Pilgrimage (巡礼)

A pilgrimage is a religious act of traveling to holy places. However, the word "pilgrimage" is also used to mean visiting the location of scenes in novels, movies, dramas, and animation, considering these places as equivalent to holy places. Here we discuss pilgrimages according to the first definition.

Originally, Junrei (pilgrimage) meant to travel and visit shrines and temples throughout Japan for the purpose of worship at each location. After the Meiji period, this word was used as the translated term for visiting holy places of various religions.


There is the direct type of pilgrimage seen in Christianity and Islam where a pilgrim visits only holy site, and the round-the-country type seen in India and Asia where a pilgrim visits several holy sites.

A similar word to pilgrimage is the word, "Junpai" (circuit pilgrimage). Junrei has a more religious aspect and Junpai is generally geared towards sightseeing and leisure, but there is no clear distinction in meaning.

Pilgrimages in Japan

As depicted in the Tale of Genji set in the Heian period, the initial form was thought to be the shrine visits that the nobility made, which further transformed into Junrei to wish for a peaceful death through Jodo Shinko (belief of a pure land after death) such as the Kumano Sanzan (three shrines in Kumano) visits of the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa due to the spread of pessimism in a decadent age, and in the middle ages, Junrei were done by the ordinary public during the age of war and poverty. In the modern era, reflecting the peaceful times, people wished for spiritual (material) benefit gained in this world through observance of the Buddhist teachings, and with the added element of traveling, it became a common activity for the masses. At large shrines and temples such as the Ise-jingu Shrine, tourists called "onshi" appeared and together with temple lodgings, they helped pilgrims find their way within their area.

Pilgrimages in Christianity

Christianity had martyrs in its history from the beginning, and there were followers who visited their graves in order to honor them. This was called "martyrium" and along with the church, which was a place for worship, this became an important core of the Christian community.

In the fourth century, when Christianity became official, the birthplace of Christianity, Palestine, especially, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, Bethlehem, and the site of the Passion, Jerusalem, were destinations for followers to travel and worship. Martyriums at various places were also destinations for pilgrimages.

The pilgrimage in Christianity not only regards the worship at the holy sites but also place equal importance on the process of the pilgrimage. In other words, the process of traveling to holy sites makes people reconfirm their ties with God and strengthens their religious beliefs.

Pilgrims traveled to numerous churches and cathedrals throughout the Mediterranean region and Europe that venerate the remains of saints (sacred relics or immortal body) or relics of the crucifixion of Christ or remains of Noah's Ark. Pilgrimages gathered many travelers (as seen in "Canterbury Tales"). The most famous relics include relics of the cross discovered by Elena, the Mandylion (an icon not painted by human hand) brought to Constantinople from Edessa that was presented to the King of Armenia, Abgarus III, Virgin Mary's clothes in Constantinople, and John the Baptist's head. These treasures were lost in the late Middle Ages. It is also said that relics were sometimes stolen from other churches or faked in order to gather pilgrims. In the west, from the mid-Middle Ages, legends such as the Holy Shroud of Milan and the Holy Grail (which became the basis of the Holy Grail Legend and romances) were born.

From the late ancient times, miracles involving the remains of martyrs were reported where a pilgrim who came to offer prayers was cured of his disease or a cripple was able to walk. More pilgrims gathered in locations where miracles occurred. Lourdes in the Pyrenees on the border between Spain and France, the three holy places of western Christianity (Catholic), namely, Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela ("La Voile Lactee" is a French movie that made a story out of a pilgrimage into a dialogue on the existence of God over time and space) were such locations. For example, it was thought that ergot disease (causes the limbs to rot and leads to madness) caused by ergot fungus on rye, could be cured by taking a pilgrimage. It is said that this happened because a pilgrim would fast during a pilgrimage and therefore not eat contaminated rye. Some 'miracles' such as the previous example can be explained by science.

Small pilgrimage churches that took care of pilgrims who fell sick or were looking for a bed were called hospices (the root word for the modern hospice, a place where the terminally ill live out their lives), which led to the word 'Hospitality' and a section within the church devoted to the care of the sick became the 'Hospital.'
Therefore, the definition of the word 'Hospital' includes not only hospitals, but also nursing homes and orphanages.

Pilgrimages in Islam

For more information, refer to the section on "Haji."

To walk towards the Kabah in Mecca. "Haji" in Arabic.

One of the Five Pillars of Islam. There are slight differences, but the pilgrimage is taken together with the followers of the various schools of Islam.

The 12th month of Hegira is called the 'Haji month' (pilgrimage month) and it is especially recommended to take a pilgrimage to the Kabah in Mecca during this month. This is called the "Haji."

Pilgrimages in other months are called "Umrah."

The pilgrimage is a duty to be fulfilled at least once during a lifetime for all followers who are physically and financially able, and a Muslim who has completed the pilgrimage is greatly respected and called 'al-haji.'

The number of people who wish to go on Haji has exceeded the number possible and currently a special visa from the Saudi Arabian government who manages the Mecca is required to participate in Haji. The number of visas distributed to each country takes the Muslim population in account. The Saudi Arabian government is wary of political confusion that may occur during times of religious excitement during worship time at pilgrimage sites.

[Original Japanese]