The third temple in my henro-for-a-day pilgrimage was Konsenji.
Between Temple 2 and 3, I took one of the ‘henro michi’ – little paths maintained especially for walking henro (pilgrims). The little pathway actually brought me to the side of the temple, rather than the front entrance.
And of course, there was a bus tour group.
This temple has a few interesting little odds and ends.
For example, do you see that stone beneath a shelter beneath the bright-orange pagoda?
You probably don’t, so I’ll offer a close-up.
This is the ‘Benkei’ stone, which was supposedly lifted by Benkei when he was passing through here with his
buddy master Yoshitsune in order to show off his strength.
I’m sure I missed a lot of the history, folklore, symbolism, etc. of these temples. If I were attempting the pilgrimage for more than a day I’d definitely want to read at least one of the books about the history/lore of the pilgrimage.
What I did not miss, however, is the lovely synergy of nature and temple architecture.
And of course, there are always the henro.
I met this bicycle henro, who was kind enough to pose for a picture. I hear that doing the pilgrimage by bicycle takes about two weeks.
Three temples down, two temples to go (or actually, three temples to go … I explain in the next post).
If you ever want a technically academic but pretty fun read on henro, Ian Reader’s Making Pilgrimmages is pretty good. He both walked the entire route with his wife and rode part of it on a bus tour, and talks about how those experiences were different.
I am already aware of the Ian Reader books (he’s written several about the pilgrimage), though what I’ve read about them doesn’t make me inclined to read them. I have read Echoes of Incense and Neon Pilgrim (which I mention in the post about Temple #5). I’ll probably read Japanese Pilgrimage by Oliver Statler eventually since it is the classic book about the pilgrimage (at least in English), and I’ll also read Tales of a Summer Henro by Craig McLachlan if I can ever get a copy (I used two guidebooks co-authored by Craig McLachlan while I was travelling in Japan – he was my primary info source on travelling around Hokkaido – so I’d be interested in reading some of his more personal travel writing about Japan).
And thanks for pointing out something which escaped my editing process – back when I wrote the original draft of this post, I hadn’t done any research into the books on the pilgrimage, but in the course of doing some background research I did discover quite a few Shikoku pilgrimage books in English (which is how I ended up reading Echoes of Incense and Neon Pilgrim).
I’m curious what you’ve heard about Reader’s books! I have some issues with one particular strain of his scholarship (namely the one where he swoops in and starts telling people what is and isn’t religious about what they’re doing and ignores everything they say), but it’s definitely less prominent in Making Pilgrimages than in, say, Practically Religious.
I haven’t encountered any particular subjective opinions on Ian Reader’s work, but given that I am not going to do the pilgrimage myself, I am much more interested in travel memoirs than academic writing about the history/lore/religious meaning of the pilgrimage. I want to vicariously experience other people’s pilgrimages and schadenfreude their suffering!
Also, I’d like to read ‘Fighting Monks And Burning Mountains: Misadventures On A Buddhist Pilgrimage’ since it has the best title of the English-language Shikoku pilgrimage memoirs.
In that case, I recommend the documentary Aruki Henro! It’s only about an hour long, and it’s about a guy doing the pilgrimage on foot with one of his friends. Reader’s book actually has a fair amount of schadenfreude–he decided to do the henro in February and didn’t bring gloves because he forgot (?) that most of the henro is in the mountains and wound up with chillblains, among other misadventures.
Ah, I wasn’t aware that Reader’s book was also a bit of a travel memoir. Hmmm. I’m guessing that Ian Reader did the pilgrimage in winter, because I can’t imagine him getting chillblains at any other time of year (I’ve seen elevation charts for the pilgrimage – the elevation is not that high).