the pilgrim for a free o-settai coffee at a coffee-shop nearby

Plate 64: Kendō (Prefectural Route) number 39, on the way to temple #36, Shōryū-ji: a sidewalk that can be used by walking pilgrims has just been added, with protective guard-rails between the street and the sidewalk, as well as on the outer side of the sidewalk. It had until now been dangerous for pilgrims to walk at that side of the road; photograph taken on 25 May 2009

Plate 65: A group of bus-pilgrims sitting on newly installed benches in front of the hon-dō of temple #44, Taihō-ji; photograph taken on 7 December 2009

Plate 66: H enro to o motenashi no nettowāku, Pilgrimage Hospitality Network, director Mr Matsuoka Hirofumi, and their nineteenth stone-marker, showing the direction to temple #85, Yakuri-ji. This and the twentieth marker were both donated by Mr Nakasone Hirofumi, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose father was a former Prime Minister of Japan. Photograph taken in front of the h enro to o motenashi no nettowāku ’s office, Takamatsu, on 24 May 2011

Plate 67: The first henro-goya is located in front of the JR Awa Kainan train station (Iyo Tetsu, 2010c: 8 and personal observation). Photographs taken on 25 May 2010

Plate 68: The sendatsu-kai on 3 December 2009 at temple #75, Zentsū-ji, prior to commencement

Plate 69: 慈光, jikkō, similar to rays of affection/love, calligraphy by a priest of Kōyasan. One of the roles of Kōbō Daishi in the understanding of pilgrims/the pilgrimage is perfectly illustrated here in this contemporary work: Kōbō Daishi (right) is ‘closer’ to human beings than the 11-faced Kannon Bosatsu (left), which is slightly more ‘distanced’ (as higher off the ground); though Kōbō Daishi is still elevated on a cloud, he is more on the ‘human’ level. Both figures peacefully co-exist and complement each other, ‘combining’ their powers, ‘shining their light of love and affection’ onto pilgrims – one of which shown in difficulty sat on the ground, with her companion looking at her in concern. Kōbō Daishi supports – ‘pushes’ – from the back, and awaiting ‘in front’ is the Kannon, right hand in the hōin (Skt. varada) mudrā, the ‘wish-granting’ gesture. Photograph taken at temple #27, Kōnomine-ji, on 27 May 2011

Plate 70: The osame-fuda slips in Nishida’s possession in their old basket for rice crops; this and the following photographs were taken at Mr Nishida’s house on 23 April 2009

Plates 71 a and b: Inspecting and counting the osame-fuda -slips

Plate 72: Development of infrastructure, such as the asphalted road: nearly the same spot, upper photograph taken by Iyo Tetsu (2003: 35) on 4 May 1953 (on the occasion of their first pilgrimage-bus tour), and below, nearly exactly 56 years later, by myself on 25 May 2009

Plate 73: “Thank you” to all those, who allowed me to talk with them for this thesis; photograph taken at the chū-mon, middle gate, at temple #53, Emmyō-ji, on 11 April 2008

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Plate 2: With a group of pilgrims at the lodging facility of temple #2, Gokuraku-ji; photograph taken on 15 April 2008


Professor Dr. Peter Harvey of the University of Sunderland, UK, my Director of Studies, for his rigorous academic guidance, insightful comments, constructive and thought-provoking criticisms, and his warm-hearted understanding and motivation.

Professor Dr. Hubert Durt of the International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies, Tokyo, Japan, my local supervisor, for always being there to listen and give advice, often in long discussions over a pot of tea, as well for his continuous encouragement.

Dr. Hans Jelitto of the Hamburg University of Technology, Germany, for his help with constructing graph 1.

Rev. Yoshimura Chōzen, head priest of temple #1, Ryōzen-ji.

Rev. Aki Shōken, head priest of temple #2, Gokuraku-ji.

Rev. Taniguchi Kōryō, head priest of temple #22, Byōdō-ji.

Rev. Nagasaki Shōkyō, head priest of temple #38, Kongōfuku-ji.

Rev. Katō Shunsei, head priest of temple #51, Ishite-ji.

Rev. Itawaki Shunkyō, head priest of temple #55, Nankō-bō, his sister and temple officer Itawaki Yuka, and Rev. Itawaki Shūkyō, their father and previous head priest.

Rev. Oyamada Kenshō, head priest of temple #58, Senyū-ji, and his son, deputy head priest Rev. Oyamada Kōken and his son’s wife Miki.

Rev. Habara Seiki, deputy head priest of temples #68, Jinne-in, and #69, Kanon-ji.

Rev. Kashihara Zenchō of temple #75, Zentsū-ji.

Rev. Ōtsuka Junji, deputy head priest of temple #80, Kokubun-ji.

Rev. Kondō Tatsuhiko, head priest of the shin Shikoku mandara junrei temple #1, Tōrin-in.

Rev. Katō Isshin, deputy head priest of the shin Shikoku mandara junrei temple #1, Tōrin-in.

Rev. Higashimoto Ryūshō, head priest and Rev. Higashimoto Takashi, deputy head priest, of bekkaku temple #20, Ōtaki-ji.

Rev. Arai Kōnin, head priest of bekkaku -temple #9, Monju-in.

Rev. Kinoshita Tokiko of temple #1, Ryōzen-ji.

Rev. Miyoba Ryūdo, head priest of Kōun-ji, Ōmijima-island.

All the nōkyō-sho officials of the 88 pilgrimage temples. Also included here are in particular Mr Suzaki Tadao of temple #1, Ryōzen-ji, and Mr Hirata Kiyoshi of temple #55, Nankō-bō.

The Reijōkai office chief, Rev. Fuchikawa Hōnin, and officer Ms Suzuki, Zentsū-ji-city.

Mr Matsuoka Hirofumi, Director of h enro to o motenashi no nettowāku (NPO Shikoku Henro Pilgrim and the Hospitality Network[1] ), Takamatsu.

Ms Kihara Rie, Matsuyama.

Dr. Gerald Koll, Berlin.

Mr Motoki Hiroshi, head of Chikurin-dō company, and his son, Kazunori, Naruto.

Mr Nishida Tadao, local area leader of the Ōtsuki-Pilgrimage-Path Preservation Association, Ōtsuki-town.

Mr Nishikawa Yasuyuki, Naruto.

Mr Nishimura Kōichi, head of Kagawa Prefectural Museum’s general affairs department, Matsuyama.

Mr Ozaki Suehiro, his son Wataru, and his daughter-in-law Tomoko, Kōchi.

Ms Sadafumi, caretaker of Tōen-bō, Ōmijima-island.

Mr Takayama Yuji, office head of the Iyo Tetsu Company’s Pilgrimage Centre Department, Matsuyama.

The more than 1,000 pilgrims who were kind enough to interact with me.

My family: my wife Michiko, and my parents Udo and Liesel.




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Romanized Japanese: The macron is used in lesser known geographic names, such as Kōchi, but omitted in widely known, such as Tokyo, Osaka. It is also not used in the widely known term Shinto.

The hyphen is used as in the usual convention to clarify meaning: for example Ryōzen-ji and not Ryōzenji, ‘Ryōzen’ being the temple name and ‘ji’, meaning ‘temple’.

Plural: Foreign words which are italicized receive a non-italicized ending to illustrate that the ending is not part of the foreign word: for example stūpa s. However, with regard to Japanese terms, as the use of plural forms, with ‘s’ attached to the words would appear strange for a language that does not distinguish singular and plural, an ‘s’ was not added in these cases, for example, sendatsu (and not sendatsu s).


All Japanese names are written in the Japanese style: Family (or Buddhist) name first, then title (for example Daishi).

I kept the identity of my informants anonymous. With others, who are in the public domain, such as temple priests, or those who have published in various forms, I have asked for, and received permission, to identify and use their names.


This pilgrimage covers the Island of Shikoku, which is the smallest of the four Japanese main islands, with a population of around four million people, living mainly around the coastline. In around forty-five days walking, or around eight days by car, or two weeks by package bus tour, covering approximately 1,400 km, the pilgrim visits 88 temples where he or she engages in some form of ‘religious’ activities (the term ‘religious’, especially in the Japanese context, will be analysed in chapter one).

Most people on the pilgrimage follow the traditional belief that Kūkai (774-835), generally known by his honorific title Kōbō Daishi, established and walked this pilgrimage (Shimazaki Tanaka Hiroshi, 1981: 241), having founded it in 815 (Fiona MacGregor, 2002: 10). This idea is supported by governmental publications, such as the government homepage of Tokushima-Prefecture (temples #1-#23 are located within Tokushima Prefecture), which also proposes a reason why Daishi founded it: “The Shikoku pilgrimage circuit, called henro in Japanese, links 88 temples said to have been founded around the year 815 by the famous Buddhist monk Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai) to protect pilgrims and others from misfortune” (2009: URL). Ian Reader (2005: 107) does not think we can place its beginnings as early as 815, and gives an example of a devotee of Kōbō Daishi, who had renovated a temple in Shikoku in the period 1058-1065 (108); he explains that the travels of ascetic devotees of Kōbō Daishi were the most likely initiators of the pilgrimage, noting that their travel paths might have been based upon, or at least been influenced by, existing regional religious folk traditions and practices (108-109). Gorai Shigeru argues that to pray at the ocean or to pray to the ocean gods was the first religious practice of someone engaging in the Shikoku pilgrimage (2009: 13). The first written documents specifically about the 88-temple pilgrimage appear in the 17th century – roughly 800 years after Kōbō Daishi (David Moreton, 2001: 4). Hence it seems most likely that predominantly post-Kōbō Daishi Buddhist monks or others engaged in ascetic practices, by visiting places on Shikoku Island that were already regarded as ‘holy’ and used by yamabushi[2], some of them located on mountains, and some having a connection to the ocean, gradually established the pilgrimage, as a network of pilgrims’ travel routes coalesced.

While having its origins in ascetic practices, most people now do it wholly or partly as a period of meaningful travel, as a time out from their normal routine, often enjoying the health and psychological benefits of the beauties of nature and the warm climate of this island. This thesis shall explore how contemporary participants experience the pilgrimage, and the meaning it holds for them, and what role Kōbō Daishi has in their understanding of it.

Regarding this, in his A Henro Bilingual Guide to the 88 Temples of Shikoku Island, Japan (first edition 1996, with the latest, 2006, fourth edition being used here), Rev. Miyata Taisen describes the pilgrimage experience as follows:

An uncontrollable emotion sprung up from my heart. It was a cry of freedom – a freedom I had never felt so strongly before. I was part of the Inland Sea, part of the mountains and part of the island… Most pilgrims come back again and again... “Why do you take the Henro [Shikoku-88-temple-pilgrimage] journey so many times here?” They always answer in the same way: “Because there is unlimited joy of life in the Henro, because the Savior Odaishi-san (Kōbō Daishi) is still alive here saving us, and with us on the island. (2006: 9-11)

Guidebooks are a valuable source of information on how the pilgrimage is portrayed, such as Shikoku henro hitori aruku dōgyo ninin: Kūkai no shiseki o tasunete (‘Shikoku Pilgrim, Walking Alone, Two [Walking] Together: [let’s] Visit the Historical Spots of Kūkai’, 1990), or Hachijūhakka-ji shūhen gaidobukku (‘The 88 Holy Places and Surrounding Area Guidebook’, 1990). Some provide beautiful photographs, such as Sora kara meguru Shikoku reijō hachijūhakkasho (‘Travelling Around the 88 Holy Places of Shikoku by Air’, 1985), Seichi Kōyasan to Shikoku no sora to umi, Kōbō Daishi Kūkai no motometa sekai. Kōbō Daishi nyūjū sennihyakunen memoriaru (‘Holy Koyasan and Shikoku’s Sky and Ocean, the World Kōbō Daishi Kūkai had Sought. Kōbō Daishi’s 1,200-Year’s Anniversary of his Entering Eternal Meditation’, 2004) and the NHK[3] television-series Shikoku h achijūhakkasho. Kokoro o tabi suru (‘Shikoku 88-Temple Pilgrimage. To Let the Spirit Go on a Trip’, 2006), and Awa Henro Bilingual Guidebooks for Pilgrims in Tokushima, published in 1993 by the local government. Muro Tatsuo and David Moreton have also published a guidebook A Journey of the Soul (2008). These are all valuable resources, because they show how those involved in the construction of the pilgrimage want it to be seen and characterized, such as the cover of Miyata’s guidebook, from where the above quote was taken, which depicts an elderly couple (Mr and Mrs Kurata), dressed in traditional pilgrimage outfit, walking through a field of flowers, with lush mountains in the background, with no one else, or any buildings, visible. But is this really so, or just a beautiful image of a perfect pilgrimage world? Reader’s article ‘Positively Promoting Pilgrimage. Media Representations of Pilgrimage in Japan’ (2007) provides valuable information:

My recent study of the Shikoku pilgrimage shows that the increase in Shikoku pilgrimage numbers since the mid-1990s has been boosted by the massive interest shown by the mass media in the topic, and by the extremely positive images that have been presented therein as a result. (15)

Temple pamphlets and travel company brochures are also important is this respect. For example, as for the present day, a pamphlet of temple #51, Ishite-ji, states that people should consider doing the pilgrimage when their child or a family member or friend has died, when they have lost their job or suffer from a chronic disease, if they contemplate committing suicide, or to repent sins.

