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Kannon as shown in leaflet from Tsubosakadera TempleKANNON - THIS IS A SIDE PAGE
Return to Main Kannon Page OR
Return to Pilgrimage Guide

Kannon - left kanji means SEE and right kanji means SOUND; translated as "Surveying the Cries" of all Sentient Beings
Nationwide Pilgrimages Sacred to Kannon
GODDESS OF MERCY, GOD OF COMPASSION
Help For People in Distress in the Earthly Realm
Jump Directly to Pilgrimage List

ORIGINS OF THE KANNON 100 CIRCUIT. The Kannon Pilgrimage to 33 Sites in Saigoku 西国 (Western Japan, Kansai) dates from the Heian Period (794-1185 AD), but was reportedly founded earlier, in 718 AD, by the monk Tokudō Shōnin (Tokudo Shonin) 徳道上人, although it did not become widely known. It was rediscovered by Emperor Kazan 花山 in 988 AD. By the Tokugawa period, the popularity of the Saigoku route led to its replication. Over 236 copies of the route spread throughout Japan, with more than 30% of these circuits located in eastern Japan. Of these, the Bandō (Bando) 33 route is considered the most important after the original Saigoku pilgrimage. Records are somewhat unclear on the origin of the Bandō Pilgrimage. According to the Sugimoto-dera Engi 杉本寺縁起 (Legends of Sugimoto Temple) of 1560 AD, the Bandō Pilgrimage was designated in 988 AD by Emperor Kazan (aka Emperor Hanayama, 968-1008 AD). According to this text, Kannon Bosatsu appeared to Emperor Kazan in a dream, saying "I have divided into 33 bodies throughout the eight provinces of the Bandō area, and a pilgrimage to these 33 sites will bring release from suffering." Emperor Kazan, it is said, visited Sugimoto-dera in Kamakura and designated it as the first temple on the Bandō Pilgrimage. In later years, Sugimoto-dera also became the first temple in the Kamakura Pilgrimage to 33 Kannon Sites. But the Bandō pilgrimage remained little used and mostly unknown to commoners until after the Genroku Period (1688-1703 AD), when it became popular among lay people. By this time, both the Saigoku and Bandō pilgrimages were formally linked to a third circuit, the Chichibu 秩父 Pilgrimage (Saitama area) to 34 Sites Sacred to Kannon, making a complete circuit of 100 sites (Hyakuban Kannon Fudasho 百番観音札所). <Click here for more on the origins of the Kannon 100 Pilgrimage from the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 1997 23/3-4; story by Mark W. MacWilliams.> 

Three Traditional Kannon Pilgrimage Circuits

  • 33 Kannon Temples of Saigoku (Kansai area) 西国三十三観音霊場 or Saigoku Junrei 西国巡礼.
  • 33 Kannon Temples of Bandō (Kanto area; first four in Kamakura) 坂東三十三観音霊場
  • 34 Kannon Temples of Chichibu (Valley in Saitama) 秩父三十四観音霊場
  • Making the circuit to all 100 sites (Saigoku, Bandō, Chichibu) is said to save the believer from hell and to open the gates to everlasting life.
  • Most of the temples on the Saigoku and Bandō circuits belong to the Tendai 天台 and Shingon 真言 denominations, although the Sōtō sect (two temples) and Jōdo 浄土 sect (two temples) are represented in the Bandō circuit. The Chichibu circuit is dominated by the Soto 曹洞 and Rinzai 臨済 sects of Zen Buddhism, which in particular revers the Shō Kannon (the non-esoteric form of the Goddess of Mercy & Compassion).
  • There are many other Kannon circuits throughout Japan. For example, of the 88 temples in the Shikoku Pilgrimage, 29 are dedicated to the Kannon. In the Kamakura area (near Tokyo), there are 33 old and famed temples sacred to Kannon. See Kamakura Pilgrimage to 33 Kannon Sites. To learn more, please visit the Pilgrimage Guide.
  • Reishō 霊場 means hallowed ground. Other similar terms are Reisho 霊所 and Fudasho 札所.
  • The multi-site format of the Kannon Pilgrimages is one of the most prevalent pilgrimage formats in Japan. Multi-site circuits involve a number of sacred places linked together numerically, with each location devoted to the same single deity or to a group of related deities. This is known as honzon junrei 本尊巡礼 — literally to wander around (jun) to worship (rei) the principle deity (honzon). In order to complete the pilgrimage, participants are obliged to visit every single site on the circuit. Each site is equally important and none serve as the center or definitional locus. Although the sites are assigned numbers, participants can visit them in any order (the only prerequisite is that “all” are visited). The numbers indicate the most convenient route for those who are unfamiliar with the circuit’s logistics. Multi-site pilgrimages need not be completed in a fixed timeframe. Instead, participants can perform the circuit in multiple journeys spread out over any length of time. In bygone times, pilgrims often wore special pilgrimage garments. Today most wear everyday clothes and carry a book (nōkyō-chō) that can be purchased at any site along the route. This book is then stamped (for a small fee) at each site visited. These stamps (shu-in) are often very artistic, but their main function is to serve as a testimony to the pilgrim’s completion of the journey.      

