The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue: An English Translation of Musume Junreiki

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The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue: An English translation of Musume Junreiki, Susan Tennant (Bowen Island, B.C.: Bowen Publishing, 2010).

My reading of Takamure' s account of her Shikoku pilgrimage for this review started out as a favor to the translator, Susan Tennant. After reading the first page, curiosity and delight enticed me to discover what each episode of this young Japanese woman's extraordinary journey would reveal. Expecting a travelogue or a detailed description of Buddhist temples in Japan at the end of World War I, I found instead a rich reading experience.

In 1918, Takamure Itsue (family name first followed by the given name, according to Japanese custom) set off at the age of 24 to walk the 1400 kilometer pilgrimage path around one of the four principle islands of Japan, Shikoku. Her goal: to visit the temples skirting the edges of this circular route, each temple having some connection with the venerated teacher of Esoteric Buddhism, Kobo Daishi.

As part of her practice, Takamure kept a journal, periodically mailing entries to her home town newspaper in Kumamoto on the neighboring island of Kyushu. One hundred and five newspaper articles resulted from her pilgrimage, which began in June and ended nearly six months later, what should normally have taken two months. Takamure Itsue' s youth, in addition to her idealism, deep faith, and poetic passion, delivers freshness and energy to her choice of words and exclamations. Very human and down to earth, Takamure tells more about her relationship with the people she meets on her journey than anything else. She notices personality quirks and qualities, and doesn't hide behind a façade in her own self-description, but always speaks frankly. Her intelligence soon reveals how she is well read in both oriental and occidental classical literature, something I had not expected of a woman of her era when many felt education to be useless for women. Susan Tennant shares with us that, in later years, Takamure Itsue became well known in Japan as a poet, scholar, intellectual, historian, anarchist, feminist and promoter of \vomen's education. …