“Saikoku sanjūsankasho hōgaku ezu” [西国三十三箇所方角繪圖] 1800 – By Ōsakaya, Chōzaburō
Pilgrimages have existed in Japan for more than a thousand years, many dating to the days of the Heian period [794-1185]. The most famous of Buddhist pilgrimages would be the Shikoku 88 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage which encircles the entire island of Shikoku, and is said to be the path that the great Kōbō-Daishi or Kūkai, the creator of Shingon Buddhism, once walked. Lesser known but just as important as the Shikoku 88, is the Saikoku 33 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage, the oldest Kannon pilgrimage in Japan and said to have been devised in 718 by the head priest known as Tokudo Shonin, who was a head priest at Hase-dera Temple in the Nara prefecture. In the Japanese Buddhist pilgrimages, the primary deity that is worshiped is Bodhisattva Kannon or Guanyin, “The Goddess of Mercy.” She is often depicted as a divine savior for those who are ready to pass onto the next life, by guiding them with one of her thousand arms.
This map, the “Saikoku sanjūsankasho hōgaku ezu” [西国三十三箇所方角繪圖] was created by Ōsakaya, Chōzaburō in 1800 and sold at Kokawa-dera Temple [粉河寺], Kii Province [Wakayama Prefecture].
The map is a square [57.3 x 64.5 cm] mono colour woodblock print with some red colouration to help depict the main pilgrimage route which zig zag through 13 different provinces listed on the map. The map itself is generally an accurate depiction of the region, but it’s slightly distorted with some creative liberties taken to fit in all the information Chōzaburō wanted. The major cities are marked as a wide rectangle with the name within, most -prominently identifiable are Kyo [Kyoto], Osaka, Sakai, Nara, Ise, and Wakayama. On the roads between each toll station is a distance indicator called Ri [リ] , each Ri is 3.9 kilometers. The island of Shikoku where the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage takes place is indicated on the map with nautical distance and estimated time of travel by boat. The temples themselves are identified by the long narrow black rectangles which shows the temple number and name.
[京] for Kyoto「京都」written in the middle. Written above Kyoto is Yamashiro「山城」, One of the historical provinces of Japan before the prefecture system.
This particular map was created at Kokawa-dera, the third temple on the Saikoku pilgrimage. The first temple on the pilgrimage is not actually Hase-dera Temple, where Tokudo Shonin was head priest at, but at Seiganto-ji [青岸渡寺] at the bottom of the Kii Peninsula. Aside from the most holy of places like Ise Jingu, Izumo Taisha, Kasuga Taisha, Mt. Hiei, Mt. Koya, Mt. Fuji, and etc., Seiganto-ji holds a special place within Japanese religion as one of the few places in Japan where Buddhism and Shinto amalgamate. Seiganto-ji was purposefully built near Nachi Falls, one of the most well-known waterfalls in Japan, and falls within the Kumano Sanzan complex where the famous Kumano Kodo pilgrimage takes place. As such, Seiganto-ji is listed on both the Saikoku 33 Pilgrimage, and the Kumano Kodo. Today, it is one of the few remaining Jingu-ji [Shrine Temple] still in existence after the forcible separation of Shinto and Buddhism operated by the Japanese government during the Meiji restoration.
#3 Kokawa-dera 「粉河寺」
#1 Seiganto-ji 「青岸渡寺」, written as Nachi Yama「なち山」, refers to the famous Nachi Falls which is within the Kumano Sanzan complex, the heart of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage.
