June 16, 2010

The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue

In 1918 Takamure Itsue, an energetic young Japanese woman, traveled alone to the island of Shikoku to go on pilgrimage—the famous Shikoku pilgrimage, which follows the footsteps of the Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi. The route is approximately 1400 kilometers and consists of 88 temples. During her journey Takamure wrote 105 newspaper articles about her experiences, and these were later turned into a book: Musume Junreiki (The pilgrimage journal of a young woman). Susan Tennant, who lived and taught in Japan for 11 years including 5 years on the island of Shikoku, has recently self-published an English translation of this book entitled, The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue.

It is certainly an interesting read—particularly for those interested on going on the Shikoku pilgrimage themselves—but the book’s charm stems primarily from the captivating personality of Takamure. She’s a complex character, given to maniacal flights of passion and moments of darkness, where thoughts of death keep her awake at night.

An example from her journal:

If I have to write, I’ll write; if I have to read aloud, I’ll read. Just let me be as I am.

However, there is one things I can say: nearly one hundred percent of people do not understand the person that I am. I don’t care. If they have doubts about me, it doesn’t matter. However, it’s annoying that problems arise because of their doubts. So what if I’m young? So what if I’m a woman? So what if I’m traveling alone?

My mind takes pleasure in the boundless universe and yearns for noble, undoubting faith—people won’t believe that. They only think that I was in some really wretched situation and then set forth on a trip like this. They are such deplorable, pitiable people. Really, delusion is ingrained in their head. They have an infinitesimal world. Their faith is a faith of delusion.

The entire book is similarly open and honest. If you would like an insider's look at Takamure's experience, you can pick up a copy of the book here.

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