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Arts & Culture

SACRED JOURNEYS WITH BRUCE FEILER: Shikoku

Pilgrims on the island of Shikoku, Japan.
Courtesy of Hiroo Saso
Pilgrims on the island of Shikoku, Japan.

Airs Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

A skyline shot of Shikoku, Japan.
Courtesy of Hiroo Saso
A skyline shot of Shikoku, Japan.
Lanterns in a temple on the island of Shikoku, Japan.
Courtesy of Hiroo Saso
Lanterns in a temple on the island of Shikoku, Japan.
A temple on the island of Shikoku, Japan.
Courtesy of Hiroo Saso
A temple on the island of Shikoku, Japan.
American Steve Williams on his pilgrimage to Shikoku, Japan.
Courtesy of Hiroo Saso
American Steve Williams on his pilgrimage to Shikoku, Japan.

Join host Bruce Feiler on an unprecedented journey to the world’s most meaningful landscapes and rigorous religious pilgrimages. Feiler and contemporary sojourners journey to sacred sites cherished by billions and visited annually by hundreds of millions of pilgrims. Each episode follows a modern-day pilgrim on a private spiritual journey.

The six-part series, SACRED JOURNEYS WITH BRUCE FEILER, presents a comprehensive picture of the practice of pilgrimage in its varied expressions around the globe, over thousands of years. KPBS will broadcast two consecutive episodes on Tuesdays, December 16, 23 and 30 beginning at 8 p.m. each night: "Lourdes" (Dec. 16), "Shikoku" (Dec. 16), "Jerusalem" (Dec. 23), "The Hajj" (Dec. 23), "Kumbh Mela" (Dec. 30) and "Osun-Osogbo" (Dec. 30).

"Shikoku" airs Tuesday, December 16 at 9 p.m. - The Island of Shikoku in Japan is the birthplace of the most revered figure in Japanese Buddhism, the monk and teacher Kōbō Daishi, who brought a populist form of Buddhism to Japan from China in the 9th Century. For hundreds of years, a 750-mile pilgrimage route has circled this mountainous island, connecting 88 separate temples and shrines that claim connection to the Great Master – Kōbō Daishi.

Host Bruce Feiler circles the island, following a pilgrim trail that’s taken by hundreds of thousands of Japanese and international pilgrims every year; a Buddhist pilgrimage that welcomes pilgrims of all faiths. While the majority now drive or travel by train or bus – a two-week journey – many still set aside 60 or more days to walk the entire route, especially in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom and pilgrimage season is at its height.

Temple priests introduce Bruce to sacred ceremonies that date back thousands of years, revealing how the presence of Kōbō Daishi is believed to accompany all who follow in his footsteps. Out on the pilgrim trail, Bruce meets with different American walkers – a hiking group from the Pacific Northwest, a retired soldier from California, and two recently-married doctors from Indiana – to learn why they’ve come to Shikoku and what they are hoping to find.

Bruce Feiler is on Facebook, and you can follow @BruceFeiler on Twitter. Episodes from this series will be available for online viewing through mid-January 2015.

Shikoku (Preview)

Walk the 700-mile pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku in the footsteps of Buddhist monk Kōbō Daishi. This episode of Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler premieres December 16 at 9/8C on PBS (check local listings). See more from Shikoku at http://pbs.org/sacredjourneys

Notes from the Field: Buddhism (Shikoku)

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Notes from the Field: The Henro (Shikoku)

Not sure what to wear for your pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku? Learn the signficance of each piece of the henro—pilgrim—garb.

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