Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The 88 Temple Adventure – Letter 1



   
Dear Sanijiva and Declan

Thanks for writing to me about the 88 Temple Route on the Japanese Island of Shikoku. I walked this 1200 kms route in November of 2014 and I am happy to share my experiences with you and the others who have also written. In this first letter I will try to answer your immediate questions and I will then try to follow this up with other stories about my journey.


Like you, when I first started researching this pilgrimage, my head was full of questions. Is the route difficult? I can’t speak Japanese, will I be ok? Is the route signposted? What about accommodation, food, transport? Will I meet other pilgrims? And many others.
The first thing I want to say is what kept occurring to me as I walked on Shikoku: pilgrims should research the route well and only embark on this pilgrimage with their eyes wide open. The 88 Temple Pilgrimage is hugely rewarding in all sorts of ways. For me in some respects it has been life changing. However it is also the most difficult pilgrimage I have ever made.

Although the number is growing there are comparatively few walking pilgrims. To put this in context:  from the information I have been given there seems to be over 500,000 pilgrims who visit the 88 Temples each year. Last year only 2600 of these completed the route on foot and of that number only 160 came from outside of Japan. These statistics do not include the numbers of walking pilgrims who walk the route in stages over years. Of the walking pilgrims I met it appeared to me that more gave up because of the challenges they encountered than completed the route. Most of these problems were physical – tendonitis, shin splints and blisters were the common causes.  Although two or three of those who went home were Westerners most were Japanese people who simply had no idea how hard it would be.
The difficulties lie not in the length of the stages but in the fact that the vast majority of the route is on roads; sometimes at the side of very busy roads and frequently for many kilometres. There are also steep elevations to many of the temples often over short distances. I often felt I was climbing a Munro (over 3000’ in my native Scotland) although in truth only one temple was that high.


In the letters which follow I will describe how the route and the overall experience more than compensates for these challenges but I promised myself that I would not mince my words if I was asked for advice.  Take heed pilgrim!

How different is it from the Camino to Santiago?  Many holders of the Compostela ask this question. In some respects it is similar. Like the Camino, the Shikoku pilgrimage is an old route with pilgrims recorded as early as the 12th Century and grew in popularity with the publication of the first guidebooks in the 17th Century.  Like the Camino the route is defined: there is a starting point and an end point. However the 88 Temples Route does not end at a Cathedral or even a town. You end at where you started. Thus if you start at Temple 14 you circumnavigate the island to end at Temple 14. In saying that most pilgrims begin and end at Temple 1.  The route on the island is “mostly” waymarked and there is a very good guidebook. There is some donativo accommodation but few and far between. Pilgrims are recognised and respected.
These broad similarities apart my view is that trying to compare the Camino to Santiago to the 88 Temple Route is like comparing apples and oranges. Apart from both being edible fruits they are totally different. Therefore my second piece of advice is whilst your Camino experience of preparing well, packing light, listening to your body and pacing yourself will stand you in good stead try to understand that when you arrive on Shikoku you are stepping into a completely different world, with its own language, food, traditions and culture.

The pilgrimage is on the island of Shikoku, the most rural and un-modernised in Japan. Like other island economies, Shikoku has suffered from recession. Young people have gone in search of work. There is a sense of decay in many parts of the island. At times the living conditions of the people were primitive. Shikoku is certainly not downtown Tokyo!  

If you are still with me at this point let me say that although these comments set some of the context, walking the 88 Temple Route was a wonderful and enriching experience. I grew to love the people, my fellow pilgrims, the stunning scenery, the pilgrim traditions, the peace and solitude, the hours of quiet reflection and times of fellowship with others at the end of the day.

For me the food remained a challenge until the end. But that is another story.     

I will write more in a few days. Until then have a look at these resources which I found invaluable:

This is the most useful website packed full of information on the history of the pilgrimage as well as practical notes on everything from travel to preparation and accommodation.
The above website also links to:

David Moreton is the translator and editor of the Japanese guidebook to the pilgrimage. It is by far the best and most comprehensive guidebook I have ever used. I will write more about this in a future letter.

And two blogs to whet your appetite even further:

The “Plod” of the title is a London Policeman who made the pilgrimage in 2011. He slept mostly in private hostel accommodation.

More up to date, this blog was written by a young woman named Kat who I met in London before I set off and who was extremely helpful. She set off to camp along the route with a walking companion who had to give up because of injury. Kat completed the route on her own. Her blog is full of information including elevation charts.
Kat is a superfit and experienced long distance walker who is currently walking the 4265 kilometres of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. My advice is to look in amazement at some of the daily distances Kat walked on Shikoku but not plan to emulate them!