The experiences of Yaara Morris (Pilgrims of the Empty Roads: A Travelogue of the Shikoku Henro, 2007) are used for this thesis, with regard to reasons for doing the pilgrimage, and these are compared and contrasted with those cited by Joanne Hershfield (Between two Worlds, 1992), Waseda University’s Shikoku henro to henro michi ni kansuru ishiki chōsa (‘An investigation into the relation between the Shikoku pilgrim and the pilgrimage path’, 1997). Kagawa University’s (Chīki Shakai Sysutemu Gakka, Imada Kenkyushitsu) Shikoku henro kara keizai o miru (‘A look at the economy through the Shikoku henro’, 2008) and Kihara’s interviews with foreigners (Shikoku Pilgrimage, a Study of Foreign Pilgrims from a Japanese Point of View, 2009). O-settai, almsgiving for pilgrims, is discussed in Reader (2005), Moreton’s The History of Charitable Almsgiving Along the Shikoku Pilgrimage Route (2001), and his paper ‘An Examination of Travel Literature on the Shikoku Pilgrimage Route and Warnings Contained Within’ (2005), and Asakawa Yasuhiro’s Junrei no bunka. Jinruigakuteki kenkyū – Shikoku henro no settai bunka (‘Pilgrimage Culture. Anthropological Research – the culture of settai [alms giving] in the Shikoku pilgrimage’, 2008), Ehime-Prefecture’s Lifelong Studies’ Henro no kokoro (‘Spirit of henro ’, 2003) are all key-works and discusses how local people, temple officials, priests, and fellow pilgrims, tell stories about the pilgrimage, and explain alms-giving. For this thesis, travel diaries are also a valuable source for academic studies of the historical, sociological and religious aspects of pilgrimages, with particular reference to meaning and the change of meaning over time. Diaries that will be analysed in this thesis are from as early as 1918 (Takamure Itsue, Musume junreiki (‘A pilgrimage Diary of a Young Woman’, 1979 first edition), but also Nishibata Sakae (Shikoku 88 fudasho henroki (‘A Diary of the Shikoku 88-Temple Pilgrimage’, 1964 first edition), Takada Shinkai (Sutete aruke (‘Throw Away and Walk’, 1994)[4], and Kobayashi Atsuhiro (Teinen kara dōgyō ninin (‘Two are Walking Together After Retirement’, 1994 first edition); the last becoming successful and influential, as pilgrims could well use his experiences and detailed descriptions to help guide their pilgrimage.[5] One of my informants told me[6] this book is her “henro bible”, which she studied before she embarked on it. Some sources, such as the Asahi-newspaper article Henro tabi musuko ni aeta (‘I met my son doing the pilgrimage’, 1996), explain very personal reasons for doing the pilgrimage. The accounts of certain foreigners, who might have different experiences of the pilgrimage than Japanese, for example by Oliver Statler (Japanese Pilgrimage, 1977), Don Weiss (Echoes of Incense, 1994), Morris (2007) and Gerald Koll (88 Pilgern auf Japanisch, 2007) will be evaluated. Data from Fiona MacGregor’s (2002) and Kihara Rie’s recent research (2009) on foreign pilgrims in Shikoku will be included in the critical analysis.

On-line diaries are also fascinating to look at for material on how pilgrims show their experiences and understandings of their pilgrimages. Included here is a recent one from Hana, a person whom I had become friendly with during her pilgrimage in the autumn of 2010.

The pilgrimage has indeed become a commodity: the result of a search on Amazon-Japan on 8 July 2011 under the keyword “四国遍路” Shikoku henro listed 470 books, 22 DVDs, 4 videos, and 3 video-games (!); a search-result under “四国巡礼” Shikoku junrei listed 399 books and “四国八十八” Shikoku 88 even 558 books. Music, too, benefits, also financially, from this pilgrimage: the soundtrack for the NHK series is available on the market, and in particular, Japanese musician Kitaro (born ~1953)[7] has released four CD albums about the pilgrimage: “Sacred Journey of Kūkai” Vol. 1 (2003), Vol. 2 (2005), Vol. 3 (2007), and “Shikoku 88 Places” (2004). The last was, in his words, his answer to the 11 September 2001 attack (quoted in The “Sacred journey of Kūkai” visits all 88 temples, where he had recorded sounds of nature and temple instruments (such as their bells); coinciding with the release of the first volume in this series, he visited some temples again to, as he put it, “say thanks”[8].

These are all valuable resources, because they show how those involved in the pilgrimage want it to be seen and characterized – though whether this is how contemporary pilgrims experience and regard it is something that needs to be analysed though fieldwork in this thesis.

In the context of this thesis, the most outstanding and detailed publication on the Shikoku pilgrimage is Ian Reader’s Making Pilgrimages. Meaning and Practice in Shikoku (2005). This key work, that positions itself not only in the area of social, but also religious studies, uses data acquired through field studies (such as observations and interviews), incorporates important literature related to this field of research, analyses the history and present state of the pilgrimage, and shows what meaning the pilgrimage has for all of its participants (the pilgrims as well as other participants, including temple priests, locals, and business entities). Other key academic works are: Abé Ryūichi’s The Weaving of Mantra : Kūkai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse (1999), Hakeda Yoshito’s Kūkai , Major Works (1972), Shiraki Toshiyuki and Yoritomi Motohiro’s Shikoku henro no kenkyū (‘Studies on the Shikoku Pilgrimage’, 2001), Osada Koichi, Sakata Masaaki, and Seki Mitsuo’s Gendai no Shikoku henro – michi no shakaigaku no shiten kara (‘Contemporary Shikoku pilgrimage – a road from a social studies’ perspective’, 2003), Hoshino Eiki’s ‘Pilgrimage and Peregrination. Contextualizing the Saikoku Junrei and the Shikoku Henro’ (1997) and Shikoku henro no shūkyōgakuteki kenkyū (‘Religious studies on the Shikoku henro’, 2001), Natalie Kouamé’s ‘Shikoku’s Local Authorities and Henro During the Golden Age of the Pilgrimage’ (1997) and Pélerinage et société dans le Japon des Tokugawa: le pélerinage de Shikoku entre 1598 et 1868 (‘Pilgrimage and society in Japan during Tokugawa: the pilgrimage in Shikoku during 1598 and 1868’, 2001), and Gorai Shigeru’s Shikoku henro no tera (‘Shikoku Henro Temples’, 1996).

All of the above publications are indeed valuable, for example, Kagawa University’s study of pilgrims in Takamatsu-Prefecture during 2007, and Waseda University’s study of pilgrims during 1996. Hoshino’s data (2001) that is used in this thesis appendix B is from Ehime for the years 1925-43 [excluding 1932-34 and 1939-40], and Kouamé’s from 1598 to 1868 are important. These last two, of course, cover historical aspects more than present developments, and as Reader writes:

As Hoshino is deeply aware, the henro ’s complex history has had a massive imprint on its nature in the present day, and hence he is aware that one needs to look in detail also at its past, and at the imprints and shadows that the past has on the present, if one is to make proper sense of the pilgrimage as it is today. (2003: 126)

In my fieldwork, I inspected several thousand osame-fuda[9] of past pilgrims, covering the time-span of the years 1816-1911, at the Nishida family at their zenkonyado[10], but my analyses of these will be added in the appendix B. This is because, while quantitative data is important, as will be discussed in the section ‘Qualitative and quantitative research’ in chapter two, I also wanted qualitative data, so as to analyse how contemporary participants experience the pilgrimage, and the meaning it holds for them, and what role Kōbō Daishi has in their understanding of it: to understand what ‘goes on in their heads’, here and now. So, in 2007, I started out by collecting ‘hard’ data – to lay the base for my research; I got more acquainted with the pilgrimage, the temples, participants, and the processes involved: I needed, first of all, to become more familiar with the basic facts of the pilgrimage. I later had many in-depth interactions with pilgrims, temple officials, those that give out o-settai[11], and sendatsu[12], for getting to know what ‘went on in their heads’, how they construct their meaning of the pilgrimage, and how they see Kōbō Daishi in this – in each I observed, listened to, and recorded what they told me over an hour or so, being careful not to indirectly put words into people’s mouths, such as by leading questions.

Matsuo Shinkū’s Hito wa naze junrei ni tabidatsu noka (‘Why do people go on a pilgrimage?’, 2008) gives as reasons for doing the Shikoku pilgrimage: meeting and enjoying the fellowship and community of other pilgrims, sharing experiences and helping each other and thus becoming becoming friendly with each other (182-183). This thesis uses the term ‘ nakayoshi[13] to describe this bond that sometimes forms between pilgrims. Shinkū gives his own experiences as well as that of a few other pilgrims, but stays somewhat general and does not give a detailed analysis of contemporary pilgrims’ understanding of the pilgrimage, especially their oral construction, in which I would like to see the original wording that the informants used. These aspects need to be addressed in this thesis.

Kobayashi Kiyū included 31 short interviews in his work ‘Route 88’ (2003). He focusses on younger pilgrims (average age: 27), mostly walkers, some were doing it for the first time, some were repeaters, some did it in one go, whilst some cut it into manageable pieces. These interviews reveal much about reasons for doing the pilgrimage and experiences along the way, but no participant ever mentioned the terms ‘Kōbō Daishi’ or ‘Kūkai’. So: is Kōbō Daishi/ Kūkai not important for them? This needs further addressing througthout the thesis, and it will be found that my informants do feel closer to him, such as because of the ascetic nature of their travels (as they felt a sense of kinship with the walking Kōbō Daishi because he too had problems along the way, such as he and a contemporary pilgrim slept under the ‘bridge of ten nights’), while bus and other pilgrims show evidence of faith in their prayers – see for example pages 134, 135, 199 and 207).

Shiraki and Yoritomi give a valuable analysis of the Shikoku pilgrimage, explaining its history and other details, such as how tales and legends influenced and promoted the pilgrimage, that Kūkai could not have established it (2001: 16), but that ascetic monks from Mount Kōya might have been the first to visit Shikoku (18), and one of their findings is that (the historical) Kūkai should not be equated with the Kōbō Daishi of myth and legend (18-19). The question remains: how do contemporary pilgrims understand this? What position has ‘Kōbō Daishi’ in their legendary construction of the pilgrimage? Some further investigation of pilgrims ‘on the ground’ in Shikoku to produce ‘deep’ data needs to be conducted.

When Asakawa analyses o-settai, and talks about the habit of collecting osame-fuda in a rice-basket at the private home of a person who gives out alms, he includes a photograph of such a basket (2008: 163), which was taken in a public space (‘Henro Salon’), without further interviews. This thesis also analyses this aspect of pilgrimage-culture, and introduces a photograph taken at a private home, where I asked the owner (and further informants on other occasions, too) to tell me what this means for him, why his family did o-settai, how they have learned about these traditions, how they do it now, how they transmit these customs to the next generation, and so on, so as to get ‘rich’ data. Asakawa concludes that his research showed (433-436) that o-settai was a habit, which donors learned and copied from parents; and other people do this, so one also does it; that it promotes community feeling between those that give out alms, and that they give it out because the pilgrims are identified with Kōbō Daishi (434-435). Yet it needs to be further asked, for example, how is this understood by contemporary participants (locals and pilgrims), what they think its origins are, if alms-giving serves to build ties between the participants as well as reciprocal links with the pilgrims, which bonds are formed by whom and why: what do they, in their own words, tell the researcher?

Osada, Sakata and Seki’ Gendai no Shikoku henro – michi no shakaigaku no shiten kara (‘Contemporary Shikoku pilgrimage – from the perspective of a sociology of the road’, 2003) is a key-work about the Shikoku pilgrimage from a social studies’ point of view, but sometimes their data, of 2001 (2003: 124), needs a little updating, for example the sendatsu -list they give only extends until 1989 and one further rank of sendatsu was added in the meantime (126). This thesis will clarify these issues. Another aspect that one would want more on is why do people wish to become sendatsu, and what does it mean for them?

