Tag Archives: buddhism

A 100-temple Kannon pilgrimage

The 33 temples of the Bandō Sanjūsankasho (“The Bando 33 Kannon Pilgrimage”) form together with the 33 temples of the Saigoku pilgrimage and the 34 temples of the Chichibu Kannon temple pilgrimage, a 100-temple Kannon pilgrimage.
Now free Android apps for all three of these pilgrimages are available from the Android store.

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Of the three pilgrimages, at a mere length of 100 km, the Chichibu 34 Kannon pilgrimage is best suited for the tourist who can only dedicate a limited amount of time and would like to walk the pilgrimage. And as Chichibu is, undeservedly, still largely undiscovered by the majority of the tourists, you have a chance to enjoy a lovely area of Japan that is less than an hour from Tokyo by train.
See also here.

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The Chichibu Pilgrimage App for Android

The pages describing my experience of walking the Chichibu 34 Kannon temple pilgrimage on this blog remain popular and this makes me happy as that means that a lot of people are looking to get more out of their trips to Japan, decided to get out of the big cities and get a taste of the real Japan. I’m therefore happy to announce that I’ve written a free Android App that works as the perfect travel assistant specific for the Chichibu 34 Kannon Temples pilgrimage.

The Henro App is based on my own experience walking the pilgrimage and it is what I would have liked to have with me when I was doing the pilgrimage. Some of the temples are difficult to find. Even though there are some signs and stone markers guiding the pilgrim, especially in the Yokoze area, I found myself walking with both the books in my hand constantly looking at hand-drawn maps that were put together a long time ago and not always accurate or reading descriptions that were a bit confusing at times. I really felt like I wanted to have all the details of a temple and up-to-date maps easily accessible on my phone or tablet and even have the possibility to use GPS to indicate your current location or use for navigation to a temple.
Well, here it is is, a perfect pilgrim’s assistant and I have packed it with loads of details about other tourist attractions in Chichibu as well; so even if you don’t use it to do the pilgrimage, you’ll get plenty out of it when you visit Chichibu and it comes at a price you cannot beat. Available now in both English and Japanese (日本語版). 🙂
Check out the video on YouTube to see what to expect.

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Copying sutra at Taiyo-ji temple

As part of a temple stay (shukubo) at Taiyo-ji temple, you get the chance to copy sutra. No calligraphy experience or knowledge of kanji is required (I know, I’m really bad at calligraphy and being left-handed doesn’t help either as all the stroke directions of a kanji are defined by right-handed people — I push the brush where they would pull it and v.v.) 🙂 The habit of hand copying sutra is considered a merit and is a devotional practice.
The monk speaks English and Taiyo-ji temple is very accommodating for tourists from everywhere wanting to get the shukubo experience.

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Zazen at Taiyo-ji temple

We visited Taiyo-ji temple in Chichibu for our second temple stay (shukubo) there a few days ago and my wife took this video of me doing zazen in the very beautiful zazen hall of the temple. The unique experience of this remote, mountain top temple makes me feel one with nature and at peace.
The monk speaks English and Taiyo-ji temple is very accommodating for tourists from everywhere wanting to get the shukubo experience.

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Zenkō-ji, Nagano

Before going to Seni Onsen Iwanoyu, we had a stay in a ryokan close to Zenkō-ji temple in Nagano.

That's me, walking towards the main building of Zenko-ji

We bought tickets to the inner sanctum (read the Wikipedia article about the treasures) and made our way to the tunnel in search of the Key to the Western Paradise of the Amida Buddha. The tunnel is pitch dark, as dark as a darkroom. What you do is to keep your right hand onto the cold wall and grope for the key. Of course, as it is busy, people keep bumping into each other so it is quite funny. For some reason my wife assumed that the ceiling would get low and crouched down. I’m standing about 40cm taller than her and the idea hadn’t occurred to me so we would had made quite the hilarious sight making our way through the tunnel together if only somebody had been able to see in there.

