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10 July 2005 @ 02:22 pm
Japanese Pilgrimages, Goshuuin, and Random Information  
z107m asked me if temples on Japanese pilgrimages have special coins or stuff containing bits of stuff associated with saints.

They don't do relics the way that Catholocism does. Yeah, people may make a pilgrimage to somewhere that's assiciated with an important holy person. But I think the general Japanese cleanliness fetish put a kabosh on carrying around pieces of saints or bits of something they once wore. ('Cause, um, ick? Holy sweat is still sweat. And carrying around pieces of someone else's body is just gross. Even if it is contained in metal, like the crosspiece of a sword. Not to mention the cross symbology totally fails to work in Japan, since 1) not Christian, and 2) Japanese swords don't have a cross-shaped guard.)

They do have something called a "goshuuin", which is a special piece of calligraphy that will include the following information: The name of the temple or shrine; the date that the person visited said location; and some phrase or saying that is associated with the main deity venerated at the shrine or temple. The name of the temple may be contained within a stamp. Pretty much all goshuuin will have some stamps on them. I'm not quite sure what the fascination is, but the Japanese have a certain fondness for ink stamps. The goshuuin may have additional information in it as well, like the location of the temple, or other stuff that makes the temple unique or interesting.

For example, my goshuuin from Chuuzen-ji has a stamp on it reading "Bandou #18", since it is the 18th temple on the 33 temple Bandou pilgrimage. (Bandou is an old name for the area that is today essentially covered by the Kantou region.) It also has calligraphy reading "Mt. Nikkou", since it is located in the area called Nikkou mountain. (The tallest peak in the area is actually named Mt. Nantai. But the whole area is also generally refered to as "Mt. Nikkou", particularly in the goshuuin. In fact, all the goshuuin I have from the Nikkou region have "Mt. Nikkou" in them, except for the one from the Futaara Shrine, with leaves the "Mt." part off. But then, goshuuin from shrines are generally a good deal less elaborate than ones from Buddhist temples, and by that standard the one from Futaara Shrine is downright fancy.)

Goshuuin serve as a momento of having visited the temple. (Or, for ones that are on a pilgrimage, a receipt, as it were, proving that you did, in fact, visit said temple, along with when you did it.) They cost 300 yen each. Each one is unique, and, depending on the skill of the calligrapher, can be quite nice as a piece of religious artwork. Many temples -- and particularly ones on pilgrimages -- sell a book, called a goshuuin-cho, which contains a piece of paper which has been folded multiple times to create pages. Each goshuuin will fit on one page, and the entire book is around the size of your average paperback (albeit a really short one.) This way of putting the pages in does allow you to stretch the whole thing out and display all the goshuuin as one continuous scroll-type thing.

For the Shikoku pilgrimage, there is a special thingie that I know you can get. And my knowledge of said special thingie is so detailed that I can't even tell you what said thingie is called. It's done on something similar to the Japanese signboards (that you use for getting autographs), and tends to be a good deal more elaborate than a simple goshuuin, as well as more expensive. (I believe each one costs something like $10-15.) Once the pilgrimage has been completed, there is a special (and expensive) way to mount and frame all of them, and it turns into what is supposed to be a really nifty piece of artwork as well as a nice momento of one's journey. While it would be unbelievably cool to do this, I think I will probably skip doing so, since 1) I'm not going to be doing the pilgrimage in order, nor in only one trip, and 2) it's really quite expensive. I believe I've heard that the total cost of one of these, including mounting and framing, comes to about $6000. While it is art, I'm thinking that the whole pilgrimage will be quite expensive as is, so I will probably skip the fancy thing and just content myself with my goshuuin-chos. (Yes, I'm going to have to have at least two books for all 88 temples.) Just doing the goshuuin will probably cost around $300. And that's not counting temple entrance fees (which some of them will have), or the cost of getting to some of these places. 'Cause Shikoku is not one of the most transit-blessed parts of Japan. (In fact, I use examples of some of the places I've been to on Shikoku as examples of the most obscure places in Japan that I've been to.)

Was that more information than you were expecting?

Oh, yeah. Related to pilgrimages, it is not required to do the entire pilgrimage in one trip. While it's encouraged (and vastly cooler) to do the temples in order, it also isn't required to do so. Nor is it required to do the pilgrimage in the traditional way. (Read: all on foot.) Japan being Japan, there are actually tours that specialize in whisking pilgrims from one temple to the next in air-conditioned busses. What's important is the journey. Obviously, the more effort that you have to put into the journey, the more you will get out of it. Which make sense, if you think about it. You will do a whole lot more character building walking all around the countryside (and will experience a whole lot more of life) than you will whizzing around on a tour bus.
Cirdancirdan_havens on July 10th, 2005 11:01 pm (UTC)
Cool! I like the idea that it's all connected. For some reason, I don't think the churches have any collaborative artwork like that. Guess you could collect souvenir medallions. *scratch scratch* And even if you don't do it on foot, considering how you're going to travel from here to there, I'm sure that counts as part of the lots of effort.
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Sandpanthersandpanther on July 10th, 2005 11:50 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was thinking if everyone is taking away dirt there is sooner or later going to be a distinct lack of dirt.

