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Tales of a Summer Henro Paperback – November 3, 2013
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About the Author
- Publisher : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 3, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 250 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1492207888
- ISBN-13 : 978-1492207887
- Item Weight : 9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.57 x 8 inches
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Overall I am glad I read the book, it really confirmed that I would love to do this tour... but by bus. He makes it clear that walking the 1200km is arduous and I am simply not in shape for that. It is a great guide to tell you what to do, what not to do and what to expect along the way.
As he gets more tired, he gets more angry and opinionated at his fellow travelers who arent doing it right.
He was perseverant , but he certainly didnt learn the rules of comassion.
Still, an interesting read.
Japan's most famous pilgrimage route circles the island of Shikoku and leads the pilgrim to 88 temples belonging to the Shingon school of Buddhism, a tantric sect brought to Japan by one of its most influential sons, Kobo Daishi. 100,000 people make this journey annually, most today by bus or car. A few hardy souls still do the 1200km pilgrimage trail on foot.
New Zelander Craig McLachlan had already walked the length of the Japanese archipelago when he set out on the Henro trail in 1995. He seems to have done both for largely the same reasons, for the physical challenge and perhaps the bragging rights. He does not seem particularly interested in Buddhism and except for being coerced into taking pilgrim vows there is very little spiritual content to his journey.
Ostensibly he goes on pilgrimage so that his wife might conceive a daughter, but from the beginning it seems he sees his vows as something to be endured, rather than something that can help him learn more about himself. He loads up on meat and alcohol the night before he begins his pilgrimage and along the way seems delighted to find Japanese to help him justify the breaking of his vows.
Due to work and family obligations, McLachlan had limited time to complete the pilgrimage and so he's always in a hurry to get to the next temple. The walk was for him not an unfolding of personal discovery, but the thrill of the race. The most significance he manages to squeeze out of the experience is that he'd made an effort, and that "making an effort brings meaning to life."
About the only reason to recommend this book is that it is one of the few Henro accounts in English still in print. It is also unique in that it is an account of a pilgrimage done in summer, a time of sweltering heat and high humidy when very few souls dare to walk across the city, let alone around an island. McLachlan finds few other pilgrims along the road, and many of the inns and restaurants that exist to serve pilgrims in the spring and fall are unavailable.
McLachlan does an adequate job describing the lay of the land and sketching the background on the pilgrimage and several of the temples along the route. His fluency in Japanese allows him to interact with the local population, though I suspect a more recent account would find the people of Shikoku a bit more worldly and less fazed by the sight of a foreigner. More foreigners in Japan, more Japanese traveling overseas, and the proliferation of the internet have probably washed away much of the parochial behavior that McLachlan occasionally encounters.
Those interested in a more spiritual narrative may wish to search online for "Echoes of Incense," an account of an American Buddhist's 1993 pilgrimage.
Oliver Statler's book on Shikoku, 'Japanese Pilgrimage,' though bizarrely out of print, is an excellent look at the same pilgrimage Mr McLachlan's tepid text tries to grapple with. Unlike 'Tales Of A Summer Henro,' however, Statler's book is informative, insightful, interesting, and elegantly written. Look for it and let this one disappear.
Top reviews from other countries
But then, as one reads on, it's a quite heavy and sad insight.
This book focuses way more on the challenges and depressing parts about the Henro Journey than on the positive ones.
I guess it is really necessary for people who want to undertake the journey to know it's not all sunshine and butterflies - but this description does put quite a dampener on any excitement one might have when reading this before his/her own henro journey.
Better read it afterwards if you're planning on doing the journey.
I read mostly for entertainment, so this book sadly wasn't right for me.