Shikoku 88 Temples



After being on the henro road for 30 days I felt like I had finally found my groove. Over the span of a month I had walked 8 hours a day, every day. From quiet mountain ranges to congested cities. My legs grew stronger and my determination solid. I had visited 61 temples and was more than half way to my goal.  Every temple on the pilgrimage thus far proved unique.  Each one left an impression on me and I departed a little changed.


For me, the temples were places where I could rest and reflect, appreciate and pray. They were my goal. Leaving one and arriving at the next was my reward. But as days on the trail passed, I found myself not only looking forward to reaching each temple, but being enthralled by the things that happened in between the temples.  One of those in betweens was a beautiful exchange between strangers known as o-settai.

O-settai is the action of giving to pilgrims. For me there was hardly a day that went by when I didn’t receive some kind of o-settai;  juice, mikan, cookies, a towel, and even money. I received o-settai from local people, shop owners, from car and bus pilgrims and even from monks at temples. I remember learning that o-settai was a common occurrence in Shikoku and must never be refused.  For the giver of these gifts, there is a belief that they can gain merit by supporting henros. 

My o-settai patrons ranged from old ladies to young adults and even working professionals. With their small gifts each one gave me more then a tangible object, they gave me a memory. On my first day, even before I reached Temple 1, I met Kimiko Yoshida. She offered me to stay at her home for the evening. She cooked me a beautiful dinner, drew me a hot bath and gave me a comfortable futon for the evening.  We remain friends today. 


Early one morning on the way to Temple 22, two older ladies came out of their house to welcome me. They guided me towards their driveway where there was a table set with, rice balls, tea, miso soup and eggs. A few minutes later other henro joined the table. I learned from them that these ladies had been providing o-settai to henro for over 15 years!  They spent their own money and time preparing food and lunch boxes to those walking by their village house.  In addition to their food and company they provided information on the path ahead. 


A young man near Temple 37 chased after me.  Breathlessly he handed me 500 yen and a bottle of Pocari Sweat saying “Please take”.  I took his gift graciously, thankful for the cool drink in the hot afternoon. I will never forget the look on his face, his energy and his urgency. 


An older man on the way to temple 42 offered me a chair to rest and a pomegranate. For a short time we exchanged smiles, short conversations and an impromptu game of as 



In exchange for o-settai, I would give people my o-sama fuda, or name card. On it was written my name, age and hometown. People seemed as excited to receive my card, as I was their gift. 


The custom of o-settai provides a connection between henro and people who otherwise may have no reason to meet.  A connection that proves to be a pure exchange of kindness and gratitude.


I may not remember all the people that gave me gifts and they may not remember me, but for a short time, this beautiful ancient tradition gave strangers the chance to meet, exchange moments and share memories together. 


#133  Parkway Vol.25 No.3  July- September 2010 







私にとっては、霊場は、休息、反省、感謝、そして祈りの場です。霊場は私のゴールです。 1つの寺を去って次の霊場に着くというのが、私への褒美です。しかし、遍路道を通っていく日々の中で、霊場に到着することが楽しみなのではあるのですが、道中で起こることに心躍らせている自分がいました。その一つが、お接待として知られる、見知らぬ人との素晴らしい交流です。




私にお接待をしてくれた人は、おばあさんから若い人まで、仕事中の人もいました。その小さな接待は、頂いたその物以上に思い出となります。最初の日、一番札所にまだ着いてもいない時、Yoshida Kimikoさんに出会いました。その晩、家に泊まるよう申出てくれたのです。おいしい夕食をいただき、温いお風呂に入り、快適な布団に眠らせてもらいました。今でも私たちは友達です。