Friday, June 07, 2013

Introducing the Shiraishi Island Pilgrimage

 Shrine No. 80. There are 88 such shrines along the 10km Shiraishi Pilgrimage that circumnavigates the island.

A pilgrimage is a magical world you step into, an ancient route full of history, beauty and solitude. And since few people know about them, you'll have the whole route to yourself. Does this sound like your kind of thing? Read on!

The Shiraishi Pilgrimage is a replica of the big 88-Temple Buddhist Pilgrimage in Shikoku. Island residents who could not make the journey to Shikoku would do this route instead as a substitute. The meaning behind each sacred site corresponds to the same numbered temple on the Shikoku route.

The Shiraishi Pilgrimage route is over 400 years old and, unlike the Shikoku Pilgrimage, hasn't changed much since then. It is largely forest and ocean views. While the entire route can be accomplished in one to two days, it is nonetheless an arduous journey that requires a concerted effort to complete. There are several reasons for this, including difficult terrain and the variable conditions of the pilgrimage path. 

But don't worry, you don't have to do the whole pilgrimage at one time. As a matter of fact, most people do pilgrimages in small sections at a time, with no concern to the order of the sacred sites. There is no reason you have to start at No. 1 and end at 88, for example. Also, whereas the Shikoku Pilgrimage has 88 temples on the route, the Shiraishi Pilgrimage uses small stone shrines as sacred sites rather than temples (see photo above). These are not shrines in the sense of Shinto shrines (神社) but as Buddhist objects of veneration. How religious you want to be on your pilgrimage is up to you. You can give a little prayer at each site, for example, or just walk on by. You certainly do not have to be Buddhist to do a pilgrimage! 

Since I live on Shiraishi Island (my house is actually on the pilgrimage route), I am walking on the pilgrimage path almost every day in the spring and autumn. The summer is too hot for me, but if you don't mind the heat, there is no reason you can't walk or run the pilgrimage in summer too. Choose a shady section and go! 

In the next blog post, I the shortest and easiest section of the pilgrimage:  No. 80-83. This section is only 0.5 km long and takes 5 to 10 minutes to walk. It's also fairly flat compared to the rest of the route. I'll continue with blog posts identifying different sections of the pilgrimage.

Welcome to the wonderful world of pilgrimage!

Next blog post: Shiraishi Pilgrimage No.2 80 to 83

1 comment:

Connie weber said...

I loved your book & an sharing your story with many . Since this is all new to me, & many, it seems, I am so happy you are sharing your experiences. You are very fascinating!.

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