One of the few questions we should ask about maps are, “Is this map accurate?” and, “Are there any major information omitted?” As aforementioned, the map itself is quite accurate for the average pilgrim looking forward to doing the pilgrimage route. As for informational accuracy, nothing as far as temples and shrines are concerned. Informed by Professor Mari Fujita, from the School of Architecture and Landscape at UBC, some mapmakers deliberately omit information to pursue their own or political agenda. Therefore, maps are generally incomplete and highly selective of the content the mapmaker wants to disseminate. Although the Tendai [Mt. Hiei] and Shingon [Mt. Koya] schools of Buddhism share a rivalry, the temples of the Saikoku pilgrimage are of mixed affiliation, there would be no benefit for spreading misinformation among religious pilgrims, as such deeds would bring about bad karma in the eyes of Kannon. Observant viewers able to read and make out the map may notice that Mt. Koya is prominently visible on the map, but Mt. Hiei is buried away under small print, shouldn’t this suggest an agenda? I was assured by UBC sessional lecturer, Dr. Eiji Okawa Ph.D that this was not the case. He suggested that because this was a pilgrimage map, the finer details were not as important; pilgrims looking forward to visiting certain areas or Mt. Hiei should have no problem with more detailed maps of the Kyoto area. Okawa also praised the Saikoku map, calling it a “pragmatic map” for its audience and quality.
Another question we should ask is, “Who are Buddhist pilgrims, and what were their motivations to participate in pilgrimages?” A true Buddhist pilgrim is one who has casted his worldly desires aside and only lives within his means, wearing nothing but a white monk’s robe, a walking stick, a hat, prayer beads, and his belongings in a bundle from temple to temple on foot. Buddhist monks and priests generally live a simple lifestyle that did not involve much currency transaction, therefore much of their food and expenses were either earned with labour or alms. One of the many reasons why Buddhist pilgrims undertake a pilgrimage is to follow in the footsteps of their elders, famous priests, or personal salvation. Not all pilgrims who undertake the Saikoku pilgrimage are devout Buddhist, in many cases, many ordinary people undertake the pilgrimage to sight-see or to ask for healing of sickness, byouki-oroshi.
Modern day pilgrims at Mt. Koya, Source: www.wildernesstravel.com/trip/japan/basho-beyond-cultural-adventure
A pilgrimage route is also a place of friendship, many pilgrims enter travel relationships or camaraderie with others who are performing the same practice, this is called dōgyōsan. This aspect is particularly significant on a spiritual level on the Shikoku 88, where the pilgrims can identify with the great Kōbō-Daishi, and follow along in his footsteps, but this can easily be relatable to any famous figure who has walked the Saikoku 33. Examples of pilgrimage taking can be found in many Japanese literature classics and popular culture, one famous example is Matsuo Basho’s secular pilgrimage to the north with his companion Sora, in his book, Oku no Hosomichi [奥の細道] or The Narrow Road to the Interior. Popular culture examples include Jippensha Ikku’s Tōkaidōchū Hizakurige [東海道中膝栗毛] or Shank’s Mare, depicting slackers Kita and Yaji leaving their shabby Edo home on a pilgrimage to Ise. Famous poet Ihara Saikaku also dabbled in stories about pilgrimages in his short stories, Kōshoku Gonin Onna [好色五人女] or Five Women Who Loved Love.
Statues of Yaji and Kita, Sanjo Ohashi, Kyoto. Source: http://muza-chan.net
To embark on a pilgrimage is a scared charge for religious pilgrims but, for the secular folks, David C. Moreton and Katharine Merrill translating Alfred Bohner eloquently puts it as:
“Sometimes there comes moments in our lives when simply everything fails; when every undertaking, every plan, no matter how well thoughtout, miscarries; when what we had counted on as most secure is overturned; a farmer’s harvest fails; his ox is carried off by disease; thieves have broken in and stolen the best of what little is left; and in addition to all this misfortune the young married daughter is sent home by the family of the bridegroom for what seems no reason at all, making them the laughing-stock of the neighbours and acquaintences, and brining discord into the house, where everyone wants to charge someone else with the guilt of the unsuccessful union. In such cases many japanese reach for the poison, throw themselves onto the railroad track in front of a train, or cast themselves into the sea. Others however tie up their bundles, equip themselves as well or as poorly as their means allow, and set off on a pilgrimage.”
What these stories and the passage above have in common is a trend in Edo period pilgrimage taking called Nuke Mairi, which is a pilgrimage in defiance of edicts, employers, family, or authority; in short, its a decision thats made on a whim to just drop everything and leave. The former is called Okage Mairi, which are sporadic communally sponsored pilgrimages taken by members of family, groups, villages, and even towns, to [most often] the Grand Ise Shrine.
