Pilgrimage On Shikoku Island

Online forum for discussions related to the 88 temple pilgrimage on Shikoku, Japan.


    Asking permission, being a respectful guest

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    Shikoku Henro Trail
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    Asking permission, being a respectful guest

    Post by Shikoku Henro Trail on Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:55 am

    Originally posted by member "Janet" on may 24, 2017.
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    « Thread started on: May 24th, 2017, 3:21pm »


    I slept rough a few nights (no tent, just stars) and always got permission.
    I had conversations with a few other camping henro about getting permission to camp, and speculate that where there are no restrooms, Japanese people would be reluctant to give permission to camp. Think about it, and consider the (extreme to a westerner, normal to a Japanese person) purity rituals around cleanliness in general and toilets in particular. I believe that's rooted in Shinto but that's a whole other conversation.
    I recommend scoping out a place with a toilet and then getting permission to camp there.

    As for the legendary French "jinja ninjas" who were stealth camping in Shinto shrines every night: yeah, I met those guys. They were filthy (as in smell-them-at-3-meters-filthy), wearing visibly grubby hakui with nothing underneath. Shinto shrines are sacred space and ritually clean (that's why you wash before entering). Using sacred space as a toilet because you happen to be camped there is not OK, even if no one sees you do it.

    Remember to bathe and do laundry. It matters to Japanese people, even if they're too polite to say so. And if someone tells you you can probably get away with something because you're a henro or a foreigner, it's probably better not to do that thing.
    I only speak rudimentary Japanese, but over and over I heard locals remark on how many foreign henro there are this year. As numbers of us increase, we need to spread the word on being a good guest.

    And those Canadian boys who posted their picture on Instagram of themselves dropping their pants at the gate at Ryozenji as a celebration of completion? Don't get me started.


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    Re: Asking permission, being a respectful guest

    Post by Shikoku Henro Trail on Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:56 am

    Originally posted by member "dyunbao" on June 1, 2017.
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    « Reply #1 on: Jun 1st, 2017, 8:59pm »

    We can only hope that the Japanese eventually get as fed up as the Thai. Foreigners have been deported from Thailand for climbing on Buddha statues and having their pictures taken while doing it.


    Last edited by Shikoku Henro Trail on Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:58 am; edited 1 time in total

    Shikoku Henro Trail
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    Re: Asking permission, being a respectful guest

    Post by Shikoku Henro Trail on Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:58 am

    Originally posted by member "FlyingDutch" on June 2, 2017.
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    « Reply #2 on: Jun 2nd, 2017, 2:23pm »


    on May 24th, 2017, 3:21pm, Janet wrote:
    Remember to bathe and do laundry. It matters to Japanese people, even if they're too polite to say so.


    Just my small experience to confirm what you say: one afternoon we reached the lodging where we were supposed to spend the night, and the tenant graciously offered us two tickets for the local onsen.
    We were at the end of a long day, having cycled 90+ km under a scorching sun, and I am pretty sure we didn't smell of violets and roses.

    I thanked the tenant for the tickets and asked if we could get a shower before heading to the onsen, as we were really sweat. The tenant agreed with a smile and guided us to the shower.

    And I am glad I didn't enter the onsen in the condition I was when I reached the lodging.

    A temple deserves even more respect.


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    Re: Asking permission, being a respectful guest

    Post by Shikoku Henro Trail on Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:01 am

    Originally posted by member "Boreq" on June 16, 2017.
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    « Reply #3 on: Jun 16th, 2017, 01:19am »


    Thanks Janet for discussing this. I met quite some foreign henro who did not seem respectful to Japanese culture at all. Sometimes it is hard to avoid getting smelly while walking, but please be aware that this can bother people who try to help you.

    Most of all: DO NOT SLEEP IN / NEAR SHINTO SHRINES. The core of Shinto are cleaning / purifying rituals. The Shrine is a place where the contact between humans and kami only works if these places are in a clean state. The mirror, often present at Shinto Shrines, symbolizes this. If it becomes dirty, it will lose its purpose. Sleeping in a Shinto Shrine is therefore truly not done, even if one does not agree with the Japanese take on religion. It shows of a grave disrespect and ignorance of the culture that is (still) so welcoming to foreign travelers.


