The immigration officer at Narita Airport looked at my arrival card and asked me why I was going to Tokushima. And for two weeks at that.
I said I was going to do a small part of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. He didn't understand and asked me to speak slowly. So I said that I was going to be a henro and walk with Kobo Daishi.
"Hai, so desu!" he beamed and repeated "Kobo Daishi", stamped my passport and waved me through.
His question did give me pause -- what was I really doing? I had planned to visit at least 10 of the 88 Temples but I wouldn't be walking the entire route of 1200 kilometers.
Perhaps I could not and should not call myself a henro (pilgrim, in Japanese) -- a semi-henro perhaps? I wasn't about to call myself a pseudo-henro since there was nothing false about my intentions.
Doing a portion of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage was my long held goal.
I finally decided to go and just do it -- at least while I could still walk.
A henro is normally decked out in pilgrim's attire. This includes but is not limited to the wide brimmed hat called the sugesasa which also has the sanskrit symbol for Kobo Daishi
written in front.
A pilgrim wears a white jacket called a hakui and carries a wooden staff called the kongozue which they say is the symbol of Kobo Daishi who walks with all pilgrims.
One also carries a nokyocho, a book stamped with the seal of the temples that one visits, plus
osame-fuda slips which serve as name cards.
These are the essential items of the henro's kit -- I bought all these at Ryozenji which is Temple 1.
The kind lady spoke some english so when I mentioned that I was embarrassed that I was only doing a small portion of the pilgrimage, she assured me that it was perfectly all right -- this was to be my pilgrimage and there were no rules to follow.
Kobo Daishi is very understanding, she smilingly said.
The lady asked me to write my name inside my hat -- and was surprised and pleased when I wrote my name in katakana.
This is my filled up osame-fuda slip. They come in various colors signifying how many times one has done the pilgrimage. White is for those who are walking it for the first up to the fourth time. On one side you write you name and address and on the other side, you put the date of your visit.
Now I am all set to start my very own journey as a henro.