Shikoku Pilgrimage Meeting Report

This meeting report was first published in Geppo XLVI:2, February–April 2021, page 25.

      by Alison Woolpert

Yuki Teikei Haiku Society members [for its 13 February 2021 monthly meeting] traveled by Zoom to Shikoku Island, Japan, with our esteemed haiku guide Michael Dylan Welch. His wonderful presentation, “The Weather-Beaten Jizo: Shikoku Pilgrimage Haiku by Shūji Niwano,” included photos, maps, and poems translated by Welch and Emiko Miyashita. Phillip Kennedy joined the presentation to read the Japanese.
        This 750-mile pilgrimage is made to 88 temples around Shikoku in honor of Kōbō Daishi, a ninth-century ascetic who founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Pilgrims are said to walk each step in his spirit, and it can take up to two months to visit every temple.
        In 2005 Robert C. Sibley, a Canadian reporter, made the pilgrimage and met fellow travelers Shūji Niwano, a retired communications salesman, and his son Jun. In 2013 Sibley published The Way of the 88 Temples: Journeys on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, documenting his experience. The book includes a selection of Shūji Niwano’s haiku, out of 33 that Welch and Miyashita first translated for Sibley’s keynote address at the 2009 Haiku North America conference in Ottawa.

                pilgrim’s staff—
                I fill my mind
                with emptiness

                a bush warbler
                tells me that the rain
                has stopped

                climbing earnestly
                to the mountain ridge
                spring wind

                no more smiles
                on the weather-beaten Jizo . . .
                village in leaf

Michael concluded his presentation with additional photos of a [virtual] Shikoku pilgrimage he attended in 2019 at the Seattle Koyasan Buddhist Temple. Michael’s essay, with all translations, is available on his website.