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July 2010

88 TEMPLES, PART 1: THE PATH





Videography/Editing: Matthew Nothelfer
Photography/Editing: Alicia Wszelaki
Translation: Mieko Yamamoto


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1200 km (more like 1400 km if you count a lot of wrong turns), 50 days, 4 prefectures, one typhoon, numerous blisters, human interactions and unforgettable discoveries; walking around Japans fourth largest island of Shikoku on a visit to 88 temples was a once in a lifetime experience that I can't wait to repeat.

The first time I heard about the 88 temples was from my friend Noriko. We had finished lunch in Hiroshima and were looking out at the beautiful Seto Sea. Listening to her describe a centuries old pilgrimage encircling Japans fourth largest island, I thought to myself, "What type of person walks non stop in a circle for 60 days?" Before I attempted to answer, I already knew, I was that kind of person.

Almost 3 years from the date of that query, I stepped off a bus into an empty rest area in Tokushima, a 20 minute walk from Ryozenji or Temple 1. For the next 50 days I walked through lush mountains, congested cities, and sandy seashores. I dodged snakes, laughed with people, tested my directional abilities, learned why the REI employee praised Mole Skin, and experienced existence on a simpler level.

The temples were places where I could rest and reflect, appreciate and pray. They were my goal. Leaving one and arriving at the next was my reward. But as days on the trail passed, I found myself not only looking forward to reaching each temple, but being enthralled by the things that happened in between the temples, on the path.

For some of the other Henro I met this was not their first circuit around the island. As they proudly showed me their pilgrim books with numerous temple stamps, I thought to myself, "What type of person does a pilgrimage like this more then once?" I think I know the answer.

--Alicia