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    Re: Asking permission, being a respectful guest

    Post by Shikoku Henro Trail on Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:02 am

    Originally posted by member "kotoko" on June 20, 2017.
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    « Reply #4 on: Jun 20th, 2017, 11:26pm »


    on May 24th, 2017, 3:21pm, Janet wrote:
    And those Canadian boys who posted their picture on Instagram of themselves dropping their pants at the gate at Ryozenji as a celebration of completion? Don't get me started.


    Wait, WHAT?! As a fellow Canadian, I'm ashamed. That is awful and totally rude, disrespectful, and just gross behaviour.

    I really hope that foreign henro do their best to be respectful of Shikoku, the pilgrimage, and the culture in general. I had such an amazing time on the henro trail this spring mostly because of the kindness I received from others (locals and henro alike). I can't imagine receiving ill-will simply because of other foreigners' behaviour. It would ruin the experience entirely. However, if foreigners keep acting rudely, I can't blame the locals for not wanting to deal with us.


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    Re: Asking permission, being a respectful guest

    Post by Shikoku Henro Trail on Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:04 am

    Originally posted by member "KyleZahorodnyj" on August 7, 2017.
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    « Reply #5 on: Aug 7th, 2017, 1:35pm »


    Hmmm, glad i stumbled upon this lovely post.

    I am walking late this year and have read elsewhere on the internet that shinto shrines are worth considering to camp at as they are often unoccupied after a certain time of day. This post has immediately made me reconsider the idea, and certainly for the better. Especially considering the cleanliness aspect of the shinto tradition, something I wasn't aware of, and certainly an interesting idea/ideal.

    To clean our actions, our thoughts, our speech, etc is surely a fundamental aspect of pilgrimage, i suppose that being clean in person should go hand in hand with such things.

    ''As numbers of us increase, we need to spread the word on being a good guest.'' - The simple truth in this is so heavy.

    Lovely post Janet!


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    Re: Asking permission, being a respectful guest

    Post by Shikoku Henro Trail on Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:05 am

    Originally posted by member "Janet" on August 14, 2017.
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    « Reply #6 on: Aug 14th, 2017, 12:34pm »

    on Aug 7th, 2017, 1:35pm, KyleZahorodnyj wrote:
    I am walking late this year and have read elsewhere on the internet that shinto shrines are worth considering to camp at as they are often unoccupied after a certain time of day.


    Kyle, If you want to copy the text of my post and share it on sites that are advocating camping in Shinto shrines you are welcome to do so.
    Best, Janet


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    Re: Asking permission, being a respectful guest

    Post by Shikoku Henro Trail on Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:29 am

    As i move these past posts to the new forum, i'm rereading them. This one struck a chord so i'm taking the time to post a response.

    Janet makes a very good point about camping at temples and shrines, although i'm still not 100% convinced that i completely agree with her. However, i agree enough that i have changed the website to say that henro should NOT camp on the grounds of temples or shrines.

    When i originally wrote that this was one possibility for campers, in my head i was envisioning a lone walker, laying his/her sleeping bag out under the eaves of a temple or old, small rural shrine after dusk. No tent, no bathroom breaks, no partying, nothing --- only arriving, eating something for dinner, sleeping, and then moving on in the morning. Never inside the shrine or temple, only outside under the eaves.

    I still don't see anything wrong or disrespectful about that. You arrive. You leave. Not a mark was left behind.

    But, as the number of campers increases (which it is, dramatically, and not all Japanese are happy with that), i can now see that the story is changing. Someone is going to pitch a tent, leave some garbage behind, pee or shit in the back corner out of sight, sit around until late hours smoking some weed and talking with friends, etc. All completely disrespectful. All VERY bad ideas.

    As the number of campers increases, i can *completely* understand that the locals will swing from accepting the lone henro seeking shelter respectfully, to seeing only a constant stream of foreigners disrespecting their traditions.

    Whether you are a religious person or not, as a henro you are obligated to respect the religions of the Japanese, which includes the sanctitiy of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

    I agree, do not plan on camping at temples or shrines.

    Dave


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