Bringing it all together, the particular issue that this research addresses is that while Kōbō Daishi figures large in many of the popular presentations of the pilgrimage (in guidebooks, TV programmes, and in temple pamphlets), there is a question of what role he actually plays in the outlook and practices of contemporary pilgrims. The thesis will therefore highlight the ways in which ‘Kōbō Daishi’ figures in the views and behaviour of pilgrims and those who support them: the various roles ‘Kōbō Daishi’ plays, and how these relate together, and to other themes and aspects of the pilgrimage, as well as pointing out aspects of the pilgrimage that are not focussed on Kōbō Daishi. In other words, how contemporary pilgrims make meaning of the pilgrimage and, in particular, Kōbō Daishi’s place in this. Looking at the position of Kōbō Daishi and the legendary construction of the pilgrimage in the minds of my informants, it will become clear that in their views, the ‘real history’ of the pilgrimage is not important compared to the legendary one centred on Kōbō Daishi, and this is seen in their adherence to legends and stories relating to him. Long interviews show how people naturally draw on commonly held beliefs, especially if they have never come across more sceptical academic accounts. And this thesis shows how conduct and belief are very context-dependent in Japan, so, regarding less devout pilgrims, these would still go along with such understandings to some extent. Furthermore, my informants showed that, although they might talk of it as a ‘story’ and a ‘legend’, they, to varying extents, temporarily enter the ‘world’ of the stories, and thus feel their force. The thesis will explain how Kōbō Daishi is regarded, and felt, as ‘close’ to humans, as ever-available on the pilgrimage route to those doing the pilgrimage with faith, watchfully guiding and protecting those pilgrims who believe in him; and those that don’t yet, might still relate miraculous events that happen during the pilgrimage to his ‘power’. Kōbō Daishi is seen to exists here and now, somewhere on the boundaries of Buddha-worlds and this-world, being ‘alive’ in his mausoleum, and at the same time present in limitless manifestations, including in Shikoku, helping, supporting and guiding pilgrims and those who believe in him (for example, see plate 69). For my informants, memorialising the dead was important because the spirits of the dead were seen to have to be cleansed of karmic and spiritual ‘pollution’. ‘Dirty’ (polluted) spirits were thought to be dangerous, harming the family and even their village, so one needed to appease them through rites (such as conducting the pilgrimage), so that they would calm down and become then protecting guardian spirits. For my informants, by appeasing ancestors and Kōbō Daishi, they receive in return mercy and blessings from all of them. Kōbō Daishi is seen as accompanying the dead relative as well as present pilgrim, ‘watching over them’, and aiding communication of the living with the dead. Indeed, Kōbō Daishi is seen as ever watchful, and the merit of doing the pilgrimage further pleases Kōbō Daishi, who also then becomes even more of a protector through extending this protection and ‘blessing’ to the dead as well as to the living family members; and the more often one does the pilgrimage, merit gained and blessings received increase, too.

Fieldwork will look at what ‘value’ pilgrimage items have for the pilgrims, for example, whether one can convert ‘cash value’ into karmic benefit. It will become clear that it does not mean ‘value’ in monetary terms, but in ‘specialness’ or ‘sacredness’, and how a higher cost is seen as a sign of a higher ‘specialness’, which shows devotion, and greater dedication to Kōbō Daishi. As to my informants, they believed that Kōbō Daishi was ‘blessing’ their life, including arranging for good things to happen to them, and for their longevity, and contemporary examples of experienced healing-power of Kōbō Daishi will be given and analysed, to understand what role Kōbō Daishi, and in particular faith in him, are seen to have in healing. This study of contemporary pilgrims’ understanding of the Shikoku pilgrimage, and the role that Kōbō Daishi plays in this, gives a better understanding of contemporary pilgrims’ patterns of practices and their understandings thereof, and by this one can get a better general understanding of contemporary Japanese cultural practices and the world they live in, such as how they seek to achieve well-being and happiness.

The reason why I am interested in this topic is not only because I am a Buddhist priest[14], and have lived on Shikoku Island between May 1992 until August 2006[15], but also because I have completed the pilgrimage several times, and have been appointed as a sendatsu[16] on 1 December 2009 by the Reijōkai[17], and will be appointed as second-rank (gonchū) sendatsu on 2 December 2011; in addition, I am one of the 80 founding members of the higashi Nippon sendatsu kai (East Japan Sendatsu Association), established on 21 May 2011[18]. Furthermore, I first did the pilgrimage between 21 April 1993 and 23 October 1994 (clockwise, in parts, by walking and using other forms of public transportation). After moving to Tokyo, I subsequently completed the pilgrimage again (always by rented car) for the second time between 15 and 21 March 2007; the third completion was between 15 and 20 October 2007. The fourth time was between 8 and 15 April 2008, when I also briefly visited the 20 bekkaku[19] -temples. I also visited Shikoku between 24 and 26 August 2008. Furthermore, I visited the island of Ōmishima in Ehime Prefecture from 10 to 12 November 2008. From 22 to 28 April 2009 I visited Shikoku again. My subsequent visit was from 19 to 26 May 2009. My next visit to the island was from 2 to 12 December 2009, during which I completed the pilgrimage for a fifth time. I was again on Shikoku from 24 October to 1 November 2010, and will have completed the pilgrimage again for a sixth time in 2011. My extensive fieldwork that I have conducted during these visits, and the rationale underlying these, will be explained in detail in chapter 2, ‘Fieldwork and approaches to research; issues, methods and processes’.

Regarding its structure, this thesis is divided into eight chapters, four appendixes, a glossary, and an extensive bibliography. Chapter one gives a thorough introduction to ‘pilgrimage’, ‘religion’ and ‘religious’ in the contemporary world, and in particular in Japan. Works discussed in this chapter are: Coleman and Elsner’s Pilgrimage – Past and Present in the World Religions (1995), Peter Jan Margry (ed.), Shrines and Pilgrimage in the Modern World. New Itineraries into the Sacred (2008), Émile Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1915), Peter Berger’s Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Approach (1963) and The Sacred Canopy. Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (1967), Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s Social Construction of Reality (1966), Linda Woodhead (ed., with Paul Heelas and David Martin) in Peter Berger and the Study of Religion (2001), Ninian Smart’s Worldviews. Crosscultural Explorations of Human Beliefs (1995), Timothy Fitzgerald’s The Ideology of Religious Studies (2000), Alan Aldridge’s Religion in the Contemporary World (2007), John Hinnells’ (ed.) A New Handbook of Living Religions (1997), a discussion between Reader and Richard Anderson in 1991 in three editions of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (Reader’s ‘Letters to the Gods – The Form and Meaning of Ema’, Anderson’s ‘What Constitutes Religious Activity? I’, and Reader’s ‘What Constitutes Religious Activity? II’). These are all works that are used in this chapter to understand the nature of ‘religion’ and ‘pilgrimage’, how contemporary pilgrims understand and experience this Shikoku pilgrimage, what and why pilgrims believe, why and how they act, and, more generally, to discover areas that are of concern to the contemporary Japanese. For this, the meaning of ‘religious’ in the Japanese context needed to be understood first. And to decipher the perceptions and experiences of pilgrims, textual work to lay the base, and then in particular ethnographic fieldwork was necessary; in fact, these interactions in the field are the basis of the thesis.

Chapter two then explains the various perspectives in social research: firstly, different kinds of methodological perspectives and issues to be alert to are looked at (objectivism, positivism, empiricism, validity, feminism, ethnographic methodology, constructivism and interpretivism, qualitative and quantitative research, and linguistic aspects of meaning-making in Japan), which relate to the approaches for this thesis’ fieldwork. Alan Byrman’s Social Research Methods (2001), Tim May’s Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process (2001), Kathrin Herr and Gary Anderson’s The Action Research Dissertation. A Guide to Students and Faculty (2005) are the main works used in this part. Then, my fieldwork methods, which were both quantitative (hard data through brief surveys), and qualitative (rich and deep data through long interactions) – both approaches complemented each other for this thesis – are carefully described in detail, which relates to its sources: my informants, who, as will be explained, were all ‘typical’ pilgrims, so the findings of the research are representative and have some broader applicability, such as a better general understanding of contemporary Japanese cultural practices and the world they live in, for example, what they wish to achieve for their well-being and happiness.

Chapter three looks at Kōbō Daishi, his possible role in the Shikoku pilgrimage, and gives an initial review of contemporary pilgrims’ understanding of this, with related issues of meaning-making. It first draws an outline of the life of Kōbō Daishi Kūkai in the context of this thesis’ area of research. Then it looks at the possible connection of Kōbō Daishi with the origin of the pilgrimage and its temples, the Daishi shinkō (faith) and some stories and tales related to this. The chapter looks at the position of Kōbō Daishi and the legendary construction of the pilgrimage in the minds of pilgrims. Some of the works that are used in this chapter, which also draws much on my fieldwork are: Shiraki Toshiyuki and Yoritomi Motohiro’s Shikoku henro no kenkyū (‘Studies on the Shikoku Pilgrimage’, 2001), Hakeda Yoshito’s Kūkai. Major Works (1972), Shiba Ryotaro’s Kukai the Universal. Scenes from His Life (2005), Takeuchi Kōzen’s Kōbō Daishi Kūkai no kenkyū (‘Studies on Kōbō Daishi Kūkai’, 2006), Gerald Koll’s Henro boke: Pilgern auf Japanisch (‘Henro boke: Pilgrimage in Japanese’, 2011) and 88. Pilgern auf Japanisch (‘88. Pilgrimage in Japanese’, 2008), Reader’s Making Pilgrimages. Meaning and Practice in Shikoku (2005), Miyata Taisen’s A Henro Pilgrimage Guide to the 88 Temples of Shikoku Island, Japan, (2006), and Willa Tanabe’s ‘The Persistence of Self a Body and Personality in Japanese Buddhist Art’ (1998).

Chapter four looks at the various ‘sacred’ foci of the pilgrimage, particularly as embodied in statues, especially ones generally hidden from public view, of various Buddhist deities. The chapter draws heavily on fieldwork, as well as on works such as Suzuki Michitaka’s Hibutsu (Hidden Buddha) Living Images in Japan and the Orthodox Icons (2011). The chapter also looks at the relation of Shinto and Buddhism and related rituals and contemporary pilgrims’ understanding of these, as well as their own religious affiliation in relation to Buddhism and Shinto and thoughts about ‘religion’, including mixed Shinto and Buddhist beliefs on people’s post-mortem state. While chapter one’s section on “‘religion’ and ‘religious’ in Japan” has a general discussion of pilgrims’ own religious affiliation, what they think about ‘religion’ and the relation of Shinto and Buddhism, what they do (and why) at pilgrimage sites, these are here discussed in the explicit context of contemporary understanding of Shikoku pilgrims. Also, death, ancestor memorial and related rites and customs, and in particular the role that Kōbō Daishi plays in these, are important areas of contemporary pilgrims’ understanding that are looked at in this chapter.

Chapter five analyses pilgrimage behaviour, including the meaning of various pilgrimage items, related ritual behaviour, and pilgrims' views of the significance of ways of doing the pilgrimage. One of the many aspects touched on is the high costs involved, and the question of whether one can one convert ‘cash expenditure’ to karmic benefit? Or, in other words, what is the ‘value’ of various pilgrimage items for pilgrims, and why? What do my informants mean when they tell me that one shows dedication to the pilgrimage and to Kōbō Daishi by collecting expensive items? Do walking pilgrims generally feel closer to Kōbō Daishi, or not? Although this part draws heavily on my fieldwork, literature consulted here are Tanaka Hiroshi’s ‘The Evolution of a Representative Japanese Pilgrimage as a Complex Self-Organizing Organism’ (1999), Natalie Kouamé’s ‘Shikoku’s Local Authorities and Henro During the Golden Age of the Pilgrimage’ (1997), Kihara Rie’s Shikoku Pilgrimage. A Study of Foreign Pilgrims from a Japanese Point of View (2009), and a Tosa-city government publication, Tosashi-shi (‘History of Tosa-city’, 1973).

Chapter six examines various common motives for doing the pilgrimage, before focussing on ones relating to curing illnesses and memorialising the dead. It looks at how contemporary pilgrims understand Shikoku pilgrimage-temple traditions relating to the cure of illnesses and diseases, and the role that Kōbō Daishi has, such as through related tales, in the construction of the pilgrimage as seen by pilgrims. It examines how contemporary pilgrims understand ancestor memorials, and the various forms of memorialising dead relatives, and the relation of Shikoku and death. It also analyses various Japanese ideas about what happens when one dies, and how one might be able to help the dead, and the pilgrimage as being seen to bring both this-worldly benefits and benefits to the already dead, and for oneself when one dies, and how these matters relate in particular to Kōbō Daishi. In this chapter, too, much fieldwork data is used, supplemented by other available data of research by others, such as: temple pamphlets, Ōtsukichō-shi Henshū-iinkai’s Ōtsukichō-shi (‘History of Ōtsuki- town’, 1995), Alfred Bohner Wallfahrt zu zweien (‘Pilgrimage of Two People Together’, ed. by David Moreton, 2010), Takamure Itsue’s Musume Junreiki (‘A pilgrimage diary of a young woman’, 1979 edition), Joanne Hershfield’s Between two Worlds: A Japanese Pilgrimage (1992), Tommi Mendel’s Arukihenro.Walking Pilgrims (2006), Asashi and Mainichi Newspaper publications (1996 and 1995).

Chapter seven looks at those who support pilgrims, and their motives. Selfless alms-giving to pilgrims has a strong tradition in Shikoku. Fieldwork looks at how those who support pilgrims understand this, such as whether there are some karmic or other benefits, and how the traditions involved are understood. Connections to Kōbō Daishi, and related tales, and how these are understood by contemporary participants, are analysed. Moral obligations, community-bonding and sharing, are seen as generating karmic benefit, forming reciprocal links with outsiders, between the group members of the alms - giving-participants, as well as with the temple where they conduct their activities. These are all areas that are looked at through an analysis of extensive fieldwork, as is how pilgrimage-guides understand their ‘work’, and how pilgrims see these guides. Two of the works used here are Kouamé’s Pélerinage et société dans le Japon des Tokugawa: le pélerinage de Shikoku entre 1598 et 1868 (‘Pilgrimage and society in Japan during Tokugawa: the pilgrimage in Shikoku during 1598 and 1868’, 2001) and Moreton’s The History of Charitable Giving Along the Shikoku Pilgrimage Route (2001).

