Shikoku Henro

In February, 2006, 2 years of research culminated in a 7-week journey on the Shikoku Henro. Henro is the japanese word for pilgrimage, and pilgrim. This trail spans roughly 1300km and circumnavigates the island of Shikoku, Japan, connecting 88 Shingon buddhist temples and countless unnumbered Shinto shrines. This pilgrimage route enshrines Kukai (posthumously known as Kobo Daishi), the patron saint of Shingon buddhism in Japan, and is said to have been the path he walked over and over in order to reach enlightenment.

In addition to attempting to walk the entire route, as is traditional, Alicia also took on the outward role of the henro, wearing all the prescribed gear and garb. The white hapi coat is a simple cotton funeral jacket – worn as a courtesy so that if a henro expires on the trail, s/he can be buried where they are without insult. The kasa, or straw hat, is traditional as well as practical – kasa also means ‘umbrella’. The kongo tsue, or sacred staff, represents the Daishi himself, walking along side every henro. Appropriately, the motto of the pilgrimage is “Dōgyō Ninin,” We Two, Traveling Together.

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