O-henro extravaganza (part 2)

Another O-henro san that stayed with us that we know we will see again, is Morris Brown.  A retired professor from California, he has been in contact with us from the start.  Just a warm, sincere man with a strong passion for Japan, Buddhism and the 88 temple pilgrimage.  Of course he had some amazing stories of generosity, pain, and all the ups and downs of Shikoku.  He’s been to Japan 15 times and plans on coming again to Japan this Summer, and you guessed it, he’s coming to Matsuyama and a couple of other places in Shikoku with his wife.


We heard through the grapevine, well the Tokushima grapevine (David Moreton), that there was going to be a PBS documentary about the 88 temple pilgrimage.  Upon further research, we learned that it is actually going to be a 6 part series on various pilgrimages around the world: India, Africa, Europe, 2 in the Middle East and Japan.  The Japanese portion is focusing on “walking O-henros” as it attempts to answer the big questions of why people walk pilgrimages and what one hopes to gain from such an experience.  It was a whirlwind trip, following various groups and individuals engaging in a variety of activities related to the 88 temple pilgrimage.  They did however, have time to squeeze a couple days of filming in Matsuyama into their schedule, with a big party night at Sen.  We prepared a truly enormous te maki zushi feast for both the crew and the walking O-henros that were staying that night; it truly was a great night.  It was definitely odd, seeing our guesthouse turned into a film set for an afternoon, evening and morning; but all and all a great, if a tad bit stressful, experience.


We met tons of amazing people that night; the crew, presenters, a hiking group and the actual O-henro san.  In attendance were 3 American walking O-henro (including Barry/Jim), 2 Korean walking O-henro and David Turkington; who was providing the “fixing” services on this particular endeavor.  David Turkington has not only walked the pilgrimage 3 times (a massive feat in itself) but he also created and maintains the best website in English on the pilgrimage. Another person we met during the filming of the documentary who is trying to promote the pilgrimage was Hee san.  A Korean living in Seoul, she was circling Shikoku for the 4th time when we met her, plastering every light pole she can find with O-Henro stickers that she made, directing walkers to the next temple.  Randomly enough, she will be walking in Spain (Camino de Santiago) the same time we will be and I’m pretty sure our paths will cross.


Just the last couple of days, we’ve had 3 other foreign O-Henro stay with us; Justin from America, Joost from the Netherlands and Ken from Australia.  It’s hard to really tell if there are actually more foreigners walking the pilgrimage, or if more are just staying with us, compared to last year, but whatever it is, we are very happy to be part of the support system.  Likewise, we will be going to Spain for the month of June to walk the Camino de Santiago to cross-pollinate the 2 pilgrimages.