Chapter eight brings the findings of this thesis together and also shows further areas of studies. Four appendixes inform on the origin and identity of pilgrims, and their mode of travel, all drawing on my fieldwork and data from Kouamé (2001), Hoshino (2001), Waseda University (1996) and Kagawa University (2008), and a list gives the temples in alphabetical order. An extensive glossary rounds this thesis up.

Chapter 1: Introduction to ‘pilgrimage’, ‘religion’, and ‘religious’


The term pilgrimage derives from the Latin peregrinum, “stranger”, and peregre, “from abroad” both from per, “through”, and ager, “country”, “land” (Linda Kay Davidson and David Martin Gitlitz, 2002: 478). Keene explains the pilgrimage as:

a journey undertaken for a religious motive [whether pilgrimages always must have a ‘religious’ motive, and what ‘religious’ means, will be analysed in the thesis]. Although some pilgrims have wandered around continuously with no fixed destination, pilgrims more commonly seek a specific place that has been sanctified by association with a divinity or other holy personage. The institution of pilgrimage is evident in all world religions and was also important in the pagan religions of the ancient Greece and Rome (2009: URL).

Pilgrimages are indeed found throughout the word and throughout recorded history. There are Jewish pilgrimages, the Meccan pilgrimage for Muslims, the pilgrimage to Benares and the Ganges river for Hindus (Coleman and Elsner, 1995: throughout), the Sekket’s shrine at Bubastis or Ammon’s oracle at Thebes for ancient Egyptians, Apollo at Delphi for the ancient Greeks, the temple of Quetzal for the pre-Columbus Mexicans, and Cusco for the Incas. There are many Christian pilgrimages, for example to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Canterbury in England, Rome in Italy, and so forth (Webb, 2002: throughout): Jarrett lists (URL, 2009: 4-19) altogether 105 major Catholic pilgrimage places[20] ; and some scholars argue that these started at about 200 CE, with Palestine as a goal (Webb, 2002: 1).

Regarding Buddhist pilgrimages, Tanaka states that they emerged in India in the 6th century BCE (1981: 240), but the death of the Buddha is now generally dated ~400 BCE, and pilgrimage to sites associated with him would have taken a little time to develop, so the 4th century is more likely. Places associated with the four main events of the Buddha’s life have become the goal of pilgrimages, and are called the places of the Caturmahāpratihārya, the Four Great Wonders (his birth at Lumbinī, attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gayā, his first teaching delivered at Sārnāth, and his attaining par i nirvāņa at Kuśinagara)[21]. The importance of making a pilgrimage to these places is stressed in the Pāli Mahā-parinibbāna Sutta (on the last days of the Buddha), which is found in the Dīgha Nikāya (II 72-167):

There are four places, Ānanda[22], that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence. What are the four?

“Here the Tathāgata was born!” This, Ānanda, is a place that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence [at Lumbinī].

“Here the Tathāgata became fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment!” This, Ānanda, is a place that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence [at Bodh Gayā].

“Here the Tathāgata set rolling the unexcelled Wheel of the Dhamma!” This, Ānanda, is a place that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence [at Sārnāth].

“Here the Tathāgata passed away into the state of Nibbana in which no element of clinging remains!” This, Ānanda, is a place that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence [at Kuśinagara].

These, Ānanda, are the four places that a pious person should sit and look upon with feelings of reverence. …And whoever, Ānanda, should die on such a pilgrimage[23] with his heart established in faith, at the breaking up of the body, after death, will be reborn in a realm of heavenly happiness (D.II.140-1).[24]

In this text, the spiritual value of pilgrimage to these sites, which have a significant connection to the Buddha’s life, is stated, even claiming that if one died on such as pilgrimage, one would be reborn in sugati ṃ sagga ṃ loka ṃ, ‘a good destiny, a heavenly world’ – in other words, a heavenly rebirth. The wording of the above quote shows that the key thing is that people believe a site to have a particular significance. This is relevant to what people believe regarding to Shikoku sites, as will be shown later.

King Aśoka, who ruled much of India ca. 268-239 (Harvey, 1990: 75), was very much responsible for popularising Buddhist pilgrimages; he was the third king of the Mauryan dynasty, the grandson of Candragupta, and the son of Bindusāra. After feeling remorse for his bloody conquest of the Kaliṅga region in the ninth year of his reign, he became a devoted Buddhist, and helped spread Buddhism throughout India , to Ceylon, to a part of Southeast Asia and to some parts of Western Asia. He conducted several pilgrimages to the above mentioned holy sites, and erected commemorative memorials; for example, at Lumbinī, he erected stūpa s and a stone pillar with the statue of a horse on top of it, inscribing on it that ‘this is the birthplace of the Buddha’. Over time, the location of this place became forgotten, and it was not until 1896, that a German archaeologist found a broken part of this pillar, arguing, based on these inscriptions, that this was Lumbinī[25].

In China, there are several Buddhist pilgrimage sites, for example sacred mountains have been important destinations for devoted pilgrims. Joseph Edkins wrote in his Chinese Buddhism[26] that every year, in April and October, a group would set out from Peking to the pilgrimage place of Miau-feng shan, which took four to five days, and in this thesis’ chapter sixteen ‘Buddhist Processions, Associations, Pilgrimages, and Ceremonies for the Dead’ he observed:

The worship consists of bowings, kneelings, head-knockings, burning incense, and offering of money to the attendant priest…The chief divinity is Pi-hia Yuen-chiün, a Tauist personage, but the temple is cared for by Buddhist priests. It is placed among the mountains to the north west of Peking… On one occasion I passed a [27 year-old] pilgrim going from Peking to Miau-feng shan to fulfil a vow... He had been ill, and while ill had vowed to walk in chains to the temple and back The prayers of the priest must have their effect. The chanting… cannot fail to bring happiness. (2009: 271-272).

Summits of mountains seem to have been especially associated with the spiritual, and Martin Gray explains that originally these were believed to be like pillars, supporting heaven so that it would not fall down on earth. Later, the ruler Shun (2255-2206 BCE) made pilgrimage to make offerings at summits of mountains, and it…

is interesting to note that the Chinese phrase for pilgrimage - ch' ao-shan chin-hsiang - means 'paying one's respect to a mountain'… Like Taoist hermits, the Buddhist monks favored quiet mountains and deep forests for their meditative practices. Small hermitages and later great monastic complexes sprung up at many peaks (some previously held sacred by the Taoists) and over the centuries the Buddhists began to regard four peaks as having primary sanctity:

Pu Tuo Shan, Buddhist mountain of the east, Zhejiang province, 284 meters. Sacred to Kuan-Yin[27], the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Wu Tai Shan, Buddhist mountain of the north, Shanxi province, 3061 meters. Sacred to Manjushri,[28] the Bodhisattva of Wisdom.

Emei Shan, Buddhist mountain of the west, Sichuan province, 3099 meters. Sacred to Samantabhadra[29], the Bodhisattva of Benevolent Action.”

Jiu Hua Shan, Buddhist mountain of the south, Anhui province, 1341 meters. Sacred to Kshitigarbha[30], the Bodhisattva of Salvation.

Each of the Buddhist sacred mountains is considered to be the dwelling place of a Bodhisattva. (Gray, 2011: URL).

More on pilgrimage in Chinese Buddhism can be found in Susan Naquin and Cün-Fang Yü’s Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, 1992.

In Indonesia, Borobudur, in the city of Magelang, is a massive and famous ninth-century Buddhist monument. In Nepal, Boudhanath, with its famous large stūpa, is the holiest Buddhist site in the city of Kathmandu. In South Korea, the ‘Sambosa’, the ‘Three Jewel Temples’, are the three principal Buddhist temples in Korea, with each representing one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the temple Tongdosa represents the Buddha, Haeinsa represents the Dharma, Songgwangsa represents the Sa ṅ gha.

In Japan, there are many pilgrimages. For example, particular mountains are regarded as ‘sacred’ sites (such as Mt. Fuji, Mt. Tateyama, and Mt. Haku, which are named sanreizan[31], literally ‘three spirit mountains’; Senkkadera o meguru, 2009: URL).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Plate 3: A yamabushi, mountain ascetic, blowing his horagai -‘horn’ for religious practice in front of the main hall[32] of the temple #60, Yokomine-ji (sekisho-dera[33] and nansho[34] ), which is located on Mt. Ishizuchi, which is regarded as a particularly ‘sacred’ mountain in Shikoku; photograph taken on 9 December 2009

In Shikoku, too, mountain ascetics, yamabushi, prefer isolated places to train to develop spiritual powers. According to the temple legends, Shikoku pilgrimage temple #24, Hotsumisaki-ji, was famous for being used by mountain ascetics, and temples #47, Yasaka-ji, #60, Yokomine-ji (see above plate), #64, Maegami-ji, and #85, Yakuri-ji, had originally been used by yamabushi (and are still used by some for worship and training)[35]. This will be an aspect of ‘death and pilgrimage’ below.

Rev. Nagasaki Shōkyō, head priest of pilgrimage temple #38, told me[36], that this place, too, had originally been used by yamabushi for their ascetic practice.

All in all, Ishihara Daidō lists in the Zenkoku reijō junpai jiten (‘Dictionary of the pilgrimages in all-Japan’, 1977) as many as 181 pilgrimage routes in Japan[37]. Next to the Shikoku 88-Temple Pilgrimag e (Shikoku hachijūhakkasho junrei), the Saigoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage (Saigoku-sanjūsan-kannon junrei) is also very popular, including 33 temples in West Japan which have the statues of Kannon Bosatsu enshrined (11 in Kyōto, 6 in Shiga, 5 in Osaka, 4 in Nara, 3 in Wakayama, 3 in Hyogo, and 1 in Gifu). The Bandō (Kantō) 33-temple pilgrimage is considered another important Kannon-pilgrimage, as is the Chichibu 34-Kannon Pilgrimage (Chichibu-sanjūyon-kannon junrei) in Saitama to 34 sites sacred to Kannon. All three pilgrimages combined make 100 sites to visit and venerate Kannon Bosatsu[38]. Faith in Kannon also resulted in pilgrimages routes in China, but these did not evolve into the form as found in Japan (Hoshino, 1997: 287; see also Mark MacWilliams, 1997: 378). With all of these Japanese pilgrimages, one had to visit all places[39], which are all regarded as ‘equal’ (notwithstanding the order visited), to call it ‘completed’[40]. I found that Shikoku pilgrims have an interest in other Japanese pilgrimages, too. Those quoted here were part of groups met at temples #38[41] and #75[42]. The first example, a woman at temple #38 (who did the pilgrimage a second time; the first time she had been using a taxi with a friend, and now she was walking it with her husband), told me that she has an interest in other multiple-site pilgrimages in Japan:

You know, there are also the 33 Kannon-Temples in Hokkaidō. I’ve been to the Bandō 33-Kannon Temples, too…Saigoku. I would love to go to Saigoku, too.

And at temple #75, a man explained to me that Buddhism is alive only at this pilgrimage in Shikoku; Shikoku has many repeaters like him, whereas in his opinion people do the other pilgrimages only once. The reason for this, he thinks, is that the Shikoku one can be walked, whereas the others are usually driven. [Saigoku and Shikoku are actually both over 1,000 km long (Hoshino, 1997: 285), so most people do go round it by car, although some walk it]:

You see, Buddhism is alive only here. It’s active here. There’s also the Saigoku thirty-three temple pilgrimage but people only do that once… But many people repeatedly come back to Shikoku many times like me. It’s not the same if you’re driving. People are actually walking to do the pilgrimage. That’s what I mean by a religion being active. It’s probably because this is an island and it has its own culture.[43]

Well, to put it briefly, the Shikoku pilgrimage is widely regarded as one of, if not the, most prominent pilgrimage centred on Buddhist temples in Japan.

The German News Agency N-TV sees pilgrimages as “Pilgern nicht als eine Art beliebte Freizeitbeschäftigung…, sondern als religiösen Akt” (Pilgrimage [is] not to be seen as a kind of popular leisure time activity, but as a religious act) (N-TV, 2010: URL). But can one make a distinction between ‘sacred religious’ act and ‘profane leisure time’? What are ‘religion’ and ‘religious activities’ then, particularly in the contemporary pilgrimage context, in particular in Japan? These are some of the issues that will be analysed below.

Clive Ruggles, Emeritus Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester, in his work, Ancient Astronomy, an encyclopaedia of cosmology and related myths, writes that pilgrimages often represent a break away from familiar places and have been practised even in the past, even in prehistory; the participant, he states, usually perceived the need to visit a particular place and undertake one or more specific acts of worship there (2005: 334), and for any place to become the focus of a pilgrimage, it must be seen as being exceptional in some way, and must also include some form of religious practices conducted there, because not any place that attracts many visitors would qualify as a pilgrimage site, such as, say, market places, and he summarizes: pilgrimages are “journeys in search of spiritual fulfilment” (333).

