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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Go on Pilgrimage

When I lived in Japan, I discovered that the country was crisscrossed by a network of pilgrimages. Local or nationwide, Buddhist or Shinto, the Japanese mania for list-making ("the three most beautiful sights in Japan," "the 100 highest mountains," etc.) was either the origin of or the result of this tradition of making lists of temples to visit.

And I did a lot of them. The 33 Kannon temples of Kansai, another 33 in Kanto, 34 in Chichibu (making the "100 Kannon temples of Japan"); the 88 Temples on Shikoku; the Ten Shinto Shrines of Tokyo; I spent every weekend and long holiday ticking sites off on my lists.

When I got to China, I was disappointed to learn that, aside from a list of four Buddhist mountains and five Taoist mountains, there was no organized pilgrimage in China.

So I was stoked this summer when I found a list of 142 "key" temples designated by the central government way back in 1983.

Going after this list has been making me happy.

So let me recommend a pilgrimage. It doesn't have to be a trip to Mecca, or Santiago de Compostela.

It could be to your grandparents' graves, or to the house you were born in. It could be (as one friend suggested) to eat a hot dog in every major league ball park in America. Relax at every Club Med in the world. Drive every numbered state highway in your state. Anything.

Make a list. Make a plan. And go.

You'll be happier.

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