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Symbolically, the journey is considered to be both a journey together with the Daishi on a journey to enlightenment, and also a journey associated with death; pilgrims generally wear pilgrimage clothing and carry accoutrements associated with their symbolic death, as they step outside the ordinary world to become pilgrims. Completing the journey thus can be seen as a form of symbolic rebirth. As is common in pilgrimages in Japan, completion is seen as a way of eradicating bad karma. Pilgrims need not complete the journey in one go; it is common, especially in the modern day, for participants to break the journey into a series of sections that they do when they have free time, and often people complete the journey over an extended period of time. It is common for pilgrims to make all manner of wishes and prayers seeking worldly benefits, as well as doing the pilgrimage as a memorial for deceased kin, for whom they seek salvation in the afterlife. As is common in pilgrimages worldwide, entertainment and sightseeing, especially of Shikoku's natural scenery, also play a part in pilgrim motivations and practices, and while some pilgrims nowadays walk the pilgrimage, the majority make use of the convenient transport system that exists in Shikoku. The development of bus tour pilgrimages from the 1950s onwards in particular has boosted pilgrim numbers in Shikoku and made the pilgrimage more accessible to people - notably older people and women- who in earlier times were rarely found among the pilgrims.
This statue is of Kōbō Daishi, depicting him in his guise as a wandering mendicant complete with Buddhist robes, monk's hat, pilgrim's staff and begging bowl. (1/3 of Kōbō Daishi )..
For further information about pilgrimage in Japan, including the Shikoku pilgrimage, click on "related image" below.
Ian Reader 2005 Making Pilgrimages: Meaning and Practice in Shikoku (Honolulu: University of Hawaii a detailed discussion of the Shikoku pilgrimage in historical and contemporary contexts.