Simon Coleman and John Elsner show in their Pilgrimage – Past and Present in the World Religions (1995), that pilgrimages in the various world religions have, although their practices and experiences differ, many common structures and features. Summarizing pilgrimages, they write that they not only serve some spiritual quest or fulfilment, or provide worldly benefits, or travel and touristic needs, but are a means to break from common behaviour: “in a society based on feudal economic and political structures, it [the pilgrimage] could provide an opportunity not only to break the bounds of one’s immediate locality but also the constraints of everyday behaviour” (1995: 111). Victor and Edith Turner (1978), in their Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture: Anthropological Perspectives, show the breaking of everyday bounds and contraints as fasciliating these communitas. They describe pilgrimage systems as more:

‘liminoid’ (… not conceptualized as a religious routine) than ‘liminal’ (… a religious processional structure…), the latter being… embodied in the… tribal or early agrarian society’s annual ecological and social structural round, and are obligatory for all. Liminoid phenomena,… prevail in societies of greater scale and complexity, and tend to be generated by the voluntary activity of individuals during their free time (1978: 231).

Here one encounters communitas, which shows humility, sacredness, homogeneity, and comradeship (250), in other words: a world of anti-structure, a time that is outside the everyday life, experiencing a feeling of group-belonging with other pilgrims, what Coleman and Elsner define as “temporary ‘social deaths’” (1995: 201). Communitas involves “an intensive feeling of sharing, spontaneity and togetherness, free from inequity, convention and status distinctions” (Alan Aldridge, 2007, Religion in the Contemporary World: 215-216).

Nevertheless, this thesis shows that the Shikoku pilgrimage is much controlled, structured and conceptualized, so it is not ‘liminoid’ as defined by Turner and Turner. But still, pilgrims experience a feeling of consensus and sharing and group-belonging, in other word communitas, which is, then, liminal; however, the Shikoku pilgrimage is not ‘obligatory for all’, or done at a set time. Furthermore, not all pilgrims are the same: Shikoku pilgrims clearly distinguish ranks, hierarchy, and status (such as by a red kongō-stick, signalling that the carrier is a sendatsu, or the colour of the osame-fuda paper-slips, for example, red is used by a pilgrim who has done the pilgrimage between 7 and 24 times) and so not all are equal and sharing the same experience. It is interesting to see how Shikoku pilgrims on the one hand share the same experience (bus-groups sleeping in the same rooms, wearing the same clothes, conducting the same rituals), but at the same time are distinguished by hierarchy (different garbs, different colours of osame-fuda, different hats), some leading the rituals and being closer to the abbot or temple (such as a sendatsu) while others are following, thus having different experiences at the same time.

John Eade and Miachael Sallnow take the following standpoint:

Pilgrimage is above all an area for competing religious and secular discourses, for both the official co-optation and non-official recovery of religious meanings, for conflict between orthodoxies, sects and confessional groups, for drivers towards consensus and communitas, and for counter-movements towards separateness and division. The essential heterogeneity of the pilgrimage process, which is marginalized or suppressed in the earlier, deterministic models… and those who adapted a Turnerian paradigm, is here pushed centre-stage, rendered problematic… we should deconstruct the very category of ‘pilgrimage’ into historically and culturally specific behaviours and meanings. For, if one can no longer take for granted the meaning of a pilgrimage for its participants, one can no longer take for granted a uniform definition of the phenomenon of ‘pilgrimage’ either (2000: xii-xiii).

I agree in so far that in something as complex as the Shikoku pilgrimage, general theories of pilgrimages can only serve as a framework. But, this thesis will show that one can find the meaning that the Shikoku pilgrimage has for its participants, if one carefully applies ethnographic methodology and contextual analysis – then, a definition of the Shikoku pilgrimage is possible, but it will include many layers: It will, for example, be found that the Shikoku pilgrimage provides for different ‘world’ experiences in many different ways, and that it does contribute significantly to the well-being of all of its various participants.

On pilgrimage in modern societies Coleman and Elsner say that modern forms of travel and media coverage have led to an increase in pilgrims (1995: 213), and, if one accepts the Durkheimian ‘sacred’ as “embodiment and representation of social ideals… [pilgrimage] is taking on new forms that go far beyond standard religious practice” (214)[44]. They find that tourism, and in particular visits to museums, are much like pilgrimages (213-220). Living in Tokyo, I am reminded of the famous Ginza-shopping district. The recent opening of a luxury boutique was reported in the news on television, showing people, who had come from near and far, queuing up already the night before, so that they could buy a new bag from their favourite brand when the shop opened the next morning. The commentator said something on the lines of: ‘These people are devoted to their ABC-brand; it is their meaning of life, and they wouldn’t accept using any other brand: The newly-opened Ginza shop is surely the ultimate Mecca for all those that love this brand.’ This made me think: could this not be regarded as a modern pilgrimage activity and destination? Could a devoted visit to engage in shopping for one’s favourite designer brand at a particular boutique in Ginza not be seen as a ‘break-away from the constraints of everyday behaviour’, and, as such, as a ‘religious’ act? They are usually spectacularly designed, with the objects artistically placed, the gorgeous interior a perfectly idealised evocation of the brand’s image, giving the shopper a certain identity within society, and each season a new collection is showcased, so the visit there becomes ritual: the end-point of the journey is the new item or collection. But this might not be more of a breakaway than going to the theatre, so do such parallels work? Coleman and Elsner refer to a work by Reader and Walter[45] that shows that “non-religious activities such as visits to war graves, to the tombs of dead pop stars and even to Anfield football ground [Liverpool; italics by me][46] can take on some of the features of the pilgrimage” (Coleman and Elsner, 1995: 230, note 41).

Can visiting Elvis’ grave have some features in common with the Shikoku pilgrimage? Before looking at this in the Japanese context, it is helpful to note a point made by Gavid Flood. In his book Beyond Phenomenology. Rethinking the Study of Religion (1999), Flood gives an integrative critique of phenomenology, employed in the area of Religious Studies (throughout, esp. 91-116), and he argues for “… the recognition of the centrality of narrative in any research programme, and… that all research programmes are dialogical, constructed in interaction between self and ‘data’ or subjects of research” (15). This is important, as this thesis quests to find out what ‘goes on in pilgrims’ heads’, and seeks to understand how they experience things, and one way of acquiring information is by interacting with my informants, and listening to what they say. Flood argues that phenomenology alone is inadequate in constructing understanding, as it is difficult to describe religious experiences as-they-are in language, and he concludes that Religious Studies must include discourse about culture, society… and be “sensitive to difference and the many layers of cultural meaning” (235). The question here, as I see it, is how much or little is language limiting or actually able to describe something without interpreting or judging? Great care needs to be taken when employing language to describe the many facets of this pilgrimage; in other words, what people say needs to be understood in the context of their culture and society – this is what this thesis regards as necessary to implement throughout.

For example, the Japanese term for ‘Shikoku 88-Temple Pilgrimage’ is Shikoku hachijūhakkasho junrei[47]. Shikoku hachijūhakkasho means Shikoku 88 places, and junrei can be translated as pilgrimage in English. However, jun derives from junban ni mawaru, to circumambulate in an order, but in the case of Shikoku, this does not necessarily mean in numerical order, as long as one visits all 88 temples. Pai as in junrei or junpai[48] (another term similar to junrei) is found in ogamu[49] , so: ogamu no tame ni (otera/jinja) ni iku. Shikoku hachijūhakkasho junrei could be translated as Shikoku 88-temple-pilgrimage, but one should consider that the person, henro[50], who is engaging in it, is ogamu tame ni iku: in other words, that he/she is visiting the 88 temples to do ogamu there. And this ogamu could simply be translated as to pray (the Christian equivalent would be inoru[51]: to pray at a church), but I would go one step further and translate it, and therefore the act of doing this pilgrimage, as: engaging in acts that try to form a connection to something that is ‘sacred’ or divine in some sense. What this ‘sacred’ or ‘special’ in Japanese religiosity means, will be analysed in this thesis.

Peter Jan Margry (ed.), in Shrines and Pilgrimage in the Modern World. New Itineraries into the Sacred (2008) summarizes recent research in pilgrimage as follows:

A pilgrimage must therefore entail interaction between the sacred or the religious, an element of personal transition, and the existence of a cult object… there is thus an essential distinction between pilgrimage and ‘secular pilgrimage’ (such as recreational travel, etc.) in that pilgrimage has a transformative potential to give meaning to life, healing, etc. (36), … If one assumes that the religious dimension or motivation is a constitutive element of pilgrimage, then the next question is whether the ‘secular,’ modern and non-confessional shrines and pilgrimages, outside the traditional… pilgrimage culture, do in fact have a religious dimension (30)… [Recent ethnographic research shows] that powerful new sacred spaces come into being at locations where the visitors can cope with the traumatic loss of a venerated person – an icon, idol, role model, hero, or ‘saint’ – or where this loss is commemorated, such as at graves and roadside memorials. The value and significance of these places are then raised from the profane/secular level to a more transcendent level, so that the visit acquires a religious or sacred dimension and can then be regarded as pilgrimage. The religiosity and rituality exhibited there by people in fact mark them as pilgrims in the ‘classic’ sense, and therefore their visits to these places are essentially different in function and meaning from those of others who go there for non-religious reasons. (327)

As such, to round up the above paragraphs, Elvis Presley, also known as the ‘King of Rock’n’Roll’, or Steven Gerrard of Liverpool’s Premier League-football-club are famous and important, but the Shikoku junrei differs from, say, visiting Elvis’ grave at Graceland, or a theatre, museum, or a brand-shop in Ginza: a visit to these special places, or a holiday to some distant and exotic place outside of the daily routine, does not, in itself, form a significant connection to something ‘sacred’ or ‘religious’ or ‘divine’, unless that person explicitly seeks to do so.

‘Religion’ and ‘religious’ in the contemporary world

But what is ‘religion’ and ‘religious’ in the contemporary world? To answer this, one would first need to clarify what these two terms mean, also especially with particular reference to Japan, and, by doing so, locate this thesis within the current debates and discussions in the discipline of Religious Studies. Then we can understand better what the meaning this Shikoku pilgrimage has for contemporary pilgrims, and what role Kōbō Daishi has in their understanding of it. Included here should also be a discussion about a researcher’s attitude to the content of faith: for example, if a pilgrim says that Kōbō Daishi is alive during the pilgrimage, and that they walk together with him, then one would better accept their words as an expression of their belief, attitude, and feeling[52]. The same can be said about the related stories and legends, and the meaning that these have for those involved, such as that concerning Emon Saburō, who is said to have been searching for Kōbō Daishi to ask for forgiveness, and thus became the first pilgrim in the traditional understanding. Even if an academic analysis reveals that this cannot de facto have happened, belief in it is a fascinating aspect of religious practice, and one would have to accept this notion as part of the belief-world of many pilgrims. One can also see this in, for example, the ‘holy water’ (believed to be consecrated by Kōbō Daishi) for the cure of illnesses, available at pilgrimage temple #22, Byōdō-ji[53].

Contemporary notions of ‘religion’ and ‘religious’ need to be carefully looked at, and the role that ‘religion’ plays in modern society: firstly in general terms, and then, particularly, in the context of Japanese religiosity and religious practice in order to be able to analyse the understanding of contemporary pilgrims of the Shikoku pilgrimage. For this, one better deconstruct one’s notion (and assumption) of ‘religion’ first, otherwise this can be misleading. One should also critically reflect upon the Durkheimian (see below) dichotomy of sacred and profane, other-worldly and this-worldly. Peter Berger explains that Thomas Luckmann even concluded that everything genuinely human is religious, and the only non-religious aspects of human existence are those that man has in common with animals (in his book Das Problem der modernen Gesellschaft, 1963, cited in: Berger: The Sacred Canopy, 1967: 166-7).

Moreover, ‘meaning’ in religion is a complex and tricky term, and needs exploration. So does the way pilgrimage and worship reinforce relations between the living and the dead, which is of particular importance in Japan, and of the pilgrimage as ‘time-out’ from normality, and the idea of the ‘merit’ or ‘benefit’ of various practices. These aspects will be addressed accordingly in this thesis.

Mentioned above was the French writer Émile Durkheim (1858-1917), who can be regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern social science, along with the Germans Karl Marx (1818-1883), Georg Simmel (1858-1918), Max Weber (1864-1920), and Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923). Gordon Lynch, in his The New Spirituality. An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty-First Century, characterizes Durkheim’s studies as “arguably… [the] most important analyses of the new form of religion in modern society” (2007: 102). Of particular interest for this thesis is Durkheim’s work The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1915): an analysis of religion as an expression of society, in which he defined religion and religious phenomena, and clarified his view that religion is inevitable when people live together as a group, and that religion is therefore a communal experience, and a means to hold a society together:

We now see the real reason why the gods cannot do without their worshippers any more than these can do without their gods; it is because society, of which the gods are only a symbolic expression, cannot do without individuals any more than these can do without society[54] (Durkheim, 1915: 47).

