This study involves a fourteen-hundred-kilometer-long pilgrimage around Japan's fourth largest island, Shikoku. In traveling the circuit of the eighty-eight Buddhist temples that make up the route, pilgrims make their journey together with Kobo Daishi (774-835), the holy miracle-working figure who is at the heart of the pilgrimage. Once seen as a marginal practice, recent media portrayal of the pilgrimage as a symbol of Japanese cultural heritage has greatly increased the number of participants, both Japanese and foreign. In this absorbing look at the nature of the pilgrimage, Ian Reader examines contemporary practices and beliefs in the context of historical development, taking into account theoretical considerations of pilgrimage as a mode of activity and revealing how pilgrimages such as Shikoku may change in nature over the centuries. This rich ethnographic work covers a wide range of pilgrimage activity and behavior, drawing on accounts of pilgrims traveling by traditional means on foot as well as those taking advantage of the new package bus tours, and exploring the pilgrimage's role in the everyday lives of participants and the people of Shikoku alike. that have shaped it in the past and in the present, including history and legend; the island's landscape and residents; the narratives and actions of the pilgrims and the priests who run the temples; regional authorities; and commercial tour operators and bus companies.
Author: Ian Reader
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
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