The Chichibu Pilgrimage 秩父三十四箇所
Under Kannon's eye
The Chichibu pilgrimage is one of the most important pilgrimages in Japan. Crossing 34 sacred sites dedicated to the boddhisatva Kannon through the ancient province of Chichibu (current Saitama prefecture), it is also because of its rather modest length (about 100 kilometers ) one of the most accessible path.
An old pilgrimage
The Chichibu pilgrimage is one of the oldest in Japan, having been set up in the 13th century towards the end of the Kamakura period (1185 - 1333), which would explain the very strong influence of Zen Buddhism there, most of the temples belonging to the schools Soto and Rinzai of this sect.
Originally it had 33 stations, corresponding to the 33 different manifestations of Kannon, with the addition of a 34th stage dating from 1536.
- Read also: Senso-ji temple and the cult of Kannon
This addition has made it possible to form, the Saigoku Kannon pilgrimage (in Kansai) and the Bandô pilgrimage (in the Kanto region), the Kannon pilgrimage of the 100 temples, the most popular pilgrimage to Kannon in the archipelago.
The spiritual path of Chichibu has been followed by many devotees since the Muromachi period (1336 - 1573), with a route of about a hundred kilometers that leads to many small temples located two-thirds of them within the urban area of the city of Saitama.
Half of these temples do not have a priest and are maintained by the inhabitants of the neighborhood, reinforcing the impression of intimacy, and for the small sanctuaries located in the countryside, the pleasure of solitude.
- Read also: The Shikoku Pilgrimage
make the pilgrimage
In Japan, many who choose to begin a pilgrimage don the traditional dress including the hakui (the white jacket), the sugegase (a conical hat), and a pilgrim's staff.
They also carry the "nokyo-cho", a small notebook in which they note the name of the temple they have just passed, its number, and the specificities of the Kannon of the place. The temple staff places the site stamp in red ink on the notebook page.
However, it is not necessary to arm yourself with all this tradition to set off on the pilgrimage. The journey from Ikebukuro station to Seibu-Chichibu station takes about 1h30, and from there it is then possible to radiate to the different portions of the circuit.
By returning to Chichibu each evening, the entire pilgrimage can be completed in 5 to 7 days. Note that some temples can be located high up, after a significant number of steps, or at the level of forest paths. Although quite short, it may require some physical effort and equipment to find your bearings.
- Read also : Kumano Sanzan
Address, timetable & access
TimetableFrom JR Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo, take the Redarrow Line (Ikebukuro Line) to Seibu-Chichibu Station (~1h30)
AccessOpen daily from 8 am to 5 pm.