And he summarizes his view about religion as follows:

A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things that is to say, things set apart and forbidden - beliefs and practices which unite in one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them (1915: 47; emphasis in original).

As suggested above, one might better understand ‘religion’ and ‘religious’ if one critically reflects upon the Durkheimian dichotomy of sacred (the realm of the extraordinary and the transcendent) and profane (the realm of everyday activities), other-worldly and this-worldly as the base of religion, particularly, for this thesis, in the context of Japanese religiosity and religious practice.

In note 37 on page 38, 181 pilgrimage routes in Japan were listed, which were grouped by the sacred focus that they have. So there are two related, but not identical questions here: a) Does the Shikoku pilgrimage have certain sacred focuses? Answer, as it will be shown later: yes, it does, for anyone who visits the temples and does rituals there; b) do all those who do the pilgrimage do it for reasons that might be called ‘religious’? Answer: this is what needs to be discussed in the following. As one of the many examples given in this thesis, a Japanese woman told me that she is doing the Shikoku pilgrimage for painting water colour pictures of the temples and pilgrims: is this a ‘religious’ reason, or could this be seen as an example of someone doing it for a ‘non-religious’ reason, or how should one understand this, in the context of the Japanese society and culture?

According to Durkheim, one was (at least until his times, i.e. beginning of the 20th century) defined by belonging to a particular church, which held a direct link to belonging to the state (and a state might very well force its people into a particular church[55] ). In Japanese history, religious schools have often had a close relationship with the state (though different schools were included in this). This is no longer true: people pursue their own, individual happiness, or that of their family, and all the people I know, rather define themselves through belonging to a certain secular group (be it, for example, a political party, a lover of a designer brand (as in the Ginza-example above), or group of admirers of a particular manga-character), than a certain church). This is even more true in Japan. For many contemporary people (as seen in the drop of membership[56] ), membership in a certain ‘church’ is not much relevant. And even those who define themselves through belonging to a certain school, are members by individual choice and not force[57]. While it is true that, in Japan, people usually belong to families that have a traditional affiliation with a certain Buddhist school – it varies considerably whether or not they still value this link.

So, the Durkheim analysis of religion as an expression of society is not applicable now, or rather, it is, but in an amended way, as there is still a link between society, individual and religion. But, I understand him to mean that society is unifying its members into a single religion. It is true that in Japan, people have generally always drawn on both Buddhism and Shinto (though one might argue that this was a single synthesis), which is, in other words, a means to hold the society together. However, in his analysis, he treats individual religiosity as secondary, whereas nowadays, as the above has shown, rather the opposite is the case.

As for studies of religion, Peter Berger (1929–) can be seen as having had much influence on shaping the post-war study of sociology, in particular that of sociological research into religion and the transformation of religion in our modern times, and, on a broader plane but still connected to religion, of the ‘social construction of reality’ (as one of his book-titles reads). Therefore, his work needs to be studied in order to understand modern forms of ‘religion’ and ‘religious’, which are important aspects in this thesis, and the range of deep-seated meaning(s) that lies therein, such as how people construct their knowledge of religion. Linda Woodhead (ed., with Paul Heelas and David Martin) in Peter Berger and the Study of Religion (2001)[58], characterise Berger’s research as compassionately done from inside as well as outside (2001: 2).

In his book Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Approach (1963), Berger advises that “social characteristics of… individuals” (1963: 40) must receive at least equal, or even more, treatment than an analysis of their statistics and numbers. For example, in my research for this thesis, I experienced that sometimes informants gave answers that they felt appropriate in their ‘role’ in society, or as Berger calls it, their place in the ‘logic’ of society, so the inquirer must go one step further and “look at explanations that are hidden from their own awareness” (40). Therefore, as I understand Invitation to Sociology, and as this thesis tries to do, an analysis of the meaning of the pilgrimage for contemporary Shikoku pilgrims, both with regard to statistical numbers and human experiences, is important.

In the work The Social Construction of Reality, written by Berger and Thomas Luckmann (1966), where the sociology of knowledge is defined, a theatre play is described:

The transition between realities is marked by the rising and falling of the curtain. As the curtain rises, the spectator is “transported to another world”, with its own meanings and an order that may not have much to do with everyday life. As the curtain falls, the spectator “returns to reality”… religious experience is rich in producing transitions of this kind... [as it is a producer] of finite provinces of meaning (1966: 25).

Entering “finite provinces of meaning” means turning away from the reality of everyday life: Could something similar not be found in the Shikoku pilgrimage? Clear symbols that signal the start and the end of being in ‘another world’, in other words, the pilgrimage? As I see it, the Shikoku pilgrimage provides opportunities for dipping into several of these ‘other worlds’; for example, this might be sharing the communitas with other pilgrims at a shukubō, whilst at other times, it is the secluded camping outside[59]. And for some, the entire island of Shikoku is one huge ‘sacred’ physical landscape. Furthermore, some walking pilgrims get into a particular kind of pilgrimage walking-mode, and also those who experience post-Shikoku depression seem to pine for the different ‘world’ experienced on the pilgrimage.

Could engaging in the pilgrimage have the meaning of turning away or even fleeing from everyday reality? These are some questions that emerge from the study of The Social Construction of Reality. And, another aspect that is raised by this thesis is how ‘knowledge’ is constructed in the Shikoku pilgrimage. For this, one needs to look at the position of Kōbō Daishi and the legendary construction of the pilgrimage in the minds of pilgrims. What do local people, temple officials, priests, and fellow pilgrims, tell? For example, locals may not be historically reliable informants; but what they are, is fascinating informants about contemporary understandings of this pilgrimage.

In The Sacred Canopy. Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (1967), Berger expands on the theory of knowledge from The Social Construction of Reality, and he concludes that there is an interaction between society and religion in that society is the product of human subjects and these human subjects are products of society: this, he finds, is not contradictory (3): “Religion is the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established” (25); “social arrangements” (including religion) are structured and distributed by humans engaging in a socialization process (7). For Berger, ‘socialization’ is the “process by which society transmits its objectivized customs and ideas from one generation to the next”. Through socialization, Berger observed, “individuals are taught the objectivized cultural meanings of a society and brought to identify with these meanings” (Gary Dorrien, in: Woodhead et al., 2001: 31). Thus it can be understood, in the context of this thesis, that the people involved construct and transmit meanings of the Shikoku pilgrimage during the course of history (such as through legends and tales), and that pilgrims are taught these meanings and identify with these. Engaging in the pilgrimage is then a form of expressing these meanings embedded in the pilgrimage in the society that made and approves these. For example, Shikoku pilgrims are often given o-settai; it will later be analysed if this is a form of transmitted basic moral behaviour as well as a spontaneous expression of ‘I approve and respect that you are doing the pilgrimage’, or forming links and relationships with locals and outsiders.

How would Berger then himself characterize the modern developments of religion? Modern society and its pluralism “affects the how of religious beliefs, but not necessarily the what” (Berger, in Woodhead et al., 2001: 194). For the Shikoku pilgrimage, this would include, for example, how contemporary pilgrims express their beliefs, how (if at all) they see the role of Kōbō Daishi, what rituals they follow, and also how they conduct the pilgrimage, in other words, to analyse what ‘religion’ and ‘religious activity’ means for contemporary pilgrims, who have now a wide choice available to experience and adjust the pilgrimage to their own individual needs, understandings, and circumstances.

To analyse these aspects of pilgrims – what they experience, why and how they act – is an important aspect of this thesis. In the area of contemporary Religious Studies, Ninian Smart (1927-2001), who saw an important role for Phenomenology in the study of religion, has been a shaping figure. In his book Worldviews. Crosscultural Explorations of Human Beliefs (third edition 2000; originally 1995), he explains his seven dimensions of religions and Religious Studies: 1) the experiential or emotional, 2) the mythic/narrative, 3) the doctrinal/philosophical, 4) the ethical/legal, 5) the ritual/practical, 6) the social/organizational, and 7) the material. Through an analysis of these, the “modern study of worldviews religions and ideologies… tries to understand what exists in the heads of people. What people believe is an important aspect of reality whether or not what they believe is true” (1-2). He reminds us of the difficulty of describing religions and religious activities as they actually are (13) and warns that we should not be tempted to try to impose our own foreign beliefs and values and judgments. What this thesis will show is that, for example, this-worldly reasons for doing the pilgrimage (such as praying for winning the lottery, as one pilgrim told me) are an integral part of Japanese religion and religiosity: in their interacting with ‘religious’ places, people and things, Shikoku pilgrims, it seems, are drawing on the perceived power of the ‘sacred’ to influence the ‘profane’ world. Also, mingling with ‘nature’ can be an important part of Japanese religious experience: Some could talk about ‘admiring cherry blossoms’ or ‘walking in the hills’, and such engagement with nature can be regarded as a religious experience, and by this I mean an experience of connection to something ‘sacred’ or ‘ultimate’. This thesis gives an example of a pilgrim embracing a tree on plate 41. In other words, ‘this-worldly benefits’ still depend in some sense of the sacred; there may not be a sharp sacred/profane divide, but there remains a difference.

For Smart, Religious Studies should include Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, History, Archaeology, and other disciplines, and he advises that:

the explorer [of religions] must come into contact with those people, who… serve… in his or her probings: the archaeologist, who turns up old statues of the Buddha,… the language specialist, who… supplies the key to understanding old scriptures; the art historian, who can trace developments of the way religion was understood visually; and so on.

The explorer of religion can learn much, too, from literature. Thus the novelists of modern times have often managed much more successfully than historians to create living pictures of religion in action.

[It becomes clear that]… the modern study of religion is polymethodic – using the methods and ideas of many overlapping disciplines [because it] cannot be reduced to a single dimension of existence. (2000: 25-7).

Smart then continues to stress the need for open-minded participant-observation: abstract reflection needs to be accompanied by immersing oneself in the experience of the rituals and practice on-site (159, 162), and much can be learned about religion by talking to people: “But we need to ask the right question” (160). Although Smart sees the phenomenological approach, as developed by Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), trying to describe experiences as they are, as fit to the area of Religious Studies, he prefers to use the term ‘structured empathy’ (13). By this he means to try to get a feeling

of what is inside another person or group of persons… [how they feel or think; and this…] empathy needs to be structured. We have to comprehend the structure of another’s world; in general, we have to try to understand the structures of belief inside the head of the believer (13-14).

The example was given above that enjoying a walk under cherry blossoms, or embracing a tree, at least in the Japanese context, might be seen as a ‘religious’ experience – relevant here are Japanese ideas about striking natural objects being, or being associated with, kami, and Hua-yen Buddhist ideas[60] about all of reality as manifestations of the underlying universal, absolute principle (Chinese li): all things are equal, inter-dependent, and in complete harmony with each other; something similar is found in the Zen ideas of all as the Buddha-nature (Jp. busshō, Skt. buddhatā).

Is religion a faith in a higher god, or a supernatural power? Or is it mostly about ritual, or is it about values? Or is it about all of them, as in Smart? Is it sui generis[61] ? Can it be separated into several categories, or is it beyond what can be intellectually analysed, or explained in language? Timothy Fitzgerald, in The Ideology of Religious Studies (2000) criticizes the approach used by Smart (as outlined in his 1989, The Nature of Religion):

In order to identify these things and distinguish them from others, Smart came up with the “dimensions”, which they [religions] are all believed to have in various combinations. One problem with the dimensions is that the differences between, say, the ethical, the ritual, and the experiential can seem rather arbitrary. For example, I cannot be clear why a photo of Zen monks… setting out to tidy the grounds of the monastery should be taken to exemplify the “ethical” dimension and not the ritual, experiential, material, or institutional (60).

This is fair enough – but as a point opposing Fitzgerald here, just as one physical object has a location in the vertical and both horizontal dimensions, why cannot one action relate to several dimensions of religion? One also needs to be aware of the large context of society as well as the individual factors. That said, I’m not sure Smart used his idea of ‘dimensions’ of religion in this way.

Alan Aldridge writes in his Religion in the Contemporary World (2007): “for Durkheim, religion is essentially social, uniting its adherents into a ‘single moral community’… just as, in his study of suicide, he concentrated on suicide rates and refused to consider individual motivation…” (33). Indeed, as Fitzgerald explains: “And if, in the case of Japanese Buddhism, we started with an analytical assumption that it is a soteriological doctrine concerning the liberation of the individual, then we would probably create an artificial entity and understand little about Japan” (2000: 17), because, as I see it too, it is also much about collective identity and group-belonging. Fitzgerald finds “that there is nothing significant that can be said about ‘religion’ that is non-social” (65); I would agree with him that religion (in general, and specifically in Japan) has a strong social aspect – but I find it too extreme to say it is almost all social. For example, being ordained in the Sōtō-Zen-tradition, I am sure that one could not explain everything about Dōgen, his teachings and experiences, simply from his social context.

