I had not been to Japan, I don't speak Japanese and barely know where it is. I am not religious. So why walk 1200 Kms on a Buddhist Temple Walk in Shikoku? I like Buddhist philosophy, I love to hike, I am curious and - well - why not? So off I went on March 17th, 2014.
First stop - Tokyo. Not nearly as daunting as I expected and a wonderful three days visiting the sites and seeing the three wonderful students that had stayed with us in Ottawa a few years before.
This trip turned out to be one of the most wonderful and emotional experiences of life. Full of beautiful places, kind people and great hiking. The 88 temples are each unique and warrant exploration. I have captured some of the essence of the journey but would encourage anyone to explore Shikoku. It is a spiritual journey. I have tried to find a better word such as emotional but have not yet succeeded.
A wonderful Fudo Myo before temple 45 up in the mountains. The approach comes over a mountain and many many Buddha statues are seen. Serenity, remoteness and tranquility.
You can find good things at various sites but a few come to mind:
Getting to Shikoku - easy.
Getting to Temple number one and knowing what to do can be a challenge. Do lots of homework as tehre are many cultural and temple rituals to understand. You really need to be emotionally ready and committed to just walk in patience, solitude mostly, kindness and recognize it will be sometimes hard. The general rule is to recognize the tough times but not to let them bother you - it is normal and temporary to have difficulties in life.
GO LIGHT! Your pack and everything in it should be around 4-5 Kgs and not more.
GET GOOD SHOES! No need for boots and Trail running shoes from Saucony, Altera or Salomon work fine. Get toe socks! Do bring blister band aids as you will probably need a few. It is a long walk so tehre will be some foot challenges.
The hike is long but not overly difficult if you are fit and keen.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Some stay in temples, some in Minshuku, some in ryokan and some in freestay or in tents or huts. Everyone has their own journey. Just be prepared.
RAIN: have good rain gear and pants.
FOOD: Sugoi Desu! Delicious Japanese food every day.
Temples and emotions: Each temple is special and warrants some research and time to enjoy and go through rituals. You will catch onto these easily. If you like the Heart Sutra is is important. I am still studying it and not yet there so I do not chant it yet. I have my own set of thoughts to use during temple time.
I found the emotions are best explored by taking your time and sitting with people or in meditation often. Be prepared to cry even if it is not usual for you. They will be tears of joy, sadness, love and other emotions that flow out.
Do Gyo Ni Nin - two walking together. The notion of walking with Kukai is fundamental to the 88 Temple Walk. It brings a special sharing of values and feelings to the experience.
A few more pictures coming up but you can find all manner of youtubes and such so I will not show the many temples.