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Xunta promotes el Camino in South Korea

2020 Camino Guides


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Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism will promote the Camino de Santiago in the International Congress Pilgrimage Routes on 7 and 8 November on the island of Jeju in South Korea.
This event will also involve representatives from Japan, Germany, Canada, Great Britain, USA, New Zealand, Lebanon, France, Australia, Switzerland and Spain.
The Jeju Island hosts this meeting within the development plan of a network of paths called Jeju Look and aim to meet other phenomena of pilgrimage tourism and its impact. Thus, the present Turgalicia pilgrimage route as one of the elements that help to further boost tourism in Galicia.

el correo gallego

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Article in Japanese press:
KANSAI CULTURESCAPES / Pilgrimage / The perennial quest for connection

Christal Whelan / Special to The Daily Yomiuri

About five weeks after Naoto Kan stepped down as prime minister in August, he resumed his pilgrimage to the Shikoku region's 88 main temples, which he began back in 2004 with a shaven head.

This marked his sixth journey in a pilgrimage done in sections over an eight-year period along the 1,400-kilometer route. His lone figure--a pilgrim's staff in hand and wearing a conical sedge hat, white trousers and jacket--presented an archetypal image of the pilgrim on a quest for healing and rejuvenation through exposure to objects and places held sacred. Pilgrimages--journeys to holy places traditionally made on foot--are thriving worldwide.

Not only have pilgrim numbers soared on ancient, established routes, but visitors to these places historically affiliated with a specific religious and cultural tradition are increasingly coming from far-flung parts of the world.

These "pilgrims" may not even share the religion associated with the pilgrimage they are undertaking. What they seek is to connect with the charisma rather than the dogma of a given faith.

The Camino to Santiago de Compostela (Way of St. James) that stretches from southern France across the north of Spain--a medieval Catholic pilgrimage in origin--is said to receive 100,000 visitors annually.

The Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage, devoted to the ninth-century Buddhist scholar and saint Kukai (774-835), known posthumously as Kobo Daishi, hosts about 300,000 pilgrims a year in the lodgings that circle Shikoku--the island of the Daishi's birth.

More surprising still is the popularity of newly created pilgrimages that aspire in the long run to become traditions.

Take the case of the enterprising South Korean journalist Suh Myung Sook who completed the 800-kilometer Santiago pilgrimage in 2006, and then decided to create her own version of the Spanish Camino on South Korean turf. The following year, the Jeju Olle--a 367-kilometer route of winding paths through seaside towns on her native Jeju Island--opened with 16 trail routes. This year, the Santiago-inspired pilgrimage has received a record high of 200,000 visitors.

Japan is hardly lagging when it comes to old or new pilgrimages. The steady increase in both pilgrims and pilgrimages dates back to 1953, when the change in the Road Traffic Law allowed huge chartered buses to begin operation.

Improvements in road networks, packaged bus tours, increase in car ownership, a growing economy and improved bridge infrastructure in the decades that followed all contributed to the surge in pilgrimages.

But this alone would not have been enough to mobilize a population were it not for the galvanizing influence of an NHK TV series on the Shikoku pilgrimage. Broadcast between 1998 and 2000, this program offered just the right blend of the idyllic and the cultural.

Indeed, the transformation of pilgrimage from a wayfaring journey to a motorized experience has blurred the boundary between tourist and pilgrim in recent decades, and created a huge potential for the propagation of pilgrimages of a dramatically new kind.

I embarked on one of these--the Kinki 36 Fudo pilgrimage--with the intention of walking the whole route that takes in 36 temples, including notable images of Fudo-myoo, the Buddhist Immovable King of Light.

The majority of the temples on the Fudo pilgrimage belong to either the Shingon or Tendai sects of Buddhism. Twelve are located in Osaka Prefecture, 11 in Kyoto Prefecture, Nara, Shiga and Wakayama prefectures have three temples each, while Hyogo Prefecture has four.

Established in 1979 by the late Yoshiharu Shimoyasuba, a devout lay Buddhist with a talent for reviving defunct pilgrimages and creating new ones, the Fudo pilgrimage spans the whole Kansai region.