In Japan, Tokugawa Iemitsu’s (1604-1651) shōgunate, the danka[62] system was introduced as an effective and powerful tool to control and to bind its people together and unite then in one ‘Buddhist’ nation. One of the findings of Fitzgerald in his book is that the study of religion must include modern markets and political systems. He mentions that contemporary Buddhism in Maharashtra in West India is on the one hand supporting the “personal quest for salvation, but is on the other hand connected to revolutionary liberation for an underclass oppressed by ritual hierarchy” (2000: 17). The Buddhist sangha portrayed in Burma VJ. Reporting from a Closed Country, a quasi-documentary by Anders Østergaard (2009), rose up and demonstrated against the leadership of their country in September 2007, taking thousands of civilians with them onto the streets. These two examples are given to illustrate that to fully understand the Shikoku pilgrimage, one must embed it in the large context of historical, economic, cultural, and ideological interrelations – with individual and collective values naturally deeply interwoven in this. An individual’s lived ‘world’ is a product of both individual factors and factors from the surrounding culture and society, and the interaction of all of these.

Taking the discussions of this chapter so far into account, it becomes clear that ‘religion’ is de facto more than just a personal, individual experience of ‘sacred’ versus ‘profane’. Individual experience is shaped or at least coloured by collective beliefs and practices, and religion also concerns drawing on the power of the ‘sacred’ to influence the profane world – people would not seek to bring benefits to their everyday life from relating to special religious places, people and things, unless these were seen to have some special power – ‘this-worldly benefits’ still depend on some sense of the sacred, surely. As stated before, there may not be a sharp sacred/profane divide, but, in my eyes, there remains a difference.

‘Religion’ and ‘religious’ in Japan

After having briefly looked at the historical development of the study of religion, especially regarding the sociology of religion, and based on the findings of some of the most dominant figures in this area, it follows naturally to reflect upon what then ‘religion’ and ‘religious activities’ are in Japan, before the thesis can analyse contemporary understandings of the Buddhist pilgrimage on Shikoku Island, which will include concepts such as ‘religious’, faith, ‘special’, deities, rituals, this-worldly, other-worldly, experiences, communities, objects, stories, values, and thus, on a broader level, many cultural and social aspects.

This means that for this thesis, ethnographic methodology and contextual analysis need to be employed. Only then can we fully grasp what the Shikoku pilgrimage means to its contemporary participants, what values play a role (as, for example, found in o-settai), and how it is institutionalized (including the way control and governance is organised and legitimated, for example through local pilgrimage path preservation groups, sendatsu and the Reijōkai). So, can we find ‘religious’ activities in this pilgrimage? What, then, does ‘religion’ and ‘religious’ mean in Japan? And is this pilgrimage a Buddhist one? Yes, but is it only a Buddhist one? And what then does ‘Buddhism’ encompass in Japan?

Buddhism in Japan also includes other cultural and ideological forces, for example ancestor-memorial and economy; these are all inter-related. Can it be said that some kind of ‘faith’ forms the base of it all? David Reid addresses this in his chapter entitled ‘Japanese Religions’ on pages 479-513 in A New Handbook of Living Religions, edited by John Hinnells (1997):

Religion is a frequently studied as a matter of personal belief. This is not always possible in Japan, where religious phenomena include many dimensions to which faith is irrelevant. Shinto festivals and Buddhist mortuary rites, for example, are not commonly thought of as part of personal religion. None the less, there are also dimensions where personal belief is essential, as in the majority of sects (Shinto, Buddhist, Christian and others). Yet again, a few sects (mainly Buddhist) place no emphasis whatever on faith, preferring a ‘try-it-and-see’-attitude… for the student of Japanese religion… more important is the question of the changing relationships between religious organizations and the state. Throughout most Japanese history, the state has set terms within which such organizations could exist (479).

This thesis agrees with this statement, and it could be said in Ninian Smart’s terms, that some aspects of Japanese religion are stronger on some dimensions of religion than on other dimensions.

Reid concludes: “behaviour… [shall] be defined as ‘religious’, if it expresses a relationship with a divine being or beings, as in Shinto, … Buddhism, Christianity and folk religion, or with a life-transforming ultimate/immanent principle, as in… Buddhism” (479)[63]. This is an important statement, as, bringing this into context with the above discussion; here we have a definition of ‘religion’ that keeps a link to a ‘sacred’ in some sense.

Going more into detail than Reid’s definition, Earhart finds six recurring themes in Japanese religions, which are (a) the closeness of human beings, gods, and nature; (b) the religious character of the family; (c) the significance of purification, rituals, and charms; (d) the prominence of local festivals and individual cults; (e) the natural bond between religion and the nation; he also states (f) that “the dead are so important that the label of ancestor worship has been applied to Japanese religion” (9), and this thesis finds that ‘memorialising the dead’, as well as ‘family safety and harmony’ are a major motives for doing the pilgrimage (1982: throughout). Reader, in his chapter ‘Buddhism as a Religion of the Family. Contemporary Images in Sōtō Zen’ (in Mullins et al, 1993: 139-156), quotes a poster found at a temple: “The prosperity of the family comes from worshipping the ancestors; let us meet them serenely before the statue of Buddha” (146), and he finds that Buddhism “is inextricably tied to a particularized social and cultural environment in Japan” (154). This thesis agrees with this: Buddhism in Japan can only be understood in its historical, cultural and social context. Still, in order to understand the Shikoku pilgrimage, the fundamental question needs to be answered: how do Japanese people define their ‘religiosity’. Jan Swyngedouw, in his chapter ‘Religion in Contemporary Japanese Society’ (in Mullins et al, 1993: 50), analyses much data and finds “according to all surveys, up to two-thirds of the total population claim to have no religious affiliation” (50), and he gives interesting data from an NHK Broadcasting Corporation survey about the religious consciousness of the Japanese[64]: in contrast to the above two thirds without a personal religious affiliation, around 72% of the respondents stated that religion is needed; throughout all age groups interviewed, an average of around 36% believe in Shinto- kami, 43% in Buddhist- hotoke, and 54% in a soul existing after death, with the younger generation, aged 10-30, believing in an existence of the soul after death stronger than their grandparents (51-52); ca. 80% had a positive attitude towards charms (o-mamori) and oracle-lots (o-mikuji); 63% paid attention to lucky/good (taian) and unlucky/non-good (butstmetsu) days; around 45% of all homes had a kamidana (Shinto kami shelf) and a butsudan (Buddhist altar), 15% only a kamidana, 16% only a butsudan, and 24% neither of these; and over 50% of those that had both or either one answered that they worshipped at the altar, either daily or sometimes; and visits to the graves (o-bon in July/August and o-higan at the spring and autumn equinoxes) are conducted by more than 50% of the younger (10s-20s) and up to 100% of the older generation (~70s); hatsumōde (New Year’s visit to shrines or temples) is done by around 81%, regardless of the age group, and, last but not least, 65% usually buy a Christmas cake[65] (more so for the younger and less so for the older generation): “surely on a par with grave visits” (55). The above illustrates that ‘being religious’ is not a simple yes-or-no matter in Japan, but there are various religion-related factors – a person’s attitude to different ones of these may vary[66]. Reader explains that the rather secular action (as compared to, say, attending church) of buying a Christmas cake can be regarded as making Christmas as a “new focal point in the round of yearly events” (1991a: 51). Furthermore, it can surely be said that Christian-style weddings account for most wedding-ceremonies in Japan. Therefore, Reader states: “one may be born Shinto, marry Christian and die Buddhist, take part in the hatsumōde and o-bon” (51). Swyngedouw reads these behavioural patterns as not only showing that the Japanese are likely to conform to a popular custom, but that these habits mean that “[religious] feelings are indeed present” (1993: 56). However, he sees these as often limited to that specific time chosen to receive mainly this-worldly benefits, and “religion does not seem to be needed before these occasions arise or after they have passed… all gods, buddhas, and organizations that represent them are welcome insofar as they fit into and serve this pattern” (61). He concludes that religion in Japan is a way to organise human relationships harmoniously whilst at the same time expressing traditional elements and customs. In response to Swyngedouw, the question here is whether the term ‘religion’ can be meaningfully used in the Japanese context. The Japanese translation is shūkyō[67], shū meaning school/denomination, and kyō meaning teaching/doctrine: a term that came to be commonly used from the nineteenth century on, particularly because of the interaction with Christian missionaries. This is a very doctrine-emphasizing conception of religion – as with the Christian taking of ‘religion’ and ‘belief’ as equivalent. In Smart’s term, this privileges only one dimension of religion, the doctrinal. As such, the term shūkyō would imply a Durkheimian separation between profane and sacred, or between this-denomination and that-denomination, but, as the above surveys have found, this is not the case in Japan. The relevant question that emerges from this is: Would then the term ‘religion’ not be a helpful concept in Japan, or would we need a more sophisticated concept of ‘religion’ than enshrined in the Christian-influenced ‘ shūkyō’ ? ‘Religion’ in Japan very much involves ritual, experiential, material, and institutional aspects, which support the needs for social identity, belonging to a local community, and continuously existing in harmony (with oneself, each other, spirits of ancestors and kami). Smart does not see the various dimensions as separate, and Fitzgerald found that much about religion is social; and this is particularly true in Japan (Smart includes a social dimension – though it is only one of seven dimensions – which is mainly about how a religion is itself organised). One might find Durkheim’s kind of analysis right in emphasising the social aspect of religion, though there is not such a sharp sacred/profane distinction in Japan, and the power of the sacred is seen to be available through many avenues, not just a few ‘set apart’ones.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Plate 4: Ema -plates inscribed and hung up at Yushima-Tenjin-shrine, Tokyo. The daughter points to her plate, and her wish to successfully pass the entrance examination of her desired university; her mother takes a picture of this; photograph taken on 7 January 2010


[1] This is the way they translate their organisation into English.

[2] 山伏: mountain ascetic.

[3] Japan's national public broadcasting organization.

[4] Shinkai (1934-) had walked it tōshi-uchi (clockwise), after his yakudoshi (misfortune year, 42 years of age). He talks about his life in a book that was published in 1994 as a manga.

[5] Kobayashi went from Yokohama to Takamatsu, however, he did not start his pilgrimage at any temple near the city of arrival (which could have been, for example, the significant temple #75, Zentsū-ji), but took the train to start at temple #1, Ryōzen-ji, and then he continued clock-wise in a complete circle, starting on 10 July1988 (1994: 14), and finishing on 20 August 1988 (269). It therefore took him only 41 days for the pilgrimage.

[6] On 25 April 2009 at temple #6, Anraku-ji, where we stayed at the temple’s accommodation.

[7] As a side-note, pilgrimage temple #44, Taihō-ji, is particularly related to musicians: it is visited by musicians to give thanks for success.

[8] I know this because I accompanied him on this occasion on 7 September 2003 at temples #11, Fuji-dera, and #12, Shōzan-ji.

[9] 納札. As a traditional pilgrimage ritual, this paper slip, containing the pilgrim’s name and sometimes wish, is handed out to the temple as well as anyone from whom one receives a gift or help.

[10] 善根宿, house of good deeds: free private accommodation for pilgrims.

[11] お接待, alms-giving as support for pilgrims.

[12] 先達, official pilgrimage-leader, appointed by the association of the 88 pilgrimage temples.

[13] See note 109 on page 90.

[14] Ordained on 26 November 2000 at 曹洞宗 専門僧堂 佛國山 瑞応寺 Sōtō- shū training monastery Bukkoku-zan Zuiō-ji in Niihama-city, Ehime-Prefecture, Shikoku (long. 33.9197, lat. 133.3018, alt. 101m; located between pilgrimage temples #64, Maegami-ji, and #65, Sankaku-ji), under head abbot Narasaki Tsūgen Daioshō. I became his Dharma -successor on 31 May 2003. The term ‘monastery‘ is used where several novice-priests (see also note 264 on page 159) live and train together; however, where a resident priest lives with his family, I use the term ‘temple’– see Pussel (2008: 97-98) and Sōtō- shū Shūmuchō (2010: 147-148) on this.

[15] In Tokushima Prefecture.

[16] Rev. Fuchikawa informed me when I met at the Reijōkai-offices on 25 May 2011 that as of that date, there are two further foreign sendatsu, both in the first rank: the American Kevin Seperic (appointed in 2006), and the Dutch Dr. Henny van der Veere (appointed in 2007).

[17] 霊場会: the official association for the 88 pilgrimage temples on Shikoku Island.

[18] 東日本先達会. This meeting was attended by around 60 members. Unfortunately, I could not attend, as I was out doing fieldwork in Shikoku. This Higashi Nippon sendatsu kai has its head office at長仙寺 Chōsen-ji-temple in Tokyo, and its chairman is Yusa Toshikazu daisendatsu. The current chairman of the Reijōkai, Rev. Sakai Tomohiro, who is also the head priest of pilgrimage temple #26, Kongōchō-ji, attended and gave a lecture about the life of Kōbō Daishi. The Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Otsuka Kōhei, also gave a speech about the teachings of o-Daishi- sama. The second-in-command of the Reijōkai, Rev. Itō Seiryū, who is also the head priest of pilgrimage temple #35, Kiyotaki-ji, also attended the meeting. Rev. Sakai Tsunehiro, head priest of Chōsen-ji, which is also the head office of the Higashi Nippon sendatsu kai, is the son of the Reijōkai-chairman, Rev. Sakai Tomohiro of pilgrimage temple #26.

