I am having a great time growing this website, and also its sister website www.yourpilgrimageinjapan.com . Both have the same objective–to bring people outside of Sunny Kagawa to the point of wanting to come for a visit, see the sites, enjoy the culture, and have a very much “off the beaten path” experience here in Japan. I am learning a lot along the way. This has been an experience within an experience.

Several years ago, I wrote a book called, “Karate The Japanese Way”. I studied, and later taught, karate for a long time. I started my karate journey in Ishikawa-ken in 1992, and I was immersed in a marvellous world of hard karate training, incredible kindness and support by my teachers, and a commission from my teacher, Taniguchi-Sensei, to write down what I had learned and explain as best I could to others.

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That book, and the website (which no longer exists… sorry), was also host to a great karate discussion forum, also called “Karate The Japanese Way” (KTJW). That site also no longer exists… (sorry about that too). On those boards I had a great chance to share ideas, and hear stories, and most importantly, to learn what others were saying and doing in the karate world. There was a tremendous wealth of experience and brain-power on the boards with the active members we had. It was an astonishing social experiment, and I had the quirkiest luck to be in the hub of it. To Shotokan karate world-wide, it was kind of a Renaissance. And we were people in the middle of it to push our art out of the Dark Ages. That was pretty cool.

I think that the success of those forum discussions, and the book, which sold pretty well around the world, lay in its tone. As a young karate teacher I just wanted to explain as I could in a, “Hey, let’s check this out together, ok?” approach to the writing. I just wanted to rub the dirty window from the outside with new friends and peek into the karate training hall together. We could then talk about the things we saw, we could share in the moment of being together.

Right now, as I am going through a number of blogs about Japan, about Kagawa, about the Ohenro experience, I am having a sense of deja vu. Like many karate websites and books, they are just plain dull. Very dull. As dull as dirt. Duller than dirt in a grey bag laying on a flat grey sidewalk. As dull as dirt in a grey bag on a sidewalk in a small town with no traffic lights and tumbleweeds rolling by. That kind of dull. Dull!

And the tone! Well, the tone just, well… it sucks.

I said it. The tone is bad. It is the same old, “Hear me, you great unwashed and unexperienced,” nonsense. “You have not walked the miles  I have in straw sandals and are thus hardly worthy to gaze upon them. Gather ’round now as I teach you, like the portent of truth I am from the mouth of Kukai, you may call him ‘Kobo Daishi’. Verily verily hear now the words of truth and wisdom…”

Feh.

Of course, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but the tone is quite telling in how people write. I do not know about you, but life after 45 now gives me an acute lack of patience with this kind of writing, these kinds of antics, and the brazen self-appreciative writing that this kind of stuff reflects. I am very much not interested or attracted to someone’s narcissism, no matter what they wear on their back, their head, or carry around their neck as they trudge through the miles and miles of the 88 Buddhist Temple Pilgrimage. Vanity, whether it be drawn out long, or thrown at you short, is still the same.

I want this website, and the sister site, www.yourjapanesepilgrimage.com (did you go there yet, huh? Did ya? No? Well…..come on already!), to be fun in the writing, welcoming in the tone, and very much just like the Karate The Japanese Way was for me. Let’s go together. Let’s learn together. Let’s try to do things together and maybe we can learn something from one another.

I am very interested in the history, the architecture, the regions, the people, the culture, the nature surrounding the temples, the people who are on pilgrimage, the rituals, the literature, the folklore, the mysteries, and the self-awareness that are all connected in various ways to the Ohenro world.

All of it is interesting. All of it is exciting and challenging and a living marvel. So, why then, why for the love of all that is holy and creme filled do people who write about the Ohenro experience do so in such a boring, pedantic, preachy, know-it-all manner?

To me, the Ohenro world and several who have attempted to present (or represent) it to the English speaking world are at polarized positions. To many foreign “ohenro” they spend an incredible amount of time and space talking about themselves. Much of the text is about their irritations, their unhappiness, their disappointment in others around them, other ohenro who are not as ohenro as they are, and about how they are perceived by others. Their “attachment” to all these vanities undoes them. And thus, the writing is bad and the tone is….

Dull.

Not that this website promises to bring you something grand and perfect, and full of chocolatey goodness that I know you deserve, but I will try to do something different here.

Let’s just go along the trail. I am traveling it first by bus so I can take a lot of photos to show you. I am also reading and researching as much as I can along the way. I hope I can bring some things to your attention that are interesting and curious. I hope most of all that you will come out here one day and try this yourself.

Just promise to not write a blog or website or a book that is as dull as some that are already out there.

Come out and have a time to remember, and to cherish. I will cheer my heart out for you as  you head off into the sunset.

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Yours Truly,

Mark