I will write again in the next few days.

Kind regards

John



   


    

Friday, 30 January 2015

Missing Photographs on this Blog

Readers will notice that photographs have been deleted from the older posts. I'm sorry about this. This has been caused by a fault in the software. I simply don't have time to replace the photographs on 250 posts. However if any one would like the photographs associated with any particular post please email me and I will be happy to send them: johnniewalker-santiago@hotmail.com

Sunday, 5 October 2014

All the pilgrims numbers for the first 9 months of 2014,1 January - 30 September



Dear Friends

This will be my last blog post for this year. Perhaps for longer. In a few days time I am off to walk the pilgrimage route of 88 temples on the Japanese Island of Shikoku. I have allowed 63 days for this pilgrimage including a few days visiting Kyoto and Tokyo.

I will not be in touch with anyone from home during this time save for emergencies. I will not be blogging. I want this to be a real period of reflection and evaluation for me. Since moving to Santiago and trying to serve pilgrims here my life has been filled with joy and good experiences. I want to take some time now to discern the best way forward.

Thank you all for visiting this blog. I have very much enjoyed writing it. I had intended this blog to be a source of Camino stories. Rather life has become so busy I now rarely write anything else but statistics! This one of the things I will be reviewing.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and may 2015 bring you much peace and happiness.

John  


All the pilgrims numbers for the first 9 months of 2014,1 January - 30 September  
  
The total number of pilgrims who registered at the Pilgrims´ Office in the period 1 January – 30 September 2014 was 208,007.  Compared to the same period in 2013 this represents an increase of 9.6%.

How are the English speaking countries doing?

Country
 2012
2013
 2014
Growth %
Australia
1362
2253
  2828
28%
Canada
2121
2372
2578
6%
Ireland
3542
4407
4358
-1.6%%
South Africa
593
615
509
-19%
United Kingdom
3170
3435
3687
8%
USA
5549
8165
9257
12%
New Zealand
274
390
485
40%

Full analysis

The full analysis of the 208,007 pilgrims who registered in Santiago during the first 9 months of 2014:

Routes

Routes                                    Number of pilgrims
Frances-Camino de     140584 (67,59%)
Portugues-Camino      31787 (15,28%)
Norte-Camino de        12857 (6,18%)
Via de la Plata             7675 (3,69%)
Primitivo-Camino        7421 (3,57%)
Ingles-Camino             6499 (3,12%)
Otros caminos             597 (0,29%)
Muxia-Finisterre         585 (0,28%)