[19] 別格 bekkaku: a temple that belongs to a group of 20 temples that have united as a bekkaku-junrei, bekkaku pilgrimage, bringing the total of pilgrimage temples to: 88 + 20 = 108. Established in 1969, it uses similar items and accessory as the 88-temple pilgrimage.

[20] As far afield as France (34 places), Italy (14), England (13), Spain (9), Germany (5), Belgium (5), Ireland (4), Wales (3), Scotland (3), Palestine (2), Poland (2), Switzerland (2), USA, Greece, Ceylon, Chile, Turkey, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Brazil and Canada (1 each).

[21] There are many other sites that became a focus of Buddhist pilgrimages. Most outstanding here are the place where tradition has it that he performed miracles at Śrāvastī; where he descended from a heaven (where he taught his mother, who had died shortly after his birth) at Sāṃkāśya; where he overcame attempts to kill him at Rājagŗha; and where monkeys dug out a pool for the Buddha and offered him refreshments at Vaiśālī. Together, these and the places of the Four Great Wonders are called Aşţamahāprātihārya, the places of the Eight Wonders, and are located all around the Ganges Basin.

[22] Ānanda (Jp. Anan) was one of the ten great disciples of the Buddha, and was important in remembering and reciting the Sūtra s at the First Council after the Buddha’s death (though Reader points out that they probably did not recite the whole of the present scripture, 2005: 73-74).

[23] Harvey notes that what is translated here as ‘on such a pilgrimage’ is cetiya-cārikaṃ āhiṇḍantā, lit. ‘wandering on a journey (cārikaṃ) to shrines (cetiya -) (personal e-mail communication, 2 December 2010).

[24] Quoted from Tarthang Tulku (1994: 4-5); his translation.

[25] Things are not as straight-forward though, as with anything that stretches so far back into history: there is dispute over which of two modern places is the site of Lumbinī.

[26] Originally 1893, published by Evinity Publishing digitally though Amazon’s Kindle service: 2009; retrieved 1 June 2011:

[27] Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva). Also venerated in 30 pilgrimage temples in Shikoku.

[28] Monju Bosatsu (Maňjuśrī Bodhisattva). Also venerated in one pilgrimage temple in Shikoku.

[29] Fugen Bosatsu (Samantabhadra Bodhisattva). Not enshrined in the Shikoku pilgrimage.

[30] Jizō Bosatsu (Kşitigarbha Bodhisattva). Also venerated in six pilgrimage temples in Shikoku.

[31] 三霊山.

[32] 本堂, hon-dō.

[33] 関所寺, ‘Spiritual control-station’ temple.

[34] 難所. A temple that is particularly difficult to reach, such as at high elevation, and as such said to be good for religious practice.

[35] As a side-note, Gorai Shigeru explains that many temples of the Shikoku pilgrimage have been used by the Shugendō-religion as the ocean can be seen from them; he uses the term umi no shugendō, Ocean-Shugendō (2009: 11). He further argues that to pray at the ocean or to pray to the ocean gods was the first religious practice of someone engaging in the Shikoku pilgrimage (2009: 13), and he gives the example of the very long walk along the beach between Cape Muroto (temple #24, Hotsumisaki-ji) and Cape Ashizuri (#38, Kongōfuku-ji) (2009: 16). During my fifth pilgrimage, my fieldwork observation showed that the ocean could only be be seen from two temples, which were originally regarded as nansho: #27 and #65, but not from any other, so this might speak counter to Gorai’s theory. However, #45, Iwaya-ji, has as its sangō (mountain name) 海岸山, kaiganzan, Seashore-mountain, so a connection to the ocean is somehow existing. Regarding directions, my research found that many of the temples face south, and further research is needed on the possible significance of this. Pussel (2010a) started looking into this.

[36] When I stayed there on 6 December 2009.

[37] These are as follows (the number of pilgrimage routes in a particular area is given in brackets). These include mostly Buddhist temples, but also Shinto shrines, for example, the shin Shikoku mandara junrei consists of 81 temples and 7 shrines, making it have a total of 88 sites. See map 3 for the various areas of Japan (such as Kantō, Chūbu, etc.).

In terms of the sacred focus of the routes and sites, these are:

- Kobo Daishi reijō (including 88 temples, based on the Shikoku pilgrimage): ‘The’ Shikoko 88-temple pilgrimage (1), Kantō (8), Chūbu (7), Kansai/Chūgoku (5), Shikoku/excluding ‘the’ 88-temple pilgrimage) (5) (such as bekkaku junrei, shin Shikoku mandara junrei), Islands of Shikoku, such as Awajishima, Kojima (9) = 35 total

- 33-Kannon reijō: Saikoku (1), Bandō (1), Chichibu (1), Hokkaidō (10), Kantō (14), Chūbu (8), Kansai (13), Chūgoku (9), Shikoku/Kyūshū (7) = 64 total

- Fudō Myōō reijō:13
- Yakushi Nyorai reijō: 12
- Jizō Bosatsu reijō: 9
- 13- Butsu reijō: 10
- 12-shi reijō (the twelve oriental zodiac signs: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog, boar): 3
- Shichifukujin Reijō (Seven Gods of Good Fortune, often centred on Buddhist temples): Hokkaidō (4), Kantō (29), Tokyo (20), Chūbu (19), Kansai (22), Chugoko/Shikoku/Kyūshū (16) = 38 total
- Tokubetsuna reijō (special pilgrimages, such as relating to Hōnen Shonin Junrei, Shinran, Shōtoku Taishi, Koyasan Nagamine reijō, Dōgen Zenji’s 32 temples, but also Shingon 18 honzan (18 head temples of the branches of Shingon-shū): 17

= Grand total: 181 pilgrimages in Japan.

[38] Yoshiko K. Dykstra explains that “The name Kannon literaly means “to hear the sounds of the prayers of the world”; in Japan, the compassionate Kannon… acts to free all sentient beings from their sufferings… Stories about the benefits and favors obtained through devotion to Kannon are [firstly found]… in the literature of the Heian [period] (794-1185)” (in Tanabe (ed.), 1999: 117).

[39] Or, I might add, is free to visit even more, such as bekkaku (see note 19 on page 28) and bangai (see note 124 on page 96) and Shrines in the case of Shikoku.

[40] Whereas in European pilgrimages, such as Santiago de Compostela, places on the journey may have been left out, as long as the final goal, which was regarded as most important, was reached (Hoshino, 1997: 280).

[41] On 29 October 2010.

[42] On 24 October 1010.

[43] あのね、仏教が生きてる仏教はここだけですよ。現役で。現役で。要は現役でっていうか、西国三十三ヶ所もありますけども、あれもだいたい1回どまりです、みんな。。。この四国遍路はリピーターが多いんですよ。何回も、このわ、わしみたいに、は、んようけに、何回も来る人が多いんですよ。これ車でもおんなじじゃない。うん。実際に歩いてる人もいるがでしょう。そういう意味でね、そういう宗教が生きてるとこなのよ、唯一。これ島国が、だからでしょう。あと、ずっとえ、昔からの伝統っていうのがあって。

[44] But they are quick to note that concept of ‘sacred’ is even more problematic than that of ‘pilgrimage’ (230, note 37).

[45] Reader, Ian and Walter, Tony (eds.), 1993, Pilgrimage in Popular Culture, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

[46] A real-life example illustrates this: my friend (a school-teacher and a Shikoku pilgrim with a B.A. thesis on the Shikoku pilgrimage), is such a Liverpool/Steve Gerrard-fan, that she states in her Facebook-site: “Religious View: Gerrardism!; Location: Road to Anfield!!!!!” (exclamation marks in original). I confirm that she indeed means this seriously.

[47] 四国八十八ヶ所巡礼.

[48] 巡拝.

[49] 拝む.

[50] へんろor 遍路.

[51] 祈る.

[52] But of course some might just trot this out as what pilgrims are expected to say. So to further investigate this, in-depth interactions were conducted, which produced ‘rich’ data for a thorough understanding of what ‘goes on’ in the informants’ heads.

[53] Healing through ‘holy’ water reminds one of Lourdes in France, which is also a pilgrimage site. See, for example, Suzanne Kaufman’s Consuming Visions. Mass Culture and the Lourdes Shrine (2005) on ‘miracle’ cure and faith.

[54] This quote makes the sacred as ‘society, writ large’. This is quite a reductionist statement – one can accept the social aspect of religion without going so far.

[55] Of course, in the past there have always been people who have found their place outside the established church, but it would have been difficult to be straightforward about this.

[56] See, for example, ‘Researchers report big drop in Christian adherence in UK’, Church Times, Issue 7657, 18 December 2009. However, Lynch states that as of 2005, research shows that “the United States of America… remains a deeply Christianized culture” (2007: 2). Aldridge informs that in Canada, the church faces a crisis in membership and participation (2007: 148). Reid in Hinnells (ed.) (1997), for Japan, shows a steady number of people stating they belong to Shinto 89.4% in 1953 and 85.6% in 1978, and Buddhism rising from 54.9% to 76.4% in those years. These numbers add to more than 100%, as many Japanese have multiple affiliations. (1997: 491-3, 499), and Reader (1991: 9) confirms that counting the numbers is very difficult. Harvey calculates, based on numbers provided by Hinnells and Reader: “Taking the average of 32% (… religious belief) and 70% (… religious feeling), then 51% of the [Japanese] population is reasonably religious. If we then take 80% (… those with home shrines who have Buddhist ones) as the proportion of these that are Buddhist, then for the 2010 population of 127.4m, this gives a figure of 52m ‘Buddhists’” (draft of the new edition of his 1990, An Introduction to Buddhism).

[57] In my own case, although my German family is Protestant, I am not forced to be ‘connected to’ or ‘saved by’ the Christian God against my will: I opt to be Buddhist by free choice, because for me, personally, this is more meaningful. Buddhism is not one of the religions that are officially recognised by the German government, but I do not feel that I have to join the Christian faith just in order to ‘fit in’ if I would live in Germany.

[58] A collection of comprehensive essays to introduce his work with particular reference to current issues in Religious Studies.

[59] The act of camping out is called 野宿, nojuku, in pilgrimage terms.

[60] Brought to Japan in the 8th century and much influencing the Japanese Buddhism; it became the Kegon-school in Japan.

[61] Latin: of its own kind, in this context: Religion as seen to be a class by itself; ‘religious activities/experiences’ then would be something that are a unique category and set apart from ‘everyday life’. Such a viewpoint would describe religion explicitly in religious terms and in comparison to other experiences, and as a consequence would isolate its research from embedding it within a broader context.

[62] 檀家, temple parishioners. See also Pussel, 2010b: 92-94. Pussel (2009), (2010a) and (2010b) include selected parts of this thesis, combined with further contents, such as personal accounts.

[63] Christianity, which entered Japan in 1549 with Roman-catholic missionaries, might be rather left out in this discussion, because it did “not contribute to the formation of traditional Japanese religion”, as H. Byron Earhart argues in Japanese Religion, Unity and Diversity (1982: 1).

[64] For a discussion of the care that needs to be implied when analysing such surveys in Japan see Anderson (1991: 370-1) and Reader (1991c: 373-4). In short, surveys should be combined with interviews and textual analysis in order to get a thorough understanding of the subject matter – as this thesis does. Berger was cited above that not only statistics, but an analysis of the social characteristics of the individuals is at least of equal importance, if not more so.

[65] For completeness’ sake, I would like to add ‘chicken’, too. During Christmas of 2010, I sent text messages to all my Japanese friends, residing all over Japan, asking them how they experience Christmas, and nearly all answered that they had bought a Christmas cake and roasted chicken. It seems that chicken is, or has recently become, as much an integral part of the Japanese Christmas tradition as the cake is.

[66] See also note 56 on page 48, especially Harvey.

[67] 宗教.

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Contemporary pilgrims’ understanding of the Shikoku pilgrimage, with particular reference to the role of Kobo Daishi
University of Sunderland
Japanese Buddhism
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Shikoku, Pilgrimage, 88, temple, Buddhism, Japan, Tokushima, Kochi, Ehime, Kagawa, Kobo Daishi, Shingon, Zen, Soto, Rinzai, Tendai, Kukai, Pilgrim, Ryofu Pussel, henro, religion, ethnographic methodology, validity, qualitative resarch, quantitative research, Kongofuku-ji, faith, Daishi shinko, Emon Saburo, honzon, kami, hibutsu, Shinto, ritual, wagesa, hakue, sugegasa, kongo-tsue, o-senko, rosoku, sutra, mantra, osame-fuda, nokyo-cho, nokyo-sho, kakejiku, miei-cho, Hansen's disease, leprosy, illnesses, cure, izari-matsu, izari-guruma, senmai-doshi, consecrated water, shukubo, zenkonyado, yamabushi, Mt. Ishizuchi, Nanko-bo, o-settai, sendatsu
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Dr. Ryofu Pussel (Author), 2011, Contemporary pilgrims’ understanding of the Shikoku pilgrimage, with particular reference to the role of Kobo Daishi, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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