The township of Ise「いせ」is marked on the map in a bubble, with the Grand Shrines Naikū [内宮] and Gekū [外宮] slightly below.
A wooden Torii guards the Uji Bridge that spans the Isuzu River to enter Naikū [内宮], The bridge is torn down every 20 years, as are the Shrine buildings to keep Amaterasu-ōmikami’s lodgings pristine and new, never to show age.
Townsfolk and merchants along the way tended to welcome travelers and pilgrims so long as their numbers were not excessive- offering free food, lodging, sandals, or medicine. Custom held that Gods, Buddhas, and holy men occasionally traveled incognito; Kindness to a disguised holy man or deity as innumerable legends attest, brings good fortune. Such kindness found along the way made pilgrimages much easier in the Edo period, as monks and priests were given alms regularly and treated fairly well. Such entrepreneurial activities were favoured and encouraged by the temples, which helped designate touring routes through towns and cities that would lead the pilgrim to various places of worship other than the main temple. As a result of nuke and okage mairi, these local excursions were group social outings that combined pious acts with sightseeing, which provided pilgrims with a disruption from the tedium and restraint of quotidian life.
After reviewing all the information written here thus far, it makes sense that Dr. Okawa would suggest that this is a “pragmatic map,” because it is.
Legend from left to right: Cities & towns, X , Ferries, Checkpoints/Lodging, Rural Roads, Main Roads, Pilgrimage Route, Castle Towns?, Province, and Shinto Shrines.
The main pilgrimage route that connects #1 Seiganto-ji 「青岸渡寺」to Ise Jingu. Displayed are the Ri distance markers, checkpoints/lodging, and physical descriptions of the route such as rivers and hills.
At first glance, judging by the title of the map and its purpose, it appears to be a simple map of the 33 temples, but it actually displays much more. Although Seiganto-ji is the 1st temple on the route, the route actually begins at Ise if one were to look closely at the route and its colouration. This means Ōsakaya Chōzaburō made this map not only for Buddhist pilgrims but secular pilgrims aswell. Pilgrims looking forward to undertake the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage or just visit Shikoku island are also provided with details as to where and how to catch a boat there.
The Island of Shikoku, showing a Shinto Shrine landmark, two castles, the 4 regions of the isle, and the boat route from Osaka.
The map does display interesting tidbits in finer detail, some that is useful and some that is not for the average pilgrim. In locating Himeji just above Shikoku, I noticed some fine print showing a Tenjin (天神) shrine, the Shinto kami of scholarship, the deification of a scholar, poet, and politician named Sugawara no Michizane, and information on how much the domain is worth in Koku [石, bushels of rice].
In fine print, we can make out the town of Himeji written as ひめぢ, strangely without an indicator that it’s a castle town. The domain is also rated at 150,000 Koku [十五万石], which is accurate according to historical data.
As Japan moved forward in the 18th and 19th century, so too did people’s aspirations and beliefs. As a by-product of these aspirations and beliefs, economies, civic infrastructure, religion, and private entrepreneurship flourished like never before, giving rise to one of the most sophisticated societies of its time. This map reflects that, as it guides secular and non-secular pilgrims around the region with reasonable accuracy and detail, remarkable for private maps produced at this scale and quality. Big enough to display the relevant information pertaining to the pilgrimage route, near-by towns, and landmarks, yet portable and cheap enough to be bought by passing or starting pilgrims at Kokawa-dera. It’s fascinating that researching this map some 200 years later would reveal so much details about the pilgrims, the pilgrimage route, the creator, and the state of Edo travel.
I would like to give thanks and acknowledgement to UBC – Rare books and Special Collections for obtaining and housing the Tokugawa maps; Professor Christina Laffin for hosting ASIA 453, the opportunity to conduct this research, and guidance in researching the maps; Dr. Eiji Okawa for helping me read and understand the map; and Professor Mari Fujita for her informative lecture on cartography.
Asahi.Net. “Kinki Region, Himeji”
Bohner, Alfred. Two on a Pilgrimage: The 88 Holy Places of Shikoku. Trans., Katherine Merrill. Ed. Moreton, David C., Outlook, Germany. 2011
University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2005.