Saikoku (Saigoku) Sanjūsan Kannon Reishō
西国三十三観音霊場 (Western Japan)

Bandō Sanjūsan Kannon Reishō
坂東三十三観音霊場 (Eastern Japan)

  1. Saigoku, Seigantoji 青岸渡寺, Wakayama
  2. Saigoku, Kimiidera 金剛宝寺, Wakayama
  3. Saigoku, Kokawadera 粉河寺, Wakayama
  4. Saigoku, Makino-odera 施福寺, Osaka
  5. Saigoku, Fujiidera 葛井寺, Osaka
  6. Saigoku, Tsubosakadera 南法華寺, Nara
  7. Saigoku, Okadera 岡寺, Nara
  8. Saigoku, Bangai Hasedera Hokki-in 長谷寺, Nara
  9. Saigoku, Nanendo 南円堂, Nara
  10. Saigoku, Mimurotoji 三室戸寺, Kyoto
  11. Saigoku, Kami Daigoji 上醍醐寺, Kyoto
  12. Saigoku, Iwamadera 正法寺, Shiga
  13. Saigoku, Ishiyamadera 石山寺, Shiga
  14. Saigoku, Miidera 三井寺, Shiga
  15. Saigoku, Imagumano Kannonji 観音寺, Kyoto
  16. Saigoku, Kiyomizudera 清水寺, Kyoto
  17. Saigoku, Rokuharamitsuji 六波羅蜜寺, Kyoto
  18. Saigoku, Rokkakudo 六角堂, Kyoto
  19. Saigoku, Kodo 行願寺, Kyoto
  20. Saigoku, Yoshiminedera 善峰寺, Kyoto
  21. Saigoku, Anaoji 穴太寺 Kyoto
  22. Saigoku, Sojiji 総持寺, Osaka
  23. Saigoku, Katsuoji 勝尾寺, Osaka
  24. Saigoku, Nakayamadera 中山寺, Osaka
  25. Saigoku, Kiyomizudera 清水寺, Hyogo
  26. Saigoku, Ichijoji 一乗寺, Hyogo
  27. Saigoku, Engyoji 圓教寺, Hyogo
  28. Saigoku, Nariaiji 成相寺, Kyoto
  29. Saigoku, Matsunoodera 松尾寺, Kyoto
  30. Saigoku, Hogonji 宝巌寺, Shiga
  31. Saigoku, Chomeiji 長命寺, Shiga
  32. Saigoku, Kannonshoji 観音正寺, Shiga
  33. Saigoku, Kegonji 華厳寺, Gifu  

SOURCES / LEARN MORE

  • sacredjapan.com.
    Reviews all 33 temples along this circuit. Written by Cate Kodo Juno, an ordained Buddhist priest of Japan's Shingon sect who now lives in Australia. In March 2009, she was entrusted with the prayers, wishes, & petitions of over 1,700 people from around the world, which she offered on their behalf as she made the pilgrimage to all 33 sites.
  • taleofgenji.org/saigoku_pilgrimage.html
    Reviews all 33 temples along this circuit. By Craig Emmott. Records the author's ongoing effort to photograph places featured in The Tale of Genji and other Heian-era diaries & chronicles.
  1. Bandō, Sugimotodera 杉本寺, Kanagawa
  2. Bandō, Gandenji 岩殿寺, Kanagawa
  3. Bandō, An'yoin 安養院, Kanagawa
  4. Bandō, Hasedera 長谷寺, Kanagawa
  5. Bandō, Shofukuji 勝福寺,  Kanagawa
  6. Bandō, Hasedera 長谷寺,  Kanagawa
  7. Bandō, Komyoji 光明寺, Kanagawa
  8. Bandō, Shokokuji 星谷寺, Kanagawa
  9. Bandō, Jikoji 慈光寺, Saitama
  10. Bandō, Shoboji 正法寺, Saitama
  11. Bandō, Anrakuji 安楽寺, Saitama
  12. Bandō, Jionji 慈恩寺, Saitama
  13. Bandō, Sensoji 浅草寺, Tokyo
  14. Bandō, Gumyoji 弘明寺, Kanagawa
  15. Bandō, Chokokuji 長谷寺, Gunma
  16. Bandō, Mizusawadera 水沢寺, Gunma
  17. Bandō, Manganji 満願寺, Tochigi
  18. Bandō, Chuzenji 中禅寺, Tochigi
  19. Bandō, Oyaji 大谷寺, Tochigi
  20. Bandō, Saimyoji 西明寺, Tochigi
  21. Bandō, Nichirinji 日輪寺, Ibaraki
  22. Bandō, Satakedera 佐竹寺, Ibaraki
  23. Bandō, Kanzeonji 観世音寺, Ibaraki
  24. Bandō, Rakuhoji 楽法寺, Ibaraki
  25. Bandō, Omido 中禅寺, Ibaraki
  26. Bandō, Kiyotakiji 清滝寺, Ibaraki
  27. Bandō, Enpukuji 円福寺, Chiba
  28. Bandō, Ryushoin 龍正院, Chiba
  29. Bandō, Chibadera 千葉寺, Chiba
  30. Bandō, Kozoji 高蔵寺, Chiba
  31. Bandō, Kasamoriji 笠森寺, Chiba
  32. Bandō, Kiyomizudera 清水寺, Chiba
  33. Bandō, Nagoji 那古寺, Chiba  

