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A Walking Tour of Japan

October 2, 2009

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Above: Page spread from the souvenir journal kept by my acupuncturist on his recent walking tour in Japan. (All the images for today's post were taken in low light.)

My acupuncturist is Japanese. Each year he returns to his homeland for study, family visits, and a long walking tour. This September Kaz spent four days walking 30 miles a day, visiting 88 Buddhist temples. He was walking on a small island (I'm sorry I didn't remember to have him write the name down.)

When I showed up for my appointment he came out and apologized that he was running late (this never happens!) and handed me a lovely Japanese stab-bound book. "I made this on my trip. I thought you would like to see it. At each temple you get a stamp." And then he was off into a treatment room.

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Left: The Front cover of the pilgrimage journal.

Later, when we had a moment to talk, Kaz explained that you buy a journal specifically for this purpose. (It is a lovely stab bound book with thin Japanese paper that is folded at the fore edge. Despite the thinness of the paper there was no bleed through of the stamping inks. You could see through some of the double pages, but nothing was migrating.)

Each time you come to a temple you stop and have a stamp, specifically from that temple, put into your book. (You leave a donation for the temple.) Some temples are very small and no one is on duty so you can get stamps from those temples at a larger local temple.

Each temple has it's own specific stamp, and they are all lovely, with a mix of red and black ink. What a marvelous way to keep a journal of your pilgrimage!

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Right: Another page spread from the journal, showing some more of the various temple stamps.

Kaz said that many of the temples are up on hill tops and the going up and down makes for a long day, even though the distances are sometimes short. Since he walks long distances all year, this isn't a hardship for him, but this is definitely a trip for which you want to train.

I can't think of a better vacation, then a meditative walking tour. I would love to carry two blank journals like this and fill one up with the temple stamps and the other with sketches of the temples, using my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen of course! Maybe someday—after I've logged enough training miles.

In the meantime there are walking tours closer to home, in the neighborhood. Everyday we can go out walking and connect with something that is larger than ourselves, and bring back travel mementos.

  1. Reply

    and letterboxing! you can explore AND get a journal stamped!

  2. Reply

    Wow…such a wonderful way of life…no wonder the Japanese people or so healthy. When I was a young girl, I lived in Taiwan and our hairdresser, Mary, used to take me and my sister with her to visit temples all over the island. We were just amazed at all the ceremony and tradition that the Tawainese had in their everyday lives as well. What I also find amazing is that Japan is such a modern/technical country now and they still have “stamps” at these temples…so great to hear they haven’t “modernized” this practice.

    Okay…now you’re making me feel like I need to get out of my recliner once again…thanks Roz…just lovely this journal. Have a great weekend, fondly, Roberta

    • Christina Trevino.
    • October 2, 2009
    Reply

    I guess that is his writing, I love the kanji, and the hiragana also.
    I wish I could read it. Basho used to walk and write his haiku a long time ago, maybe visiting temples. It’s a tradition in Japan.
    If I could, I’d be there every Spring.

    • karen
    • October 2, 2009
    Reply

    Beautiful!

    • Roz
    • October 2, 2009
    Reply

    I haven’t done any letterboxing but I think there are groups doing it in the Twin Cities now. I look forward to trying it sometime.

    • Roz
    • October 2, 2009
    Reply

    Christina, the writing is all part of the stamp. Everything you see on each page—all part of the stamp. Pretty amazing stamps!!!!

    • Beth Billstrom
    • October 2, 2009
    Reply

    That is amazing! I, too, thought that Kaz had written the additional lettering. Either way the brush lettering adds such elegance. What a wonderful spiritual pilgramage.

  3. Reply

    My dear friend E did Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage and blogged about her journey beautifully here: http://www.gaijinhenro.blogspot.com/

    • E
    • October 3, 2009
    Reply

    The island is Shikoku and there are also scrolls to mark the achievement of reaching each temple. Unfortunately, with 88 Temples, most of the books available don’t have that many pages therefore one has to purchase more than one book, so it can seem a bit disjointed. I chose the scroll 😉
    Go Kaz!

    • E
    • October 3, 2009
    Reply

    I should have read the comments first…
    To Roz – not the writing is not part of the stamp. There are usually two people, one who does the writing first, then another who does the stamp. In the smaller temples, as mentioned, they are both done by the same person. However – the weirdest thing is when the huge busloads of ‘Bus Henro’ (Bus Pilgrims who buy package deals to do the pilgrimage) arrive, often the temple won’t be able to do all the stamps and writing in time for when the Henro are ready to get back on the bus so the bus drivers will do the stamping to help out 😉

    • Roz
    • October 3, 2009
    Reply

    Meliors, thanks for the pilgrimage link, I’ll go check it out.

    • Roz
    • October 3, 2009
    Reply

    E, thanks for this clarification. I only had a few moments to talk to Kaz about this (as he was running behind).

    So the goal should be to arrive when no buses are around! Kaz didn’t mention anything about this, but he pretty much takes everything in stride, so if he did meet a bus he wouldn’t see it as a delay.

    Thanks again E.

  4. Reply

    I need to do this next time I go to Japan. I usually buy little ‘o-mamori’ amulets and such, but this would be a much better record, I think.

    Your two-journal plan would be good, Roz. I gather that most temples won’t stamp an ordinary journal, nor is the stamp journal to be written in.

    One really cool thing about Japan is that a *lot* of places of note have some sort of commemorative rubber stamp (with a stamp pad nearby) that you can impress in any book you want to, for free. Museums, train stations, hot spring resorts, you name it – they probably have a rubber stamp. Google ‘stamp rally Japan’ for examples.

    Thanks for reminding me of this, putting it on my list of things to do next time I go to Japan!

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