Fudo is an attractive focus of reverence for a pilgrimage. Typically depicted as a bare-chested man of chubby muscularity, either seated or standing on a pile of stones enveloped within a blazing fire, he represents the beginning of the religious quest, the unfolding of a Buddha-like mind, and fierce compassion.

The sword in his right hand cuts through human nonsense, and the coiled rope with weights in his left hand catches those ensnared by their own passions and leads them home.

The goma or fire ceremony, a central ritual of Shingon, Tendai and Shugendo, invokes Fudo's presence with fire to purify the wishes written by people on wooden sticks that are subsequently fed to the flames.

The Fudo pilgrimage promoted by the Kinki 36 Fudo Pilgrim Association attracts about 10,000 pilgrims a year.

Unlike the full regalia expected of a pilgrim who walks Shikoku, this pilgrimage requires no special clothing. That also means that there is no way for the public to recognize the pilgrims and treat them accordingly. Osettai--the practice of giving money, food or lodgings to a pilgrim and receiving "merit" as a reward--is a venerable tradition in Japan that has long linked pilgrims to the communities through which they pass.

Because the Fudo pilgrimage spans a whole region and the available guidebooks (in Japanese) offer maps with directions only for transportation by train, bus or car, the walking pilgrim faces various challenges.

I often asked resident priests at the temples I visited to draw me a map to the next temple--a request sometimes met with astonishment and a recommendation to take public transportation, or the kind offer of a lift.

Since no designated route exists, but only points to be reached, this pilgrimage took me through industrial Osaka Prefecture, sometimes dangerously close to fast-moving traffic, and through the longest covered shopping arcade in Japan. I crossed over the Kanzakigawa and Yodogawa bridges. I had previously only seen the latter from train windows.

Unlike more established pilgrimages, the pilgrims on this route should also bear in mind that temples are likely to close as early as 4 p.m. and many have no lodgings for pilgrims or guests. This is hardly the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage with its 24-hour open-door policy for pilgrims.

Both the creator and the current promoters of the Fudo pilgrimage envisioned a journey done in sections, whereby the pilgrim visits temples on day trips in one prefecture via public or private transportation.

To walk the entire route continuously would otherwise take over a month and require hotel or hostel bookings in advance. However the pilgrim chooses to travel, a nokyo, or small cloth-covered book with thick blank sheets for collecting ink stamps and calligraphic signatures from each temple, is a worthy investment and can be acquired at Shitennoji--the first temple on the route. Here, too, other religious items are available.

Wearing a white kimono, it is possible to practice misogi or purification under a waterfall when a temple offers this option. After all, Fudo is associated as much with water as with fire.

In the final analysis, a pilgrimage is a temporary rupture from daily routine but eventually the pilgrim must go home and reintegrate the lessons learned, for the return is as important as the journey.

Whelan is a cultural anthropologist and author who resides in Kyoto.

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Jeju Island pilgrimage:
IT is normal to get jostled in the bustling streets of the world’s modern cities, and it is no different in Seoul, South Korea’s capital. Their chequered past has also given Koreans an innate sense of urgency, especially in the big cities where the pali pali (or “faster faster”) way of life has taken root.

In recent years, however, the republic’s sophisticates seem to be fired up by a new trend: the “Slow Life”.

You may have heard of this global phenomenon that began in Italy and has gripped cities in different corners of the world. The ever-increasing escalation of speed in modern life is making urbanites take stock of their life, and many aspire to snail down and chill out.

If you are curious to try out the “slow life,” subtropical Jeju Island, located at the southern tip of South Korea, is a good place to start. At the republic’s largest and most famous island, they have even tagged it with another catchword, Olle.
The breathtaking Chonjeyon waterfall on Jeju. – Photos courtesy of Jeju Tourism Organisation

It all started in September 2006, when Suh Myung-sook, the editor-in-chief of South Korean current affairs website OhmyNews, decided to pack up her newswoman notebook after 23 years and fly to Spain for a pilgrimage trek at El Camino de Santiago. Believed to be the path of Saint James (Santiago), it has attracted countless pilgrims in search of spiritual healing and rejuvenation.

