Fantastic growth in the field of pilgrimage studies raises real questions about whether our theories and methods are up to the task of describing increasingly diverse phenomena. Herein, I maintain that the future of the field lies not with articulating some vague generalisations in an attempt to somehow maintain universals, but to consciously ponder the variability found with respect to pilgrimage. I argue that pilgrimage analysis needs to be more ground-up with a methodological focus on how key variables shape the fundamental meaning of pilgrimage. I demonstrate such methods by looking at the relativity of time in the context of contemporary journeys to the 88 sacred places on the Japanese island of Shikoku, or Shikoku henro. The henro is one of the great pilgrimages of the world, and the 1400 km journey exemplifies the complexities of such a large social system. More specifically, I consider a diverse sub-set of pilgrims linked only by their noteworthy tendency to remain pilgrims for a significant portion of their lives and to traverse the circuit of Buddhist temples again and again. Analysis of continuing pilgrimage demonstrates that time is a key variable that is inextricably linked to the construction of an entire spectrum of meanings of what is described as ‘pilgrimage’.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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