Temple NUMBER ONE! You are here! You made it. You are ready to start your ohenro pilgrimage. You have gone to the well stocked shop for ohenro gear and got yourself suited up.

You have your “sugegasa” (the sedge hat). You have your “hakui” (the white clothing). You have the “juzu” (Buddhist rosary beads). You have the “wagesa” (the coloured collar for the “hakui”. You have the “nokyoucho” (the stamp book). You have a “kyohon” (the book of sutras to read–or some paper with a readable version). You have your “kongotsue” (staff). You have a “zudabukuro” (the bag to carry your stamp book, candles, lighter, incense sticks, and name slips (called “osamefuda”)). You even have a “jirei” (a bell that will keep away evil as it rings out when you walk).

Do you also have the “Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide”? I can’t recommend this enough. It is THE hardcopy guide you need to keep with you when cellphone batteries fail.

You have also prepared your feet with good socks and shoes. You have you backpack with all the things you will need. You have rain gear for just in case. You have your water bottle, emergency food, and a camera, phone, and dictionary.

Rest assured you have forgotten something, but there’s no stopping you now. You’ll adapt, or get what you need on the road. And the road is spread out ahead of you. But first, let’s take a look at Temple 1, Ryouzenji.

Ryouzenji is named, “Vultures Peak Temple” and it has its name as it was given by Kukai (the patron saint of the pilgrimage and someone you will learn about more as you trek on forwards) when he had a vision of Shaka Nyorai (the Buddha as known in history) explaining the Lotus Sutra. In commemoration of the vision, this temple was built.

The term “Shaka Nyorai” can be roughly understood as “having become the Buddha”. With this in mind, and knowing that with Kukai, enlightenment is something that can come from within, and Zen is known through personal revelation, it is interesting that the start point can also be a conclusive point in the pilgrimage. Because once you have traveled from Temple 1 to 88, you ought to come here to “close the circle”. And then you can see the “having become the Buddha”, Shaka Nyorai.

How cool is that?

Here are some photos I took when I visited to give you a little taste of what is in store.