Local Artists Chelsea an Elayna are planning a journey, an epic journey of the 88 Temples on the island of Shikoku, in Japan… and they’ve invited me to join them! squeee! And they’ve invited you, too!
Truthfully, though, it’s a vicarious journey. The only one I’m probably going to be able to make, at least at this time in my life. But that’s what’s so exciting to me. I may not be able to bike the 900 mile journey for 3 weeks; to personally see the 88 temples on the island of Shikoku, or to experience the amazing Community that Elayna and Chelsea will experience along the way; but I will be a part of it, in a small way.
Through a Kickstarter campaign, these creatives are funding their project to journey to the 88 temples and create 88 unique hand-bound illustrated books, as well as other prizes and pieces of the journey, to be given to those who pledge. (See Details of their project on Kickstarter).
Chelsea Reidy and Elayna Snyder met while contracted to teach English on Shikoku, the smallest of the four main Japanese Islands. At the end of their respective contracts, they took a two-week bicycle journey, their second trip, to see the 88 Temples. Along the way, the vision for the book was formed… a way to share the journey with others.
Each of the 88 books will be created and hand bound in the Japanese tradition, while on the journey. The journey is seen through the eyes of a cat, traveling with her girl via bicycle. The drawings will be detailed pen drawings, resulting in 88 unique books, and several separate art pieces. Whether they grace a coffee table or inspire a child, they will include a bit of whimsy, and a big dose of character.
The journey that hundreds of thousands of ohenro (pilgrims) take each year can be made by tour bus or car, by walking, or by bicycle. For tourists as well as Japanese citizens, the journey is about many things:
- it is about the history and culture of a people. Many who live in the city go to the countryside to explore their heritage as well as history and nature.
- for a few, it’s about a spiritual journey, no matter the faith. The trail is in honor of a Buddhist saint, Kobo Daishi, who lived in c. 800 A.D. The temples are simplistic and modest, not the ornate shrines that often come to mind.
- for many, it’s about an entirely different aspect of Japan than most of us are aware of. The island of Shikoku is one of the most rural areas of Japan, a mountainous and beautifully scenic place. I must admit, my only impression of Japan is of overcrowded, high-tech cities. [too much Discovery Channel?]
One of the compelling facets of this journey, as Chelsea and Elayna explained it to me, was the sense of Community that they experienced along the way, whether it was helpful directions, a ride up the steep and torturous trail in the back of a pick-up truck, a warm conversation, or even a handful of coins to speed them on their way. The fellowship of those who understand the journey, whether they have taken it themselves, or just live nearby, greatly enriches the experience.
By creating the illustrated books with materials they collect along the way, Chelsea and Elayna are planning to capture that sense of community and bottle it, further enriching the books and the artwork. The binding might be from string they get from a fisherman along the path, or the contents could be from paper, stamps and other materials collected along the way. Each book will be unique!
They also plan to translate it into Japanese by their communication with people they meet along the journey, making the translation real and true to the colloquialisms and language. In every way the books will embody the island of Shikoku.
I can’t wait for this (vicarious) journey! If you want to learn more, check out their website: Big Rice Field, or watch this short video of Elayna and Chelsea, made for the Kickstarter campaign:
Elayna’s photography will be on display at Frederick Coffee Company for the month of September. She will be there on Sunday, September 1st to share more about their journey… Frederick Coffee Company, 100 North East Street in Frederick.
Best wishes to you, brave adventurers!
Check back here in a few months, I’ll share what I can of my journey by proxy with Chelsea and Elayna!
photo from Wikipedia: Nagao-ji temple