The next morning we went to the morning ceremony but as we got there early, we got to talk to one of the people working at the temple and as we still had time, he explained a lot and showed us around and showed us some other sights inside the other temple buildings. Then he led us to the building from which the 80 years old priest who would conduct the ceremony would come. This was very lucky as only local people were gathering here and it became clear that these people met up every morning: some were walking the dog, others were on their way to work. The priest emerged and everybody, including me, knelt down to receive a blessing from him which was a touch on the back of the head. We then made our way to the main temple again and where the ceremony was about to start. Very recommended!
After the ceremony was over, everybody made their way through the tunnel again and as it was even busier than the day before, it was even more fun. 🙂

Some thoughts:

  • No other non-Japanese tourists that I noticed went to the morning ceremony, why not? It really is a great opportunity to see the temple in action, it is not just an old building with some statues.
  • If you do decide to visit the morning ceremony, hold on to the ticket you bought to the inner sanctum, it will give you access to the tatami area the next morning.
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Edo 33 Kannon Temples Pilgrimage

In 2013 I walked the 34 Kannon Temples Pilgrimage in Chichibu and enjoyed that very much. Next time I’m in Japan, I intend to do the Edo 33 Kannon Temples Pilgrimage right in the centre of Tokyo.

This will be a challenge as the best part of the Chichibu pilgrimage was the countryside and its friendly people whereas the Tokyoites are using a social Botox and dealing with the crowded streets and public transport by pretending they are alone. A lot of this pilgrimage will be done by public transport instead of walking which will be another big difference that I’m not particularly keen on.

For reference I bought the Kindle edition of The Tokyo 33-Kannon Pilgrimage: A guide to ancient Edo’s sacred path book by Marcus Powles which contains a wealth of information. Unfortunately the small hand drawn maps in the Kindle edition are almost indecipherable on my 3rd generation Kindle so I collected the locations of the 33+3 temples of the book in a Google map to be used in addition to the book.

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Temple 32: Hosho-ji

This will be a series of occasional blog posts going into a few more details of the Chichibu 34 Kannon Temples pilgrimage that I walked in October/November 2013.

One of the most impressive temples of the pilgrimage is Temple 32, Hosho-ji. The much photographed Kannon hall is located next to a cave, very picturesque, but there is also a path that will lead you to another kannon statue and a nice view.

 Fuji Neopan Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds. Fuji Neopan Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

When waiting for the stamp, the monk pointed us to a set of stone  ‘footsteps,’ standing on the footsteps ,you could just make out a kannon statue on the top of the rock. It takes about an hour to visit and the path involves a bit of climbing and holding onto iron chains and railings for dear life. There were signs up there in kanji which I, unfortunately, couldn’t read but after a while I made it up to one of the statues.

Fuji Neopan Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds. Fuji Neopan Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

I would have liked to explore the other directions but with my wife and friend waiting below, I chose to climb down again.

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Eightfold Path: Right Mindfulness

In my series about the Eightfold Path and Photography, Right Mindfulness, being part of the Concentration division of the Eightfold Path, refers to remaining focussed at all time.

Fuji Neopan Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

But Right Mindfulness, to me, is to be always aware of photography, how the things around you would translate into a photo, translate into a better photo than the one you took of the same subject last time. It isn’t about being jealous of the locations I never get to travel to, it is about what I can make of the locations I can visit.

On the drive into work I have lovely views and I drive past quite a few gnarly old pollards, it is a pleasurable commute. I have stopped along the way, taken time and shot some decent photos. As I drive there everyday, I do visualize taking shots of the ever changing landscape, visualizing different angles and exposure settings, but that isn’t all, I think I am still missing the point: like Michael Kenna, I must focus on simplifying the composition, removing clutter until I get to the truth of the subject.

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Eightfold Path: Right Effort

In my series about the Eightfold Path and Photography, Right Effort, being part of the Concentration division of the Eightfold Path, refers to the constant effort of abandoning ill habits that we have picked up or are tempted by and to the strive of developing new and better habits.

Foma Fomapan 100 at EI 100, developed in APH 09 dilution 1:167 for 2 hours

But then we all know that the ill habits we’re talking about are typically contradictions of each other: For instance: on the one hand we should not hesitate and miss the crucial shot, on the other hand patience is a great virtue for a photographer to have. In my experience, constantly taking shots to avoid missing the crucial one is a guaranteed way to come back with nothing at all, so that isn’t an option for me (any more.) Every photo shoot that isn’t in the controlled environment of a studio is going to be different and unique, and experience will no doubt help, but will only take us this far and not further. To me, Right Effort is the realization of this and without relying on shortcuts which will lead to repetition of previous work, we constantly need to improve ourselves to grow.

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