Shōdoshima pilgrimage


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There are many hundreds of "replica" or "copied" regional pilgrimages in Japan (known as utsushi reijō ). These developed to enable people unable to get to distant places such as Saikoku and Shikoku, to do these pilgrimages in their own localesMost replicate in localised/regional or even smaller forms one or other of the "main" pilgrimages (Shikoku or Saikoku) and have 88 or 33 sites respectively. Some of these "copies" are made up of temples, but often they include small wayside shrines or halls of worship among the sites. The 88 stage Shōdoshima pilgrimage, which developed in the early 18th century and is one of the best-known pilgrimages modeled on and referred to as a copy of Shikoku, has 29 temples on the route, since there are only that number of temples on the island, and the other sites are wayside halls.

   Shōdoshima is just north of Shikoku in the Inland Sea and is one of many islands in the region to have developed its own "Shikoku" route – one that on Shōdoshima takes around 6-7 days to walk compared to 40 plus for Shikoku. It flourished from the mid-Tokugawa onwards and especially attracted a clientele from Fukui, the northern parts of Kyoto and Hyōgo prefectures and the regions facing the island in the Inland Sea; many villages sent groups there every year to pray for good crops, and group pilgrimages, organised by pilgrimage confraternities, 講 were the norm. In the 1970s it got more pilgrims than Shikoku, but gradually since then the position has reversed. In the past two decades this pilgrimage, like many regional and smaller pilgrimages in Japan, has declined, while Shikoku has grown in popularity. This has contributed to severe problems for the temples on Shōdoshima that have suffered from depopulation and declining pilgrim numbers.

   This photograph shows some of Shōdoshima's splendid scenery; the pilgrimage trail there is largely through quiet rural areas, usually with sea and/or mountain views.

   For more on replicated or copied/small-scale pilgrimages click on the "related image" below.


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