Countries
Countries        Number of pilgrims
Spain              101898 (48,99%)
Italy                18764 (9,02%)
Germany         14143 (6,80%)
Portugal          10633 (5,11%)
United States   9250 (4,45%)
France             7798 (3,75%)
Ireland             4358 (2,10%)
UK                   3687 (1,77%)
Holland            3049 (1,47%)
Australia          2828 (1,36%)
Korea               2776 (1,33%)
Poland             2672 (1,28%)
Brasil               2633 (1,27%)
Canadá            2578 (1,24%)
Belgica            1583 (0,76%)
Dinamarca      1491 (0,72%)
México            1449 (0,70%)
Austria             1410 (0,68%)
Suiza                1106 (0,53%)
Argentina        995 (0,48%)
Hungría           903 (0,43%)
Suecia             894 (0,43%)
Japón               816 (0,39%)
Noruega          645 (0,31%)
Rusia               639 (0,31%)
Rep Checa       620 (0,30%)
Colombia         602 (0,29%)
Eslovaquia       560 (0,27%)
Finlandia         559 (0,27%)
Sudáfrica         509 (0,24%)
New Zelanda   485 (0,23%)
Eslovenia         472 (0,23%)
Venezuela       471 (0,23%)
China               414 (0,20%)
Lituania           332 (0,16%)
Bulgaria          321 (0,15%)
Rumania          261 (0,13%)
Ecuador           253 (0,12%)
Uruguay          219 (0,11%)
Puerto Rico     199 (0,10%)
Chile                186 (0,09%)
Perú                 158 (0,08%)
Ucrania           140 (0,07%)
Israel               124 (0,06%)
Estonia            123 (0,06%)
Filipinas           119 (0,06%)
Croacia            118 (0,06%)
Malta             113 (0,05%)
Luxemburgo    112 (0,05%)
Islandia            91 (0,04%)
Grecia                         79 (0,04%)
Taiwán            76 (0,04%)
Letonia            74 (0,04%)
Costa Rica       73 (0,04%)
Singapur          71 (0,03%)
Andorra           70 (0,03%)
Bolivia                         61 (0,03%)
Líbano                         53 (0,03%)
Cuba                50 (0,02%)
Rep. Dom        50 (0,02%)
Paraguay         47 (0,02%)
India                40 (0,02%)
Guatemala      37 (0,02%)
Bielorrusia      32 (0,02%)
Turquía            31 (0,01%)
Honduras         28 (0,01%)
Indonesia         28 (0,01%)
Malasia           27 (0,01%)
El Salvador      26 (0,01%)
Marruecos      25 (0,01%)
Armenia          23 (0,01%)
Islas Feroe       22 (0,01%)
Serbia             22 (0,01%)
Vietnam          16 (0,01%)
Panamá           16 (0,01%)
Myanmar        16 (0,01%)
Albania            15 (0,01%)
Argelia            13 (0,01%)
Nicaragua       13 (0,01%)
Moldavia         13 (0,01%)
Irán                  13 (0,01%)
Pakistán           13 (0,01%)
Chipre                         12 (0,01%)
Sudán             11 (0,01%)
Mozambique   11 (0,01%)
Omán             9 (0,00%)
Rwanda           9 (0,00%)
San Marino     8 (0,00%)
Madagascar    8 (0,00%)
Namibia          8 (0,00%)
Afganistán       8 (0,00%)
Angola             7 (0,00%)
Haití                7 (0,00%)
Brunei                         7 (0,00%)
Dominica         7 (0,00%)
Cabo Verde     7 (0,00%)
Kazajistán        6 (0,00%)
Bosnia                         6 (0,00%)
Georgia           6 (0,00%)
Tuvalu                         6 (0,00%)
Comores          5 (0,00%)
Groenlandia    5 (0,00%)
Tailandia         5 (0,00%)
Barbados         5 (0,00%)
Marfil             5 (0,00%)
Kenya             4 (0,00%)
Congo             4 (0,00%)
Etiopía             4 (0,00%)
Uganda            4 (0,00%)
Jordania          4 (0,00%)
Camerún         3 (0,00%)
Surinam           3 (0,00%)
Qatar               3 (0,00%)
Zimbabwe       3 (0,00%)
Mauricio         3 (0,00%)
Siria                 3 (0,00%)
Swazilandia     3 (0,00%)
Timor             3 (0,00%)
Antillas            3 (0,00%)
Senegal           3 (0,00%)
Mauritania      2 (0,00%)
Nigeria            2 (0,00%)
Burundi           2 (0,00%)
Arab Emrts      2 (0,00%)
Jamaica           2 (0,00%)
Libia                2 (0,00%)
Montenegro    2 (0,00%)
Macedonia      2 (0,00%)
Nepal               2 (0,00%)
Gabón             2 (0,00%)
Mónaco           2 (0,00%)
Liechtensein    2 (0,00%)
Tayikistán        2 (0,00%)
Egipto             2 (0,00%)
Benin               2 (0,00%)
Laos                 1 (0,00%)
Urbekistán       1 (0,00%)
Micronesia      1 (0,00%)
Bangladesh     1 (0,00%)
Djibouti           1 (0,00%)
Somalia           1 (0,00%)
Samoa             1 (0,00%)
Burkina Faso   1 (0,00%)
Sri Lanka         1 (0,00%)
Guinea             1 (0,00%)
Maldivas         1 (0,00%)
Tanzania          1 (0,00%)
Bermudas        1 (0,00%)
Fiji                   1 (0,00%)
Santo Tomé     1 (0,00%)
Saudi Arabia    1 (0,00%)
Camboya         1 (0,00%)
Irak                  1 (0,00%)
Guayana          1 (0,00%)
Papúa Guinea 1 (0,00%)
Azerbaiyán      1 (0,00%)
Belice             1 (0,00%)
Guyana            1 (0,00%)
Túnez               1 (0,00%)
Mongolia         1 (0,00%)
Yugoslavia       1 (0,00%)
Naurú             1 (0,00%)


Gender
Gender            Number of pilgrims
Male               112100 (53,89%)
Female            95907 (46,11%)



Method of tranport
Method          Number of pilgrims
On foot            183350 (88,15%)
Bicycle             23191 (11,15%)
Horseback       1372 (0,66%)
Wheel chair    94 (0,05%)



Reasons for making the pilgrimage
Reason                                    Number of pilgrims
Religious and spiritual            103766 (49,89%)
Religious                                89651 (43,10%)
Not religious                          14590 (7,01%)


