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My Shikoku Journey (11) by Oliver, Germany

 Oliver Dunskus, Germany Complete Shikoku Pilgrimage

It was the second day of one of my pilgrimages, a hot and humid day in September, probably between T6 and T7. I was sweating to the bones, had slept poorly due to jet-lag, my backpack was heavy, when I started to feel really pitiful and angry with myself and the things around me. None of the cars passing me had pity with me.

I thought “wouldn’t it be nice if someone would take me along in his air-conditioned car? Hey, Kukai, please send me an air-conditioned limousine!”. To my surprise, two minutes later a car stopped next to me! The window went down, and I thought “wow, that was easy!”. But the driver did not offer me a ride, instead he gave me a paper slip, saying “this is for you”. Then he closed the window and went on. I was disappointed.

Later that night, at the Guest House Channel-Kan in Kamojima, I looked at the slip and it turned out to be an Osamefuda slip made of brocate, in red, yellow and gold, the ones used by people who have completed over 100 pilgrimages. It identified the owner as someone who was on his 130th pilgrimage, and I found out these slips were rare, very sought-after items, bringing good luck. “Very well”, I said to myself, “let’s see what that slip can do for you”. A moment later I said to myself “You are such an idiot! Do you think that Kukai will send you an air-conditioned limousine just like that? You are such a spoilt and lazy bastard!”. And I remember something a Henro friend once said:

“Kukai will take away things you took for granted, and instead give you things you did not expect”.

A few days later – I had progressed without the use of an air-conditioned limousine –  I was continuing my pilgrimage in a remote part, happily walking along a little river and thinking whit a good time I was having. A few more kilometers, maybe one or two more hours in the sunset, until I would reach my hostel, and the only person in the valley was a fisherman looking at his traps in the river. Suddenly a car stopped next to me. A young lady said “Please jump in, I can take you along, where are you going?”

Over the years, I have had several experiences like that and although I am not a religious person, I am speaking to Kukai when I walk. I feel he is my coach, my travel companion, my guardian angel. Often, I felt he gave me some good times after he had forced me to bring out the best of me and to not expect anything, and many Henro have had similar experiences.

The Shikoku pilgrimage has impressed me so much that I have travelled traveled to Shikoku six times so far and noticing there was no guidebook explaining the parts between the temples except the map book called “The Shikoku 88 Japan Route Guide”. I felt the need to share the news about what a great place it is by writing my own guidebook and it makes me happy every time I meet other pilgrims who use it and tell me it made their pilgrimage a little better.

Many pilgrims in Europe are trying to get “The Shikoku 88 Japan Route Guide” when they are still at home, preparing their trip. The book is available from me, just send me a mail.
(Note: Mr. Oliver is selling in Europe on behalf of author Mr. Matsushita)

My own guidebook is called “The 88 Temples of Shikoku”, it has been published in German, French and English so far and is available in any major bookstore or book site.