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Echoes of Incense

A Pilgrimage in Japan


Don Weiss

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The route of the eighty-eight temples of Shikoku is the classic Japanese Buddhist pilgrimage. Its 1300 kilometers test the body and spirit and open the mind to an experience of its true nature. For over a thousand years, only Japanese followed the path to the remote places of the Japanese island of Shikoku. Japan mapIn the winter and spring of 1993, I walked this path. Afterwards, I wrote Echoes of Incense to record what I experienced in words and pictures. The book was translated into Japanese by Tomoko Shimotomai. The following pages include the complete English text of the book. Map of Shikoku and the pilgrimage

The photos in this web site were all taken by me. Many were taken during my two walking pilgrimages. This includes several of the pictures showing me walking the trail or resting at inns -- I carried a tripod and often took pictures using my self-timer.

In addition to these pilgrimage photos, I have included a number of pictures I took during the many times I visited the temples before I walked the pilgrimage plus a number of other photos of Japan, especially photos of Shikoku. In general, the photos relate directly to the adjacent text but a few were added because I wanted the opportunity to share some of favorite Japanese images with as many people as possible.

I have included a number of line drawings of the principal Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the pilgrimage temples. These are printed on fude, slips of paper that are handed out to pilgrims as they visit each temple. More detailed information about these Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and about Shingon Buddhism is available at the Shingon Buddhist International Institute web site (

The book was written in plain English with a simple Japanese translation on facing pages so anyone who has studied a little English or Japanese can read it without a dictionary by looking at the other page to find unfamiliar words. If you want a copy of the printed book, you may be able to find one at

I wrote the book for any Japanese who wants to know what a foreigner can experience walking in Japan and for any foreigners who want to learn what it is like, performing the most famous Japanese pilgrimage in the traditional way.

Like all books, this one is the product of many hands and many minds. So many people helped in the research and production of this book, I cannot possibly thank them all by name. Among those I certainly must thank here are:

Japanese names in this book are given in Japanese style, with the family name first.

This book is respectfully dedicated to all my teachers, including John Dizikes, Page Smith, Mary Holmes, Rev. Fukushima, Rev. Shono, Rev. Inuzuka, John Sanroma, and Lama Tharchin Rinpoche.

For a list of books and other web pages about the pilgrimage, see my Resources Page.

Chapter 1Chapter One


Published by Don Weiss ( -- All rights reserved. You may read this electronic copy on the web or print it out for private reading but no part may be sold or included in any work for sale except for short excerpts used for review purposes.All photographs and maps are likewise copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission except for private, non-commercial use. Updated 12 January, 2009.