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PILGRIMAGES OF JAPAN

A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.


Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey in to someone's own beliefs. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their "calling" or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, or to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be "housed," or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim.

In Japan, pilgrimages can be divided into two general types. The first type is exemplified by the pilgrimage to 33 Sites Sacred to Kannon in Western Japan and the pilgrimage to 88 Holy Sites of Shikoku. In both these pilgrimages one makes a circuit of a series of temples or holy places, sometimes separated by great distances, in a set order. The order of visitation is an important feature of this type of pilgrimage. The second type is a journey to one particular holy place. Pilgrimages in this latter group include the famous Kumano Sanzan , Mt. Koya, Mt. Fuji and other holy mountains in Japan.

"Henro" is the Japanese word for pilgrim, and the pilgrims are known as the o-henro-san, the o being an honorific and the san is a title similar to "Mr." or "Mrs.".

Attire of a pilgrime: byakue the white coat of a pilgrim wagesa scarf worn around the neck, usually purple, to indicate that you are on a religious pilgrimage sugegasa conical straw hat kongtsue walking stick, and the one indispensable sign that identifies you as a pilgrim In addition, most pilgrims carry a book called nkych or shuincho, to collect red ink stamp (shu-in) by each temple that they visit.

FIRST TYPE OF PILGRIMAGE:


33 SITES OF KANNON 88 SITES OF SHIKOKU

The Band Sanjsankasho ("The 33 Band Temples") is a series of 33 Buddhist temples in Eastern Japan sacred to Goddess Kannon.
Band is the old name for what is now the Kant region,used in this case because the temples are all in the Prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama, Tokyo, Gunma, Ibaraki, and Chiba. As is the case with all such circuits, each location has a rank, and pilgrims believe that visiting them all in order is an act of great religious merit. Started by Minamoto no Yoritomo and his son Sanetomo, the Band Sanjsankasho is just one of 70 different Kannon pilgrimage circuits existing in Japan, each including 33 temples because the Goddess is believed to have 33 different manifestations. From its beginning at Sugimotodera to its end in Chiba's Nagodera, the circuit is over 1300 km long.

Even though women were allowed to pray at individual temples, the circuit was originally reserved to male pilgrims. Now however most of the pilgrims are women. Pilgrims leave behind a slip of paper or a sticker as a proof of their visit, and many of these can be seen plastered on temple walls and pillars

The Shikoku Pilgrimage is a multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kkai (Kb Daishi) on the island of Shikoku, Japan.
In addition to the 88 "official" temples of the pilgrimage, there are over 200 bangai temples not considered part of the official 88. To complete the pilgrimage, it is not necessary to visit the temples in order; in some cases it is even considered lucky to travel in reverse order. The pilgrimage is traditionally completed on foot, but modern pilgrims use cars, taxis, buses, bicycles, or motorcycles. The walking course is approximately 1,200 km long and can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to complete. Collectively, the 88 temples are known as Shikoku Hachijhakkasho

Attesting to the popularity of the Shikoku pilgrimage, from the eighteenth century a number of smaller imitative versions have been established. These include a 150km circuit on the island of Shdoshima, northeast of Takamatsu; a 3km course on the grounds ofNinna-ji in Kyoto, a route on the Chita Peninsula near Nagoya and circuits in Edo and Chiba Prefecture

Rites: Upon arrival at each temple the henro washes before proceeding to the Hond. After offering coins, incense, the Heart Sutra is chanted along with repetition of the Mantra of the main image. After the prayers, the henro proceeds to the Daishid. Coins are similarly offered, and again the Heart Sutra is chanted, along with repetition of the Gohg Mantra.

SECOND TYPE OF PILGRIMAGE: KUMANO SHRINE MOUNT FUJI

A Kumano shrine is a type of Shinto shrine which enshrines the three Kumano mountains: Hong, Shing, and Nachi. There are more than 3000 Kumano shrines in Japan, and each has received its kami\ from another Kumano shrine through a process of propagation called bunrei. The point of origin of the Kumano cult is the Kumano Sanzan shrine complex.

Mount Fuji (Fuji-san) is the highest mountain in Japan, rising to 12,388 feet. Unlike some sacred mountains, it is not considered sacrilegious to climb Mt. Fuji - in fact, to ascend to the summit is an important pilgrimage.

The mountain is home to many Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples.


The official climbing season is only two months long (July and August), during which time most of the snow has melted and thousands of pilgrims and hikers make the climb to the top.