ko.yaa.nis.katsi (from the Hopi language), n. 1. crazy life. 2. life in turmoil. 3. life disintegrating. 4. life out of balance. 5. a state of life that calls for another way of living.Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
Over the past decade, I’ve had some sort of major change in my life every two-to-three years. Most of these changes have been location/job related, with the latter usually following the former.
I’ve been in Japan for three years now but, while I’ve had a chance to explore Tokyo and its periphery thoroughly, much of the rest of the country remains a tantalising mystery.
Frankly, I’ve been feeling burnt out so have decided to take a hiatus from work and tomorrow will be embarking on a 1,200km trek on foot around the southern island of Shikoku (四国).
I’ll be following the 12th-century circular Shikoku Pilgrimage (八十八ヶ所巡り) trail which encompasses 88 temples associated with the revered monk and scholar Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師) who was instrumental in bringing Buddhist teachings to Japan from China.
The journey through Shikoku’s four provinces is likened to a symbolic path to enlightenment, with temples 1–23 representing the idea of awakening (発心 hosshin), 24–39 austerity and discipline (修行 shugyō), 40–65 attaining enlightenment (菩提 bodai), and 66–88 entering nirvana (涅槃 nehan).
Pilgrims are known as o-henro-san (お遍路さん) and traditionally wear a sedge hat, white shirt and carry a wooden staff. Upon arriving at each temple they carry out a prayer ritual and collect a stamp in a special book (納経帳 nōkyō-chō).
While most modern-day pilgrims travel by tour bus, a small minority still set out the old-fashioned way on foot, a journey which takes about six weeks to complete.
While I am not Buddhist, I hope this journey to be more than a stamp rally or a long hike but instead an opportunity to step aside from everyday life and devote some quality time to quiet reflection without the usual distractions.
Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.Cecil Beaton
During my pilgrimage, I’ll be disconnecting from the noise of social media and news with the exception of this blog which I hope to keep updated as a log of my progress around the island.
Depending on the weather and how well the road treats me I aim to camp ~3 nights a week and stay in various lodgings the rest of the time.
I hope you’ll join me 🙂