Status
Status             Number of pilgrims
Employed        47005 (22,60%)
Students          41528 (19,96%)
Retired            24653 (11,85%)
Self emplyed   24096 (11,58%)
Techmical       22960 (11,04%)
Teachers         15883 (7,64%)
Public sector   10492 (5,04%)
House ppl        4493 (2,16%)
Unemployed    4195 (2,02%)
Directors         4136 (1,99%)
Manual            3362 (1,62%)
Artists             1825 (0,88%)
Priests            1274 (0,61%)
Religious         1009 (0,49%)
Farm workers 665 (0,32%)
Sailors            248 (0,12%)
Sports             139 (0,07%)
Oikoten           44 (0,02%)


Ages

Age                  Number of pilgrims
30 - 60             114943 (55,26%)
< 30                 60743 (29,20%)
> 60                 32321 (15,54%)


Starting points

Starting point                        Number of pilgrims
Sarria                         52225 (25,11%)
S. Jean P. Port             22902 (11,01%)
Tui                               10557 (5,08%)
León                            10252 (4,93%)
Oporto                         9329 (4,48%)
Cebreiro                      9239 (4,44%)
Ponferrada                  7164 (3,44%)
Roncesvalles               6846 (3,29%)
Ferrol                         6134 (2,95%)
Astorga                        5321 (2,56%)
Oviedo - C.P.               4410 (2,12%)
Valença do Minho       4168 (2,00%)
Pamplona                    3881 (1,87%)
Irún                              3339 (1,61%)
Burgos                         3312 (1,59%)
Le Puy                          2985 (1,44%)
Ourense                      2625 (1,26%)
Vilafranca                   2333 (1,12%)
Resto Portugal            2091 (1,01%)
Lugo - C.P.                   1951 (0,94%)
Francia - C.F.               1898 (0,91%)
Sevilla                         1822 (0,88%)
Triacastela                  1761 (0,85%)
Samos                         1496 (0,72%)
Resto C. León C.F.       1496 (0,72%)
Ribadeo                       1335 (0,64%)
Resto Asturias - C.N    1236 (0,59%)
Lisboa                         1206 (0,58%)
Ponte de Lima             1196 (0,57%)
Santander                    958 (0,46%)
Bilbao                         929 (0,45%)
Vilalba                         861 (0,41%)
Logroño                       774 (0,37%)
Gijón                            749 (0,36%)
Holanda                       623 (0,30%)
Avilés                           597 (0,29%)
Oviedo - C.N.               563 (0,27%)
Porriño                        557 (0,27%)
Alemania                     514 (0,25%)
Somport                      510 (0,25%)
Braga                         505 (0,24%)
Rates, S. Pedro            486 (0,23%)
Barcelos                      484 (0,23%)
Salamanca                  461 (0,22%)
San Sebastián             428 (0,21%)
Madrid - C.F.               377 (0,18%)
Zamora                       347 (0,17%)
Resto Asturias - C.P.    343 (0,16%)
Sahagún                      339 (0,16%)
Finisterra                     322 (0,15%)
Resto Cantabria          320 (0,15%)
Neda                            318 (0,15%)
Resto País Vasco         312 (0,15%)
Baamonde                   308 (0,15%)
Chaves-Portugal          298 (0,14%)
Bélgica                        280 (0,13%)
Muxia                         263 (0,13%)
Lourdes                       259 (0,12%)
Fonsagrada - C.P.        255 (0,12%)
Puebla de Sanabria     248 (0,12%)
Guimaraes                  248 (0,12%)
Laza                             229 (0,11%)
Vega de Valcarce        222 (0,11%)
Resto Europa               216 (0,10%)
Jaca                             211 (0,10%)
Resto Andalucia          210 (0,10%)
Hendaya                      186 (0,09%)
Mondoñedo                 185 (0,09%)
Arles                            184 (0,09%)
Francia - C.N               183 (0,09%)
Cataluña - C.F.            160 (0,08%)
Verín                           158 (0,08%)
Gudiña                         158 (0,08%)
Frómista                      157 (0,08%)
Resto Galicia               155 (0,07%)
Suiza                            154 (0,07%)
Sto. Dom la Calzada    152 (0,07%)
Coimbra                      149 (0,07%)
Viana do Castelo         148 (0,07%)
Nájera                                     146 (0,07%)
Abadin                         145 (0,07%)
A Guarda                     144 (0,07%)
Com. Valenciana         139 (0,07%)
Carrión d los Condes   137 (0,07%)
Vezelay                        136 (0,07%)
Puente la Reina           134 (0,06%)
Madrid - V.P.               131 (0,06%)
