Shikoku Pilgrimage, Temples 13 – 18

Walking with Kōbō Daishi 


Without my Japanese friends, who had now gone back to Tokyo, I was on my own. But for some reason, although there were so many uncertainties in front of me, I did not feel scared. It might have been Kōbō Daishi and the saying “dōgyō ninin”, meaning “walking with Kōbō Daishi”, which gave me courage. For sure I also loved my staff and its bell that rang with every step I took.




The pilgrim in front of me was one of very few I met at the beginning of my pilgrimage. For most people, it was too early in the season to walk. However, signs of spring were already everywhere – like the blossoming plum tree you can see in the distance.





In a village along the Akui River, the locals like life-size dolls that portray human activities. Some were very funny.




Two old men chatting with a pilgrim’s bag beside them




Dainichiji (temple 13) is a valley temple. As in most of the temples, Buddhism and the original Shinto religion are interwoven. Opposite to the temple gate, on the other side of the street is Chinomiya Jinja, a Shinton shrine. The statue embraced by the big hands in a praying position (gassho)  depicts Kannon, the Buddha of Compassion.  The sculpture in front of the big hands depicts a dragon holding a sword, surrounded by fire. It represents Fudō Myōō, expressing insight and wisdom. He is the protector and messenger of Dainichi Vairocana, the embodiment of the Buddhist concept of emptiness.



Fudō Myōō




The area I walked through was not as urbanized as at the beginning of my pilgrimage. Many glasshouses provided shelter for the vegetables.




Immediately after the entrance gate, every temple has a water fountain for the cleansing ritual. With a ladle, one first rinses the left and then the right hand before cleansing the mouth. The rest of the water in the ladle is emptied over the handle. Cleaning hands and mouth means purifying body and mind.




Typically, the water sprouts out of a dragon’s mouth



After the cleansing ritual, the pilgrim rings the bell in the bell tower to announce his or her arrival. The bell is rung by pulling a big, wooden beam backwards (shown in photo above).




The rock underneath the carefully trimmed tree is a foundation stone of a former pagoda in Kokubunji, temple 15. Kokubunji is one of the four provincial temples of Shikoku.




At Idoji, temple 17, the little son of a priest was allowed to play with the gong.




Grounds of Idoji (temple 17). After having left my main back bag on a bench, in every temple I did the rituals in front of the main hall and the Daishi hall: lighting a candle and incense, ringing the gong (photo below) with the cord, putting the name – slip in the box, donating money and chanting the heart sutra.




Main hall of Idoji (temple 17) meaning sacred well.  Legend says that Kūkai once dug a well in one night with his staff.





Well of Idoji is to the right



The ceiling of Idoji


100,000 pilgrims per year participate in the Shikoku pilgrimage. Traveling in a bus and in groups is more popular than going on foot. Of the 100,000 pilgrims, only about 2,500 ohenros walk. Most of the walking ohenros walk the pilgrimage in stages over many years.




Bus pilgrims



Several times and in different temples, I met the same group of pilgrims. This time, I met familiar faces at Onzanji, temple 18.



Although I packed light, I still had unnecessary things with me. At a grocery store, I shipped a package to my friend in Tokyo with things I could be without. The hardest to let go was Basho’s book “The narrow road to the North.”




In the photo above, the lady is copying the address Yuko wrote down for me in Japanese. She wears a face mask, like many Japanese people do. To communicate, it was crucial that I had Japanese phrases with Japanese writings readily available. Even before my pilgrimage started, Yuko was sending useful sentences to my iPhone. The Google translator on the I-phone was only sometimes helpful. Most of the time, the translations did not make sense.




I often passed houses which were abandoned and deteriorating, but still beautiful.



Born and raised in a village along the Danube in Austria, Traude Wild soon ventured out into the world. After a two-year program for tourism in Klesheim/Salzburg, she spent nearly a year in South Africa and Namibia. By returning back to Austria, she acquired a Master of Economics at the University of Vienna. After moving to the United States with her four children, she studied Art History at Arizona State University and stayed in the United States for fourteen years. Here, she was teaching Art History in several Universities like Webster University and University of Missouri-St. Louis. Now, she lives partially in Arizona and Vienna and works together with her husband for the University of South-Carolina, Moore School of business as Adjunct Professor organising and leading Study tours in Central Europe. She also teaches at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. Since 1999, she is practicing Zen meditation in the lineage of Katagiri Roshi. She loves to hike and to write and is a student of Natalie Goldberg. During her often many weeks long hikes she brings her awareness into the Here and Now, describing her experiences in an authentic way. She loves to walk pilgrimages. The longest hike so far was the 1,400 km long 88 Temple pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan in 2016.

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