My last book was on Islamic scholarship in West Africa. East or West is about a Buddhist pilgrimage in Japan. However, despite their apparent differences, the very same thing lies at the heart of both traditions.
This ‘thing’ is the mystical power of the book (although East or West does not discuss this power explicitly). In the Islamic tradition I might use the word baraka.
You see, the truth is that one of the important goals of completing the Shikoku ohenro trail is to have one’s very own fully completed stamp book—nōkyōchō—filled with stamps and calligraphies from all 88 temples (and Kōya-san).
Those who complete the pilgrimage more than once keep the same book, and each temple will stamp over their previous stamp and calligraphy a new, bright red stamp for each new visit of worship around the circle.
And, these books traditionally have power. In Japanese Pilgrimage Oliver Statler tells a tale of how a pilgrim’s stamp book (he calls it an album) would be passed over a sick person as prayer was said for his or her recovery (193 Statler).
So even as pilgrimage has inspired countless questers throughout the ages to write books about their journeys…in Shikoku, in particular, you have a pilgrimage for a book.
-And don’t forget to support my Kickstarter East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage :
Citation: Statler, Oliver. Japanese Pilgrimage. New York: Morrow, 1983. Print.