Fatima                         124 (0,06%)
Granja de Moreruela 121 (0,06%)
Grandas de Salime      121 (0,06%)
Tineo - C.P.                  118 (0,06%)
Resto C. León - V.P.     115 (0,06%)
R.Pais Vasco C.F.         115 (0,06%)
Rabanal del Camino   113 (0,05%)
Molinaseca                 113 (0,05%)
París                            109 (0,05%)
Navarra                       108 (0,05%)
Xunqueira de Ambia   108 (0,05%)
Zaragoza                     107 (0,05%)
Valencia O.C.             106 (0,05%)
Cruz de Ferro             105 (0,05%)
Cast. la Mancha - C.F. 102 (0,05%)
Cadavo                        100 (0,05%)
Hospital de Orbigo      99 (0,05%)
Vigo                             96 (0,05%)
Montserrat                  95 (0,05%)
Castilla la Mancha      94 (0,05%)
Mérida                        93 (0,04%)
Com. Valenciana         91 (0,04%)
Austria                         90 (0,04%)
Lourenzá                     89 (0,04%)
Cáceres                       86 (0,04%)
Barcelona                    83 (0,04%)
Extremadura              81 (0,04%)
Allariz                         80 (0,04%)
Salas                            77 (0,04%)
Baiona                         76 (0,04%)
Viseu                           69 (0,03%)
Italia                            67 (0,03%)
Estella                                     66 (0,03%)
Granada                      61 (0,03%)
Castilla La Mancha     60 (0,03%)
Povoa de Varzim         58 (0,03%)
Ponferrada. C.Inv.       43 (0,02%)
Pontedeume                41 (0,02%)
La Rioja                       39 (0,02%)
Canfranc                     39 (0,02%)
Cataluña - O.C.           38 (0,02%)
Aveiro                         37 (0,02%)
Rábade                        37 (0,02%)
Faro                             32 (0,02%)
Huelva                         32 (0,02%)
Monforte de Lemos    32 (0,02%)
Córdoba                      31 (0,01%)
Roma                           30 (0,01%)
Malaga                        28 (0,01%)
XFonsagrada               28 (0,01%)
Castrojeriz                   27 (0,01%)
Benavente                   25 (0,01%)
Polonia                        25 (0,01%)
XSan Sebastian            25 (0,01%)
Esposende                   23 (0,01%)
Badajoz                       21 (0,01%)
Murcia                        21 (0,01%)
Reino Unido C.F.         20 (0,01%)
Grado                         20 (0,01%)
Valladolid                    19 (0,01%)
San Juan de Ortega     15 (0,01%)
Fonfría                         15 (0,01%)
Resto Africa                13 (0,01%)
La Mesa                      13 (0,01%)
Irlanda C.F.                  12 (0,01%)
Eslovaquia                   12 (0,01%)
Quiroga                       11 (0,01%)
La Bañeza                    10 (0,00%)
XGrandas de Salime    9 (0,00%)
Hungría                       7 (0,00%)
Luxemburgo                7 (0,00%)
Republica Checa         7 (0,00%)
Andorra                       6 (0,00%)
Paradela                      6 (0,00%)
Sobrado                       5 (0,00%)
Dinamarca                  5 (0,00%)
XLa Rioja                     5 (0,00%)
Viveiro                         4 (0,00%)
Vilabade                      4 (0,00%)
Vegadeo                      4 (0,00%)
Covelo                         3 (0,00%)
Leyre                           3 (0,00%)
XTineo                         3 (0,00%)
Petín                            3 (0,00%)
Valcarlos                     3 (0,00%)
Finlandia                     3 (0,00%)
Betanzos                      3 (0,00%)
Guntín                         2 (0,00%)
A Rúa                           2 (0,00%)
Chantada                     2 (0,00%)
Guitiriz                        2 (0,00%)
Ventas de Narón         2 (0,00%)
Jerusalem                    2 (0,00%)
Irlanda C. Ing             1 (0,00%)
Artieda                        1 (0,00%)
Reino Unido C.Ing       1 (0,00%)
Peñaseita                    1 (0,00%)
Corredoiras                 1 (0,00%)
Mella                           1 (0,00%)
Vincios                         1 (0,00%)
mirallos                       1 (0,00%)
Pardellas                     1 (0,00%)
Ortigueira                   1 (0,00%)
Inglaterra C.F.             1 (0,00%)
O Barco Valdeorras    1 (0,00%)
Cea                              1 (0,00%)
Borres                                     1 (0,00%)
Grecia                                     1 (0,00%)
Gándara                      1 (0,00%)
Rusia                           1 (0,00%)
Gonzar                         1 (0,00%)