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Japan 1: Introduction

I`m writing from Osaka, where we are spending a few days before returning to the States. I`m part of a group of ten (seven students, three professors) that did the Henro Buddhist pilgrimage on the island of Shikoku. One of the other profs on he trip, Sensei ("teacher" in Japanese), heads the Japanese language program at our university.

The Japanese have been making this pilgrimage on foot for maybe a thousand years. Nowadays, many still do it walking, though some do it in groups by bus (a German we met said, "I hate ze bus pilgrims"), while others do it by car or even motorcycle. The notion of a group of foreigners doing it by bicycle caught the attention of the local media, and at different times during our journey we were featured on television, in the newspaper and on the radio.

The pilgrimage consists of working your way clockwise around the island, visiting 88 temples. We pedaled it in 25 or 26 days, staying at inns five nights and camping like hobos the rest. While I shouldn`t exagerate the hardships, it was an arduous experience, given the heat, the miles (we estimate between 860 and 890), the mountains, the long tunnels, the rain and the mosquitos. But every night there was great food, beer, and laughter. 

My motivations to particapte were not religious; I merely wanted to see a part of the world I had never seen before, eat seafood, and ride. I figured I could also lose a few pounds (I did), and if I gained inner peace in the process, well, great.

I didn`t keep a journal, as I always used to do when travelling, but I did jot down ideas for a series of vignettes, which will be forthcoming. I will also post some pictures over at Mondo Marco.



February 2018



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