A pilgrimage trail to 88 temples in Shikoku, Japan
Shikoku Pilgrimage Guide
Q.What are the rules of the pilgrimage?
A.As long as one maintains the spirit of simplicity and good behavior during the pilgrimage, there are no other set rules. You can walk, cycle, or go by motorbike, car, train, bus, or taxi. It is not necessary to complete the entire trail at one time, nor visit temples in any sequence. One can start from any temple, visit part of the way, and return another time - a practice called kugiri-uchi. Visiting all temples in one prefecture - ikkoku uchi - is a useful way of experiencing the pilgrimage. One can also visit temples in reverse order - gyaku uchi. Visiting a temple is called uchi among Shikoku pilgrims. It originated from the name of the wooden name slips that were once used, and pilgrims would nail these to the temple they visited.
Q.What special items should I bring on the pilgrimage?
A.Of those items used specially on a pilgrimage, the staff - kongozue - is the most important. This has a special meaning for pilgrims. On the upper part is written Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Void/Sky in Sanskrit lettering. It is believed this is the embodiment of Kukai, and so he is always with you to protect you on your pilgrimage. Therefore, the staff must be carefully looked after. When you rest at a temple, make sure the staff is safe, and in accommodation, wash the end of the staff and place it in a safe place, such as a room alcove, where it will not touch your legs. Other special items that are recommended include a rosary, candle, incense, name slip, a stole ( simplified priest clothing ), a textbook with the sutra Hannya Shin Gyo written in it, and a book for temple stamps. These items can be purchased at temples and specialized shops in Shikoku or on the internet.
Q.Is spiritual preparation required?
A.Not as such, but you need to maintain a certain mind set and virtuous style of behavior that reflect the ten precepts of Buddhism.
Q.Is a white coat and sedge hat necessary?
A.The white coat represents a shroud and shows the firm commitment of a pilgrim. Though not necessary, it is recommended so as to remind one of purity and innocence. Also, local people can easily recognize you as a pilgrim and, moreover, the white color is more distinctive and safer in poor light. Sedge hats are useful to protect against sun and rain. The hat has four phrases of enlightenment written on it:
Mayou ga yue ni Sangai no shiro: Being lost is due to the three large worlds of desire.
Satoru ga yue ni juppou ku nari: With enlightenment, ten thousand skies will appear.
Honrai tozai nasi: Originally there was no East and West
Izukunika nanboku aran: Why is there a North and South?
These four phrases express the strong will and purpose of pilgrims.