New Kinki region pilgrimage route opens

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept 9, 2008

KYOTO, Japan -- A new pilgrimage route of 151 popular shrines and temples in the Kinki region was inaugurated Monday, with about 220 Shinto and Buddhist priests visiting the route's starting point, Ise Grand Shrines in Mie Prefecture.

Shimbutsu Reijokai, an organization comprising Shinto and Buddhist priests, held a ceremony as hosts of the pilgrimage at Kogakukan University Memorial Hall in Ise.

Attending the ceremony were Takahisa Kato, chief priest of Ikuta Shrine in Kobe, and Kosei Morimoto, former chief abbot of Todaiji temple in Nara and also president of the Shimbutsu Reijokai, and other priests.

During the ceremony, a Shinto prayer and a Buddhist invocation were read, symbolizing a synthesis of Shintoism and Buddhism.

After the ceremony, all the participants walked along an entrance path to the Ise Grand Shrines and prayed.

Shimbutsu Reijokai was established to foster shared belief in Shintoism and Buddhism, which was common before the Meiji era (1868-1912).

The pilgrimage route starts at Ise Grand Shrines and passes through Kongobuji temple in Koyacho, Wakayama Prefecture; Todaiji temple in Nara; Sumiyoshi Shrine in Osaka; Enkyoji temple in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture; and Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto before ending at Enryakuji temple in Otsu.

A spokesman for the Shimbutsu Reijokai said, "We hope that the new pilgrimage contributes to people's peace of mind regardless of their religion or beliefs."