This lecture analyses how contemporary pilgrims understand and make meaning of the Buddhist 88 temple pilgrimage on Shikoku Island. Quantitative and qualitative research was conducted, including brief surveys and in-depth interactions with pilgrims, pilgrimage guides, those that give out alms, and temple officials to analyse contemporary pilgrims’ perceptions of the ‘sacred’ foci of the pilgrimage: The founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kōbō Daishi, and his presumed role in the origin of the Shikoku pilgrimage, with related issues of meaning-making, such as the Daishi faith, Kōbō Daishi tales, the various deities whose images are enshrined in the temples, the connection of Shinto and Buddhism and related rituals and pilgrims’ thoughts about ‘religion’, pilgrimage items and related ritual behaviour, experiential aspects of the pilgrimage, people’s motives for doing the pilgrimage, and their understanding of death. This research not only provides a better understanding of contemporary pilgrims’ practices and their understandings thereof, but also of the cultural meaning pertaining to and embedded within pilgrims’ modes of behaviour. These insights lead to a better general understanding of contemporary Japanese cultural practices and the world Japanese people live in, such as how they seek to achieve well-being and happiness.
Dr. Ryofu Pussel’s research interest lies in contemporary Japanese Buddhism. He holds an MEd (TESOL, Wollongong), MA (Japanese Language and Society, Sheffield), MA (Buddhist Studies, Sunderland), and has recently finished a doctoral thesis on the above topic (Sunderland). See http://www.ryofupussel.org for more details