Shikoku, Les 88 Temples de la sagesse
( In English ) Shikoku, The 88 Temples of the wisdom
Author’s name : Léo Gantelet
Léo Gantelet accomplished the 88 Temples Pilgrimage on Shikoku Island, Japan, in 2006. He walked 1400 km over 50 days visiting all the 88 temples. After returning home, he wrote a book, in French, which was published by Editions de l’Astronome - 2008. The following is a summary of the book by a Japanese who read it.
In the book, the author Leo Gantelet talks about his experience of traveling and living in Japan over a 2-months period. He describes in details not only how he found Japan and its people but also his own conflicting thoughts and questions about his life.
The author knew that he was not going to be happy to become just one of the many typical tourists so, before leaving for Japan, he spent 8 months learning Japanese. In September 2006, he went to Shikoku Island with his wife and another couple of their friends. They walked together for two days from temple No. 1 : Ryôzen-ji to temple No.4 : Dainichi-ji. There, he left them and started to walk alone for 50 days until he reached temple No. 88 : Ôkubo-ji, eventually returning to temple No.1, thus closing the circle.
As soon as the author started to walk, he fell in love with nature and the beauty of the countryside and islands. He discovered splendid sceneries, mountains plunging in the Pacific Ocean and the Inner Sea, cliffs and rough seashore, etc, etc. The weather in 2006 was exceptionally pleasant. Each time he visited a temple, he experienced a quasi-religious feeling which gave him the power to continue the voyage. The route of the pilgrimage lead him from seaside plains (altitude 0 m) to steep mountains where sacred temples stood.
The author also describes various other things. While walking 20 km to 30 km a day, he met many pilgrims clad in white clothing and wearing conical hats. At night, he shared dinners with them at Ryokan (Japanese Inn) or at Minshuku (family-run smaller inns) and in doing so, he discovered many customs and traditions that were very different from those of France or the West : table-manners, sleeping and bathing habits, etc. He experienced those differences through the pilgrimage, and he described them with humor and in a friendly manner.
What should be noticed here is that the author identifies himself as a typical Japanese pilgrim by washing his hands at each temple, donating incense and lighting candles and visiting inner sanctuaries. For two months, while being the only westerner, he merged into the crowd of thousands of Japanese pilgrims, not an easy task to accomplish considering his language handicap. In spite of this, the author became friend with another pilgrim, Saburo-san. Saburo-san eventually visited the author in France in the autumn of 2008.
There were physical and psychological hardships, exhaustion and fatigue when the author climbed the steep slope leading to temple No. 12 : Shôsan-ji, or when he lost his way, or when he fell on the ground in the early morning etc., but people always helped him with great kindness. Those experiences made the author realize the extraordinary contrast there is between the highly modern and technologically-minded Japan and the other Japan, still steeped in its wonderful old traditions.
Above all, it was a pilgrimage of inner reflexion and strength brought about by the long walk and by repeated visits to new temples, and the enthusiasm he displayed to seek and identify them
In the end, this is a book in which the author tries to include the readers in his adventure. This is a book which also depicts the real, naked and true colors of Japanese people through the experienced eyes of a French author.
By the same author :
Unique Langage, Stocchiero Editrice, 1991
Pourquoi, Editions du Choucas, 1997
Dis-moi, Lac..., Editions de l'Astronome, 2004
Enoch Arden, Editions Sauvagine, 1993. Une traduction d'un poème (1000 vers) de l'Anglais Alfred Tennyson :
Légendes des Sommets, Editions Rossat Mignod, 1995. Livre illustré de photos sur la Haute-Savoie,.
En si bon chemin... Vers Compostelle, Lepère Editions - 2003.
Chevaux de légende, Editions du Mont, 2005.
Perles d'Océan (roman), Editions de l'Astronome, 2007.
Shikoku, les 88 Temples de la Sagesse, 2008
En si bon chemin... Vers Compostelle, Ré-edition Editions de l'Astronome – 2009
Le Chemin Idéal, Editions de l'Astronome – 2009. Ré-édition