"To hear her name
or see her form or fervently recite her name,
delivers all beings from every woe"
- Lotus Sutra
The Kannon Pilgrimage, known in Japanese as the Saigoku Kannon Junrei, follows an ancient pilgrim path of about a thousand kilometers through the western part of Japan. The thirty-three temples of Japan's oldest pilgrimage are dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Compassion and Healing, Kannon (also known as Kuan Yin or Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig). The pilgrimage began over one thousand two hundred years ago when wandering holy men, called hijiri, would seclude themselves to practice spiritual austerities in the mountains and thereby gain powers of healing, aided by the medicinal herbs and knowledge they collected as well as spiritual powers. With many legends about miracles occuring in these sacred places, others began to seek out these holy men in the mountains and gradually temples were established to support them. By the 12th century the route was formalised into the Saigoku Kannon Junrei.
The pilgrimage passes through remote mountain villages and primeval forests far from the tourist routes, to the famed scenic beauty of Amanohashidate (Bridge to Heaven) and Lake Biwa, as well as to the cultural capital of Kyoto. Throughout the journey it is possible to stay at traditional temple inns, which are renown for their exquisite vegetarian cuisine and relaxing hot springs baths. Far from being somber, a pilgrimage in Japan is an occasion not only for spiritual rejuvenation but also for festive companionship.
For over a thousand years, each of these sacred sites has been associated with miracles of healing physical, psychological and spiritual pain. In these troubled times, this journey still acts as an expression of our desire to heal the suffering in ourselves and in our world. By engaging in this ancient pilgrimage, you can experience Buddhism as an historic yet living practice in Japan.
Welcome to the Sacred Japan website. My name is Cate Kodo Juno and I am your pilgrimage guide. I am a Buddhist priest ordained in Japan in the Shingon tradition and I have completed this pilgrimage many times over the past fifteen years. Recognised in Japan as an officially authorised sendatsu (pilgrim guide), I have guided many foreigners who would not otherwise have been able to find the way in these backwaters of Japan. Now I feel it's time to share the treasures and wonders of this ancient pilgrimage with a far wider audience by setting up this English-language website. I have just taught myself computer coding in order to create this website and I hope to build this into a thorough coverage of all aspects of the pilgrimage including its history, art & architecture, religious practices, legends & miracle stories, poetry & sacred hymns, and even some of the recipes of the delicious Buddhist vegetarian cuisine that is a gastronomic highlight of the pilgrimage!
It is also my intention to develop webpages about other sacred places in Japan that are I am familiar with, especially the World Heritage listed home of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, KOYASAN, and also the World Heritage listed pilgrimage route KUMANO KAIDO. I hope that you enjoy meandering through this virtual journey and will come back and visit often as more pages are added.
This website is dedicated to Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and Healing.
May any merit gained by viewing this website be offered towards the healing of all beings.
Namu Daiji Daihi Kanzeon Bosatsu