Chichibu Sanjūyon Kannon Reishō
秩父三十四観音霊場 (Valley in Saitama)

NOTES ABOUT
KANNON PILGRIMAGES

  1. Chichibu, Shimabuji 四万部寺, Saitama
  2. Chichibu, Shimpukuji 真福寺, Saitama
  3. Chichibu, Josenji 常泉寺, Saitama
  4. Chichibu, Kinshoji 金昌寺, Saitama
  5. Chichibu, Chokoji 長興寺, Saitama
  6. Chichibu, Bokuunji ト雲寺, Saitama
  7. Chichibu, Hochoji 法長寺, Saitama
  8. Chichibu, Saizenji 西善寺, Saitama
  9. Chichibu, Akechiji 明智寺, Saitama
  10. Chichibu, Daijiji 大慈寺, Saitama
  11. Chichibu, Jorakuji 常楽寺, Saitama
  12. Chichibu, Nosakaji 野坂寺, Saitama
  13. Chichibu, Jigenji 慈眼寺, Saitama
  14. Chichibu,  Imamiyabo 今宮坊, Saitama
  15. Chichibu, Shorinji 少林寺, Saitama
  16. Chichibu, Saikoji 西光寺, Saitama
  17. Chichibu, Jorinji 定林寺, Saitama
  18. Chichibu, Godoji 神門寺, Saitama
  19. Chichibu, Ryusekiji 龍石寺, Saitama
  20. Chichibu, Iwanouedo 岩ノ上堂, Saitama
  21. Chichibu, Kannonji 観音寺, Saitama
  22. Chichibu, Dojido 童子堂, Saitama
  23. Chichibu, Ongakuji 音楽寺, Saitama
  24. Chichibu, Hosenji 法泉寺, Saitama
  25. Chichibu, Kyujoji 久昌寺, Saitama
  26. Chichibu, Enyuji 円融寺, Saitama
  27. Chichibu, Daienji 大淵寺, Saitama
  28. Chichibu, Hashidateji 橋立堂, Saitama
  29. Chichibu, Chosenin 長泉院, Saitama
  30. Chichibu, Hounji 法雲寺, Saitama
  31. Chichibu, Kannonin 観音院, Saitama
  32. Chichibu, Hoshoji 法性寺, Saitama
  33. Chichibu, Kikusuiji 菊水寺, Saitama
  34. Chichibu, Suisenji 水潜寺, Saitama

Why Number 33 ?
The 25th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, one of the most popular Mahayana scriptures, mentions 33 forms of Kannon, but it is unclear why the number 33 was used. One theory relates to the Buddhist realm Mt. Shumisen 須弥山 (Skt. = Mt. Sumeru, Mt. Meru) from Hindu mythology. In this heavenly palace of the Buddha and all followers, there are 33 deities who guard and protect the realm. They are commanded by Taishakuten (Skt. = Indra), who governs the other 32 gods who live on the 32 peaks of Sumeru, eight in each of the four directons. Taishakuten’s palace is known as Zenkenjō 善見城 (Palace of Correct Views); also called Kikenjō (Joyful to See), located in the Buddhist heaven called Trayastriṃśas (Skt.) atop Mt. Shumisen. Also, probably related to the 32 realms of Vedic mythology and to the 32 Marks of the Buddha.

Sanjūsanzon Kannon 三十三尊觀音
33 Forms of Kannon
In Japanese statuary, the 33 forms do not conform to the 33 forms listed in the Lotus Sutra. Instead, they reflect Japan’s own traditions while still remaining faithful to the notion that Kannon appears in many different forms to save people. The names of the 33 forms in Japan also vary depending on temple or sect. Except for Byakue Kannon, the other 32 forms of Kannon in Japan are not well known.

Kannon Pilgrimages
33-Site Pilgrimage Circuits
In Japan, there are numerous 33-site pilgrimage circuits sacred to Kannon. Among the best known are the Saigoku Pilgrimage to 33 sites (Kansai area), the Bandō Pilgrimage to 33 sites (Kanto area), and the Chichibu Pilgrimage to 34 sites (Saitama Valley). Together these 100 nationwide sites are extremely sacred to Kannon, and making the circuit to each in proper order is said to save the believer from hell and to open the gates to everlasting life. The 33 forms of Kannon given in the Lotus Sutra are the basis for these pilgrimage circuits. For those who cannot spare the time, miniature circuits (wherein pilgrims can visit 33 images within a single temple compound, like that at Ishiyamadera) are available.

 

Kamakura Pilgrimage - 33 Sites Sacred to Kannon
This page has moved. Please see 33 Sites Sacred to Kannon in Kamakura (Japan).  

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This is a SIDE PAGE about the Kannon.
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