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The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue: An English translation of Musume Junreiki Paperback – March 13, 2010


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The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue: An English translation of Musume Junreiki + The Way of the 88 Temples: Journeys on the Shikoku Pilgrimage + Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage: 900 Miles to Enlightenment
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1450540759
  • ISBN-13: 978-1450540759
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,733,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Susan Tennant, a Canadian, lived and taught in Japan for 11 years including 5 years on the island of Shikoku during which time she completed the Shikoku pilgrimage. Because of her love of the pilgrimage she co-wrote a bilingual guide to the pilgrimage temples of Tokushima Prefecture which provided important information for pilgrims. Later, wanting to make Takamure Itsue's account of her pilgrimage available to English speaking readers she translated Musume Junreiki, the compilation of 105 newspaper articles written by Takamure in 1918 as she made her pilgrimage.

More About the Author

Susan Tennant first heard about the 88 temple Shikoku pilgrimage when she was preparing to go to the island of Shikoku to teach English as a foreign language at Tokushima Bunri University. She looked in a library for books about Shikoku and found only one: Japanese Pilgrimage by Oliver Statler. What an influential and life-changing book that turned out to be. After reading about the pilgrimage, Susan knew that she had to travel to the 88 temples herself.

And so she did, but not all at one time. She did it in bits and pieces over a period of four years using school holidays for travel. She was impressed and awed by the devotion of the pilgrims, by the custom of osettai, by the beauty of the landscape, by the warmth of Shikoku residents, by the sounds and sights of the temples. She became curious about many aspects of the pilgrimage and asked the four Japanese women in her English conversation group for information. They knew very little at the beginning but became interested themselves and spent hours and hours doing research and writing up the results in English. These conversations and papers became the basis for Awa Henro: a bilingual guidebook for pilgrims in Tokushima which they co-authored. (Unfortunately, this book is no longer available.)

Statler briefly described Takamure Itsue's amazing experiences as a pilgrim in 1918 and Susan became particularly interested in Takamure's account, so interested that she decided to try to translate it in order to share it with others interested in the pilgrimage. As the book is written in pre-war Japanese and by a rather emotional young woman, it took years of work and the help of many Japanese speakers to produce a readily understood English version. Takamure was a very well educated woman and there are many references to Buddhist teachings in her pilgrimage articles; Susan decided that these had to be explained to the ordinary reader and for that reason has provided copious footnotes, which she hopes readers will find interesting as well as helpful.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Margaret E. Price on April 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an unusual translation of the ruminations of a well-educated young woman who decided to take herself off on a walking pilgrimage around temples in Shikoku. I was fascinated by the types of people the author encounters, the conditions on her journey, the attitudes of people towards her and towards the pilgrims (not often good) and the treatment of pilgrims by the authorities. The author was later to become a well-known feminist scholar and a poet, and in these diary-entry type writings (which she contributed to a local newspaper to earn money for her trip) we see how extremely well read she already was with an emerging poetic voice. Her heart is open as she describes the people and social conditions she discovers. It is no wonder that her story was followed so avidly by readers of that newspaper and turned her into a celebrity. This is an intimate and very honest encounter with countryside Japan of the turn of the century and one that made me want to read more about this intelligent woman. I thank Susan Tennant for bringing this work to light.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By AlchemistGeorge VINE VOICE on March 4, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because of my interest in the Shikoku Pilgrimage, having read and enjoyed greatly Oliver Statler's book "A Japanese Pilgrimage", and having lived in Japan for three years and traveled there extensively since.

While the narrative happens during a Shikoku Pilgrimage, the book isn't really about the pilgrimage per se - it could be the story of any journey in rural Japan - the pilgrimage itself is more of a backdrop - through which you get an incredibly detailed look at a Japan in transition from being a rural society to a modern one - for example you see the changing roles of women, the incredible respect people were accorded for having a university degree as well as examples of piety, faith, folk medicine, con-men, and dealing with the police.

The translation appears to be very well researched, and is extensively footnoted, and is quite easy to read. If you buy the book - read the appendices first - to discover the background and circumstances under which such a shy, timid woman went alone to walk 800+ miles - but serialized her journey for publication in a newspaper. She later become one of Japan's leading feminists.

Aside from the historical insights, I personally found the first half of her narrative somewhat slow, as it focuses a great deal on her internal narrative of self doubt. I found the last half of the book - which is much more about other people - her companion, the people they meet along the way, their hosts and innkeepers - to be far more entertaining.

In retrospect I wish I'd read the appendices first to understand the complex life situation that lead her to undertake the pilgrimage, which I think would have greatly increased my appreciation of the first half of the book.

If your interest is primarily the pilgrimage, I don't recommend this - at least not as a first book on the subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Canning on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
My first reaction upon reading Tennant's translation of Musume Junreiki, The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue was one of surprise. Here is something of quality - how was it that no one had translated this work into English before? Thirty years on the shelf while hundreds of thousands of people made their own circuits around Shikoku, kept their own journals, wrote their own books. Some interesting accounts to be sure, but few more interesting than this.

Perhaps it was the style or the tone that put people off. Some of the entries read like a Buddhist harlequin romance: "Life and death are of no concern. I want to acquire faith and a sense of wonder; I want to acquire joy or frenzied passion. Somehow or other, while I am suffering in agony and wailing loudly, I may arrive at an incomparably majestic faith." But if you can get beyond the melodrama and the pathos of the early chapters, there's an authentic voice here that is both prescient and charming: "How can I describe my mind that is poised to penetrate attentively, calmly, and completely clearly this beautiful scene bit by bit, starting from its smallest elements, its minimal, infinitesimal molecules and its compound elements. None the less, the pine trees are green, the sand white, the sea deep blue, the sky sapphire, the clouds are flying, the sun gradually slanting, the birds singing and the trees sparse. Except for those words, I cannot think of any other finer expressions. In front of this superb view, I will just lower my head, close my eyes, and pray silently and sincerely."

Since this is an account of a Buddhist pilgrimage, one can expect a certain amount of religious polemics and there is some of that here.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a classic that you must read if you are a westerner with an interest in the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Having said that is not a book about the pilgrimage as much as one young ladies experience who do the walk specifically to write about it. If you are reading ten books on the pilgrimage this should come some time after you have read at least five others or you may want to reread it
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