As has been chronicled, while walking the trail, Suh met a British girl called Henney, who then gave her some food for thought, “If the journey was so great for us, why not build our own El Camino de Santiago in our homeland when we go back?”

This jolted her memory of Jeju with its beautiful and serene Olle, or narrow walking paths, around the island. She resolved to recreate the Santiago route in South Korea. Upon returning home, she embarked on the restoration of the old Olle and the creation of new ones. The first Olle trail was opened in 2007 and some 274km of walking trails have been opened on the island since.

Jeju Olle became an instant hit among Korean hikers as well as foreign tourists. After all, there is no better way to explore the volcanic island with its dramatic waterfalls and crystalline basalt formations.
Yongduam Rock or the Dragon Head Rock, one of the interesting rock formations created by lava from Jeju’s old volcanoes.

One trail will lead you to the breathtaking Chonjeyon waterfall, also known as the Niagara of Korea. Chonjeyon cascades 22m into the Chonje basin, which means pond of Heaven’s Emperor.

According to a local legend, nymphs of the heavenly emperor descend for a bath there at night. A short stroll away, is the Chongbang waterfall, among the few in the world spilling directly into the sea.

Walking around Jeju on the Olle paths snaking through the island is definitely a relaxing way to enjoy the natural wonders of the island. However, try to avoid the weekend and honeymoon season (spring and autumn). I was there on a honeymoon season weekend and had an unfortunate encounter with some urban hikers who clearly forgot to leave their speed at home.

Spring is a lovely time to visit Jeju, though, especially for its breathtaking fields of oilseed rape flowers. Walking through the yellow fields while the vibrant plants brush against you in the gentle breeze is a magical experience. If you tire of the ocean view, you can hike up Mount Halla, South Korea’s highest peak. At the top of the snow-capped volcanic mountain is a crater with its own body of water (a grand lake) and numerous waterfalls.

Then there is Songsan, another volcano that commands its own island a few metres off Jeju’s western shore. Songsan, nicknamed Sunrise Peak, is famous for its spectacular fiery orange dawn view.

Although extinct now (yet word has it that Mount Halla is only sleeping) these volcanoes long ago sent lava spilling over the island, leaving Jeju with columns of evocatively twisted rocks and catacombs.
Walking through the fields of oilseed rape flowers at Jeju Island is an e xperience like no ot her.

Jeju is also “littered” with manmade rocks shaped like phallic symbols and carved with human faces called Dol Hareubang (grandfather statues). Legend has it that a young virgin islander lost her fisherman love at sea, so she flung herself into the water. Consequently, the fish disappeared, threatening their livelihood. A frustrated fisherman peed in the sea, and lo and behold, their fish bounty returned. Locals believed that it was the sight of the penis that placated the young virgin who died without knowing the love of a man. So, to keep her spirit happy and the fish coming back, the islanders erected the Dol Hareubang around the island.

Hence, Jeju is also known as Honeymoon Island. It is common to see newlyweds in their identical “couple wear” holding hands on the trails and beaches around the island. And don’t be alarmed when you see couples garbed in their wedding glory leaning precariously against the rail at the summit of Sunrise Peak. Talk about breath-taking pictures! Some even venture into the lava caves around the island for that wedding picture, including the Manjanggul Cave, said to be the longest lava tube on earth at 13.5km.

Not a fan of caves, I am embarrassed to say I went barely a kilometre into the natural wonder.

Take your pick

Jeju Island is vying to be one of the new seven natural wonders of the world in a campaign run by New7Wonders Foundation, aimed at raising global awareness of environmental preservation. Jeju was chosen as one of 28 finalists, which include the Amazon, Brazil; Kilimanjaro mountain, Tanzania; and the Dead Sea, Israel/ Jordan. They are now calling for last votes which will close on Nov 10, with the final results announced the next day.

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