See, that sort of think leaves me a little more cynical on the whole pilgrimage thing. I mean, the dirt? You know, it's not like it's any dirt that Christ actually touched. Or might have touched. Or might have touched dirt that touched dirt that Christ touched. Or... you get the point.

Though on the Shikoku pilgrimage I think it would be neat to walk at least part of the route in the traditional style, just to get a little of a feeling of what it was like being a pilgrim. Yeah, the scenery really is all different. But it gives kind of a glimpse of what it was like, and almost a kind of connection through the ages, if that makes any sense?
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Sandpanthersandpanther on July 10th, 2005 11:44 pm (UTC)
I'm not quite sure what you are thinking when you say "collaboratie artwork", but it's not really an intentional collaboration. So one temple won't have, like, half a picture that is continued on the next page or anything like that. Each piece is complete and distinct. It's just that since they are all connected together in the book, it sort of becomes a whole of the individual pieces -- if you see what I mean? Eh, I'll show you next time you're over at my place.

Yeah, I'm figuring that having to cross the ocean and deal with language barrier issues ('cause out there, they speak different Japanese...) counts as part of the effort in my case. Hence, I don't feel too badly about heavily leaning toward renting a car. Some of these places will take 2 hours by bus (one way) to get to, and we are a lot more limited in time than many pilgrims. So we do have to wimp out and take one of the easiest options. Though who knows? Maybe I won't be able to do this for years and years and years, and then I'll have more free time? It's hard to say.
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Sandpanthersandpanther on July 10th, 2005 11:39 pm (UTC)
I've got one completed goshuuin-cho, though it's not for any given pilgrimage. It's just from the temples and shrines I've visited on a couple of trips. Remind me next time you're in town and I'll show it to you.

Each temple has its own name and number. The Japanese have this complete and utter weirdness concerning names (I intend to make a post on that at some point, after I sit down and write it all up), so everything will have a name, and frequently more than one. (For example, one of the temples on the Bandou pilgrimage is commonly called "Asakusa-Kanon-ji", for all that the official name is "Sensou-ji". And I can't even remember the official name of San-juu-san Gendou, since it's really only every called by its common name, and not its proper name.)

The pilgrimage route follows the circumfrance of the island of Shikoku. So the route is covering a fair amount of territory. Shikoku is the smallest of the four main Japanese islands, so it's not quite like hiking the entire circumfrance of California or anything. More like walking the circumfrance of Oregon. After I do this I will have new spots to give as examples of the most outback place I've ever been to in Japan.

There are many books dedicated to the Shikoku pilgrimage. I have one, which includes maps. Again, next time you are around, remind me and I will show it to you.

As for when we're doing this... I'm not entirely sure. A friend of mine and I were just talking about it as a "one day we are going to do this" kind of thing. I'm expecting at this point that we are going to do the Shikoku East and Shikoku West trips first. This will allow us to get very familiar with the Shikoku transit systems, as well as pick off the temples that are easier to access (with the intent that we would be able to focus on the hard-to-get-to ones on the official Pilgrimage trip.) I'm betting no sooner than 6 years from now, and quite probably longer.

No problem on the inquisitiveness. I can totally see this being up your alley. And you know I have a fondness for the obscure.
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lurker nowayatsujik on July 14th, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the interesting info. Just wait till you get to Mirage #21-#29 ohhhh boy will you ever get geography. And mikkyou. And Shikoku pilgrimages (though not till #29 for those XD;;)
Sandpanthersandpanther on July 15th, 2005 06:08 am (UTC)
If all goes incredibly well in my life (don't hold your breath) I might be on Shikoku when I get to #21-29. Or at least, that's how my current pipe dream goes. Friend of mine and I were planning a trip to Japan for November, and will be spending a few days on Shikoku. We'll see if I can go or not. If I do go, I'll probably pick up whatever novels I'm missing, since waiting a month for stuff to arrive is tedious.

*firmly surpresses the urge to ask where all they go* I can be patient. Really, I can!
lurker nowayatsujik on July 15th, 2005 04:05 pm (UTC)
Eeeeeeh you might be in Shikoku when you actually get to those books? The envy is wringing me greener than Kokedera, I tell you. Be sure to take pictures! :o

Also, sure you can be patient. You'll be rewarded for it anyway, there's nothing like reading Mirage in order. >D
Sandpanthersandpanther on July 15th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC)
Don't go too green. It's entirely dependent on getting the finances together. Though it occurs to me that if I do end up going I should probably run our itinerary past you to make sure that we aren't going to be on top of Something Cool and totally miss it. (This comes up because my friend just passed along a castle that she wants to try and add to the itinerary which apparently was a hotspot for Sengoku period fighting. I noticed that it was associated with the Miyoshi, who, IIRC, were associated with Matsunaga Hisahide. Brain caught that and went Ping!)

*sigh* I've never managed to get out to Kokedera. The cost and doing the reservation thing has always put it lower on the to-do list. For the November trip we're talking about finally getting around to either Kokedera or Katsura Rikyuu, though I think we're currently leaning a bit more toward Katsura, since I think the fall colors are a little better there than at Kokedera.

Reading Mirage in order... That would be novel! I've read the earlier ones in a totally random order. I think from volume six on I'll stay in order, though.
lurker nowayatsujik on July 16th, 2005 03:42 am (UTC)
I should probably run our itinerary past you to make sure that we aren't going to be on top of Something Cool and totally miss it.

Depending on my memory is probably a really bad idea, since one of my first conclusions in the middle of reading Mirage was I need to go back and *re-read* the damn thing. How does one keep all those damn characters and places together? But I'm also too lazy to make lists, which is why I'm v.happy *you're* reading the books too because you can remind me of what and who happened. *is dork* p.s. pretty soon you *need* to read the books in order or you'll be terribly confused. Don't even think of starting #13-14 without going through #11-12. XD;;

Re: cool places in Shikoku - I should be able to remember most kanji, though, so flash them at me and see if I squeal AHHH YES MUST GO THERE, eheh.

Re: Kokedera v. Katsura Rikyuu - but why would you want to go to moss heaven for fall colours? XD I'd choose Katsura too. At any rate photos pls. ♥
Sandpanthersandpanther on July 16th, 2005 07:42 pm (UTC)
How does one keep all those damn characters and places together?


Seriously, Sengoku is my favorite period in Japanese history, so I know a lot about most of the major figures of the time period. Since I don't have to memorize stuff about the main figures, I have more brain space to devote to memorizing associations of the minor characters to the major ones. So, like, in the Sendai arc... I already know a fair amount about Date Masamune. I'd never heard of the Katakura, Mogami, or Ashina before reading MoB. A really quick scan through my reference books, and I end up with the following diagram:

Katakura - trusted vassal of the Date.
Mogami - sister of what's-his-name Mogami is Masamune's mother. Mogami randomly allied with the Date.
Ashina - wiped out by the Date.

So everything maps through as relationships to stuff I already know. It's all just a matter of establishing your hooks.

I still get lost on all the Hojo Uji-whatevers. >.> *poink* Though I just got an idea on where Kagetora might have picked up "Saburo". ('Cause -- check me if I'm wrong -- "Saburo" is usually given to a third son? And Kagetora was the seventh son. It's really been bugging me.)

(Okay, probably waaaaay TMI. But you asked! ;)

From now forward I'll be reading things in order. The earlier volumes arrived in kind of an erratic order, so I read things as they came in, since a lot of the stuff was covered in the anime anyway. Hence, why I just finished volume 1, and am about to move on to volume 6. At some point I'll go back and pick up volume 2, but that story line didn't grab me as much as the others have. Reading the Sendai arc I realized just how much more sense the Nikkou arc makes once you have some clue about... well, all the stuff that happened in Sendai.

Lesse... The places we have confirmed in Shikoku are:

琴平 (Where we will be staying, hopefully.)
栗林公園 in 高松 We will skip the castle, since we've been there before. (It's got great stories associated with it...)

丸亀城 and 徳島城

We're hoping to get to 阿波川島城 (may just be listed as 川島城, since they'll already know which Kawashima-jou it is), and might get to 上桜城 as it is near-by. Though I should probably pull up a map and verify just how near-by it is... (My friend's definition of "close" is sometime a little odd. And she doesn't have good resources to verify stuff currently.)

We're going to try to hit 善通寺, which given your muttering about Kobo Daishi, will probably move up on the list. (Which will mean absolutely nothing, since it's already high on the "if we've got a spare second, it's only one train stop up from our lodgings.

Do not tell me if anything happens at 矢島 because I can't go there this trip either, and I'm bitter about it. Twice on Shikoku and no Yashima. This must stop.

Similarly, do not tell me if they go to 観音寺 because I am already whining about having to miss the giant sand coin and two temples on the pilgrimage.

If I don't get to go to them this trip, I will hit them all on a later trip.

At any rate photos pls.

*piku* *supresses hysterical laughter*

Do you know what you get when you combine a hobbyist photographer with an obsessive research streak?

Answer: 5 GB worth of photos for a 10 day trip. And that was a thrown-together, last-minute trip where I didn't do any research in advance.

I'll post pics. But it will take me a while to sort through all fo them! :)